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Jun 28, 2011

To the Autobahn and Beyond!

I was positive the culture shock would set in immediately as we hopped off the plane in Ramstein. It's typical, and rightly so, to feel completely overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of entering a foreign country you've never visited. I didn't get any of that right off the bat. I'm half sure it's because we flew into a military installation instead of a commercial airport. Still, I didn't feel the nervous pit in my stomach that I had been so used to when entering uncharted territory. When D and I made our first mini-trip to Virginia during our Senior spring break to scope out our future home, I was flooded with feeling of insecurity and doubt about my soon-to-be surroundings. All I wanted to do was curl up under the covers in the hotel room and never come out. The city wasn't at all what I had expected or hoped for and stepping foot (for the first time) on an Air Force base was almost too much for me. I felt as if everyone was staring at us, as if they knew we were new to the whole military lifestyle. All the nameless buildings overwhelmed me and the sight of men in uniform was unsettling. In hindsight, it's stupid, really, but at the time it all seemed so...foreign.

That is far from the feeling I got here. The whole military part of it didn't phase me. I've already lived 3 years as a MilSpouse and now military things are second nature to me, so that didn't factor into my expectations. Like a crazy person, the instant that I didn't feel the impending culture shock I'd been expecting, I immediately tried to fabricate an uncomfortable feeling in my mind, as if to compensate for my lack of shock. It seemed absolutely unusual for me not to feel even a twinge of discomfort. I searched the caverns of my brain to try and remember what I previously had been so cynical about regarding our stay in a new country. I drew a blank. I still felt...normal. Comfortable. Peaceful. All of those irrational thoughts and preconceived notions of what I would feel as we left the airport terminal had dismissed themselves. 

How about that. I had somehow managed to worry myself normal, if that concept is even possible. I remember briefly thinking that as soon as we left confines of base, the culture shock would then decide to slap me across the face. So, I held my breath. 

D and I made our way, with our combined 300 lbs of luggage and carry-on's, to our lovely sponsors car. We all exchanged pleasantries and expressed our excitement for the new adventure ahead. D's sponsor is really great. Well, both of his sponsors are. He's been lucky enough to have two men from his gaining squadron team up to help get us around town and acclimated to our new life here in Germany. Lord knows we need all the help we can get! For the sake of anonymity, I will refer to these PCS saviors as Sponsor 1 and Sponsor 2, and to lessen the confusion in my stories.

After we were all loaded up in the car, Sponsor 1 drove us around a very small part of the base to find a Shoppette so D and I could get drinks and a snack to enjoy on the hour long ride to our base and new city of residence. Ramstein seems nice, from what little we saw. I definitely want to make our way down there one day to check out their ginormous BX/KMCC mall. I have a feeling it will be my "go-to" place whenever I miss America too much. Really, anything on base will. As we made our way off base, I instantly noticed how green Germany is. Lots of trees creating dense canopy's overhead. It wasn't eerie, but it was as if we'd entered straight into a forest in the foothills of some mountain. Coming from an area plagued with beige and tan buildings around every turn to a complete natural landscape was refreshing. As we made our way down the road, the scenery only flourished. There were miles and miles of grassy hills with tiny structures that resembled castle towers plucked into the sides of them. It was almost ethereal, the rows upon rows of lush, green vineyards blanketing the countryside. I was in the midst of daydreaming about all the fabulous wine tastings D and I were sure to enjoy here when suddenly, I heard a WHOOOOSH! and felt the car shift a bit. I quickly turned my head to the left and caught a glimpse of a red BMW as it zoomed down the road ahead. I thought to myself, "Holy crap, are we on the Autobahn?!" As if the first car wasn't evidence enough of my revelation, a white hatchback VW simultaneously careened by at lightening speed! Yep, we're on the Autobahn literally 15 minutes after we'd entered the country. As if he had read my mind (or maybe he had seen the dazed look on my face), Sponsor 1 chimed in, "So yeah, we're on the Autobahn now...hold on to your keesters!"

After the inital shock wore off, it was really, really cool being a passenger riding on the Autobahn. Although our driver was conservative with his speed and didn't go any faster than 150 km/h (about 93 mph), it was still faster than any car I had ever ridden in. I also never expected my first German experience to be the Autobahn! It was a pleasant surprise. D and I giggled every time a car flew by and marveled in the rear view at a fast approaching Mercedes. If you're not careful, cars can come up on you in the blink of an eye. That's why one of the first rules of Autobahn driving is that you coast in the right and only pass on the left. Plain and simple. I expect I shall be more of a coaster than a passer. But only time will tell. :)

This is a video of some guys going 178 km/h (110 mph) and getting passed by another car on the Autobahn. Check out how fast this car comes up on them...and then how fast he's gone! It's seriously like that. Bananas!

As exhilarating as our ride on the Autobahn was, D and I were both ready to have a hot meal, check in to our hotel and get some sleep. At this point, we were dragging and looking rough, for a lack of a better word. Sponsor 1 exited the Autobahn and we entered into Wiesbaden, our new city. From what we could see at the time, it looked quite like any other city. Building and businesses, traffic lights and pedestrians...not at all what I expected to see. I had painted a mental picture of a small town clad with cobblestone streets; lined with the kitschy brown, timber framed cottages with window boxes bursting with colorful flowers. Not so much, or at least not where we will be living. I know for a fact that these little picturesque towns exist because they were dotted along the path of the Autobahn. I can't wait to explore these little hamlets!

pic credit
Ok, so that was the last of the photos that aren't mine. Here starts my photos of Germany, firsthand.

{City of Wiesbaden...taken from the Commissary. This photo doesn't do the view justice.}

At about 9pm Germany time (total travel time to final destination approximately 32 hours), we finally arrived at our hotel or TLF for all you MilSpouses. We checked in and then dropped our bags off in our extended stay studio (a room with 1 queen bed, a 2 burner stove, mini-fridge, microwave convection oven thingy, TV, bathroom, and a desk. Not too shabby seeing as the construction of this new hotel was just completed back in March. After scoping out our temporary digs, we met Sponsor 1 at the bowling alley across the street for a cheeseburger dinner and a run down of the next days events. He might as well have been speaking German to us because I was so exhausted that I barely heard anything he said...I'm not even 100% sure how I ate my burger. We slugged back to our room, fumbled with how the heck to flush our toilet for what seemed like hours, and then passed out cold. We had to be up at 6am to be ready to be picked up at 7am to start part of D's in-processing. That was the worst wake up of our lives. It was like trying to wake the dead...who wanted to just keep dying again. We spent Friday in a fog. To be honest with you, I can't recall anything that we did last Friday except for driving to D's new squadron and eating at the chow hall (the only reason I remember that was because the salad I ate was scrumptious...my body was CRAVING veggies). The rest is a blur due to our semi-comatose state. Jet lag is ridiculous. Supposedly it can last for a week or more, depending on how well your body can adapt. We're still fighting it. Although it's getting easier, I'm not sure I like living in the future (compared to NC time...we're in the future, kind of). 

{Our very modern TLF! Looks alot like something IKEA would come up with, doesn't it?}

Saturday was the first day we really got to experience life in Germany. Has the culture shock finally burrowed its way into my mind?

Stay tuned...

Jun 27, 2011

Our Journey To Germany: The Airplane

Finally! The posts you've all been waiting for! Or at least I hope you have. :) Sorry for taking so long to start writing...jet lag is no bueno...we're still fighting it! We've officially been in Deutschland for 5 days now! 5 days! I can't believe it sometimes. Just a little over 3 months ago we got word of our pending PCS to Germany and now we are finally enjoying this beautiful country! Over the next few days I will be posting re-caps of our crazy journey.

Let me start my story stateside in NC. We left NC last Wednesday morning at 8am and drove 7 hours to Baltimore to catch our nonstop flight to Germany. Even though we were kind of uncomfortable all squished up in the car with my parents (our 4 large suitcases and 2 carry-on's took up way more space than anticipated...oops!), we enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with them. After arriving in Baltimore, we checked into a hotel and hung out there (for another 7 hours) until we needed to be at the airport. We checked in at the airport about 11:45pm, said our "see ya later's" to my sweet parents, and waited another 3 hours until it was time to take off to Germany...at about 3am. Talk about being worn out. D and I were up for over 24 hours straight. This was simply because neither of us napped on the way up to Baltimore or in Baltimore. Just couldn't calm ourselves down enough to sleep. Thankfully, the lack of sleep exhausted us enough to allow us to doze off, uncomfortably, mind you, for a few hours on the plane. More on that later.

As we boarded the plane, D and I were shocked at how large it was. It was the largest one either of us had ever flown on. 50 rows of seats, 10 seats across. D was nice enough to let me have the window seat since I am a whiny butt and he gracefully took the middle. The flight wouldn't have been so horrible if 1) the plane hadn't been so HOT and 2) the rude men in the seats in front of us hadn't decided to recline their seats back as far as they'd go (which was farther back than any airplane seat I've ever seen)...we were like sardines cooking in the tin they were packaged in. So uncomfortable, so grouchy. Additionally, my headphone jack at my seat wouldn't work. Normally I would have been royally pissed about that, but Harry Potter was the first of the in-flight movies and I could totally care less about that little wizard. So, instead of suffering through Harry Potter-the silent version, I popped my Melatonin pill, put on my eye mask, and settled in to get a few hours of shut eye. Fat chance! The second I started to drift off into some level right above dreamland I hear, "Breakfast ma'am? Eggs or Pancakes?" SERIOUSLY? I'm sorry, but since when do people enjoy their breakfast at 4:30am? The average Joe isn't even awake and getting ready for work then. I was flabbergasted...but I replied "pancakes" anyway. Thought it might be the only chance I'd have to eat, so I grimaced through the meal. In hindsight, I should have passed on breakfast altogether, because what D and I ate would certainly not have qualified as "breakfast" below 30,000 feet. "Pancakes" must have been airplane slang for brown tire rubber with a fruit flavored sludge topping...we just missed the in-flight memo. Barf.

To add insult to injury, the guy in the aisle seat beside D literally slept the ENTIRE FLIGHT. So, did D and I bother to wake him to use the bathroom or walk around? Nope. I'm sure we could have, but he was snoring and looked incredibly comfy for some odd reason. I would have spit nails if someone would have woken me up from sleep like that...so we let him be. Thank God Mother Nature was kind to both of our bladders, because it really wasn't that big of a deal...at least the going to the bathroom part. As far as walking around and stretching our legs goes, I should have attempted to do that. About 5 hours into the flight, I noticed my feet were swelling a bit. This happened to me on a 13 hour flight back from Uruguay back when I was in high school, but that was after 10 days of limited water intake and super salty foods. I was a little nervous it was happening pre-foreign country and only 5 hours in. I stuck my carry-on under my legs to prop them up a bit and that seemed to help. Thank God. Last thing I wanted to do was walk off the airplane tired, grouchy, and with cankles. I could almost hear the customs guy as soon as I walked off the plane, "I thought you only had 1 carry-on, those aren't permitted in the country!" Hardy har har. 

So, the flight continued on pretty uneventfully. Another movie (which I still couldn't watch), another inedible meal came round (if that was a ham sandwich then I've been bamboozled all these years) and thankfully, a few hours of some kind of sleep made an appearance. After all the pre-flight Target runs we made to get magazines and snacks, we never even opened our carry-on's to enjoy our purchases. This was primarily because it would've taken too much effort and inconvenience to pull things out and try to put them back when we were done. Screw it. We sat in a mild form of agony for 8 hours. Thankfully, the flight was 2 hours shorter than we had originally expected. I wouldn't have survived 2 more hours on that plane. The man in front of us surely would have been slapped straight across his face at hour 3 if he hadn't been in uniform...and if I was that kind of person. We finally deplaned in Ramstein at 4:00pm Germany time (would have been 10am NC time). The 6 hour time difference was already taking it's toll. We slugged our way through customs, claimed our giant bags of luggage, and made our way outside to find D's sponsor (who vaguely resembled a knight in shining armor...I'm sure I was hallucinating from fatigue at that point) with a sign that read "THE COTES." 

We made it. We're finally here. All the planning, all the tears, all the stress has finally brought us to this point in time, our final destination. As horrible as the flight was, I am still grateful we're in Germany, safe and sound. 
God is good. God is SO good.

photo credit
 To be continued...

Jun 22, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Well, it looks like it's just about that time. Time for us to be making our way across the pond to our new life awaiting us in Germany! We've had such a wonderful time at home in NC these past 2 weeks. It was nice to have some down time to visit with friends and family and basically regroup from all the moving. Today, in about an hour actually, we begin our 7 hour drive up to Baltimore to catch our flight to Germany! I am looking forward to this little road trip, believe it or not. Mom and Dad were nice enough to volunteer for the job...as if they had a choice since we're car-less. I'm hoping to get a little sleep (since I'm sure I won't sleep much on the 10 hour flight that begins in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow) and to spend a little more time with my parents. I really am going to miss them. Even though I am not looking forward to saying the "see ya laters" tonight when we arrive at the airport because I'm sure that will be when the tears make their appearance...but I am excited to finally start our adventure! It was just a mere 3 months ago when D came home with the news of our move to Europe. Those 3 months have FLOWN by and now there is no turning back! Off to Germany we go!! Please continue to pray for us as we travel, submerge ourselves in Germany, and adjust to our new life abroad! We are STOKED to say the least! 

Auf Wiedersehen, America!! Until we meet again.

Jun 17, 2011

'Auf Wiedersehen' Party

D and I literally have the best friends and family in the world. This past Saturday night, our families threw us an amazing going away party! It was German themed and just perfect! Mom's thoughts were that with only 2 weeks to squeeze in time with everyone we wanted to see before we left for Germany, why not throw a big shindig and have people come to us. Quite brilliant, actually. And of course, any excuse to throw a party is a good excuse! We had German decorations including beer steins, German flags, lanterns in the colors of the German flag, and giant cardboard pretzels adorning the place. It was quite a sight to behold. Thank goodness for the invention of the car port (which I know came long before a garage was ever thought up, thank you ancient Greece!) because it started raining cats and dogs about an hour before the start of the party. Great, I thought to myself. It had been beautiful all day right up until the party. I totally thought it would keep our guests away. To my surprise, come hell or high water, our guests arrived ready to party!

The rain finally stopped, but it made no matter, the carport served to be great shelter. I used to be embarrassed that we had a carport while everyone else in the neighborhood had garages with fancy moving doors. Now, I embrace the carport and its breezy security from the elements. But, I digress...back to the party! In addition to the kitschy German decor, we had lots of great German-esque food to indulge in. Dad grilled brats and we covered them in sauerkraut and stone ground mustard. My fabulous mother-in-law made a delicious Ruben dip and these little apricot-glazed sausages on rye bread. She also got us the most adorably scrumptious carrot sheet cake from Dewey's...a to-die for bakery that everyone around here loves. I tried my hand at making German Chocolate cupcakes from scratch and they turned out wonderfully! We also had soft pretzels and TONS of beer! Mom and I tried to make this party as much of a German experience as we could...just to give our guests a taste of what is soon to become our life! D even downloaded a rousing selection of polka songs to add to the German ambiance (even though by the end of the evening the music slowly turned into a tribute to Journey and N'SYNC...don't ask, the iPod had a mind of it's own.)

All in all, it was a lovely night filled with lots of stories from "the good 'ole days" and well wishes for the future. We are really going to miss everyone who came out to celebrate with us. Thank you all for your love and support over the years. We'd never be able to handle this crazy military life if it wasn't for your love, encouragement, and prayers!

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  ~Marcel Proust~

And now for some photos!

We've got less than a week left here in North Carolina, the USA for that matter, then it's off to Germany for 3 fabulous years of lederhosen and strudel! Exciting doesn't even begin to describe it.

Jun 8, 2011

Langley In The Rear View

**Warning! This is a picture dense post. Seriously. Hope you love looking at photos!**

I can't believe we've finally left Virginia. It seems like just yesterday D and I were finishing up our last year of college and took our last spring break trip here to scope out our soon-to-be home for 3 years. Time really does fly. This place has been good to us. We've made great friends, had our first "big boy/girl" jobs, rented our first real home (and then another), spent hours upon hours lounging at the beach, and got in alot of historic sight-seeing. Even though D and I spent our first year of marriage still in college living in North Carolina, I feel like our lives as adults began the second we stepped foot in Virginia. As scared as we were to be married and out on our own, this state, this base, embraced us and we flourished. We've made so many memories...too many to count...and have been blessed beyond belief. As we were getting ready to leave the comfort of our fabulous room at the Langley TLF, I found myself reflecting on my most favorite memories from our time here. There are too many to share, but here are a few of the highlights of the last 3 years:

Spring Break 2008--our first visit to VA to scope out our soon-to-be home! Spent the day whale watching on the Rudee Flipper in VA Beach.

Our first real home...I fell in LOVE with this house on base. This was after 6 months of living in the tiniest apartment I'd ever lived in. Horrible.

BBQ with friends in our back yard. This was before we broke out the cornhole!

We spent hours upon hours at the beach in Fort Monroe...we loved those beaches, so secluded. We also liked taking walks around the Fort.

Dinners on top of dinners, on top of dinners...we had a good time celebrating every event under the sun with our awesome friends.

Wine Festivals...

Moving into the newest house while D was deployed...

And these girls helped me to keep it all together while our boys were away.

Beer Olympics...one of the best parties I've ever been to. And it wasn't just because we won. But we did...we totally won. And it was awesome! Go Red Jaguars!

One of the 10 times we went to Busch Gardens...it was one of the must-see places when our friends would come up for visits. We were always happy to oblige.

Cousins Weekend with my sister and cousins from Kansas!!


Norfolk Tides baseball game

4th of July with Team Barnes! We explored Williamsburg (for the 37th time), ate at the Cheese Shop (sandwiches are to DIE for), drank copious amounts of wine, and watched the fireworks on the Governor's Palace lawn. Best 4th of July ever. Best summer ever, really.

Air Power Over Hampton Roads Air Show with my family.

Michael Buble with Team Barnes!!!

Going Away Parties...while fun, we never wanted them to happen because that meant yet another friend was leaving us.

ChristmasTown at Busch Gardens before Christmas.

Dinners at The Sunset Grill in the marina after spending hours on the beach or at Water Country USA.

The day D got promoted to 1st Lieutenant!

Of course...the hours we spent at various beaches around Hampton Roads...

My 23rd birthday cake made by some dear friends of ours...it was a creation to behold.

The Office Party. Here is D as Kevin from Jim and Pam's wedding episode. Hilarious. And yes, those are tissue boxes for shoes.

And finally....
D's Homecoming.

Leila Wylie Photography
Leila Wylie Photography
Leila Wylie Photography
 I am so thankful for all of these memories and the people who made them all worth remembering. Now, as we close the Langley chapter of our lives together, we are looking forward to the newest chapter...Germany! Stay tuned for all of the new adventures we will encounter as we cross the pond! T-15 days!

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