NATO 101

I had the opportunity to go to a course in Southern Germany to learn more about NATO and it’s interactions with different nations. I learned a ton, but the best part was having a class made up of 26 nations, and not all were NATO members. To learn how Ukraine views current world issues versus Denmark is just one example. Throw in my US mindset and a Dutch opinion and dinner conversation was never dull.

Part of the course allowed the opportunity to independent study. I used the opportunity to sight see.

My trip to the Disney castle was worth it. Unfortunately pictures inside are not allowed. It is worth the ticket price. Interesting note, the castle has been a museum since 6wks after King Ludwig’s mysterious death.

I also visited Kolfel mountain in Oberammergau, Germany where the story of Hansel and Gretel comes from. The story goes that a witch lives in the mountain and there are numerous documentations of kids going out to play and never coming back.

Oberammergau is a unique village situated in a valley. When the village was hit with the Plague the town promised God that if it would stop spreading and spare lives they would always do a Passion play. The Plague ceased and the people have put on the Passion play every 10yrs following. This is the longest running Passion play in the world. It has become so largely attended that only those born in Oberammergau or those who have lived there for a minimum of 20yrs are allowed to be actors.

The opportunity to learn more about my job, but also other nations perspectives is one I am so grateful to have gotten. Not bad to get it see Neuschwanstein either.

-S

Dagje Uit

Upon getting home from my work trip I learned it was time to pick up one of our two tables we had ordered. The table we would be picking up was in Northern Netherlands, or Holland, and was our new coffee table.

Kinderdijk was recommended to us by the man who built our table and we are so glad he did. The weather was perfect and the crowds were low. Dax and Zoe loved taking a vehicle ferry and then riding a boat to the windmills. One of the windmills we toured housed a single family of 14!

Next was another castle. Though the baroness was Jewish it survived WWII thanks to the wits of the staff left behind. They hid anything that could be taken off the walls in secret passageways. If they received news of German troops coming close they would begin to clean and manicure the grounds. When asked what they were doing by German troops, the staff would respond getting the estate ready for your leadership. Thinking their leadership was about to arrive, they did no harm to the property.

And finally it wouldn’t be a Davies Day Trip if we didn’t go out of our way to see Amsterdam and the dyke system that has reclaimed the lowlands of the Netherlands.

The longer we’re here the more we want to travel. This should mean more actual travel leading to more blog posts. Enjoy!

-S

A Weekend Away

This is quite delayed, but life happens and catching up the blog is my lowest priority.

Zed and I had the amazing opportunity to spend a few days together in Europe. His parents were out visiting to help with the kids as I was away with work. Zed was gracious enough to drive me down and take the scenic route. In total we visited 8 countries in under 48hrs.

Our journey began in the Netherlands, as that’s where we live. We quickly entered Belgium where we passed through Liege, Bastogne, and Arlon. I love living in a place that holds so much history. When we first moved here we watched Band of Brothers to give us a brief history lesson. Then it was a quick stop through Luxembourg, which is smaller than Rhode Island.

France is where things became new. As soon as we crossed the border we saw the Maginot line, which I got no pictures of because my phone was away. From that point on I always had it within easy reach and turned the auto camera function on. We were also greeted into France by seeing nuclear power plants. Their water towers are also some of the most unique I’ve seen (a funnel, a castle turret, and a mushroom). By this time we need some food. We like to visit the local McDonald’s to see what interesting things they have on their menu. We were let down, no unique menu items. Moments away from our next country we came to a border checkpoint. When they asked us if we had anything to declare I held up the McDonald’s bag and Zed said just fast food. I’d like to think we livened up the officer’s shift.

Switzerland was up and is a country of tunnels. In 2hrs we journied through a minimum of 20. I lost count. So far it has been the country Zed and I both agree we’d like to ex-pat to, if we were rich enough to do so. Their homes are unique and there are ranches everywhere.

The homes have huge roofs (guessing to manage the snow), numerous windows, and carefully decorated gables. They even decorate the under side of the roofs.

This is St Urban Abbey.

While in Switzerland we were also able to participate in a Latter Day Saint Temple Session. The Bern Temple was the first built in Europe.

Liechtenstein was a surprise for me. It was also our first passport stamp since being here, we did a few euros to get it. Our goal was to see Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein (from the movie A Knight’s Tale), instead we walked into their Carnival parade.

Now it was time for Austria. We ventured through a 8.5mi long tunnel that allowed us to bypass a mountain pass. One of the most interesting things we saw was a car from Swaziland. How it got there we’re still wondering. There were also wooden huts scattered throughout and we never could research a good answer as to what they were.

Germany brought us to the end of our journey. We stayed at the base of Neuschwanstein Castle and Zed dropped me off at my work location the next morning (another blog post will be coming on that). We were able to see the Zugspitze (the tallest point of Germany) and a few avalanches.

The trip was amazing. A great time to spend together and see new things. We were blessed with safety and clear roads both in weather and traffic. Enjoy the few pictures I took and stay tuned for more adventures

-S

We’re Off

Next week I’ll going to be in school in Oberamerrgau in southern Germany. Thankfully the stars aligned and Grandma and PaPa Davies were able to come out to help with the kiddos and Zed and I are able to take off early and see some of Europe as he drops me off at school, only to turn back around and drive the 8hrs back. I’ll then take the train back to GK at the end of the week.

So stay tuned as we pass through as many counties as possible. We’re off in our little red rocket car that gets 900 km per tank.

ESSO 77

I had great plans to write this post on Monday night. Then on Tuesday I planned to write it, but from a very different angle. Today, I finally have some time to sit down and try to do this post justice.

20 years ago due to an airplane malfunction 4 Washington State Air National Guardsmen lost their lives on Geilenkirchen Air Base.

I was asked to help with the execution of the memorial service. This being my first event of any scale I was on edge. 75 people had flown from the US to honor their comrades and family members lost on Jan 13, 1999. There was a 20 minute ceremony and a lunch that I was responsible for. Though the weather didn’t cooperate, the entire day went off without a hitch.

I didn’t realize how much of myself I had invested into the event until Tuesday morning. We forgot Ana’s book bag at the house (thanks to Zed for running home to grab it), forgot my cell phone at home (a whole day without a cell phone is hard), after my shower from the gym I realized I hadn’t brought boot socks or an uniform shirt, oh and I left my hat in my car so I got to do that walk of shame.

As I walked out the of gym in a smelly uniform shirt, with no hat on, and ankle socks I saw the school bus pull up. At that moment I just needed a hug from my girls. I got two amazing hugs before they headed off to school with their pony tails wagging behind them and went back to my car to figure out what had just happened.

Why was I in tears at 830am over such trivial things? It was then I realized how much effort I had put into this event to ensure the family and friends of ESSO 77 had a memorable time. For some of them this was the first time they had ever been to GK and for others the first time they had been back since their squadron mates had passed away.

It was also then that I remembered the importance of hugging those you love and making sure they know how you feel. And finally, it was when a new friend tapped on my window to ask if I was ok and gave me a hug.

So to ESSO 77, thank you for your service to not just the nation, but serving with NATO means you’ve provided service to the world.

Articles if you want to learn more about ESSO 77.

https://www.141arw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/863999/esso-77-memorial/

https://l1.nl/l1mburg-centraal-geilenkirchen-herdenkt-neerstorten-tankvliegtuig-in-1999-147093/

https://www.aachener-zeitung.de/lokales/geilenkirchen/gedenkfeier-bei-awacs-20-jahre-nach-dem-flugzeugabsturz_aid-35641261

Tasting Tray of Tarter Sauces

Though the title only really applies to one lunch Zed and I have had over the past 2 weeks it also explains our holiday break pretty well. We tried a little of a lot and saw some new things. Enjoy the long, but fun post to follow.

We spent an entire day in Maastricht, NL while the kids were at daycare. If you’ve been to Georgetown, MD imagine a European version and that’s Maastricht. Their Christmas market was still going, but everything was on sale! We rode the Ferris Wheel, walked the shopping district and ate at a small burger place named FAB (Famous American Bistro). Sharing 5 sliders and some deep fried Mac & Cheese we felt a little piece of home, except for the glass bottled waters.

The church on the left has been restored from the 1700s to its original painted color and structure. The church on the right is from the 1500s.

View of Maastricht from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

Another view from the Ferris Wheel of the two really old churches.

This book store has taken up residence in an old church. The vast cathedral houses three stories of books in a multitude of languages.

Zed and Ana went shopping at Rammstein, aka as American as you can get in Europe. They saw Mary Poppins, bought discounted Christmas decorations, and visited Bastogne.

New Year’s Eve Day, we stayed local as I had about 5hours to play in between my shifts. Heerlen is where our ward building is located, but also a really neat town close to home. We enjoyed the site, shopping, and some yummy sushi before I headed back in to work.

These bricks are found in the sidewalk outside of buildings Jews lived in. They say the name, the birth year, when they were deported, when they died, and the camp they were sent to.

During the winter a sledding hill and ice rink are set up in the square.

Pock marks from bullet holes can be seen in the bell tower left over from WWII.

New Year’s Eve was quiet inside our home, but the Dutch sure know how to celebrate. The firework display was a 360 degree show that lasted from 11pm to 3am. This display was put on by everyone, but us. We were not aware that to live in the Netherlands you are obligated to set off fireworks on New Years…we have learned for next year. The fireworks set off also are not able to be purchased in the US. The rockets are large and fuses short.

Jan 2nd brought another date day where we got to test out our new GoPro at the indoor ski slopes. Completing 12 runs in two hours, we were pretty tired and ready for some lunch. Back to Maastricht we went to enjoy some Fish and Chips at Jack White’s. Here is where the title of this post comes in. We enjoyed gourmet fish with a tray of five different sauces to choose from. Zed ordered the cod battered in the traditional seasoning. I got Mackerel battered in various herbs. Our tarter sauces consisted of traditional tarter, curry lime, spicy beetroot, mango, and garlic. The mango was our favorite and the garlic made an amazing dip for the chips. It was at this restaurant we learned the best way (cheapest) to drink out is to order the largest water they have and split it. We also stopped in a costume shop to begin our Carnival costume planning. Here’s what Zed is considering.

The 3rd, on a whim we went to Trier. This is the oldest town in all of Germany with many Roman ruins still present. We ate in a historic cellar that displayed numerous crests from the region. Unfortunately both of our phones were unusable halfway through the day so we didn’t get pictures of everything…guess we’ll just have to go back. We intend to bring family as they come to visit because we enjoyed the town so much.

One of the many churches in the town. I am standing at the opposite side of the square in order to capture the full height…at least 12 stories.

Better lighting and side view of the same cathedral.

Inside the Constantine Basilica. The most interesting thing to me here was the history of the church. In the history it explains how many times the church was rebuilt (at least 5) due to different ownerships. The most recent reconstruction of the Basilica was due to “the necessary consequences from the Nazi era”. The altar is the place of the previous Roman Emperor’s throne. It was the plainest church we saw in Trier, but according to the guide “it has been divested of its former pomp and splendor. Marble and treasures have no place in it.” The guide made us wonder who was responsible for writing it due to the blunt nature of the words.

Ironically, this is connected to the back side of the Basilica. Covered in pink paint, gold leafs, and Roman statues the electoral college had ownership of the building at one time. This opens up into what I can imagine is a gorgeous garden in the spring and summer time complete with fountains and reflection pools.

Porta Nigra. The one remaining port entry gate from the Romans, there were a total of 4. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My first ever to visit.

After this picture my phone died. We also saw the amphitheater which felt much life a Division 1 football stadium and the main bath house. Oh, and we did some shopping of course.

We put some miles on our shoes, checked a few stops off the bucket list, and enjoyed some quality time as a couple. Because of these small trips, Zed and I have realized we need to make a list of places to visit based on driving distance so as we have a random day or long weekend off we can hop in the car and go.

I’ll be sure to have a phone charger in the car and the GoPro always prepared from here on out so you don’t miss any of our travels.

-S

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Merry Christmas from Germany…well the Netherlands. Live in one country and work in another, pretty cool concept.

We would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This was our first year recording the chaos thanks to an early gift, 1.5hr of opening gifts and a full day of lounging and playing with them. I tried to upload the pictures in progression of the events.

Back in the Classroom

They (not sure who they is) say you should never stop learning. In my new job with the Air Force I learn something every day. As a mom I learn something every day. As I wife I learn something almost every day. I recently decided to take my learning to new levels and I’ve enrolled in a Masters Program through the University of Oklahoma.

For 3.5yrs we lived 20min from the campus and I didn’t step foot on it once. Now, living in Germany, I have been on their satellite campus here many times. I have successfully (I hope, grades won’t be released for 2 more weeks) completed my first course. I’m getting my Masters in International Relations. My first course was Latin American culture.

The program here is pretty intense, I should be able to graduate in May 2020 just 16 months after starting. I am able to take classes online and some are offered in person. The in person classes are 4 days of 6-9:30pm and 2 days 9-4pm. They usually conclude with a final paper being due 2wks after the class completing and 3 credit hours are earned. It’s tough, but so far it’s been nice not to be away from the kids as much as an 8 or 12 week online class would. Zed may not agree with me on this due to he is the one with the 4 kids while I’m in class all week.

I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date on the exciting world of a Masters degree. Pop (www.elfidd.com) has asked I fill him in on all my research. If there’s every something I learn that is SUPER interesting I’ll be sure to share it.

-S

Writers Block

As a pseudo blogger, writers block is a very bad thing. Often times I don’t have an issue with writers block, I just have issues with blocking out time to make a post. I keep a journal of funny things the kids say or do. Sometimes I write about experiences I have at work or just thoughts that cross my mind throughout the day. I have plenty to write about.

Except right now…I am currently in my first Masters class. My final paper is due Monday at 6am my time. I kind of have a start to it. I have great resources to help me write it, but I’m a procrastinator. I rarely become inspired until 24hrs before the due date. Any other time of the year I think I would be ok and could just get it out. But with it being Christmas, I have a million excuses to put it off until the last moment.

Wish me luck as I try to put the priority of the paper over decorating the house and wrapping gifts.

-S

The Great Potty Training of 2018

Can you feel the tension? It’s so thick that I wouldn’t be surprised if you all had bit off your nails and your hair had turned gray.

We’ve been working on potty training Dax for about 6wks now. We have used Grandma visiting as a bribe, offered him gifts wrapped and unwrapped, bought him a urinal and his own potty, bought him super cool undies, and now we’re on to cold turkey. We’ve got the peeing down…well mostly. He hasn’t had an accident overnight in a week (woohoo!). He only has a pee accident maybe once per week. Sounds great right…wrong.

Pooping is an entirely different subject. He’s scared to poop, he doesn’t know how, it’s too easy. He’s used all the excuses under the sun to explain away why he keeps pooping in his pants. Tonight he sat on the toilet for 30min and as soon as he hopped off he pooped his pants. The trouble we’re having is we know he needs to poop (because he holds for 2-4 days at a time), but we can’t get him to poop on the potty. Watch him closer you say? We do and when we see he’s about to poop we stick him on the potty and the little bugger sucks it back in for another day. It’s also impossible to watch him 24/7 with 3 other kids and a life of our own. He pays attention and lets it flow the moment we’re not looking. Tonight we made him empty his own undies of the poop into the toilet. 30min later he pooped again.

If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

-S