Lately, I’ve been having a lot of weird dreams. Most of them have included our dearly departed beagle, Zane, who died on August 31, 2019 of lymphoma. Zane’s death and subsequent “visits” haven’t followed the usual pattern that seems to happen after Bill and I lose a dog. Most of the time, I get a lot of “visits” in my dreams or otherwise just after the dog has died. With Zane, it took a few weeks before I started to “see” him in my subconscious. I have a feeling that it’s my brain telling me it’s time to find another pack member… or maybe it’s the spirit of Zane encouraging me to give another dog a home.
Unfortunately, adopting a dog in Germany can be problematic for Americans, particularly if they are affiliated with the military. Many of my countrymen have ditched their dogs in German shelters, which leaves a terrible impression. It’s understandable that Germans would assume Americans are irresponsible regarding pets, although not all of us are. Some of my friends have adopted dogs in other countries, or from other Americans. Some have purchased dogs from breeders, which I would prefer not to do. I have a couple of German friends who are rooting for Bill and me and, perhaps, will vouch for us if we attempt to adopt from a German source. In fact, I have one German friend who keeps sending me pictures of dogs who need homes. I plan to start looking after the new year, though, because we are planning a road trip to France. Also, we need to have a better idea of what’s coming up in the future. We could end up having to move or something.
Anyway… Arran’s personality has changed since we lost Zane. He’s a bit clingier than he used to be. He now sits by the door at about 5:00pm, knowing that’s when Bill usually comes home. He’s better behaved, too, since he has two humans who lavish attention on him. It’s been kind of nice, although I think he likes having other dogs around… especially if he can be the boss. Zane wasn’t a fighter, per se, but when he wasn’t sick, he didn’t let Arran be his boss. That caused insecurity and conflict, which I think is what led Arran to act out at times.
The ghost of Zane isn’t the only one wondering what the future holds. Last night, our landlord came over to talk to Bill about the annual Rechnung. This is an accounting that is legally required to be done between the landlord and the tenant. It shows how the Nebenkosten (money for other costs) was spent, and gives Bill the chance to reconcile any discrepancies. Bill will sit down with the landlord and they will discuss it together, rather than simply get an email with a bill for money we owe and no accounting of how the money we paid was spent.
We have no complaints whatsoever about our current landlord, who is also our next door neighbor. He wants to do business with us and it shows. He’s always kind and respectful, and has never shouted at me or blamed me for things I either didn’t do or couldn’t control. His house is updated and basically in great shape, so we really haven’t had many things that have needed to be repaired. When we have asked for repairs, he’s been fair and hasn’t freaked out or immediately accused us of negligence. He gives us free firewood and asks us how we’re doing, and he truly seems concerned about how we answer. He seems to like our dog(s) and doesn’t seem to mind Arran, now that Zane is gone. Even if he doesn’t like Arran, he doesn’t make it obvious. He also doesn’t seem to care about how I spend my time or whether or not I meet his wife’s housekeeping standards, not that I know what they are. That is a true gift. Blessed are landlords who live and let live, and don’t meddle in their tenants’ business.
Our next door neighbor on the other side is also nice. She has a super cute Labrador Retriever named Levi who is just a sweetheart and always comes over to say “hi”. She is also encouraging us to find a new hound.
I do think the landlord was a bit worried that we’re planning to move, since he knew Bill went to Poland on business last week and I accompanied him. He’s heard about Trump’s desire to expand our military presence into Poland and, perhaps, build a “Fort Trump” there. I guess he figured we were househunting, since our Poland trip was business based for Bill and I accompanied him. He jokingly asked Bill if we were moving… although actually, I don’t think he was joking. I think he was probably legitimately concerned that we’d move and he’d have to find new people. He seems happy with us and, I’m sure, each time he has to find new tenants, there’s also the worry about what kind of people he’ll have as neighbors as well as whether or not they’ll pay the rent on time.
We are not planning to move, at least not at this point in time. I went to Poland with Bill because his trip happened to be at about the time of our wedding anniversary and Poland is kind of a cool destination now. Bill likes having me with him when he travels for business because I get to see and do new things and write about my experiences. We also like being together and miss each other when Bill has to travel. It’s possible that someday, we might end up living in Poland, but that’s not in the plans at this point. On the other hand, two years ago, we didn’t know we were going to be leaving Stuttgart within a matter of months. I didn’t actually want to leave Stuttgart, because despite everything that happened, I liked it down there. Even though the traffic sucks, I know my way around. The landscape is beautiful, and though some of the people are crotchety and litigious, I kind of knew what to expect. I had no idea that the grass would be greener in Wiesbaden. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, right?
As of today, we’ve lived in our current house for a year. It was a year ago that the movers packed us up and Bill and I caravaned to Wiesbaden. Although we are in a much better living situation, it’s taken about a year for me to process the living situation we were in previously. I think it came out in my dreams this morning.
I dreamt that Bill and I went to a restaurant that we had been looking forward to trying. From the get go, the service wasn’t very good. We were seated at a table near a large party. The wait staff kept charging us extra for things we didn’t order. They were slow, and their table maintenance was sloppy. The staff was also eavesdropping on our conversation and gossiping among themselves. The food was somewhat attractively presented, but overpriced and not that tasty.
Still, even though the signs were there that we should look for another restaurant, we hesitated to go. “What if the next restaurant is even worse?” I asked Bill, as we watched other patrons get up and leave in disgust.
“Yeah, this isn’t really so bad, is it?” Bill confirmed. “I mean, at least the dishes look nice.”
We sat there for a few more minutes, resigning ourselves to settling for an overpriced meal served by surly, disrespectful wait staff. I mean, at least we weren’t hungry, right? But we certainly would have appreciated a better meal, served with more respect and less attitude and at a fairer price, without a bunch of bullshit upcharges.
Finally, a man at the big table full of loud people came over and said, “Come on with us. We’re moving to another restaurant that has better food at a more reasonable price. You might pay more, but you’ll get what you pay for and then some.”
“Hmmm… I don’t know.” I said. “What if it sucks even more? I don’t want to have to pay more for an even worse experience.”
“Could it get much worse?” Bill asked.
“Um… yeah, actually, it could.” I said. “I mean, at least the roof isn’t leaking, the toilets aren’t overflowing, and there aren’t any rats running around.”
“But what are the odds it’ll be worse?” Bill asked.
I had to agree that it wasn’t likely that the next place would offer worse food or service. Why was I fighting to keep eating at a restaurant that didn’t seem to want me dining there? I decided it was worth the risk to move on to the next eatery. So we got up and left the table, even though the wait staff came running after us with a bill, demanding payment for other things we hadn’t ordered. We all went to the next place and, indeed, it was pricier. But the host smiled, welcomed us with a glass of bubbly, sat us down at a nicely set table with stylish silverware and china, and asked us how we were doing. I woke up just as we were about to tuck into a lovely holiday dinner.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I have agreed to bake Bill’s favorite chocolate cake. I haven’t made one since we moved last year, even though this house has a brand new oven (as of last year, anyway). I guess I’ll head downstairs and start baking in a bit, even though the house already smells lovely since Bill set the Crock Pot with tonight’s dinner.
We really should have enjoyed this past year more than we did, but the truth is, we’ve been recovering from a massive mind fuck. A year ago, I tried to be hopeful, but I knew craziness was coming, and it did. I spent a good portion of the year looking back on stuff and wondering if I really was as horrible a tenant as I was made out to be, even though no one else has ever had the level of complaints about us as our former landlords did.
When I lived in Armenia, three of my four “landladies”, for lack of a better word, wished I were a bit neater and better about housekeeping. We’re talking dusting, putting away clothes, straightening clutter, making the bed, and what not– stuff that makes the house look neater, but isn’t necessarily a matter of health, safety, or hygiene. I am not a filthy slob who leaves dirty dishes in the sink, lets the trash pile up, or allows the toilets get nasty. But I don’t bust my ass to make sure the house is constantly tidy, because frankly that just doesn’t matter to me. As long as things aren’t gross, I don’t care about dust or clutter. I feel like I’ve outgrown needing to be lectured about keeping my room clean, especially when I’m paying. Besides, even though I’m not a “neat” person, I have seen the living conditions other people live in that make me look like Mrs. Clean. I’d say my housekeeping is pretty average.
Three of these four different women in Armenia who were my landladies also used to regularly let themselves into my space and help themselves to my stuff, too. The daughter of one of them “borrowed” some of my cassette tapes without asking, which I later had to retrieve from her bedroom. The son of another ate my food and left the dirty dishes in the refrigerator. The younger brother of a third got into my colored chalk and broke all of the pieces. It was fine with them that they were doing these things– ripping off my personal property and getting into my personal business– but I was expected to be perfect, follow their orders, never complain, and keep paying by all means, and they had no qualms telling me this to my face.
All of these women had the same attitude that they were doing me a favor by renting me their space, rather than my doing them a favor by giving them a regular source of income. They acted like I was a child who was an “ungrateful guest” rather than a fellow adult in a business relationship with them. They had no issues invading the space I was paying for and nagging me about what they considered were my lax housekeeping standards, yet they didn’t see that letting themselves into my apartment and eating my food and leaving dirty dishes or taking my things was extremely disrespectful. Also, I was paying them a hell of a lot more than any Armenian would have, and I wasn’t constantly yelling at them about my legal rights or calling them to fix every little thing.
My last landlady in Armenia also falsely accused me of “theft”, claiming that I didn’t pay her the rent one month. But that was impossible– I had a record of it, and her father was always there on the first to collect the money. She actually accused me of lying and falsifying the documents, which certainly wasn’t true and was nothing she could prove. All she could do was accuse me of theft and expect that I would be so upset by her false accusations that I would simply pay her just to shut her up. I think she assumed that I was a wimp because, at that time, I cried easily and seemed depressed and sensitive. She thought I was “rich” too, and she could steamroll me by being a bully and yelling at me. All she did was strengthen my resolve to see that other Americans didn’t rent from her. I told everyone I knew about her business practices, including her former employers, the Peace Corps. In the end, she ended up costing herself a hell of a lot of money in lost rent, since her next tenants were locals who would never pay close to what I was paying for her apartment on the outskirts of Yerevan’s center.
Well… I can’t help the way other people conduct their business. I can only help how I conduct myself. I do the best I can. I don’t always please everyone, so there’s no use trying, especially when the other party is never satisfied and doesn’t show me mutual respect. I think 2020 will be a better year, because we’ve moved on to a better venue. Hopefully, we can stay awhile longer and add a new family member. I intend to start enjoying Germany again, regardless. My dream this morning spells it out. Sometimes you have overpriced meals served on Farberware by disrespectful wait staff. Rather than risk indigestion and a lightened wallet, it usually makes better sense to cut your losses and move on to a more appetizing location, if you can do it. We had the opportunity to do it last year and made it happen, once we realized that we shouldn’t keep paying people who didn’t really want to do business with us.