Friday, October 21, 2011

Good Times in Germany and DC

Disclaimer:  I went to Germany and DC on BUSINESS.  Let's just keep it straight from the beginning:  Business.  We were in Germany to see what operations at Ramstein Air Force Base were like and how similar processes could be used for us.  The main purpose of our trip was to go to the Association of the US Army annual convention in Washington, DC.  This was NOT a pleasure trip.  (End of Disclaimer)

Pagan symbol in stone at the castle
Yo!  My trip was DA BOMB.  We had such a great time.  I went with Stella and a colleague, ChE. ChE has become more like a brother through this trip and I'm glad I got to see more than his "business face."

Stella has a house just outside of Ramstein in Landstuhl.  I had never visited Germany before.  It is gorgeous and a lot like Virginia.  Very clean and green.

I liked Frankfurt airport this time.  Last time I was there (the only time) on a layover, I saw 2 men (American and German) get into a fist fight and they called security guards who ran over with machine guns.  Shaweeet.  The ugly American started it.  Je was not impressed.   This time, everyone was so friendly (including the Americans) and the cafe where we had breakfast was really nice.  The whole place smelled like fresh coffee and bread.  Yummmm

We were met at Frankfurt airport by my Irish cousin who I hope to see a lot more of in the future.  I felt immediately comfortable with him - my type of guy with the kind of humor that is so quick that sometimes you miss it and get it a few minutes later; making whatever even funnier. 

Walking into Stella's house felt like going to visit a close family member.  If my sister or I had a house in Germany, it would be very much like Stella's with the same peaceful/tranquil/artsy/quality vibe.  It just felt like I had been there before and had just been away for a while.  We met some of her friends and I immediately liked them - especially B Bear who I hope will come to visit us in Kuwait someday.

(I also discovered lavendar scented PineSol while at Stella's.  OMG - got to get me some here.  Makes the house smell wonderful.)

Germany wasn't at all what I expected it to be. I really had never had a desire to go there, but now that I have, I hope I get to go back.  People are very kind.  I loved Landstuhl village.  The Nanstein castle at the top of the village is amazing. Built somewhere around 1152, the castle is one of the coolest places I've ever visited.  There were all kinds of pagan symbols carved into stone and I've googled the place and discovered that there has been paranormal activity at the castle.  No wonder I felt so drawn to it.  I love that kinda stuff.

Ramstein was amazing.  Stella said that it is like a small city and it is.  The PX is about as large as Marina Mall (without the weird hair styles and hoochies). The base is the largest outside of the US.  It's really a huge operation.  I'm glad I got to see it. We ate lunch at the PX and ChE had sausages that were white and looked quite rude.  I'm glad I didn't get that.  I'm not so sure that I like German food.  Maybe I'm just jaded by machboos - dunno. I can deal with one or two sausages now and again, but there is just too many of them in Germany (NEVER thought I would be saying that!)

I don't know what I expected of Landstuhl village.  It turned out to be a lot like one of the places where I grew up - Wickford, Rhode Island.  It had that small, quaint feel to it.  The kind of place where everyone knows who you are and stop to say hello.  I can see why Stella would love it there.

(And again, why the hell are both of us here??)

So, we hopped on another plane to DC where all the leaves are now changing.  Spent the entire next day sight-seeing (more sight-seeing in one day than I have done in DC in probably my whole life).  Went to all the usual places:  (close to) the White House, Monument, Capitol, National Mall/museums, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Vets Memorial, Tital Basin, and then took a tour of Arlington Cemetery (where I had never been before). Ate some American hotdogs (they are NOT sausages) off a truck. ... All followed by dinner at my family's house. 

I knew that when my family met Stella, they would feel as if she were a distant cousin who had just come home for a visit, but it was better than I anticipated.  ChE was such big stah that night that I swearaGod, if I hear, "He's such a lovely person," just one more time....  (It is quite rare for my sister to use that adjective by the way.)  I have a new perspective of ChE and he is definitely a person of fine character (if he never reminds me of the Kung Fu Panda incident again.)  My nephew said, "Why can't he be American?"  Guess they had plans for him.  It couldn't have been better.  Everybody had a good time over dinner/copious amounts of wine.

The AUSA convention was 40% larger than it was in previous years.  There was also an anti-war demonstration going on at the same time, which was kinda cool;  got to see both perspectives.  The opening ceremony of the convention is always the best part.  They had several singers from the military with amazing voices; one sang "An American Soldier" and they showed scenes of 9/11.  Stella and I both lost it.  I don't think we were alone.  It was so quiet in the room full of several hundred people and when the song ended, the group erupted in applause.

It is interesting that foreign militaries are getting in on the act; some just to show that they have militaries I guess.  This year, the UAE had an enormous booth - complete with a Bedouin tent and a desk for information on tourism.  They weren't there selling anything, but showcasing their military's presidential guard. 

When we went past the Israeli military's booth, I got several scornful looks - I guess perhaps because of the Kuwait/America lapel pin that I wore.  Don't care; I grabbed some of their marketing candy and an Israel book bag for my nephew (it was a joke). I don't think he'll be toting it around school.  He's not exactly fond of their politics.

You can tell how the US economy is going by the types of marketing gifts that defense contractors give away.  For example, in 2009, all you got was candy (and the cheap kind).  This year, it was slightly better:  candy, stress balls, pens, and lots and lots of book bags.  The coolest items I got:  a flashlight pen and a flashing luggage tag.  One year, I got a tank simulator software game.  That was pretty cool.

Stella's mom met her in DC, arriving from Panama.  She arrived past midnight at Dulles and the immigration officer asked her why she has a US passport.  She said because she's a US citizen.  Then dude asked her why she doesn't have a green card if she doesn't live in the US.  WTF???!!  What kind of people are they hiring in the States?  OMG. Elementary kids:  apply now!

Anyhoo, for their last night in the States, we went on a river boat dinner trip on the Dandy.  I haven't been on their boats since the 80's, and I don't think they've changed the carpeting since then.  Unfortunately, it rained and was very misty.  My mother got kind of sea sick.  The music was so loud that we had to shout at each other (even though the boat was only 1/4 full).  They didn't even pass any of the monuments they were supposed to because the river was too high and they couldn't get under the bridges.  OMG - you would think that they would announce that prior to the trip, right?  It sucked.  When we got back, the streets were flooded because the river had overflowed (as it usually does in Old Towne, Alexandria).  If you want to go on a nice dinner cruise while in DC, try the other guys, the Oddessey.

ChE stayed an additional day and I took him to Leesburg to see the buildings that my ancestors either built or lived in.  I also took him to see my Dad's grave. My mom says that you can tell a lot about a country by how they bury their dead.  ChE said he was honored - which made me feel honored.

It was kind of depressing when Stella, her mom, and ChE all left.  I took an additional week off with the family which was great - although it rained a lot. I spend my days with my mommy driving along and chirping to each other (as if I never left) searching for the perfect pair of boots - which I never found.  I also tried on the entire new collection of Jennifer Lopez's fashions (which don't fit me very well).  Her shoes are all like 8" platforms.  Not for me.  Evenings I spend with my sister, bro-in-law, nephew and the dogs.  We all eat dinner together at 6 - that's the routine.  I got to experience some cool  weather and Cait made a fire in the fireplace.  She's an amazing person.  She cooks every night after coming home from work and always makes everyone (especially me) feel so welcome.  I miss her the minute I get out of her car at Dulles.  I wish that our two worlds were closer.  Sniffle.

I got to talk to Pretty Girl for around 3 hours on the phone.  She's loving life in California and I am so happy for her.  She sounds a leetle like a valley girl now.  I love that.  I also love that she can talk to me; asking me what a few of the more vulgar peer slang means (you know - stuff that you can't ask your host parents).  Through the program, she gets to go to school at a private college prep school and I am praying that she'll get a university scholarship.  I just adore that girl and I hope she'll always be in my life.

So that's how it was and now I'm here.

Southern Bedu picked me up at the airport (I trained him well).  He looks well rested.  He had some stuff going on at work and I think things will be much better now.  He just seems more relaxed.  We're hoping to go to Virginia at Christmas.  We keep joking that we're going to fly to Vegas and get married by Elvis.  Who knows.  I know my family is going to love him.  They'll probably all gang up against me.  That's how it goes.

As for worrying about him not being around the night before I left - maybe he learned something about that too.  Maybe he just didn't know how to deal with me leaving.  I don't know/don't care.  Bygones.

1 comment:

Serena Thomson said...

I like your experience.. and thanks to share with us ...!!

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