Exploring our Own Backyard: Der Schauinslandpfad

We have lived in our small town of Ottweiler, Germany for almost 2 years. It is pretty much out in the country side as far as Germany goes. The country is relatively small compared to the United States (it is smaller than the size of Texas), so even the country side isn’t all that far from the city. You don’t have the huge expanses of nothingness that you have in the US.

Our town is about 13,000 people including all the “suburbs” surrounding the town. But nearly every week we come upon something new we hadn’t seen before. I drive by this area of woods nearly every day as it is just about 1km from our home.  I always see this small banged up sign on the roadside that says “Wald Hotel” or Forest Hotel. I never thought much of it thinking it would be a crappy place back in the woods. But one day we went into the parking area near the main road and found that there was an entire 10km trail called the “Schauinslandpfad”, which translates into “Look at the Country Path”. Yes, most languages would separate this word into at least 3-4 words, but the Germans like to combine several words into one ridiculous, unpronounceable word. I’m starting to get use to this.

And this is exactly what the trail did…it showed us a wonderful view of our country side.

Canola fields

Canola fields

And it turns out that the “crappy” hotel was located about 1km back in the woods along the trail.


It looked quite pleasant tucked back among the woods. Then we decided to continue on our way and had the most wonderful views of our country side where the pictures don’t really do it justice.


And along the way there is a crazy mountain bike trail that cuts across the path, which maybe I will have the guts to try one day. You can check out a ride on the Ottweiler Flowtrail here… 

The trail has just about everything…wide open views, a quiet stream surrounded by woods, horse stables, and a quiet ponds you can fish. The trail is 10km, but it doesn’t feel like you are walking for that long with all the things to see.


Horse Stables

Horse Stables

And like a typical trail in Germany, there is always a fishing club or some other small hut that serves cold beer at the end.


This Trail is Spike Approved!!

This Trail is Spike Approved!!

Sometimes you don’t need to have a lot of money or go very far, to discover something new and wonderful. Sometimes you just need to open your eyes to see the beauty right in front of you.

Copenhagen: The home of Lego and beautiful people

After an eventful start to my trip to Copenhagen, the few days I spent there proved to be a wonderful experience. I was visiting my good friend Jamila, who is originally from Tajikistan, and was just finishing up a 6-month internship. So she had at least some knowledge of Copenhagen, but like me, was seeing it from a foreigner’s perspective.

And what everyone told me about Copenhagen is true: a beautiful city but incredibly expensive!

That being said, I made a few interesting observations and hope to impart a few tips that may make your experience in Copenhagen more enjoyable (and hopefully a bit less expensive) if you should ever visit.

1. Lego!! Copenhagen is the birth place of Lego…need I say more? Any place that invented Lego has to be awesome. I recently reconnected with Lego when my husband’s son didn’t want to put together a particular lego set we had bought him. So I put it together and was completely hooked! A way to spark the imagination and focus the mind. They do have a headquarters Lego store in Copenhagen, but it wasn’t as large as I expected. That being said, they had some pretty amazing displays that are worth checking out.

IMG_3619 IMG_3618

2. The Danish language is… horrible. I hate to say this about other languages, since I only know one. But the Danish language is truly horrible. It sounds like they are trying to swallow a goldfish when they talk. We were on a tour of the beautiful Marble cathedral with a climb to the top of the dome (highly recommended) and the guide spoke first in Danish, then in English. She sounded so strange to my ears I really thought she was exaggerating the pronunciation of certain words to the point where I started to laugh…thus being the ugly American.  Even a waiter stated that the Danish language is one of the toughest to learn after Chinese. Luckily hello is pronounced like “Hi”, goodbye pronounced “Hi Hi” and thank you is “Tak”. Everything else is near impossible. Every single Dane I met, could speak perfect English as they learn it growing up…because they realize no one is going to learn their language.

Marble Cathedral

Marble Cathedral

Marble Cathedral

Marble Cathedral

View of opera house from Marble Cathedral

View of opera house from Marble Cathedral

3. Stick to beer. Copenhagen is also home to the Carlsberg Brewery which has a nice self-guided tour for a reasonable price…considering 2 beers are included. But wine is incredibly expensive in Copenhagen. In fact, when Danes are in Germany they buy a bunch of wine (and sometimes cars) to bring back with them since they can’t afford it in their own country. Beer isn’t nearly as pricey and quite good. I recommend stopping by the Mikkeller for a good selection of beers.

Carlsburg Brewery

Carlsburg Brewery

Largest selection of unopened beer bottles

Largest selection of unopened beer bottles

4. Cisterns: This place looked interesting as I took an underground tour in Naples and enjoyed it. I thought this would be similar, but it was more of an art exhibit (very Danish) that consists of one piece. Save 5 Euros and look at this picture instead.



5. Christiana: A self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood. Basically, an area where a bunch of “hippies” can live the way they want (aka smoke weed). Smoking marijuana is not legal in Denmark but this seems to be a safe zone of some sort. The ironic part is that it is built on the site of old military barracks which the community still uses for other purposes.


6. Lots of palaces: There seems to be a awful lot of palaces and castles for the king and queen. Many to choose from but we really enjoyed the Frederiksborg Castle which is about a 45 minute train ride outside of Copenhagen.

Frederiksborg Castle

Frederiksborg Castle

7. The beautiful people.. There are a lot of different standards and definitions of beauty, so I won’t go into that debate. But the Danish (men and women) are all ridiculously beautiful. Its not just that they are tall, blond hair, and blue-eyed. They all have perfectly proportioned faces and flawless skin. The weather in Copenhagen is miserable with cold, wind, and rain most of the year (I managed to pick the few days of sun). But their faces don’t seem to realize this with incredibly smooth skin that has never seen a blemish or scar…let alone a flake of dry skin. Jamila and I laughed at how we stare at their faces on the bus like some creepy foreigner. It is somewhat annoying how pretty they are but you can’t help staring.

There are many things to see and do in Copenhagen and this just touches the surface. I only spent 3 days there but you can see and do a lot of things without a ton of time and without completely busting your budget, but its not easy…and it still won’t be cheap. I recommend the Torvehallerne for a range of different foods and drinks (some typically Danish like open sandwiches) for reasonable prices. The museums and castles aren’t free but usually under 10 Euros. And of course, the beautiful harbor is free to all to just sit and relax… with your 7 Euro cup of coffee.

Jamila and I at the harbor

My friend and I at the harbor

Is there a doctor on board?

Through most of my training to become an Emergency Medicine doctor, I have been mostly a “white cloud”. This is the designation we give to doctors who usually have an easy time of it during shifts; no crazy patients, no horrible nights on-call where you don’t see your bed let alone get to the bathroom. Now with 4 years of residency, there aren’t too many things I haven’t seen and I have definitely had my bad shifts. It’s just that it doesn’t happen to me nearly as often as someone who is a “black cloud”. However, it seems my white cloud only extends to the confines of an Emergency Room.

There is a difference between handling an emergency in the comfort of an Emergency Room with all the medicine and equipment needed right at your fingertips and…oh, I don’t know…let’s say an airplane. This is where my luck has run out somewhat. I’m sure most of us have been on a plane when the flight attendant says, “Do we have a doctor on board?” For most people I imagine this sparks curiosity. For doctors, it sparks a certain amount of terror. You sit there for a few seconds wondering if anyone else is going to hit their call button, but as emergency medicine doctors we really are the best trained to handle this type of situation. But there seems to be this split second of hesitation that seems to be common to at least a few doctors.

Why is this?

Because we are not in our comfort zone. I know the limitations at 30,000 feet and the little box of medication and basic equipment. In fact, from what I see this isn’t standardized and you don’t really know what you may find in that little box. And the fear is that the passenger has a true emergency and you don’t have the proper equipment to do anything about it. Now I’m probably more comfortable than others being in this situation as I have worked in the military in areas with minimal resources (but even there I’m a relative white cloud). I also have worked in developing countries, which is a completely different experience but with somewhat similar limitations. However, I also watched an infant die in The Gambia because we didn’t have the equipment or means to save his life. A life that would have likely been saved in a “first-world” emergency room. That is a patient I will never forget…and thus the fear. Knowing what to do, but not being able to do it.

The first couple of incidents on board a commercial flight where I had to lend my assistance was relatively unexciting. In fact, they really didn’t even need a doctor but I ended up getting a voucher for a free flight out of one of the encounters. The third incident was a bit more serious. A middle-aged diabetic man who complained of having blurry/loss of vision in one eye. “Are you sure its not both eyes?” I asked. “No, its just one eye.” Ok, well that might be a problem…especially since we were flying over the Atlantic on my way to Dakar, Senegal. My first worry was that he was having a stroke. But we were at least 4 hours from hitting land and I suspected Dakar did not have any major neurologic or neurosurgical capabilities. In reality, there isn’t much to do for a stroke in an ER if the patient is stable except giving a “blood-thinner”. Some blood-thinners are stronger than others…but we had to make do. I told him to take an aspirin…with an orange juice because I’m thinking his blood sugar may just be a bit low. I eventually went back to my seat and didn’t hear anything more so I assumed the orange juice helped.

The forth incident wasn’t looking too good in the beginning. A 70-ish year old male who was a cardiovascular nightmare. He had already gone through 2 cardiac bypass surgeries and multiple vascular surgeries on his legs…And of course he was complaining of chest pain. After talking to him for a few minutes I breathed a sigh of relief as it was unlikely this guy was having a heart attack. But at his age and with his history, this could change and he could decide to try and die on me. Luckily, this guy had all of his meds with him…just most of the names of the medications were written over in Arabic which is a language I’m not so familiar. But he spoke English fairly well and we managed to get to the point where he knew that he had medication for his angina. This is typically nitroglycerin and he had a bottle that you spray under your tongue, wait 5 minutes, if no relief, spray again for a total of 3 times. The reason for taking it slow is that it can easily drop your blood pressure and you can pass out…or worse. I clarified with him that he understood how to use the spray and then handed it over to him. He then proceeds to squeeze it 4 or 5 times in quick succession under his tongue…awesome. Luckily, he didn’t pass out on me. Now the next decision came in trying to decide if we should divert. But again we were over the Atlantic flying from Frankfurt to Washington DC. Yes, I do a lot of international travel, which sets me up for these situations. We could reach land a bit quicker but we were still hours away. That’s another fun task… deciding if you should tell the aircraft to divert and basically ruin everyone’s day. I know if seems easy when a life is at stake but when you have something that isn’t so obvious…it isn’t so easy. I decided to not divert but would keep them updated if anything changed. Because the flight attendants wanted me to keep a close eye on him by taking the adjacent seat, I got upgraded to business class. So I kicked up my feet in the extra space, watched a good movie, and ate a decent meal with real silverware. The patient seemed reassured and he did well throughout the rest of the flight…no problem, I think I have this down now.

But then there was my flight from Frankfurt to Copenhagen yesterday. There I was standing in a large group as we scanned our tickets to get on the plane. There must have been 10 people ahead of me when an elderly gentleman at the gate counter drops like a dead weight flat on his back. I drop my things and run the few feet over to him and realize he is barely breathing if at all…feel for a pulse…nothing. By this time, another gentleman had run over and we began CPR. Soon another woman came over and we all assisted in switching roles and calling repeatedly for a defibrillator. These are the things that you see every few hundred meters in an American airport that is in a red case stating “AED”. But the attendants behind the counter just kept telling us that the paramedics were on their way. Did no one know where to get an AED? It seemed like forever, but in reality it was probably only 5-10 minutes until paramedics arrived. As they all started speaking German to each other, I realized how lucky we were that everyone working on this man just a few minutes ago was able to speak English. I found out the other woman assisting was also a doctor in Denmark. As I walked down the gangway with her, we talked about what happened and if the patient would be ok. I think we both felt a bit awkward as doctors leaving an stable patient to board a flight. In Germany, a doctor almost always accompanies the paramedics so there really was nothing more we could do except get in the way with our poor ability to communicate in German. As I sat in my seat, I realized my hands were shaking a bit and my heart was racing. Not uncommon to be ramped up after doing CPR even in an emergency room, but this was definitely out of my comfort zone…an airport in a foreign country with a language I can communicate in at a level of a 3-year old. And I still wonder if the man survived.

I know of many other doctors who have been in similar situations or worse and have always risen to the occasion. In fact, I know people who aren’t doctors who have stepped up and done what they could with the knowledge they have. We hear the stories of people just standing there, watching, not getting involved when someone desperately needs help. But I would like to think these are much less and just get reported on more. In the end, I believe it is more common that people from all around the world have the same willingness to leave their comfort zones and help when it is needed. And that is what I witnessed yesterday. People coming together to help a stranger in whatever way they could.


A Great Big Hole in the Ground…


“As amazing as the views are it is really kind of boring. Every 500 ft a new vantage point of the same thing: a really big hole in the ground. Don’t get me wrong, the canyon is amazing. What would be better is a guided tour of the canyon from open-air view trams via a very long (much longer than exists) rim side roadway. What would also be nice is Segway rentals, but I know the reason why this isn’t done is because someone would inevitably drive off the edge of the canyon to their death.”

This was a review on Yelp of the Grand Canyon. Although this is a sad commentary on how some people view natural wonders, Outside magazine shared some of the most funny reviews from disgruntled park visitors. You can check out the rest here: Reviews of National Parks

As Markus and I walked around the rim of the Grand Canyon, I wondered which tourists with high heels or flip flops (obviously never attending to venture further than the paved sidewalk) would write a similar post. Especially when I saw a Kim Kardashian-dressed woman sitting on a bench looking disinterested as she looked at her iPhone. Maybe if she lifted her head she would see the amazing beauty in front of her. But then again, she probably did see it…that big of a hole is really hard to miss.


For years I have wanted to go to the Grand Canyon, but apparently it took moving to a foreign country to realize what I had missed in my own country. I always thought I needed days to see the Grand Canyon. But on this trip we only had a few hours by the time we drove from Las Vegas where we were visiting my parents. And I’m so glad we went, because we saw so much in just a few short hours. That being said, you could easily spend days..or weeks…exploring the Grand Canyon. But don’t let amazing opportunities pass you by just because you don’t have all the time in the world.

See what you can, when you can, with what money you have!!

I can tell you that spending those few hours at the Grand Canyon was so much better than visiting the Las Vegas Strip for the millionth time…or any time. Even the tourist watching is better at the Grand Canyon as people strolled by wearing attire worthy of the hottest Las Vegas nightclubs. Apparently, they just didn’t seem to realize they were visiting a park.

And that is what amazed me about the reviewer above or the disinterested tourists. How could they not be amazed? The scale of the canyon, the amazing colors, everything I saw… is beyond words. But is this what we have become? A generation that would rather stare at our iPhones than the natural beauty surrounding us? We all see that we ignore each other in favor of technology…and I must admit I’m definitely guilty of this myself at times. But have we gone so far down the technology trail that we can ignore the Grand Canyon in favor of a phone?

5 Things I Love about Germany

After living here for over a year, I see Germany as my new home. As with any place, there are good and bad things. But I think I will start with the good, because there is a lot to love about Germany.

1. Bread: I live in a small village, but within 500 meters there are 4 bakeries…and I love them all. Bretzels (soft pretzels) are my downfall. These are not like your ball park pretzels. They are soft and fresh and usually filled with more calorie punching ingredients like butter, cheese, and salami. When I arrive in Heidelberg on the train, I must walk through the rest of the train station to get to the buses. There are 3 bakeries I must pass and it is like running the gauntlet. Very few times have I survived, without a pastry or bretzel finding its way into my hands.

2. ALDI: In Germany, it is the go-to store for cheap but good food. They don’t overwhelm you with a million options. I don’t need 40 varieties of sour cream. I just need one at a reasonable price. This store was made for those with ADD. No need to spend 15 minutes deciding between brands when you only have 1 option. And they also have a vending machine that pops out fresh baked goods that they get daily from the local bakery. Best vending machine EVER!!


Markus checking out the baked goods options at the vending machine.

3. Farmers Markets: They are everywhere. We have one right outside our front door twice a week. We go to ALDI for our basic dry goods, but almost everything else we buy from the market. It isn’t expensive like some of the markets in the US. The chicken lady has several varieties of eggs and is very knowledgeable about them all: eggs from chickens that sit around, eggs from chickens that run around, eggs that have more yolk, eggs that have less yolk… Big fan of the chicken lady!!


The chicken lady’s truck from our living room window. Doesn’t get much better than that.

4. Driving: You can only use the left lane on the autobahn (highway) to pass another vehicle. You hang out in the left lane driving slowly…you get ticketed!! And if that isn’t enough of a deterrent from driving slow in the left lane, than a BMW going 160mph barreling down on your ass should make you get out of the way real quick. There isn’t much road rage in Germany (all they do is flash their lights behind you) but driving in the left hand lane will make them angrier than they already are.

5. Coins for grocery carts: I’m one of those people who find it really annoying when people can’t return their grocery cart to the stall. Is it really that difficult to walk 50 meters to put the cart in it’s proper home? Here in Germany, you have to put a coin (usually 50 cents to 1 euro) in a slot on the grocery cart to obtain one. When you are finished you slide your cart into another one in the stall and you get your money back. Surprisingly, there aren’t many homeless carts in the parking lot. Or homeless people for that matter.


The lock system on grocery carts at the American military base exchange in Germany. I would like to say that Americans found this idea to be very useful, but I’m pretty sure that there is a German grocery cart rule and the Americans had to comply.

Ok, so there are so many more things to love about Germany and these are just a few. It is one of the cleanest and prettiest countries I have visited. And Germans really aren’t that angry. They are very helpful and will go out of their way to assist a foreigner who can speak just a few words in their language. And that’s the problem. Their language sounds angry to us Americans, but that really isn’t their fault…

The dreaded Schweinshaxen!!

I say I’m an intrepid explorer, because I will go almost anywhere and try just about anything once. But what I have realized is that you don’t have to go far or have a lot of money to discover new things. My parents took me everywhere in a car when I was a kid to see as much as we could on a limited budget. Now I’m living in Germany and everything is new to me..and my German fiancé, Markus, is realizing how much he hasn’t seen right in the area where he grew up. One of the best ways we have learned to see something new is through food. And through food you can discover so much right in your own backyard.

Which brings me to my texture issues. I will try just about anything…sushi, mussels, alligator, ostrich…but many times I will never go back. I HATE anything that is remotely chewy, which explains my extreme aversion to shellfish. I will eat shellfish if prepared well, but it’s not easy for me. And can I say that I’m deathly afraid of tentacles?? My friend one time ate squid on a stick (tentacles just dangling in the wind) from a road stand in Thailand and I thought she was crazy. But I guess she wasn’t crazy, since she was eating a nice big breakfast the next morning and I was puking up my Pad Thai in the toilet.

I tell you this, because many of you out there are picky eaters. I not only have texture issues, but I’m also a recovering vegetarian (8 long hungry years in my 20s). So bones freak me out almost as much as tentacles. Yet, I have tasted some of the most amazing food when I let go of my fears and just gave it a try. You hate slimy mushrooms too?…I ate a whole crepe full of porcini mushrooms prepared by an excellent chef and absolutely loved it!! I’m not saying you need to eat a whole plate of slimy, chewy, unrecognizable food…but you should at least eat a bite. You may be surprised and I promise it won’t kill you.

Now German cuisine is very diverse depending on the region. We live near the French border for which I’m eternally grateful as their tends to be a lot of French influence on the food here. And my fiancé and his mother are excellent cooks. Some people aren’t such a fan of sauerkraut, but the way they prepare red cabbage with a bit of cinnamon is so tasty!


And then there is Bavarian food…ahhh, the Bavarians. I always say that Bavaria is the Texas of Germany. There seems to be a lot of beer, meat, and hunting. Bavarians are proud of their traditions and no one is going to tell them different. I didn’t know this the first time I visited my very good friend in Bavaria. I was so excited to see him and to enjoy a traditional Bavarian dinner. It was during one of my first trips to Germany, so I understood virtually nothing on the menu. So my friend offered to order for me, which seemed like a good idea…until I saw this…


Oh, lord have mercy, how in the world was I going to eat this? A big ol’ bone sticking out of some meat that I couldn’t identify with lots of thick brown gravy. And once you cut through the first layer there, I swear there was a 1-inch layer of just fat. And to the side was the Knödel. A boiled potato..thing…that I had tried before and hated because it felt like some type of glue or paste in my mouth… just more bland. Now this is a beloved dish by many people, including Americans. However, for a recovering vegetarian with texture issues, it was my worst nightmare. But I picked at it gingerly and ate as much as I could, stating that I had already eaten on the train and was SO full. The next day Markus came to visit us in Bavaria. In hushed tones, I told Markus that I couldn’t possibly eat what I ate the night before. Not knowing the name of the dish I described it and then a huge smile came across his face. “Oh, you are talking about Schweinshaxen!” Ok, I had never heard of that before but it seemed an appropriate name…loud and scary. For those of you not familiar with German cuisine, a Schweinshaxen is a roasted pork knuckle. Even the English name didn’t sound very appetizing.

Whenever there is a festival in Germany, there seems to be plenty of Schweinshaxen rotating on a spit. And every time, it sends little shivers down my spine. But I tried it and a lot of other German foods that are absolutely delicious. A type of food…a particular dish…says so much about the culture and the people. The Bavarians I have met are down-to-earth and hearty just like their food…nothing pretentious.

In the United States, we have the ability to eat food from every imaginable place and ethnicity in almost every town and city. I encourage you try something you never have before. And if you can have it made by someone who is truly from that place, it will tell you so much about them and their culture. You just need to explore!

In full disclosure, I have to admit I haven’t tried the liver wurst yet because I’m scared. But I will overcome!!..one day

Besides the amazing bread and sausages, here are a couple of my favorite foods I have tried in Germany if you ever find yourself over here…

Flammkuchen: a thin “pizza” usually made with sour cream, onions, and bacon


Zweibelkuchen: an onion cake typically served with a white wine in winter


Happy Eating! Guten appetit!

Yes, Kansas is a state and why geography is important


I recently went back to the United States after moving to Germany over a year ago. My German fiance, Markus, went with me as he wanted to see where I grew up, which happens to be Overland Park, Kansas…a suburb of Kansas City. Now for those who aren’t aware Kansas City lies in two states, Kansas and Missouri. But we were headed to Leawood, Kansas to stay with a childhood friend of mine near where I grew up. The reason for our convoluted travel plans is not important, but we flew into Atlanta, Georgia and rented a car so that we could drive to Kansas as our first stop. Since we had a ton of luggage, I stood watch as Markus went to the counter to get our rental car…I won’t disgrace the name of the car rental company as I’m sure they are not responsible for their employees’ education, but it was a major rental company. After about 15 minutes Markus came back shaking his head asking what is wrong with us, because the conversation he had at the counter went something like this…

Rental guy #1: Where are you driving to?

Markus: Leawood, Kansas

Rental guy #1: Kansas is a city. What state are you driving to?

Markus: I realize there is a Kansas City, but we are going to the state of Kansas.

Rental guy #1: There isn’t a state of Kansas, its only a city.

Markus: uhhhh…my fiance grew up in the state of Kansas.

Rental guy #2: No, he is right. Kansas is a city not a state.

Markus: But there is a state also named Kansas.

Rental guy #1 and #2: No, I don’t think so.

Markus: Whatever…you guys are the ones with the US citizenship. We are driving to that area…will that work.

Rental guy #1: Sure, no problem.

As my GERMAN fiance, who has never lived in the US, is recounting this story I want to storm up to the counter and ask them if they have ever heard of the Wizard of Oz and are they f%$#ing kidding me. We aren’t in the US for more than 1 hour and I’m already embarrassed by Americans’ geographical knowledge…or lack of it. But you can’t attribute this problem to just poor education in the south for guys working a counter at the rental company. Recently, someone with a post-graduate degree asked me if Germany was a part of Europe. I would have not believed he was serious unless he had prefaced it with “don’t make fun of me for asking this question”.

So this is why geography is important and some recommendations.



You need to have a basic understanding of where countries are in the world to understand why things do or don’t matter. My sister lives in Rwanda which is about a zillion miles away from Ebola-land. Several years ago, I flew from Senegal (just north of Ebola-land) to Rwanda and it took me 10 hours. Yes, the African continent is large and what happens in one African country doesn’t happen in all. This is why we shouldn’t keep little girls from Rwanda from attending school in the US. But you need to have a basic understanding of geography of why this is the case.

And it just isn’t Ebola. In order to understand almost any current event in the world, you need to understand where the country is actually located. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Syria and whether we should fight ISIS, but so many cannot identify Syria on a map. And I’m not talking about accidentally picking a nearby country on a map. Syria is NOT in the middle of Africa…or Europe for that matter. Knowing that it is in the Middle East and borders Iraq is important for knowing why the situation is difficult (and in case you didn’t know why…the region is  just a bit unstable).

Many years ago, the British drew some lines in the Middle East to form some countries and it has immense impact on the region. The British weren’t the only ones and the Middle East isn’t the only place where this happened. But borders are important….location is everything!! For any interesting look on how the borders of Europe have changed over 3000 years take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1sjHGODFHg

We are a global world and what happens in one part of the world affects our world. If you don’t believe me, just read up on the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 during the First World War. Millions died and it all started in Kansas!! And NO…this does not give you reason to freak out over Ebola in the US!!


When a person says something ridiculous in regards to geography quickly roll your eyes when they aren’t looking. Then educate them. Now I don’t expect a German to educate Americans on the geography of the United States. The highly-educated person I mentioned earlier, who was unclear about countries in Europe, wanted to learn. I kept my sarcastic remarks in check and talked about Europe…and Africa…and all the wonderful places I have been able to visit. If you have this knowledge, share it with others. Get them excited about something beyond the latest video game or sports playoffs. Some could care less, but you will find those who are amazed at the world beyond their local strip mall. Some may not see the point in learning about anything beyond their small radius as they know they will never have the means to travel to far-off places. But tell them why it is important and usually those who want to travel will find a way.

Second recommendation…learn more about geography yourself. I think the majority of us could all benefit from some geography lessons. Look at a map online and discover a country you have never heard.. or a city.. or a river. I have lived in Germany for over a year and I still don’t know their 16 states…pa-the-tic. So once a day, instead of looking at Facebook for the millionth time (because I totally don’t ever do that), pull up a map and learn something new!!

And one last note: I don’t want to get into an Ebola debate, but it was mentioned in this blog. I say don’t freak out, but it is a serious disease killing thousands in Western Africa. We shouldn’t be freaking out over getting Ebola in the US, but we should be worried about the many many lives that have been destroyed by this disease in Western Africa. And to know why people shouldn’t be worried about getting Ebola in the US, but people in Western Africa should be worried…well, you need to know a bit about geography. Best wishes to my friends Jen and Steve Butwill who are headed back to their health care clinic in Liberia.

I believe…


When I was in Malawi, the World Cup started. I’m not the biggest fan of soccer (otherwise known as football to the rest of the world), but I was working and traveling with a German. There wasn’t much enthusiasm yet, even by German standards, but she did have a schedule of the World Cup games with her in Malawi. Then I heard what the German coach of our American soccer team said prior to the start of the World Cup. Then the conversation with my colleague went something like this: “I can’t believe it. The German coach of our soccer team said we have no chance of winning the world cup.” “Yes.” “How can he say that?” “It’s the truth?” “But doesn’t he know Americans don’t think like that? We love the underdog.” “Yes, but how often does that happen in real life? “Helllllooo….Hoosiers, Miracle, um…” “Yes, you make a movie about every time there is a horrible team that happens to win a major championship, but again how often does that actually occur?” “But that’s not the point. He can’t say something like that.” “He is just being honest. He’s realistic.” “But that’s so…so…un-American.” And as I sat there getting all upset by this, I realized this is when the tides had turned. I, a person who hates watching sports on TV, especially boring sports, like golf…and soccer, was becoming a soccer fan. Had I just stepped into Seinfeld’s bizarro world? I’m the person who carries a book in their purse in case I get bored at a baseball or American football game. I love playing sports, but I don’t really have the attention span to watch them. And yet, there I was a few nights ago watching Germany versus the US. Granted I kept playing with my phone, but I really was that nervous about the results and couldn’t bear to watch. In the meantime, Ghana was playing Portugal of which the outcome would possibly affect the US moving to the next stage. But I was not the only one. Millions of Americans, who haven’t a clue about soccer, who don’t know a single member of the US team, are gathering around and uniting to cheer for our US soccer team. Granted, there are a lot of Americans who know a lot about soccer, play soccer, and love soccer. And there are the rest of us, like me, who are watching because it is the World Cup. I would say that it is like the Olympics and that is why I am watching, but the Olympics has more variety than the World Cup. But for some inexplicable reason, I am completely sucked into this madness. Maybe it is because I now live in Germany and they are big soccer fans. But I think it is something bigger. It is one of the truly international sports. This is despite the US not being all that interested in soccer…or at least not as interested in other sports that virtually the rest of the world does not play. I’m sure there are parts of the world that don’t play soccer…Antarctica maybe? But for the most part this game is played around the world. I have been to some far-flung places, not-so-nice places, and absolutely beautiful places. I have been to Costa Rica, Brazil, Iraq, Afganistan, Malawi, The Gambia, Japan…and the one sport I saw played in all these countries was soccer…ok, football. This isn’t meant to put down other sports. My sister and her husband are doing amazing things in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea with cycling. Others are promoting running, tennis, rugby…and who doesn’t love the Jamaican bobsled team? But I think what makes soccer truly international is it’s simplicity. Yeah, I know there are rules. But you don’t need to know all the rules to watch or even to play. A bunch of kids in a dusty field with a handmade ball and makeshift goals can play the game. You can play it on a world class field in a major stadium or in your very own backyard. You can be rich or poor, short or tall, young or old…it probably does help to be fast. It is a sport where powerhouses like Spain, Italy, and England can go down in the first round. It is where Costa Rica can kick some serious ass! And Algeria can almost take out Germany…yes, I wanted Germany to win, but as an American a part of me was still cheering for the underdog. And even though we aren’t a true underdog in terms of resources, Americans and their overwhelming patriotic spirit will come together tonight to cheer for our “underdog” US soccer team against the Belgians. We may not have much of a chance in the eyes of the soccer world, but I have a feeling millions of Americans will be posting on Facebook and chanting “I BELIEVE! I BELIEVE WE WILL WIN!” http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/0z44gm/sport-report—team-usa-vs–the-group-of-death—hans-beinholtz-on-the-world-cup

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” -Charles Dickens

I am not a big Christmas person. In fact, most of the time I am working in the ER on Christmas. I say it is because I don’t have kids and want to give other physicians the chance to enjoy Christmas morning with their children. But in reality, it made things very simple for me…I had an excuse not to decorate or buy a zillion gifts. And as long as I was working it didn’t really seem that sad or lonely to me.

Well, this last year was a bit different. I wasn’t working and my family was coming to visit me. Luckily, this first Christmas back in the mainstream was occurring in Germany. I haven’t really participated in Christmas the last few years but everyone seemed to be complaining that it was getting more and more commercialized in the US. I think this is also happening in Germany but not to the same extent. Just imagine me trying to explain to my German fiancé the concept of Black Friday and that usually one or two Americans end up trampled to death by stampedes on their way to the latest flat screen TV on sale. I just can’t see that happening here. Germans are much too organized and would first have to get a stamped permit, then a license, then get in an organized line, and then they could trample each other (football games excluded). Not to mention, stores are closed not just on holidays but every Sunday. And yes, it does get crowded before the holidays, but in this annoyingly organized way…sometimes I miss a bit of the chaos.

In any case, my family has never fit the typical mode for Christmas. Well, maybe as children it was  typical but as we have all gotten older we have become more atypical. My sister lives in Rwanda with her husband. My parents who grew up in the most traditional of ways now live in Las Vegas with their friends from every ethnicity and sexual orientation while jetting around the world to Panama, Argentina, Europe… So I was somewhat surprised that we ended up all in Germany decorating a tree and wrapping presents. But we hate buying presents and spending money on useless things just to say we got something for the other person.

On top of that, it is very difficult to buy me a gift. When it comes to gift giving, I am my fiance’s worst nightmare. I know this and I do feel bad about it. Let’s just say, I do not have a poker face. I’m one of those impossible people who wants something unique, but not very expensive. You think this would be better…not wanting expensive things, but it isn’t. For instance, my fiancé bought me a necklace that wasn’t really my style and he could read it on my face right away. I’m sure my girlfriends who shop at Anthropologie have significant others who have no clue what we like in jewelry…it is understandable, isn’t it? I showed my fiancé the necklace my Anthropologie friend bought me.

“This is my style. Does that help?”, I said.

“Not at all”, my fiancé responded helplessly.

This is in no way to fault my fiancé. He is sweet and kind and generous. And I am ridiculous picky. But then he gave me another gift on Christmas Day. It was a coffee mug and I absolutely loved it. Every morning he makes me a cappuccino and every morning I now have it in this mug. It is the perfect gift. But how annoying is this for him? Really, a coffee mug over a beautiful necklace? Imagine him trying to buy me an engagement ring…oh, the agony for men trying to buy gifts for us non-traditional women.

So back to my family and gift-giving. We all agreed not to buy each other gifts because of the money spend on flights and places to stay. But my sister did bring some things from Rwanda and we did buy a few things. But I think the total spent was well under $100. What do you buy for someone who doesn’t want anything? Well, you buy them a gift for someone else. This is one thing Markus and I agreed on pretty early. We would donate to charities for each other and my family. My sister was easy since she works for the Rwandan national cycling team and can always use extra funds. I knew my money was going to the Rwandan riders and not to the wastelands of NGO administrative and fundraising costs.

For each other, Markus and I donated to a clinic in Liberia where I personally knew the individuals who ran the clinic. Again, I knew where my money was going and felt reassured it would be put to good use. But I have an advantage. I have family members and friends who are personally associated with NGOs. I now work in the public health field with limitless opportunities to donate to projects where I have significant knowledge of their activities. But we all here stories of how charities and NGOs waste so much money. What if you are not directly associated with this world? I think donating in someone’s name is a great gift for anyone, but you also want the money to go to some meaningful purpose.

First, I recommend finding something that is related to your interests or the interests for whom you are buying. Every field imaginable is out there: health, education, sanitation, construction, water, animals. A quick search on the internet will likely bring up several options. But how do you know if it is a good charity. I recommend going to www.charitynavigator.org. You can look up thousands of charities on this website and they will be rated based on where the money goes. How much of it actually goes to the individuals who need it? They also list the salaries of the CEOs of the organization which can give a lot of insight by itself. It’s also a place to find a charity if you don’t know where to start. They have top 10 lists and you can search charities my topic.

A really fun one to do for someone knew this type of gift-giving is Kiva (www.kiva.org). You can buy a gift card for someone who can then go online and choose someone for a loan. I have been doing this for years and have always received all my money back, which I then load to someone else. It gives a personal connection as you can choose to give to a farmer who wants to buy more fertilizer or a woman who wants to have a sewing machine to make clothes or numerous other ventures. Studies have shown that people are more likely to give if there is a connection to one person vs. trying to provide food for a billion hungry people (not to say that isn’t important).

Other efficiently run organizations that I like: Woman to Woman International and Mercy Corps.

And if you haven’t read “Half the Sky” I highly recommend it. They list a number of ways to help (specifically women) in the back of their book.

The two charities I gave to for Christmas were: Team Rwanda and Po River Medical Clinic

And one last word on Christmas. This was the best Christmas I have had in a long time. It was wonderful to spend it with family and I was really happy not to be working this time. I hope everyone had as wonderful a time as I did. 

“No one is usel…

Finding your one and only



This is something that most girls will understand. The search for your one and only, the person who makes you feel good inside and out, the person who can make magic with such small simple movements. Yes, I am speaking about your hairstylist.

When I finally made the decision to move to Germany, I was excited, elated, overjoyed…and then panic ensued. Packing, moving, applications, saying goodbye to friends can make the process overwhelming. But leaving a great hairstylist can be almost debilitating.

Now you may be one of those lucky ones with thick, beautiful hair that needs little management. The rest of the 99% have to cope with a myriad of hair disorders. My older brother and sister always say that I’m spoiled because I am the youngest. And although this is true, I have paid dearly for those advantages. You see, they have thick beautiful hair. I have a few paltry strands of fine blond hair that are completely straight except for the few that drift in unnatural directions from my forehead. 

And this is why I need a hairstylist extraordinaire- to work magic with minimal resources. I honestly am not that picky about the hairstyle per se. I have tried it all- long, short, spiky, bleached, red, highlighted.


I like to experiment, but I’m not very good at explaining exactly how that experiment should occur. My last hairstylist in DC was a magician, because he could read my mind. I’m one of those annoying people who come in and say they want something different and gives completely vague instructions. He could take that and come up with something cute, fun, sexy, and most importantly manageable. He just knew me.


That is why I was so heart-broken to break up over the distance. I would not be making it back to DC often enough and needed to move on to someone else. He warned me that I wouldn’t find anyone like him in Germany. I remained optimistic, but I didn’t realize until now how much I would miss him.

Finding a new hairstylist is like dating. You find a good one and you never want to leave. You search for a new hairstylist hoping that the first one you find will be the one instead of going on numerous blind dates with disastrous outcomes. Let me share with you my latest dating situation.

I live in a very small town, but we have a nationally known hairstylist who opened a salon here since he is from Ottweiler. I imagine, just like the US, that it is difficult and expensive to get an appointment with this award-winning hairstylist. So the salon suggested to pair me with someone who spoke some English. Good start!

The first time I went in there I showed her a picture of a new hair design. She cut my hair much like the picture, but something was all wrong. It made me look old and I was not happy with it.


She cut my hair in a way I have not seen in the US in a long time. Everything was straight across. Those with fine or short hair will realize the problem with this…everything will lie very flat. And that was the problem, I would have to tell her HOW to cut hair.  It wasn’t the little things like blowdry it, bangs vs. no-bangs, etc. It was the technique she used, which you can’t change.

I hadn’t officially moved to Germany, so I went back to my salon in DC and my hair was super short but so much better. It fit my face and I barely had said a word. I just had to go back one last time, but that made the process of getting over my last hairstylist so much harder.


I have gone back to the same German hairstylist 2 more times trying to give more direction. The last time she cut my bangs straight across leaving them to wander aimlessly to the side of my head with no direction or purpose. Either it works or it doesn’t- and this isn’t going to work. She is super nice and I really like her as a person- it isn’t her, it’s me. I have decided to move on. I’ve only seen her a few times, so I don’t need to give any explanation-the typical advoidance policy should work. I thought about scheduling an appointment with the owner of the salon. But like someone you have dated a few times, you really don’t want to run into that person again…AWKWARD!! Especially when you are accompanied by a new haircut.

Now I am in the process of finding another hairstylist in Germany. I am a little distressed, because my fellow International students have had little luck with the dating pool here. But when you are least expecting it, you stumble upon the person right for you. But til then it will be headbands again. Wish me luck!