2015 has been the year of changing plans. As a good friend of ours says: “A plan is just a list of things that won’t happen.” That has certainly been true for us this year!
We started the year with a plan to move to Munich where I had a job lined up and ended up cutting our trip to Morocco short and moving to Berlin for M to take a job. The job is with a small firm that a larger international company just bought out and while there was promise of M being moved down to Munich in the near future, there was no definitive timeline.
Since we decided that there wasn’t enough excitement and uncertainty in our lives we decided to start a family and I promptly got pregnant. Further complicating things, my body doesn’t seem to appreciate this pregnancy thing very much and I quickly succumbed to almost three full months of constant “morning” sickness. It was, of course, during these months that the tutoring and course review job I have through an online startup picked up and I struggled to teach some physics between trips to the bathroom. Needless to say, I took a long pause in my German learning activities while coping!
“Hiking” while pregnant.
The change in work and city plans resulted in some stress around the fact that without my job I didn’t have a visa to live in Germany. We oscillated between plans of me hiding from the German winter in Vietnam and the Philippians for a few months in order to be able to renew my Schengen Visa entry and simply pushing up our wedding date. Eventually, with the new knowledge of the baby on the way, we settled this with a courthouse wedding, attended by our parents and two of my siblings. Through this whole experience we have learned a lot about jumping through various governmental hoops, but the end result is that I can now legally live in Germany and am married to the person I was planning to marry!
As I was finally getting over the worst of the sickness, M’s company finally announced a timeline for moving him down to Munich. Instead of a few months, such a move was going to be over a year out. As we had been living in temporary housing (with a friend, then a furnished sublet) in anticipation of a move, we finally started looking for apartments. As luck would have it, a friend was moving out of his rent-controlled place and we were able to take it over. Of course, finding the apartment turned out to be the easiest part of the whole moving ordeal. While we know that I have trouble with kitchen appliances in Germany, moving and furnishing an apartment can teach you a lot about the differences between countries and cultures. Perhaps that is a rant discussion for another post…
You’re only officially moved in when you have a BBQ…
We’re still working on that part of the plan. Germany has some incredible parental leave and vacation policies that will likely allow us to do a bit of traveling. This time, with an infant in tow!
Six months ago we packed up everything into a rental car with the plan on traveling for an undefined period of time. Now, we are settling into our new, albeit somewhat temporary home, at a wonderful friend’s apartment in Berlin. We cut our trip to Morocco short in order to fly back to Germany so that M could start a brand new job on February 2nd. In our typical style, we flew into an airport near Dusseldorf, rented a car and drove halfway across Germany to M’s parents to pack up some belongings before continuing the rest of the way across Germany to Berlin. M drove, as I don’t drive in snow, nor am I terribly skilled at driving manual transmission vehicles, and I especially don’t do the combination of the two. Don’t believe me? I’m sure my parents would be happy to tell you about that time they thought I should get some experience driving in snow, two hours away from home on a mountain road. I managed to pop not one, but two tires…luckily M grew up driving on snowy country roads and we arrived in Berlin without incident.
So how did we get to this point, where we are making a new start in a new city? The short version is that we haven’t just been traveling these past few months. Instead we have juggled visiting friends and family with applying and interviewing for jobs. M recently received a few offers and has chosen one that he couldn’t possibly be more excited about. Unfortunately we have become used to academic job timelines where interviewing happens months after applying and actually starting jobs takes even longer. As a result we weren’t prepared when he received his contract asking him to start within a week and a half – a full 11 days prior to when we were scheduled to leave Morocco. Through some scrambling we switched around flights and called countless people to help us get organized for our move, proving that these things can be accomplished from anywhere in the world.
Luckily we didn’t have to scramble for a place to live as we moved into one of M’s friends apartments. However, the friend was out of town during our first week, which made settling in a rather humorous affair. We were fairly convinced this friend only had two bowls, as we couldn’t find more anywhere in the kitchen. Well, we were wrong and found a few giant stacks of bowls hidden under a bunch of candles… It took me an entire 5 minutes to figure out how to use the strangest contraption of a can opener that I have ever seen (and considering I have no problem opening cans with a pocketknife that is saying something…). It also took me a rather long time to figure out how to turn on the microwave. For the record, you don’t. You simply turn and keep turning the switch as it adds time to the clock and once you stop turning it eventually starts all on its own. In addition, I have learned how to open the front door to the building. This involves me body checking it with all my weight and force and having the heavy piece of crap very slowly inch open under all of my pressure. Home sweet home… it may take us a while to fully settle in.
The infamous door…
While we are in Berlin, I have started an intensive language course to finally learn German. While I have been making some progress through the use of Duolingo and talking with M, I hope that this will help me advance much more quickly. I took a similar type of course six years ago when I moved to France without speaking any French. I’m already in better shape than during that adventure in language learning, as I can already order beer in German. I proved it at an “American” bar where we were able to watch the Super Bowl. The bar was filled with Germans wearing random NFL sports attire. I’m not sure they understood that the Dolphins, the Eagles, the Packers and the Jets (to name a few) were not, in fact, part of the very disappointing game.
As for the blog, we plan to continue to post our travel stories from the past six months as well as write new stories about our travels throughout Europe. Hopefully I can convince M to post something about the ups and downs of his job search in the near future. I’ve decided to take a break from the Picture of the Day series as I’ve been spending a significant amount of time studying German and adjusting to our new surroundings. After six months of culture shocks, you would think that adjusting would be easy…