Look at that cheesy grin. I think he likes it here!This has been a long time coming, seeing as we’ve lived in Germany for two months already. Apologies! We were quite busy the first month traveling to Marburg for Fulbright orientation, Munich for Oktoberfest and Paris for a conference. The second month we got our routine down and completed some important bureaucratic business.
Can you see the nervous energy? We were giving it!
Since we flew from Minnesota, our trip here was a long 10 hours of airtime plus many hours of airport and transport time. I was dreading the flight because I had no idea how we were going to get James to sleep or keep him asleep. And if he isn’t sleeping I assumed he would most likely be screaming. They didn’t end up turning off the cabin lights until around 11pm. Before that time he was so distracted by all the people and activities happening around him he didn’t even fuss. He fell asleep in my arms around 11:30pm and I was able to lay him on me or in the seat next to me for the rest of the journey. We were seated around a handful of other babies and toddlers so if one of them woke up, they all did. Luckily it wasn’t nearly as hard as I was imagining (although I didn’t sleep).
After 14+ hours of travel we arrived to the Halle/Leipzig Airport where we soon learned that our luggage was lost. Five bags, a travel crib, and a stroller – all our belongings for the entire year. I think we were both so tired we didn’t even really react. We just gave them our address and took a (fast!!) taxi on the autobahn to our new home. Luckily, our university housing had a crib — it just needed to be assembled. I will never be as impressed with my husband as when he put together that crib as fast as he did, after traveling all night without sleep, reading the instructions in German and with a crying baby waiting. He’s a keeper, that one.
We live in Eastern Germany, in a town called Halle, on the Saale River. Here’s the wikipedia entry if you are interested. We live in the Georg Forster Haus, international university housing, in a modern two bedroom apartment. We have a shared kitchen down the hall from our apartment but they were nice enough to assign us to one of the smaller ones and gave us all the food storage so no one else really uses it. We are very comfortable in our new home and make the best of the little challenges. Most of the other visiting researchers in our buliding are single and often not staying for longer than a couple months. There is one other family, from Brazil, with a four-year old girl who James likes quite a bit. He loves to sing her name, “Luna”, at random times throughout the day. I think he’s missing his friends back home.
Our locked refrigerator doors.
They wash our towels and sheets for us and clean the kitchen. It feels very luxurious.
We are loving our new life. A normal day involves breakfast together as a family, then Mark goes off to work while James and I leave the house for usually some combination of errands and playground time. Then we return for lunch, usually with Mark, then James naps and I get some alone time. Lately its been close to dark when James wakes up so we usually walk to get food and play in our apartment until dinner. Mark has German class from 6-8pm two days a week so we eat late and James doesn’t go to sleep until after 9pm.
The elevator in our building is a favorite play place. I can’t decide if he thinks the James in the mirror is another kid or he just thinks its super fun to make faces at himself. Either way, its easy entertainment.
German playgrounds are AMAZING. They all have themes, don’t have as many safety precautions (this is a good thing) and are usually way more creative than their American counterparts. I mean, look at this fairytale!
The biergartens with playgrounds are even better.
Sometimes they even have puppet shows.
Halle also has a handful of kindercafes which are just what they sound like — cafe’s with play areas for children that serve food and drinks. Solea is our favorite because it has multiple levels and the best toys.
And cafe’s with dedicated baby/parent time for community building and play.
Stay at home parents are rare so during the day the playgrounds are often empty and the cafes can be too. Usually if the parents are at home it’s because they had a baby and are on their [extremely long] maternity or paternity leave. I have met some very lovely English-speaking people here already (American, German, Canadian) and they have been so generous with their invitations and willingness to help with any questions I’ve had. Like, where do I buy fabric to make a Halloween costume, what detergent gets out toddler stains and how do I know which pediatrician to pick? You know, the basics
If we’re not playing, we’re most likely shopping, since our refrigerator is so small and we came with little. Things like English children’s books (cherished but hard to find outside Amazon), clothes for the continually growing boy and food are usually highest on the list. We walk or take the tram everywhere — which we LOVE. My dream. Grocery shopping, on the other hand, is a nightmare and makes me want to cry every time I go. The first time I did cry big actual tears. Its rough. I’m learning. There is so much missing and I’m continually wondering what the German’s eat. Where is the cheddar cheese, vanilla extract, leafy greens, gallons of milk, ricotta, ground turkey, chicken/vegetable stock? I could go on. They don’t give bags (unless you want to pay), they don’t bag for you and going through the line feels a little like a relay handoff. They pile your stuff on top of other peoples stuff. Using a credit card is like a step back in time. When they hand you the receipt to sign they point at the amount, say the amount, then point at the line to sign, then watch you sign and actually check (very carefully) for a matching signature. I have had to redo my signature twice because it wasn’t a close enough match. Everyone here seems to pay in cash, even for big things. Usually the cashiers don’t speak English and I am slowly learning German, so you can see how this would be a little rocky at times. Sometimes James is crying too, because if something is stressful our babies always know how to help — amiright?
As expected, some great, some not-so-great aspect of living abroad. Of course, the days are numbered and we are enjoying every aspect that we can while were here. The good highly outweighs the bad! Next I’ll show you the town and talk a little bit more about culture shock (oye).