Thursday, November 26, 2009

I believe this one...

"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be obtained by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." - Mark Twain

This morning I hopped a train to Slovenia, not knowing a lick about where I was going or what to expect except for Wikipedia´s description of the town as ¨impossibly romantic.* (Please excuse the Slovene keyboarding errors.) Bled is situated on Lake Bled.

My arrival into town was surprising. They speak in Slovene! German is useless! English is better. How strange. The town is quaint little houses, curving cobblestone streets and a general romantic feel, yes. Tomorrow with a walk around the lake, I should have a better grasp.

I found a Rick Steves guide in the hostel which said that Slovenia was the most prosperous Eastern European country and was the first to be admitted fully into the Union with the use of the Euro currency in 2007. Slovenia has its history tied with the Germanic, and it´s an industrious and friendly nation. More tomorrow.

P.S. I had told myself I wasn´t going to use the computer but here I am. It is an addiction.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


"The more you do what you want," says Santa Fe artist Erika Wanenmacher, "the more magic happens."

Is that really true?

Or is it being self-centered? What is it to be true to yourself? And to your heart?

I struggle with the internal battle between pleasing others and pleasing myself. I know I'm not happy if everything I do is for myself, but I don't feel very authentic when I'm doing things out of pity or guilt either. Neither way is the best.

I think sometimes life is a messy tornado of emotions which swirl around me. I'm in the middle calm and detached at times and at others, caught up in the flying debris.

I like being independent. I like being needed. I like the swirl and the calm. I'm a planner and a free spirit. Dichotomy suits me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shipping delays... bosh!

I was so excited to have my stuff delivered but just got an email saying it would be delayed by at least a week, so now expected delivery is Dec 3 or 4. Ohh. I'm bummed, but what's another week in the same clothes?

Man oh man.

I'm going to move into my apartment with my sleeping bag. I don't care! I can't stay in the pension any longer.

Today we also had our first full day of patients, which went rather smoothly considering the call center accidentally scheduled every single slot and double-booked several. They also scheduled a full afternoon for two doctors even though Dr/Captain Carlson had to leave at 3PM for a meeting. (Normally optometry schedules their own patients, so this should just be a one-time affair.) I enjoy my patients, who are for the most part, coherent and upright, which is an improvement over the last two work places of mine. I also find the backstories of my patients interesting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Hooptie. Exposed.

Are you ready to see this? Sara's junker #2. It drives great and heats up in about 5 seconds flat. And it's UGLY. Isn't there a song about getting an ugly wife and then you'll be happy the rest of your life? Do you think it's the same with a car? I was thinking perhaps my car might be improved if I went to the Px and found one of those self-screw-on rear what do you call them? That thing you put on the trunk to help with airflow? Oh, someone help me here. Please let me know what accessories you think I need to really make this a pimpin' mobile. Love from Germany...

Hey, this is my commute to work. Nicht schlect.

First glimpse of the beauty of the BMW. Check out the four horn buttons. (I cut one off, very sorry.)

The shifter. Note the dual heat controls, and fog lights up and to the left of the Sony stereo. That thing to the right of the stereo is thermostat that tells the outside temp. Unfortunately it seems be stuck at -30.0 which I think is wrong. Oh there's rear defrost, too. Fancy.

The cinnamon-sugar scent really makes the car, or so I've been told. Doesn't cinnamon help control diabetes by stabilising blood sugar? I think it's helping me to stave off type II. I'm sure.

Here she is. Tinted pimpster windows. And the missing gas cap. (Which Stanley's 2-year-old neighbor pulled off two days before he sold it.)

From the front. A little rust on the front but it's still a BMW. I own a BMW. For your info, in the background is the guy who comes by on Saturdays and sells potatoes out of his truck to the locals. There's also a guy who comes in a truck to sell baked goods- buns, pretzels, etc.
This morning before I went to the gym, I stopped at the bakery down the street to have a coffee and ran into a couple who met at Minot Air Force Base. (He was stationed there and she was a Nodaker.) A few minutes later, in walked Elizabeth and Elsa who I work with in the clinic so I slid over to their table for a few minutes. It's a small community, very loving and open. By the way, I said to the woman from North Dakota that this area of Germany really reminds me of North Dakota, and she fully agreed. (If anyone wants to move over let me know, and I'll do everything I can...)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dating errors

Just a FYI, if you like someone, don't tell them they have a jiggly stomach, or they need to dye the sexy grey worry streak in their hair, or they need to buy new clothes, or they need to get their body in shape before it's beyond the point of repair, or suggest that they stand on the scale for you to monitor their weight. Or how about making digs over and over about their funky junky BMW which smells like cinnamon and sugar. Maybe that's why they have a little fat on their stomach. It's smelling all that cinnamon- it's gone on the waist. Yes, that's it. Do all those things and then wonder why they have no feelings. Go ahead, ask yourself what went wrong.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Inclinations on Socializing

Tomorrow morning before work there's a run. A Yellow Ribbon family fun run at 6:30AM. Registration starts at 4:30AM. This army thing is not for the faint of morning- a class to which I most definitely belong. My colleague (the chief of optometry) asked me yesterday if I wanted to run. I thought, like I want to roll out of bed early and start running and then go to work, am I crazy? But there's free coffee and hot chocolate. So perhaps.

After deep contemplation last night, I decided it would be nice if I ran. So I will. Today I received an e-mail from Specialist Sargent. Yes, his last name is Sargent. More than confusing for someone with the feeble military knowledge that I possess. He said the clinic group can meet at 5:30AM and we can all run together. Fun! (Not.) But I'm going. I hope no one notices that I'm a monster in the morning. I'll try not to talk. I mean growl.

Friday afternoon brings more socializing with colleages. Thanksgiving dinner. At 13:00. In the clinic. The physical therapy receptionist asked if I wanted to join and bring a dish. I thought, how am I going to cook without a kitchen? And do I really want to start the potlucks? Should I be social or antisocial with my coworkers? So I said, "I don't know if I can come." (Like what else would I be doing? Polishing my Hooptie?)

I reflected. I'm here to be part of the group. I'm here to make friends, socialize and belong. I'm not here to be an island. The contractors have a funny position because we're not military, nor government employees. There are things that we're left out on. Some contractors feel this is very excluding of them. I haven't developed an opinion on it yet but I've decided that I am here to part of things, not to watch. So I'll be in the Yellow Ribbon Run and I'll make a vegetarian delicacy for the Thanksgiving dinner. Even if it is just cauliflower and hummus.

Case history- I'm listening.

In the New York Times this morning, I came across an editorial on the care of patients- something that's relevant for anyone in the healthcare field and also probably in many fields where we're being measured for our productivity and care by computer programs:
"Checking the right boxes, but failing the patient"

While I was learning to be an optometrist at Kaiser, I discovered that patients come in with all the answers. You just have to ask a few questions and take time to listen. Medicine is less objective than we're taught it is. Patients usually don't lie. People don't go to the doctor unless they have a problem. And they usually do have a problem when they think they do, however minor it is.

I used to have anxiety when a patient arrived with a convoluted history, when I could see their anxiety, when I felt like they needed reassurance and too much from me. Who was I? A counselor? Maybe they had hypochondria or something without explanation. Especially if they were a fifty year old female. It was implied in school that patients had a tendency to over exaggerate things and come in with too much anxiety. I should poo-poo them and send them on their way. Another dumb subconjunctival heme? That's nothing but a bruise in the eye. It will go away by itself.

But is it nothing?

Is it nothing if it's something that's causing my patient to sit at home and worry all weekend that they might be going blind? Is it worth a fifteen minute consult to discuss the dumb little thing that really doesn't need to be worried about? I think so. I figure if I can make someone's life easier, I will. And sometimes it's not a nothing, sometimes it's a big thing that we diagnose.

That is the part of medicine I like. The people. The story. The humanity. Listening.

I've come to feel that my patient's history tells the story and it truly is the most intruiguing part of the exam. If we as providers think of it as the patient's story and listen with human interest, I think it makes medicine feel very different. We're not going to get away from the checks and balances of the insurance industry. Or the productivity ratings of our employers. I still want to know if my patient's wife is having a baby this afternoon, if they are scared about their vision, and that they are human like me.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."
-Martin Luther King

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 1; First patient

This morning, I saw a 25 year old type two diabetic from Missouri. He' s been here three years, though has gone through deployments. Charting was successful after a few small hiccups. Once starting the exam, I realised I'm going to have to use the opposite side of my body from my prior optometry experiences. It will help improve my ambidextrous skills. In my free time at work, I've committed to studying Deutsch.

Today's word for you:
die Heftmachine: Stapler; zusammenheften: to staple. (zusammen means "together")

Friday, November 13, 2009

End of week FOUR

I guess it takes four weeks to in-process since Monday I'll start to see patients. Yesterday we had a class detailing a few more items on the intro-to-BMEDDAC orientation extravaganza. (BMEDDAC is just the Bavarian medical group.) Which means we learned something about the importance of personal communication skills, how to deal with the media and things which they look into when you're being assessed for security clearance, among other things.

There's a small group of various providers on the surge team- which means that we help the soldiers get ready for deployment or return from a tour of duty with health checks and what-not. I think it's probably a lot of form-filling but it'll break up the monotony of daily optometry.

Since it's Friday, I feel like I should be thinking of what sort of trip to take over the weekend. As if I could just sit on my butt and relax. I think that's against the laws of Sara. I'm not sure yet what the weekend entails. With a mid-week holiday, I feel like it's too early for Friday, but I'm not complaining.

Next week is a regular week and then the following is Thanksgiving, so only three days. My shippers called and said that my things were due to dock on the 23rd and will be delivered on the 30th, which iI the Monday post-turkey-day. I'm allowed 48 hours after the arrival of my goods to get the household set up.

That's the end of the logistical update. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two days of train trips


Just off the train with John, whose apartment I'm taking over.

Spinning the ring for good luck.

My mug for the mulled wine matches the building!

From the tower on the city walls.





For Carrie. It's a framed tarantula I think from a second hand store. The framing was done in 1976. I sort of wanted to buy it but I held back. It was only 30 euros! Bargain!

Schneeballen. A Rothenberg tourist trap thing.

Some gardens. I think there was something about the four seasons here.

My feet and horses from the bridge.

Snack. Espresso and Schneeballen.

Six hours on trains and buses, modeling my new hat.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Computer evilness

Today I finally got computer access. It's been three weeks, two days since my arrival. However, sometime before I arrived the computer went missing (stolen) from my office, and the replacement computer in my office doesn't seem to want to grant me (or anyone) access, so I have access and no computer that works. We've opened our schedules for Monday morning. I hope I can chart. I have a class tomorrow and if my computer is not functioning on Friday, there will be hell coming from our department. Or I will just turn on my daze face and plow through the week.

It's frustrating, as all the stuff I need to do revolves around the computer. But. What can I do?

I'm excited to start seeing patients- real interactions with people should be pleasing I think. I have a feeling as a single female optometrist, it might be a little interesting also- I've been versed by another young woman what to expect and what to watch out for. The male-female ratio on the base is definitely a factor... It's entertaining at least. I think I can handle myself just fine.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Buying gas

This morning I spent with one of my assistants, Specialist Rhodes. She was trained in ophthalmology and has come with high regards from all the other optometrists in the area. There was quite a lot of shock all around from the events at Fort Hood in Texas this morning. Since I still don't have computer access at work and live off post, I hadn't heard by the time I reached work.

It's funny business working in the military but not being military. It's sort of like infiltrating the group, but having no what it really means to go through all the training they did. The benefits of the military are pretty decent, especially since I didn't have to join to get them.

However, this afternoon I spent nearly two hours getting a gas card and trying to buy gas. There were just lots of people in line. I thought, "So we're saving money with this, but all the time it's taking. What a waste." Then I guess life is just time, and is time in line really wasted? An existential question for a mundane activity, but it's what I was thinking as I waited in line to pay for my gas.

The whole proceeding went like this... I bought the car yesterday. I had it inspected (which is good for one year), registered it, and then had to wait 24 hours for it to get into the system so I could apply for a gas card. Today, I then went to the furniture store (not a typo) to get my gas (ration) card. The line wasn't particularly long, but it took about forty minutes or more to get to the front, where I was issued a card which allows me to buy 200 litres of gas per month at a subsidised rate, which is $3.10 per gallon at this time. It varies by week. Next I had to go to the front register, wait in line again to add money onto my card so that if I'm out on the economy (meaning Germany) I can purchase gas at the subsidised rates as long as I use an Esso.

I figured I should get some gas. Since I had the card. I got to the station. Pulled up on the wrong side of the car. And went to show my ID, gas card and car registration to the gas station attendent. There was a line. After I showed my IDs, I moved my car to the other side and waited as a man with a Smart car washed his windows (not bothering to move the car even though he was done filling up). Finally after filling my tank ($35 for 45 litres), I stood in line again to pay, where I had to swipe both my gas card and my debit card to pay for the gas. Now you understand how it took me two hours to fill my tank for the first time.

In other news, I've returned to the gym and took up running after one year off post-sick-Auckland-marathon. It feels good and I want to run every day, but I'm making myself ease into it. I may try another marathon yet. It's good to know I haven't lost my love for running. I thought I had! Perhaps the Prague Marathon will call to me. I wonder if they have kolaches at the finish line? Well at least there's a Turkey Trot at the end of November. I know I can handle that.

The pretesting room in my office. And our in/out board. I didn't write my name on there but I approve. :)

That's Bernie in the bakery by my pension where we used to meet before work before I got my hooptie.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My first BMW

When Stanley drove up, I thought, "Oh man, that's ugly. No way." A light champange four-door. A 1988 BMW 5-series, which I think I'm going to buy. Because it seems good enough, has manual window rollers, and heater that will dry my hair in five minutes if I get out of the shower too late. Did I mention that there are separate heat controls for the passenger and driver side? All this in a car made when I was the glorious age of twelve.

It reminds me of my 1987 Buick Century and Carrie's tuna can, the 1987 Chevy Cavalier. It's got a good number of miles on it. But it's in very good condition, drives well, has a new transmission, tires, brakes, etc. I could go on. I probably shouldn't. It drove so well and was obvious from his email and the conversation that he had loved and taken care of the car. It's one of the ugliest BMWs I've seen. Which makes me laugh. And this is all about laughing. My mom will appreciate that there's a bit of car between me and the next.

If nothing else, driving it for a month would be the same as renting a car for a month. It will get me where I need to go. It's comfortable. It feels solid on the autobahn. And now people will be looking at ME instead my car. No competition.

How comical. I move to Germany. I buy the German-made car. It's just not quite what was expected. I think I like it that way.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Fortune and love befriend the bold." -Ovid

I've had people tell me that my life looks lucky. It might. But I know that a lot of things I've done were hard work, and things always look simpler from the outside. I guess I'd say my life is blessed, in that I've got a wonderful set of family and friends and I can't complain about the cards I was given. They were pretty good. I also know that I decided to live my life more boldly about five years ago. And so since then, I've felt more alive than I have since I was a kid. It's a freedom to feel bold, to feel alive and authentic.

This first stage of life in Germany has been magical. I've made so many new friends of all ages who I honestly like. No one is creepy time-filler. (Yes, I've had those in my past life.) No one seems to want anything of me other than a friendship. It so fills me up.

This Saturday, I went shopping in a little town called Neustadt, near the border of Czech, with John (the guy whose apt I'm taking over). On the way back, he took me to Flossenb├╝rg, where there's a castle on the hill and remnants of a concentration camp with museum in town. Being slightly MR, I forgot my camera. So you'll just have to imagine what I saw. The museum was harrowing, the castle mystical.

Today was my second Volksmarch with my Crazy Volksmarching Friend Ryan. He goes on Saturday and Sunday most weekends. With the fog we had this morning, I half expected to see a gnome wander out of the vine rows. In the 3-4 hour 12 mile walk, we had three checkpoints, all with free hot broth and the last with walnuts in the shell. It feels like the eve of the holiday season.

Statues in Vilseck near my pension.

Vilseck side street off the Church. I love the colors of the buildings.

Last weekend, they had a big festival in town where they brought this in on a tractor with a band playing as they paraded through the streets to the church, where they carved and set this up in celebration of the upcoming holidays.

Volksmarch #2

I took this for the bicycle sign. The fog didn't hurt either.

I might post this sign on my forehead.

The Artful Garden Protector. Now you know what to do with all that scrap metal and solder gun you have sitting around.

My favorite nut- Walnut! I cracked this nut by hand. One gets very strong fingers flipping dials all day.

Joyful worship of the walnut. (In the last checkpoint.)

Hey, shouldn't we have these on the lakes in MN? Do they mean one-way waterskiing?

Crazy Volksmarch Man, Ryan, from Arizona.

Reading the dictionary- the perfect completion to the day.