Apologies for being gone for so long. Miss me? J and I moved last month and the best word to describe the entire ordeal is brutal. Moving just sucks. I've counted up the number of moves in my lifetime and it's 22 (might be more). Seems high, but maybe it's average. Military families are higher, I'm sure. I guess the older you get the less time you want do deal with the crap involved in moving, and there is so much planning, and packing, and cleaning.
The biggest move I experienced was the one to Germany (the move back was a tie). We spent five years there and we moved twice in that time as well. Initially, we hit Grafenwoehr for a year and a half, then Hanau for a year, and finally Ramstein to round out the five. Each community was bigger than the last and we moved east to west across Germany. Grafenwoehr is in the heart of Bavaria, which is full of the kindest, friendliest people in the country. You're greeted everywhere with a smile and a "Gruss Gott" (God Bless). The wonderful thing about Ramstein was we were about 40 minutes away from the French border and 30 minutes away from Frankfurt. The Air Force base was like little America, with all the amenities of feeling close to home as possible. And Hanau? I don't have a nice thing to say about that area at all (mean, mean, mean -- imagine living in a rattlesnake den and your neighbors are the pit vipers, across the street live the asps, and black mambas drop from the trees).
We lived on the economy (in the local town) which allowed us to interact with and enjoy German culture. In the entire five years I only had one bad meal in a local restaurant. It was a small gasthaus in the middle of nowhere, and the bratwurst I had seemed like they had rolled it around in the dirt out back before placing it on my plate (I don't know why I'm pointing out the one bad meal, other than the fact to illustrate that every other meal was delightful). There was a Greek restaurant that had outstanding food, every meal finished off with a shot of ouzo.
I have some amazing memories from living abroad: Bronte started school there, Remi was born at the Landstuhl Army medical center. We traveled to Paris, Berlin, Nuremberg, Neuschwanstein, Czechoslovakia, Amsterdam, Cologne, Heidelberg, Rothenberg, and many other little towns (basically, if there was a castle there or a fest we visited it). In Ramstein, we lived below the ruins of a small castle called Nanstein. We could hike up the hill behind our house to the plateau where the footprint and dilapidated structures still stand.
It's been nearly twenty years since we moved back; sometimes I miss living there, but I really hated being away from family. I'd love to visit again, though.