Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Home Stretch

We are in the final stretch of our year in Germany! We go back to the states at the end of THIS MONTH and I can hardly believe that it's passed as quickly as it has. 

At this time last year, I was full of nerves. I was excited to move, but also a little scared! I'd been to Germany once in high school and it was my least favorite place I'd ever been! Also, didn't the German language sound so angry and have words with a million letters each? I wasn't sure about the food - don't Germans eat a ton of sauerkraut? I don't like sauerkraut! Would we be broke, living only on a little stipend month to month? I was also so nervous for all the logistics - the packing an apartment into a storage unit, selling our car (which was a nightmare), figuring out what to do for phone service, forwarding mail, and a million other little things that added up to be quite scary for me. I had a feeling it would all work out, but a year ago I could really only hope for the best and prepare for the worst. 

Well, it worked out. I think that it's up there as one of the best decisions we've made.

I truly don't think it would have been as great of an experience as it has been, if not for the six and a half weeks spent in German language classes in Marburg, provided by the Fulbright. We made some great friends there through the Fulbright program and I think they'll be lifelong friends! That was truly the best start to the year here, and without it, we'd have been a little lost. Having someone to hold our hands as we did the initial paperwork to stay here for a year was so helpful (there is a LOT of paperwork), and of course learning German was really helpful too. I came to Germany knowing maybe ten or twenty words, and although my German now is really nothing impressive, it's improved 100% and I understand quite a bit (speaking is a lot harder for me than understanding what other people are saying). 

We've been able to travel waaaaay more than we'd have expected to travel. We thought maybe we'd visit one or two countries over the course of the year, but we've visited over ten! We don't have the normal expenses we would in the States and it's cheaper to travel once you're in Europe than if you were to fly over the ocean, but still! That was unexpected, and we're so glad that we've had these opportunities to see new places. Obviously that's not something we'll be able to do in our regular life, so I'm grateful that we've been able to make the most of it and to see more of the world. It's been fun to try new foods, visit places we've only read about in books, and to gain more perspective on the world.

Personally, I was a little worried that this year might not be great for Carson's and my relationship. We hadn't done much traveling in new places with one another, so I didn't know how that might affect our interactions. In addition to that, I wasn't sure that a year of being so isolated would be great for us. It seemed like it was asking a lot to expect that we would possibly be the only friend in close proximity, only English speaker nearby, travel buddy, brother/sister in Christ, and spouse for one another. It really seemed unwise to me and I worried that it would just be a lot of pressure on our relationship, so it's something I prayed a lot about before we even boarded the first plane. 

To be honest though, this year has been one of my favorites in our relationship. Not because of all the stuff we were able to do, but I feel like we "clicked" in ways that we hadn't before. Our relationship isn't perfect now or anything, but at times in the past we've struggled. We're both firstborns, both stubborn, and we have pretty different personalities to boot. The year hasn't been without its struggles, but I feel like we've grown more as friends in a way we just hadn't in the past, and like now we're more of a team. Perhaps that would have happened even if we'd never moved, but I think it's something about this year. I think all of this can be attributed to God's grace in our lives, because I think we are both pretty difficult people to live with most of the time (pointing fingers mainly at myself here).

We haven't always been on top of it when it comes to being healthy and exercising, but things have changed a liiiiittle bit for us in that realm. We eat (marginally) better than we did before, and we are way more active. Although we have access to local public transportation, we opt to walk everywhere, and just walking on a daily basis has changed us so much! Back home, I think I would have turned my nose up at walking a whole mile when I had a perfectly good car to me where I wanted to go. A car is not an option anymore, and it's been the best thing! I average around 45 miles each week over here, and because of just walking, I've definitely had to buy smaller pants (and a smaller belt!) twice. It's made me aware of just how inactive I was before, and I really hope to continue walking more often, even though it will be harder in the States! 

The year has been full of challenges to go along with the good stuff. Me not working definitely meant a tighter budget for us. I definitely miss trips to Target and pressing "buy now" on little silly purchases on the Amazon app, although those things were never really a necessity in our life in the US. 
More than that though, it was (is) really such a challenge working through another loss. My previous miscarriage was over three years ago, so it was something I thought about all the time, but it wasn't fresh. This year, it was. If I never have to process these emotions, fears, physical pains, and all that goes along with miscarriage, it will still be too soon. I had to brave doctors that spoke minimal or zero English, we had to figure out the whole medical bills/insurance thing, and even a diagnostic surgery. Those things couldn't have been planned on when we were preparing to move to Germany, so processing all of them has been a little weird. 

Overall, I'd call this move to Germany one of our best decisions. 

The logistics of moving here weren't for the faint of heart, and I don't think I'd be eager to do it again for at least a few years, but all in all, it's been a great year. It's given us new perspectives on the world (what a year for world politics, am I right?!), greater empathy toward outsiders who struggle with learning our language, certainly a better idea of world geography, and of course some really terrific memories. It seems like a dream world, sort of, that we actually moved to another country and lived there for a year. I think for the both of us, getting away from our normal lives will change some things about us once we get back (for one, we definitely want to be more active!). 

I'm looking forward to the conveniences of life in the good old USA, being within driving distance and in the same time zone as friends and family, and honestly to having our comfortable mattress back in my life. We're going to miss our time here so much, but we really are excited to be back "home" too!

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