Ich habe nichts zu verzollen

"I've nothing to declare."

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

So, I'm on the plane, heading out of Atlanta, so thankful for all of the help of those two Delta employees (yes, I wrote a letter about them to Delta and the company thanked me for my comments), but I'm freaking out over how severely the plane pivots when it turns after take off. I can just picture my dogs, smashed up against the side of their crates, terrified, injured... it didn't help that I was in a window seat, where I could really see how severe the angles were.

The flight attendant asked what I wanted to drink, and I asked for red wine -- I needed something to calm me down. My eyes were starting to swell from all the crying. I just kept trying to breathe deeply and regularly and talk to my dogs in my mind, tell them everything is okay... I didn't feel like reading either of my books -- too heavy, mentally speaking. So I read the Delta SKY magazine. There was a really great article about bringing dogs on golf courses (you can do this in Scotland, no prob). I did the crossword puzzle for about two hours. Never did finish.

I skipped the in-flight movie ("Bedazzled" with Brendan Fraiser. And I still totally know what the movie was about, just from glancing up at the screen every now and again). I listened to the Delta "radio" instead (I wanted to save my fabulous new CD walkman, a gift from my family, for later in the trip). I passed on Channel 9, "Stadium Anthems" (Who let the dogs out?) and opted, instead, for "Delta Country" on Channel 6, which included a four song tribute to Johnny Cash. When I'd listened to the entire cycle, I switched to Channel 11, Best of Broadside - Anthems of the American Underground. FASCINATING!! I had never heard of Broadside magazine, nor of the important role it played in dissident music of the 60s. I'm not a fan of much 60s folk music -- I find Joan Baez and the Weavers gutless and too "smooth" and whiney (not to mention that a certain member of the Weavers is a BITCH to work with), but this stuff was GREAT. It had really great commentary by Janis Ian and some wonderful songs, including:

I tried to sleep, but I think I only actually got in one whole hour. I was just too nervous about what was waiting on the other side... and what was happening with the dogs. Plus, the guy who had been next to me before take off was now in another row, snoring louder than anyone I have ever heard in my LIFE! I thought the cabin was being ripped open or something.

Dinner wasn't bad. I've found that International flights serve better food than domestic flights. But I wish Delta handed out hot towels as often as Lufthansa does.

Thursday, February 15, 2001

I never saw much outside of the window, until we were already in Germany. It was very, very cloudy the whole trip over -- and, mostly, it was night-time. Before we landed, the sun was shining in Germany, which is rare. I love looking at the German countryside from the air... except for all of the pollution (a reminder of why tough environmental regulations in the U.S. are GOOD). We landed, I took a deep breath and, since all of my carry-ons fit in the seat in front of me, I got off the plane quickly. Jog-walked through the maze of corridors, and the guy at passport control waved me through without even looking at my passport.

I got to baggage claim and looked around. I then realized why there was no one waiting for me at the gate, nor at baggage claim -- CUSTOMS!! They won't let anyone through! Damn! So, do I go through the customs doors and hope that someone is on the other side to meet me now and hope that I can come back and get my dogs and my luggage, or do I wait for the dogs and my luggage first? And there's no way I can manage all of my luggage and my dogs and their crates through customs at the same time! ARGH!!

I made a conscious decision not to panic. Jayne, you cannot panic. You just can't do it right now. You have to keep your wits no matter what. Pick a priority. I chose the dogs. Screw the bags for now. I asked the German Delta folks nearby where the dogs would come out, they told me, and so I stood there, at this freight elevator. Waiting, staring at the door, while everyone else from my flight was getting their bags. After what seemed like an eternity, I heard faint barking. Growing louder. Buster barking. A guy appeared, looked at me, looked at the freight elevator opening. And I said two of the 10 words I knew in German at that moment.

"Mein Hund."

And I smiled broadly and pleadingly. Like the pathetic dog lover that I am.

He smiled, opened the door, brought the crates out, and there were my dogs, just fine, happy, not too desperate. Just ready to GO. We all walked over to customs, they sent me back for the paper work (still taped to the dog crates), then I went back to customs. I told them that there was someone from the U.N. waiting for me on the other side, but that I would need to come back and get my bags. They said it would be no problem.

So we all went through the doors, and there before us was my friend Marie from Nashville.

Okay, no, it wasn't actually Marie, but for a split second, I thought it was. She was smiling and said, "Jayne?"

I almost cried. It was Alexandra, one of my new co-workers. She is from Spain. She introduced me to Klaus, the van driver she'd hired, and held the leashes while I went and got the boys water. They devoured it. I had to get more immediately. Then I left the boys with her and I headed back through the exit for customs. Some bitch British customs woman tried to stop me, but I told her I had permission, and knocked on the door while she told me why I couldn't go back. The same customs woman I'd worked with before opened the door and let me back in. Neener, neener.

There was this EXTREMELY attractive Frenchman from Delta putting all of my bags together and getting ready to send them on to Bonn, because I was nowhere around -- the entire baggage claim area was empty. Cute Delta French Guy helped me load my bags and the crates onto two carts (the carts are bigger in Germany), all the while telling me about his own dog. We took them out the exit (where there were now no customs agents of any kind -- bit of a security lapse, yes, but I was glad to waltz right through). Klaus and my co-worker loaded the bags into the van, I loaded the dogs and myself in the back. The van looked almost exactly like the one my sister rented to Atlanta, and I think the dogs wondered where she and my Mom were.

We headed up to Bonn, about three hours away. Klaus stopped at a rest area to let the dogs walk around and have more water (his idea -- isn't that sweet?). German rest stops have water bowls for dogs right next to their rest room entrances. HOW COOL IS THAT?! It was very sunny and the drive was beautiful. Lots of villages, then pastures, then villages, then cows. Were they mad cows?

They drive on the right side of the road here, FYI.

After a short stop at work and my being handed off from one co-worker to two others, we went to my apartment. I couldn't believe it. After all the stories about how German apartments are NOT furnished (and, usually, they are not), not even with stoves or closets or, sometimes, even sinks... Here was my apartment, completely furnished, not only with a couch, a small-but-expandable dining table, plenty of chairs, a coffee table, lamps, a dishwasher, a fridge (half size, ofcourse), tons of cabinets and closets, a bed, a computer table, but ALSO - a TV with cable (and 37 channels, 35 of which I cannot understand), a CD player, a phone (not hooked up), bedding, towels, dishes, utensils, cleaning supplies, an ironing board, a vacuum cleaner... dang, the only thing missing was Carlos the Cabana Boy!!

This all happened because I posted to Her Domain, an online discussion group for women in Austin that work with Internet tech in some way. More than two months ago, I told them all I was moving to Germany and I asked for advice. A woman on there I have never met introduced me via e-mail to a friend of hers I also have never met, here in Germany. And she suggested this place, having seen an ad in the paper. THE INTERNET IS GOOD!!

Signed all of my leasing paper work, then my landlady took me to the bank so I could use the ATM and give her my deposit, then she INSISTED that I MUST go to the grocery (which turned out to be an A & P). Bought enough food to get me through until Saturday or so. I got back to the apartment, walked the dogs, and then I literally collapsed into bed, with no sheets -- just the comforter. I collapsed from lack of sleep and from exhaustion and from relief at how things turned out on both ends of this trip. I still can't believe how well it all went.

The dogs even slept in their crates for a little while that night, so I guess that means they weren't utterly traumatized.

And now... I'm in Germany! And I really love it. I feel like the luckiest girl on Earth.

More later . . .

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