* This is an epically long post 🙂
Week 36 was a big week of transition. After returning from Cappadocia we came home to find that our AC was broken in the house. It.was.miserable. We had to spend a night sweating it out before CE finally came the next evening to fix it. Turns out a starter switch was broken on the outside unit. I spent that hot day taking care of the last few things I needed to do before leaving for Germany, then Will and I cooked dinner at home and tried to enjoy the last night we would have in our house without a baby (I always feel the need to add hopefully or providing all goes well to statements like that. I’m really not a worrier, but speaking in absolutes always makes me nervous. Anyone else a nut like this?? It’s like I’m scared to jinx myself.)
I was taking the rotator up to Germany. For anyone not familiar with military jargon, a rotator is a plane that basically rotates between certain bases. Military members and dependents are able to travel on these rotators free of charge, or at a very low rate (like $35 from Turkey to Baltimore, that is basically the tax cost). These flights are in place to help move military personnel around to the various bases for whatever duties they have there, but they also offer a great Space Available travel program. Once the seats have been assigned to those traveling on military orders, the rest of the available seats are up for grabs on a first come first serve basis. You sign up ahead of time, check in for roll call, and if there is an open seat for you, you get on the flight. There are categories assigned to those traveling on Space A determined by rank, whether you are on leave, and various other factors. The higher your category the more likely you are to get on the flight.
For the storknesting program I was flying on actual medical TDY orders so I was guaranteed a seat. The flight left at 6:00am, and due to the above mentioned process, I was required to report at the lovely time of 2:35am for check in (if you are on orders and do not check in by your report no later than time, your seat will be given up to those waiting for Space A seats!). After check in I waited in the waiting area until the Space A seats were assigned, then we went through a customs and passport check, and finally around 5:15am we boarded.
I was shocked at how big the plane was, and that although it was a little older, it was a really nice plane. Although I had been told it was just like a normal commercial plane, I couldn’t get it in my head that I wasn’t going to be flying on some military plane and basically sitting wedged up against the wall of some cargo hold. All in all it was very similar to a normal commercial flight process.
The rotator stops at Aviano, Italy on its way to Ramstein and everyone de-boards while those joining the flight are checked in. Different from a commercial flight, once everyone gets checked in and ready to go, they re-board and get on their way, regardless of what your layover time is stated to be.
We arrived in Germany at noon. This is where flying on a military flight is really nice. We walked straight from the plane to a small passport/customs check line, grabbed our waiting bags and out the door. I had a small scare because none of my bags except the car seat were waiting. Thankfully after reporting it to the woman working in baggage claim they turned the belt back on and my bags and one other person’s finally came through.
Will’s boss is stationed at Ramstein and was so kind to offer me a ride from the airport to my hotel on Landstuhl. He along with one of the other ADC’s stationed here helped me with my bags, and after getting only slightly lost (they are new to Germany too), we finally found he entrance gate and located lodging. I cannot tell you how grateful I was for their help. There was no way I could have managed my two suitcases, the car seat, my backpack, pillow, and purse all by myself. Not to mention because there are SO many storknesters here right now, I was placed on the third floor instead of the first. Military lodging facilities don’t have elevators so that meant lugging all my stuff up multiple flights of stairs. My feet had swollen so much during the flight they made Miss Piggy look like a runway model, so the rest of the afternoon I spent getting my things put away and keeping my feet up.
Getting Settled in Deutschland
Over the next few days I met with the storknesting coordinating nurse here, got to know my way around the hospital, got a new SIM card and data plan for my phone, picked up my rental car (with the help of a fellow storknester that gave me a ride into town to get it), and ventured over to Ramstein to check out the BX (Base Exchange) and pick up a few essentials. One of the other storknesters let me crash in on her lunch and pedicure appointment on Friday, then as I got back to the hotel the ADC that helped pick me up and his wife invited me over for dinner.
The cellular data system here is pretty terrible. And the internet in lodging is basically unusable. So I was a little nervous about navigating my way from Landstuhl to the little German village where they live. Luckily I had started to learn just enough to get myself on the way, and to the point where I finally got 3G service and google maps would kick in.
They have an adorable house, and I’m envious of all the land and picturesque surroundings they have. I forgot how green, and clean and beautiful Germany is. The military is so nice sometimes in the fact that almost anywhere you go there is someone you can reach out to for help or company. It’s pretty awesome to come up here not really knowing anyone, and within a few days be invited to someone’s house for dinner, make new friends, and realize you don’t have to face weeks upon weeks in a foreign place all alone. I successfully made it there and back…even in the dark. And for someone with zero navigational skills, I was very proud of myself.
Respecting Our Turkish Experience
I wondered if I would get here and never want to leave to go back to Turkey. Will and I spent a short amount of time in Germany a few years back, and on the flight up here I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a break from the craziness that is Turkey, and to be somewhere I am a little more comfortable with. I was afraid I would get here and really wish we had gotten a western Europe assignment instead.
It is definitely wonderful being here (the fresh air feels so good in my lungs), but surprisingly being here has made me very happy we are stationed in Turkey. Let me explain. One of the main reasons I was pretty disappointed in being stationed in South Dakota was because outside of the crazy winters, life there wasn’t really all that different than it was in North Carolina. The activities and sites available to us weren’t drastically different from those available back home. We could still hike, fish, camp, shop at Target, see a movie, visit breweries etc…I hated being 1500 miles from home and family and friends just to be doing the same things we had always done. When you have to be that far away you at least hope you will be experiencing something totally different, or at least I did. Ramstein is not quite SO similar to home, but true to what I had been told, it is VERY Americanized. The majority of the people here, even off base, speak very good english, and in general this area isn’t super German looking. In many ways the landscape looks a lot like our hometown in NC. All-in-all I don’t really feel all that much like I’m in a foreign country. Maybe it’s because my life seems to be filled with extremes, but Ramstein wouldn’t have provided that drastic change I wanted. Turkey is like living in a whole other world. Sure it’s challenging, it’s not very comfortable at times, and the constant smell of burning leaves me praying that we aren’t going to develop lung cancer years down the road, but it is an experience…in every sense of the word. Many people go to Germany, not many people go to Turkey, and even fewer go to the part of Turkey we now call home. I’m thankful we have the option of catching the rotator up to Germany when we need a break from kebab and to clear our lungs, but I’m happy to be spending a couple of years exploring all things Turkey.
I find it hard sometimes being torn between holding onto the life we’ve known with just the two of us, versus this new life we are about to embark on. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited beyond belief at meeting your little one, especially after being here in Germany and seeing all these newborns, but I’m ok with not rushing things. We’ve got four more weeks till our due date, and I’m ok with baby waiting until then to make its appearance. While at dinner at the ADC’s house, we all talked about going to a wine fest that was taking place in town today, and my heart skipped with excitement. Normally this is exactly the type of thing Will and I thrive on. Walking around some town we’ve never seen, testing and tasting all kinds of new drinks and foods, and just breathing life in. I realize that that scenario is entirely possible with a baby in tow, but it will be different.
More so than ever I’m so thankful that we have had the life experiences that we have. That we waited to start a family and focused on us first. That we have years of memories, countless trips, and a beautiful life pre-baby to look back on and remember for the rest of our lives. Having a baby is a whole new adventure that will be so awesome, but I’m glad that we had our time just being married first.
Hitting Town Solo
And to wrap up week 36, I headed into Kaiserslautern (K-town) to piddle around and locate the Birkenstock store. The last pair I owned I bought while in Germany, and I’ve been waiting to buy a new pair until I got here. The prices here aren’t really all that much different than in the states, but I’m a nerd and it excites me to buy things in the country where they originated 🙂
After acquiring my new kicks I went in search of somewhere for lunch. I was ready for some wiener schnitzel. Ironically the first few restaurants I found were all kebab places. The LAST thing I wanted considering kebab is nearly all you can find when eating out in Turkey. I happened upon a street festival and the main shopping district of K-town, and found a seat outside at a cafe in the heart of the action.
I’ve gone places on my own before. And I’ve eaten at a few small fast few type restaurants by myself before. But I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a sit down restaurant and eaten a meal completely in my own company. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but either chickened out or was just lucky enough to have someone with me. I’ve also never really been one to be comfortable exploring on my own. I’m not one that would ever choose to take a trip by myself, and thankfully I’ve had the perfect travel partner to accompany me all these years so I didn’t have to. So coming to Germany I was a little disheartened because I wasn’t sure I had it in me to still live up my time here, because I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to venture out on my own.
I surprised myself yesterday. Fear didn’t find it’s way into my heart. Not as I walked through the crowded streets with people staring me and my huge belly down. Not as I sat alone at the restaurant and dined on my wiener schnitzel covered in mushroom gravy and french fries (which I managed to order with the help of my limited knowledge of french, recognition of a few German words, and some google translate since the entire menu was in German and my waitress didn’t speak a word of English). Not when my curiosity and need to see just one more festive street caused me to forget how to get back to my car. Not when I got to the car and found a parking ticket (which I had to again use google translate to decipher).
I would have given anything to have had Will with me and to hit up the biergarten and enjoy the live music well into the night of course. But on my way back to the hotel I was filled with pride in myself. I hadn’t let fear hold me back from enjoying this awesome opportunity. I didn’t let being pregnant serve as an excuse to hole up in my hotel room. Heck, I even wore heeled booties, and relished as the wind caught my scarf and my hair as I walked through town. I let myself live for an afternoon and it felt great. I can only wish we can instill this sense of wanderlust in our child. I hope they are always brave enough to face life head on.
The internet at the hotel is terrible so blogging will probably be sporadic over the next few weeks. I still have tons of photos from our trip to Cappadocia to share, but Lord knows when I will find wifi strong enough to actually be able to upload them to a blog. So bear with me. I’ll be posting as often as I can.
And for a little 36 week humor 🙂 This made me laugh so hard. #accruate