From the Desk of Charlaine July 2014
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From the Desk of Charlaine July 2014

I just got back from a trip to Germany with my husband whose company has locations there.  I would like to share some observations I made while I was there, during which I am finishing the scheduled blog posts. Working on them was difficult while away and settling back in at home. There are some stark contrasts I noticed that provoked some thought.







Health and Fitness
  1. Workouts may not happen in the manner you are used to.  Hotels in other countries aren't normally as spacious as American hotels and gyms aren't on site nor are they close to them.  So I took advantage of walking and riding my bike which we brought along.  My bike ride over the Rhein River from Hockenheim to Speyer was about 10 miles each way. The bridge over the river was quite a challenge since I  live in an area with few hills.  Walking to see sites like castles is very challenging when walking up some very steep steps and ramps to get up the mountain to see them.  The 3-10-3 Challenge exercises for strength work great for small spaces with no gym equipment.
  2. Air conditioning in America is a luxury that is likely to not be available in other countries Most hotels don't have it! The ones that are designed for international travelers do, but limited.  At one hotel for business people where we stayed, it was there, but our room card had to be inserted into a slot for the electricity to work! Needless to say, lights are off and so is the air conditioning.  Instead, the windows are tilted open from the top or, with the change of the handle, opened up from the side.  No screens, for the most part.  When I walking down the street I saw a woman,  with her window opened wide, reach down to accept a package from a delivery man. It looked quite odd.  They also use metal and wooden shutters like we use mini-blinds but on the outside. I did wish for air conditioning when it got up to 94 degrees there, but a ceiling fan would have been appreciated! 
  3. Health codes in the US are not necessarily the same. Keep in mind the no air conditioning and no screens.  We went to a restaurant for dinner one evening.  The doors and windows are open and they have a patio outside.  Flies do come into restaurants and cafe's! A cat wandered onto the patio and was not shooed away.  When I walked down the streets of different cities, restaurants, cafe's and other shops have their doors open and the front windows open up like sliding closet doors.  People sit at the tables outside and talk with people inside. The food processing is just as stringent, though.  But in other countries, that may not be the case.  
  4. There are fewer processed foods in other countries and gluten-free, allergy-free eating is very possible if you know what to look for. I was able to find food with the help of Gluten-free Registry and Gluten-free Passport.  Stores like Tegut, Rewe and Globus have Gluten-free, Lactose-free foods.  However, I had to use my allergy card from Gluten-free Passport to look for the other allergens.  You will see fewer foods that are put into the microwave or heated on the stove.  Fresh produce is abundant, but keep in mind that what is common here may not be there. Green peppers are almost 3 Euros/kg.  Yet eggplant is common and less expensive than here.  They bring in produce from Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia easier than we do here because of the geographic locations.

Christian Faith
  1. Some foreign countries are Christianized, not Christian.  Because the Catholic church is big there as well as Lutheran, a respect for God and Church is common. However, there is a difference in how they live compared to American Christians.  Missionaries to Europe have found it difficult to share Christ because the mentality is that they can be good people since they go the church and do what the church expects in order to get to heaven.  One Baptist church we visited is dwindling since the military base nearby closed.  It is an English and German speaking congregation.  Reaching people in the community for Christ is very difficult. Those churches and pastors need our prayer support.
  2. You can't superimpose our American values nor our Christian values onto another culture. Public nudity at beaches and and pools is common.  "Men's" magazines are not covered up and very open to viewing by any age.  I saw a boob pillow up by the cash register of a dollar store (Euro).  Discipline of children is different and hands-on. Young women clean public bathrooms of both genders without worrying about whether there is anyone in there or not. It was uncomfortable for my husband! What our nation considers normal is not always there. 

Relationships
  1. You can build and maintain relationships with people in other countries. Making friends with someone in a country you visit can be very rewarding for both of you.  It helps both of you get another view of life and someone you can meet with when you visit.  It was very nice to see my host sister and her family after 34 years! My husband has friends there and we will be meeting one here in the US before he heads home. 
  2. You can help someone who doesn't even speak your language. Hand gestures pointing to things and signs are helpful.  Eventually, and if there is some understanding of each other's languages, you can communicate.  I resurrected my German as best as possible, but it wasn't fluent.  People who knew some English would do what they could and we would piece things together well. Older people would get someone younger to help since they have to take 6 years of English--British English, though.  In one of the airports, a group of Asian girls and their mother were having trouble finding their flight.  I pointed to the info on the ticket and showed them on the flight screens how to find their flight.  At first they were confused, but then they understood and found what they needed.  No real understanding of each other's languages and we communicated!

Other Things
  1. Trips in other countries are possible if you save and use rewards, frequent flyer mileage. Want to go somewhere? Save up and earn points on hotels, transportation and use your memberships with AAA, other travel groups and AARP.
  2. Airlines and airports love you for the money they can make. They don't care about your luggage! Therefore, pack carefully with non-breakable things at the bottom and front of your suitcase.  Use ziplock bags for your personal care items.  Do let them know if there is a problem! We had to since we had some things broken by baggage handlers who literally threw the luggage--airborne-- onto the conveyor. Use your clout to help you out!
  3. Learn how to pack and navigate the airports, customs, etc. Know that customs will check your luggage.  They don't always close it well.  Things that could be questionable keep where they can see easily and your stuff will be relatively unmolested.  Pre-register with TSA.gov and make sure you have a passport before you go.  You can also pre-check with security and your flight.  Go to the website of the airlines you use for more info.
  4. Learn a bit about the language of the country. There are language CDs and books at your library that are designed for people to learn in 10-15 minute segments each day.  Taking a language at a community school is also helpful, but has a cost.  These can save you a lot of headaches!

I hope there has been something of value to you from this post.  Now to finish "Prayer" and "Fitness Trends"!
May God bless you!

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