Tuesday, April 20, 2010

White Noise and Ash Clouds

If you have ever served in Frankfurt, read some older entries on this blog, or perused the Real Post Report on Talesmag then you know the housing in Frankfurt leaves much to be desired. It is basically old military barracks that have been made over for the FS. Charming they are not. Some genius put all large families on the top floors. Seriously! All four, five and six bedroom apartments are two story apartments on the third and fourth floors. We get to drag strollers, groceries, kids, toys, and garbage up and down three and half flights of stairs every day. The people downstairs get to listen to our kids bounce around on the floor because ever little sound is transmitted very clearly to the apartment downstairs. Makes us pretty popular as you can imagine.

Additionally we have no air conditioners. Yes, I know that it isn't that hot here, but trust me by mid-May my kids will be sleeping on the floor downstairs because the attic rooms will be too hot for sleeping. Once it gets into the mid 70's it is usually 10+ degrees hotter up there than it is outside or downstairs. No A/C also means no air filtering. People with allergies should really consider bringing a freestanding air filter if they are serving here. You would not believe how many trees and plants here bloom. It's gorgeous, Achoooo!

For us the big thing about no A/C is the lack of white noise. You just don't think about it until it is gone, but that steady drone of noise drowns out a lot of little noises that keep you awake at night. Noises like the baby downstairs that wakes up every freaking morning at 3:45. I will say this, that kids has some healthy lungs, very healthy. We have been looking at white noise machines online. It seems like the ones with decent reviews are very expensive, especially since we haven't much time left. We haven't slept through the night since returning from England. The kid is seriously cute and his parents are lovely, never complaining about the noise my kids make, but 3:45 A.M. Every. Single. Night.

Yesterday I had an amazing thought: "Wonder if there is an app for that?" Guess what there totally is! We downloaded a free white noise app to Dave's ipod touch, stuck it in my speaker dock, and fell asleep to the gentle chirping of crickets. We slept until the alarm went off at 6 this morning. HEAVENLY! Don't like crickets? Try rain, thunderstorm, oscillating fan, or beach waves. If you want to spend a little you could buy the full version that has 40 different sounds to choose from, it is a whopping $1.99. Sorry Brookstone but I will be keeping all that money for a spa day.

On to the ash cloud, yesterday Kolbi commented:
"I can't imagine this thing immobilizing an entire school! But I guess it totally could. That is crazy!"
Think again, it hasn't just immobilized a school, it has immobilized an entire continent. The British have deployed some of their largest navy ships to the channel to help the ferries move people back and forth across the channel. This hit right during many children's Easter break so families had traveled all over Europe for holiday and then just as it was time to travel home the volcano erupts, people are stranded all over the place by the thousands. The trains can't even begin to make up the difference. Here in the consulate community the mail fairy has had her wings clipped. Our mail arrives by air and there are no planes flying, no planes, no mail, no amazon orders, "Sniff, sob!" Think about all the freight that moves by air. None of that is happening, nothing, zip, nada. The economic impact of this is going to be huge, because of that they are opening some flights today even though the volcano is still erupting and there is a new ash plume which will likely shut down air traffic again as it moves south. The hope is just to move some people and cargo before that happens.

Cody asked last night what the big deal is, it's just ash. Volcanic ash is not at all the same as the ash from your fireplace. It isn't a soft fine powder of burnt wood, it is microscopically fragmented rock. Think of a pumice stone like you use on your heels. That is a volcanic rock. Now grind it down to powder. Now feed a bunch of that powder that through a jet engine. Do you want to be on that plane? Me either. The pilots either. Unless that volcano stops erupting soon things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.


Bryn said...

I would totally have the thunderstorms as my white noise!! I've heard the housing in frankfurt allows you to hear "EVERYTHING". I feel for you!!

Shannon said...

EVERYTHING, there is no privacy at all. We are out of here July 2nd. YAY! Now if someone would just turn off that volcano between now and then.

Bfiles said...

The volcano thing is really mind-boggling. The NYT had an article today on Kenyan farms that can't export their produce to Europe so they are destroying much of it. They won't give it away if it has their name on the packaging. And millions are starving in Africa. It's appalling. Hope everything gets moving soon.

Shannon said...

I just don't understand the mentality that would have you destroy something rather than allow others to get some good out of it.

Connie said...

I understand the need for a bit of noise. I don't usually like it, but after leaving Cairo, it took me awhile to get used to the US. It was very quiet. Too quiet. And our upstairs neighbor worked odd shifts.. sigh. At least it helped us adapt and we were ready for Amman, it's peaceful here!
btw - I never understood the issue with volcanic ash either, until (long ago) I saw a jar of it my husband collected from the Mt St. Helens eruption. The ash is like liquid. It flows in the jar like fluffy mercury. I wouldn't want to fly through that either.

Anonymous said...

James and I use white noise machines at night - I've used one ever since childhood. I literally can't sleep without it at night, and now neither has he... and he's on a business trip.... and forgot to take one with him... Oops!

But I just bought whatever they sell at Bed, Bath & Beyond and they're fine. We've never gotten anything fancy. But I love the idea of the app! That's cool... we don't have an ipod touch, so we wouldn't have that option. Those are only for wicked-cool people... which, of course, Dave is. :)