Saturday, July 29, 2017

Frankfurt, first impressions

I've been here about 10 days now, more or less, and so far everything is both exactly as I expected and totally different. There's a lot of people crossing against the lights, although I am pretty sure most of them are not German. For example, I heard a Russian couple arguing the whole way down the street and across it ... when the walk sign was RED.

It took longer than I've ever experienced to get internet set up in my apartment, which is a big deal because the internet is how I communicate with the family. But it is now done so I'm happy.

My boss seems great, my colleagues too. I was supposed to be training all week but a colleague called out sick so I started adjudicating visas two days earlier than the training plan had anticipated. On my first day I adjudicated a whopping 32 visas!  I got better at it the next day.  Still haven't figured out my routines yet but that will come in time. One thing I will say, it is good for my diet that when I am adjudicating visas I don't take a break for anything, I even forget to drink from my water bottle which is next to me on the counter (I think as I get more settled into it, though, that will change).  But it is bad for my diet that, like I hear about consular offices around the world, people bring in treats to share just about every day. And my desk is right in front of the nice little table where the treats are displayed.

I can't wait for my bike to get here, because there are bike lanes EVERYWHERE and most things are bike-able but not walkable, unless I have nothing else to do (such as go to my job or get home in time to eat dinner and go to bed). The buses show up at exactly the time stated on the schedule. I am constantly amazed at that.

My first weekend at post I mostly spent getting to know my way around my neighborhood, and stocking up with the basic essentials I need (no broom in the house. Or salt and pepper. Or sponges. Or cleaning agents to use with the sponges)  I've been paying attention to the pantry basics I am buying and thinking about life in other parts of the world, or for other parts of society. Between the rice, oatmeal, and couscous, plus the butter, sugar, eggs and olive oil, I could probably consume sufficient calories for a month out of what I have right now.  Sobering thought as I rush out to buy cherries or wine or some other totally non-necessary extravagance. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Goodbyes, again. And Hello

The car is on its way. The house seems bigger with so much less stuff in it. In the last few weeks I said "so long" to friends and family. For some, I've got a feeling I'll see them when I'm next in town - only about six weeks after leaving - and for others it's still hazy.  Offers to host people in Frankfurt have been extended.

My apartment is fine, everything I need and nothing more.  It is also the smallest housing I've had in the foreign service, good practice for when we retire and live at the cabin!  My boss and colleagues seem nice, my only complaints are happily temporary:  1. it is too hot for me to sleep, there's no air conditioning and Terry has ruined me for tolerating heat and 2. the process to get internet in my house is ridiculous. Makes waiting all day for Comcast sound like a walk in the park. So I am writing from the community center/restaurant in the neighborhood for its free wifi. I probably won't have internet for several weeks. Normally not such a big deal, but it is sort of how I can communicate with my family so it sucks.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Mom knows best

A couple of weeks ago we had a very "eh" kind of weekend. We had a lot of chores to do after having neglected the house for several weeks. I had to wake up extra early on Saturday to get the fourth tire put on my car before it ships to Germany (a rant on that coming later, maybe) so the day just couldn't be recovered after that. By Sunday evening the kids were snarling balls of emotions - they sniped at each other, then cried when the sniping got turned around, they whined and complained, and generally acted like two children who had barely left the house all weekend.

So I said "Get your shoes on, we're going into the woods."  Because nature makes people happy. Here's just one of many articles on the subject.

The kids whined and complained, although now their target was me rather than each other. They staunchly insisted they would be grumpy and miserable throughout the walk. I said that's fine, as long as it's outside in nature.

A segment of Rock Creek Park is just about two blocks from us. One grumpypants was already cheering up by the time we hit the corner of our block. The other grumpypants is more focused and dedicated and it took longer.

We discovered a million wild raspberry bushes, with the berries just starting to form (we also found three dark red ones to taste).  We captured fireflies (something I never did as a child, I don't even remembering seeing them up north). We made plans to come back with proper firefly catching jars, with mesh tops so they can breathe. We saw a couple of deer in the woods, until we scared them off. The serious, dedicated grumpypants decided with me that we should try to get into the woods as many evenings as we can after dinner.