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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!

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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.

My Crazy Life …

I have been so bad about posting in here because I have been so busy posting on my other sites. I have been very careful to keep this page as anonymous as possible but I’m not sure how practical that will be going forward.

I want to be able to share by books and my writing as that is where most of my time is devoted now but at the same time that kind of takes away from what I’m doing on this page. I will worry about that later. For now, I have interesting experiences to share about my life in Germany.

For a while now, I have been trying to learn the German language. We will be living here indefinitely at this point so I want to be able to speak the language very well, especially since I do not find as many English speakers here as I did in our small town in Denmark.

I started out taking a quick course at Goethe so I could pass a basic test to get my temporary residency. The people there were wonderful, the teachers were great, the facility was fantastic. They even had social programs to get you out in the public meeting locals and experiencing the culture. If I could finish all my classes there I would love to do that! However, it is not to be. The government here requires resident applicants to attend 600 hours of German classes at specific schools here in town to be eligible for a permanent residency visa. Sadly, Goethe is not on the list.

The government here requires resident applicants to attend 600 hours of German classes at specific schools here in town to be eligible for a permanent residency visa. Sadly, Goethe is not on the list.

Some people do not agree with this language and culture requirement for residency but I personally think it’s great! All countries should require it. The government will even reimburse you for part of the costs when you finish your course. Knowing the local language and culture will make it so much easier to function well in this society. Unfortunately, the experiences I have had trying to fulfill this requirement has not been wonderful, yet.

First of all, the process to even find out information is next to impossible if you don’t already speak at least basic German. I have called many schools and said, in German, I do not speak German well, do you speak English? This has been answered  with everything from a polite yes or no to people just hanging up on me (I was even hung up on when calling the school I was taking classes in after saying, in German, I’m a student in your school … click). I decided trying to call was never going to be a good idea so I went to check places out in person. I mean, people are less likely to be rude to your face, right?

The people I met at the first school I tried to enroll in were very dismissive, gave me incorrect information, then acted frustrated with me when I got things wrong. They had me take the wrong test to be placed in their school then acted as if I should have known it was the wrong test. This was all on the first day just trying to get enrolled. I finally gave up and went home.

I did go back again and try one more time to get into the school. I went to the room I had gone to before and the door was locked with a sign on it, all in German of course. A man came out and I tried to ask him a question but he just pointed at the sign and walked off. I wondered around until I found someone who spoke English. She told me to go into a room and wait. I walked into the room she had pointed out and it looked like they were having a meeting. A man turned around and spoke German to me. I said I was sorry but I do not speak German yet and was told to come in here. He just turned his back to me and kept on with the meeting.

Now, I am a very strong person and I don’t usually let things get to me but I will admit at that point I really wanted to cry. My level of frustration was through the roof. I walked out, went home, and never went back to that school. A few days later someone from the school called and asked if I was going to come to school or not, they were holding a place for me. I told her she couldn’t pay me to come to their school. I hung up and never heard from anyone from there again.

The second school I went to was much better at the beginning. The staff actually spoke to me and one lady even spoke English very well so she could help me get everything filled out. I have to say considering how many foreigners speak English  (and most are not from countries where English is the primary language. I had classmates from Syria, Turkey, Africa, and a few more countries and they all spoke English to some extent) I’m surprised these schools, which cater to people who do not speak German yet, do not have more people on staff who speak English.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not expect the German people to adapt to me and my language. I want to adapt to the German language and culture but when you go to a school that is specifically set up to cater to people who do not know a word of the German language or anything about their culture past Octoberfest and the Berlin wall, you’d kind of expect them to be able to help you a bit more. At the very least, not treat you like you are putting them out by not knowing the language already.

I was at the second school for about a month and pretty happy with everything until my teacher, whom I love, had to take a sick day. The woman who had been so helpful in the office came down and substituted for our class for one day. While I had really liked her as an administrator, I was not so fond of her as a teacher.

Our regular teacher had been teaching us basic conversations. When asked what I did for a living I had said Autorin, a female author. My regular teacher said Autorin was the English version of the word and taught me the more common German word which is Schriftstellerin. When the administrator asked me what I did for a living I said Schriftstellerin but apparently I didn’t pronounce it very well. She started making fun of the way I said it and pointing at her shoes. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me but I was very aware she was making fun of me. I guessed later she thought I was saying more like stiefel instead of steller. Steifel means boots. It’s the only thing I could come up with that made any sense for her to point at her shoes.

Now, like I said, I’m not one to let people get to me, usually. I’m used to people making fun of me. I’ve always been taller than everyone else, I was a fat kid, I’ve had 6 brain surgeries and now have practically no short term memory so sometimes have trouble understanding and remembering, I’ve learned to just go with the flow.  This was just different somehow. This was a person whose job it is to teach people like me who don’t know the language. She should have corrected me, explained what I did wrong, and helped me to do it right, not make fun of me in front of the entire class. It’s not surprising that no one else really wanted to speak up the rest of the class after this display. I know she pissed me off.

The next day when our regular teacher returned we found out we weren’t the only people having issues with this administrator. Apparently, she had been treating our teacher the same rude way, and our teacher is German! After the second month of classes, our teacher announced she would be leaving the school. Most of us in her class dreaded the thought of staying there without her.

With the neurological condition I have, stress makes my symptoms worse. By the end of the second month, I was having a lot of neuro problems and had to drop out of classes for a while. Now, I’m faced with going back to the same school without the teacher I love and with the administrator who made fun of me. I’m not sure I can stand to do that.  I have until the 22nd to decide if I want to go back or not. Until then, I might try a few more of the schools on the list. I’m sure there has to be a good one on there.

I have met some great, kind, helpful people here in Germany. I love this city and feel safe here. Which is why it saddens me that I’ve had such bad experiences with these schools so far. If a person comes here and doesn’t get out and interact with the public at large they might think everyone will treat them the way these people at the schools have treated me (assuming, of course, I’m not the only person being treated this way) and this is not a good representation of the German people.

Many people I talk to out in public are very willing to help you when you are at least trying to speak German. Many will tell you how to say something right if you say it wrong. I don’t mind being laughed at once in a while when I make a mistake as long as they explain what I did wrong and tell me how to say it right. I know I’m going to make stupid mistakes, I’m just starting to learn, that is expected.

All I hope for is for people to help me learn to do it right so one day I will be able to speak German well and be a real part of this great country. Whether I get help or not, I’m determined to learn the language and culture even if I have to try every school in town to do it!

 

Where did the time go?

So much has happened since my last blog. I can’t believe the twists and turns my life has taken.

I am a published author, writing westerns of all things, using two of my names. I believe I have mentioned before (or maybe not so much goes on in my head I’m not always ure what I’ve shared with you and what I haven’t) I have a very long crazy name since getting married. I kept my original three names and tacked on two of my husbands. When I tell people my whole name I always get odd looks.

I took my maiden last name and dropped the final “s” and my married last name and am currently writing a western serial collection under a male pen name. I am using photos I took of my father at my age as my publicity photos. My publisher really wants me to switch and write the books as a woman. They are looking to promote more female writers. While I think that is great I also know the general public often have a preconceived notion about gender and certain genres. For example most people expect women to be better romance writers and men to be better at writing things like westerns.

I told my publisher I would be happy to switch to my own name and photos after I have a chance to get a good base following for my work. So far my book has been getting great reviews from readers. The only real complaint I have had on my writing is everyone always wanted more. Best complaint I could ask for.

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With luck this will be our new rescue dog        from Russia, Niko

A few weeks after my book was released my stepdaughter moved in with us. The first two weeks was a little uneasy as we all got settled in with each other but after the initial getting to know you stage things have been great.  My stepdaughter could not be more like me if we actually shared DNA. It’s crazy how much we are alike. The only thing we really differ on, besides the fact she is a petite adorable girl and I’m a big amazon of a woman, is she is very shy and can be timid at times and I have never been shy a day in my life.

Sadly, her residential visa was denied so she will have to go back to Chile on the 21st. Our plan is to apply again in a year and see if we can’t get her here permanently then. We are even planning on trying to get her twin sister here next year too. I think it was a good baby step for us to have her here for these months and then both of the girls here next year. Suddenly being the parent of gorgeous twin teenage girls might have made my head explode.

I am getting ready to release the second installment in my western serial in a few weeks. Then I have to design a cover and record the audio versions for book one and two. Besides writing the books I have been working on websites and social media promotions. With Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Author pages on sales sites and my own webpages with daily author blog, I’m lucky to get any books written or housework done.

Last but not least I have to start more language lessons and a cultural integration course that my permanent residency visa is dependent on. I have until 2018 to complete it but I really need to get started as soon as possible. When you don’t have reliable short term memory, it can take a while to learn new skills like languages.

Also after months of trying to find a dog, many many disappointments, we are finally expecting to receive a rescue dog from Russia for Valentine’s Day. He is a Chinese Crested mix and just as cute as can be. We’ve named him Niko and have already bought him loads of goodies in preparation for his arrival.

So, new daughters, new books, new classes, new dog and sometimes I even get to sleep.

Alone Again

Today has been another grey misty day here in Düsseldorf. It fits my mood for the day very well. Tony left for München and will be gone for three days. This, just a week after he got back from ten days in Chile. Next week he’ll be in Stuttgart.

While I’m happy for Tony’s success at work and that he was able to spend so much time with his family recently with the losses they have had in the family, it’s still hard to spend so much time away from him.

Just this week Tony finally got his official paperwork saying he had passed his probationary time at this new job and had received an excellent report. But with this excellence comes more responsibility and more business trips. I’m happy for him because he is very happy with this job and the people he is working with. But is does suck for me.

Tony works long hours and we only get to have a few hours a day together during the work week. The perk has always been we got entire weekends together. Now with these trips, the job is taking up our weekend time together. I know I’m being selfish but honestly I don’t care. I love my husband, and I love spending time with him, and I’m not one bit ashamed that I hate that his work is eating into our together time.

That being said, I will never give him grief about having less time with me. I will however do everything I can to make sure that the time we do have together is amazing. Even if we are just sitting at home watching TV, I will do my part to make it relaxing, fun, and memorable for us both.

We already have our tickets for the midnight showing for the next Star Wars movie coming out in December, that’s good start.

Promoting a Writer: Stephen Burckhardt

I love to read. If I could be a professional reader I would be a happy person. So when I find stories I like, I want to share them with other people who love to read. Stephen Burckhardt writes westerns. While this is not something I ever thought I would enjoy, I find I really get into tbook coverhe stories.

I spent a few years living on a ranch when I was in grade school and the love of all things western has been with me ever since. I’m proud to say I am Cherokee, I can ride, I can shoot handguns and shotguns with precision, and I know how to handle animals. So there are a lot of things I can identify with in westerns. I even got married in The Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, KS.

A good western makes me think of my time on the ranch and makes me long to live on one again. The stories Stephen Burckhardt has written takes me right back to those days.

Stephens Burckhardt started out as a journalist and later worked as a ghostwriter. His first book under his own name is coming to ebook form soon. This will be the first book in a series called The Territories Sagas. The books will all be written in serial format. Each novella will be 30-50 pages in length and cost only 99 cents. There will be five to six novella to complete one story in a saga. When a story is complete a full novel containing all the novellas plus bonus material will be issued.

The first novella is currently being edited for publication. Into the West: The Orphan Train, Book One of the Territories Saga will be published later this month.

In the mean time, if you would like to check out a short story written by Stephen Burckhardt while working as a ghostwriter you can find it on Amazon. Western: In the Company of Thieves by Luis Antwoord

Rain Rain Go Away …

Where I grew up in Kansas we do not get a lot of rain except in Springtime also known as tornado season. It has been really hard to get used to Europe and all the rain they have here. When we were in Denmark it rained practically everyday for at least a few minutes but it rarely rained all day. Here in Germany it doesn’t seem to rain as often but when it does it’s usually all day long.

Today was another typically rainy day here and it was a lot colder than I expected. Despite the weather I had to go out and run errands. I did not dress well for the weather either. I was only halfway down my block and I was already getting cold. And being the lazy person I am, I refused to go back home and change, I just kept going and tried to walk faster to generate more heat. By the time I go to the streetcar stop in my neighborhood I was pretty darn cold.

When I got on the streetcar the ticket machine didn’t work so I couldn’t buy a ticket. I took this as a sign I was meant to get off at the main station and buy a ticket, and if I had to make a side trip into a coffee shop for something hot, so be it. And for the record, the chai tea latte was wonderful!

After I warmed up a bit I bought a ticket and got back on the train. There is a place on the other side of the river where I love to go to do my shopping. All the stores where I love to shop are right within two blocks of walking. How can you beat that? I went to the Apotheke (pharmacy), Goll (health food store), Rewe (grocery), Super Bio Market (organic market), and Rossman (like a Walgreens without the pharmacy).

By the time I was done going in and out of all the stores I was pretty cold again. I got a hot green tea at the bakery in front of the Rewe. I really didn’t think it through how to carry two full, heavy shopping bags, an umbrella, and a hot tea. Trying to balance all of that while digging out my wallet to get out coins to buy a ticket home proved to be a delightful challenge too. I can happily say I only spilled a tiny bit of my tea when I went to punch my ticket on the train and most of that just landed on the lid of the cup so, good for me.

By the time I got home I was so cold and wet and grumpy … lucky husband. I had my keys but instead of trying to dig them out I just rang the apartment and let him come answer the door and carry my bags for me. I went to switch laundry and then started straight in on making dinner. As I was starting to chop veggies Tony came in and hugged me to try to imporve my grumpy mood. As soon as he touched my back he told me to go change. I was a lot more soaked than I realized. I went in  and changed my sweater but not the tank I had under it. Tony being the mother hen that he is where my health is concerned immediately came over and reached under the new sweater to feel my tank and finding it damp too made me go change again. I love that he worries so but it’s kind of annoying at times too. Though as I sit her writing this wheezing, I’m glad he looks out for how he does.

With the cold weather I thought vegetarian “beef” stew sounded good. So we had that with fresh baked rolls.The “beef” is not actually meat, it’s made from seitan. When he is home with me Tony eats vegetarian with me but when we go out or he goes back home he becomes a ravenous carnivore. The only real problem with that is when he comes home and starts eating vegetarian again with me his body has to get used to having all those veggie again. For those who have never tried going vegetarian, the first few days can be … how to say this … gas production becomes a real issue. I just remind him, this too shall pass, one way or another.

Tomorrow the new stove comes. I’m so excited for this. I’m praying this one will have the baking racks actually in the oven and not on the door like the model we have now. It will be so much easier to bake more than one thing at a time and with Thanksgiving coming up next month I really really want an oven with racks in the oven!! One of my step-daughters should be living with us by then and I would really like to be able to impress her with my cooking.

Here is hoping!!!