My Sis is a Married Lady, Y’all!

Eeekkk!! I love it so much.

I mean, just look at these two!

This wedding has been a long time coming, and I don’t mean because we were waiting for a proposal. Like a lot of 2020 bride and grooms, Covid put their original wedding plans on hold.

Christmas 2019

Honestly, I’m happy the original plans were scrapped because this wedding was amazing. I’m absolutely biased, but if they were on the TLC ‘Four Weddings’ show, they would definitely win that free honeymoon since these two had a masquerade-themed wedding.

I don’t have much to say, the ceremony was beautiful, and the party was fun, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. However, I’ll reiterate what I told them at the wedding.

Do you know the show ‘How I Met Your Mother?’ Shane and I live by it. In one episode, the friend group talks about the ‘front porch test.’ Essentially, it’s an indication of how do you see your life when you’re old? Who do you want to share your front porch with?

First, I envision my front porch with my sister who’s been my lifelong best friend (well, minus a few years in high school 🤪). Then, Shane joined our front porch.

Now, Terry has joined, and I can’t imagine anyone else on our front porch other than him.

There’s not much more to say other than congratulations Sis and Terry! I love you guys! ♥️

Photography by Stephanie Taylor (Chattanooga, TN).


Hasta luego,

Whitney

Greetings from Tena, Ecuador!

I’ve been slacking on the blog front. We’ve been here for two weeks, and I’m not quite sure how that happened so quickly.

It feels like we’ve been going non-stop since we arrived. The trip from Germany was surprisingly uneventful. We left Munich at ~6:30 am, had a short layover in Amsterdam, then it was about 11 hours from Amsterdam to Quito. There was mild panic checking in for the flight because the check-in lady was asking everyone for their negative covid test, which we didn’t have because it’s not required to enter Ecuador. Your proof of vaccination is enough. However, to enter and stay in the Netherlands, you need a negative test. Once we explained that our final destination was Ecuador, it was OK, but it didn’t make you feel good to watch other people be denied check-in and go in search of the airport testing center.

Other than that, it was smooth sailing. All of our 12 checked bags made it (!!!!), and our pre-arranged vans were already waiting when we arrived. About 3.5 hours and I don’t know how many switchbacks (🤢) later, we arrived in Tena!

Since then, we’ve been apartment hunting (more on that later), Shane, Lucie, and José have been working to get their lab and butterfly space set up at the university, and we’ve been trying to figure out daily life here. I’m sure you can imagine, it’s quite different than Europe.

So, first impressions, you ask?

We need a Spanish class.

I mean, this may seem obvious, and we knew we would likely find fewer English speakers, especially since Tena is only ~30,000 people. However, we’ve been spoiled. In the Netherlands and in Germany, you can get by without speaking the language. Here, not so much. Luckily we’ve had an Ecuadorian (José) and a Spanish speaker (Lucie) with us to help navigate.

The plus side is that our Spanish has improved more in the first two weeks of being in Ecuador than our Dutch/German in the Netherlands or Germany in the same amount of time. Granted, our Spanish is still very basic, but we can ask for things and ask how much they cost (and understand the price). Shane even navigated a taxi driver to our apartment! I call it a win.

Speaking of shops…

There is no such thing as a “one-stop-shop.”

You have hardware stores, fabric stores, plasticware stores, metal-kitchenware stores, appliance stores… so, you can imagine the frustration of trying to find the one specific item you need. We’ve been trying to furnish and organize our new apartment, and it took essentially a day of looking to find a coffee pot.

There are two nice markets, though, and the fruit and vegetable shops are amazing.

A fruit stand at the market.
Dragonfruit for $1 each!

We have lots of food to try!

There is so much great and new (to me) fruit! We haven’t eaten out too much since we’ve been focused on organizing life, but we have tried a few delicious things, like smoked tilapia and bolón de verde, essentially a fried ball of green plantains with cheese or cheese and pork mixed in. Looks strange, tastes delicious.

Probably the best fish I’ve ever eaten.
A bolón de verde, served with an egg and usually a coffee.

Quick tip for paying…

Cash is king.

We were told this about Munich, but you can get by with a card. Here, not so much. Obviously, I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but if you plan on coming to Tena, come with cash, and by cash, I mean American dollars (which is what they use here).

The surroundings are gorgeous!

Tena has been labeled a “gateway to the Amazon,” so we are surrounded by mountains and volcanoes!

The Sumaco volcano.
Some of the surrounding mountains.

The city itself is what I expected, which I’m not entirely sure how to describe. There is a lovely riverwalk with a tower and a great view!

The main street through Tena.
Rio Tena with the tower.
Views from the tower.

So, so far so good with no regrets!

Are there any “first impression” questions for us? Let me know!

Hasta luego,

Whitney

Meatball

We’re officially in Ecuador, but more on that later because we’re officially in Ecuador without Meatball.

Meatball has been with me since 2010 when I adopted her after she was abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Greenville, North Carolina. It was love at first sight! Well, for me, at least. 😂 Meatball took a little time to warm up to me, spending most of her first few weeks hiding under my bed. I remember inviting people over to see my new cat and having them lay on the floor with me to stare at her snoozin’ in the most unreachable spot. Which is actually how she got her name…

I had been testing out a few names. The guy that found her wanted to call her Wendy. Didn’t love that. I had been testing out Spaghetti, but when my friend, Andrew, came over to see her, he took one look at her chunks flubbed out under the bed and said, “She’s not a Spaghetti, she’s a Meatball!” And so, Meatball she became.

One of my first pictures of Meatball.

As you might imagine, we intended to bring Meatball with us to Ecuador, and we had been preparing to make sure she had all her necessary treatments, vaccines, and health checks. I intended on writing a post about “How to take your cat to Ecuador,” given all the hoops we were jumping through. On Monday, a week before we were flying, I took her to the vet for her final vaccine appointment and blood draw (poor kitty had thyroid problems and needed it checked). It was a tough appointment for her because of the blood draw, but the vet didn’t seem to think she would be anything other than a little more sleepy, which was accurate. We didn’t think anything of it. Later, in the middle of the night, I woke up to Meatball having a seizure at the end of the bed. I’ll spare the details, but it was violent and scary, and we had absolutely no clue what was going on. When it was over, we just had a feeling – this might be our last night with Meatball.

The next morning we took her to the vet as soon as they opened, but the vet couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her. I compared it to when your check engine light comes on, and you take it to the mechanic, and then it goes off again. Once you leave the shop, then it comes right back on. That’s what happened. We got home, Shane went to work, and she had another seizure. So, we made an appointment with an emergency clinic, but by the time we got there she had had another one and was basically unresponsive. So, we walked out of the clinic on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, 6 days before our move, without our Meatball.

Little sun kitty.

Needless to say, we never expected this scenario.

If anything, we were concerned about bringing her back to Munich from Ecuador, she was 16 years old, but we never expected to leave Germany without her. And to that end, yes. She was 16, but what could we do? We certainly weren’t going to abandon her in Germany.

So, our excitement for moving was quite muted, given the situation. Now that we’re here, it still doesn’t really feel real. It still feels like we’re on vacation, so of course, Meatball wouldn’t be with us!

But enough with the sad. I’m tired of crying. Instead, I’d like to tell you a few fun facts about Meatball that you probably didn’t know.

She couldn’t resist paper.

What. a. sucker!

I got a lot of enjoyment in setting “paper traps” for this cat. Once, in the Netherlands, we received an ungodly amount of paper shoved into an uncecessarily large Amazon box, so I made a paper trail starting at Meatball on our bed all the way to her blanket on the couch in the living room to see what she would do. That sucker TOOK THE BAIT and walked on the paper the entire way from one spot to the next. 😂

She was musically inclined.

Meatball was an underground rapper who went by Meatbeezy. She was also a Taylor Swift connoisseur. Her favorite song was ‘Wonderland,’ a bonus track on the 1989 album.

She loved selfies.

Comes with the celebrity, I guess.

She instantly loved Shane.

This was a point of contention in our house often ending with me pleading to her “but I adopted you! Love meeee!” Shane said it wasn’t his fault she loved him more. She was just looking for a strong male role model. 😐

She only tolerated two other animals in our time together: Heathclifford and Luna.

She tolerated them as long as they didn’t try to get on the bed. That was off-limits. Plus, Luna is a big ‘ole chicken-dog when it comes to cats. We always had to make sure that Meatball didn’t torment Luna by sitting directly in front of her food bowl or blocking the hallway.

An old kitty CAN learn new tricks!

She was hesitant at first, but once we got her going, that kitty loved to ramp! She would ramp in the morning, ramp for treats, ramp to look down over you and judge…

Finally, like most kitties…

She couldn’t get enough love.

If you were next to her on the couch…. pets. On the bed… pets. Looked at her for too long? … well, obviously you must want to give some pets. Naturally, we were happy to oblige.


It goes without saying, but we miss this little chunky snuggle-toothed squish face. Life won’t be the same without her. 💔

More about Ecuador, coming soon…

Adiós,

Whitney

America Trip Part 1: Family & Friends

We made it through the wilderness, yeah we made it throuuuughhh!

Obviously, the wilderness is 7 months of basement lockdown and 2.5 years away from home.

Honestly, traveling during the pandemic wasn’t as bad as I expected. We needed a negative covid test, which is a requirement to enter the United States. Plus, when we left for America, we had both vaccine doses, but it hadn’t been two weeks since the second dose, so we weren’t yet considered “fully vaccinated.” This was no problem since testing is free and on every other corner in Munich. Masks were required, which we expected and, quite frankly, liked. The only noticeable difference was the availability of stuff to do in the airport in Munich (most everything was closed), a long line to get to our gate (an extra check for the negative test and a valid reason to enter the U.S. as tourists are still not allowed), and reduced food and drink service on the flight (only one wine for me).

Overall, it was quite easy!

This time, we had about 3.5 weeks at home, split between both families and friends. From this point, this post is basically just a bunch of pictures.


Part 1: The Crosson Crew

The Crosson/Christopoulos crew met us full force as soon as we stepped off the plane… all 15 of them! It was a lovely (albeit slightly overwhelming, no offense, of course 🤪) start to our trip, and they were a great welcome home gang!

After that, we went to a baseball game, tried new restaurants, played on the lake, and basically fit in as much as we could while we could.

Charlotte, NC

Part 2: The Wrights

As usual on trips home, Shane and I were only together for about a week, and he’s really bad at taking pictures. So, it’s a good thing my mother-in-law arranged for some family photos.


Part 3: Friends

As expected, there’s never enough time at home, but we were lucky to be able to fit in a few friend trips.

East Carolina guys (+ a new addition).

Like most, the pandemic gave us time to do a lot (too much?) thinking. We’ve always justified living abroad because “we’re only a flight away.” For over a year, the pandemic dictated otherwise, which made us particularly appreciative of our time at home and the friends and family who made the effort to come to see us or check-in while we were in America.

What have we learned? While we love living abroad, two years away is too long. 💗


Up next? Chicago!… where we spent our final few days in America.

Tschüss,

Whitney

One Year in Germany!

Quite by accident, the end of May has become our official unofficial moving-aversary. This time last year, we were leaving the Netherlands for Germany, but this time seven years ago (🤯), we were leaving Pittsburgh for the Netherlands!

Leaving Oostersingel 72a!

In honor of our one-year Deutsch-aversary, I wanted to do a little reflecting.

What do we really think about living* in Germany?

* 6 months of which were in a hard lockdown in a 30 sq meter basement apartment with one window**.

** a window that looks at a retaining wall.

Our current view. The kitty makes it worth it.

German efficiency is a myth.

Honestly, I don’t know how this idea started – well, Ok, I kind of do. It stems from so-called “Prussian values,” and by the 1930s, the German reputation was built on Ordnung (order), which were mostly just rules and directness being interpreted as efficiency. If you’re interested, this article gives a lovely history lesson. For everyone else, all you need to know is that efficiency is a trait valued by Germans. However, “efficiency” is generally mistaken for a propensity for rules.

I suppose, theoretically, rules should make things more efficient since you should know exactly what to do. But what happens if things DON’T go according to plan?

like… oh, in the case of a global pandemic?

German angst.

Don’t know what to do about it? Well then, don’t do anything at all! Or, plan a meeting to meet about what to do. Either is acceptable.

We’ve had our fair share of inefficient interactions this year – from Shane’s contract to our residence permits to my freelance tax ID number, which I EMAILED about and received a reply by POST. Over a month later. Telling me I already had a tax ID number since it had been issued in the meantime. 🤦‍♀️

Germany also handcuffed itself during the coronavirus vaccine rollout. In America, there were stories of people getting spare vaccines from missed appointments. In Germany, people vying for those missed-appointment-vaccines were turned away because they weren’t in the proper priority group. Flexibility (in other words, a more efficient vaccination program) wasn’t an option.

I will give some credit, though. Once Germany gets it going – whatever “it” is – then it goes OK. Once there was clear guidance on how to handle new residency permits, our process was smooth. After some vaccine-rollout adjustments, the country is making progress.

The long and short? Take efficiency out of you vocabulary and you’ll have much more realistic expectations.

Learning German is hard… yet easier than Dutch.

…or for the inappropriate version that accurately depicts my true feelings.

I had such high hopes for learning German when we first moved here, but dddaaayyyymmm German articles are frustrating!

So, I gave up.

Well, I semi-gave up on learning German (will-we-won’t-we-need-Spanish?!) but 100% gave up on caring if I get the der, das, die correctly.

Currently, we can get by. Dutch has been very helpful with that since the sentence structure is the same and a lot of the words sound similar, so you can piece together meanings. Plus, we have mostly closed interactions – like at the grocery store or with the receptionist at the doctor’s office. You know what to expect out of those interactions, which makes them easier and manageable. And, similar to Dutch, we can both understand more than we can speak.

So why is German easier than Dutch? Because a German speaker doesn’t automatically switch to English.

Now don’t get me wrong, most people, particularly in a city like Munich, can and will speak English with you but you have to ask for it. And if they say no? Well, then you’re along for the ride, but that’s how you learn! I’ve found that I am much less self-conscious about my speaking capabilities when I know that English is off the table. German is in my brain somewhere. I just have to force it out!

I also notice that I am much less immersed in the language here than in the Netherlands. I’m working from home, we’ve had essentially no social outings to practice those basic skills thanks to lockdown, and we don’t have a boom box anymore. Yes, our old apartment had a legit boom box, so we listened to the radio all the time. It’s amazing the things you unknowingly pick up. We also haven’t been watching regular TV because (go figure) it’s all in German. In the Netherlands, most shows were in English with Dutch subtitles, so we would watch TV in English but hear commercials in Dutch. Before you know it, you’re singing along Kruidvat! Steeds verrassend, altijd voordelig! and wondering what in the heck you’re saying.

Kruidvat! Always exciting, always inexpensive!… in case you were wondering.

So, one year later, I still sound like an ausländerin.

Taxes are high, but it seems worth it.

Ah, taxes. Everyone’s favorite topic.

There’s really not so much to say about this. Taxes in Germany are pretty high. Shane loses about 35% of his paycheck each month, but that’s also paying for his health insurance (and mine, before I started freelancing), pension, and unemployment if he needs it.

Overall, it’s pretty similar to the situation in the Netherlands. The main difference is health insurance. Here, it’s included in the tax where we paid for insurance separately in the Netherlands. And about that health insurance, so far – no complaints! We’ve been to the doctor now for a couple of new vaccines and some health checkups and haven’t paid a dime (I mean… a 10 euro cent?). So, it feels like you’re at least getting something out of it.

Bavaria does not equal Germany.

A poll for the Americans:

When you think of Germany, what comes to mind?

Lederhosen & dirndls, pretzels, big beers, cute wooden alpine balconies?

While yes, all these things are German, they are typically Bavarian.

This seems like an obvious statement, but Germany is a big country! It takes about 7 hours to drive from Hamburg (the largest city in the north of the country) to Munich. So – ok, it takes longer for me to drive the length of my home state, North Carolina, but we’re talking Europe big.

There are also 16 states (Bundesland) in Germany, each with its own unique characteristics. For example, Bremen (a state and a city) was very close to us in the Netherlands and certainly had more Dutch-like characteristics, and Düsseldorf (and the other cities on the Rhine) have a distinct feel to them.

Oh, and the important one. Don’t you dare confuse a Berliner with a Bavarian, which are about as, unsurprisingly, culturally opposite as you can get. While the Nazi party may have originated in Munich, WWII and the aftermath had a completely different impact on Berlin. Munich (and Bavaria) is also a conservative mostly Catholic state, where Berlin is more left-leaning.

Long story short, visit Germany but drop those expectations!

When you come to Bavaria, order that weiß bier & weißwurst for breakfast and wear your lederhosen (especially during the Oktoberfest months) but don’t expect that to be the norm elsewhere.

Oh, and quick tip. In Bavaria, servus is hello, and order a brezen instead of a pretzel. 😉

Not how Shane envisioned post-PhD life, but it’s been worth it!

Let’s be honest, I could try to summarize what Shane said about this, but I won’t get it right. So he’ll write this bit:

Finish a PhD, get a good postdoc position (or two), and then transition into running your own lab – that’s the plan, right? That’s the ‘normal’ academic trajectory. Yea right – Covid really threw a wrench into that plan (as I’m sure everyone can relate to). Whitney has previously talked about our long and frustrating process of moving to Germany and gaining residency, so I’ll avoid re-hashing that. Instead, I focus on the past ~8 months of actually putting my PhD to use. All-in-all, totally worth the wait and hassle!

For this position, I switched ‘systems’ (aka, the animals we use to study evolutionary processes), leaving behind the 10+ years of experience in fish and fish-related research. Now, I work with Heliconius butterflies and I could not be happier. Why? Because it’s different! If find that I thoroughly enjoy learning a new system, new techniques, and new ways of thinking about things. Has this been harder than if I would have stayed in aquatics & fish? Of course it has – but that’s the whole point! My hope is that this will make me a better ‘scientist’ (still weird to call myself that) and broaden my options for when I branch out and form my own lab (fingers crossed I make it that far!).

Oh, and I would remise if I did not also mention my new lab and working group. Much as I spoke about the ‘system’, I am equally happy with my working environment. My lab mates, colleagues, and the general vibe within department are fantastic! The past ~8 months have been a joy and I look forward to the next few years!


Overall, I don’t feel like an outsider, but I certainly don’t feel integrated. I’m partially attributing that to coronavirus, partially to our perpetual state of will-we-won’t-we-move-to-Ecuador, and partially to my lack of trying.

Presuming we stay in Munich, my year-two goal is to try a little harder!

I’m not quite sure how to do that, but that’s part of the challenge of living abroad, I suppose. Tips are appreciated. 😉

Tschüss,

Whitney

March 2021 Joy Report

Heyyooo – we’re out of lockdown!

APRIL FOOOOOLSSS!

You might have but most likely did not notice that I skipped my February joy report. I mean, sure, stuff happened in February, but mostly it was a same-shit-different-day kinda month. Towards the end of February and the beginning of March, we stupidly got hopeful. The number of new cases was stable or declining, and they allowed up to five people in two households to gather. The rules even allowed non-essential shops to open for “click and collect,” so if you’ve ever wanted your own personalized shopping experience, then here’s your chance! Essentially, you have to make an appointment online to visit non-essential stores. Since a lot of these shops are smaller, you’ll have some one-on-one customer service!

But that didn’t last long. Over 70% of new cases in Germany are the British variant, which means that the case numbers are going up again. Hello, third wave! Once there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 people, it’s bye-bye click and collect a semblance of social interaction and hello evening curfew. Munich’s been hovering in the high 90s lately, so it’s only a matter of time. On top of it, the vaccine rollout here has been dismal. I think one headline last month said something like “Germany: Gloomy with a Chance of Hope,” but I think that was even being kind.

Anyway, I think it’s safe to say in the past month or so, #lockdownlife has caught up to me!

HOWEVER, we’re back on summer time (yay daylight!), spring is in the air, I’m getting back on the joy-wagon!

Vaccines bring me to my first joy.

A lot of our friends and family are vaccinated!

America has got-it-goin-on with this vaccine rollout! Honestly, for most of the pandemic, I’ve just shaken my head at the good ‘ole US of A’s response, but I am thrilled for how well it seems to be going. All of our parents and almost all other family members are vaccinated as well as several friends. I have so many emotions! First and foremost, I’m THRILLED that the people we love the most are protected and can start to venture back to normal life. I’m also incredibly jealous (’cause I want a vaccine!), and I’m excited because that means less quarantine time and more fun when we can finally come home!

We had social interaction!

As I mentioned earlier, two households are allowed to meet (up to 5 people). So, we took advantage of the spring weather and met up with our friend, Theresa, in the Olympic Park. I mean this with love (and I think he would agree), but it was nice to talk to someone in person other than Shane. I don’t count the grocery store cashier (mit karte bitte?) or the vet.

On top of the Olympic Hill.
The Frauenkirche with Alps in the background.

And speaking of the vet…

No more fish breath for Meatball!

Ha. Ok, so this is a weird one, I know, and actually, Meatball hasn’t really been a happy cat this month. Meatball’s breath was dis.gus.ting. TMI? Whatever. So we took her to the vet, who *highly* recommended that she have her teeth cleaned. BUT FIRST, kitty had to see a kitty cardiologist because they thought she had a heart murmur (she doesn’t, she’s just vet-certified dramatic), THEN poor little kitty cat had her teeth cleaned but left the vet’s office with two fewer teeth (go figure, rotting teeth = fish breath), and FINALLY, she managed to give herself double conjunctivitis from messing with her face afterward. Fun fact? Conjunctivitis in a cat can present as cold symptoms – so, miss watery-eyed sneezing Meatball has had a rough month.

Where’s the joy in this? Well, she doesn’t run us off the couch with her fish breath anymore, and we know she should pass her health check if we ever get to move to Ecuador. 😑

A post-anesthesia clean-toothed kitty with her cute little bandage.

And finally,

I’m a workin’ woman again!

As of March 1st, I’m a legal lady – I’ve even got my own tax ID and health insurance (and whew, that was a bureaucratic journey)! I’m doing freelance medical manuscript editing – research articles, case reports, things like that. Honestly, the pay is pretty crap (compared to what I was making before), but it pays enough to support our wanderlust. I can also work from home in Munich or anywhere in the world, for that matter. Assuming we can go to Ecuador, this is exactly what I had hoped for. If we don’t go, then, hopefully, this experience will help me transition into a more permanent medical writing or editing position.

With that, happy April, and send good thoughts for looser restrictions!

Tschüss,

Whitney

January 2021 Joy Report

January always feels like a long month. Do you agree?

Oddly, January 2021 has flown by! Perhaps it’s the monotony of lockdown life. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

A quick update on life here in Munich.

We’ve been in partial lockdown since the beginning of November and a total lockdown since December (i.e., only the essentials are open), but it does seem to be working. The numbers in Germany are decreasing – they are still high, but decreasing nonetheless. Back in December, Munich was considered a hotspot (200+ cases per 100,000 people), but as of yesterday, we were down to only 63 cases per 100,000. The most recent change is the FFP2 (N95) mask requirement. Now, shops and public transportation require an FFP2 mask, or you’ll be issued a fine. The hope is that FFP2 mask use will continue to drive down the numbers, which could allow non-essential shops to reopen. For now, we’re in lockdown until Feb 14, but with the new variants and a slower than hoped for vaccination pace, I expect it will go longer. The goal is to have the country down to 50 cases per 100,000 people before lockdowns are eased. So… we wait!

Oh, and Munich has a friendly reminder…

Munich lockdown alcohol restriction.
We still have a curfew and exit restrictions.

Anyway, on to January joys!

My Birthday!

Shane made cupcakes (with glitter!) and bought me a Soda Stream so I can drink “fluffy” water to my heart’s content!

Sparkling water is called sprudelwasser in German, which is really fun to say and has made its way into our day-to-day Deutsch-lish (ya know, a German/English mix).

“Can you sprudel me some water please!?” and “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts, sprudely doodely…”

…lockdown life. 🤷‍♀️

Whitney's 35th birthday.

New apartment stuff.

The apartment we rented is furnished, and we never intended to be in Munich this long. So, we never bothered to spend any money to personalize it. I mean, we brought some stuff with us from the Netherlands, but it was a hodgepodge of things, and we were hesitant to buy stuff just to put into storage later. However, the longer we’re here, the more we felt the need to make it feel a little more… adult. Like, perhaps we should have a matching set of sheets.

To add to it, we’ve not been able to go to the gym since November. We’ve been getting by, but it was getting boring.

So, we bought some new fancy LED lamps and some fake plants to brighten up the basement, some new sheets and pillows to minimize the ‘college dorm’ aesthetic, and a pull-up bar and some dumbbells to add to our studio home gym.

Game. Changers!

We should have done this sooner.

Living room upgrade.
New couch pillows, rug, lamp, and fake plants (old kitty).

SO. MUCH. SNOW!

I would say we’ve easily gotten two feet of snow this month.

Snow measurement (about 8 inches)

All this snow has its pluses and minuses. Plus, it’s gorgeous! Minus, we can’t go snowboarding (and it’s the “best winter in Germany in years” 😐). Plus, we’re the weirdos who like shoveling snow. Minus, Shane still has to bike to work.

We haven’t seen this much snow (outside of snowboarding trips) since we lived in Pittsburgh. The seasons in Groningen were pretty indistinguishable (cold wet winter, slightly warmer and dryer summer). It’s been really nice to have a “true” winter season!

Chillie dog!

Much to Meatball’s chagrin, we have won over our landlady’s dog, Chillie. It’s becoming a morning routine. Chillie is sent outside to pee but instead comes straight downstairs and barks at the door for some love. I can’t say I hate it.

Meatball though – she hates it. 😂 Chillie is small enough and so full of energy that Meatball isn’t quite sure what to do with her. One day, Chillie ran smack into Meatball and started licking her face (unfortunately, I was out for a walk when this happened). Shane said that Meatball sat in shock for a moment before it occurred to her “wait, I don’t like this!” and started hissing.

But how can she resist this face? I think the more Chillie comes to visit, the more Meatball will like her. Probably not, but we’ll let her come visit anyway.

Chillie belly rub.

That’s all I have to report for January. In all honesty, the lockdown hasn’t felt so bad, but I am getting really tired of walking the same neighborhood loops, and I am ITCHING for some travel. Anywhere. Just to see something new. But for now, we wait.

Fingers crossed for some relaxed restrictions in March! 🤞

Tschüss,

Whitney

December Joy Report

Happy Birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! I drank too much last night….that’s the end of this post! 🤦‍♀️😆

Jussssttt kidddinnnggg…about it being the end of this post. Happy New Year!

Anyway, I’m rounding out 2020’s joy reports with a double-joy-whammy! First up are a few things that made me happy in December, but I also felt like there were a few things I wanted to acknowledge about 2020. We can all probably list a million reasons why 2020 was the worst (seen the match.com commercial?), but, for us, there were a few GOOD things that came out of 2020, despite all the de-railed plans. First up, though…

December Joys!

The first snow in Munich.

It was only a few centimeters, but it was enough to cover the ground. Shane was at work (this was before the hard lockdown that started mid-December), and I was high on that fresh-snow-Christmas spirit! I popped in my headphones with my favorite Christmas music (December by George Winston), and off I went a walking in winter wonderland! Naturally, Blutenburg Castle seemed like a fun snowy destination. I was cold and wet by the time I got home, but it was just grand!

Flu shots – in German!

Yeah – ok, flu shots feel like a weird brag, but it’s less about the flu shot and more about the German! While I was excited for Shane to get a flu shot (he didn’t last year and got the flu twice), I was more excited that we broke the German-speaking barrier!…that obviously only exists in my head. We had been warned that we would most likely need to speak German when going to the doctor, but I found a doctor online who advertised that they spoke English. Great!

I was only semi-surprised when I called to schedule an appointment, asked if we could speak in English, to which the receptionist replied

nein.

It threw me for a slight loop, but I had Googled the word for ‘flu shot’ (grippeimpfung), the receptionist was very friendly and spoke slowly, and I managed to hang up the phone with instructions to show up at “elf uhr, morgen“. I spent the next 24 hours walking around the house practicing “I have an appointment at 11” (ich habe einen termin um elf uhr) and “I would like a flu shot, please!” (Ich möchte eine grippeimpfung, bitte!), and morgen um elf uhr I successfully told the receptionist I had an appointment! Turns out, they have English patient forms and the doctor spoke perfect English, but the receptionist did not.

It seems so trivial, but it was very empowering! The receptionist was also the nurse who gave me the shot, and I managed to understand her description of the vaccine symptoms, tell her I wanted my vaccine in the rechts shoulder, and made a small joke about how schnell the whole thing was.

Post-flu shot selfie for my parents. haha

Unlike the Netherlands, I don’t feel scared to try German. Dutchies are SO GOOD at English that they automatically switch if you try and speak Dutch or (even worse) you’ll get a little giggle at your attempt. I genuinely don’t think it’s on purpose or with bad intentions, but it’s certainly not encouraging. Here, if you’re trying, then that seems to be all that matters.

Unfortunately, the lockdown has really limited our interactions with native speakers, but I definitely feel like we’ve improved our language capacity.

Shane’s first advent calendar.

And, to be fair, I think this was also my first chocolate-filled advent calendar. We both remember having ‘countdowns to Christmas’ as kids, but not like this. The bad thing? Now I want an advent calendar for the entire year…

My Christmas leggings.

I don’t think I need to elaborate. Best 9 euros I ever spent.

Christmas 2020!

Could we go home? No. Could we do anything? No. Could we see other households? Technically, yes, but we didn’t.

But ya know what? We made the best of it.

Did we FaceTime with my brother-in-law so he could read us Twas The Night Before Christmas? Yep!

What’s on Shane’s forhead? A crack in my moms iPad screen. haha

Did we get a little cheerful and walk around the neighborhood taking pictures with other peoples’ Christmas decorations? Sure did!

Did we see other households? If you count the lady walking her dogs who caught us 3 times taking pictures – then why yes, we did!

It wasn’t the Christmas we expected, but we had a great time working with what we had!

…which we made sure included cinnamon rolls, a stollen, and pretzels from a gluten-free bakery I found (that took us an hour and a half round trip to bike to…oops), eierpunch (German eggnog), glühwein, curryworst, dipped cookies, and potato pankakes with applemusse! 🤪


Ya know what Pandemics are good for? Reflecting. Let’s just say we took a lot of neighborhood walks where we did a lot of complaining, but we also realized there were a few surprisingly good things.

2020 Joys Despite Covid-19

We’ve had more time in Munich.

It’s been this circular argument – if there were no Covid-19, we would be in Ecuador right now. But if we were in Ecuador already, then we would have missed Oktoberfest. But if there was Oktoberfest, then there would be no Covid and we would be in Ecuador. But if we were in Ecuador, then we wouldn’t have an opportunity to go snowboarding this year. But with Covid-19, probably we can’t go snowboarding this year…you see my point.

Despite Covid-19, we’ve been lucky to have extra time in Munich and we were especially lucky to have a relatively covid-free summer. We were able to have a *modified* beer garden experience, swim in the Isar, go on some hikes, and visit Olympia Park. No, we haven’t been able to experience the city in it’s full glory, but we know the Innenstadt well enough to navigate without maps, and I call that a win.

We CAN live in a tiny home!

We’ve watched A LOT of tiny house shows, and to be honest, really thought that we could live in a tiny house one day. Or, at least in a small house with tiny house principles. Well, once we moved to Munich we were forced to see if we could actually do it on account of 30 sq. m (~300 sq ft) is a mid-range tiny home. The kicker? Ours isn’t as efficiently built.

Good news, folks! We haven’t killed each other!

We’ve had to get creative – with furniture arrangements, workout spaces (since the gyms are closed), and sharing sit-space with the cat – but it’s all been ok. Our biggest complaint? The lack of light (our only window leads to a retaining wall). Even our one sink in the bathroom and hot plate are do-able. Not preferable, mind you, but do-able.

Nothin’ like some lat pull-downs in front of the shower and next to the toilet and the litter box. #dedication?

Pro-tip? Noise cancelling earbuds. 🤣

Shane’s got a new project.

As you know, we only intended to be in Munich long enough for Shane’s lab to make a plan and gather supplies, then we were headed to Ecuador for two years. You might have guessed – they needed to be in Ecuador for a reason. That’s where the butterflies are. The pandemic forced some reassessment, which means that Shane ended up with a new project – for now! It’s one that can be completed here in Munich. Put simply, he’s dissecting butterfly eyes (collected on other field trips) and looking at species-specific differences in eye morphology.

Meatball’s health.

I hate to admit it, but our kitty katz is a grandma.

She turned 15 (ish) this year, but we were still surprised when we took her to the vet for a rabies vaccination and found out that she had lost almost half her body weight. Turns out, she had an overactive thyroid. Good news – it’s easily treated with medication, which she enjoys taking in a squishy treat. Bad news – she *loudly* lets us know when she’s ready for her squishy treat. Determining the proper dosage took some trial and error and SEVERAL follow-up vet visits, so our delayed move to Ecuador was to Meatball’s benefit. Well…maybe not if you ask her.


And that sums up 2020!

I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying these joy reports, so expect to see them in 2021. Especially since it might be all the blog content I have. 😂

Congrats on surviving 2020, and cheers to a healthy and more adventurous 2021…and access to that Covid vaccine!

The Marienplatz Christmas tree.

Tschüss,

Whitney