Wednesday, February 22, 2006

plagues, pandemics and PISA

A few things bothering me today. Read on to find out what the fuss is all about.

There are no rats in my ratatouille, but there may be some in my garbage any day now.

You see, the garbage collectors in our state are on strike, as are hospital workers, school janitors, kindergarten (pre-school) teachers and various other union workers. We haven't had our garbage picked up since February 10 and it's starting to get nasty.

Of course we're keeping our garbage bagged up and inside the house, but other non-law-abiding citizens are unloading it wherever they please, either leaving it in remote areas, or in front of the gates of the closed recycling centres. It's piling up at at alarming rate. Nice. They say if it goes on we could soon be facing a rat plague. There are already and estimated 500,000 rats in the Hannover area, and many more are going to be attracted by all this rubbish lying around. Apartment blocks usually have large communal garbage containers (which are now overflowing anyway) however out in the suburbs there are no garbage cans - we are required to use special plastic trash bags that are set out onto the street on garbage day. You can imagine how easy they are to rip open. The rats are going to have a heyday.

And what do rats do best besides eat yummy garbage? They carry diseases. And what disease is going around at the moment in Germany? Bird flu. Can rats get bird flu? No one knows, but it's entirely possible. They may not die from it, but they may be carriers. Ugh.

On the European front, bird flu has now reached Italy, Greece, France, Austria and Germany and in the past week the H5N1 virus was found to be the cause of death in over one hundred migratory birds on the island of Rügen in northeastern Germany. As spring nears, more and more birds will be on the move, posing a huge threat to German poultry farmers who have been ordered to lock up their livestock to prevent them from being infected. If the virus is not kept under control, things could get interesting.

I am trying not to worry. Yet.

And last but not least, here's a link to the findings of the UN envoy Vernor Muñoz who just finished up a 10-day tour of German schools to check on the state of the German school system and to determine whether human rights are being violated. I've already mentioned Germany's poor showing in the PISA study, and Muñoz was sent in to analyze the situation and makes suggestions as to what needs to be changed and at what level in order to bring German schools up to scratch.

US Envoy Critical of German School System

I can't quite believe that they needed a UN envoy to figure this one out. Why didn't they just ask the parents?

OK, my rant is over. I am actually feeling sort of human these days after two weeks on my new thyroid dosage. I have (a bit) more energy (worked out twice this week!), the dark cloud over my head has lifted somewhat, I no longer have the urge to stuff my face all day AND I lost 4 lbs! Woohoo! Go me. You know how Madonna re-invents herself every few years? I think I'm going to try that. Look for the new improved me...


At February 22, 2006 4:32 p.m., Anonymous lydia said...

Are you going toto dance around in a pink leotard like Madonna too?
I don't think rats can get bird flu can they? and even if they did it would still have to make the jump to transmit to humans. I think we are safe fot the moment.

At February 22, 2006 4:44 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Lydia - There may be a bit of dancing involved but NO pink leotards, no Kabbal and no posh English manor with horses and chickens.:-)

I haven't heard anything concrete on the rats but if humans can get it from birds, rats I(and cats) probably could too. We'll see. I'll just be going about my daily business not worrying all that much.

At February 22, 2006 5:55 p.m., Blogger Lisa said...

Cool! Gratz on the good health. Will there be a haircut involved in the new you? Possibly a bald-ish one? We could start a new expat bald blogger club. :D

At February 22, 2006 8:59 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Thanks, Lisa! I wouldn't call it good health quite yet, but it's getting there.

And I'm afraid I'll have to pass on the shaved head. :-)

At February 22, 2006 9:02 p.m., Blogger Ms Mac said...

Quick! Someone call in the Pied Piper!

At February 22, 2006 9:52 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

Hey at least you don't have them living in your walls! And you don't have them figuring out every possible trap on earth only left to give them rat poison. So who knows where they are now. We are all waiting for them to be at our feet one morning!

What we need is a new cat so they can catch them from the stream and scare them away. All I can say for now is I'm glad I now have a new second home!

At February 22, 2006 9:53 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

p.s. - I do hope things turn around for the better soon though!

At February 22, 2006 10:20 p.m., Blogger Dixie said...

Don't even get me started on that strike. It's not causing problems where I live but ver.di hacks me off all the same.

I saw on the news the UN envoy talking about the school thing and had to agree with him as well. Something needs to be done pronto.

Glad you're feeling better and your medication is working well.

At February 23, 2006 12:22 a.m., Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

Where's that Pied Piper hiding then? Don't forget to cut one of your hubby's tie in half one of these days, okay? (is that today??)

At February 23, 2006 1:28 a.m., Blogger Cathy said...

On a totally unrelated topic; there is a Canadian au pair missing in Germany; have you haerd any news at all about this? It is front page here because she is from our city (and her brother is my nephews' best friend!)

At February 23, 2006 1:38 a.m., Blogger Nyana said...

Yucky! I feel the garbage pain. Most union workers in Canada (Ontario) go on strike at the most inconvenient of times. 4 years ago, garbage collectors went on strike in summer, when the temperature was around 35 degrees celcius, which felt 40 with 95% humidity. After a week, they started to throw disinfectant powder on all the garbage lying around. We literally couldn't walk on the street cuz the smell instantly brought our insides out.
Essential services as such should definitely be regulated under a different set of rules - that includes schools as well!

At February 23, 2006 1:54 a.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

Rats in Hannover! OH NO! Donica is there right now. I'll have to ask her about the garbage situation.

So glad you're getting a new lease on life (or is that leash? The Muppets messed me up for life on that one!).

At February 23, 2006 7:28 a.m., Blogger Karen said...

I've read about the garbage strikes on the news - quite a nasty thing. Sorry to hear your affected.

Regarding HN51 - am worried too. Very worried.

At February 23, 2006 9:11 a.m., Blogger Haddock said...

Glad to hear the meds are kicking in. No probs with our rubbish in Hessen as yet. No stikes so far. I hate rats. Used to see a lot in London.

At February 23, 2006 10:46 a.m., Blogger christina said...

Expat - but we might have them living in our walls soon if it keeps up! :-) A new cat sounds like a great idea. I think rats are too smart for rat poison.

Dixie - a lot of people are really pissed off at the moment. They say 52% of the general public are behind them, but I highly doubt that. And it's not just the garbage - people in hospitals are having important operations postponed. That's just not right.

Elemm - is it Weiberfastnacht already??? Oh, I just looked and it is! Luckily we don't really do that up here so I think Mr. M is safe.

Cathy - Oh my goodness, I haven't heard about that yet. We only usually hear about missing Germans. I'll certainly keep my ears open.

Nyana - summer would be MUCH worse - that must have been awful for you and so unhygeinic. Yuk.

Ginnie - They keep showing pictures of garbage everywhere - not very pleasant. Some apartment dwellers say their big garbage containers aren't full yet, so Donica may not be having that bad a of a time.

Yes, my new lease/leash on life is going to be very spiffy! I think I may stick some rhinestones on to it. :-)

Karen - I really do think this virus is something to be worried about. No panic, just worry. If worst comes to worst, Lower Saxony says it has vaccinations for (only!) 6% of the state's population. Great.

Haddock - I have no idea when the strike is supposed to be over. They say they might continue right on into the CeBIT Messe in March and totally mess things up.

Haven't seen any rats yet, but I know they're there! :-o

At February 23, 2006 1:31 p.m., Anonymous wendi said...

Yikes. hope the sanitation problem gets resolved very soon.

At February 23, 2006 8:50 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Thanks Wendi! I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. No garbage pick-up tomorrow either and for who knows how long.

At February 23, 2006 9:05 p.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

That's really bad news about the strike. Read about it too. The bird flu is worriying us too, especially because of Dale (our cat) he doesn't actually catch birds (too old and lazy), but if one were lying around, he's probably go for a lick. We're thinking of keeping hime indoors until the pied piper comes by.

At February 23, 2006 9:33 p.m., Blogger christina said...

canadianswiss - Yes, I'd be sort of worried about cats as well becuase you never know what they're going to get into when they're running around and no one knows yet just how contageous the virus is.

At February 24, 2006 3:24 a.m., Blogger Cathy said...

It is still front page news hee; the parents have gone over to search and it is in a town called Hamm...

At February 24, 2006 9:33 a.m., Blogger christina said...

Cathy - still haven't heard anything. So many children and teens go missing here every day so you don't hear about all of them. Very strange for an au pair to disappear though. I do hope they find her.

At February 24, 2006 2:22 p.m., Blogger Cathy said...

SO many??? That's distressing to hear.
The girl had been paddliing in a canal with several other people. There is talk that she had been abducted when she stopped at the bank to rest, but most people fear that her boat simply over-turned and she has drowned. It is so so sad. I have been trying to find a local German newspaper URL to read about it from the German perspective.

At February 26, 2006 4:50 a.m., Blogger Crystal said...

Madonna is looking VERY good these days but the leotards are definitely too TOO, there's no need to show-off that hard.

Rats freak me out, thank god I've never had to deal with that, but I did once have a mice problem and it was a nightmare to deal with. I have only a household of 2 but we accrue at least 2-3 big bags of trash each week, so it would be a disaster to have no collections for going on 3wks.

I'm happy that someone with authority is looking into that school system, the kids deserve a fair shake and the current system just doesn't strike me as being equitable either.

At March 06, 2006 11:34 a.m., Anonymous Sally said...

I hope the Hannover trash collectors end their strike soon. Hamburg caved in sometime last week and we FINALLY had our trash collected this morning. Luckily our building had quite a few huge bins that took care of two weeks of trash. Sometime last week we were not allowed to use our Müllschlucker and had to horde our trash on the balcony where it collected snow and rain. Oh well. Now it's gone! FINALLY!


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