Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pieces Falling into Place

I know that things can always get worse. I know this, but there are times when it is just hard to believe. One week ago this was our condition:
* no job
* no income
* a vacant house in Seattle costing us beaucoup bucks each month (and utilities, too)
* a city where everyone smokes, its cold, and no one speaks English

Did I forget anything? I'm sure I did, but who cares because that was LAST week. THIS week everything has changed.
* Adam got a job telecommuting
* Our house rented
* I got a job which includes pre-school for Ilya
* It suddenly warmed up like 20 degrees - I'm not even kidding. One day it was FREEZING and the next I just needed a sweatshirt.
* Our friends and neighbors returned from their various holidays (that's what everyone here says - instead of "travels", its "holidays")
* I successfully bought groceries without having a nervous breakdown! (See, what happens when you buy groceries here is that the checkers ring you up, during which time you must be bagging your food - in your own bags or using ones that you are currently buying - so that you are able to pay for the food the moment the checker is finished. If you fail to do this (which I usually do because I am just not quick enough to get everything bagged up and put away while taking care of Ilya and trying to figure out just how much I owe) then both the checker and the person behind you glares at you and huffs and impatient sigh. Sometimes there is even an eye roll).

Its still up in the air if we will stay through June (or possibly longer), but right now I'd say there is a pretty good chance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Our Adventures Complete with Pictures

About two weeks ago, we hoped on a train and visited our friend, Sebastian, in the tiny village of Schnellmannshousen (literally translated to quick-man-house). Here we are in front of Schnellmannshousen (from left to right) Brendan, Sebastian, Adam, Ilya, and Stina. See the tree line in the back? That is the old East/West Germany border. We visited with his family, ate traditional German breakfasts (consisting of lots of meat, cheese, and breads) and saw a real castle in the much larger village of Eisenach (which we Americans were very excited about, while our German friends were slightly baffled by our enthusiasm - I guess that's what happens when you grow up a mile away from an enormous castle).

Ilya was adorable and did, what I like to call "the castle dance." I tried to upload a video, but our internet connection flat out refused to do anything so complicated.

We visited the east/west Germany border and learned what life in East Germany was like from my friend's parents.

While exploring Magdeburg, we found an ancient Roman burial ground beneath an old church that has been turned into a community center.

It is still very cold.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Post About the Good Things

Too often, when we are surrounded by challenges, I think that we forget to take stock of all the good things that surround us. I am facing many challenges here in Magdeburg, Germany but I have also experienced some absolutely amazing and wonderful things as well.

1) Good Friends: I have met and reconnected with some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. Brendan and Stina are like family to me, and they continue to do so many little things to make me feel comfortable and loved. I love that they live right across the court yard so that I can visit them whenever I want and sharing meals together is easy. Our upstairs neighbors are a couple of college boys who are kind and fun. We met another woman named Christina from TN living in Magdeburg with her German boyfriend who has been incredibly open and kind. Our friend, Emily, is also working at Berlitz. She's travelled all over the world and has a lot of great stories to tell.

2) Affordable living: I think I've mentioned (but its worth repeating) we have furnished our entire flat with furniture that we were either given or found on the street. There is a store that is completely free, and groceries are so cheep compared to the US (.32 euros for bread - thats about 50 cents). Heath insurance is cheaper and better.

3) Public Transportation: The tram is awesome. It runs frequently and gets you where you want to go quickly (granted, Magdeburg isn't that big).

4) Our flat: despite its view of our neighbor's living room, it has high ceilings, huge windows, and is just about the perfect size for us (I love living in a small space - who knew?)

5) Smaller Carbon Footprint: No one here uses a dryer to dry their clothes. They have about 10 million different recycling options, including a program where you buy the bottle in addition to its contents, and don't get your money back until you return it. Less people drive. Bikes are everywhere - on the sidewalks - I've almost been run over twice. I thought I would miss my dryer, microwave, and dishwasher, but I don't. I do miss my garbage disposal.

So, its not all bad. My biggest frustration is the language barrier. Things that should be easy, like getting a background check for work, become insurmountable obstacles in the face of a language barrier.

Life updates: Adam still hasn't found a job and our house in Seattle isn't renting. The part time teaching position I was able to secure probably won't even cover the cost of new plane tickets, so we're thinking that we will be forced to return from our adventure early. We have return plane tickets already paid for on April 20th. We'll lose our apartment deposit here, but its cheaper than new plane tickets.

Of course, part of me just wants to throw caution to the wind and take off for Thailand, knowing quite well that Adam won't be able to look for a job, let alone work from Thailand, but I do get sick of being so responsible.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Complaints - skip this post if you don't want to listen to me whine

Did you miss me?

I know that I haven't been checking in, and I have a really bad excuse. I didn't want to talk about this, but, hey, if you can't tell your own blog (and the multitudes of faithful readers and random strangers that might stumble across it) your deepest darkest secrets, who can you tell? Here goes: I'm really miserable here. I want to go home so badly, I can feel it with every fiber of my being.

I've spoken to people who have seen the world, and they always talk with such wonder about the places they have been and the people they have met. I've always admired and envied those people, but now I'm beginning to think that you just have to be a certain kind of person to do well living that life. I like routine and comforts (such as a big soft mattress in a heated room). I like being able to talk to people and ask for things that I need (like directions, how to mail a letter, how much a certain item is when shopping), and I can't have or do any of those things here.

We've been sleeping on a fold out couch for the last month and every night I wake up at least 10 times trying to get comfortable without pushing poor Adam off the bed. My back hurts all the time. After last nights winter storm, I'm beginning to think that the weather is never going to warm up. What I really miss, though, is being able to do things for myself. I can't order food, read a map, read anything without someone helping me. I feel like a bad mom because there is nothing free that I can take Ilya to do other than explore a frozen city (which we've done...lots...despite the snow and ice). The language isn't so much a barrier as it is a enormous, solid, impenetrable, concrete wall. Never again will I take for granted all those little conversations I have in a day. A man walking past me bumps my shoulder and says something (probably an apology, but he could have just challenged me to a death match for all I know). Once I finish buying food, the cashier says something ("have a nice day" or "wait, you forgot to pay for that"). I startle an old woman while calling after Ilya who says something - a man sits across from us on the tram and tries the entire trip to get me to understand what he is saying by repeatedly pointing at his mouth - If I don't understand it the first hundred times you say it, I'm not going to understand it now!

I feel stupid all the time.

I feel isolated.

I feel helpless.

I really don't want pity or tearful pleas begging me to come home (thanks mom). I just want you to know. And maybe a queen sized mattress.