Posts tagged ‘PCS’

October 26, 2014

Some like it hot

Deutschland, these last two years together have been really great, but it’s time for me to move onto something hotter…like Florida. It’s not you, it’s me. Or the Air Force. Whoever is easier to blame.

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As with all moves, you leave behind what you know and enter the unknown. This time, I entered a world I was both familiar and unfamiliar with: back to America (familiar), into an American community as a working adult (unfamiliar).

It’s a strange feeling, not belonging to a place yet knowing you will have to. Even stranger to know that you eventually will, and feeling alone and separate will be a thing of your less-attractive past. So, before I forget what it is like to move from one country to another, here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

1) Europe is one giant hobby. Travel, eat, sing, drink and read. Repeat. Back in the good ol’ US of A, I’ve realized I need hobbies. You can’t just walk outside and BAM! You’re drinking in the rich, abundant experiences as they pass you. Here, with everything so large and isolated in its convenience, I have become like an adolescent with ADD, collecting all the trendy apps and games to play on my iPhone of life. Sometimes, I’ve only gotten to Level One and stopped playing, but leave it just in case I ever get bored enough. So far, it’s: salsa dancing, scuba diving, home buying, tutoring, graduate school, running, potting (plants), potting (pottery), woodworking, spear-fishing, and stovetop cooking (see #3).

2) It’s strange to understand everything that’s being said around me. It makes eavesdropping and people-watching simultaneously easier and less exciting. Foreign languages create a mystique to the activities of those around you.
Germany: Oh, that waitress must be the ex-girlfriend of her customer, by the way she’s glaring at the woman in the booth, who appears to be pregnant! Perhaps she’s a spy from the future pretending to be a waitress, and her target is the child who will become a mass murderer!
America: Oh. It’s just her sister.

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3) I am loathe to admit it, because the term conjures the concept of someone who shuns spontaneous adventure, but some say I may be am a homebody. I’m lucky enough to have two lopsided metal burners to craft a hot meal, and a desk that I can serve it on, with a cheap plastic tablecloth to create the illusion of a dinner table. But when that dinner table faces the large window, with the parking lot and garish energy-saving light slipping through worn plastic blinds, it erodes a sense of home. That, and I constantly stub my big toes on my partially hidden suitcases under the bed when I walk by. Thus, I have determined that I maybe…could be…a homebody, and I look forward to settling somewhere a little more “mine.” And, as shameful #5 will reveal, space is nice too.

4) There’s a lot of talking here. There’s an ease of connections; deep relationships are not the primary reason for striking up a conversation. Here, we casually learn about each other, asking questions perhaps we care to know the answer to, perhaps not. Then we go our separate ways when the encounter’s usefulness has ended. Perhaps we as Americans value friendliness and the immediate gratification of that friendliness more than communal, lasting connections. Whatever the reason is, it makes for easy socializing on outings, and difficult relationship-building.

5) I am space-spoiled. I have learned this by staying at an extended stay hotel that boasts its cleanliness in an almost defensive way (example: the decor along the walls are posters with Tripadvisor quotes about the squeaky-clean showers and impeccable laundry rooms).

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I’ve had kind offers from coworkers to live with them, but I know better. These friendships are too new, and I don’t like discovering that my toilet paper was stolen for someone else’s defecation needs (they probably don’t either). More than half my clothes hide in the suitcases that can’t for under the hard bed, and the others barely fit in the drawers. Two steps from the bed to the drawers, three steps to the double-burner, four to the fridge. If I go in a circuitous route, the longest way to the toilet is nine steps. I feel trapped, and I clearly have fallen a far way from my hardy grandfather, who grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with four other siblings. #thatsreallife #iamspoiled

6) Hello, diversity! I forgot how much America fits the melting-pot stereotype. Even in this area, jokingly called the “Redneck Riveria,” there’s a menagerie of cultural diversity.

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Yes, there are a few Confederate flags riding around town on the back windows of lifted trucks (which to be fair is a sort of culture), but there’s also a potpourri of international influence, including Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Thai, Mexican, Filipino, Jewish, and Korean communities. While I certainly can’t find a respected opera house or century-old art museum nearby, I can’t discount the bright, myriad community I’m now a part of. Any butter-loving Swedes in the house?

7) Here’s a new thing: “thank you for your service.” In Germany, it is pretty unheard of, with the exception of the USO lounge in airports. I’ve yet to figure out how to respond appropriately beyond a smile and gratitude for their gratitude; I certainly don’t feel worthy of their appreciation. Recently, I was waiting for the elevator in my uniform with an armful of laundry. The doors clunked open and three children, apparently pressed against the doors like a cannonball waiting to explode, leapt out of it and ran into me. “Sorry!” they yelped, and darted past me. Then, as if recalling the manners their mom taught them, one turns back and says quickly, “Oh, and thank you for your service!” I was so taken aback, I think I managed a “my pleasure” before the elevator doors shut the red-faced boy from view. Still working on that response; I’ll get one eventually.

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October 8, 2012

Being a Butterbars…and other absurd activities

Welcome to the next two years of your life.

It’s been exactly a week since I last landed in a new country for a new job without an idea of what my duties would entail. So far, it’s been a heck of a ride.

Things I have learned since arriving in Germany as a new LT:

1) Creepy truckers are in every country.

If your ride happens to have a shredded engine belt, and the car happens to die on the side of the autobahn, and you just happen to be starving and in need of the restroom facilities, it’s okay to walk along the highway. Just expect the truckers to cheerfully honk their approval.

2) Jet lag makes you say and do stupid things.

Like turn down the opportunity to grab some grub before you are trapped in your hotel room, where you will slowly wither away to a husk before your first day of work. Oh, and you’ll probably make a stupid joke to your rating superior, and she will look at you with that oh-crap-my-new-LT-is-mentally-ill look in her eyes.

3) Most Germans speak English. But won’t tell you until you try to speak German.

Three important words for any new person in Germany: Sprechen sie Englisch? If “nein” is their response, you probably are picking on a sweet elderly person who has earned the right to do whatever they want, which probably isn’t going to be giving directions to you.

4) Senior Master Sergeants will scare the bejeezle juice out of you. And it’s okay.

Or at least, they should. Anyone who has twenty plus years in has the right to scare new officers into line. Such as: “LT, as the highest ranking member, you need to be walking on the other side of me. NOW.” Or, “I understand that this is new to you. And I understand that you understand I have high expectations for you. Any questions?”

5) Some Germans really hate the beautiful sound of an F-16 flying over their peaceful hamlets.

And they’ll call to tell you that. There’s one lady, nicknamed the Screamer, who calls the PA office, vents her little heart out in terrifyingly loud German, and then hangs up. We thought it was funny. Then she got the Wing Commander’s personal number. Not so funny anymore.

6) It is paramount to your safety and well-being that you wear a reflective belt over your uniform in times of darkness and inclement weather.

So, basically, all the time. And no, you don’t look stupid. Not at all.

7) Can’t see the rank? Watch for the hand twitch.

And if it doesn’t come, it means you are supposed to salute them. PRONTO. Another sub-lesson: Use the can’t-see-them-same-color-as-your-uniform pin-on ranks only when in a pinch. Sew the darker colored ranks on your blouse. Because if you don’t, no one will salute you, and it is necessary and so very awkward to correct a person fifteen years older than you that you are in fact an officer, not an Airman Basic. SEW THEM ON.

8) Bless the Lord God Baby Jesus for the loan you took out.

Because you need all that moneys you were hoarding. Savings? What’s that? Because that Gortex military jacket you just bought for the many drizzling, grey months ahead just cost you $200. Oh, and German landlords like a buttload of fat deposits. Thank you, loans, for your service.

9) Netflix and Hulu and Pandora are like Walt Disney.

Cyrogenically frozen and inaccessible. Yes, there are ways around the Big Brother of Evil European Internet Oppression, but you will only find this out after you’ve read all your books a billion times and eaten all the Deutsch joghurt in your mini-fridge during your nightly imprisonment in lodging. Because, yes, you could walk around base, but all the buildings look the same, and you get lost and then the rain starts and then an Airman 1C has to drive you back to your hotel, you big bad officer you.

10) Shut your mouth, and learn. Or, in your case, open your mouth, get stuff assigned, and figure it out the hard way.

No one expects anything great from you. Or even good, at that. If fact, sometimes it feels that no one trusts you to even hold open the door for them. But they also expect you to be an officer of the USAF. So, that leaves you to determine how to prove that you aren’t an idiot, and that yes, you can take down the German, NATO, and American flag in a downpour and do it correctly. And yes, you are told you won’t get any assignments for the next few weeks..but then you open your big fat mouth and say something impressive about NPR (your true love), and now you have a multimedia project to do on a fuel spill exercise that might be sent to the Wing Commander. Nbd.