Saturday, March 17, 2012

German Dishwasher

It's very exciting that our home has a dishwasher. In Japan we didn't have one and it was a bummer! I know there are mixed opinions out there but honestly, I really really enjoy having a dishwasher. There isn't too much difference between a stateside dishwasher and a German dishwasher except for a few things. Here in Germany, we have hard water. Because of this, the machines have a special area to put in Spezial-Salz. Spezial-Salz can be picked up at the commissary or, out in town. Even though my link shows a Somat brand, any brand will do fine. This product look a little bit like rock salt. There is a spout in our dishwasher that unscrews and the whole box of Salz is poured in. It's inexpensive and makes a world of difference when it comes to the cleanliness of the dishes. It doesn't last long though. I've found that the "jet dry" doesn't last long either here in the machines.

Our machine also has an area that detaches to reveal a removable filter. This filter gets dirty so, clean it out every couple of days depending on how many loads of dishes are done a day. I will usually use a toothbrush and scrub it under the facet.

I've also start making my own dishwasher detergent. 1 cup of washing soda and 1 cup of Borax. I shake it up and and have powder detergent. The only down side is that it's leaving some soap scum in the machine. Other than that, it does a pretty good job, all natural and it's cheap.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


As a Mom, I know that having time on my own is important. I'm not lucky enough to have my mother living in the same town, so I have to depend on resources outside the family to care for my precious treasures. If you are PCSing and in the same boat, I hope you find this post helpful!

The first and best place to start would be your sponsor or employer first. They may prove to be the most valuable resource of information in your hunt for a good childcare provider.

Here in the Ramstein, Landstuhl, Kaiserslautern area, there are many CDC (Child Development Centers) for children of all ages. The service is available to Military and Civil Servants. CDC centers are run very much like daycares in America. In many instances, they have to answer to a much higher standard of care than privately run Stateside facilities. However, like just about everything overseas, space is limited. A person's family and professional situation determines how "high priority" that person is on the waiting list. I'm low priority because I don't work or go to school. Other factors affect positioning on the wait list, such as having two working parents, parents seeking higher education, a single parent situation, or dual military personnel. I recommend seeking out and contacting the facility that is closest to your future work/home. Army and Air Force CDC facilities are completely separate operations and need to be contacted in this manner.

Many parents moving to Germany are eager to get there children into a local school. Like me, I really felt it would be exciting and educational for my son to go to the local kindergarten here. I came in with grandiose ideas about completely melding into the culture. This hasn't been my experience. Unfortunately in this area it's very difficult to get a child into host nation school. The facilities are funded by the German government. The rule is, a person needs "kindergeld" to send their child to these schools. From what I understand, "kindergeld" is a type of voucher given to German Citizens (AKA: tax payers). Since, as foreigners, we don't pay into the system, we don't get the benefits. It's heartbreaking but, at the same time, completely makes sense.

Right now, because of the high concentration of non-Germans in this area, the local kindergartens here are fairly strict on this policy. It's always a good idea to check it out though. If there is a family out there in a smaller more distant village, they may be able to get a spot. I highly recommend doing the research despite my discouraging review. German kindergartens are good quality care at a low cost.

Another option to try is a religious kindergarten. Many larger villages will have a Protestant and/or Catholic kindergarten available. This could require some paperwork through the village bureaucracy. From what I understand someone has to become a "friend" of the Church, but it can be done.

There are a handful of private "international" schools in the area. These are more costly but are run similar to how an American preschool is run. The first place to find out more information on these places would be to look in the online Find-it guide. If you have enough time and have a fairly good sponsor... ask them to send a hard copy to you in the mail. They can pick up a copy at the closest USO office.

A small note, I've found that as a general rule here in Germany, when trying to find out information on anything, I get a better reply over the phone. I've sent many, many unanswered emails during my search. It can feel intimidating to some and I, myself, am very bad when it comes to this... but, pick up the phone and call!

If German kindergarten is not an option for you, another route would be placing an ad or contacting a nanny agency. On Ramstein Yardsales, Many people advertise services, or place ads, for child care. Ramstein Yardsales is the most economical way to find a nanny. I do caution to use common sense when using this site. This webpage is similar to eBay or Craigslist... buyer beware! I've never had a bad experience using these sites but it's important that I state this warning. Online agencies will cost much more money (A friend of mine was quoted 1500 to 5000 English pounds a month for a live in nanny). However, the benefit here of course, is that they are fully screened.

It seems when all else fails, word of mouth tends to be the order of the day. When it comes to childcare, there are limited options and a lot of people looking. (I don't know any Mother who freely gives up her babysitter's information.) If you know that you're going to need child care for small children upon arrival, I highly recommend aggressively seeking out your options. Try to keep in mind that the options may feel more limited compared to your homeland. For many people apprehensive about moving to a foreign land, this may feel like just one more overwhelming hurdle. "Don't give up" should be the constant mantra. The fantastic thing about coming overseas with the military environment is that "you are not alone" .

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Is It a Question of Faith?

For many Americans living OCONUS, this is their first time. I remember my first time moving overseas. I was so nervous about moving to an entirely different country that I didn't research our move very much. I ended up thinking we were going to spend our time packed into some 500 square foot apartment with no resources. When we arrived overseas, (at that time, Yokosuka Japan) I really wished that I had done my homework. I started Googling for information about my new host country only to find a lot of dead ends. This got me motivated to help others who might have similar questions. Along with other mothers, I started a "mom" group and blogged about the "ins and outs" of living in Yokosuka (A link to this blog can be found here: . Not only did I include where to visit and "sight see" but also, where to shop for cheap food on the go, what services were available on and off base, etc.

When we found out that we were moving to Germany, I started to try and do research. I had a lot of trouble initially. Many of my online questions were met with "Oh, yeah, we have that here you'll find it when you get here." I found the "feel" here was very different too. Not bad, just different. So, I've started to try and do the same thing here that I did in Yokosuka. Our goal on this blog is to show our experiences and, along the way, help others in our situation.

One thing I've been very happy to discover is that there is an actual Rabbi Chaplain stationed at Ramstein AFB. Rabbi Gary Davidson holds Friday night Shabbat services at the Ramstein Southside Chapel. Services are at 7:00PM and a dairy/vegetarian kosher "nosh" always follows the service. For the most part, this is a "reform" style service. It's also very family friendly. Readers of our blog know that we have a 3 year old and 8 year old. There is a play room close to the Jewish Chapel room. The play room isn't close enough to leave my 3 year old all by himself, but anything less than a padded room that is locked & sound proof is not appropriate to leave my 3 year old unattended! Congregants are called upon to do readings as well (In English. Don't worry Hebrew skills will not be tested.....unless this is desired...). It's a small group and there is usually a new face every time we go. The atmosphere is open and welcoming. The Jewish Chapel is also shared/adjoined with the Muslim Chapel. There are also all types that attend Shabbat services. Families, single soldiers/airmen, Jew curious, and non-Jews, so don't feel anxious!

Just recently, we celebrated Purim. Our family and a few others dressed up. There were about 50 people that attended. (Even the base Commander and his wife!). It was truly a lot of fun and for me, has been a really fulfilling part of my experience here in Germany.

Rabbi Davidson also currently leads a Judaism 101 course and a Children's class once a month. Sometimes these classes are moved or postponed. If anyone would like further information, I highly recommend stopping by the chapel or coming to services.

As far as the Christian religions are concerned, there are a lot of choices. Not only can one find their choice of Sunday services at Ramstein, Vogelweh, Pulaski, and Landstuhl but there is also a Church located in every village (In this area of Germany many times there is a Catholic and Protestant church). There is daily Catholic mass held at the Landstuhl chapel. Ramstein's Catholic Community also has Sunday school classes. Below are links to the information I found for the local military chapels. Some of the information may be outdated. I highly recommend stopping in or calling to find out the most current information. No matter what chaplain I've run into, I've always had a positive experience and they will usually go above and beyond to be of service to anyone seeking out faith & community.

Ramstein Southside and Northside Chapel Schedul

Other Military Chapels and local Churches (This information is dated 2005. Again, be sure to call or stop by a chapel for current information!)