Numb and Numb-er

I’m happy to announce that I now drive a Mercedes-Benz.  It’s true.  A real in-the-steel-and-glass Mercedes.  The model is a C-180, which is the 4-cylinder, 4-door model.  The smallest engine they make (great gas mileage).  To boot – it’s green, my favorite color.

I’m a doctor now, people.  Apparently helping sick people entitles me to the high-life.

Truth is, here in Germany, the term “hooptie” is a known, legitimate noun.  The term is used to describe nice German cars that are (usually) bought by Americans and then run into the ground.  You can pick up BMW and Mercedes hoopties for 500 euros.

 

merced
Mine looks just like this one...but way cooler.

My car isn’t exactly a hooptie.  In the States, it would probably have cost at least $5,000, maybe more.  I don’t really know because I’ve never been in the market for Mercedes-es.  But I got mine here for a few thousand bucks.  It’s still in good shape and as long as I take care of it (an expensive proposition in Germany), it should get me around for at least a few years.

That is…unless it takes a few years until my new monument to affluent living is allowed to take me anywhere.

Take the Army’s torrid and longstanding love affair with bureaucracy and combine it with 1000 years of rulership of the masses in Europe, you get the process I dealt with just to be allowed to drive a car.

Buying the car is easy.  But in this Germo-Americo Funkenthink, the quagmire starts there.  You first need a special driver’s license, which requires a half-day class and then a 130 question test ( which I immediately failed by about 15 questions).

You also have to have insurance on a car before you actually register it.  And, the car needs to be inspected.  But you can’t drive it to the inspector’s unless you have it registered and insured.  But if you fail the inspection, you’ve just registered and insured a car that sucks.  So, you have to de-register it (I did that – twice – before I settled on the Mercedes).  De-registering requires a trip to the local customs office (American) plus a second trip to the other customs office (German, 35 min drive), numerous forms, money, waiting and…all the while you still need the insurance.

So, I’ve been a little reticent to drive much unless I have to.  I’m always wondering if I actually have all the paperwork and proof that will allow me to stay out of jail were I to get pulled over.

Instead, I came up with an alternative (heh, heh):

Through some highly unfortunate events in my brother’s life, I ended up with his Harley motorcycle.  Now, make no mistake – I owe him for this very expensive bike.  It was a ‘take-care-of-my-hoss-for-awhile’  kind of proposition.  Of course, being a deeply loyal brother, I immediately agreed to “help out”.  But, not being a big Harley-lover, I…well, I sold it.  And I bought a BMW motorcycle instead.  Initially, I sold it to help fund out trip out here, and a portion of the Harley money was a HUGE help in getting us here.  That said, I GUESS whatever money we had left over should have been sent back to my saintly bro.  But with all these fantastic German road machines around, you sorta just get Beemer Fever.  What was I supposed to do?

And anyway, my bro is about 10,000 miles from me.  Is he really going to come get me when he realizes I sold his Harley?  I mean, c’mon, I did the guy a favor!  BMW vs. Harley is a no-brainer.

 

bmw
Mine's just a LITTLE less shiny and has panniers.

So I now fly along the German Autobahn on a R1150 RS BMW.  Riding a bike like that, in this part of the world (any part of the world if you worship BMW bikes) is an experience that is hard to replicate.  Harder to describe.  At 80 miles an hour, I blow by stunning autumn trees, taking in their blurred resplendence in shimmering hues of gold and yellow and red.  “My” bike purrs along effortlessly.  When I lean over the gas tank and duck behind the faring, the engine sounds something like a sewing machine, but even softer, maybe more like two feathers rubbing together.

There’s only one problem…Germany is COLD.  The other day I left for work in the dark, road sparkling with frost, at a temp of -2.5 Celsius.  Buh-rrr.  And this is only OCTOBER.

The night before, I had received a notification in the mail that my car did not have the correct license plates due to a dating error in the – you guessed it – insurance policy.  So, should I be pulled over in my esteemed Mercedes for any reason, I could expect to be hog-tied, whipped and sent back to the States crisply folded into a shoe box.

Thus, while my longsuffering wife dealt with the paper-pushers in Hiedelburg, I rode the bike to work, frost and chill notwithstanding.  I do have some decent riding gear I picked up when I first got the Harley.  I have a jacket with armor in the shoulders and arms, and pants with knee and hip pads.  I have big thick gloves – also a “gift” *ahem* from my bro – and good riding boots.  All the gear is made to withstand serious wind and rain.

 

jeff_daniels1
"Got a little nippy back there going through the pass, eh Har?"

But I’m not sure any gear will hold up for long when receiving a direct 80 MPH sub-freezing air blast for 40 straight minutes.  Mine didn’t.  By the time I got to work, I was so cold most of joints wouldn’t bend.  I walked into the clinic like I was in a body-cast.  I don’t think I even spoke to my first 3 patients that day because I couldn’t unclench my jaw.  I just nodded compassionately with my hands buried in my armpits and gave ’em whatever drugs they wanted.

I probably should have just sold the Harley and given whatever money we didn’t need back to my brother.  But instead I chose to buy a Beemer with the extra cash and freeze my face off in Germany.  If you love BMW motorcycles, you’ll understand completely.  You’ll probably applaud me for such a wise and intelligent idea.

I’m cheering, anyway.

If You Want to Learn English…Move To Germany

The German village where we now live – Bruchmulbach – is surrounded on all sides by American military bases.  And we’re not talking quaint Alamo-throwback musket armories, either.  The bases around here are the real deal.

ramairRamstein – 10 minutes from us – is the largest Air Force base in Europe.  A totally self-sufficient fenced city, the installation comes complete with a 2-level mall, restaruants, sports bar with the requisite 38 flat panel high-def T.V.’s, 18-hole golf course, fast food, a police and fire force, grocery stores, gas stations, brand-new 10 million dollar pool facility (I’m lovin’that), preschool through high school and a wide array of corresponding sports teams, as well as a full-sized airfield with trans-continental military flights leaving and arriving daily.

Just up the road from us is Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is one of the largest military hospitals in the world and one of the largest hospitals in Europe, military or civilian.  As mentioned recently, I got lost in there and wondered if I would ever escape without the assistance of a space-time wormhole (I did, but it was close).

Oh, another thing your tax dollars fund is a complete bussing system to get all the civilian kids from their outlying German villages to the schools on the bases.  This made our initial choice to put all the kids in base schools a pretty easy one.  Teachers are shipped from the States all credentialed and up to the exacting standards of the U.S. Dept. of Education.  Schools have playgrounds and dry-erase boards and gyms and cafeterias.  The whole thing.

landstuhlLittle America.  Right here in the south of Germany.

But just the other day, I saw a patient who has lived in Germany for 40 years…and doesn’t speak anything but rudimentary German.  Clearly, you can live an entire life here and never really learn the local language, the customs or the culture.

The military, actually, is trying for this.  Most of their people have been moved here, will move again in 3 years, and so the more like America their lives are, the better it is for these families.  You even spend U.S. dollars on the bases, even though everyone for hundreds of miles in every direction uses Euros.

But for people like me, who came here volitionally and want to intersect with this new world, this re-creation of where I just came from, isn’t such a welcome thing.  Cindy Lauper had some chops 20 years ago, but do I really need to hear “Time After Time” as I drive across the pastoral German countryside on my way to work?

Since the bases here are such a huge part of the local economy-  wait, amend that: They ARE the economy here.  They’re it.  We’re talking millions of dollars every year from these military operations.  As a result, along with all the completely Americo-centric base workings, the local area totally caters to Americans too.  As soon as you say you want to speak English around here…they just switch over from their German to usually a very well-learned English.  Walking down the street in Portland, if some guy came up to ask you a question and said he only speaks German, could you switch over and cordially address his needs in his own language?

I couldn’t.  Not in ANY other language on planet earth.  MY ways are the ways of the world, right?  I should mention, in my defense, that for a few ultra-geeky years in Jr. High I might have had some hope using Klingon, but again, we’re talking about this planet.  And if I did meet a monolingual Klingon speaker in downtown Portland, we’d have much bigger problems than mere cultural ignorance.

stoneAnyway, our big decision (among what seems like a gagillion of them lately) was to pull the kids out of their American schools…and HOMESCHOOL them.  That’s right.  We’re pullin’ em out.  They can learn the 3 R’s in the AM, and work on German during the afternoons.  I’m hoping to find some nice German grandma who misses her kids to come over 2-3 times a week for cheap to tutor them as well, and we just bought Rosetta Stone, homeschool edition (created for monolingual parents with visions of grandeur).

If I leave here bankrupt and sick with some strange German microbe that ate the flesh off my face and all tips of my body…but my kids learned fluent German, I’ll be perfectly happy with our time here.  I promise.  No complaining.

Don't worry about German, kids, just keep up with your AMERICAN
Don't worry about German, kids, just keep up with your AMERICAN

The military base schools have a German “appreciation” class, but they should be ashamed of it.  It makes no attempt to actually teach the German language.  It’s just meant to let kids know about life in Germany (makes sense, if you live in Thailand).  The first class consisted of some guy opening up his laptop and reading off Bill Gates quotes – in English – about following your dreams and not letting anyone tell you you’re a loser.  Frankly, if enough people tell you you’re a loser – in, say,  French, German, Farsi, Hindu, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese and Russian – at some point, we Americans might want to listen.

And, when approached critically, I have to say that much of American school is laughable.  So much time is spent lining up, obeying, filling out forms and being entertained…I’m not sure that kids learn much at all.  We’re certainly not keeping up internationally (AGAIN!  Health care, education…what ELSE can the rest of the developed world do better than us?).

Hey Man, I'm an ARTIST, man!
Hey man, I'm an ARTIST, man!

In France, for example, every village kid is entitled to real, genuine, music training in their local villages.  As part of their taxes, every kid gets a solid hour a week of actual music theory.  I’m talking just the bookish part of music for an hour every week, no instruments.  The boring stuff.  The hard stuff.  The stuff nobody has to learn in the States unless they REALLY want to do it, go to college to learn it, and spend 2 years on lower-level classes before they’re allowed to jump into the real thing.  This is America!  Learning is FUN!

Back to France:  THEN, kids get an hour a week of training on an actual instrument.  This would be the fun part.  The payoff for muddling through a weekly hour of theory.  They learn with a private instructor, in small groups of 4 or 5.  THIS is the way to actually learn music.  For American taxes, kids get some goofy music appreciation class where 55 kids sit around listening to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” while making sure to keep their legs crossed.  In my 6th grade music class, I got to listen to a recording of Janis Joplin mumble in a drugged stupor on stage until she collapsed.

germangIt’s true that our 4 kids could end up total imbeciles.  I don’t think the U.S. Education system is totally worthless, and there are some good things about the schools that we will lose.  We worry about that.  But I think, given the options, that our Rosetta Stone + Grandma approach holds out at least as much hope of truly teaching our kids another language and culture than what is offered on the military bases.  With good curriculum and focus, we should be able to get them up to speed on the academic topics too.  We aren’t the first one to plow this field.

Then again, we’ve been at it a week.  I’m still all filled with principle and certainty.  We’ll see where we are in a month.

Good Samaritan…Law?

I recently fell victim to a rule here in Germany entitled ‘The Good Samaritan Law.’

The statute irked me even before I suffered under it, because it evokes a sacred parable, but totally misses the enduring message of the story.  Worse, for those not familiar with one of the most important stories in all of Christianity, familiarity with this law will likely make you presume the exact opposite storyline of The Good Samaritan.

You can read the story yourself in any self-respecting Bible containing the book of Luke.  Specifically, Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37.

Incidentally, Luke is my favorite of the Gospels not only because he was a doctor, but also because without him, we wouldn’t really know much about the early church after Jesus died.  Luke wrote Acts along with his Gospel.

Doctors.  Always so thorough.

473px-Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_033Anyway, for a brief run-down of the story, a guy gets the smack-down by bandits while traveling by himself on a lonely road.

While laying there – naked, hacking, bleeding and wheezing – 3 different people walk by.  The first two people are the most likely to stop and help him because they’re either from his tribe, or religious-types who might just kinda want to reflect the love of God to the lost and suffering (and involuntarily naked).

However, those guys pass right on by as the man lays suffering in the gutter.  The person who does stop is the sworn enemy of the  beat-up guy:  the Samaritan.  Jews and Samaritans hated each other back then.  So much that cultured Jews wouldn’t even speak the name ‘Samaritan’.  Both groups had all these issues with each other and the way they regarded themselves as El Guapo of God, etc.

So, the story in today’s parlayance would be something along the lines of: a hyper-conservative-to-the-distant-right-of-Pat-Robertson guy stops in a discordant wave of compassion to help a bleeding man with a pink neon sign strapped to his body cyclically buzzing “I’m a proud man-flamer and really, really damn proud of it.  Christians SUUUUCK!”  This would be after Richard Simmons, Barry Manilow, Franc from Father of the Bride, Surge from Beverly Hills Cop and Bruno all sauntered past without so much as a 2nd sideways glance.

THAT’S the story.  The point gets at perhaps Jesus’ most profound and challenging admonition: love your enemy.  Volitionally.  On purpose.  ‘Cause you want to, you chose to, nobody made you.

In the Sermon on the Mount – by my estimation, the greatest oratory in all of human history – Jesus says,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?

Arguably, this idea of extending love beyond your own brethren to everyone – even punks you hate – distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. In my mind, this teaching constitutes both the core of Christianity, and elevates it above the world’s other great religions.

300px-Bloch-SermonOnTheMountLove your neighbor as yourself was espoused by the common religious teaching at the time, thought to be imported from Asia.  Love your brother as yourself is the prominent admonition in Islam.  But love your enemy?  That’s out there.  Was then.  Is today.  Pretty much never successfully followed by Christians, but profound teaching nonetheless.

So, you can see that when I encounter The Good Samaritan used in less-than-exact terms, I get edgy.  That story rests squarely in the central belief system of my life.

And what is the German Good Sam Law?  Simply, that if you see someone in need of aid, you are required to offer any assistance you reasonably can (no road-shoulder femur reductions required if you’re a manager at Staples, for example).

The name of this law probably came from an identically-named law in the States.  However, in the States, the Good Sam law simply protects anyone from getting sued for attempting to be a “Good Samaritan” by helping someone in dire need…and the would-be Sam actually screws it up, or just doesn’t actually help, or only sorta helped but could have done better…or anything else the average creative American might come up with to get themselves a lawsuit against your average kindhearted bonehead.

I don’t mind the name applied to the American law because it’s simply a protection against lawsuits.  It doesn’t reference the parable incorrectly.

The German law is incorrectly named because the whole notion of a Good Samaritan is that their actions are by choice and unexpected.  Furthermore, the Good Sam is helping someone he is supposed to hate.

The German law simply forces you to help anyone, love ’em or hate ’em.  So, the name has been applied lazily, which undermines a story with sacred meaning that shouldn’t be distorted.

Hmph.  Did I get old suddenly?

And how did this law affect me?  Today, while on an exit ramp on the autobahn, we were flagged down by a couple next to their car.  The man waved frantically, wide-eyed, looking like something must have gone terribly wrong.  I would not have pulled over at that point in the U.S.  I would have assumed it was some sort of scam and known that Emergency people could probably handle it.  But this is Germany.  I’m obligated to be a “Good Samaritan” (contradiction in terms…see above).  So I pull over.  The man urgently asks for gas money.

His car is out of gas.

Am I supposed to “help” with this?  Would I be a “Bad Samaritan” in Germany if I didn’t help this guy out?  Worriedly, I pull out 20 Euro and give it to him, furtively casting glances over my shoulder for the “Polezi” and seeing a disembodied officer’s head nod in approval as I hand over the legal tender.

The guy acts instantly relieved and immensely grateful.  He tries to give me his worthless “gold” chain, which we refuse.  I then realize that those 20 Euro cost me about 30 U.S. dollars, plus whatever cost I incurred to get them from the cash machine the day before.  Driving away, I realize that 30 bucks is more than enough to get some gas.  5 would have been fine.  I also wonder why the guy is trying to get money RIGHT THERE, why not wait ’till they got to the gas station, then peddle money?  My cash isn’t going to get him off the should of the road.

I gave more than I could afford, trying to avoid becoming a “Bad Samaritan”, and in truth, I was probably scammed.  In normal life, I virtually never give money to individual people I don’t know because I can’t be sure that what they do with the money will be beneficial.  I’ve long come to accept that giving money to beggars is really about my guilt issues, rather than my genuine desire to help them.

This time, giving that money derived from being afraid that I would go to German jail, forever labeled as a Bad Samaritan.

So, I’m critical of the title of the law.  I also think the whole idea of a law that forces you to help people has lots of ethical and liberty issues with it.

Germany’s great…but they ought to take another look at their law, starting with the name of it.

Just A Map

I don’t want to get saddled with what I’m sure is annoying extra work.  But I’m inclined to volunteer as the point-guy for other incoming clinic staff.  Really, helping newbies does not require an advanced degree; just some advance thought.

Within the first two minutes of stepping on the ground in Baumholder, any new professional should be given 3 simple things: A local cell phone, already charged with minutes and a battery, a list of 5 important phone numbers (boss, clinic, sponsor, hotel manager, inprocessing office)…and a map.

Actually, forget the rest.  Just a map.

Army bases – for the uninitiated – tend to dominate the neighborhood.  It isn’t as if the place just mixes into the typical downtown city neighborhood, “Hmmm, an Indian spice store…Iranian kebabs….electronics store…BAUMHOLDER ARMY GARRISON….a falafel stand.”

No.  The place is HUGE.  You can’t walk across it in less that a few hours.  And my base is considered small.  Really, most active Army bases span square miles.

Buried somewhere in all those acres are things like a bank, a grocery store (that takes good-‘ol US money), a thrift store where we can get cheap books for my 9 year old reading addict, restaurants, libraries (also for the addict), a post office, and about a thousand other things we REALLY need.

But all of it is spread out over 39 square miles and NOBODY knows how to tell you where to go to get what you need.  They just know.  Like monarchs and grey whales and sea turtles and cats who got lost in a cross-country move…they just know.

Thus, one great triumph the other day was finding the “housing office”:

“HI!  Wow!  I’m so proud of myself.  I found your office.”

“We’re all cheering for you.  Ecstasy.”

“I’m looking for a house in the area.”

“Gimme your orders.”

“Ummm…I’m a civilian.”

“Civilian?  We don’t service them.”

*Sigh*  “Seriously?  Everyone told me you were the ones to help me with this little housing-for-6 problem I have.”

“We don’t service civilians.”

“Right.  Heard that.  Thanks for elaborating.  Well, so as to prevent this from becoming a TOTAL loss since I rented a car to get here, maybe you can help me find a map of the base.  It took me 3 days just to find you.”

“A map?”

“Right.  You know, a miniaturized cartographic scale drawing of the place where we currently work?”

“We don’t service civilians.”

“But.  A map.  Just a map.”

“Oooohhhh.  A map.  Hmmmmm.  Let’s see.  Well, you need to go to the LRP office.”

“Never mind what the acronym is.  Where is that?”  (Since we don’t have a map, which could effectively end this conversation)

“You have to cross the river, well actually first go out of the security gate 4, show your ID and travel certificate, then cross the river, but actually that’s after you pass the golf course, then get your – do you have a clearance 9 tool? – well, anyway, then you take the hovercraft to docking station 33, point your serial wand to frequency mmXB22IB, then EJECT! EJECT! EJECT!, traverse the powerlines, and avoid the ordinance field…then you should see the office in the distance if the smog index is below 44.  Once you get to the office, you’ll need to – since you’re a civilian – petition the colonel to write you an exception letter and they should be able to provide you with a microfiche of a Baumholder map…although it will be from 1944 when it was used by the German SS.”

“Thanks so much!  That will be VERY helpful!”

“No problem we don’t service civilians.”

Later, I told someone at the clinic that I got zero help at the housing office.

“They didn’t give you a nice book filled with color pictures of available houses, their locations and the prices?”

“They didn’t seem too happy to ‘service’ civilians, which, frankly, wasn’t exactly my desire either.”

“Ooohhhh, you went to the on-base housing office.”

“Yep.  Said ‘Housing Office’ on the door.  Everybody said, “Go to the ‘housing office’ and all of your wildest dreams will come true.  So, I was just taking a leap of faith on the exactness of the words between what I was told – ‘housing office’ – and what was on the door, which read – if I remember correctly – ‘housing office’.”

“Oh.  You needed to go to the OFF BASE Housing office.”

“Good to know.  Next time I rent a car so I can get around on the base, I’ll try to find that office instead.  Or, in 10 words or less, can you tell me where that office is?”

“Sure.  It’s directly upstairs from the on-base housing office.”

*******************************

You can laugh about this stuff, or let it drive you crazy.

So far, we’re laughin’.

Your Name Must Consumate

I’m elated to be now living in Europe – in idyllic, semi-rural Germany.  The cars are smaller, the houses and buildings are almost universally beautiful.  Paris is a two-hour bullet train ride from here.  Numerous other countries of Europe are easily accessible.  The kids are already naturally practicing German.  I have yet to see the bland, plain grids of sidewalks and cheap row houses of suburban America.  I wonder if cinder blocks and concrete are even legal in this part of the world.  It’s like 1960’s architecture tried to gain a foothold here and was told, “Danka, but we’re all full of ugly…try Littleton.”

I do have some serious trepidation about the job, however.  Everyone I’ve talked to says it’s really tough.  The burn-out rate is very high.  No one has survived it past 2 years…and I’m supposed to be here or at least 3.  Some of what I was told about days off and CME funding is not true.  And the system here is unendingly bureaucratic, which can really weigh me down after awhile.

For example, my wife has informed me that I am not allowed to constantly make note of every inefficiency I encounter in the world of The Army.  I’ve already found it tough to avoid observations of bemusement, befuddlement and even real irritation at the level of bueraucratic overhead required to simply do a job in this system.

For example, even though I spent days (literally) getting a special military ID and system access card while on the Army base in Washington…I have to go through the same process here.  I’ve signed up to get the card, but the database hasn’t been “consumated” (the word used by the German HR guy helping me through this process), so I can’t get the card.  Without the card, I can’t open a bank account, can’t get my mail, can’t rent a house, can’t get a cell phone, can’t do lots of other housekeeping stuff.

So, I’m not sure who consumates with a database (or how it’s done, exactly), but I sure hope s/he gets their freak on soon.  We’re cooped up in perfectly nice hotel, but it’s small and we can’t really go anywhere.  The kids have been great, but I can’t blame them for getting bored.  So…how ’bout a little champagne and strawberries for the database?  Maybe someone can light a few scented candles and play Enigma tunes in the room that houses the server blade stacks.

Whatever it takes, people…we’re gettin’ stir crazy here.

So, for now, I live in a hotel.  In Europe.  In pastoral Germany.  I spend my days admiring the sloping, tiled roofs and church steeples off in the distance of my little village.  I ponder the meaning of database consumation, and wonder if my job will have me snorting Visteril within a year.

My, how life can change in a week!

6 And A Cat

20090802241136After days of wishing and washing, we elected to subject ourselves to great risk…and added our cat to the mix of travelers to Germany.

We have never traveled to Europe with 4 children.  We’ve never moved to Europe with anyone.  So doing it with a cat – a mostly outdoor cat – brings some trepidation on top of the not insignificant amount of stress we’re already feeling.

Tonight I write this from our two-room hotel in SeaTac, WA within sight of the airport radar control tower.  The hotel is grungy and small and we’re all tired.  And we haven’t even left the ground yet.

For his part, the cat (name’s Mr. Elma, after the location where we was “rescued” by yours truly) has done rather well…so far.  He protested his soft cat-carrier on most of the drive up here from Olympia.  The carrier already looks a bit different after a solid hour of claws and teeth.

But once out of the carrier and hunting around the hotel, he settled down and if anything wants a bit more affection than normal.  We all love him because he is so mellow and self-sufficient.  He so far appears to be holding that course.  I do think that arriving here with cat in tow has, maybe, helped the kids maintain some sense of normalcy.

Tomorrow, however, is a new day.  He could freak, bust out of the carrier and maim an eyeball.  At least, this is the scenario that continually plays in my head.

All of the kids have handled this massive transition gracefully.  The two oldest had some tears tonight as things become real.  Really real.  We’re not going back to our beloved home.  Maybe ever.  One of the reasons we decided to go for this now was because while the kids do have some real friends…they aren’t the same kind of friendships people make in high school or college.  If you’re going to take kids away from their friends, now is the time to do it.  That said, they do have some sweet little friendships and the leaving is still hard.

Everybody (except, perhaps, for Mr. Elma) wants to see Germany, however.  Even El Nino, at 3, asks repeatedly when we will finally see “Doominee”.

Assuming no mishaps with the cat, the plane, the luggage (I’m checking my shorter surfboard…a little iffy) or the transportation, the answer to our youngest’s question should be, ‘tomorrow.’

Hard to believe.

This Move, That Move

I”m writing this blog while perched on my toilet.

Nice image, huh?  If it’s any consolation, the lid is closed, and my pants are in place.  So, I’m not actually toileting. This is just the only place I could find to sit.

house2When we moved to Israel for medical school, we had no help from movers.  In retrospect, I can’t even imagine how we managed.  Every single, tiny detailed problem had to be taken care of by us.  There was nobody else.

This move (complicated by 3 more kids than our last international move) has professional movers doing all the major work for us.  Everything is paid for.  I’m sitting around blogging while they’re working.  The hardest part for me is that the only place I found to sit was on the toilet.

With some very occasional and sparse moments of stress, I can say that this move has been almost, just maybe…fun.  Fun?

It’s all about perspective, right?  The majority of our packing for Israel occurred in the 23 hours prior to our plane’s departure.  Seriously, our entire lives were barely even packed less than a day before we left the country for the first time.

So, we stayed up nearly the entire night, and left with over 20 boxes of junk – many still open and half-packed – that needed to be taken to the post office and mailed to us.  THAT idea cost us over 1000 bucks and tons of work for my hapless mother.  We didn’t get those boxes in Israel for nearly a half-year, so easily 80% of their contents were totally unnecessary.

house1Words fail me in describing the stress and expense of that move.  Probably the worst part, though, was that every single expense – down to the pack of gum we bought at the gas station on the way to the airport – was paid for on loans:

“Hello, sir.  That will be 38 cents.  Enjoy.  Oh, actually, you’ll pay about $12.50 for those 16 strips of minty chewing freshness since it’ll be about 40 years until you pay this off…assuming you don’t flunk out of med school or get killed by terrorists.  Did I mention to enjoy yourself?”