Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Brief Aside for 29 August 2013

So, I don't feel like there's an awful lot to add to Scarlett's updates (this is not-Scarlett). Most of what I could share that is specific to me would probably not be super interesting to a general audience and has 100% fewer babies in it (for now).

I don't feel like I have any particularly suitable words of a memorial nature on this day, but I did want to maybe write a little something about a certain 295-year-old. If you know what day it is and don't know what I'm talking about, well, I guess that's OK. Just don't tell me.

So, in my not-so-vast experience, people tend to either love or hate their home town. I'm sure there's some people out there who feel apathetic, but I don't know that I've ever met one. Let's say you fall into the first camp; you probably have a whole list of reasons why your city/town/patch-of-nowhere is the best or at least among the best. Folks from New Orleans are basically the same, with a small difference: I think probably many people who love, say, Chicago or Nashville or, I don't know, Boise would say "Sure, Chicago/Nashville/Boise is my favorite city, but I'm sure other people have good reasons for disagreeing or might like other cities for different reasons." Again, speaking in generalities, New Orleanians know that there is a very simple explanation for why you don't think New Orleans is the best city in (at the very least) the US. You are wrong. I would say that we don't hold it against you, but that's not really true. We don't think you're stupid, necessarily. More likely, we just try to figure out what character flaw you might possess that would lead you to such a patently ridiculous conclusion.

Maybe you just really really like paying a lot for mediocre food. Maybe you hate live music and/or festivals. Maybe you went to the French Quarter and threw up one time and think that's all there is to do. Maybe you prefer to live in a place that's sanitized for your protection (does that phrase still appear in public bathrooms? Or is it like the picture of the floppy disk on "save" buttons now?). Maybe you're a racist. Maybe not.

It seems to be especially common in Germany (although by no means exclusively here) for nearby towns to have not completely friendly rivalries over which should be considered better. Are you from the wrong side of the Rhine (i.e. across from the speaker)? The only suitable gesture is a disdainful shake of the head. Or, in the US, I'm aware of rivalries between Seattle and Portland or Boston and New York. Or LA and New York. Or probably lots of other cities and LA and New York. Probably there are a number of cities who consider themselves rivals with New Orleans, or at least deserving the same level of appreciation. Rather than try to explain how the sort of NOLA resident I've been describing might feel about such claims, I'll share this quote. When asked to comment about the Saints' rivalry with the 2000 Rams, Joe Horn said "I don’t see it as a rivalry. In a rivalry you go back and forth. I win one, you win one. We've beaten them three of the last four. They've got to do better than that to be our rivals." Mobile likes to say that they have the first Mardi Gras celebration in America. I suppose this may be true. But if it is, shouldn't they be better at it by now? And that's not really to knock Mobile, but apart from that last sentence, you'll rarely if ever hear a New Orleanian comparing Mardi Gras-s (Mardis Gras?); it just wouldn't make sense. I won't dignify the other city that springs to mind by mentioning it.

Anyway, so if for some reason you're still reading, why am I writing this? Do I just feel like I don't get enough opportunity to be belligerent at work? Maybe. I have enjoyed other cities I've visited and lived in. But I've never watched a band play their only three songs on the concrete slab that used to one of the band members' home (while drinking red drink) in Boise. I've never stayed up until I was half-crazed so that I could make signs for (and not accidentally sleep through) a parade in Mobile. I've never listened to a (probably objectively shady) guy recite Poe while reclining on a motorcycle in Chicago or New York. I've never eaten found bananas or accidentally gone to a blues and barbecue festival or been the worst Bishop or played really ill-advised graveyard sardines anywhere but in New Orleans.

If there's a point in here somewhere, I think I've probably made it. This is far from the most eloquent tribute imaginable, and there are folks who are significantly more hardcore NOLA than I. But in case you've ever gotten annoyed with a New Orleanian for expecting you to agree that there's no city like ours, try to be understanding. Not everyone knows how to handle being right.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend in Rockenhausen

Last weekend, Hunter and I got to take a quick weekend jaunt to Rockenhausen. It's a small town of about 5,000 people, so there's no reason you would have heard of it. The only reason we had heard of it is because Hunter's Aunt Patsy* had found some distant relatives who live there. She was visiting them and we went to see her and also meet this new branch of our family. It's about four hours away and the train ride wasn't exactly pleasant. One of the trains we were on was sooo crowded. Hunter didn't get a seat but I did, presumably because of the baby.** Anyway we made it to Rockenhausen and ate dinner with our newfound relatives.  That night, I got a headache. I woke up at 0330 with a migraine and no medicine. It was upsetting because we had plans for an excursion on Saturday and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to go. However, after sleeping a bit and eating a delicious German breakfast, I was feeling better, so I was able to take the trip to Speyer.

Speyer is a city that dates back to Roman times and they have a very old cathedral where some emperors are buried. I managed to get a few phone pics:

A giant pipe organ. I really like organs.
Likeness of Rudolph of Habsburg. Apparently he was (one of?) the first to want his actual likeness carved, as opposed to just a model's face.

There was what was essentially a Renaissance Faire going on in Speyer while we were there. We sort of accidentally considered going to it, but it was pretty expensive to get in so did not. There is also a museum that we wanted to go to, but we had gotten off to a late start and so by the time we got there we wouldn't really have had time enough to see it.

On Sunday, we went to a service at a church where Hunter's ancestors (from waaay back) were baptized and married. It was the first German church service we had been to, and it made us feel like maybe we should just go to a German language church. For one thing, we can at least recognize when they say the chapter/verse of what they are reading and can maybe get a German/English Bible. Also since the songs are written out it's possible to understand a bit of those. Listening to the sermon, Hunter understood a few more words than I did, but I think that going consistently would help improve our German and also give us a motivation to study more German.

Church culture in Germany is interesting because not many people go. It's not like in the south, where it's a social thing to go; if people don't want to they just don't. So the churches are very small and skewed older, but you also get the impression that the people probably actually want to be there. It's an interesting difference.

Hunter and I both got to practice German a bit more over the weekend than we had before. Our hosts spoke decent English, but it was fun to be able to try to say things in German sometimes. Since we were visiting older Germans, I was a bit afraid things might end up going down like this:

However, the war was mentioned a few times without incident.

Overall, it was a nice weekend getaway and most likely the last one before the baby is born (and presumably for some time after).

*Which, if you follow that link you will understand why it was perfectly reasonable and acceptable to hear her say, "Last time I was in Tuscaloosa was with the Grand Dragon."

**There was also an elderly nun on the train who did not get offered a seat which made me feel kinda bad but also I really needed to sit down.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some More Things About Doctors in Germany

Alright, in the past week or so I've had a few more experiences with doctors that I figured I'd write about.

First of all, last week we went to the hospital to get information in English about having the baby there. We had been to an information night before, but it was all in German so we got maybe 50% of what they were saying. So this time we went in to talk to someone and I guess "register." The person we talked to pointed out a few things that are different about having a baby in Germany. The main one I think is that the baby is completely delivered by the midwife. She said the doctor will basically just stand there in case something goes wrong. Hunter felt that she "tried to talk me out of the epidural," although I would describe it more as "firmly informing me that not as many people in Germany get them." She said about 1 in 3 new mothers do it. I've pretty much made up my mind on that, though. My mom had one child with it and one without it and said it's much better with it.
Also, included in the German insurance is access to a midwife for up to a year after the baby is born. She will come every day for the first ten days, then every two days and gradually less frequently until you decide you don't need it anymore. I guess she'll do things like help out and teach me how to take care of a human being. So they gave us a list of midwives and pointed out one who they knew spoke good English. We still need to get on calling, though--neither of us is really keen on using the phone.

Also last week, I finally got in to see a doctor to get a new prescription for Zoloft. It was kind of a hassle; I'll spare you the details I guess but it worked out well and I got the prescription. Which brings me to something else that is different here: pharmacies. If you need to get a prescription filled in the US, you can expect to wait 10-15 minutes minimum and sometimes a few hours, if they are really busy. I always kinda wonder what they are doing back there. I guess counting out the pills one by one or whatever and maybe typing up the little label. At the Apotheke, I walked in, handed the person my prescription (which was typed(and therefore legible) and had my insurance info on it) and shes grabbed a box of pills and handed them to me. Plus, it was about 5 Euros for 100 pills and in the US I was paying about that for 45. So yes, my impression of the German medical system is pretty good so far.

The last thing I've done recently was go in to talk to the anaesthetist so I could sign the papers pertaining to the epidural. When I called to make an appointment, OF COURSE they only spoke German but I managed. The trickiest thing was that I didn't realize "morgen" also means tomorrow, so she kept saying the appointment was "morgen" and I was thinking yes I know it's in the morning but what day? Anyway, the result is I learned a new word so awesome. Then when I got to the hospital I once again had to figure out where to go, speaking mainly to people whose English was lacking in some areas. I did finally make it in to talk to the person I needed to talk to. I guess they like you to sign these papers beforehand because "once you are in pain you'll sign anything." The most annoying thing is that it says you can't wear piercings or makeup during deliveries. I know you're probably thinking putting on makeup while I'm going into labor is the last thing I'll want to do, but trust me, I'm really vain and since people are probably going to take pictures of me and baby and everything right after, I don't want to look super gross. So I guess I'll just throw my makeup bag into my backpack when I go. Also, I can take an ambulance to the hospital and it's free.*

Ok, the next thing I'm going to post about is the really awesome cloth diapers I ordered, but I'm waiting for all of them to get here so I can post pics. Hope to have another post up soon!

*Note that when I say "free," I mean "included in our insurance." The insurance is I think 15% of the paycheck and so is very cheap compared to many peoples' in the US.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Five Obsolete Things That Are Still Inexplicably Common in Germany

When we first came to Germany, we thought it wouldn't be so different from the US. I mean, all of the drinks would be carbonated and we could see the doctor for free, but basically this is a western country. How different can it be? The answer is a lot. I frequently see weird, seemingly outdated things all over the place and kind of wonder what they are still doing here. Here are a few of those things.

1. Travel Agencies
Seriously, even in the small town we lived in when we first came here, I would pass two or three travel agencies just in the course of my daily business. Here in the city, there are even more. They are everywhere. If you are my parents' generation and in the US, you maybe used one of these 15 years ago. If you are my generation, you probably haven't booked a trip without Priceline/Expedia/Internet of some kind. I don't understand the possible utility in this. How can there be savings to pass on to the traveler if there is a live person plus a building that needs to be paid for?

2. Baby on Board Signs
This is excusable. They were too busy with the wall coming down to realize how lame these are.

3. Working Only During Daytime Hours
People, we've had electric lights for over 100 years now. But I could deal with things closing early if that were the only problem. Here, the mindset seems to be "why would anyone work at a time that the store isn't open?" So people are stocking the stores when you are in them, the computer maintenance on some of the supercomputers Hunter uses is done during the workday, when people could actually be using them, and no one has seemed to figure out the concept of shifts: I'm all for a lunch break but you can actually have different people eat lunch at different times.

4. Cash
Cash might not be "obsolete" per se, but I'm guessing if you are a person of close to my age living in America, you pay for most things with a credit/debit card. I've bought a half price iced tea at Sonic with my debit card; it's just easier. And of course, rare is the American restaurant that doesn't take at least Visa and MasterCard. In Germany, pretty much no one uses cards. I have seen a few people use their "EC Card (basically a debit card)" at the grocery store and when I bought appliances I could use card. But many restaurants only take cash and it's certainly the most common way to pay for things.

5. Keys
Just reading the title of this one, you're probably thinking Wait a sec. I use a key for my car. I use a key to get into my house/apartment. Keys aren't obsolete.

Reader, you do not even know. First of all, yes, we use a key to get into our apartment. In your dwelling, once you are in your apartment, there is most likely a deadbolt or a button/twisty thing on the door so that you can quickly and easily lock it from the inside. We don't have that. We must use the key to lock the door from the inside. It also requires a key to UNLOCK. So basically, you can be locked in. We live in a murder cave.

But it isn't just the front door. The doors inside also have weird locks on them. The bathroom door has like an old-style keyhole that you have to turn a key in it to lock. I was going to post a picture, but my phone-Internet has been throttled and it's taking forever. So you'll just have to use your imagination.

Anyway, I'll try to do another post a little bit sooner--went to the hospital today to get some information about giving birth there and everything so I can share some of that next time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Church in Germany: Round Two

So, before I get to the main body of the post, just wanted to update a few more things.

1. Our Internet did get shut off. However, until they come out here to turn it back on again (or just get it together enough to flip a switch; not sure how this works) we found this temporary solution. I don't know of anything like it in the states, but there's no reason why I would if such a thing does exist. Basically, we have a little SIM card thing that plugs into a USB device, and you can pick up wireless with it. It's pretty fast and you get a week free (1GB until they start to throttle). There are different plans, or you can just pay for the days you use it. We're hoping we don't have to do it for more than a week or so but at least we aren't totally off the grid.

2. It's finally starting to cool off a little. If you've seen my posts on Facebook or Twitter, you know that we had some near record-breaking heat here. I mean like 97 degrees which is unheard of. There was a day when I just lay in bed in front of the fan for basically the whole day. It's supposed to get even cooler which as a pregnant lady who has to walk up four flights of stairs every day is no problem with me.

Okay, so now to talk about what I promised in the title of the post: our second church experience. This time, we had to go to Cologne. It's about an hour away. There are a few English-speaking churches there; the one we chose to try first was called International Baptist Church. In order to get there, we had to take two trains and a subway. I was tired out even by the time we got to Cologne. Luckily, the service started at 2:00 pm, which is pretty nice when it takes so long to get there. We didn't even have to leave the house until about 11:00!

We got to the church and were welcomed by someone who I'm guessing is from England, based on accent. Hunter thought at least one of the British Isles but he didn't sound Welsh or Scottish or Irish. He said that over 26 nations were represented at the church. The regular pastor is from Wyoming, but he wasn't there that day; the man who preached was from India. Hunter said that the service was definitely very "Baptist" for a few reasons: 1) the sermon had three points, and the preacher called attention to the fact that there were three points and 2) during one of the songs people were clapping but basically everyone was clapping at a different rhythm (which I don't really get but apparently it can happen). The sermon was also really long, like about an hour. The biggest problem with this was that Sunday was one of the hotter days, and even though the room was big with high ceilings it was really hot in there. I was fanning myself with the bulletin CONSTANTLY. Plus the benches weren't super comfortable, but I'm blaming that more on Scunter than anything else because I just can't sit down (or stand, or lie down) for too long at once these days.

Overall, I would go back to this church, but I would definitely prefer something a bit more... liturgical, I guess, or maybe traditional is a better word for it. There is an Anglican church in Cologne and I think also one in Maastricht (Netherlands) so those may be among the ones we try next.

The hardest thing about the day was how exhausting it was for me. By the time we got to the train station to go home, I was so tired and tense I just snapped. I had felt like I would collapse for about 5 hours at that point and the trip just seemed like too much to do every week. I've been thinking about some ways to possibly deal with it next time. Even though the train station is only about a 15-20 minute walk, taking a bus would definitely save some energy. I also think if I bring a huge water bottle and stay hydrated better, then that could help me (I hate drinking water because it makes me want to throw up, but in this case it might help). And of course, with the weather getting cooler the heat won't be there to get to me as much. On Sunday evening, I really though I cannot make this trip again. But I think that with it being more familiar there might be less anxiety and I can also plan for the things that made it difficult.

Anyway, hope it's not too long before my next post!