Sunday, January 13, 2013

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go

In case you somehow missed it between my upteen tweets, facebook posts, and, if you know me in real life, conversations, I am OMGSOEXCITED over the moon to be going back to the States tomorrow finally for vacation!

Sometimes, it's really the smallest things/creature comforts of home that you miss most when you're gone. Here are yet some more things I'm looking forward to on our trip:

1) ICE! (ice baby)- Ice is seriously some kind of American delicacy. Most restaurants in Europe won't serve it in your drinks. Last summer, when I had surgery in like 90-100 heat in a building with no air conditioning, I was beginning the nurses for ice cubes. Only to be told that there wasn't a single one in the entire building.
2) free refills- To be fair here, this is more of a suburbia thing. In NYC, I don't think any restaurant I ever went to had free refills on soft drinks. When I was in college, it was a big excitement for me to eat at Applebee's because they had free refills on sodas and for me that was practically unheard of. However, soft drinks in Germany are generally tiny. And expensive. It is usually the same cost to get a 0,5L beer as it is to get a 0,2L of Coke. If not cheaper.
3) shopping, on a Sunday- I've covered this on here before but the entire country pretty much shuts down on Sundays. I want to be able to just walk into a store that's not on base on Sunday just because again. And this brings me to my next point
4) paying with a credit card- Credit card fees in Germany are insane, so a lot of stores will not accept credit cards. It's either the German debit card which we don't have. Or cash. There was one time when the Ikea near us did not take credit cards. Can you imagine buying a bedroom set with all cash?
5) free shopping carts- Most grocery stores here charge a deposit for use of the shopping cart that you get back when you return it. I know a few stores in the U.S. do this too, but it's the exception not the rule over there as it seems to be here. I have a shopping cart token that I always have to remember to bring me whenever I go shopping to make sure that I'm not clumsily fumbling around for a euro coin in my purse at the last minute. Ultimate not a big deal, but still annoying.
6) not having so much change- Our smallest bill is 5€ (roughly the equivalent of $6.68 based on today's exchange rate) so change tends to accumulate quickly and your wallet gets heavy before you realize it. And yet you still don't have the euro you need for the shopping cart when you're in the grocery store. Murphy's Law, I tell you.
7) cheap manicures- My last one over here cost 23€! And this was for a plain manicure with polish. Nothing fancy, no gel, no shellac, no acrylic, nothing. With prices like that, you can imagine how often I get manicures over here. Yea, not very. When my MIL told me that a manicure near her costs somewhere between $10-15, I wasn't sure if I wanted to cry tears of joy or jealousy. Also, nail salons over here charge anywhere from 4-7€ extra if you want a manicure with polish. Considering I always bring my own nail polish, I think that's just outrageous. (Don't get me started on the one time a lady in a salon told me it would be 10€ more to get a manicure using OPI polish over there.)
8) throwing things out- Germans can be real, well, insert uncomfortable WWII German stereotype here, when it comes to recycling. You can't just throw something out. You have several trash bins. One with yellow bags for plastics, metals, foil, etc. One with white bags for paper products. One for regular garbage. There will also be several glass recycling bins in towns with one receptacle for clear glass bottles, one for brown glass bottles, and one for green glass bottles. The look on my father's face was priceless when I had to explain to him in Berlin that all three giant dumpster looking things outside of the apartment we were staying in were to be used for glass and only glass. And that he couldn't just throw the empty wine bottle away in whichever bin he felt like it. Priceless. I think that recycling is important and it's important to be eco-friendly, however, it is nice to be able to throw away a beer bottle top without thinking "did I put that in the right bag?"

And two things about Germany that I will miss in the States:
1) tax (or lack thereof)- The European tax system is called the VAT (Value Added Tax). The tax is figured into the final price of the item and that list price is all that you have to pay. It makes shopping so much more convenient. While the 19% VAT here can be outrageous at times, I love the European system so much and am not looking forward to having to go from a country where you don't get charged any more tax that's visible to you as the consumer, to going to a country where they like to charge tax on every.little.thing. (And then, if you're in New York City, it seems like they just tack on taxes to the taxes you've already paid them. Just for the fun of it.)
2) tipping- Europe has a very different culture about tipping than America does. Part of your VAT from the cost of your meal goes to cover a reasonable living wage for your waiter so things like server minimum don't exist. You are not obligated to tip, and if you choose to, the idea of something like a 20% tip is unheard of. Since a 5€ bill is our smallest note, the unofficial tipping rule is to just leave the coins on the table if you want to. If you don't, that's ok. Your waiter won't be terribly offended. If your meal is 20€ and your Coke costs 4,20€ (ouch, I know), it's perfectly acceptable to pay 25€ and call it a day. This is a huge benefit because when you go to a restaurant, you know exactly how much your meal is going to cost based on what you order. In the States, you have to figure out tax and tip and after not having to do that for well over a year, I've grown to like not having to deal with that. (If you eat at the restaurants on base with servers, you do still tip there. Or at least I hope you do. No tax however.)

So now it's your turn- no matter where in the world you live, if you were to be gone from your home town or country for over a year, what small things would you miss the most? If you currently live abroad or have in the past, what do you think your host nation(s) does better than America?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

tiny violin

Disclaimer: this is definitely one of those "woe is me" cue the world's tiniest violin posts. If this is not up your alley, then don't read below.

I blogged hardly at all in December. This was for several reasons (does the world really need yet another blogger doing a gift guide?) one of the main ones was the worst headache and neck ache of my life.

I've had migraines for years and I am not a stranger to bad headaches or ones that last more than a day, but this was like nothing that I have experienced before. After about a week and a half of pain, I made an appointment to see my doctor and got prescribed roughly 1/5 of the pharmacy and got a lovely shot of Toradol to help with the pain. I wish I could say it helped. I really, really do. But it didn't. Two weeks later, when the headache had still not gone away, I saw him again. More meds. He said if they didn't help within a few days, to just go to the ER. Insert ER visit a few days later here. They ran a head CT which came back clean (always a good thing). No answers. Just more pain. Got a lovely mixture of meds that would make Dr. Gregory House himself cry with envy.

They didn't help but they did succeed in making me high as a kite. Saw the neurologist today for more answers. Got more bloodwork. More meds (yes the Landstuhl pharmacy apparently still has things left that I haven't been prescribed yet). The doctor also suggested injections into the back of my head and neck and to help with the pain. If you know me in real life, you know that I am basically the biggest baby alive. Needles cause me to wince and shriek and all that jazz. I nearly cried when I got my ears pierced. And this should tell you just how desperate I am for relief because I actually agreed to this. I had about an hour to kill between the appointment and injections which left me with just enough time to get my blood drawn (apparently needles are the theme of the day), get a large Coke, and google the bejeezus out of these injections so I could predict the pain level involved here. All of my "research" said that I would be given two injections, the first being something to numb the area so I didn't lose my mind. Imagine my sheer delight to discover that the doctor had mixed the Lidocaine in with the other meds and it would be all with one needle. He called it a small needle. I called it a small pipe. Tomato, to-mah-to. He said that it would not hurt that bad because I have surgeries in the past. He forgot to mention that I was under general anesthesia those times and here I would be stone cold sober. What followed next was excruciating pain. Times 8. That's one for each injections. That's right. 8 of them. In a place with not much fat. All I can say is that the staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is really lucky that I don't curse because if I did, then my screams this morning would have made their morning a whole lot more colorful.

The worst part is  that the injections did not help. In fact, they made the pain worse. Now not only do I have the same neck pain and headache that I had before, and now, to add insult to injury, I have horrible pain at the injection site and it hurts to move my head at all and to sleep in certain positions. Lovely.  I started crying when I got home not because I needed to, but because I just couldn't help it. It was as if the tears were leaking out of my eyes if that makes any sense.

Now here I am frustrated, miserable, and in pain. Did I mention that this was going to be a woe is me post?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Newest Project

One of my goals for a while now has been to create and maintain a list of Alpha Sigma Alpha bloggers and to create a page for us to get together and network and get to discover new sisters and new blogs.

Last night, I finally decided to take charge and made that goal a reality. It has a very humble beginning, but I am excited to introduce to you Alpha Sigma Alpha Bloggers. My goals for this page going forward are to maintain a comprehensive list of sisters who blog, do a weekly on bi-monthly post that spotlights a sister and her blog, and work on getting a pretty design up (thanks to a friend and fellow ASA!), and get it a .com address (let's face it, the current URL is kind of long!).

I realize that this may only interest a small percentage of those of you who read my blog, but if you are an ASA, I would love to have you join in! Please follow the blog and send me any blogs written by sisters that you know of and of course, yours if you have one.

Love in ASA,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rabbit Rabbit!

Rabbit Rabbit!

Happy New Year and Happy 2013. How was your New Years Eve?
As always, all bunny pictures are from Daily Bunny.

This month, TLS and I are finally going back to the States for the first time since our wedding just over 1.5 years ago. We are going to visit his parents in North Carolina for a few days then are flying North for the winter to visit my parents and attend a dear friend's wedding. I am so excited to finally go back to America and do all of the things I have missed. As always. my to-do list for the States resembles a to-eat list. I will spare y'all the complete list. In addition to the usual seeing family/friends things, here are some things I'm looking forward to this month.

*Shake Shack- this one deserves its own entry.
*Ulta- we don't have one in NYC and I am looking forward to looking around and walking away with some nail polish and other goodies. I have been reading a nail polish blog recently and have made a wishlist of OPI and Essie polishes that I "need" to get.
*Target- a couple of months ago, I had a dream that I was in Target. That's how much we miss it.
*Getting my hair done- it's been so long since I've gotten it done and it looks awful (in my opinion at least). I can't wait to have straight hair again.
*Reasonably priced mani/pedis- (white girl problems, I know) Manicures in Germany are bananas expensive and are just not as good as American ones. I hate having to pay between 19-23€ for a mediocre manicure so I don't get them as often as I'd like.
*Tacky Gift  Exchange- this is an annual tradition within the New York City Alpha Sigma Alpha alumnae chapter. You bring the tackiest gift that someone gave you (or buy one within the $10-15 range) and bring it. We hold it in a bar I love (The Trailer Park Lounge) and have a lot of fun laughing at everyone's bad gifts and drinking margaritas. This year, the chapter scheduled the gift exchange to coincide with my trip so I could attend. I was fortunate to get lovely gifts this year, but did buy the perfect gift for the exchange and I can not wait to see the look on the face of the alumna who gets it. (I won't post what it is before the exchange so as not to ruin the surprise in case anyone who is attending the exchange reads this, but if you are curious as to what it is, email me and I'll tell you.)
*Starbucks/Crumbs cupcakes/Gray's Papaya hot dogs/Zabar's/Korean BBQ/etc.
*Riding public transportation- I don't drive and miss the ease and convenience of having a good public transportation system.
*Flying Again- to me, takeoff and landing are two of the greatest feelings in the world and I love flying as much as I can.
*Les Mis- It's not out in Germany yet, so I'm hoping we can go see it in the States.
*Book of Mormon- if we can get tickets, that is.
*Meeting Sarah of Bellevue Newport- I'm hoping she can make it to NYC for lunch or tea or shopping while I'm there.
*Forever 21- I love looking on their website for cute headbands, but their ridiculous APO flat rate shipping charges of $12 means that it's not ever worth it for me to order from there. I am looking forward to just being able to go into the store and pick out something I like and walk out with it. 

What are you looking forward to this month?

And one more thing- in Germany, it's considered good luck to see a chimney sweep on January 1st, so here's ours to bring all of you good luck.