German Health Care

I thought I’d pick a light topic for this week—HAH! But you know me… I’ll keep it light.

doctor-2568476

We’ve had far too many reasons (for my liking) to end up at the doctor, here. But, daycare (Kita) life welcomed us with open arms… and plenty of germs to go with it. So, we did the usual–we asked around work for recommendations from our native German friends and then I simply picked one. And made no appointment.

None.

They have open hours when anyone can visit, and I walked in with my sick toddler. I walked into a bright white office with two receptionists and no one else around. Three empty chairs lined the wall. Thankfully, one receptionist knew English.  I apologetically gave her a printed letter because my insurance card hadn’t arrived, yet. (We wasted no time in getting sick and needing a doctor.) Thankfully, I had everything I needed and she checked me in. (Our track record at this point would’ve landed me back in the car, going home, and hoping for a doctor’s appointment the following week. Thankfully, it was an unusual day in Germany… and everything worked out.)

She pointed to the waiting room. It was a closed door. We went in, and it was a quiet room with chairs around the room. In one corner, there was a kids’ table with colored pencils and a large stuffed bear. And of course, like every where else in Germany: a coat rack. And like no other waiting room I’d ever been in: No. Television. No music. Just quiet.

And then, like civilized human beings, everyone in the room said, “Moin!” and “Guten Morgen!” I responded cheerily while my toddler gave nasty looks at all the strangers (I’m working on this!). We all coexisted in a quiet room without any receptionist phones ringing or television talking to us, and about every 5 minutes or so, “Frau _____, Raum Zwei!” or some such message came over the loud speaker. And like competent adults, we all went when we were called, going to the room number announced. (Well, except for me, because on my first visit, they opened the door and took me to my room. And I was so grateful for their mercy on the non-German patient.)

With sick kids, at this particular office (more of a clinic), no doctor has taken a temperature, or hardly touched my child. They get my side of the health story, and then, without any trouble, I get a prescription and a sick note for work. Then, we walk downstairs to the Apotheke (Pharmacy) and give me free medication. From what I understand, any medication (including Infant Tylenol) comes completely free. (Thank you, German government and 40% tax rates.) Also, that sick note must be honored by your place of employment. If and when you reach your max (30 days?) of sick leave in a year, your health insurance simply pays you for a cut (75%?) of your daily wage. A really respectful approach to health, if you ask me. I do worry about working Moms going to work overtired and fighting a cold so that they don’t lose vacation days (you know–the 10-20 they get per year). But, I digress…

We’ve yet to get an actual physical/immunization visit for either child since we arrived and it’s on my list. But, I’ll say that I arrived very intimidated and generally speaking, I haven’t had a lot of trouble. I’ve had funny moments like stumbling through German with a new doctor, to have his first words to me be impeccably perfect English. Also, I’ve already posted this statue that I found on one of my visits:

Doctor's Office

I found this statue to be a much-needed chuckle when I was feeling downright miserable.

So, that’s the very-non-serious-down-low regarding our health insurance life here. There’s probably much more that I’ll learn and need to know as we continue moving forward, but at least I know how to get a prescription if I need one. #Winning

Hope you’ve had a happy November–Tschüss!

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A trip!

Brian and I have discovered that travel is really wonderful for us. That and date nights… or the both of them together, if we can make it happen! So, we’ve taken a few day trips to stunning places since we arrived to Hamburg, but we were ready to take advantage of the European adventure we’re on in a bigger way… so we went to København!

It was a 3 day weekend–Friday morning we drove away and Sunday afternoon we headed back. It was a 4.5 hour drive and the kids were mostly behaved on the drive… You know, with gummy bear bribes.

We stayed at the most beautiful AirBnB. It was spacious and had all the toys–which was clutch when we arrived and the rain was… ever-present. So, a beautiful home, beautiful places to walk, and nothing especially important for us to get to. It was divine. But you know, we did have two kids under 4, so it looked like early mornings with early demands for breakfast (eggs!), home for nap time, and the evening closed by 7. We fit in all we could, but made sure to relax. And yes… I kind of like the nap-reliant schedule… Mostly because I love naps.

One of my favorite moments was Brian ordering “Take Away” — a very foodie, small portion type meal with a large loaf of artisan bread… enjoyed by two adults in love with two toddlers dead asleep. The quiet and the rain and good food… and… When can I go back? Hopefully soon!

Here’s a little peak into our fun weekend… I hope you enjoy!

Over the border in Denmark

Outside our window

Copenhagen at Night

Statue

Copenhagen

G vs Bird

R

Statue 2

Roses

The trip was great. I would go back in a heartbeat and there would be so much more to see that we didn’t get to.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Tschüss!

13 Weeks!

Schwerin

We’ve lived in Germany for 13 weeks! Whew. That span of time can sound like a lifetime or like a quick blip in time. Honestly, it has sounded and felt like both to me over the past 13 weeks.  Last week, I went to the grocery store for my oh-so-European midweek grocery shopping trip and saw TWO families I knew. Who even am I??!! Running into people I know by name at the grocery store?! Unreal.

Side note: we all shop mid-week here because we can’t fit 7 days of food in our European fridges. Eggs come in packages of 10 here… not 12. Because 12 eggs in a row won’t fit in the fridge. It’s true. Our fridge is exactly 10 eggs deep. And the freezer? Barely fits ice cream. But I digress.

In other news, I bought my first black beans. The only black beans I’ve found in grocery stores are canned and with spices. And I like our black beans the way we cook them. Well, apparently Germans prefer lentils… because lentils are everywhere, but not black beans. I finally ordered schwartze Bohnen — 6 bags of them. And tomorrow night? It’s going to taste like home in our home. (Bohnen is capitalized because in German, all nouns are capitalized. Say what?!)

Also, I bought succulents. Plants. Plants make me happy. I like watering, inspecting, pruning, the whole bit. But, I don’t go as far as naming… I’m crazy… but I’m not crazy.

Date Night

Oh, and date night. Houston, we have a baby-sitter. At least, I hope she hasn’t quit, yet. In any case… that felt like an amazing milestone to hit… Getting out. Alone. We barely knew how to express our joy clearly enough in not toting two lolly-gagging toddlers to the car… We just… walked. At a normal pace. Crazy. (I also didn’t worry about ordering fries directly upon sitting down to keep our little squirrels happy… but don’t worry. I ordered (truffle) fries. Because that’s what keeps this squirrel happy.)

So, we’re getting there, and I’m taking solace in the 1 year to transition after a move reality/goal. Because we still have art to put up and furniture to buy and oh, I have an entire language to learn. BUT, we’re beginning to schedule fun and travel in because we refuse to be sick for 80% of our future here… (Yes, 80% of our time so far has looked like sitting around at home with more than a few Paw Patrols on tap.) We’re determined to travel and enjoy Europe and the adventure that we’ve jumped into. So stay tuned!

Tschüss!

Kita

child-2374487

Wow. Just wow, you guys. The transition to Germany has not been all sunshine and roses… I mean, it’s pretty cloudy here, to be honest. However, the land of amazing preschool is all ours. And yes, that’s what my wow is about. It’s a Kita WOW. Rowan literally skips her way to the “Krippa” side of the building and yells, “Bye Mama!” as she excitedly enters her world. Each night, I tuck her in and she says, “God bless Lena!”–her favorite teacher at school.

But, I’ll take you back to the beginning. The Kita wisely recommends starting your kids at 1 hour and increasing that by 30 minutes more per day for as long as it takes to get to “full time”. For us, full time is an 8.5 hour work day… which is long. Most parents collect their kiddos at 1 or 2:30 (and I’m guessing give their exhausted children naps!). So, we started at 1 hour and added an extra hour each day and were up to full time by the beginning of week 3. And yes, their day is way long. They are incapable at the end of a day of getting from the car to our front door. There is crying. There is fussing. There is all sorts of power struggle. And then they (ok, the elder one) falls asleep and peace (once again) reigns. So yes, they are exhausted. BUT! The beginning.

On our welcome tour, I was embarrassed to slip on the plastic booties over my shoes, unaware that this was par for the course. Here, we do house shoes. If you don’t have house shoes, you take your outdoor shoes off or put plastic over them. Keep the indoors clean! I can get behind that. And I did. I bought house shoes for George. 25 €.

I’ve been eager for my kids to be in school–especially George. On the first day, he walked up to a table and picked up (non-toddler) scissors–something he’s never held before–and successfully cut paper… (because they weren’t those stupid toddler sicossors!). At the end of his “intro weeks”, I painted his hand and foot so they could document when he started and you should have SEEN the look on his face. “MAMA! You’re painting me!?” Yeah. He was ready. And this OCD-leaning Mama was grateful to have him make a mess in someone else’s space. Hah. I was glad to see him cut and paint. Honestly? I have never given my toddler paint. Call me crazy. (Playdough all day long, yo.) So, I’m happy to give him access to a place where freedom and messes are fine.

But, I digress. What’s the kita like?!

  1. No home room. No classes with desks. The kids pick whatever room they want to, as long as it’s not maxed with too many kids (indicated by the “STOPP” sign). There’s a library, toy room, and climbing room. For special days there’s a tool room (with real saws!) and a theater/dress-up room.
  2. The teachers are almost all relaxed. I swear. It’s almost crazy.
  3. Don’t interfere. The adults do as much non-interfering as possible. They attempt to neither hinder (STOP!) or help (carry them up a ladder). If the kid is capable of climbing a ladder, s/he will figure it out.
  4. (It feels like) no rules. Kids run through the halls in excitement and no one yells at them to stop. They smile and the kids are fine.
  5. Each morning there is “Morning Conference” (for George) and “Morning Circle” (for Rowan). They are learning German songs and playing games. Each morning they count the number of kids in their room.
  6. Each afternoon, around 1 p.m., they go outside. Snack comes out at some point, but mostly it’s just outdoor play with no agenda. Brian and I can watch them play sometimes from the second floor balcony from our school. That’s kind of fun.
  7. The rain pants. Everyone has them. Go buy some. Seriously. Everyone. It’s snow pants, but for rain. And with rain boots and a rain coat, send your kids outside. It’s raining and I don’t care. Goodbye, have fun, see you in 20 minutes or three hours. A German mother couldn’t believe that we didn’t use them in America. “What do you do when it rains??” I said, we go crazy and check Pinterest. And then go more crazy. Go buy some Regenhosen.
  8. For George, nap time is optional. In other words, George doesn’t nap at school. Rowan gets a nap, but usually about an hour (2 hours less than if she were to nap at home, in a quiet dark space, alone.) Basically, they’re exhausted a lot.

Those are just a few things that come to mind. But honestly? The space is great. They spend almost 3 hours or more per day in the garden. They eat meals at round tables with other children, learning to carry their plates across to their table (for George). Then there’s the ball pit–the favorite feature for both of our children. It’s really an amazing place for them.

The language piece is coming. George doesn’t like to report anything German. He doesn’t like us to speak it…. BUT. We get reports that he’s using it and starting to communicate with other kids and sing songs. Rowan on the other hand is yelling, “Bis Morgen!!!” to all her friends at the end of the day. They both love to count in German. We’ll get there… and they’ll surpass us quickly, I’m sure.

We are learning the German way… even if it is different than our way at home. (I’m guessing this is true for most places of education… no matter where you live.) For example, I asked in the first couple of weeks about how they handle hitting. I asked if they require the kids to apologize. The answer was, “No. That’s a gesture of the adult world.. and they are not in the adult world, yet.” We are learning that they put up with a lot more than we would at home… so we are trying to claim our family culture and enforce it… with love.

I can tell they’re happy. I can tell they’re happy because their shoes leak sand when they come home. I have teeny tiny pebbles in the lint trap of my dryer… and I’m thankful that they have such an opportunity. Bring on all the dirty clothes, happy faces, and ok ok ok… we’ll even put up with the germs! 🙂

Tschüss!

Green Germany

It might seem silly, but sharing with you the green side (you know–the living plant side) of Germany has been on my mind. One of the heart breaks of an international move is saying goodbye to all of your plants… because they don’t make it 6-8 weeks in a shipping container across the ocean. And carrying two toddlers, 3 suitcases and 2 backpacks for one month doesn’t leave a lot of hands left for carrying along even a little succulent.

Something I’ve noticed about Germans and plants: almost everyone has orchids displayed in their windows:

Orchids

Additionally, balconies are littered with hanging plants and planters:

Balcony

The row house next to ours is a display of beautiful gardens:

Backyard Gardens

And Germans are serious about their hedges. All of them tall, thick and effective. It’s pretty amazing.

Hedges

A popular tree that is new to me and that I’ve seen many times here is the Monkey Puzzle Tree. They are kind of charming!

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Oh, and the hydrangea game in Germany is serious. And I mean serious. They are everywhere and all of them stunning and fully blooming.

Hydrangea

I think I’ve definitely found myself a home in my love for plants. I haven’t purchased anything green for my house, yet, but I’m getting giddy at the idea of it. I’d love to get a string of beads or donkey tail succulent plant above my fridge, hanging down the side of my cabinets… Hey. I can dream, right? So, some succulents, an obligatory orchid and maybe a taller plant for a corner of our living room? Oh the possibilities!

Rose

Shrubs

Dalia

All the rain certainly pays off! 🙂

Tschüss!

Park Heaven

Parks

Hamburg. The park place. I mean, the place for parks. Oh, it’s been lovely. You see, Germany shuts down on Sundays. Some restaurants are open… but not all of them. And excepting this past weekend when we were fighting colds, we have spent every Sunday going to church and a park. The kids love it. The parks here are just divine. They often appeal to many different ages at once, the children are always freely roaming, and there’s always water. The kids get good and dirty, and then they go home. There’s no hovering, there’s often parent engagement and climbing… and we’ve loved it.

So, here are a few photos!

Those “pegs” are almost as complicated as wall rock climbing… They are all tilted and on a steep hill–a great challenge!

Park 1

I love all of the “natural” elements in the parks, here. It’s refreshing. It’s certainly not all plastic. So awesome.

Park 4

This baby is not mine… but that little girl sat there calmly for over an hour. It occurred to me that that kind of parenting is something I can get behind. She’s in “rain pants” that are sealed with rain boots. She happily splashed around in a half inch of water and sand. It was so fun to watch.

Park 3

 

Park 5

Park 7

My children have the wonderful Germans to thank for all of these great experiences that stretch their dirt-averse, type A, OCD-inclined Mama. I promise I love them and am happy to be stretched because they are unbelievably happy when they are set free at playgrounds.

Cheer to dirt! Tschüss!

A First Look

My parents have moved a lot in their marriage and my Mama says (wisely), “It takes a full year to settle into a new home.” By this she means knowing where you like to buy everything for your home and making friends–not just the physical putting art up or unpacking boxes… Did you hear that? A year. (And she added another caveat: That’s in English. Hah!) Maybe you’ve moved before and know exactly what she’s talking about. So, our excursion to Boston? We basically never really settled in. Hah. (In all fairness, I think it took us about 6 months, but that was really thanks to joining the community of Harvard grad school. We had ready-to-go friends.) So, we’re three weeks in! And we feel pretty far from settled. BUT, we’re doing much better than that first exhausting week.

Because our kiddos started school this week, our main goal this past weekend was to have our main floor (in Germany “EG”) and bedrooms livable. No suit cases. Everything (hopefully) having a place. This goal wasn’t simple because Germans don’t do closets. We installed hanging shelves with rods in both our room and the kiddo’s room. Brian made dressers with wooden boxes and wooden frames for our clothing that needs a drawer. The kids have room darkening curtains in their room which has given us wonderful mornings where the kids woke up after 7:30… Divine.

We worked very hard to get all of our furniture and belongings whittled down to 900 sqft when we moved to Harvard for grad school… only to move into a 1600 sqft home… So, we succeeded this week in making livable spaces, but our furniture is definitely bare. But you know what? I’m ok with that. My goal is still to be simple in our home because it’s less work. And truly, the amount of toys we own can be picked up in 5 minutes. That, my friends, is the bomb.

So, without further ado, here’s a first look at some of our spaces. In short, we love our home!

Dining Room

Dining Room

Living Room

Living Room

Kitchen with a new light fixture!

Kitchen 1

Our master bedroom

Master Bedroom

Our bedroom wall closet

Closet Wall

The kids’ playroom (after cleaning)

Playroom

Our patio!

Patio

Get excited for your visit! Maybe by the time you come we’ll have a guest bedroom set up, too! 🙂

Tschüss!

Checking in

Last week I w(h)ined a little about … everything. It’s occurred to me why people don’t just pick up and do international moves despite the many people who told us, “We would love an opportunity like that!” Let’s just say that once we’ve set up shop, I’ll be hoping to milk that for all it’s worth.

Here are some photos from our move. It was a quick 3-4 hour affair with four men moving us in. At the end of the day, our overwhelmed selves looked at each other and laughed because we realized they’d been speaking Russian the whole time. The language thing is so overwhelming that it took me a full hour before thinking, “Wait a minute. They’re totally not speaking German.” So, Yes. The Russians moved us in. They were good workers.

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So, what have we been doing all week? Brian has been researching cars. Our awesome friend Delia got us registered with tax IDs. We’re almost all insured for health beginning August 1. We now own a microwave, vacuum, drill and a power transformer so that our appliances work with double-the-strength German electricity. Today, I sent my first letter. (You’re welcome, USPS, for the hand-written change of address form. Crazy policies.) Brian spent all of today making an amazing light fixture out of beautiful birchwood and rope… because he’s amazing.

Dinning Room Light

Oh yeah. In Germany, you get zero light fixtures. When you move in, there’s literally wire hanging from the ceiling. We have no fewer than 14 light fixtures to buy and install. That’s not a small amount of work. (Thankfully, Brian’s a pro.)

But, the light (har har her) at the end of the tunnel is coming. We spent a morning being kid-focused and enjoyed a park as a family. It was smooth sailing interactions and fun for everyone. That was a big deal.

Parks

Work and school for the kiddos starts one week from today… but we’ll work a bit part time in order to attend Kita with the kids as they begin and adjust to full-immersion German preschool. Today I made bread, granola bars, and dinner. I went shopping with Rowan and finally bought conditioner! (Apparently most German women use only shampoo or 2-in-1 because conditioner is super hard to find… ACK.)

I’m learning all sorts of shopping tidbits like sandwich ziplock bags are a no-go. I can’t find them. Also, Germans must shop all the time… When I check out I feel rude because every other person has 2-5 items and my 40 items take up almost the whole check out belt. And baggers? They don’t exist. Try checking out in German, keeping a toddler happy and bagging your items with no space after the payment counter (because why have a place for 3 items to sit after they’ve been paid for if the Germans just whisk them quickly away?)… It’s a feat. Oh! And I found peanut butter! And another type of salsa–we’ll see if this one is any good–because the last one wasn’t. And soy sauce that’s not as small as a travel tabasco sauce bottle- win win win.

In other news, I love having a kids’ playroom on a different level of the house just as much as I suspected I would. And we have a door between the kitchen and the stairwell! My new goal is to teach the kids to clean it at the end of every day. This photo was taken several days ago and it’s been a danger zone ever since. (Yes, this photo represents the “clean” side of the spectrum!)

Play room

The big battle is continue to learn the language. I can now apologize in German, say I want a kaffee, and say, “Do you have ______”. This is progress! But, I’ve got a long way to go.

Thanks for tuning in! Start planning your trip–we’re getting our home all ready to host you! Tschüss!

The Beginning

German Row Houses

It’s a very good place to start. We’ve begun repeating a phrase in our family: Everything in Germany is hard. Our internet is installed and it felt like a very long 3 days without internet. Oh, and furniture. So, I give you a bit of … venting? that I composed after 72 hours in Germany. I wrote this on Saturday evening and it’s certainly all with a grain of salt… oder ein bier. Take your pick. 🙂

[The photo above can be seen from our upstairs windows in our home. I’m really falling in love with the exterior look of German housing. Side note, though, we looked at houses like these and the insides were often dark and not appealing. But isn’t the outside absolutely charming?!?]

We’ve been here 72 hours. But who’s counting. It felt like for three days nothing went our way or went smoothly. Today I went to the bank and successfully pulled out all the cash I needed. The machine didn’t beep or yell at me and I understood what I was supposed to do. After 48 hours in Hamburg, this was the first thing that seemed to go smoothly and I shed a couple of tears on the way home… I was so happy. Like—exhausted happy. (Not to mention it was my first car ride alone, which was slightly like therapy.)

Why did we need cash? Well, when you go to another country, it’s not just a change in currency… it’s a change in customs. Germans buy almost everything with cash. “You won’t get far with a card” our friend Delia said. And she was right. (She said this after covering 1/2 of our lunch costs… because we didn’t have enough cash.)

key-2323278

Speaking of Delia… DELIA. This kind and wonderful lady has helped us in so many ways in three days. She is our relocation company agent and I love her. We met her in person for the first time at 9 a.m. on Thursday at our new home. We’re renting a brand new townhouse near our school and Delia was here to communicate with the landlord. In fact, she deemed our shower water pressure to be too soft, and communicated that it was not acceptable and they needed to fix it. BAM. It was done. I love her. (You should visit us just to enjoy our shower water pressure, by the way.)

Townhouses

When the landlord left, we had four sets of keys and a beautiful home—but no time to drool! No! Delia had more paperwork ready to go. She had us sign for registration with the government and then we drove over to the registration office. (Side note: almost every business here has a play table for children. It’s stunning.) She communicated with the government official and got us all registered. BAM. I love Delia. (Another side note: our town has a market twice per week! I’m ecstatic!)

We took a lunch break (see story above regarding cash) at the mall in our town (we have a Mall! And it has TKMax! Hah. Yes. Same company—I think.) Then, we drove to the bank. Delia communicated with the banker and got us all set up with a bank account. BAM. Delia’s awesome.

At this point, we’re like spaghetti noodles. Overcooked ones. We have no brain energy left. The toddlers have been barely tolerable all day while we did administration jobs and we crawled home. The end of the first (exhausting) day.

For our second day, we drove over to the new house and tried to think clearly about what we needed in order to camp in our home for three nights without our stuff. In short:

  • Bedding of some kind
  • Cutting board and knives
  • Egg pan and spatula
  • Coffee mugs for our awesome new espresso machine
  • Scissors—You know, to open the knife packaging.
  • Towels for showering
  • Chairs would be nice.

And then there was the grocery store list:

  • Trash bags
  • Dish soap and sponge
  • Hand soaps for the bathrooms
  • Paper towel
  • Toilet Paper
  • FOOD

We also replaced our electronics for the new type of electricity:

  • Toaster
  • Hair dryer
  • Heating pad
  • (Still need new baby monitor and sound machines)

But really, forget the lists. This is what’s amazing about being in a new country that speaks a different language… Let me count the ways. You want to park? Go figure out how to use a parking machine… In German. You want to use a credit card in a store? They ask about three questions in German before swiping with a huff and puff because you don’t know what they’re asking you. You don’t have any Euro coins, so you schlepp a hand-held basket while trying to grocery shop for 4 people because the carts are coin-dispensed. You go to check out in IKEA and your card is rejected. And no one speaks English. And you stand there for 30 minutes while they call the credit card system company to fix it. You want to buy meat but all they have is sauerkraut… and brats. You have one working phone. ONE. When our party separates—one of us is left in the early 1990s. There is no way to communicate, no assistance to call and ask an opinion and no way to make sure you find each other at the end of the night. And the men all have man-bags. It’s amazing.

It’s a firehose and I’m drinkin’ from it. My mouth is sore from being open-wide. We pulled into our driveway tonight and I thought, “It’d be nice to meet one neighbor on our way to our door tonight.” But then I thought, “Nevermind. Not unless they speak English. I’m tired.”

So, day two was IKEA (see household list above) and signing up for our TV/Internet/Cell Phones. The end of the second (exhausting) day.

Day three had a different pace. We moved out of our Airbnb, which I was very happy about. The best thing about that stay—and this was so very important: they had toys. The kids were ecstatic and left us alone to play independently, which is a gift we haven’t seen much of in a while. But, it was more on the Harvard graduate housing level of comfort than it was our first family home level of comfort. I think that stung a little more after seeing our beautiful home. I got itchy to move on. And it’s the end of day three—and we’ve moved on. We’re sleeping on mattress pads from Schulenburg (a furniture store) with blankets and pillows from IKEA. And our home is beautiful. You guys. BEAUTIFUL. 

Our Kitchen

I can’t wait for you all to come visit! The cabinets and drawers in the kitchen have that cool slow closing feature. The bathrooms are gorgeous. The top floor has a skylight in the hallway. The windows have this pop-open feature at the top which is so very normal in Germany (though I’ve never seen it!) The third floor has a balcony and our living room window wall faces South. Oh the green thumb joys! (Side note: if our original contract hadn’t fallen through, we’d be facing West—a much less desirable direction! That’s a blessing.) We are also a short walk  from the Lidl- an Aldi-like grocery market—which is wonderful.

The real icing on the cake was getting to go to the ISC Welcome Event at the end of our third day. We met countless people who were unbelievably kind and open. The community around this school was like a tall glass of water in the desert of transitioning our family. People who can speak English, who have recommendations on where to find bedding and meat. It was so nice to break into the community at ISC so early in our stay.

Next on my list? Learn more German. Simple things like:

  • “How do you say _____?”
  • “Where is the _______?”
  • “How are you?”

I said my first sentence in German this week: “Do you accept credit cards?” and the cashier lady looked at me like I had 8 heads… so you know. It’s going great. I also ordered three of something when I meant to order two. Hah. Everywhere I go I try to use Spanish. So unhelpful. And I’m not even partially fluent in Spanish! Ack.

I can’t wait to share more with you. It’s been such a wild ride. My admiration and respect for anyone who has moved to a new country that doesn’t speak their native language has SKYROCKETED. It is so isolating. I’m crossing my fingers that tortillas, peanut butter, and raisins are in some store. Somewhere. We live on this stuff and I’m not sure sauerkraut and brats will easily replace them! In the meantime, the cappuccinos are really helping our mornings, our home is beautiful, and our stuff will be moved in today! (And the washer and dryer on Thursday!!) As soon as some of our stuff is in our home, I’ll post some photos!

Tschüss!

Couch von Rot does Spain

We did it! A beautiful vacation in the middle of Spain… And when I say middle, I mean… of no where. In Berzocana. We drove three hours west of Madrid through beautiful mountains to be greeted with this view from our porch:

Berzocana

Our little cabin was perfect! We made good food, the kids played with the dog, Duc, they watched television in Spanish, we swam in a beautiful (and chilly) pool, and we drank good wine.

Dinner

On food (because I love food): milk is mostly dried or has a shelf life here. I’m not exactly sure what “shelf life” means… except you can buy it not from the fridge in liquid form and it seems to be fine. In other news, when in Spain, the manchego is ridiculously cheap. This was 10 Euro (and we had already eaten half of it at the time of this photo):

Manchego

We’ve eaten fresh baked bread, cured jamon serrano, fresh fruit, salad, and one pasta meal. The chicken comes really thinly sliced (think pounded chicken prepared for chicken parmesan) and the bacon was actually pancetta–and I didn’t care for it much. OH! And the egg yolk is gloriously orange… Like it came from a local chicken this week. So good. Also, the stove top espresso maker was awesome. I didn’t perfect the process in 5 mornings, but that was ok. It was all better than from a coffee pot. (I used these instructions.)

We went on one “out of town” excursion to Guadalupe on Sunday. I took some photos before realizing that I shouldn’t have been taking them (somehow I missed the BIG sign with a slash through the camera symbol… Oops):

Guadalupe

It was a cute town where we enjoyed brunch in the town square, took a walk, and I attempted to follow the flow of a Catholic Mass in Spanish. I thought our kids were pretty well behaved, but we noted afterwards that we actually have no idea what the norm is. Maybe we offended someone by pulling out coloring books? Hah. We’ll never know. I can say that everyone was smiling at them… so there’s that.

Guadalupe Center

It was a good day, though the heat did finally get to me. I think we’ve discovered in the past week that we get tired very quickly. Maybe it’s the being away from home for over a month, maybe it’s the jet lag, maybe it’s the need for more “normalcy”. But, it all kind of sums up with trying to adjust to the new time zone. Our normal wake-up time due to jet lag has been hilariously in sync with the Spanish way… waking after 9 am, siesta around 2 pm and dinner around 7:30. Also, the sun isn’t fully down here until about 11, so it’s no wonder they enjoy a later schedule. Last night we went out to dinner at 8 p.m. and returned home at 10:30. This is not how I’m wired and I’ve done fine. I’ve been amazed.

The other fun adventure we enjoyed was going to the Cork Forest, where I finally learned where cork comes from–TREES. (I really had no idea, which I guess is kind of embarrassing.)

Cork Forest.jpg

So, I’m here to say that I hope we make it to Spain again. We’ve had a lovely time and we’ve finished our time with 12 hours in Madrid–a very different place than our rural town of Berzocana. We enjoyed an amazing visit to El Mercado de San Miguel and saw the Royal Palace of Madrid before melting into a puddle of exhaustion in our hotel. It’s been wonderful.

Palace

Tomorrow we board a plane to our final destination, which seemed so dang far away a month ago. We have been here and there and in 36 hours we’ll be closing on our rental home in Hamburg, Germany. I’m eager to be settling in, but so grateful to have seen so much of our family and the world before beginning our adventure in Germany. Thanks for taking a little ride with us!

Ciao!