Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Chapter 12: The Great Escape
We've finally broken the Ramstein base grip--I have a German driver's license. Lawna still needs to get hers. She's been driving with an international permit that we picked up at AAA in San Antonio. The Air Force frowns upon that, but we had to start looking for a place to stay. No, we haven't found one yet, but at least we have some rental wheels, and one of us is properly licensed. We looked at an apartment today that was very tempting, and the owner spent a lot of time with us and drove us around the little village of Konken to show us what our neighborhood would be like: a bakery, a public house and a few businesses including a bike shop, and it's linked with bike trails that extend all the way to France. The apartment had plenty of room--three large bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms--and seemed well maintained. It was all beautiful and serene, and we were about to sign on the dotted line, but further thought reminded us that its location is a little far, which is not such a problem if you have two cars, but I would be kind of stranded during the day, and it would be hard for me to get to the base to teach college classes (if that materializes the way I anticipate). It was hard to break away. The little village really was appealing, far from the noise of Ramstein jets. We have another appointment tomorrow, closer to the base, and perhaps I can round up some more for tomorrow as well.
We have eaten out on the economy a few times--nothing fancy, just cafe type food, and we have enjoyed every meal. No, I don't miss Tex Mex food at all. Not yet. In fact, the food court at the huge base exchange (really a mall) just looks kind of gross. I can't wait to move off this base! I like being outside the gate, and my limited German is serving me OK. Sometimes I encounter merchants who have limited command of English and with my limited command of German we meet in the middle and sort it all out. Yesterday, I took a walk across the base, and as I made it back to our guest house, I walked by some workmen who had a manhole removed from the street and one of them was spraying highly pressurized water into the hole. As I passed him, he lost control of the hose which then snaked around randomly and then slammed into his face, square in the mouth. He doubled over, bleeding and spitting out about six teeth. I went over to him and his work partner to see if I could help. His partner spoke no English, and the victim of the accident couldn't speak at all. I punched in the German version of 911 on my mobile phone and his partner called in the emergency. The German dispatcher must have referred the emergency to American medics, because they soon arrived, and neither of them spoke any German. I was happy that I could help somewhat to communicate to the German workers. My German is limited, and eventually a German speaking AP arrived to translate for the medics, but at least I was able to help during the interim. The injured man was 86 years old--normal blood pressure and cholesterol, a strong worker. Unfortunately, he will probably now have to wear a set of dentures and maybe even have some jaw surgery. His upper lip was in a bad way.
On Sunday, we bought a GPS device at the base exchange. It has made finding places so easy. We looked up some advertised apartment just to see what they looked like--we had no appointments. Most Germans don't like to conduct business on Sundays. After we got tired of house window shopping, I just punched in "sites of interest," and I thought that the GPS was leading us to an old castle. In fact, we never saw a castle, but we did end up in Homburg, a lovely university town that also happens to be the home of Karslberg beer. It was a sunny day, the air still and quietly bracing in the mid 40s. Germans were all over the city streets, just walking and visiting. Only a few cafes were open. We ate Doners at one of them (a Doner is basically a gyro, only wrapped in a bun rather than pita bread) and, of course, Karlsberg pilsners and excellent coffee. Everyday German cafe coffee puts anything Starbucks brews to shame. It tastes divine creamed or black. After our excellent Sunday meal, we joined the locals promenading along the streets, lined with many old baroque style buildings. Actually, many of the buildings are newer, but built in an older style. We became slightly lost (left the GPS in the car) and the temperature started to drop. Finally, becoming chilled to the bone, we found our way back to our rental car and headed back to the base.
Hopefully, we will soon find a home, a place to cook our own meals and enjoy our possessions. I'm looking forward to meeting new neighbors and taking on a new rhythm of life. I'm looking forward most of all to finally feeling like we are in Germany and not just at some culturally insulated US outpost, watching armed forces television, with shiny, bald headed news announcers dressed in military camo, focusing mainly on news about our various military missions across the world. It's a rarified world we are in right now! We do have the Colbert Report and Daily Show, which makes TV life minimally bearable. I don't know what German TV will be like. Maybe just leaving it turned off will be best.
Such is our news aus Deutschland. For now, auf wiedersehen!