November in Germany

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We took it really easy this month and just took a short day trip to Leipzig one day. Otherwise we stayed close to home and continued to explore this little city of ours. Luckily a month without adventure is a month of great progress on a dissertation! This is a few photos from the month of November if you’d like to see.

IMG_0241Giebichenstein Castle is unfortunately closed for the winter so we just walked around the outside. It is beautifully perched on the top of the riverbank and the garden surrounding was stunning. Definitely a place to visit again in the summer with some visitors!

IMG_0203DSC02103IMG_0208 DSC02117 DSC02119We had to get 18 month vaccines for James this month. It was such a different experience than in America. For vaccines here in Germany you have to get a prescription from the doctor, get it filled at a pharmacy and then pickup the syringe from the pharmacy and take it to your doctor. They also had to completely change the injection because it had a bunch of other stuff in it that we didn’t need/want. At the office they had no concern at all for patient privacy. We were in two different exam rooms and both of them had computers open with patient’s full names, ages, addresses…it was such a strange feeling to be able to see it all. Especially because HIPPA is drilled into me so seriously as a healthcare worker. They don’t do well-baby exams outside of 12 and 24 months (which also felt bizzare). They only weighed him because we asked but no height and no questions to us about development. I swear I believed he was over 30 lbs but apparently he’s only 12.5 kg (27.5 lb).

IMG_9325 IMG_0169We found precooked and cut beets! A little comfort I am happy to pay for in exchange for a some extra nutrients. And he likes them! Don’t judge: We remove all clothes for meals because he refuses to wear a bib and we have coin laundry.

IMG_9097These two. They have more fun together than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m a lucky girl to witness their bond.

IMG_9142IMG_9144He looks like such a big kid to me in the picture!

IMG_9150He couldn’t do that when we moved here three months ago. The development they go through is crazy!

IMG_9159The closest we’ll get to a Christmas card I’m afraid.

IMG_9169IMG_9170What could be more fun than running around naked while wearing your mother’s earmuffs and making funny faces at yourself in the mirror?

IMG_9182I have nothing. He’s huge.

IMG_9229IMG_9286IMG_9288The first time building a fort at home was a major success — until it wasn’t. Ha.

IMG_0284 IMG_0290This is a Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas Market. They are one of the truly magical things about Germany and we plan to visit a couple of the most extravagant ones in other cities throughout December. I’ll post more about them then! Since they don’t have Thanksgiving to look forward to, Christmas celebration starts early and no one seems to mind. I love it!

IMG_0310IMG_9314Our first time trying roasted chestnuts. Have you ever had them? I was expecting something more but maybe my standards were too high. Kind of like when you try Turkish Delight for the first time. Good…but you were expecting magic!

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IMG_0371Lazy fall days.

DSC02073DSC02079I randomly found this wall on a walk one day. It looks like a lot of dates but otherwise I can’t tell what it is. Any guesses?

DSC02084Gosh, he loves riding the tram.

DSC02095A small memorial on the steps of the Rathaus (City Hall) for the Paris tragedy. I didn’t take pictures but there is a French flag hanging on an apartment building on our street now and Mark noticed a condolence book in the University library too. I was surprised to see this for some reason. It was really heart warming to find.

IMG_9259On Thanksgiving we hosted 14 people from South Africa, Brazil, France, Russia, and Japan for a simple little dinner. We were glad to give people a glimpse into a great US tradition and also what better way to make some new friends :) Hope we did you proud America! Can you believe we found a turkey?! We also made stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey chili, roasted vegetables. We couldn’t find pumpkin puree but a couple days later we found some pumpkins, made the puree from scratch and boy was it delicious. I’m just sorry we didn’t get a chance to share it with those who have never had any! You can see my very humble attempt at decorating the table since we try very hard not to buy extras like those while we’re here. Sticks and leaves from the yard plus some fruit and candles were all I could manage (free or edible!).

DSC02145DSC02148DSC02154We forgot to take a family picture (or really any of the night at all) so I took this on the way up to our apartment to put James to bed. Better than nothing!

DSC02162We took a short trip to Leipzig a couple weeks ago. We both LOVED it and can’t wait to go back. For being so close, Halle and Leipzig feel worlds apart. Leipzig feels much more cosmopolitan, much more worldly. Halle feels small and of the people. They’re just so very different.

IMG_9377 DSC01947DSC01933Thomaskirche is where Bach was choir director for over 25 years and their Boy’s Choir is world famous! I can’t wait to go during a service and experience all the beauty.

DSC01968DSC01971DSC01973DSC01977DSC01981DSC01983DSC01993DSC02007An embarrassing little story for the books: I went into this restaurant bathroom to change James’ diaper…And got locked inside for a good 15 minutes. The key was one of those old skeleton keys and when I went to unlock it just spun and spun. I tried all the ways and nothing worked! Mark was walking by the bathroom, heard me pounding and went to get help, having no idea it was us in there. James was screaming “stuck stuck stuck!” and wouldn’t be put down while I tried everything I could think of to move the key. I was really worried we were going to be in there for hours. They were yelling to me to try different things in German and Mark was trying to translate through James’ noises. Somehow he also thought to snap this picture of five of the waiters working on getting us out. I was imagining being stuck in the bathroom overnight, without food and a hungry/tired toddler. We’re so lucky they finally got us out! I’ll never forget how relieved and ridiculous I felt. It’s a good story now I guess :) But boy, it wasn’t at the time…

IMG_9354We are hoping to visit some of the best German Christmas Markets in December, celebrate Christmas somewhere else (maybe Dresden?) while Mark continues his steady progress and then off to the Swiss Alps in January. Where to after that? We have so many ideas! Suggestions for us?

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A German Halloween & Reformationstag

Note: It feels wrong to write this post on our untouched, joyful lives with so much sadness and pain elsewhere in the world. I know the suffering is not new with the recent attacks on Paris and people in many parts of the world have been struggling long before last weekend. I also know that it does nothing productive to dwell in the sadness. We have to be present in our lives while we’re here and the best thing we can do is spread love, serve our neighbors and raise children with the hope to make this world a better place. I am inspired to do more. If nothing else, I hope this blog makes our love one’s smile seeing our happy adventures captured in time.

DSC01463DSC01466DSC01473I absolutely LOVE Halloween. It makes me feel like a kid and I never get to do it big enough. I want to do it BIGGGG. One day we’re going to throw a proper Halloween party. You can all come! Last Halloween James was only 7 months and we dressed him up as a Princeton Tiger for a total of about an hour and a half just to go to a little party. I worked the night shift then so Mark put James to bed and I went to work in my Rosie the Riveter hair and “We Can Do It” sign pinned to my scrubs.

This Halloween I wanted to do something more. So I made James a lamb costume from a hoodie, cotton balls and some felt. I was very proud of my thrifty little costume, although as the night went on our little lamb started molting quite a bit. We are still trying to get the fluff off his winter coat! Being in Germany, we couldn’t quite do it like we would at home but we did the best we could. They are just starting to really celebrate Halloween here over the last few years and I don’t think they do trick or treating outside the big cities. So, we did what everyone else in town seemed to be doing and went to Zoo Halloween. It was fun and they had some interesting shows but there was a big difference — they only do it scary. No funny or cute costumes. Only evil! Witches, masked men, pirates, vampires, devils. People truly stopped and laughed at the little lamb toddling off in the middle of a bunch of devils and zombies. We giggled about it all night.

IMG_9221 (1)DSC01518IMG_9224 (1)DSC01534DSC01538IMG_9245 (1)IMG_9241 (1)DSC01547DSC01563IMG_9248 (1)I haven’t really talked about it much here yet but culture shock couldn’t help but push me little bit for this one. I hate the term culture shock – it sounds so traumatic. I wish it were called “culture gumbles” or something a little less like a diagnosis from the DSM-5. None-the-less, I did want to scream at people — “we do fun, beautiful, creative, funny AND scary costumes where I’m from and its better!”  Culture shock is this awful thing where you are constantly feeling “how can everyone here be okay doing it this way, don’t they understand how silly it is to do it differently?! Why isn’t anyone else outraged at this?!” This does not just apply to something big like the difference in holiday celebrations but also to something simple like crossing the street. Oh, that one is the hardest for me. Anytime this creeps up I get frustrated and confused and I almost always feel a little sad after it happens because I know how ridiculous I’m being. It’s very normal, I know… I can’t imagine what people must go through when there are even more blatant differences in their old life to their new one and when they don’t look like the other people in their new surroundings. And they aren’t welcome (ahem). How awful! We actually have it easy in that regard and in many other ways too. It’s getting better for me everyday, which I think means I am just adapting to their way or feeling less like an outsider – probably both. Now I wait and cross the street with the green walk sign like everyone else. I didn’t want to be lectured and stared at anymore, if I ‘gasp! cross the street when no cars are coming but there’s a red ‘don’t walk’ sign!”. I’m not even exaggerating when I tell you, there will be ten people waiting at a small street with a ‘don’t walk’ sign and not a car in sight. It baffles me. Apparently Mark is immune to culture shock or maybe he’s just a gentler soul. It doesn’t bother him. Other differences that get to me: there are no rules for standing in line (people cut and make their own lines — this one drives me bonkers), pizza doesn’t come cut (what?!), smoking is so much more common – especially among young people, customer service (it is not), you can be scolded by anyone for anything, there is graffiti everywhere, everything is closed on Sundays, shopping carts are chained together and you have to give a Euro to use one, and I already told you how fun it is to try and scoop up your groceries and pay before they start dumping the next person’s stuff on top of yours. This is a tangent. I’m sorry. It me not you, okay Germany?

Otherwise it’s great — wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just wanted to keep this blog real, you know? Some awesome things about Germany, just so that you don’t think I only see the challenging ones: beer & bratwurts (!!!), percentages are on their ingredients listed on food containers (why doesn’t the US do this?!), almost all windows open two ways so you can have an open window without rain coming in (!), the playgrounds and general baby-friendliness, public transportation, Glühwine, beautiful & historic architecture, and I think as we’re soon-to-learn, The Christmas Markets. Most important, people are quite friendly once you get talking and very generous.

With all the said, Halloween was still great even while being different because we got to dress James up and watch him experience this [his] version of Halloween. Plus he got to see some animals at the Zoo. What could be better!

That was Friday. On Saturday we took a quick hour and a half long train to Wittenberg for Reformationstag. What a Lutheran spectacle it was! You can read more about it here.

DSC01736DSC01604DSC01606 DSC01609DSC01610Wall to wall people for much of the experience. If I didn’t think it was weird when we ran into people Mark knew on a hike in the middle of Alaska or on the street in the middle of Manhattan, it sure was weird when ran into the librarian from Luther Seminary here at the festival in the middle of Germany.

DSC01614 DSC01617 DSC01620 DSC01621Schlosskirche and it’s door where Luther nailed his ninety-five theses and started the Reformation.

DSC01622DSC01625 DSC01630 DSC01637I was nervous to let him do this since they aren’t buckled in but the woman cranking the wheel was so sweet and James LOVED it!

DSC01643DSC01669An actual blacksmith forging actual metal. The process was mesmerizing to watch! I duuuug it. A lot.

DSC01667DSC01671 DSC01675 DSC01681 DSC01683 DSC01684 DSC01689A community door of theses from 2015. Of course Mark added one too.

DSC01698Luther everything! Hard candy given to James and confiscated by me — again.

DSC01705 DSC01710 DSC01711DSC01712 DSC01713 DSC01715 DSC01737DSC01739DSC01740DSC01742We quickly walked through Lutherhaus before catching our train home. The largest Reformation museum in the world is inside! Jim & Donna, I think that should be on our list for when you come visit.

DSC01743DSC01744DSC01745DSC01754DSC01757DSC01760DSC01762This off-duty jester playing on his iPhone made us laugh.

DSC01763DSC01764DSC01768DSC01774I love this wizard guy with his bare feet and the woman spinning yarn.

DSC01775The clacking of the train sure is lulling after a long day.

IMG_9280That night we organized a little trick or treating in our building by giving our international neighbors candy ahead of time and asking them if they wouldn’t mind giving them out to the kids. I’m not sure who ended up having more fun. First trick or treating for everyone!

DSC01805DSC01794DSC01812What toddler wears his costume all night long? Definitely not this guy. He defaulted to a ballet dancer halfway through.

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I hope next year we can throw the amazing Halloween party I’ve been dreaming of, but if it still isn’t in the cards, it’s nice to know watching your kid dress up and build community with the neighbors is still pretty darn great.