Category Archives: February 2012

Hello Hospital

The last couple weeks, Jack and I have spent a fair amount of time in and out of a large hospital in the area. Not a crisis, but chronic ear infections have led to the need for an adenoidectomy and, later, in a couple months, a tympanoplasty to patch a hole in one eardrum. I mention this only because it has given me time to observe the workings of a German hospital. This one is not plush, like many of the U.S. hospitals have gotten to be. Maybe there are plush ones in Germany but this one is old, the TV in the room didn’t work, and the hallways upstairs were empty, with unmarked doors, giving the feeling of a Stephen King novel.

Why would I choose such a place for Jack? Because his doctor is the Chief ENT surgeon and is located there. And, the care we received from all the doctors, nurses, and other staff was as kind, helpful, and professional as you would want your child to have. It is considered a routine surgery but nothing is routine to me or Gary seeing Jack carried away in the arms of a doctor to the surgery theater. His arms and legs dangled loosely because of the preliminary anesthesia. Recovery isn’t easy either. As I rubbed Jack’s back, listening to his moans, and speaking softly to wake him, I watched other mothers (only one parent was allowed) periodically enter after their children were wheeled in from surgery. While most of these mothers walked briskly into the room, anxious to see their children, one mother of an infant ran in.

I hope they all have happy endings, as Jack did. After 4 rough hours, he was ready to have something to eat and drink. So, I ventured to the downstairs cafe and discovered one major difference between a European hospital and an American one: they sell beer and cigarettes. It shouldn’t have surprised me at this point but it did. Come to think of it, being in Europe, this hospital probably also has a disco, casino, AND Cathedral inside. I’ll have to do a little more exploring when Jack and I return.

From Cisterns to the Commissary

For the last few weeks, words like “Bosphorous, Hagia Sophia, and Suleiman” have floated through my head. It’s because I’m looking forward to a trip to Istanbul this weekend with girlfriends. There are many Turkish immigrants here so Turkey may not seem so exotic to Germans. But, to me, Turkey’s ancient history and their balance between East and West has always been intriguing.

My friends and I are able to do this because our husbands are willing to survive a weekend on their own with the children. I try not to look at it as payback but they all have had many solo ventures of their own to far flung places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Johannesburg, Hanoi, and on and on. I know, it’s for work, not leisure. (Gary’s done this for the last 10 years–it’s hard on him and not easy for those of us back home.) But these places still beckon me. Right now, however, I am very happy with Istanbul.

I am nearly just as excited for another journey I’m taking: to the commissary on the U.S. military base in Weisbaden. A friend of mine here who is connected to U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt has access and is taking me along next week. Just how exciting is this? Well, ever since Nora heard about it, she’s been leaving me notes all over the house listing American items that she misses: Goldfish, Pirate Booty, Nutrigrain bars, etc. My list could only be exciting to a person who wants to cook and bake with American recipes: chicken broth, rolled oats, Nestle chocolate chips, Domino brown sugar, etc.

It was surprising, no actually shocking to me that you can’t just go to a grocery store here and buy a quart of chicken broth. I can only suspect the worst possible reason for this: Germans make it from scratch at home. Who has time for that?? When my Father and Stepmother, Mary, visited a few months ago, Mary learned that finding a quart of chicken broth here was like finding a lost treasure. She then did the most unexpected and wonderful thing: she spent half a day making chicken broth, placing it in individual packets and put them in the extra freezer in the basement. How is that for a blue-ribbon houseguest?! Just thinking about it now reminds me of all the other ways our family and friends help us when they visit or when we go back. The list is so, so long. Thank you.

No English Spoken Here

I’ve gotten by these 2.5 years with a basic sense of the language here but since our stay in Germany has been extended to at least 5 years, it’s time I learn more German. My friend Maria decided the timing is good for her too so we’ve enrolled in a group course. Studying a foreign language in the home country of that language is different than doing it in the U.S. There is no English spoken to supplement understanding the material because everyone in the class is from all over the world. So, all is in German.

My resolve to study every night is not happening yet but I like to think (maybe dream) I could get to the stage my friend Kristin has. While we were on a road trip a few months ago, I witnessed a difficult but necessary phone conversation she had with a German consultant. Their disagreement stretched at least 10 minutes and she not only held her own, she won the argument, with great poise. Bravo, Kristin!!