Thursday, March 19, 2020

The New Normal

Living in the age of Corona Virus…

PSA: Stop ALL non-essential travel NOW. Your holiday is not worth risking your or others' health.

For me this is so far no big deal. I prefer to stay at home, we don’t have or want a social life, M and I value time we get to spend together, I have a pile of books to read, there's cheese in the fridge and the wine cellar is full. As long as things are going ok with M’s small company, our lives will proceed as usual and we'll enjoy our health and the peace and quiet as long as we can. I hope that you are staying healthy and taking care of yourself if you've fallen ill. Look out for each other.

M and I have been criticized and laughed at (all in good fun, I’m sure) by family & friends for living somewhat like hermits. We do not need the physical presence of people, idle small talk or personal contact. We embraced “social distancing” long before it became a thing.

Expats - especially from the US - have complained endlessly about Germans’ lack of respect for personal space. I have had shopping carts pushed into my bum while waiting in line (with no apology or “excuse me”), other people’s children standing so close to me if I’d taken a step back I would have knocked the kid/s down, and I have felt the stank breath of a guy behind me in line. Back the hell off, Jack Jakob!

Suddenly things are changing, and for the better if you ask me.

I was at Real (our local grocery store) today, and I saw some really fabulous things. Please, dear God, let this remain the new normal!

  1. Signs at the entry instructing people to keep a 1,5-meter distance to others, especially at the check-out.
  2. Signs near some products - like milk - urging people to be thoughtful of others and only buy their normal household amount.
  3. Those grimy little triangular strip dividers we have to put between our items and the next person's items on the conveyor belt are GONE!! We now just have to leave a deliberate space between the items of the person in front of us and our stuff.
  4. On the floor at each check-out lane is a strip of tape instructing people how far back to stand from the person in front of them.
  5. The woman behind me got too eager for the cashier's comfort, put her items too close to mine and was standing close behind me to put her items on the conveyor belt. The cashier (she is my hero today!) told her to back up including pushing her items further back from mine.
  6. Some shoppers are wearing rubber gloves (including the woman behind me in the check-out).
  7. No one was standing in the aisles chit-chatting with each other casually (normally I have to slalom through the store around small groups who use the grocery store for their social time).
Short version at the Spätzle and Maultaschen shelf:
"Be fair and buy only what you normally need."

Tape lines showing Germans how much distance to keep
at the cash registers.
I had brought rubber gloves with me (the same one-use ones I’ve used until now for Aufbrechen – “field dressing”!), but I decided it wouldn’t make enough difference. I could avoid touching the shopping cart and door handles, but then the germs are on my gloves as I touch all the items I’m buying and will then put in my fridge. I just kept my hands away from my face and washed them twice when I got home. This is also nothing unusual for me – I always wash my hands when I return from being at the store, out in public, and especially after being on trains or buses. The fact that this is apparently such a new concept to so many confirms what I’ve always thought – that public places and everything we touch in them are filthy.

Handshakes are another thing. I happily shake the hand of the people I actually care about. But this whole shake-everyone's-hand-every-time-you-meet business drives me bonkers. People's hands are generally filthy. They're just got off the train or bus and touched door handles, poles, seats, the stop or door button, etc. I have taken care to avoid touching anything without a glove on, and now you want to shake my hand? I'm loving this unfortunately temporary ban on hand-shaking.

It's not that I'm a germaphobe or anti-social, but more because I'm an American (Midwesterner?) We greet people more removed than our closest friends and family with a distant wave, a fake smile, maybe a quick nod of the head. We don't even stop as we pass someone when we say hello, we just rush on to wherever we were going. We save handshaking for formal occasions like job interviews and meeting our fiancé's parents. Oh, and that "exchange of peace" thing in church, which is reason enough for me to avoid such gatherings.

I saw a meme the other day that falls under “sad but true”: Back in the 80s when we were all watching “Back to the Future” we thought by 2020 we’d have flying cars. Here we are teaching people how to wash their hands and be considerate of others.

Don't forget the positives:

  1. The air over China has not been this clean since the industrial age.
  2. The canals in Venice are crystal clear.
  3. People are starting to pay attention to basic hygiene.
  4. Life is slowing down for many of us, providing perhaps some time for reflection.

What positives have you found in all of this?

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Life Update: Not a Hunter Yet

I’ve got my life back, with the Jägerprüfung (hunting test) behind me for the most part. I’ve started organizing and cleaning the house for the first time in what feels like months and in the evenings I can actually watch TV without feeling guilty because I should be studying instead. Now that I have learned how much I do not know, I will within days be starting to study and prepare for the next phase: Falknerei.

I will have to repeat the Waffenhandhabung (gun handling) and Schießen (shooting) because I failed the first part. Quite spectacularly, I might add – the gun handling test should take about 15 minutes, and I was out in four. What did I do wrong? I forgot to check the caliber of the gun and the ammo before loading. That is an immediate and undebatable K.O. mistake = game over. I was ready, I knew what to do, and I didn’t even feel nervous. But my head was not in the game and so I will repeat in May.

The written – multiple choice – test was no problem. If there’s one thing we Amis can do, it’s multiple choice tests. Many (most?) tests in school and afterwards are in that format. I used an online program from Heintges that was not perfect but very good as well as going over the 1250 questions in the question catalog for Baden-Württemberg that are available online. That only requires repetition, memorization and careful reading. If I understood correctly when my scores were rattled off, in each of the five subject areas I scored at least 23 of 25 and in two of them I got all 25 right.

The real surprise was the mündlich-praktisch (oral-practical) part. I did not expect to pass that on my first go, but I did! There were five different stations:
  1. Animal Biology & Forestry
  2. Weapons: Laws, Technology & Handling
  3. Hunting Dogs & Practices
  4. Laws: Hunting, Animal Protection & Nature Conservation
  5. Animal Diseases, Organs, and Field Dressing

I was ready to answer which hunting dog would best fit me and my future hunting goals, but I didn't draw that question. I would have said the dog pictured above - the großer Münsterländer for a number of reasons I don't need to go into. He's a Vorstehhund (pointer) and he is or was affectionately referred to as a Habichtshund (hawk dog). 

My test began with subject 5 in the Wildkammer (the room in which animals are “field dressed”). I walked into the Kammer and stood next to a Rehbock (roe buck) hanging from its hind legs with his guts spilling out. The Prüfer (guys giving the test) said, “Hello! Please put on some rubber gloves and pick up that knife.” Each examinee has to have a go at part of the “field dressing,” which is why it was already partially open. I had never actually taken knife to hand for this, only observed quite a few times. But apparently I did ok. Then I had to identify the organs I could see: kidney, spleen, liver, diaphragm, lymph nodes and Brandadern (femoral arteries). Then they asked me what I’d have to do after shooting a duck and a rabbit, and lastly questions about various diseases that can be transferred from animal to human.

When they were finished with me, one of them told the young guy taking notes to ask me a question because he always asked such good ones. He thought a moment and asked what family the Weißwedelhirsch (white-tailed deer) belongs to (they had seen that I was born in Michigan). I told them I never had a single thing to do with hunting in the US but said I think they are distantly related to the Elch, probably Konzentratselektierer and they shed their antlers, so from the family Cerviden.

My test ended with Waffenkunde (study of weapons). I had to chuckle when they asked me to explain Selbstladerwaffen (self-loading, semi-automatic guns) because I struggled so much with that. Maybe because I associate those with mass shootings in the US rather than with hunting, my brain just blocked that out. Fortunately M had given it one more try the evening before the test to explain it to me. At the test I choked out an answer that qualified as "good enough."

Raccoon Dog
I needed to identify various animals, skulls, antlers, tree branches, and internal organs, describe what is allowed by law and not, the difference between rabbits and hares, and which type of dog would be needed to search for the animal that was shot based on the evidence left behind on the ground.

M has been great during this whole process! Not only has he explained various gun things to me ad nauseam, but he also drove  me to the tests over three days (my Schwiegermutter got up very early on Monday and dumped me at the Landratsamt for the written test, as I’d stayed at her place the night before), he’s driven us to the Schießstand twice a week since October, to the Jagdschule in Dettingen for Waffenhandhabung practice three times, and to the Schießstand in Esslingen-Deizisau to get familiar with the layout. All of these places are an hour from home if traffic isn’t bad. You might wonder why I’m not driving myself. I am still deathly afraid of driving here outside of our local community, and he spared me the added stress of driving on top of the general nervousness of the test situation. For that I am eternally grateful!!

For anyone who is preparing for this test and finds their way to my blog, I might write a post listing all the questions I was asked and tasks I was given. I asked several classmates to send me theirs after their test, and it really helped me get a better idea of what I would be facing. The Prüfer were very fair, I thought, searching for what I knew and finding my limits as well. 

All-in-all it was a very good experience, but I am also glad it's behind me! I have never faced a test this difficult in all my life.