Monday, October 31, 2011


Today was a hodgepodge. We began the day in Geilenkirchen so I could complete the shopping for my sister's birthday gift. On this, our fourth day of driving, we navigated toward the city's center; this was easy enough. Parking was more of a challenge. My husband listened to Blanche the GPS narrator, and went through a roundabout, taking the second exit. Instead of veering sharply, he continued in a much smoother fashion and that was ironic because it took us directly to the bus stop. An elderly woman was patiently waiting and she glared at us reproachfully because we dismissed all of the traffic signs that forbade us from driving into the bus lane. We hurriedly drove through the restricted area and parked in a hotel parking lot.

It's very difficult to be the passenger in your own car. It's especially difficult when you're in a new country with different traffic laws and roads. I've developed some type of car sickness due to the stress of riding in my own car and listening to the driver (my husband) say things like, "The sun is so different here. It's blocking my view." 

We spent an hour in Geilenkirchen and then headed off to the base to take care of some more administrative tasks. We obtained a gas ration card for my car and then went to the post office to mail my sister's birthday gift. A sign on the door read that the office will be closed November 1st for All Saints' Day. I didn't immediately feel that this holiday closing would impact me since today is October 31st. I tried the door handle and it appeared to be locked. A man walking out of another door said, "Oh I'm sorry ma'am. The post office is already closed. It closed at noon today in observance of tomorrow's holiday." What could I say except, "Oh! Okay! Thanks. I'll come back Wednesday."

We decided to go to the readiness center to inquire about delivery for some appliances to our new home. Everyone there was in a celebratory mood due to the Tuesday holiday, and they were very helpful and eager to answer our questions. We received advice about furniture, bicycles (our other goal for today), and online sources to aid in our continuing transition.

Afterward, we went to the base's version of a department store. It's a limited selection but I only needed one item so we thought it would be a good option. My husband is an avid runner and I've decided that I need running pants in order to try to hone my athletic skills. With so much countryside, I figure Germany is the best place to get into the fitness habit. 

I wanted to try on the pants since they're the first legitimate pair of running pants I've ever owned. I brought them to the dressing room area where there were three stalls. Logically, I tried the first one. There was some resistance but that was only because I was pushing the door in instead of pulling it out. With a little force, the door finally opened and a nice Italian man was inside, in the middle of buckling his belt. My face immediately reddened and I apologized profusely. He smiled and said, "Hello!" I was embarrassed; he was not.

After the dressing room incident, we decided to eat some lunch off base since everything was closed for All Saints' Day (early). We ended up back in Geilenkirchen and went to a nice cafe where I ordered a caprese salad and my husband selected a baguette with tuna. The ubiquitousness of tuna is worth mentioning. It's available here on many sandwiches and even pizzas. 

We placed our orders and then I needed to use the bathroom facilities. Luckily they were situated across from our table. I walked over to the door and noticed that a sign said something about .50 euro. A small fee is required for use of many of the bathrooms here so I just assumed that I needed to insert a coin. I went back to our table to get one and my husband said, "I just went and I didn't need any money. We're paying customers." Since I was fresh off the dressing room incident, I didn't want to commit another social faux pas. I got a coin and went back inside to the sink area. Then I attempted to insert a coin into the next closed door. I couldn't find a slot but I kept thinking the coin would eventually slip through whatever crease I was prodding. As I was silently cursing under my breath, I heard the unmistakable turn of the toilet paper wheel and realized someone was already using the bathroom.

Red-faced once again, I walked out of the bathroom and scurried to the table where I informed my husband of my new misjudgment. He was amused. The lady in the restroom came out eventually and I was able to finally use the facilities without incident. I returned to my seat to find my husband snacking on my caprese salad. He thought it was an appetizer

After our eventful lunch, we went to the recommended bicycle shop. I don't know how to convey the importance of having a bicycle here. We have regularly walked four miles one way in order to drink one beer. During these walks we are passed by many bikers who are arriving to their destinations in half the time it takes us. We're ready to join this fast-paced crowd.

We don't necessarily want to spend 500 euro on one bike, so our first option is a used-bicycle shop. We followed the GPS to another tiny village and successfully parallel-parked on the street. The shop looked as if it might be closed but we were undeterred and continued to the back entrance. We were greeted with yet another sign on a door that read something about September 30th and something about October 31st. These are the times when knowing the German language is imperative. Since the shop appeared fully-stocked we just assumed they closed early today, won't be open tomorrow, and so we'll go back on Wednesday.

I looked up one other address for a bike shop and it was in the Netherlands so we thought we'd take a little drive there and see what this place had to offer. After 20 minutes of riding in the car, and starting and stopping to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to claim their right-of-ways, we parked at the location and immediately saw it was indeed a bike shop-- a motorcycle shop. The language barrier announces itself again.

We went back in the direction toward home and stopped at the Rewe, a grocery chain here. That was a successful trip except for my mistake of buying jasmine rice when I thought I was getting orzo. We thought we would make it home in time for a run but Daylight Saving Time occurred yesterday (one week later in the US) so the sun was already down at 5:30. I made the jasmine rice for dinner. Instead of creamy shrimp orzo, tonight's dish turned into a renegade gumbo.

We're expecting most businesses to be closed tomorrow due to the holiday. This will give me a chance to study for my driving test on Wednesday so I'm not complaining.

It's almost 9pm here and the doorbell just rang downstairs. My husband answered and I heard a chorus of voices, and then the door was shut abruptly. I went down to investigate and asked, "Who was at the door?" 
"Trick-or-treaters!" he replied.
"Oh no! We don't have any candy! Were they dressed up?"
"Yes. One was a cat. I opened the door and they said, 'Gloocky-Glongh'." 

Gloocky-Glongh is my husband's interpretation of what must mean trick-or-treat in German.

I quickly fashioned some makeshift bags of gummy bears and chocolate, just in case we have some other Gloogky-Glong-ers. We're attempting to fit in when we can.

Happy Halloween!


  1. We just received orders for GK for next spring! I found your blog while searching for info on the area. You're a riot! I love hearing of your adventures and am thankful for the "what to expect."