Monday, November 28, 2011

Life in Deutschland

Well we made it! My last post was MONTHS ago, and one might begin to wonder if we set sail to Deutschland, but we did. I must say that the process of settling into a new state can be challenging, well try a new country. Now I like to think of myself as a woman of worldly views, educated and informed, never mind that my profession as a high teacher and mother of a teen keeps me in touch with the "hip" stuff. HOWEVER, I might have overestimated my own cleverness. Instead of posting some horrifically long blog post that no one is going to read anyways, let's just take a couple of "for instances".
For instance #1: Finding a place to live. Momma never told me there would be days like this.
The U.S. military, in its attempt to provide some modicum of continuity for military children, tends to move its families in the summer. Makes sense, right? School is out and moving is a bit less stressful when you don't have to worry about children missing entire chunks of instruction. That being said, it also means that transient traffic in and out of a base if quite hectic and people are trying to move and vacate homes while others are trying to snatch up the nicer places to live. Snatch being the operative word here. So in Germany they don't place FOR RENT signs anywhere, and you don't have the traditional* Realtor/Rental Agencies. (Traditional will be used to denote anything that is 'typical' in America.)Rental agencies WILL help you find a place to live and they advertise, but what they don't tell you is that it will cost you up to one month's rent in finder's fees. Even if you found them in a newspaper!  So how do you go about finding a place? The newspaper printed for the American community, and the ONE website that is approved by the base housing agency. Yup....just one website. Now mind you the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) is the LARGEST U.S. military community outside of the United States. You would think that they would operate or encourage the operation of more than one website. Nope! So now you have couple hundred, maybe a thousand or so families moving every summer and one website to support the house hunt. You can imagine my frustration and despair. So we looked, and looked, and looked. We saw houses that were the size of shoe boxes with rooms no bigger than coffins. We looked at spacious homes on great lots of lands that were in villages so small and remote we would be lucky to see a plow go through the town during the winter. We arrived to view homes, get excited about the location and outside of the house, only to be told that the appointment RIGHT before ours rented the home. The nightmare continued for an entire month before we were forced to settle on home. How were we forced? The temporary lodging the military we were in was only open for 30 days. With luck and God on our side, we made a last ditch effort to find something and JACK POT! We find something that met our size, price and distance requirements. Now here I sit just 7 minutes to base, in a comfortable home that doesn't feel like something out of some bad 70's porn with shag carpets and wood paneling. It could always be worse....
For instance #2: Trash Trivia
Seems like a cool game? Something one might play with friends and adult libations? Guess again. In order to dispose of trash you have to sort through it. Not all trash is created equal. Here in Deutschland we segregate based on post trash usefulness. Almost every home has no less than 3 outside trash bins, each a different color, each picked up on different Mondays of the month. So to keep things simple I have 3 trash bins in my kitchen. We have the recyclables bin. A mere stand holds in place a yellow see-through plastic bag (provided for you down at the local town hall), where we sort all plastics, cans, styrofoam, cartons, and anything that contains a material that can be recycled. These bags are collected once every two weeks, and they are put out curbside for collection. No bin necessary. The next bin is for cardboard or paper. So newspapers, magazines, anything that is cardboard but not carton. So yes to the empty pizza boxes, but no to the milk carton. This has a HUGE bin outside and its collected only ONCE a month. Ummm... yes it gets pretty full by the end of the month. The last two categories that we should have is bio-waste and restmull. Bio-waste is biodegradable trash that they can use for compost. We have the option of composting ourselves or putting it in a bio-bin and they haul it off every other week. We don't have that bin and trying to talk to our German/Russian speaking landlord is incredibly difficult. So we don't bother with the bio trash. Then you have restmull, or reject trash. Amongst the trash caste system, this is the lowest of trash. These items can neither be recycled or composted, and so its incinerated. Collected once every other week, this trash has a tendency to get a bit ripe before they pick it up. What I find the most amusing is this is the smallest of bins and the idea is that you will have sorted through so much of your other trash that the Restmull or rest of it should be minimal. Good thinking! Except maybe we could use a class in sorting trash, because talk about having to reprogram children into sorting through ALL their trash. We have also gone more natural in our cooking to avoid mountains and mountains of trash. We figured the less trash we consume they less we put out.
For instance #3: Miscellanea
The Wal-Mart detoxs. Need I say more? When you are used to one stop shopping and everything you could possibly think of contained in one store, its hard to find yourself in a base exchange where off brands are nonexistent and their idea of a sale is 10% off the Coach heels. Really? Who on a military salary wears Coach or Prada? Not this chic! Moving right along.... 110 voltage versus 220 voltage. You don't realize just how much runs on electric until you have to buy new appliances or buy a $100 transformer to run your 110v appliances off of, which can be an electric bill nightmare. Not that you would know because you don't get a monthly bill. They just estimate base on the previous year's usage. You pay an approximate cost and hope that you don't overuse because at the end of the year they read the meter and THEN you get a bill. It goes one of two ways: you get a refund for what you overpaid or you owe them money. I'll let you know how this turns out!

There is A LOT to get used to and so much to learn. I am adjusting and learning to roll with the punches, something I hadn't yet mastered. I am positive that by the time I leave Deutschland I will be a pro at going with the flow, because the alternative is drowning trying to fight the tide.