I have seen this show at Mom and Dad's. If you haven't seen it, the basic premise is that a person or couple is looking for a house. They see three, each of which has some of what they're looking for but not everything. That's what I feel like right now. At the end of the show they pick one. Here are the details in the order I saw them.
House #1: It has a good yard (a must for the dogs), kitchen is nice, floors are wood. But the bedrooms are tiny. This is typical but, also typical, they don't have closets so you have to factor in fitting more furniture in the room for storing your clothes. It has a driveway and garage. The location is good.
House #2: The bedrooms are a little bigger and it has a huge closet room so not having a closet in the bedroom isn't a problem. It does have carpet which I can live with if I have to. It has a sun porch and a decent yard but there's no fence; just hedges. My dogs would be out of that yard in a heartbeat. I could always ask that they fence the yard if I decide I want this house. It's almost walking distance to work. It has a big driveway and two garages.
House 3: This is the largest house I looked at. The floors are all wood. The bedrooms are big. The "master bedroom" even has the cutest little toilet closet. The yard is good and it's fenced. The kitchen is tiny and there's no dining room. The worst thing is there's no shower/bath upstairs with the bedrooms. There's a shower downstairs off the kitchen which seems rather inconvenient. There's also no driveway. There's a garage but but you can't get to it with a car.
So far House #1 is winning. I was supposed to see another house today but a German family rented it yesterday. Today I'm going to go walk around the neighborhoods of the houses and see how they are. And I'm going to keep looking since I have up to 90 days to find a place. I promise to take some pictures today, too.
I am trying to conduct as many interactions in Dutch as I can. So far I’ve seen 2 houses and made appointments to see 2 others in Dutch. Sometimes, though, people don’t seem to understand when I ask them to speak slowly or when I say I don’t understand.
Today, I was on the phone with a woman and I asked her to speak more slowly. Instead, she just rearranged the words she had just said but didn’t slow them down at all. After telling her I still didn’t understand she simply repeated herself again. Often I end up with a quizzical look on my face while I struggle to find the words that I don’t have or to understand words that I probably never knew. I rarely understand everything someone is saying but I can usually pick out enough words to get the gist of what they’re telling me.
It surprises and delights folks here when Americans speak to them in Dutch. Sometimes, though, they don’t even realize you said something in Dutch and they continue on in English. Dutch and English are interchangeable for many people here.
I saw a house this morning and I have another to see this evening and one on Saturday. Tomorrow is the newcomers tour of both bases (the USAG and the JFC) and the surrounding area. This weekend I plan to walk around the neighborhoods of the houses I’ve liked and get a better feel for them.
I went to the personnel/human-resources office yesterday. I went there on Day 1 as well. The lady who works there didn't recognize me at first and asked if she could help me. When I told her who I was she said,"Oh, you look much better than yesterday." Then she attempted to clarify by telling me I didn't look bad the day before but rather I looked, "...like an Army tomboy," whereas today I looked, "...like a woman." I told her that, "Yesterday I felt like a swamp creature (slimy and smelly) whereas today I feel more like a human being."
Today ended up being a little hectic. I looked at two houses (I was supposed to look at 3 but no one showed up to show me one. I'm going to try that one again tomorrow). One had no yard so I didn’t bother looking at the house itself. I need some yard for the dogs. The other is nice. The bedrooms are on the tiny side (typical for Dutch houses) but the yard is nice and the location is good. I have appointments to look at two more tomorrow. I hope to visit the ones I like this weekend and walk around the neighborhoods to get a better feel.
I also had to get new ID cards today. I ended up making three trips to the same place to get two ID cards. I got the first one just fine. Then I couldn’t find the building for the second and had to get to an appointment. Before I went back for the second I noticed an error on the first. So I got that corrected and went for the second. For some reason, the prints on the fingers that are currently attached to my hands did not match what is in the system. In order to override what is in the system and capture new prints two people are needed. Only one was available. Since I had an appointment at another house I had to leave and go back. It took two more tries to get the system to take everything. Finally I have the two new ID cards I need. The pictures are so different it’s hard to believe they were taken on the same day.
All that back and forth afforded me the opportunity to see more of the area. I had some trouble understanding what GPS wanted me to do a few times. Once I went the wrong way down a one-way street. Sometimes when she says “Turn Right” she means right now. Sometimes she means a little further up. So sometimes I turned too soon and sometimes I turned too late. Round-a-bouts (of which there are many) require special attention. Sometimes what I consider an exit isn’t an exit to GPS and vice-versa. Which means I really have no idea how to get anywhere yet because I went a different way every time. I kept waiting for her to say, “Where the hell are you trying to go and why can’t you follow simple instructions?”
Daily dog update: I attempted to barricade the couch in the room to keep the dogs off last night. When I woke up this morning one dog was on top of the duffel bag on the couch and the other was on top of a suitcase on the floor. They never cease to amaze me with their determination not to sleep on the floor!
Well, I wouldn't call the day full but I did wake up in the Netherlands so in that respect I'm considering it my first full day.
I slept pretty late (especially for me) and I needed it. One of the worst parts of living in a hotel with dogs (dogs who are used to unrestricted access to the back yard) is having to put them on leashes to take them out multiple times/day. It was hovering around freezing this morning so our short jog was, well, short. It is forecast to be in the 50s during the day and 40s at night for the rest of the week so that's not so bad.
I took my time this morning as I didn't want to have to drive during rush hour. I survived my first attempt at driving in the Netherlands (or, should I say the Netherlands survived my first attempt?). I had one tiny mishap on my way home when I accidentally turned onto a bike path (which was as wide as a street and, thankfully, contained no bikes at the time) due to some confusing (to me) lane markers but I quickly got back on the actual road. And once on the way home I misunderstood GPS's direction at a round-a-bout. But a simple U-turn fixed that problem. Tomorrow I have to go to the NATO base where I'll be working so I'll get to drive another route.
I got to work around 11 and started finding my around the tiny base (it is easily walkable and driving from one thing to the next is absurd) visiting various offices required for inprocessing. I got my ration cards. That's right; ration cards. Alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Except they say coffee hasn't been rationed since sometime after WWII (the gov't doesn't get around to updating forms very often).
Right now all I'm tasked with is inprocessing and finding a house and I'm expected to take lots of time to rest and acclimate. Well, that and I don't have an office or a computer or, really, anything to do yet since the project hasn't started. I see my first potential house tomorrow.
The dogs are doing well and have made themselves quite comfortable. They seem to think it is okay for them to be on the bed here. We're going to have to have a talk about this.
I promise to take pictures of something other than the dogs soon!
I felt like I was a contestant on the Amazing Race. The task was to get checked into an international flight with two dogs. First I had to find the right line to wait in. Then a little man kept making me fix things (2 bowls in each crate, screws are facing the wrong direction take them all out (they needed to go up, not down!! Really?!? Who knew?!?!)). Fill out this form. Yes, it’s the same information as the form you already filled out but we want it on this form instead. Take the dogs out; put the dogs back (Cheyenne was already a little loopy from the medication and was having trouble standing, poor thing). All while watching the minutes tick away until it was time for the flight to board and I was still at the check-in counter. If it weren’t for Nancy and Eman and Lisa I would still be there, curled in the fetal position rocking like Rain Man!
Once I managed to get checked in (leaving Nancy, Eman and Lisa to finish getting the dogs situated with the little man) I did a National-Lampoon-like mad dash through the airport. Of course, the security line was long and, of course, I ended up in the line with the stroller that’s so big it has to be taken apart to fit through the machine and, of course, they held up everyone while they took it apart. I continued my mad dash with my britches falling down because I didn’t want to take time to put my belt back on. I got to the gate right at departure time.
The gate attendant looked up at me and said (in a very pissed-off tone), “ You’re late!”
“I know!” I replied.
“And, you have kennels.” She barked.
“I KNOW!” was all I could manage.
“Get on the plane. Seat 29E.” She practically spit at me. “You’re Reath, right?” She finally remembered to ask (she didn’t bother checking ID).
The flight attendants were visibly annoyed as well as I looked for room in the overhead bin for my carry-on of dog food, bowls, leashes, etc. Seat 29E was the middle seat in the middle section. I had to pee before we got to the airport. By the time I got on the plane I REALLY had to pee. It would be another hour before I would get to do so. I was very grateful for my tro-tro-travel toughened bladder!
Upon arrival in Brussels I had to wrangle 3 luggage carts (one for luggage and 2 for dog crates). Thankfully, someone took pity on me and helped. None of the paperwork I spent an entire day and $122 to get was ever requested by anyone, anywhere. The dogs made it just fine and seem to be suffering no lingering effects of stress or drugs. They’re sleeping next to each other on the floor right now.
Two folks from the Belgium office picked us up and drove us to my new duty station. We dropped off the dogs and luggage at the hotel and they took me to the Garrison to check in. There was a whirlwind of information and several hours later they departed leaving me with the keys to a gov’t car and a GPS. I have to drive myself to work tomorrow. YIKES!! I have no idea how to drive here. That will be interesting.
I’ll try to post about the area soon; once I’ve actually seen it. My hotel is attached to the world’s largest indoor ski slope. Someone told me you get to ski for free when you stay here. I might just have to give it a try.
Moved out: check Car shipped: check Truck sold: check House rented: check Winter coat: check (it's going to be in the 30s and 40s when I get there) Paperwork for the dogs: check (I think, I hope!) Hotel reservation upon arrival: check
I leave in less than 2 days. I think I have everything ready. Well, by ready I mean I think I have everything I need to be ready. Except for the list of things I have to get/do tomorrow. And the fact that while I might have everything it's not organized or packed yet.
And I just realized that while I have a confirmed ticket, I did not print my itinerary. Add that to the list of things I have to do tomorrow. *SIGH* Maybe I'm not as ready as I'd like to think I am.
I plan to get excited about this trip as soon as I get there and clear all customs and borders with the dogs. Until then, I'll be worried that I'm missing some important piece of paperwork or something. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
The packers come tomorrow to pack the stuff that will be shipped. They will come back Wednesday to haul it away. Then a new bunch comes Thursday to take the stuff that will be put into storage. I've spent the last week trying to organize things so that there's a clear definition between what stays and what goes.
The packers will pack anything that isn't nailed down. If there's trash in your trash can they'll pack it. They once packed all my shoes. ALL of them. I had none on. I'm not ready. I'm not going to be ready. I've resigned myself to that. I'm sure I'll have more panic attacks tomorrow morning before they get here. I'm sure I'll be up in the middle of the night because I remembered something. I'm sure some things will be sent that should stay and some things I want to go will be left behind.
I survived 2 years in Ghana with next to nothing. I will survive with whatever ends up there and will live without whatever doesn't. Okay, I think I'm breathing normally again.
That's not to say I won't have a few more mini-panic attacks between now and tomorrow.