Originally Written: May 4, 2017
My oh my, has it really been a year already?
This time last year, I was stepping off a plane trying to get my bearings. I was working on thirty hours of no sleep, thirteen of those hours having been spent on various airplanes for the first time in my life, and I was lugging around two babies and a dog. The landscape was green and the air was thinner.
All I could think about was, “It’s still light outside!” Almost eight o’clock in the evening and the sun hadn’t even begun to set.
We had no clue where our shuttle was, where we were supposed to go, and no way of contacting anybody. We were like the worst contestants ever on the Amazing Race.
And we were freezing cold.
I had a lightweight running jacket on and a pair of yoga pants. In my suitcase was one – ONE – pair of jeans. We were completely unprepared for the forty degree weather that was happening in Germany. I ended up living in those two pair of pants for the following three weeks while I waited for our unaccompanied baggage to arrive.
Fast forward twelve months.
I’m standing in the kitchen of my latest house, looking to my left and seeing my orchid on the windowsill and the neighbor’s sheep dog scavenging around in the horse pasture. I’m completely at ease. The dogwood trees in my backyard are as familiar as the oak trees in my old house. I’ve tuned out the sound of the sheep on the hill just as I did the chickens next door in my old place. The gray sky is about as common as the humidity that used to surround me.
A lot can change in a year.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience Germany in all its four seasons. Each presents itself with its own beauty and challenges. Summer is my favorite; you get to be outside all the time and there’s a festival every weekend. However, you also get to learn how to function without air conditioning and smell the sweet countryside all day long. Fall let me see what the changing colors on trees looked like, but it also brought unpredictable weather. Warm one day, ice cold the next.
Winter turned the world white and brought with it a silence I’d never heard before. I would step outside and the absence of birds, tractors, household bustling was prevalent. It was extremely peaceful, but the price was that awful snow and ice.
Spring. Spring in Germany is an awakening. Flowers start blooming, color starts returning to the world, and you run for the outdoors with an un-quenching thirst for the sunshine and grills and mud puddles.
I knew I would enjoy my time in Germany. I just didn’t realize how much it would change me in a year. Living in my beautiful, quiet, intimate village has shown me what’s truly important in life. When it’s sunny outside, you go and spend the day basking in its glory, because you never know what the next day will bring. You could experience seven days of rain and wind before you get another pretty afternoon.
You stop and say hello to your neighbors. Because they might end up letting your children feed their sheep, taste a tomato from their garden, ask you to sit next to them at the fasching parade, pull your trash cans back to their spot on trash day….
You slow down and live.
In the past year, I have learned to become better about putting my phone away, taking long walks with no destination in mind, and letting go of tomorrow’s plans in order to appreciate today’s gifts. It’s been hard, but I am so much calmer and open to unexpected opportunities now. I sincerely hope I am showing my kids that it’s all right to stop and smell the roses. (In our case, it’s the neighbor’s tulips.) I don’t want them to ever be so wrapped up in their day to day lives that they forget to enjoy what they have.
I was so lost and confused a year ago. I looked like a deer in headlights at the airport, and there was a part of me that wanted to turn around and get right back on an airplane. The first six weeks weren’t much better. I didn’t have a house, a car, friends, or any sort of grasp of the German language. Everything moved slow and the towns were small and the roads narrow. I missed familiarity, missed America.
But weeks turned into months. Furniture arrived, driving became easier, and faces became familiar. Without realizing it, I settled in and created roots and suddenly Germany became a home.
So, while I suffered from some major culture shock those first few months that made the beginning pretty rough, here I stand one whole year later happy as ever. Back on that first night, I wondered what I’d be writing a year later. I told myself, “I’ll survive to the first year, then the second, and then the final one.”
Thank goodness I’ve evolved to do more than just survive living in Germany; I’ve embraced it and even the bad experiences (like a husband being gone) hasn’t brought me down.
Here’s to Year Two and another twelve months of amazing living.