Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting out of a rut

A lot of things are disorienting when you are living abroad. They don't have the same soap, the same cereal, cereal at all, peanut butter. But, of course, that makes way for things that are new and yet also enjoyable. Nutella, Doners (kebab slices in a paper cone), and tasty breads of every type. New habits take over, too. Instead of driving everywhere, bikes. Instead of sandals, house schuhe and rain boots. Instead of a hectic packed day, a langsam day that begins with a bike ride to school drop off and then ends at 11:30 with riding to pick up your son, followed by a quick stop in the grocery store, a long lunch, and homeschool homework in a relaxed atmosphere. But most important of all, old rituals can be dropped. The struggle at bedtime (almost). The struggle at toothbrushing. The struggle at homework time. All these can be replaced because why not. You're out of your element. You've been knocked out of your rut. Why stick to the old routine when you have the opportunity for something neu?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Scariest Place in Germany

Each day, I must confront what is surely the scariest place in Germany. My body tenses. My mind whirs with worry. And I am altogether filled with fear of a place where negotiations are uncertain and terror could await behind any corner. Yes, you have guessed the terror of my life: elementary school (Grundeschule). I can't quite explain what it is that makes me the most fearful: not knowing what's expected, not knowing any of the people and feeling incapable of meeting them, or the possibility that someone might speak to me or that I might need to speak to them. But it is without a doubt terrifying. I feel as if I am perpetually in the position of a first grader. Imagine how my children must feel. Slowly, we're figuring things out, buying the DIN 4 (that's a size) drawing blocks (that's a bad of paper). Getting them some Hausschuhe to wear in class (though we've adopted that at home, too, in rainy Bonn), we even got them on the school milk plan. But, today, I heard a woman speaking to her daughter in English. Flat, unadorned, ordinary American English. (Thank you, God.) I introduced myself, and she said she was D.C. and had been living in Bonn for a year. And suddenly we were back in the United States. Still, there is one thing that fills me with courage. It's when I look at my children as they walk into building, keeping their eyes on the other children, soaking in every reaction, every move, to see if today they will be accepted. When we asked my daughter whether she thought sending her to German-speaking school was a good idea or not, she said, "Going to school is half of the adventure." That girl is my hero.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


So, I'm notoriously bad at mornings, school mornings, even in English. I wake up cranky, crab at the kids, spill the coffee, forget the milk and the spoons, rush them out the door only to have to return to the house and get all the things I forgot. Today, Monday, sure lived up to its name. Montag. Sorry, Montag. Not to be confused with -- never mind. This morning, and most mornings, Barbara was around. She decided to make Schmelzflocken. Schmelzflocken is the closest thing I've been able to find to Cream of Wheat, although as in most cases, it's nothing like Cream of Wheat. Barbara consulted me on the mixture which was very runny, so I added more Schmelz or Flocken, or melted the Flocken some more until it was thicker. The result: the finest breakfast paste in Bonn. Completely inedible. We proceeded to school, the kids and I, walking with their hundred Euros of school supplies, taking the shortcut, which Jenna vaguely remembered, and found our way to the school, where I feel like a first grader. All of D's classmates had their Hausschuhe, or slippers, because it was raining out, which I think we should come to expect. Jenna's teacher had begun a torrent of German. Fortunately, we had purchased the right gym shoes for D and the right books (bucher) for Jenna. Unfortunately, teachers decided that my Guten Morgen meant they should snipe at me in entire German phrases. Eventually, we got them off. Jenna, timidly taking out her writing implements. Dayveon finding his chair amongst the students who are mostly half his size. Yes, it is an adventure.