Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Beautiful, Scary, and we love the Internet

We've been in Germany for four days. Before I say anything else I should say we are having a great time and it is BEAUTIFUL. See here:

Eating Gelato

Bridge over the Danube, Regensburg in the background

There's been good and bad and its definitely a culture shock, but we feel blessed to have been given the opportunity and are looking forward to all the adventures to come. There is yummy food, lots to do, and we are finding our way around well. So here goes, complete with ups and downs (forgive the detail included so I can remember it all later, sorry friends you're reading my journal)...

Plane flight:

The flight from Paducah was delayed. We landed in Chicago one hour before our flight was to leave. We had to get our bags (we had to check our carryons for the flight) and go up the stairs into the terminal from the tarmac (which the kids couldn't do with their bags, thankfully kind people helped us). Then we ran/walked to our gate for the flight to Munich. Luckily we did not have to clear security for a second time. We got to our gate, lined up to board and took turns going to the bathroom. We boarded as soon as the "potty stop" was done-it was close, but we made it. I was thankful Dr. Tara had given me medication for Laurel's motion sickness because for the first time in my life I was airsick. Not a good feeling when there are four children asking lots of questions. My response "I can't talk to you, I am trying not to be sick!" Thankfully the medication worked well and I was fine after taking it. I even ate a little of my dinner. The meal was good, the kids watched Karate Kid, and other than a leg ache for Katey they slept for several hours. (Why did I put the kids tylenol in the checked bag???)

We arrived in Munich and made the walk to collect our bags. We were blessed that there were carts that were easy to steer so the kids could help. We loaded up four carts with bags and the big kids helped and we made our way to the public area. We were greeted by a driver that had been contracted to drive us in a nice mini-bus/van to Regensburg. He was kind and helpful and thankfully spoke English! We arrived at our apartment about an hour later after a seeing a glimpse of the countryside via the autobahn and made the climb up the stairs with our luggage. John, Mike and Jan were nice to pitch in and help us with all the bags.

We were able to stay awake through the day. We ate lunch in a cafe nearby and dinner at McDonalds (thinking it would be easy, but no one spoke English). We got oriented to a few things around the city by John, Mike, and Jan and then crashed.

Saturday John brought us breakfast and we went to the farmers market and enjoyed walking around on a beautiful day. Late in the day we made our first trip to the grocery. It was very intimidating but after visiting three stores we found one with a good selection of food and German labels. I was overwhelmed and bought bread, cereal, milk, juice, fruit, and chips and wished I had learned more German. The kids were happy because we also found a store with toys and we bought them each a playmobil character. The internet withdrawl begins. If I could only use google translate!!!

Sunday the kids begged to stay home for the day so Tim joined the MSU group on a bike ride out in the country and the kids and I stayed at the apartment and they played and relaxed. It was a quiet day and that evening we went to the Dult festival after Tim got home. Picture a carnival in the southern US with new rides, throw in some large beirgartens, and put it all on a paved surface and you have the Dult festival. The rides were 6 euros each for the kids, so we decided to buy them candy and a doughnut like pastry instead. It was supposed to be the first of a couple of visits, but we saw all we needed that night. It was fun, but like the carnival, once you've walked through it, you really don't need to go back. End of day two, hoping and praying we have internet tomorrow night I need to place an amazon order.

Monday. At this point all the adrenaline has worn off. Kids woke up grouchy and Laurel cried to go home in the wee hours of the morning. No one has slept through the night yet. We all head out to get my cell phone working and for Tim to go into work. We find out that the bus pass he purchased will allow the kids to ride for free with him or me. After 7 pm and on weekends we can all ride on the pass without additional tickets. The ticket cost 37 euros for a month and seems like a great deal if we put it to use. Tim heads off to the university and I head back to the apartment to move furniture around and continue getting settled. We make plans to meet later for groceries. Then the tide turns. Tim gets to the university and his phone was not working. Things are hectic there with various business to be accomplished for the beginning of the semester. Tim turns in our computers and has to leave them to be registered- no internet today. Meanwhile at home the kids are fighting like crazy. We need to leave the apartment to get some air, but I can't reach Tim and am afraid to leave without letting him know where I am. When he calls I am frustrated and crying and he has had a rough day as well. We make plans to meet to get some food. Its dinnertime and we literally have nothing to eat. We meet at the grocery in the mall next to the train station. We buy the kids a snack and I head into the store to begin shopping still feeling somewhat emotionally fragile after a long day. I have a list and I have at least been there once before so I do fairly well until those last few items. Baking soda, baking powder, and cream of chicken soup. Tim has the dictionary and is outside the store, I am inside. I ask for help three times and no one speaks English. Now I am the crazy American walking through the grocery crying looking for someone who can tell me which "creamsuppe" is chicken (which, by the way, I still don't know!). About this time Tim calls to check on me and discovers I've been making calls for 30 minutes to his not working phone. He joins me in the store and finds the baking powder for me, we're one step closer to pancakes for breakfast. He is much better with German than I am, and better at finding someone who speaks English! We go to pay. I've given up on the soup and baking soda I just want to go home and feed my kids. At this moment Tim discovers his wallet is gone. Suddenly a bad day has become a REALLY bad day. His passport, roughly $450, credit card, debit card, bus pass (the same one we were looking forward to using), and flash drive are gone. We leave the groceries since I only have 20 euros in my bag and head to the mall office to see if anything has been turned in. On the way Tim remembers a man sitting a little too close to him on the bench in the mall. Yes, we now know why. We make our way to the police station and we call John and he heads out to meet us and help us file a report. We are grateful he is there to help with the translation. On the way Carter manages to swallow a 1 cent coin. Smaller than the US penny, but he is terrified. My need to deal with the current crisis makes me less than sympathetic. Hopefully it will all "work out" I tell him, we will just have to wait and see. We cancel our cards, are blessed that they will send new ones to us here, and John gives me enough groceries to feed my kids dinner. We sit exhausted in the apartment, knowing it can all be recovered or replaced, but thankful that the day is over and we can start off again tomorrow.

Tuesday...Tim goes to the university to teach class and the kids and I do school. After we finish we head back to the grocery to buy all we had to leave behind last night. I did think enough ahead to make a list grouped by where I found things. We get through the store quickly and feel blessed to once again have some food to feed my brood. The kids and I walk back with our massive load of food - yes the locals thought we were crazy for buying so much, but we had NOTHING. Most here shop small and often. For me this was just a few days and the basics, but it looked like a month's worth to them. Tim calls from the university and is working on the computers and folks there are being very helpful. Hope for connection to the internet abounds!! He calls at dinnertime happy to have things accomplished but frustrated because he used the last of the money he had to get on a bus and it was going in the wrong direction. He has to ride it all the way around and has no idea when he'll be home. It took a while, but he makes it home, computers in tow and is greeted by a grateful family with food! We celebrated a better day with gelato (ice cream).

So I'm caught up. It is really hard and different to try to do the most simple things in a country where you don't speak the language. My empathy for the international students in Murray abounds. Walking everywhere is really a challenge for the kids. The grocery is a long walk and its a real haul when you are loaded with stuff in your backpack. They are being troopers, but its their most common complaint. We may have to buy another bus pass at some point, especially once it gets cold. However, the beauty of the city, the ability to learn new things, and knowing it will get easier keep me encouraged. Now I have access to the internet so I feel like I can get the information I need and I can work on my German!!!! I feel more in control. An illusion I know, but it calms my nerves.

More tales of adventure to come...we head to Munich later this week to file the paperwork to replace Tim's passport. Its Oktoberfest so there will be lots to see and lots of people, lets hope some of it will be kid friendly.

1 comment:

Alice said...

WOW! Any bad day I've had lately pales in comparison to what you described. We will be praying for you all! I wasn't sure when you were leaving. So fun to see the pictures of your smiling kids. What an amazing adventure! Love you, Jen - Alice