Randy and Katy Smelser

Americans living in Germany but citizens of heaven

In the Corona Era - Daily Life

My first vaccine

Big news…I (Randy) got my first Covid shot. It came about because pregnant women, our co-worker Amanda, can get two people on the high priority list for a vaccination. It was a new thing in March and no one (doctors, health office, etc) really knew what to do. Katy found information online and got me signed up. After a week I was sent an appointment for two weeks later. So after three weeks from the time I signed in as “high priority,” I was in. Liam was born two weeks early and the appointment was already 4 days after the due date so I was not sure if I would actually get the shot. But they did not even look at paper. The idea of this program was so that I can help with driving her to the doctor or take care of the other kids. She asked the neighbor and either Katy or I. We talked about it and decided that I should get it first, for various reasons. My second shot is for 28 May. They are opening the list for group three (over 60 year-olds) on 26 April. Katy is going to try to stay up and get on the list as soon as it opens.


Our county is still with high Corona numbers but we were only number one in the state for one day. Whereas many places in Germany have seen a small opening in the Lockdown, our Lockdown remains in place with a curfew added. From 9 pm to 5 am we are to be at home. The government asked that the churches all close for Easter. Most in our county were not open for “presence” church and only had something on-line. We did have church following our “hygiene” concept approved by the county. The over 60 year-olds are up for the vaccine starting mid-June. So we still have a long way to go.

Lockdown Explained…We have noticed that many people do not understand what the lockdown since December (and partially November) means. Here is how we are living: The schools have reopened only for grades 1-4 and for those who are to graduate (grades 9, 10 or 13 depending on the school). Each class is divided into two and half come one day and half the next. All other children have been homeschooling. Our English classes have been put off again. Peine has had a curfew from 9pm to 5am. All theatre, cinemas, zoos, museums are closed in our area. The stores are all closed except gas stations, grocery and drug stores. After about 3 months the hairdressers and garden shops are open again. All other stores can only be ordered from and many offer pick up at the door. We have to wear masks while in parking lots and always indoors in any public place. Many churches have been closed even though the courts said that we have a right to hold church services. We had to jump through hoops to get a permit to meet and we are allowed only 16 people in our building (including two week old Liam). All restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, and hotels are closed (take out is allowed). Only businessmen can stay at hotels. We can only have one person over (household + 1) whether inside or outside (including walks and bike rides). Even with all this for over 3 months the numbers are going up in Peine. The county directly to the south of Peine is much worse. It is like the prohibition when there were “Speak-Easies”, secret parties keep getting busted. This is basically what God has tried to teach humans through the law: law doesn’t work, we need a change of heart. People find ways to ignore or go around the laws and thus the numbers keep climbing. Please pray for our endurance.


We have no hope for the vaccine anytime soon. By the end of this month, they are hoping to have all the over 80 year-olds done, group #1. Next week people over 70 will start getting letters saying they can make an appointment (if the webpage does not crash and someone answers the phone at the central call center). Today they promised that the amount of vaccines will go up dramatically starting in April. I don’t mean to sound negative/cynical but we heard that in December about January and January about March, so I am taking the wait and see attitude. Last week in one day the USA vaccinated more people than Germany has done since the start of vaccinations.

January 2021

January 2021: We went to bed before midnight. There were very few fireworks this year because of laws against buying them and shooting them off on streets or public places. Katy did wake up because of some and went to the window to see the few that were being sent up. I slept and the New Year came anyway. We are hoping for the best in 2021.


December: Advent Season in Germany is quite quiet this year with the Corona lock down “light.” There are no Christmas Markets and people are avoiding the City Center pedestrian zone where you have to wear a mask even outside. The Germans have always told me that the Christmas Season was a contemplative and subdued time. This may have been years ago but it has grown into a busied and hurried time – until Corona! We are back to more evenings with tea and candles

IMG_6464A lot of cancellations this year. We did not have our Advent Open House and the English Carol Service for the city of Peine has been cancelled. We cannot have Christmas parties in our English classes. We had the grandkids (the Knapp family) over for Christmas Eve supper and lighting the Christmas tree - using real candles.


November: Thanksgiving was a bit different this year. We were only allowed to be with one other couple. Friends (ex-co-workers) came over from Cologne for a long weekend and we celebrated together.
We made several dishes and traded for other dishes from the Knapps who were celebrating alone as a family. So we got all the trappings but did not have to do all the work.
It was not same as being with 25 people but still very enjoyable and giving thanks was the main dish. We were very thankful for the visitors and the meal and God's protection through the year.


September: One last bike trip with our. We went about 90 minutes away and road up the Elbe River bike trial, 26 Km up and 26 Km back (over 30 miles total). We met two different Dutch couples riding the entire length of the Elbe. One couple had started at the North Sea and was going upstream to the Czech Republic while the other couple was doing the route in the other direction.


August: Technology, you can’t live without it and you can’t live with it. A warning light in the car came on. So we got home from vacation using back roads and not the freeway. Then two days later I washed the car before taking into the garage. The light went off and they found nothing wrong. But then 2 weeks later on the way back from Cologne the car started wheezing. We pulled off at an exit and the car died but started again and was fine so we went on our merry way. A couple of exits further it started again but even worse. Just one kilometre (less than a mile) ahead was a rest stop with toilets. After a 4 hour wait at the rest area in 30°C + (90°F+) sunshine with no shade (fortunately we had lots of water with us), we were loaded up and carried 2 hours home by the German AAA. It was the same problem as last year when we got stranded in Slovenia. Last year it was #1 injector, this time #4. We had the other two also replaced.

Biking has been a great past time with Corona. I was able to go on a couple of 20-25 Km (12-15 miles) bike rides with our Syrian "Grandson". He loved it and we saw many new things for him: a canal with boats, deer and hawks. With money I had been saving we got a hitch put on the car and bought a used bike carrier. We made our first trip up to ride through the Heath. The heather was in bloom and the weather was passible. This was besides all the other trips we made around the county this summer, over 600 Km (400 miles) total.
Click on the picture for more summer biking pictures.


July: For Katy’s birthday she had a woman’s brunch for 10 ladies who usually come to the church’s women’s breakfast. The idea came when Sibylle asked if there was going to be a breakfast this month and was disappointed when told no. She said she could come on the 18th if the church decided to have one. Katy’s birthday is on the 18th so she thought she could have the brunch – not an official church function. We are allowed to have 10 guests in back yards now. Most of the 10 replied that they would come within minutes of the invitations going out.


June: The biggest emotional strain at the moment is the situation with Katy’s dad. A couple of weeks ago he started falling and was moved from their independent living to rehab in the nursing home wing of the same building but because of Corona, Harriet could not visit him. Then after some physical therapy they said that he would need to stay in the nursing home wing. A couple of days ago his kidneys had stopped working (already weak) and two days ago he was put in the hospital for IV fluids. Once in the hospital Harriet could visit him again. Katy’s brother and wife drove down yesterday and today they called to say that Bob had gone into a coma and would remain in hospice at the hospital. He then died a couple of days later with Katy's mother and brother there. He was just a few days short of his 90th birthday. What a great gift to go home to be with God the father.


May: No annual softball game on Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension of Christ).


April: We are both healthy and safe, along with the extended family. We also are trying to take a walk or ride bikes to keep us fit.
Katy just brought home a package of toilet paper so we are all set. We are rich – toilet paper is the new gold, where people run to for security. And that Katy has already offered some to others who have not been able to find any. My Precious!

End of April: I gave blood. They were not expecting the big response to the blood drive and ran out of bags and had to turn people away – after me. I think for many it might have been excuse to get out and be with people from our part of town even with social distancing. I waited for about 30 minutes just to get in the door. The waiting was good – in the sunshine and an ex-student of Katy (I also had tutored her son) was there and we talked. Outside we could talk without mask but once inside the building talking was made difficult with mask. I hope I do not have to preach with one on.


March: The Corona Virus has reached Germany with a furry. Yesterday all the schools were closed and today all non-essential stores and places where people meet, the gym, play-grounds, pubs etc. Restaurants and cafés are allowed to be opened from 6 AM to 6 PM but for how long? It is forbidden for churches to have services. We can take walks and ride the bike but not in groups. Right now the sky is blue and it nice to be outside working in the backyard or taking walks and rides with Katy.

Katy had been saving Christmas money and birthday money for a couple of years and got herself an e-bike. She ordered it in January and 3 days before the lockdown she picked it up. She has to be peddling or the electric does not help and it shuts off if she goes over 25 Km (15 mph).