There have been a couple times during this trip when I had the sinking feeling that moving to Germany was a mistake, but for the most part those moments happened before we actually arrived. There was the flight from Atlanta to Stuttgart, when due to Aaron’s periodic restlessness I didn’t fall asleep at all and thus found myself groggily speaking German at the Stuttgart airport after 26 hours without sleep. There was the trip to the cargo hold to pick up Ike, who hadn’t been taken out even once during our long layover in Atlanta and whose kennel was covered in poop that I had to clean up with the last of my baby wipes.
However, though stressful moments are inevitable when traveling, I have generally felt blessed and excited to be back in Germany; this is the good kind of whirlwind. The problems didn’t last long, after all: Aaron and I both slept very well our first night, and Ike seemed to forget his airborne agony as soon as he saw us. After only two days, I’ve felt my language skills building back to where they used to be when I lived here before. I’m impressed with the look and feel of our new city– instead of urban sprawl, farm fields surround the cobblestone neighborhoods. I love the German breakfasts at our hotel– soft-boiled eggs with bright orange yolks, fresh bread flecked with grains, rich coffee, creamy yogurt, delicious meat and cheese. I’ve taken comfort in the little quirks that haven’t changed in ten years– how Germans don’t use screens in their windows (they like their “frische Luft” unfiltered, and all the windows can be propped open from the top by turning the handle a certain way); how every hour, you hear churchbells; how they make beds by folding a comforter in thirds, lengthwise, on top of the bedsheet; how you’re never more than a few steps from a farmers’ market, a bus station, a field, or somebody else’s cigarette smoke. No place is perfect, but Stuttgart is a dynamic, diverse, and green place that offers the benefits of a city (public transportation, swimming pools, and stores within walking distance) alongside some natural beauty (fields filled with cut-your-own sunflowers line busy streets, and there is a farm in the middle of our neighborhood– I’m still trying to figure out quite how that works, but I definitely saw a cow eating hay in a barn behind a partially opened wooden gate just off the sidewalk– we were told the crop field was just behind the house and that one could buy fresh produce from the small farm market there).
We’re staying at a hotel for a few days until M. and I can get our belongings moved in to our new apartment, a task we’re hoping to accomplish tomorrow. Today, we visited the apartment to get keys from the landlord, and met one of the other two families in the three-apartment house. Both families have children, and the one we met had a friendly two-year-old who looks forward to playing with A. We also set up a bank account and did some basic grocery shopping. Food prices are very reasonable- for just under $12, I purchased ingredients to feed lunch to three adults and a baby: four freshly baked sandwich buns, salami, turkey, brie cheese, cucumber, three yogurts, and large bottles of sparkling water and pear juice– and there were definitely leftovers.
I definitely miss home and feel an ache for people I’m used to seeing often whom I now won’t see for ten months. Having my dad here has made the transition much easier for us though; I really don’t know what we would have done without him. We would have had to take little A. on all our errands, which though not impossible would have made everything far more difficult. My dad’s presence is both emotionally reassuring and practically helpful.
As I write this, I’m looking out over a towering ash tree that barely hides the rust-colored rooftops of nearby houses (most of the homes here seem to be cream-colored, with reddish roofs). I hear German wafting from the street through the screen-free hotel windows. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.