Posts Tagged ‘US Army Civilian Corps’

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You know, Frankfurt is very close to Wiesbaden. So close, in fact, that along with Mainz it’s considered almost like a tri-city sort of thing.Still, it feels very far away despite the map, so I was very glad to go on a USO sponsored tour of one of Germany’s most well known cities today*. and make a few friends along the way, one of whom I made sure to get an email from (will be sending you something soon, Jose).

Unlike last week, I got to the meeting point early, and I had actually a very good idea where it was thanks to the help of my supervisor at work (honestly, he’s such a helpful guy). The meeting place was the Wiesbaden main train station, which looked like something out of an old movie with a side of American commercialism (every fast food franchise imaginable was there, including KFC!). I bought a ticket and the group assembled for the tour. We boarded the train and were there within half an hour.

Well, let me say this. Wiesbaden’s nice, but Frankfurt has that feel of an old German town. The houses have that look and feel to them that you associate with old German towns, the white walls and wood beams and red tiled roofs. Some of them have been around for hundreds of years! Add in the narrow, winding cobbled roads, and you definitely feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore.

A view of Frankfurt and its vineyards.

A view of Frankfurt and its vineyards.

We spent the first part of the tour, finding out about the local history, how Frankfurt has plenty of vineyards and micro-breweries, and several different places to check out local beers and wines. Heck, there’s even a university there that’s sole purpose is to teach people how to professionally make beer and wine! I almost wanted to sign up for classes. We then visited a park where the artwork is all made out of concrete (it was actually quite nice), saw a very lovely mansion that looked like it was right out of a movie set, and then we visited the local cathedral, which was quite interesting. I’m always awed by all the effort put into cathedrals, and how the overall effect is quite beautiful and spiritual.

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After the cathedral we passed by a house where a charnel house, a place where skeletal remains are stored, used to be (sounds like my kind of digs) and broke for lunch. After waiting an hour for food (which I’ll get into in a moment), we were invited to join in the Linden festival, in honor of the Linden tree in the center of the neighborhood (yeah, apparently it’s pretty important). Before I did that though, I went to see the Rhine River. And while I was there, I reflected on the river.

Certain natural features can really help define a place. London has the Thames, Paris has the Seine, and Germany, including Frankfurt, has the Rhine, and it really helps define the country. Yet strangely, the river is never the same one second from the next. It’s constantly changing, the water molecules moving constantly, the tide going in and out, every passing boat or barge changing the river along with time and momentum. This and many other thoughts went through my head as I sat alongside the river, admiring all the history it had witnessed over the millennia and just enjoying the view. When I dipped my hand into the river, I felt like I was dipping into the history of the river itself.

The Rhine River and me.

The Rhine River and me.

After that I went back to the festival, which was amazing! Every local shop was selling its wares, tables were everywhere for people to eat and drink and talk. Even the most well-staffed restaurant was having trouble keeping up with the demand (which is why our lunches were so late). I met back up with the group and we talked over beers and wines about a variety of subjects. It was a good time.

After that I decided to head back early. Not that I wasn’t enjoying myself or that there wasn’t anything to do, but it was getting late and I wanted to be getting home. I got on the train and headed home. All in all, it was a great experience. I made a couple of new friends, saw a lovely new neighborhood and city, and had a great experience. I hope I get to visit again some time soon!

Enjoying the local drinks and my time in Frankfurt.

Enjoying the local drinks and my time in Frankfurt.

For now though, I’ve got a short story to finish and an evening to relax. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear. I know I am!

*Interesting thing I learned. In Europe, a city is not necessarily based on size or skyscrapers like in the States. Rather, a city is called as such because someone important–an emperor or a high-ranking clergyman or someone along those lines–gave a town that special designation, which came with certain privileges, including the right to mint their own money. This is why Frankfurt, which looks more like a provincial town out in the country, is called a city. Someone high-ranking gave it that title once upon a time. Pretty cool, right?

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So I’m sure many of you are wondering what it’s like to work for the US Army in Europe. Well, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

Okay, how many of you laughed at that, and how many of you took that seriously?

In reality, I can go into a bit of what I’ve been doing here, as long as I don’t give away anything that could even remotely threaten national security (and that doesn’t give any information to stalkers. Yeah, you know who you are. I know you’re out there. Especially you!). So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been doing in the office lately.

So, if you haven’t heard lately, I’ve been working in the Equal Employment Opportunity office at the base in Wiesbaden, which is actually central command for US Army Europe. And guess what else? My office is the top EEO office for all of Europe. I’m not kidding, if the general needs advice on EEO stuff, he goes to the head of the office, Ms. Moya, to discuss policy (apparently she’s written the book on EEO in the Army, and is a major reason why I can even work in the Army when technically I have a disability). Besides Ms. Moya, there’s Mr. Vitiello, who is my direct supervisor and is considered one of the top EEO specialists on the continent, and there’s me. The new guy learning the ropes and contributing any way I can. It’s a small but extremely important office, and we’re busy each and every day.

And speaking of offices, I have one of my own. Yeah, I do. At the moment we’re moving some things around the larger EEO office, so mine’s become the designated storage space for all our supplies till we’re done with the moving. But yeah, for the next two-and-a-half months (perhaps longer, we’ll see) it’s my office. And I’m pretty psyched about it. I got my own key and a computer with two monitors and a nice view out one of the windows. It’s not too bad.

As for what I’ve been doing…well, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on diversity. There’s not a lot of coursework that can be taken in that subject. Well, maybe there is. It’s kind of an HR job in a way, so maybe go to business school with a focus on HR and…I’m getting off track. Anyway, it’s a big topic to talk about, especially in regards to the Army, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do. I’m happy to do it, of course. It’s not horror novels, but it’s interesting and informative, so there’s a plus.

I’ve also been writing, specifically I’ve been writing an article on the benefits of diversity in the Army that will appear in a newsletter that will be read all over Europe. I did a lot of research for the article, and now it’s going through editing phases. I’ve also been filling paperwork out and taking online courses for work (when the Internet is actually working for me. We’ve had problems with that. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another” has become a common refrain for me lately).  And in off moments, when there’s nothing to do, I find time to write, which can be scarce during these busy days.

As for the rest of the base…that’s classified. I can say that the buildings and layout are not what I expected. At times it reminds me of a camp I once visited as a teenager, where nothing seemed to be near anything else, and at other times it seems like a small community in a desert town in Arizona or the Mojave (and there’s the writer in me). When I head outside, it’s often warm and sunny, which means I sometimes sweat off my sunscreen (and that’s why I put it on three times a day). But it’s a nice place to work, and I’m figuring out where everything is slowly but surely.

Me at the office.

Me at the office.

Well, that’s all to mention right now. I’m sure as I get through the paperwork and as the Internet gets fixed and all that other stuff, I’ll get into some sort of routine and learn quite a bit more on the subject. And if I stay longer…who knows? Maybe I’ll even get my driver’s license! We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, tomorrow I go on a trip to Frankfurt through the USO (and this time I know exactly where we’re meeting), and if I get the chance after I get back, I upload a ton of photos and write a blog post about it. Sunday I’m planning on chilling at home and finishing up this short story I’ve been working on before diving back into editing Video Rage. So wish me luck, everyone. I feel I might need it.

Guten nacht, mein Anhanger der Angst!

It’s Friday again! So you know what that means! It’s #FirstLineFriday, when I post the first or first two sentences from a potential story, a work-in-progress, or something I’ve already published. This is my seventh #FirstLineFriday post, and my hopes that this will become a trend seem not to have been disappointed (thank you Joleene Naylor for helping to spread this with me).

This week’s lines comes from a story I had the idea for earlier this week, a creepy supernatural thriller taking place in turn-of-the-century Missouri (which coincidentally is where I was born. Missouri, not the turn-of-the-century). Enjoy:

John awoke to the smell of his mother’s cooking in the other room and turned over, smiling. He had a feeling today would be a good day.

Thoughts? Comments? Errors? Let me know.

I’m hoping to get something else out later today if I can, so keep an eye out. I’ll be telling everyone what working at an Army base is like…without giving away any classified information, of course. That would be a stupid thing to do in so many different ways.

Have a good one, my Followers of Fear!

The Marktplatz farmer's market.

The Marktplatz farmer’s market.

This morning I got up a bit earlier than I normally would on a Saturday in order to go on a walking tour of my new home Wiesbaden. Unfortunately due to my own unfamiliarity with the city, the confusing directions from Google Maps, and the confusing language from the ad I got for the tour, I missed the tour. I did run into some folks from the base whom I’d seen around, and they were kind enough to help me look for the group before I concluded that it was too late and I’d missed them. And after talking with these people and parting ways, I decided to go on a walking tour of my own, visiting the locations I remembered mentioned in the ad. And you know what? It was a lot of fun.

Swear to you, this is an actual store.

Swear to you, this is an actual store.

I was in an area known as the Marktplatz which, as its name hints, is a market or shopping area with lots of different stores and even a farmer’s market going on. My first stop on the trip though was this really interesting shop whose front is a giant cuckoo clock. Inside were a number of English speakers who were very kind. We talked about me moving to the US Army base, about the American presidential elections, and about other stuff. I bought a couple of postcards and promised to come back sometime (and I intend to. That shop had curiosities that gave me an idea for a short story. You have to give them props for that). I then ended up taking a look around the Marktkirche, or Market Church, a huge cathedral of reddish bricks that apparently prides itself on its music and concerts, based on the CDs for sale and the fact that a concert let out just as I got to go in and see the place.

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You know, I may not be Christian, but that doesn’t keep me from having an appreciation for places like the Market Church. There’s a powerful history there, and you can feel it in the stones, like energy. It’s love and devotion to God, pure and simple. Sure, this church has probably seen its fair share of fiery sermons, but for the most part it’s love, and the architecture, lighting, art, and layout help to amplify all that. I spent quite a few minutes just sitting there and taking it all in. I also took a few minutes to figure out the identities of the five statues around the altar. I recognized Jesus, but it took me a little work to find out the other four were the Four Evangelists (did not know the Gospel writers had a special name). Then I got an idea for a short story, which made me happy. Two in a single day!

The Staattheater

The Staattheater

After that I grabbed a quick lunch and went to check out the Staattheater or State Theater, and got information on whom to contact to tour the theater (apparently it’s a really amazing interior, but they only do group tours on certain days). After that I checked out the Casino, which is not like your American casinos where anyone goes in to play a few games. Take a look at the photo: this casino was designed as a gathering place for the rich and noble to socialize and gamble. Even today there’s a dress code if you want to play at the roulette wheel, and they hold huge events there for big VIPs (the Dalai Lama is apparently in town tomorrow and speaking at the Casino. I’d go, but I don’t feel like getting up at the crack of dawn to get a good seat so his translator can speak to the crowd in German).

Yeah, the Casino looks like a roman temple or something.

Yeah, the Casino looks like a roman temple or something.

After losing my savings at the roulette wheel and slots (kidding!), I explored the park by the theater. And that was wonderful. In America, with TV and games and the Internet, we get so caught up on being inside and having fun inside and inside fake worlds. Rarely do we take the time to enjoy outside, and this park kind of reminded me of that, as well as wonder can be found in nature. The lake in the middle of the park with the fountain reminded me of Ohio State’s Mirror Lake, as well as the pigeons and giant ducks living around the lake having absolutely no fear of humans (seriously, one got within a few feet of me and didn’t flinch. I swear it wanted to either see what I was or challenge me to a fight). And there was this little creek right by the lake that looked so peaceful and pretty, like out of a fantasy story. It was really relaxing.

Like being back at school, in a way.

Like being back at school, in a way.

Well, after that I headed home. And while I didn’t visit all the places the tour group was going to go (I missed the Roman Wall, which I will have to find some time), I did get my own little tour and got familiar with the city I live in now. And when I get a chance, I’d like to go explore again and see what this city has to offer.

And next week, if I decide to do that tour of Frankfurt (and I think I will), I’ll make sure I have a much better idea of where it is before I go to it. Seriously, I’m not getting up early for a day trip not knowing where we’re meeting!

Anyway, I’m definitely enjoying being here in Germany, and I’m looking forward to doing and seeing more as time goes on. Heck, I’m thinking of taking some trips to Munich or Stuttgard one of these weekends. That should be exciting.

Well, until next time, my Followers of Fear. Guten Nacht!

A street in my new home.

A street in my new home.

Well, not really my first week. It’s been only four or five days since I arrived. But it’s Friday, and tomorrow I’ll be busy with a couple of things, so I might as well write about it now.

So what’s my first week been like? Well…a bit different than what I expected (or what my Tarot predicted, though that was referring to a longer period of time, so maybe the first week shouldn’t have that much reflection on the reading). While I am working and have my own office (and it’s big and cozy too, by the way), I don’t have an ID card yet. As this is a military base with security protocols and whatnot, I need and ID card to do anything significant. Unfortunately, the soonest I can get in to get one is Monday, so until then I’ve been busy with tasks that don’t involve computers or security clearance.

What sort of tasks are those, you ask? Well, I’m supposed to be, among other things, writing articles on behalf of the head Equal Employment Opportunity office of Europe, so in preparation for that I’ve been doing some reading about diversity in the workforce, something EEO feels strongly about. I’m going to be writing an article about implementing diversity to the fullest in such a workforce. In addition to that, I’ve been doing some work with the base’s personal EEO office.

My apartment building.

My apartment building.

Beyond that, I haven’t had that much time to do anything else. I’ve done a little shopping, and gotten to know the neighborhood I live in a little (I live not too far from base in an area full of apartment buildings housing mostly military personnel and/or their families). I’m also getting to know my roommate Ian, whom I have a lot in common with, including religions. And I’ve been adjusting, trying to adapt to living near a base and working on one. I’ve somehow trained myself to go to bed at ten and wake up at five, and be ready to leave the house a quarter to seven for work. How have I done this? I’m not really sure, even a year ago something like that would’ve been impossible for work or school.

Well, thank God it’s the weekend, and that brings it’s own adventures. I’m doing a walking tour of Wiesbaden provided by the USO tomorrow morning, so I’m getting up early (for a Saturday) to go on it. I’m actually pretty excited. I want to see what my new home has to offer. And next week there’s a tour of nearby Frankfurt I’d like to go on as well. We’ll see what happens.

My roommate and I grabbing some drinks.

My roommate and I grabbing some drinks.

The one thing I’m sad about is that I’m unable to continue my German lessons or write lately. The latter particularly upsets me. You know me, as a writer telling stories is my lifeblood. And with a busy life like mine these days, since Monday the most I’ve been able to do is usually very short posts, like the ones on From The Voice Of Common Sense. Hopefully as time goes on though I’ll be able to carve out time to write and edit. I’m trying to get through a new short story and finish editing Video Rage, so the sooner I get those done the better.

In the meantime, I’ve got a big day tomorrow, so I’m going to prep for that. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. I think I might need it.

A view of Wiesbaden.

A view of Wiesbaden.

Guten tag, mein Anhanger der Angst!

Well, I’ve arrived in Germany, safe and sound. And let me tell you, I am beat! I did not get as much sleep as I expected on those three back-to-back-to-back flights, so by the time I got to Germany I was a bit jet-lagged. Still, it’s good to be here. The weather’s nice (partly due to the heat wave that’s going on now in Europe), the scenery is lush and green, and there’s something in the air that says, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Well, as far as I remember I don’t think I’ve ever been to Kansas, but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, here’s how things have been going for me. I arrived in Germany around noon or so after my flight’s been delayed an hour. I think I slept a bit on the plane, because the flight’s a bit of a blur. I meet my supervisor Ron and my new roommate Ian after I get my baggage, and we head to the Post Exchange, which is not a post office like its name suggests. More like a small mall. There’s a place where you can buy home goods like sheets and appliances, there’s a food court, a barber shop, and then some! We stopped there to grab some stuff for my room, which came with a bed and bedside table with a lamp but not much else (you can see why we needed to stop).

My new roommate Ian and I.

My new roommate Ian and I.

After a quick lunch at the food court where I got to know my new roommate, we headed to the commissary, which is like a small supermarket. I got a few things to stock the pantry, and then we were off to the apartment. And by the way, this apartment rocks! Not only is it twice as big as my last apartment, it’s cozy and warm and seriously affordable! Like affordable enough to make you drop your mouth in shock! If they only allowed pets (like cats), it’d be perfect.

So now I’m a little moved in. My sheets are on the bed, my clothes for tomorrow are picked out and my suit’s in the closet. Soon I’ll be going out with Ian, who has been a huge help in getting moved in and has been here for quite a while already, so he’s got plenty of tips for little ol’ me, and we’ll go for dinner. After that…well, I have an early morning (why did I agree to one? Who knows?!), so I’ll get ready for bed and call it a night early.

My room. It's very comfy.

My room. It’s very comfy.

All in all, I’m glad I’m here. It’s a huge opportunity, and I’m super-excited for the challenges that will be thrown my way, as well as all the things I’ll learn and see and…oh, you’ve already heard this!

So just wish me luck. It’s the beginning of a big adventure for me and I can’t wait to see what happens!

Today I leave for my first post-college job, working with the US Army Civilian Corps in Germany. I’m all packed up (hopefully my suitcase is under fifty pounds, I think it is but that scale’s needle keeps moving), my carry on has everything I need, my passport’s tucked away, and my farewells have all been said on Facebook and Twitter, with lots of comments on both wishing me well. As far as I can tell, I’m all ready to go.

And yet it feels so unreal to me, like instead of going to Germany, I’m jumping into a fantasy world straight out of a movie. You can understand why I feel that way: while I’ve been to Germany before, this is going to be on the opposite end of the country, I’m going to be on a US Army base, and whenever I step out of that base, I’m going to be in a place where the language, culture and the people are very different from what I’ve grown up with (thank goodness I’m already a little familiar with all three of those). It’s definitely going to be unlike anything I’ve experienced before, and unlike when I went to Israel the summer before my senior year of high school or my study abroad trip, I’m not going with a bunch of people in the same boat as me. I’m going by myself! To say the least, I’m a little nervous.

Despite that, I’m looking forward to this. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the life and cultures of both the US Army base and of Germany. I’m looking forward to meeting all these contacts I’ve been set up with through friends and through my own searching (who knew there were so many people friends with people I know in Germany?). I can’t wait to explore the cities, the castles, the forests and museums and Jewish sections of the cities I’ll be near. I’m looking forward to all the ideas I’ll have for stories or articles while doing this.

And I’m sure that, despite the fact that I’m diving into this alone, I’ll be fine. I’ve reason to believe that. Despite my nervousness, I’ve usually been good with new situations. My dad can testify to this: he saw me on my first day of kindergarten, my first day at Columbus Torah Academy, my first USY (that’s a Jewish youth group) convention, my USY trip to Israel, and then when I got to Ohio State. And, as he made clear on Facebook, I was fine, so I’m sure I’ll be fine this time around as well.

Plus my latest Tarot reading gave a pretty positive outlook on the whole thing, so there’s more reason to be hopeful. Yes, I’m still reading Tarot, and no, I don’t really believe in it but it’s nice to have a positive reading, isn’t it?

When I post again, it’ll probably be in Germany, and to say I’ve arrived safely. What else will there be to say, I can only guess. First impressions, what my roommate is like, how they weren’t kidding about Europe being in the grip of a heat wave, a bunch of other stuff I can only guess at. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, wish me a safe flight, in English or German, and wish me luck in my new environment. I have no idea what’ll happen, but I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had.

Auf wederschein, my Followers of Fear!