Kibrothhattaavah

May 20, 2020 – Bavaria, Germany

13962840623296

 

My husband and I, along with our German neighbors, and military friends on nearby bases, have all been under a mandated “shelter at home” quarantine now, for over two months, due to an outbreak of the dreaded caronavirus. That, in itself, is not newsworthy, as this state of affairs spread rapidly to many other parts of the world, and at one time Europe was considered “ground zero.”  I’m not sure what the status is now, as things are slowly beginning to open back up. However, I am endeavoring to document our experiences while here in this country, so I am making an attempt (albeit a rather feeble attempt) to reflect on these happenings, if for no other reason than to be able to look back, years from now, and have some kind of perspective.

I say “feeble attempt” because it is such an overwhelming topic, and I along with others, have grown weary of the daily news and even the mention of the word. Social media quickly reverted to jokes and lighthearted memes, even divisive political debate about what measures should be taken. I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to enjoying a little comic relief, but can’t help feeling shame at the thought of laughing when I had friends in the hospital who had been infected and were on life support – multiply this scenario thousands of times throughout the world. The world reeled in agony, and many of us sat back and laughed? God help us. Don’t take me wrong. I’m not standing in judgment over anyone. I totally understand the old adage…sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. I experienced that roller coaster many times during the years I took care of my mother, whose mental and physical health were slowly ravaged by dementia.

I guess the hardest part for me to understand is how quickly the world panicked. It only took a week or so, after hearing about the rush on toilet paper in the US, before shelves here in Germany were wiped out as well…no pun intended. Why, everyone wonders? It is, after all, a respiratory virus, not a stomach flu. Once it hit the toilet paper aisle, other aisles quickly followed: meat, bread, flour, sugar, peanut butter and jelly, ramen noodles…ramen noodles? Seriously? There must be a lot of people out there who don’t like to cook. On second thought, that was the Commissary on base where a lot of single soldiers shop.

Well…this brings me to my topic, Kibrothhattaavah. Recently I was reading in the book of Numbers (not my favorite part of the Bible), so when I get to this part, I tend to skip and skim. I landed in chapter 11.  The children of Israel had been delivered from slavery and bondage in Egypt, and had just experienced one of the most amazing miracles of God ever witnessed by man – the parting of the Red Sea. So, what was their response? Murmuring and complaining. God’s anger was kindled against them. He had delivered them from bondage and the mighty Egyptian army; He had fed them with heavenly manna (which they had hoarded), but that wasn’t good enough. They wanted meat!!!!! (Ah yes! That seems to be the on-going hot commodity lately, and meat counters continue to remain sparsely stocked.) God got so tired of their complaining, He decided to send them their meat…tons of meat! God said He would send them enough meat not for one or two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days. He sent them enough meat for a whole month, to the point He said it would come out of their nostrils and be loathsome to them. God sent a wind from the sea that brought quail and let them fall in the camp. According to my Bible commentary, the quail was stacked three feet deep around the camp, as far away as a day’s walk.

So, what did the people do? They HOARDED. (Evidently the temptation to hoard has been a common human trait since the beginning of time.) They gathered quail all day, all that night, and all the next day.  The least any one person gathered was 10 ½ bushels of quail. There was a total of 6,720 quail to each of 3,000,000 people. There was a total of 2,520,000,000 gallons or 20,160,000,000 quail. (In my mind, I’m picturing the scene of all this quail in a desert environment without refrigeration, and thinking the stench would  be unbearable.) Well, it was picnic time in the camp, but the story doesn’t end well.

While the quail flesh was still in their mouths, before they had even chewed, the Lord smote them with a very great plague. We are not told how many died, but the name of the place where they were buried was named Kibrothhattaavah – Graves of lust and greed.

In the New Testament we are taught to pray the Lord’s Prayer – a part of which is a request to the God of Heaven…Give us this day, our daily bread. Another core teaching of the New Testament is…Do not worry about tomorrow. In other words, be happy, satisfied and content with your provision for THIS DAY! This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Tomorrow will take care of itself, when you leave the control in God’s hands.

So, how will our story end? Pray for those in authority; our President, our governors, our mayors, that God give them great wisdom. Pray for our business leaders as they struggle to get our sinking economy up and running again. Let us continue to pray and have compassion over the sick. Continue to pray for healthcare providers and those working exhausting days and nights to provide for our basic needs.

Remember, life is 10 % what happens to you, and 90 % how you respond. May God help us not to fall into the trap of grumbling and complaining and hoarding, and find “Kibrothhattaavah” engraved on our tombstone.

Tips for Shopping at an IKEA in Germany

 

13784179_NmTUPtrcakpQ8aYleNc3L--_nfrmvYRgJmvz2pSzASg

IKEA is a global company known for its ready-to-assemble DIY “flat pack” furniture, the innovation of its Swedish founder Ingrar Kamprad – from which IKEA gets its first two letters – the last two initials representing the two places where he grew up. (I didn’t know this, and found it to be an interesting little tidbit of information.) I also found it interesting that Kamprad began his business career at the age of five when he started selling matches to neighbors. Eventually, he began to sell other items that ranged from seeds, to fish, to Christmas décor. I’m fascinated with the stories of entrepreneurs that start out selling some small item from their garage and end up making it big in the world!

My husband Steve and I had shopped at an IKEA in Bloomington, Minnesota, but I don’t think that properly prepared us for our experience in Nuremberg, Germany. Before leaving on our adventure, I searched the internet to see if I might be able to find some time-saving tips. I thought that might be helpful as I was traveling with a non-shopper. I did find a few comments that made me feel a little uneasy:

“IKEA is one of those places that can save you a ton of money on home décor and furnishings if you make the most of it…or, it can make you lose your religion. Having a plan insures a successful visit.”

“You can always count on seeing couples fighting at IKEA. Be prepared for a breakup.”

“You haven’t really experienced shopping in Germany until you have gone to IKEA. It almost feels like you’re a mouse in a science project and you can’t get out once you get in.”

Steve and I had a plan. We wanted to pick up a nice desk/work table for my office. That was pretty much it. Simple plan. The other part of the plan was to leave immediately after his Christmas office party to head to Nuremberg. It is this experience that inspired me to share a list of tips with any other prospective shoppers out there planning a visit to IKEA.

#1. Under no circumstances, EVER, shop at an IKEA in Germany on a Saturday! (Maybe not an IKEA anywhere!)

#2. Under no circumstances, EVER, shop at an IKEA during the Christmas season! (If you do find yourself combining #1 and #2, you COULD very possibly lose your religion and your marriage – as previously warned.)

#3. Review #1 and #2

#4. While your husband is parking the car in the last spot, of the far corner of the back 40, don’t bother wasting your time trying to study the large layout map at the entry of the store thinking you’ll gain any advantage. You’re going to run into words that look like kleideraufbewahrung, schneidebretter, and zeitschrifensammler. Better to spend your time scouting out where the restrooms are.

#5. While you’re still waiting on your husband who is finding his way through the maze of thousands of cars, and a Christmas-tree throwing contest, don’t bother grabbing a shopping cart, thinking that will give you any kind of advantage. You won’t be able to get it up the escalator.

o-1

#6. Once you relocate your husband and head up the escalator without a shopping cart, don’t think you’re being smart to grab another abandoned cart in the far corner when you reach the next level. No one, and I mean NO ONE else was pushing their cart through the throngs of people, except us! We grabbed a few small items to place in our cart just so it didn’t look foolishly empty. The first floor is mainly a showroom area arranged in attractive layouts. If you find an item of interest, jot down the number. You’ll need this later.

#7. If a small, panicky child comes running up to you with imploring eyes, crying “Mama! Mama!” – do not try to console the child in English as it will only make matters worse. Flag down the nearest store clerk. When she looks at you with a blank expression as you’re trying to explain in English that said child is lost, just point to the child and say, “Mama! Mama!” She’ll catch on quickly.

#8. Do not under any circumstances pick a lost child up in your arms and try to console them. When the distressed parents come running and see you holding their child, they might think you were trying to kidnap them. (I played it smart and resisted the urge.)

#9. When you are finished with your shopping and ready to pick up your selected furniture, you must stop at one of the computer kiosks and look up your item. When you are staring blankly at a screen full of German instructions, you just wait until you hear someone walking behind you who is speaking English, then you kindly grab them and ask for help. They will also be kind enough to tell you to take your information to the lady standing under the blue sign.

#10. When the blue-sign lady starts speaking to you in German and you don’t understand, try a different language you might know, such as Spanish. My husband tried this, and it worked! This young lady actually understood a little Spanish! Europeans are multi-lingual. So, if you do speak another language, it’s worth a try. Spanish is actually quite helpful in Italy.

#11. When you have finished your shopping, don’t just automatically make a bee-line for the shortest check-out line. It’s probably going to be the express lane, and you may have too many items to qualify. Fortunately for me, my observant husband had already found an appropriate line. Unfortunately, I had inadvertently cut a man off in the express lane and received a tongue-lashing in German. The nice thing was, I didn’t understand a word. He had a cart piled to the ceiling with flat-pack boxes. It was kind of fun to watch him when he, too, realized he was in the express lane and had to go looking for another line. This is not easy to do when there are five lanes with hundreds of people, and you’re pushing a cart with enough boxes to build an entire house.

#12. Resist the urge to stock up on cookies while you’re waiting in line. Once you get through the line (an hour later) there is still more shopping on the other side. There is a nice little mini-mart with a better selection of cookies, along with juices, cheese, sausages, and all kinds of jams and jellies. I am told the IKEA ginger snaps are a favorite. That will have to be on my list for the next trip.

#13. While in Germany, you need to take your own shopping bags – even in the grocery stores. While in line at IKEA, decide if you need to pick up one of their super-sized, inexpensive shopping bags. This may make it easier for transferring items into your car, and later when you arrive home.

#14. At this point, you’re still not finished with your IKEA shopping experience. It’s now time to go get a number and wait in line at Customer Service to submit your VAT form (Value Added Tax.) My husband estimated that we would be saving forty dollars by submitting our form. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth the forty dollars to have to stand in line for another hour to hour and a half. IKEA provides a very nice waiting area with comfy seats and even some foosball set up for your personal entertainment. However, when you are shopping on a Saturday during the Christmas season, you will not be anywhere near a comfy seat. There were hundreds of people milling around, and our number wasn’t anywhere close to the number being flashed on the screen as “next.”

#14. If you are lucky, really lucky, as we were – you’ll meet a nice American family while you’re waiting and enjoy a friendly visit. They blessed us with an extra number tag they had that saved us about a 40-minute wait in line. Later we found out…they’re assigned to the same military base where we are located, and within a few days, we met up again just like we were old friends!

Well, hopefully these tips will be helpful to anyone planning an upcoming visit to IKEA. When I was doing my internet search, I read that when IKEA first opened their store in Shanghai, China – 80,000 customers showed up! I wouldn’t be surprised if our visit to Nuremberg topped that record. Just joking, of course, but maybe not. One small glitch. When we got home with my desk/work table, my husband decided he liked it so well, he wanted one for his office, as well. So, we had to plan another visit to IKEA. This time we decided to play it smart. We decided to try out the IKEA in Regensburg, which is a little smaller store. We also shopped on a Monday. Well…it was WUNDERBAR! We were able to park close, managed to get to the café for a lunch of Swedish meatballs and potatoes, and even got a table by the big window with a “scenic view” of the Autobahn! (This would not have happened in Nuremberg. We wouldn’t have even been able to locate the cafe for the crowd.)

And my desk/worktable? We couldn’t find another one just like it, so my husband took mine! I didn’t mind, though. I got one bigger and better! I must say, IKEA furniture is good, solidly built furniture, and we are very pleased.

IMG_2165
First desk/table

 

IMG_2274
Second desk…bigger and better!

One last tip…

#15. Make sure your husband is handy, as mine is, at putting furniture together!

A Fork in the Road

In the way of a little introduction…

It was the summer of 2019. My husband Steve, and I, were sitting in our modest little apartment on the third floor of an older, red-brick apartment building in Rock Island, Illinois. A retired Army veteran, Steve was months away from retirement of his civilian job with the Department of Defense.  Some years before, I had taken early retirement from my teaching career. We had talked about various retirement options involving major moves, but we kept coming back to the dream of getting a cabin in Arkansas with a big front porch, some rocking chairs, and a couple of good dogs.

We had just finished watching a movie when I turned to Steve and casually announced, “We need an adventure!” A few days later, Steve came home from his job at the Rock Island Arsenal and surprised me with, “What would you think of moving to Germany for three years?” I didn’t have to think twice. I’ve always loved travel. Living in Europe for three years? What was there not to love about that idea? I would now be able to claim having lived on four continents. It was more than I could have dreamed when I had suggested an adventure. A position had opened up at the military base in Vilseck, Germany. Steve submitted his application, and that’s where it all began.

74390305_2502309633221361_4174990249329426432_o
Good-bye, Illinois

When Steve received the news he had been hired for the position, a whirlwind of activity ensued. We still had a furnished house on the market in Decatur, Illinois. Plans were made for the military to come and pack our apartment, as well as the house. Steve made plans to leave for Germany in mid-September, leaving me with a legal pad filled with last minute detailed instructions for packing, shipping of the car, closing of various accounts, etc. To complicate matters, I had already planned a mid-October trip to Peru, South America, which also demanded the full focus of my attention. My return trip from Peru would give me less than a week to prepare for my departure to Germany the early part of November.

Steve felt relieved that I would arrive later as it would give him time to find a place to rent. We both agreed we would prefer a house, over an apartment. Friends were asking me, “What if you don’t like the place he picks out?” It didn’t matter to me, one way or the other. It was a temporary arrangement and I knew I could be happy just about any place. My biggest concern was our health. Here we were retirement age and making plans to move to the other side of the world where we didn’t know a soul, nor did we know the language. Somehow, I found it all rather intriguing. Hadn’t I asked for an adventure? I comforted myself with the thought that if Abraham and Sarah could have a baby at 100 and 90, Steve and I could move to Europe at our age! Time and age are not a factor in God’s scheme of things. After all, we had prayed and asked God for wisdom and guidance, and the door had swung wide open. All we had to do was trust God and take a step of faith. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that you can experience the most amazing adventures when you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.  – Yogi Berra

I’ve always loved writing.  The power and imagery of words intrigues me. I’ve had various friends encourage me to write a blog of our life in Germany. Others have suggested I write a memoir, but according to my husband, only dead people write memoirs! 🙂  Be that as it may, I agree with my friend Rhonda’s take on it:

How precious are our days on the earth! How marvelous the journey through! Where do they go if not jotted down onto a page or held together in a song? Too much is lost and forgotten! And the dripping of the blade of ice hanging from the sun- drenched eve? The laundry flapping on the line, the dust that gathers too quickly on the bookshelves, and the brilliant sunrise illuminating the steam rising from the roof of the corncrib shed? Who will hold it still and sure for me, if not the page? The sea of fading memories is greedy to take the velvet voice of the three-year-old and the sweet things he’s said so sweetly. It dilutes the sight of his chunky hands and his quick moving feet. There is so much I would forget if not hung up for me on the forever-page. I feel we must write as much down as possible. – Rhonda Gunn Drain

So much is easily forgotten if we don’t hang it up on our “forever-page.” I’m reminded of one of my mother’s favorite sayings, “That day, that special moment, hangs in the art gallery of my mind.” I don’t ever want to forget those special moments in my life, so I choose to blog. If you choose to come along with me on this adventure…all the better!

I took my flight to Germany on November 7, 2019. My friend, Suzie, drove me to the airport early in the morning…early enough to see the most amazing sunrise. It’s one of the pictures that hangs in “the art gallery of my mind.”

74709211_2504172309701760_1576188981144453120_o
Good-bye, America!

 

Male vs. Female Driving Instincts (In Germany…but actually, just about anywhere)

IMG_1417

To begin with, let me just tell you that my husband, Steve, is a motorcycle aficionado. He finds great delight in motorcycle challenges that involve riding 10,000 miles in under 13 days. He claims it is painful and brutal, but soo much fun! I, on the other hand, cannot comprehend any situation in which those words would fit well together. And therein lies the key to understanding the difference between male and female driving instincts.

Case in point. Steve accepted a job assignment here in Germany, working for the Department of Defense. He arrived mid-September; I came a little later, arriving early November. So, it is fair to say he had the advantage of getting acclimated to his surroundings for several weeks before I arrived. I might add, due to his military training, situational awareness is one of his strengths. He can learn his way around in some of the most bizarre situations and remote areas of the world, in a matter of hours, or a day or two, at the most. I have not had the luxury (or trauma) of being thrown into the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and told to find my way back. So, I am truly lacking in that skill set. I think I would be looking for the nearest hunter’s tree stand and asking for directions. However, for a man, that is a sign of weakness and also causes you to lose some of your masculine hutzpah.

IMG_1411

Upon my arrival in Germany I was enchanted with this fairy-tale land; I wanted to absorb and record every detail of this beautiful country, and its people. We live in the quaint little village of Edelsfeld, which is fifteen minutes from the military compound. Other than the one-hour ride from the airport, my first outing involved the drive to Rose Barracks chapel on a Sunday morning. Steve is driving and thinking: It will take us fifteen minutes to get to the Rose Barracks chapel. Period.

I’m riding along and thinking: Wow! I love that little village nestled in the hills. I wonder what kinds of trees those are. I’ve never seen trees like that before. This seems to be an agricultural community. All the houses are built pretty much in the same style, cement block with stucco siding. All the roofs are tile with lots of skylights and solar panels. There are some windmills. The Germans seem to be very energy conscious. Lots of wood stacks and piled logs. Looks like maybe some of the homes are heated with wood. I see smoke curling out of a lot of the chimneys. I would love to take that little side road just to see where it goes. I LOVE those lace curtains in everyone’s windows. I’m going to have to find out where I can buy some of those. Oooh…that looks like a nice little shop. I need to find my way back there. Oh… that looks like a good restaurant, right next door. I love how the mist drifts through the trees. I’d like to try and do a watercolor of that scene. Those old barns are just charming. Oh…there’s a horse out in the meadow wearing a blanket… and on it goes. Mind you, I’m only thinking these things quietly to myself. If I were to verbalize all of this, I would have been left by the side of the road miles back, but you get the picture.

IMG_1455

Now, fast-forward to the week after I get my German driver’s license, approximately two months after my arrival. In case you are wondering what took me so long, I had to study a 98 page “Drivers Handbook and Examination Manual for Germany,” and learn 186 new road signs. Some of these signs have German words, such as Einbahnstrase (one way) and Ausfahrt, which identifies an exit. (That is one of the easier ones to learn!) Then of course, you need to learn how to convert Kph to Mph. There are guarded railroad crossing signs, and unguarded railroad crossing signs, distance to guarded railroad crossing signs, and distance to unguarded railroad crossing signs. Then there are posted signs letting you know you have 160 meters before the railroad crossing, etc., etc…and yes, you better remember that it is 160 meters because that will be on the test. You need to remember how many meters to stop before a crosswalk and a bus stop. You also need to learn that there are roads where POVs (Privately Owned Vehicles) are not allowed; there is the Autobahn (German version of the Indianapolis 500); there are Priority Roads; skinny roads (Steve’s term); super skinny roads; military roads (forbidden access); roads for cyclists and pedestrians only, and Rollsplitt – gravel roads. (GPS doesn’t know any difference. A road is a road.) Mind you, road signs are hard to remember when you’re cruising at 100Kph. If you ruminate too long on a passing sign, you’ll miss your turn. Well…you get the picture. It is quite overwhelming, but I study and I pass the test.

The first Sunday after claiming my driver’s license, we’re headed back to Rose Barracks for the Sunday service at the chapel. Steve says, “You’re driving.”

“OK, but you’ll remind me where to turn, right?”

“No. You’ve already been on this road 100 times. You know where to turn.” In my head I was calculating my response: That’s not possible. I’ve only been in Germany eight weeks; that is less than 100 days. Not counting round trips, that wasn’t even close, and most of those trips I was absorbed with trees, horses, and lace curtains. I didn’t say anything. It would take too long to explain myself.

“Well, maybe I should use the GPS.”

“No. Don’t ever rely on the GPS. It can lead you astray and put you on a skinny road, or a super skinny road, or a gravel road, or an off-limits military road.”

Me: Blank look on my face as I’m pulling out of the driveway.

“I want you to learn how to find your way in case you get lost some time. If you make a wrong turn, you’ll learn from your mistake.” (Somehow, I felt his military training was kicking in. I was being thrown into the wilderness to find my way out.) At any rate, I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the idea, and if you’re not feeling comfortable about something, it can affect your judgment. A few miles down the road, I was pretty sure a left turn was coming up. Oops! There were three places to turn left. Rather than make a snap decision, I drove on by and found a place to turn around. I could feel the “eye-roll” from across the seat. I recalibrate and get back on the right track. A few miles down the road, a big yellow sign comes up. Yes, this is an important sign, but a little confusing. There is an arrow pointing to the town of Vilseck and another arrow pointing to the Vilseck Military Community. Somehow my brain fixates on the word “military,” and I envision myself taking a forbidden military road with live ordnance flying over our heads, and Steve screaming “Stop!” In the time it takes me to think through this scenario, I miss my turn. I must turn around and come back.

 

IMG_1446

The following Sunday, I get smart and insist on using the GPS. On the way back home, Steve tells me to make an unexpected turn, not shown on the GPS. I find myself on one of the “skinny roads” – skinny road meaning it is very narrow, with little room to pass and ditches on either side. “Why did you do this to me?” I ask, just slightly irritated.

“I wanted you to learn what to do in case you ever find yourself in this situation.” (His military survival training is kicking in again, and I’m not liking it.) He smiles. “Don’t worry. It’s going to get worse.” The skinny road then turns into a super skinny road. By now, I’m praying I don’t meet another vehicle or I will have to back up to Timbuktu. I’ve always loved adventure, and I’ve always enjoyed taking the road less traveled, but by now, I’m feeling a little stressed. Then it happens. We pass a magical looking, tiny little structure on the side of the road. It looks like a gnome house right out of a Grimm Fairy Tale. As I drive by, I see an open door with two wooden benches inside, with just enough room to seat maybe four people. It appeared to be a little roadside chapel.

“Wow! Did you see that?” I exclaim.

“See! You would have never gotten that surprise if we hadn’t come this way.” He’s right, of course. I make a mental note to myself: I want to come back here someday. I’m still thinking about the magical little chapel when I miss the next turn.

“Why weren’t you paying attention to the GPS?” Steve sighs.

“You’ve told me not to depend on the GPS,” I counter. Despite everything, I manage to get us home.

Tomorrow morning I’m taking my first solo flight to Rose Barracks. Hopefully, I don’t find myself on a skinny road, but if I do, I’m going to be on the lookout for the magical little chapel by the side of the road. It’s calling me back. I’m afraid my female driving instinct is here to stay. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder and adventure, but I also need to remember my husband’s common-sense advice and driving instinct: “Stay focused. Stay alert and maintain situational awareness.” Sounds very military, doesn’t it? In retrospect, I think a nice blend of the male/female instinct is probably the ideal. Balance is the key to a safe, but adventurous life.