Armenia, emergencies, first world problems, funny stories, Germany, Trump, YouTube

When the lights go out in Germany…

Whenever Bill goes away, I’m always soon reminded of how much I miss him when he’s not home. Especially when there’s a heatwave, and I’m sick with a virus.

It got super hot again yesterday and the temperatures were north of 99 degrees. That is historically a rare thing in Germany, but is sadly becoming a more common occurrence, thanks to global climate change. I read in the weather report that we might get a thunderstorm last night. I was actually hoping for that, because I was sweating so much, in spite of the air conditioner and fan we have in our bedroom. Unfortunately, we have portable ACs, and they usually require hot air stoppers.

Thanks to our previous landlady’s total conniption about us trying to be comfortable in her house during previous brutal summers, I haven’t really wanted to install the hot air stoppers in this house. Also, under normal circumstances, we can drop the shutters all the way down and snake the hoses that go with the air conditioners on the floor, and out of the balcony doors. In ex landlady’s house, we didn’t have balconies, so that wouldn’t have worked. The hoses would not have stayed in place. Our current landlord is very cool about us acting like this is our house, within reason, of course. But I’m still kind of traumatized by the behaviors of our former landlady, whom we ended up successfully suing for our deposit.

Even with the shutters down, though, because we don’t have the hot air stoppers, there is nothing to stop hot air from coming in. It usually doesn’t matter too much, since it’s usually not that hot here. At night, if we close the bedroom door, the room gets nice and cool, and Arran isn’t able to sneak downstairs and pee on my rug. But yesterday and the day before were exceptionally hot and sticky days. It was pretty uncomfortable, especially since I’m also not 100% well.

So anyway, there I was sitting in bed when the thunderstorm finally started, at about 8:30pm. I was watching an 80s era made for TV movie on YouTube. Suddenly, at about 8:45, there was a tremendous bang, and there went the power. The room was plunged into darkness, and there was no more air… and I was just sweating like crazy. I put my hair up and even rinsed off in the shower, because it was just so gross. Fortunately, I had just topped up the cell coverage on my iPad, which I don’t usually do unless we’re going on a trip. I did it the other day, because our Internet coverage in this house is pretty unreliable at times, and it’s good to have a cell connection in case it crashes.

The storm dumped some much needed rain and cooled things down a bit, not that I could immediately tell. I was coughing, sneezing, wiping my nose, and getting crankier by the minute. Fortunately, the fire brigade was on the spot, and they responded to the outage very quickly. The lights were back about an hour later. I love that about Germany, because power outages are pretty rare here, and when they do occur, they tend to be very brief.

My two years in Armenia in the 90s, where power outages were very common, have caused me to be a lot less tolerant of them in the “more developed world”. I can remember loving outages when I was a kid. They seemed “cool”. As an adult, I don’t think they’re any fun at all. I guess enduring a six week straight stint, without any power at all, will do that to a person. It turned out my Armenian neighbor hadn’t known I was living there, and cut my power so it would go to his apartment. It seemed that a lot of male Armenians in the 90s were all amateur electricians! Once he realized he had a neighbor, my former neighbor fixed my line for me, and I went back to having power for 2 to 4 hours per day. Not long after that, another neighbor harassed me, and I ended up moving out of that building.

Funny story about that. The harasser lived a level down from me, and one night, as I was coming back from a night out, he was in the hall, messing with the hall light. I tried to pass him, and he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. He held my arm in a vise-like grip and kept telling me in Armenian not to scream, but I was petrified, because one of my colleagues was recently sexually assaulted and beaten up in her village, and it landed her in the hospital. Then she had to be medevacked to the States. I had visions of her black eyes, broken nose, fractured teeth, and beaten face in my head, as this guy held my arm and menacingly warned me not to scream. I was so scared that I couldn’t think how to respond in his language, but he could obviously tell I didn’t want to talk to him or be near him. For all I know, he was trying to tell me about the lights, but he had my arm, was telling me not to scream, and wouldn’t let go of me. So draw your own conclusions about what I was thinking at the time.

I informed the powers that be at the Peace Corps office, and they sent one of their drivers to come over to speak to my neighbor. The driver was the husband of the Country Director’s secretary, and he was a big, imposing, Mafia-esque looking guy. He basically told the guy to leave me alone, or there would be big trouble. I was told that my neighbor was pretty terrified, as the Peace Corps driver was quite intimidating, and made it clear that he would beat the ever loving shit out of the guy if he ever bothered me again (or, at least it was strongly implied). I never had any more trouble with him, but I never felt safe in that apartment again. And then my landlady decided to sell it, so I had to move anyway.

Not long after my neighbor imposed six week power outage, Armenia decided to restart Metzamor, a nuclear power plant they had shut down in the late 80s after Chernobyl and a massive earthquake destroyed a good portion of the country and killed tens of thousands of people. When I was living in Armenia, some experts, including a few from the United States, examined the facility and decided it was safe.

The Peace Corps gave all us Volunteers little bottles of iodine pills, in case there was an explosion. They were supposed to protect our thyroid glands. I don’t know… seems to me that if there was a nuclear accident, our thyroid glands would be one of the last things we’d be concerned about. Fortunately, Metzamor was still functional, and during the summer of my second year, we finally got electricity 24/7. That was quite an amazing thing to experience, especially as a privileged American. As far as I know, that’s how things still are in most areas. I’m sure today’s Volunteers will never know the pain groups A1, A2, and A3 endured, back in the early days of Peace Corps/Armenia. 😉

So… as you might be able to understand, I really don’t like power outages, especially when I’m home alone. And that seems to be when they happen the most frequently. Fortunately, I had my two dogs with me to protect me. Even Noyzi, who doesn’t tend to hang around with me in the evenings, stayed in the room with me, even until after the lights came on and I went to sleep. He eventually got up and went into his own room, which required me to open the door for him. Then Arran got me up at 1:30 am for a pee break, and then again at 4:00 am, because he wanted his breakfast. I tried to go to sleep again after that, but was too busy coughing. I’ll probably need another nap today, like I did yesterday.

I’m glad last night’s power outage was short lived, although I did hear that there was a fire caused by the lightening. Again, Germany has excellent firefighters, so the blaze was quickly contained. The weather seems a bit cooler today, so maybe the dogs will finally get their walk. I’ve skipped it twice this week, because of the heat and my sickness. I do feel somewhat better today, except for the coughing and mucous. You know how it is. It seems like it’s always the worst right when I wake up and have to clear all of the crap that settled in my lungs overnight. Again, I don’t know if this is COVID-19. The one test I took said it wasn’t. This virus isn’t like last month’s, though, which also evidently wasn’t COVID. I haven’t had a super runny nose, which is a blessing, since that always causes a wound under my nostrils. I also haven’t had a fever or body aches or any weird symptoms. It really is just like a regular cold, minus the runny nose phase.

Bill is also supposed to come home tonight, after he finishes working today. He’ll probably get home in the evening, and we’ll be grumpy together, as the heat hangs around a bit longer. I told him I want to get out of here… definitely for a vacation somewhere cooler. Maybe we can do something in September, after the Germans have had their holidays in August, but before COVID-19 ramps up again!

On another note, I did manage to catch some of Ivana Trump’s funeral. Or, what was shown outside the church, anyway. I’m not surprised she had a golden casket, or that her rapist ex husband was there.

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complaints, controversies, first world problems, LDS, lessons learned, social media

Two things I don’t want to argue about with strangers…

I’m sitting here on Bill’s 58th birthday, reading the headlines that flash across the computer screen, along with the comments that go with them. Once again, I’m tempted to join the conversation with a comment, but I just know it will only end in an unpleasant interaction with some stranger. So, since I don’t have time or patience for such nonsense, I will just say these things here. You can agree or disagree with me. You can leave me a comment. If you’re a new commenter or using a new account, I will have to approve it. Any shitty comments will be deleted.

‘mmmkay…

  1. I just read a headline– haven’t gotten to reading the article yet– about how Cyprus has now reintroduced indoor masking because of “surging” COVID numbers. Fines will be about $305 for those who don’t comply. The comments are full of the usual preachers about how excellent face masks are at containing sickness. And, if they are worn properly, they probably are very useful in some settings. One person posted this comment:
Umm…

I want to tell this person that in Germany, FFP2 masks were required in indoor spaces for many months. FFP2s are akin to N95s. They are hot, thick, and uncomfortable. Guess what. COVID was, and still is, still spreading in Germany. Face masks aren’t a panacea, especially since few people wear them properly, or change them as regularly as they should. And no matter what, you’re not going to get a N95 mask or FFP2 on every face. As we know, some people will just flat out refuse to do it. There’s nothing you can do about it, sport.

It’s not that I don’t think COVID is scary or dangerous. I know it is, and have been saying so from the get go. I just don’t think that perpetual face mask wearing is going to stop the virus. It hasn’t so far, even in places where heavy, “high quality”, face mask wearing is imposed. Face masks went away in most venues in Germany back in April, but they’ll probably be forced on us again in the fall. And people will still get sick, just as they are getting sick right now.

The local health minister thinks we need to use masks like we’d use snow tires (which sadly, are becoming less necessary in Germany as the climate changes). What that will mean is that I won’t go to places that require them. That means I won’t spend as much money. I probably won’t be alone in that decision. Instead, I will just go to places where COVID rules are less onerous. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

A few days ago, I read a very interesting opinion piece on The Local: Germany by a guy who has experienced riding the train from Liege, Belgium, where masking on trains isn’t necessary, to Cologne, Germany, where they are required. As soon as the train goes over the German border, the train staff comes around and forces everyone to put on a mask. Like me, he thinks this is bullshit, as everyone was happily maskless until they went over the border, and masking isn’t required if one is eating and drinking. But here, you’re liable to be reprimanded if you “take advantage” of eating and drinking in order to shirk wearing a mask. It’s ridiculous, and it makes no sense whatsoever. Either make people wear masks all the time, or just dispense with the fucking things! And if you make people wear them the whole time, be prepared for more people opting to drive!

Below are the first two paragraphs from the op-ed by columnist Brian Melican. I can practically see and hear this scenario:

If you’ve always dreamt of being able to travel in time, there’s now a surprisingly easy way to do it: just take the ICE from Brussels to Cologne. When you get on at Midi station, things are just like they were in Germany in July 2019: friendly guards greet passengers at the doors and, soon after departure, someone from the BordBistro comes through to first class with a tray of coffee; the weather is fine, the train is punctual, and everyone is beaming ear to ear. You can see they are, of course, because they’re not wearing masks.

Then, in one of the tunnels between Liège and Aachen, we speed into July 2022 Germany: “Meine Damen und Herren…” The jarring announcement tells passengers in four languages – and in no uncertain terms – that they have to wear a medical face-mask on public transport in Germany; they may remove it to eat and drink, but must not overextend the break, and must make sure that it always covers both their mouth and their nose; any deviation from this rule will result in them being removed from the train. Suddenly, the guards and waiters reappear – and this time, they’re not smiling…

He continues pointing out the irrationality:

Okay, so this may not be genuine time travel, but it’s certainly a good piece of absurdist theatre and, what is more, a graphic example of just how dysfunctional the German approach to dealing with Covid has become. It’s not that Germany is the only country with an irrational fear of people catching corona on trains and buses (but not, say, in pubs, gyms, or shops): in the UK, France, and Belgium, public transport was one of the last non-clinical settings in which masks were still required; in Sweden, trains were the only one in which they were officially recommended. Yet, everywhere else, common sense eventually prevailed.

In Germany, meanwhile, the world’s largest beer festival and proverbial germ-den, the Oktoberfest, will be returning on 17th September, from when each of the 16 largest tents will be welcoming up to 10,000 guests belting out Schlager (and virus particles) from 11am to 11pm daily for two weeks straight. It will, however, still be illegal to take the underground to the festival site without wearing a mask.

Lately, I’ve been complaining a lot about obnoxious right wingers. The COVID issue shows us that people on the left can be just as insufferable about pushing their views. But you can’t talk to these folks about this, because they’ll just tell you you’re “wrong”, or accuse you of being an antisocial monster, “laugh” at you, and assume you’re a far right winger who doesn’t know anything. I actually do know something about this, though… probably more than a lot of people do, because I have an actual master’s degree from an accredited public health program and professional background in public health, rather than an “education” from the Google School of Public Health. 😉

I notice that the few comments on this editorial are the usual tripe about how we should be doing “everything possible” to stop COVID. I just want to say that it’s probably a lost cause at this point. And, more good news… thanks to global warming, there are billions of other microbes that have been trapped in the tundra for thousands of years, just waiting to escape their “icy prisons” and potentially unleash more disease and death on earthlings. In other words, we probably ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t think we should do what we can to prevent disaster, if we can. It’s that I don’t think masks are going to be the magic bullet, and we need something better. Making people wear masks as they travel over an international border, when they haven’t been wearing them before that point, is just nonsensical bullshit posturing. It’s absurd, and serves no useful purpose.

Frankly, if I die of COVID, so much the better. I’m pretty sick of this life, anyway, and reading daily about the awful shit happening on planet Earth. From mass shootings to sickening politicians and even sicker policies that seek to take freedom from others, I’ve had enough of this bullshit. And I’ve also had enough of most people. Sorry… I did mention in other posts that I suffer from depression, right? Maybe I am antisocial. Anyway, on to the next point…

2. Last night, I was in the Exploring Virginia Facebook group, and someone shared some lovely photos of my mom’s alma mater, the former Southern Seminary Junior College in Buena Vista, Virginia. Southern Seminary, or “Sem” as it was called back in the day, is now Southern Virginia University, and it’s run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I actually used to know the wife of one of the Mormon businessmen who bought the school as it was foundering in the 90s.

When I was a high school senior, I toured Sem, and I really liked it. In their pre-LDS days, they had a fantastic horse program, and back then, I was all about horses. But it was a two year school, expensive, and all women… I probably would have done well there. My mom had a full scholarship, because she played piano for the glee club. She was also a “townie”, so she lived with her parents as she attended.

For a lot of reasons, I was kind of sad to see the school taken over by Mormons, mainly because the religion has infiltrated the culture of the city of Buena Vista, which was previously a cute town full of protestants of Scots-Irish-English stock. I’ve softened up on the Mormons lately, though… even if I still don’t like Mormonism, and never will. Still, I had to chuckle when someone wrote:

Umm….

Sorry ladies. You won’t be drinking any iced sweet tea at SVU. Mormons don’t drink iced tea. They don’t drink hot tea, coffee, or alcohol, either. They also don’t smoke, but a lot of them do wear special underwear. I was tempted to point that out last night, but decided not to, because I didn’t want to be an asshole. I did just now add that they’d be more likely to get a glass of lemonade, and added a little wink. Sorry, I just had to do it. 😉

Just wanted to say those two things, so thank you for indulging me… It occurs to me, just now, that both of these issues relate to people drinking when or what they “shouldn’t”. No excessive drinking to circumvent mask mandates in Germany (or Cyprus), and no drinking iced tea or any other “illegal beverage” at a LDS run university.

It IS Bill’s birthday. I probably should cook for him. But we didn’t plan for that… Maybe after I do my usual Thursday vacuuming, I’ll see if there’s something I can throw together for him. Or maybe not. He’s got a hot date with his Jungian therapist tonight, anyway. I’m sure they’ll talk about subjects that are deeper than this post.

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