Feelings of Isolation Can Be Exhausting

I spend a lot of time in my home here in Germany. I work remotely from home so most days I have little or no reason to leave the house. I will live on sandwiches for days if it means I do not have to walk to the store in bad weather. I can make a simple soup out of most things in my cupboard and would most likely wait until I had more than one completely bare shelf before I would venture outside if it weren’t for my husband and my dog. They seem to prefer when there is food in the house and more substantial meals to eat.

When I am in my apartment I do very well. I know I am living in Germany, on the other side of the planet from most of my friends and family and basically everything familiar I grew up seeing and doing. When I am in the apartment I watch Netflix and can see the same TV shows I loved when I was living in the states and I can see them in English. When I am in my apartment there is a disconnect with my reality but then the day comes when I have to venture out and the feelings of isolation that come up can be crushing.

I walk down a street and see signs and graffiti, everything is in German or sometimes in English that isn’t quite right. I hear people speaking and it’s usually in German or Arabic or French or any number of other languages that are common here, on a rare occasion I will even hear American English. When I am faced with these things there is no hiding from my reality and the distance between me and things that are familiar becomes very real. I walk the streets calmly while inside I want to cry. Wail, about the things I miss, simple things. Just going to the movies with someone or meeting for lunch. Running into a friend while out shopping and going to have a coffee and sit and chat.  Being in a shop and having a question and being able to ask it without having to wonder if the words I am using are correct or not, wondering if I am making sense or making myself appear foolish.

I have no colleagues I can sit and chat with, bonding over our workload or a collective hope we will get a raise this year.  My dog, whom I love dearly, is even worse than me on the streets. A bundle of raw nerves that shakes and cowers at every sound as he tries desperately to keep watch for dangers from every angle. When he is with me, I tend to forget my own anxiety and focus on easing his. In a way, I guess this makes him a good therapy dog for me. Here there are no girlfriends, no friends in general. I was spending time with one of my teachers, I paid her for tutoring. She and her daughter came for dinner one night. I would say she is a friendly but I do not think she considers herself my friend, I do not see us to meeting for lunch and going on an impromptu shopping trip together.

Life here is difficult but it is also amazing. I love the culture, the art, the music, the diversity. I love the trains and seeing so many people on bicycles, even in the rain and snow. I love how important family and health is here. I love seeing my husband so engaged in his work; how happy he is when he gets noticed for his accomplishments at work. There are so many things to love here. I do not want to leave and yet there are days when being here is overwhelmingly depressing.

On those days, I intentionally seek the joyful things around me and focus my energy there. But I have found it is better to acknowledge the challenges then to deny them. When you try to ignore the struggle, it just seems to make it all seem that much bigger.

So, yes, life is difficult here on the other side of my world but it is oh so worth it!

Time Moves Too Fast

It always amazes me how fast time seems to slip away from me. I can’t believe my last post was last September. How did I not realize it had been so long since I posted?

I have been working hard at my German class. I can speak German better but not quite to the B1 level yet. I just took my B1 test this morning. I’m really not holding out too much hope that I passed it will flying colors. If I did manage to pass it will be just barely.

Since all my brain surgeries, I have horrible short-term memory. That makes this intensive language class a nightmare for me. I was working with my teacher on the weekends to try to understand the language concepts a bit better but it just takes me longer to get things into my long term memory. Not too much I can do about that.

I did get a second job in October. For the last six months I have been teaching English to children in China for an online school. It has really been a lot of fun and the kids, for the most part, are adorable and so much fun to work with. Occasionally, you get a child who doesn’t want to talk or wants to show you every toy in their room but most of the kids really pay attention and work so hard. It’s great work and it pays pretty decent for a work from home kind of job. I just signed a second six-month contract with the school.

My first job was writing self-published books. I  have two books published under a pen name. It is a western serial. I should have four books out by now but this German class has just taken up too much of my time and I had to put my writing on hold for a while. With any luck, I will be able to get back to writing full-time this summer and still working part-time as a teacher.

I made it to carnival here this year. I came home with pockets full of treats I still haven’t eaten and honestly probably never will. It was fun and weird. I can’t wait for next year. Tony and I go to Trödelmarkts, Fischmarkts, and always look for festivals here. There is always something fun to do.

Tony is still working all over the world and I am here alone with Shaggy most days. Tony and I make our time together really count and spend a lot of time together on the weekends even if it’s just time doing nothing but sitting next to each other on the sofa watching TV or playing cards.

Life here on the other side of the planet is still hard but as I learn more German and can communicate better with those around me here it does get a little easier.

Oh, How My Life Has Changed

When I met Tony, I had no idea how this man would end up changing my life. I thought I was just lucky to meet a man I had so much in common with and would actually sit and talk with me for hours.

When he asked me to marry him I said yes without a second of hesitation even knowing it would mean moving away from everyone and everything I knew. It was scary, it still is, but very exciting at the same time.

I still deal with a lot, a LOT, of guilt about moving away from my Granny and my parents. My Granny was 98 when I moved and my parents are both in their 70s and starting to need more help. I had been there for all of them my entire life and it was so hard to leave them.

I thought it would be hardest to tell my Granny about my plans to leave, she was bedridden in a nursing home and her only regular visitors were my mother and I. I went and saw her every week unless I was sick. Surprisingly,  Granny was extremely supportive of my decision and only said, “it’s your turn to take care of you.” She lived to be 99 and a half years old. I will forever be grateful to my husband for sending me home to surprise her for her 99th birthday. There are not words to ever express how much those memories mean to me.

Being so far from family and friends has been hard but I had Tony here with me. To give me some more company he got me a dog, Shaggy. He is my little fur baby and, yes, I am one of those people who loves their animals like part of the family. I am native and all I see when I look at him is another spirit. You may think I’m a crazy hippie and you’d be right. I own it!

Having my husband and my dog here with me made things a little easier for a while but then Tony was assigned a new project at work and now he’s gone for 4days and 3 nights every week. It was hard being in a foreign country before but now it’s so much harder.

Do I still think my life has changed for the better? Yes! Just because life is hard does not make it bad. It just means you have to work harder to find your bliss. I do love living here in Germany and the people are great. Once I get to where I can speak German better I know I will make friends and be more social. Until then I will keep focusing on keeping in touch with as many people back home as I can, my writing, my dog, and my husband.

 

The Things You’ll See

Yesterday, I went out shopping. I bought a new rolling grocery cart because the one I had was held together with Duct Tape and was too easy to tip over. I found a construction dumpster and tossed the old one.

As I was walking to the train station I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a Porche. Now, it’s not unusual to see expensive sports cars here. You see can see Porsches and Ferraris just about any day, especially if you are down near the Altstadt where you find the more upscale stores. But this Porche was different, and not really in a good way.

 

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This is the best example of the color I found.

Now, this is of course just my opinion based on my personal tastes, but this car was nice in many ways. It had a great body style, the engine sounded amazing, but the color made me cringe. I’m not sure I can describe it well enough to get you, my reader, to feel the actual physical discomfort I felt while looking at this automobile.

 

I had to wonder what on earth would make a person, who could afford such a magnificent car, choose such a color. It was a shiny metallic pink color, like teenage girl nail polish metallic pink, like 70’s disco dress kind of metallic pink, like a Hot Wheels car kind of metallic pink. It was just weird to see this on a real street legal Porche.

 

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Hot Wheels is a trade marked product of Mattel – Maybe they were part of the Gleam Team.

 

If you Google metallic pink chrome Porche you will find different models in this color. It’s obviously a somewhat popular paint choice since you can find so many examples of it. It’s just all a matter of personal taste. As for me, it gives me chest pains to see it.

 

The second thing I saw that I was sure was a sign of the end of days, was a nice family sitting at a cafe eating ice cream. Now, I’m sure you are wondering what on earth could be wrong with this?

As I was walking past this cafe, I noticed a very nice looking family of a man, a woman, and a small boy about, maybe, five or six-years-old. The man and the woman each had an ice cream cone. It was a very humid day so there were many people on the streets with ice cream cones. The man was eating his cone and the woman was sharing her’s with the little boy.

 

 

 

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Susan Walsh, Associated Press – President Barack Obama eats mint chocolate chip ice cream at Deb’s Ice Cream & Deli in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

 

None of this is odd so far, the odd part was how the woman was eating her ice cream cone. The usual practice with an ice cream in a cone is you hold the cone in your hand and lick the ice cream. That is not how this woman was doing it. She was holding the cone in her hand but she was eating the ice cream out of it with a spoon.

 

 

I am going to turn 49-years-old next month and I can honestly say I have never in my life seen anyone eat a normal sized ice cream cone with a spoon. I have no idea why this struck me as so odd and objectionable but it did. It’s not like how she eats her ice cream is going to cause the seventh seal to be broken and bring about the end of times and yet I still wanted to walk over and ask her if I could explain how ice cream cones work.

Now, if it had been one of those huge cones that are more like a bowl, where they give you three or four scoops of ice cream, then I could see it. But this was a small cone with just one scoop of ice cream on it. Maybe she just didn’t want her and her child licking on the same cone, I don’t know. It will have to remain one of those great mysteries of life.

While this post may make me come off as being judgemental, I really don’t care what color car you drive or how you choose to eat your ice cream. Do whatever you want to do to make your life worth living and I will totally support you. As long as you use your turn signal and the turn lanes when driving and you are polite to waitstaff and don’t drop your napkins on the ground and leave them there. Those are the real things I will judge you for, as we all should.

Feeling Drained

IMG_7776These last few weeks have been … well … hell. I started this blog to talk about the things that are different when you go from living in a mid-west town in the U.S. to living overseas in a foreign country but life has been getting in my way lately. (I will get back to my original plan soon, I promise.) Things have been a bit sidetracked since Tony started consulting for a new client.

He used to consult with one here in town but now every Monday Tony has to fly out to Zurich, share a rental car with co-workers to Konstanz, Germany where he works until Thursday afternoon, then flies home. So, after being single for 46 years, I get married and move to Europe with the man of my dreams only to end up living alone again for 4 days a week in a country where I do not know anyone else and do not speak the language very well.

Now, I have met people since we moved here, of course I have. But I have not become friends with anyone who actually lives here. All the friends I have made since moving here have been in my language classes. Unfortunately, most of them were only here to learn German and went home again after their class was over. The few who are still here are mostly 20-something males from Syria. While we always say hello when we see each other on the street, we aren’t the kind of friends who go to the movies and get gelato together.

To make matters more stressful right now, our dog has been very sick and I have had to try taking care of him on my own, navigating the trains and taxis with a sick dog and trying to communicate in a language I do not speak very well. Let’s just say, Thank God for chocolate because I’m not much of a drinker anymore.

I would like to point out the people I have dealt with while trying to take care of Shaggy have all been wonderful. The people at the animal clinic are amazing and I feel very good about the care they always give Shaggy. But when you are alone in a foreign country and don’t feel secure in your knowledge of the local language and customs, any crisis like this is extremely stressful.

Tony has tried to do everything he can even when he’s in Konstanz. He makes calls to the vet and other people for me when my level of German isn’t enough to understand each other.

I had been in a German language class I loved this summer but the teacher left the school. She is going to be teaching in a new school in September. I need to call today and see about getting into the new school and when her class will get to module 3, where I left off, and set up for me to join the class at that time.

On the up side of things, I will be able to complete my German lessons well before my deadline of August 2018, even if I have to start over again at the new school. The ice machine I ordered works fantastic and I have been living on ice teas this week. When everything is going to hell, it’s the little things that keep you going.

 

 

Who I am and Why You Should Follow Me

The first part of this is easy enough. I am a middle-aged woman who got married for the first and only time at the age of 47. As is typical nowadays, my husband and I met on a dating website. A co-worker had met his fiance on Plenty of Fish and suggested I try it too. I had five dates and the fifth would be my last first date ever, I met the man I would marry.

 

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Just your average Kansas girl.

I was born, raised, went to college, and lived in Wichita, Kansas practically my entire life except for a few short moves to Oklahoma and Missouri. While I had traveled to different countries, the visits were never more than a week a two. My husband, however, was born and raised in Chile, went to college in Germany, and has lived pretty much all over the world. How his life’s journey managed to land him in Wichita, KS, I will never know but I’m grateful it did.

 

I fluently speak English and have studied Spanish, Russian, and American Sign language but can barely have a basic conversations in them. My husband fluently speaks English, Spanish, German and can have basic conversations in Italian, Portuguese, and French and knows some Danish and Chinese.

I am the first person in my family to go to college and I believe I am still the only one with a degree but defiantly the only one with more than one degree. I have a degree in journalism and an associated degree in forensic criminology. I have taken numerous business and management classes and had started another degree in nutrition but after meeting my husband, my future plans changed. I do hope to finish my nutrition degree one day. It is very important to me.

My husband, on the other hand, comes from a family where college is expected and many people have degrees. He himself holds five degrees. I believe it’s two undergraduate and three master’s but, honestly, I can never remember for sure.

I come from what would be considered a lower middle-class American family while my husband comes from a more aristocratic upper-class Chilean/German family.we couldn’t come from more different backgrounds and yet we are so similar it’s scary.

My husband and I both love to learn new things, cooking, and are both admitted crazy geeks who love all things Star Wars, Star Trek, Lego, Comic-Con, etc. I don’t think we could ever find anyone with whom we could be more compatible. We love traveling and trying new things and are not shy about sharing our adventures.

While I do use fictitious names because of Tony’s job, I am pretty honest about every other aspect of our lives here. I hope you will find out journey as interesting as we do.

Things are Looking Up Again

13900357_10208876501981516_8409685883745070408_nAfter we got Shaggy home from the vet clinic he was doing good for two days then he took a turn for the worse.

After finally eating well again, Sunday night as we were going to bed, Shaggy began throwing up again. He threw up so many times and by the end was just dry heaving. The poor boy was so tired he just laid there and looked at me. It was so hard being that helpless.

The next day he refused to eat anything, can’t say that I blame him after the night he had. I tried just giving him boiled turkey and rice but he wouldn’t touch it. Finally last night, I gave him a boiled egg. He ate it so fast I had to take it away from him and hand feed it to him so he wouldn’t make himself sick again.

Today, I tried the turkey and rice again but he still didn’t want it so I gave him another boiled egg. I had an idea and, for lunch, I made Shaggy an omelet of one egg, turkey, and rice. He loved it so much I again had to take the food from him and hand feed it to him. I’m being careful not to feed him too much today until we know for sure he’s feeling better.

One thing I am so thankful for is the way animals are treated here in Germany. The vet we go to is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year just like the hospital for people. Watching the doctors with Shaggy has made me feel so much better. You can tell the people in there really love animals. Some people even bring their own animals to work with them.

Here it is more the norm for animals to be seen as part of the family and not an accessory. Dogs go to the mall with people, to restaurants, on vacation, they go everywhere people go except grocery stores. It’s amazing.

Even the shelter we went to looked like a pet resort. They had an agility pen with ramps and tires to jump through. They had even just built a new area for rabbits. It was pretty nice.

It’s comforting to be somewhere I know the people I need to go to to help my dog will care as much about him and his well-being as I do.