Monday, January 26, 2015

Duty Station Diaries: Defense Language Institute

Duty Station Diaries

Today we're pleased to have Brittney from The Military Wife Life joining us for Duty Station Diaries.

Brittney is a Marine wife and college student who loves Jesus, writing, and all forms of art. She considers herself an amateur photographer as well as an amateur wife, and her favorite pastime is cuddling with her husband and their sweet kitten. Her blog, The Military Wife Life, features everything from her adventures as a military wife to DIY's, recipes, freebies, giveaways, and more.

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What is the name of your duty station?
Defense Language Institute

Where is it located?
Monterey, California, USA

How long have you been there?
About 6 months

Any tips for incoming military members?
The touristy things in this area can get expensive, so always watch out for coupons and deals (and don’t forget to use those military discounts, either!).

Say you’re hosting an out of town guest and you only have time to take them to three places or do three things. Where do you take them?
I would take them for a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf, then shopping in Carmel, and then I would drive them down Highway 1 to Big Sur (which is probably the most gorgeous drive in the world!).

Fisherman's Wharf

Have you checked out any local festivals or events?
Yes! The Monterey Jazz Festival is an absolute MUST if you ever get to live here.

Where are your favorite places to eat/drink?
Yama Sushi has the best deals in town on good sushi (plus military discounts!), but Crystal Fish has the best sushi (although it’s a bit pricier). Pizza My Heart is probably the best pizza joint in town and R G Burgers is the best burger joint for sure. Also, here’s a small secret… Café Trieste in Downtown Monterey has the world’s BEST cup of coffee, despite what Buddy the Elf thinks.

Café Triesta

Are there any local foods/drinks/anything that you love?
The different clam chowders each restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf offers are all phenomenal! The sea food here is always great.

so much awesome food

What’s your favorite thing about your station/city/surrounding area?
Everything! This entire area is gorgeous and there’s so much to do. They even have sea lions! We’re really close to San Francisco and some gorgeous state parks, too, so we love to camp around this area on the weekends.

Anything else you want to talk about?
There’s also a Naval Base (Naval Postgraduate School) in Monterey, so this area is very military-friendly. However, the military housing (at least for the DLI) is at Fort Ord, which is a 10 to 15 minute drive from base. I know, it’s a little strange. Also, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful aquarium (they claim to be world-famous, and I believe it), but it’s pretty expensive. Every December they let local residents and military in for free for about 2 weeks, so wait until deals like this pop up before visiting. It’s definitely an awesome aquarium, but I’m not sure it’s actually worth the admission price. I guess that’s just a matter of opinion, though :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Yes, Germany is Amazing, but You Need to Know THIS About Winter Here

As a relatively fresh military spouse, I was pretty naive about our first duty station here in Germany.

I thought it was an absolute fairy tale, a dream come true! How amazing to be able to LIVE somewhere I never even thought I'd VISIT!

Hellooooooo Europe!

Arriving in the KMC in the April meant that we experienced spring in all its glory. And boy is it glorious! So many colors! So much green!

We were so excited to start traveling. We met some great friends. We drank fantastic German beer and ate pretzels like it was our job. We went to festivals and bakeries and fresh markets and cool stores. We lived on the economy and we enjoyed our perfect little German village to the fullest - walking to restaurants and shops, hiking in the local walking paths.

But then we learned about German winters.

Winter in Germany is something no other military spouses had warned me about! They had nothing but good things to say about their time in Germany. (And honestly, even if we'd have known, I wouldn't go back and change it!)

But I just wanted to let you know, if you're going to get stationed here, that it's not all beer and pretzels and neon yellow rapeseed fields.

You might be like me, originally from the Northeast and pretty arrogant when it comes to winter weather. "Pssssht I'm a hardy upstate New Yorker, I ain't scared of winter weather!"

But trust me when I say this is different.

The only thing I've heard is similar to this weather Stateside is Seattle. Which I've never experienced. People in Alaska will also relate, but they get a lot more snow.

Here in Germany, we get a lot of rain. And a lot of grey sky. It looks like this most of the time...

And when I say most of the time, I mean most of the time! It is cloudy for weeks on end. The sun sets at 4:30pm at the height of winter. And it rains. It rains a lot.

So this is just a warning to you if you're PSCing to Germany.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just trying to be honest with you! I wish I had been a bit more prepared and educated about seasonal depression when I got here.

You might need to research light therapy. You might need to force yourself to get out of the house more. Or to exercise more. You will definitely need to find a tribe and stay connected with your community. You might need to plan a vacation in the winter to lift your spirits. And you might need to be open and honest with your PCM about depression medications. Just be prepared for all possibilities!

And remember that seasonal depression can sometimes be a snowball effect. I didn't really struggle with the winter blues until our second and third winter here. Now that we're midway through our fourth, I've finally learned my lesson and am taking better care of yourself.

As a military spouse, you are a part of the team.

If you aren't healthy and strong, you can't help support your active duty member! You can't be the parent your children need. The friend who is there to encourage other spouses.

If you're interested in hearing more of my experiences here, pull up a hot cuppa and read my full series on seasonal depression over at There & Back Again. I've got 30 tips to think outside the box and beat the winter blues for good!

I wish you a very happy winter, wherever the military has you!

If this post was helpful, please share it with a military spouse you know. Especially one who might be PCSing to Germany. Please help me spread the word and educate people on the tougher realities of this duty station!