Hello, 2022!

Belated Feliz Navidad and Feliz año nuevo!

A little belated, of course. A brief life update. We DO have visas now, but the process is still ongoing. So, more on that later. For now…

Christmas in Tena!

Parque Central, Tena

Since we went home to the US twice this year (🙌), we knew we were going to stay put for the holidays. Plus, someone has to take care of those darn butterflies. So, Shane, Sophie (a master’s student), and I stuck around Tena. It was quite a low-key Christmas. The city was decorated with lights and (fake) Christmas trees. Honestly, what I found most interesting about the decorations was that they were all made out of an outdoor, weather-resistant type of material. I mean, it makes sense given the periods of intense rain and sun. It’s just not something I ever considered! For example, the tree in the main square was a metal frame wrapped in green outdoor carpet-looking material. But, when you turn the lights on, you would never know the difference!

Christmas decorations at Ikiam, the university.

Also! I did manage to find a glühwein alternative while we were in Quito for the visas. May I introduce you to canelazo! It’s a warm, orange and cinnamon, alcoholic (or not) drink popular around Christmas. Since we’re jungle-dwellers now and froze at ~10,000 ft (2800m) in Quito, canelazo was a welcome find.

On Christmas Day itself, we spent a few hours in the morning with the butterflies, a few hours watching Christmas movies and the rest of the time sippin’ drinks on the roof!

I will say that the warm weather did influence our Christmas spirit, even though we heard it was quite warm in the US on Christmas, too. The build-up to Christmas just wasn’t as Christmasey without the cold. However, Shane, Lucie, and I did host our first lab Christmas party, which was full of spirit thanks to the Christmas decoration EXPLOSION in all of the shops around town. There was certainly no shortage of decoration availability. I think my favorite purchase was our nativity-like scene (we were missing baby Jesus).

Please note the donkeys…

New Year’s Eve

Fun fact. This is our 6th New Year’s Eve in a row in a different country!

And, what better way to celebrate than by setting covid on fire!

The ańo viejo (old year) is Ecuador’s biggest New Year’s Eve tradition. Essentially, at midnight, you burn paper mache characters or whole dummy’s made from old clothes and stuffed with sawdust (called monigote), leaving the old year in the past.

We didn’t experience this, maybe because Tena is a smaller city or maybe because of the pandemic, but apparently, some cities have huge monigote, making for equally huge bonfires.

Paper mache masks for the monigote.

So, we did as the locals do and bought a monigote and burned that mf’er in the street at midnight! Oh, and to solidify your good luck for the next year, don’t forget to jump over your monigote 12 times.

We burned covid in the street… notice how dark it is? That’s because the electricity went out shortly after midnight throughout the city for about 10 minutes. Seemed fitting for the burning, though.

See ya, 2021!

Other Ecuadorian NYE traditions include eating 12 grapes at midnight for good luck (also a tradition in Spain, which my family had already adopted) and wearing yellow or red underwear for general prosperity or love, respectively. Unfortunately, I found out about the appropriate underwear color too late, but I’ll be prepared next year. Individual fireworks are also popular, and we had a lovely view of them from our roof!


Shane and I did some reflecting on 2021, and overall it wasn’t a bad year.

It started out pretty bleak. We were in hard lockdown in our basement apartment for seven months, and I wish I had a heat map of the circles I walked in the neighborhood. I think the lowest month was around March, when things were improving elsewhere, but we had no end to lockdown in sight. Plus, we had no clue when we could go home again and if and when the lab would get approval to go to Ecuador. I’m a plan-ahead kind of person, and I couldn’t think about anything more than a week in advance. Essentially, I could only look to the following Saturday when I had my “big outing” to the grocery stores. We also had a major dip, losing Meatball unexpectedly. In hindsight, the trip to Ecuador would have been difficult on her 16-year-old kitty bones, and she would have melted in this heat. It’s not the same without her, though.

Peak lockdown boredom. München beer blind taste testing.
Sleeping Cat
Missing her cuteness.

The beginning of the year may have been bleak, but for us, 2021 constantly improved. We got out of lockdown then limbo when Ecuador travel got approved. We enjoyed the beer gardens in Munich and went on a few hikes. We saw our families twice in one year!! My sister got married, and we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, canoodling through Munich. We moved to a new country and flew first-class for the first time. 💁‍♀️ Importantly, Shane is finally able to do the research that he was hired to do. Also, I bought my very first laptop at the age of 35, and Taylor re-released TWO albums! So, all in all, not too shabby.

Canoodling through Munich for anniversary photos.
Feelin’ first-class fancy.

Happy New Year, everyone, and best wishes for 2022!

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

America Trip Part 2: Chicago

The first and only ever time I was in Chicago was with Shane back in 2014, just before we moved to the Netherlands. We were there for our friend Brian’s 30th birthday, and the only thing I really remember is that the famous Bean was right next to our hotel. That, and we all went out for massages. It was my first one ever (at 28 years old), and while everyone else came out relaxed, I was disappointed. I remember sitting there listening to “oh! and when they did this and that!” and thinking “I got none of that!”

Needless to say, I was excited to see Chicago again. Plus, the Wolfpack (Shane, Brian, and me) hadn’t been together in roughly three years.

So, we spent our final few days in America letting Brian and Shannon tour us through some new and some of their favorite spots. I won’t lie, the itinerary was ambitious and involved pre-made Google maps. We didn’t make it all the way through, but we did our best!

first up,

The beach!

To be honest, this lasted for about 10 minutes. It was a beautiful idea, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. However! Shane and I did put our feet into (very cold) Lake Michigan while Brian and Shannon held down the blankets… literally. It was that windy.

The river!

We walked it. We biked it. We took cute pictures.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery!

Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but Starbucks isn’t my favorite. I would have never thought to visit the roastery. However, if you like coffee, then I would absolutely recommend a visit and a tour! I didn’t realize that Starbucks had a reserve coffee line, and I definitely didn’t realize that there were only six reserve roasteries worldwide!

If you want to just have a coffee and experience the place, then it’s free, but we did a tour of the four-story Starbucks with a coffee tasting that goes in-depth into their coffee process, from beans to brew! You won’t leave un-caffeinated.

Oh, and their espresso martini is not to be missed! Yes, this Starbucks has a bar.

It’s covid-friendly with separate straws, right?

Bikes, baby!

Chicago was a surprisingly bike-friendly city, at least the little bit of biking we did. The biggest difference was the turn signals or the lack thereof. Here, sticking an arm out when you’re turning left or right is engrained, but Shane and I seemed to be the only ones giving turn signals in the city.

We hit the Lakefront Trail towards the end of the day, which had spectacular views! It’s a walking and biking path, so I highly recommend it.

Rooftop bars!

We hit several rooftop bars in between stops for tacos and ice cream. I’m a sucker for a good view. So, my favorites were The Robey (which had the tiniest rooftop pool I’ve ever seen) in Wicker Park and The J. Parker in Lincoln Park (which had a bonus city + lake view)!

Views from The Robey.
Views from the J. Parker.

360 Chicago (the John Hancock Tower)!

If you’re looking for an incredible view, then the 360 Chicago observation deck is the place to be. If you want to enjoy that same incredible view with a semi-overpriced cocktail, then you should check out the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor. I say semi-overpriced because for the price of one admission to the observation deck you can get two fancy cocktails with a great view (although not 360 degrees). Since we went at night, we decided on the cocktail option.


Like I said before, we had an ambitious list that went partially unfulfilled. Guess that means there’s gotta be a next time!

We’re on the final countdown, folks! Two weeks from now, we will be on the way to Ecuador!

Until then, we’re cramming in all the Munich we can handle.

Tschüss,

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

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

November Joy Report

Partial lockdown is boring.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s the right thing to do, and if I’m being honest, we’re pretty boring people on a day-to-day. I do miss the gym, though. We’re pretty creative in our 30 sq meters (300 sq feet) but it not quite the same as a bouldering gym. 😜

In other news, it looks like we’ve marched straight into winter, and there’s even a chance of snow! I thought for sure we were going to have to buy new winter coats after I spent an hour unpacking and repacking all of our stuff stored under the bed and found nothing. Turns out, I put them in an *easily accessible* place, which was truly easily accessible had I just remembered I’d put them there.

Like I said, it’s been pretty boring.

Regardless, here are a few things that made us happy this month!

Tattoos

If you read my October Joy Report, then you’ll remember I lost my cousin in October. Shane lost his grandparents roughly a year and a half ago and had been wanting a tattoo to honor them. I had just been wanting a new tattoo, period. After Tony’s death, it felt like it was the right time for us to do it. Shane could remember his grandparents and I could remember Tony. The universe was in our favor. The day before the partial lockdown started, they worked us in.

Shane went first, and ended up with more than he ever really imagined – in a good way! His grandparent’s owned a leather shop, and the bull in the tattoo is from the leather shop logo. The mountains and scenery are representative of the mountains where his family is from.

I got a galaxy cat. I’d been wanting something colorful and cat-like anyway, and when my mom and cousin said they were getting galaxy-cat Tony tattoos, I was definitely on board. It’s a fun and beautiful way to remember my fun and beautifully spirited cousin – and he just really liked galaxy cats.

Shane’s 35th Birthday

My honey bunches turned 35! I literally never call him that so I’m not sure what possessed me to do that now, but I’m going with it. Do you know how hard it is to plan a surprise for someone when they are working from home and you are literally always in the same room?

It’s hard.

I was able to sneak out under the pretense of forgetting cheese (which I actually did forget) and buy supplies to make a cake and somehow successfully hid all the cold ingredients behind carefully placed butter and yogurt. He only figured it out when the smell of cake started wafting during his Zoom meeting. So, that’s a win! I had original hopes for a night on the town, but we got take-out and ate ourselves sick on cupcakes. All in all, I think he would say it was a good birthday.

Thanksgiving

Speaking of eating ourselves sick…

We had a true Thanksgiving this year!

The last time we celebrated Thanksgiving was our first year in the Netherlands. We payed close to 100 euros for a special-ordered turkey that was entirely too big for any of our appliances (we only have a toaster oven and a crockpot), and Shane ended up trying to cut it apart with a bread knife (our only serrated knife). It was a mess. I also payed way too much to import canned pumpkin, marshmallows, and crispy onions for green bean casserole. It was a lot of work, and we celebrated late since it’s not a holiday in Europe (go figure). To top it off, I couldn’t find a live-stream of the Macy’s parade. It was a nice meal (with some good friends), but after that year, we just kind of gave up.

UNTIL 2020!

Shane found a turkey in the grocery store and everything changed. I had to swap the pumpkin pie for apple, but those crispy onions? GOT ‘EM!

Apparently they are pretty common in German dishes, and they were only 0.87 cents! What a steal!

Shane took the day off work, and we cooked, drank festive cocktails, talked to family, and I even found a live stream of the (modified) parade! Honestly, it was a really great day.

The Umschreibung

aka the endless staircase.

Turns out, this art installation is not too far from our climbing gym and the ‘nicer, fancy’ grocery store. So, when I was on the hunt for those crispy onions, I decided to make a pit-stop! It was fun to find a little hidden gem and see a new part of town.

Looking up.

Meatball

I mean – look at that paw placement. She kills me with cuteness.

And with that, we’re on to December! Conveniently, der letzte monat des jahres was part of my Duolingo lesson recently. I’m planning on going hunting for to-go Glühwein stands… I’ll report back.

Tshüss,

Whitney

October Joy Report

So, October was…going!

Honestly, with the job and residency drama behind us, we’ve just chugging along this month. Getting into our new routine, appreciating the mundane daily life, enjoying the fall weather and colors. And then the unexpected happened. My trivial October joys were greatly overshadowed by one event – the loss of my cousin, Tony, who took his own life on October 17th. And while that is in no way a joyous occasion, my cousin, despite his decision, was a joyful kind of guy – at least that’s how I knew him.

So, with that in mind, my first October joy.

Tony.

Photo credit to Cassandra (graciously taken from his Facebook page).

I’m not entirely sure where to begin. I suppose a short family history – Tony is one of four Milani children, who are cousins on my mom’s side of the family. My mom’s dad was in the US Air Force, and the family moved a lot. So, it was normal that our extended family ended up all over the US and sometimes the globe. My sister and I are the youngest of the 8-cousin bunch, so we looked up to our older cousins, especially since we only got to see them every now and then. As life goes, you grow up and you grow apart, but in 2009, at a long-overdue family reunion, we all reconnected. After that, with the help of Facebook (and Snapchat and any other cat-meme sharing social media platform), our cousin crew was back-in-action and this time for good.

Now to Tony. I swear, he’s the funniest of the crew, and this was no small task. Joey, his brother, smashed cake in his own face when we were kids, which made him the funniest in my book for a long time. I think that Tony’s ‘funny’ came from his complete authentic self. When we were together, he always seemed to be unapologetically who HE was – caring, empathetic, genuine, loving. SO SO loving. Which also might have been a detriment – he was the kind of person that would give so much of himself to others, he could forget to give back to himself.

One vivid example – when Shane and I went home to celebrate our wedding in North Carolina, I remember showing Tony the montage of our Croatia wedding photos and being surprised to look over and find him teary-eyed. Granted, the photographers picked Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and someone was “cutting onions” nearby – so it wasn’t totally his fault (😜), but it was totally Tony. He was so happy for us and so happy for our family to be together.

A family photo
Tony is far left, holding the small child above his head…

Tony is married to Cassandra, and they are both in the US Air Force and constantly on the move. One thing I never told him (them) – they were our family ‘goals’. They’re adventurous, open-minded, and made the best of their situations. Mostly, for us as two travel-loving, abroad-living people who might have kids one day, they showed us that you CAN still do it. With four boys in tow, they didn’t stop traveling and exploring, and we’re grateful for their example.

Oh, and Tony was fluent in at least 3 languages. So… cool cool cool, cousin. I’m only a lot bit jealous of his language skills.

You hear this a lot, but life’s too short to hold grudges. Life’s too short to not reach out to that person you’ve been missing. Life’s too short to not be who you truly are, do what makes you happy, and take way too many pictures! Obviously, there’s more to Tony’s story than what meets the eye. So, I’d like to end this piece by saying please – if you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Honesty is hard, but life is worth living even if it may not feel like it at the moment. I wish that Tony’s story hadn’t ended, but all I can do now is learn from it and honor him by remembering all his wonderful qualities.

Tony was a vet. If you’re American and know someone who might benefit from the National Veterans Foundation ‘Stop Veteran Suicides’ crisis line then please, pass on this information, or you can make a donation.

2016

Fall colors!

Covid cases have been rising in Germany. So much so that we are heading into a month long lockdown starting today (2 Nov). We haven’t been DOING too much since the weather turned colder and rainier. Beer gardens and outdoor spaces at restaurants have been mainly closed for the winter and we’re not to keen on indoor activities at the moment. So, while Shane’s at work, I’ve been taking a lot of walks! We both agreed that the fall colors in Munich have been much more dramatic than in the Netherlands. Obviously, there are different types of trees here (lots of chestnuts), but they just POP!

Stoop views.

Honor system potatoes and squash

Do you remember how I said there were honor system pick-your-own flowers back in the summer? Well, this has transformed into grab-your-own-squash-and-potatoes! I’m excited to see if there is a winter pick-your-own variety.

This stand (called the “Potato Hut” offered regional potatoes, squash, and halloween pumpkins.

We got our real residence permits!

It took about 4 months to get an application appointment, and less than 4 weeks to receive our official cards in the mail. No more worries until 2022!

and finally…

This.

I have no words for it. I don’t know how to describe it. Why is a realistic looking mannequin holding a dragonfly displayed in a glass case on Shane’s campus? The world may never know. Literally. There’s no description plaque. If anyone out there knows why this man is on LMU’s Biocampus, please explain!

Honorable Mention

Budenzauber.

A dreamlike-unreal effect caused by lighting and appropriate decoration, which the stalls create at a Christmas fair.

That’s a mighty specific translation!

The Christmas markets in Munich are officially cancelled, so I guess I’ll have to make my own budenzauber this year. In the meantime, I hope everyone is able to find their own little slice of joy, and if you can – share it! You never know who might need a boost. ❤️ Tony.

Tschüss,

Whitney

September Joy Report

Yes, I’m a day late.

I just wanted to make sure I incorporated the entire month of September for the most accurate reporting, ya know?

Anyway, quick update on Munich life, then on to the joy report!

It’s been in the American news lately that the numbers of coronavirus cases in Europe are increasing, which I can confirm. The cases in Munich have risen to more than 50 per 100,000 people, which puts us in the ‘red’ zone, triggering more restrictions. As of last week, the new restrictions limit gatherings to 25 people, there can be no more than 5 per table (it used to be 10) at restaurants/beer gardens, there is a ban on to-go alcohol sales after 9 pm, and masks have to be worn outdoors in high-traffic areas. Germany is trying hard to avoid a 2nd full lockdown, so hopefully, this will help. Selfishly, I want it to work because they haven’t yet canceled the Christmas markets, so there’s hope!

Enough coronavirus, back to the joy!

Shane is officially working!

The number one joy of September! In my last post, I detailed the headache it took to get here, but we’ve arrived and that’s all that matters!

The traditional ‘leaving for my first day of work’ picture

We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary!

And we were able to make a day trip to the mountains. I’d call that a double-joy-whammy.

Leutasch Gorge, outside of Mittenwald, Germany

Giant pretzels and obatzter dip

I finally got my hands on a pretzel bigger than my head, and thanks to my keen-eyed husband, we discovered Obatzter dip. He just happened to notice that everyone coming back with a pretzel had some “orange dip”. So, when I went to get a pretzel, I was explicitly told not to come back without whatever that dip was. Turns out, it’s DELICIOUS (obviously). It’s essentially a Bavarian beer cheese made with Camembert cheese, butter, paprika, and beer.

Big everything at German beer gardens.

Chillie and The Cat

I say “the cat” because we’ve asked her name three times. It’s “typical Bavarian” (according to our landlady), and we just can’t remember it. Anyway, Chillie and the cat belong to our landlady, who lives above us. Naturally, we can’t resist an animal, so we have befriended Chillie the chihuahua and the cat. The best part of these two? Chillie bugs the living daylights out of the cat, but the cat just takes it – until she doesn’t, then she taunts Chillie from above.

NFL on TV

I’ll say this was more of Shane’s joy, as I could really care less. Regardless, we can actually watch NFL on TV here! The commentary is in German, but actually that’s not a bad thing. Shane’s new goal is to learn enough “football German” to be able to yell at the TV in a bar.

Honorable Mention:

Servus!

aka Bavarian for ‘hello’! It’s one of those words that once you know it, you hear it everywhere. Now I feel like I’m part of the club. 😜

It’s been a strange year, but hopefully you were also able to find a little joy in September! October – here we come!

Honorable mention #2: smush-face Meatball.

Tschüss,

Whitney