Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Germany

While it is still the Christmas Season, we wanted to answer some questions about how we spent our first Christmas in Germany. We were able to move into our apartment on December 17th so that we could have a Christmas at home with our own stuff...but we didn't get as far as decorating or getting a tree. So all of the great after-Christmas-sale stuff I got last year will have to wait yet another year. ;) On the bright side, I didn't have to buy anything new this year and by next year I will have forgotten what I bought last year and just decorating will be like an early Christmas, surprise after surprise. haha

A lot of Americans, as you can imagine, head back to the States for the holidays, but a few are like us and had reasons not to leave. We felt that we were not yet settled in enough to leave and didn't know how to make plans for the animals while we were away...so, we'll head home to PA for family visiting later in the winter. We started talking to some of our American friends who were sticking around to find out what people do for Christmas here, secretly hoping to not have to cook at all...and had several lovely invitations to dinners, activities and parties. We also learned that the Army Base Chapel, where we attend on Sundays, has a Christmas Eve service annually. So we started to make plans...

We planned to attend Christmas Eve service, where we were asked to participate by reading and lighting the final advent candle, the Christ candle...then we planned to go home and open our gifts from family so that the next morning we could take our time getting ready to go on a hike to a hutte/lodge where we would eat Christmas dinner with friends who Ben works with and then sled back down the hill...get home, shower & clean up, go to Ben's office to call home and talk to our families (we still don't have our own phone line...any day now!)...before we headed off with more friends to join a dessert party up the mountain in Ettal.


We did attend the Christmas Eve service, AFTER we had what can only be described as an emotional meltdown resulting from the changes, adjustments, stresses and sadness of missing our family and friends. But God is good and we were able to pull ourselves together and make it to the service. Being a part of it felt really special since we are so new here, but it also felt natural-after all, we were with God's family. The Chaplain, Larry Pundt, gave an excellent sermon on how God fooled the devil at Christmas...reminding us all of God's sovereingty. If you google that title, you can find this sermon, apparently it is popular, but Ben & I couldn't remember hearing it before...and Larry is a man of God with a passionate heart and certainly made it his own.

We did open our presents Christmas Eve. :)

Christmas morning it was raining. So we didn't hike. We did stuff around the house, watched a couple of movies, made nachos and talked more about what had caused me in particular to breakdown the night before...but Ben was able to share a lot of what he is struggling with too. Mostly, the hardest thing has been not having good communication with our support systems. I know we have each other, and that is a true blessing...but when you are both feeling crummy about things and aren't paying enough attention to the feelings of the other...or expressing yourself properly, things get mixed up pretty quickly. So after talking about what we were each having a hard time with, we agreed to help each other out, made some goals and we both felt a lot better about our new life here...when you know someone else is missing some of the same things, it helps!

We did get to talk to our families (except my dad who we left a message for)...and our nephew Logan sang to us...something about his bicycle has no handlebars...he is Brook's son, afterall. :)

We did go with friends to the dessert party and had a fabulous time.

So, our Christmas wasn't a happy or spectacular or fun adventure like we had hoped...but it was certainly a time of reflection...reflection on God's love in the form of the Christ-child, reflection on how we are doing after moving to a new country, a new culture, a new life...relfection on the goodness that God shows us-as undeserving as we are. And it was fun!

Have a fabulous New Year...and remember to reflect on God's goodness in your life!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Confessions of an EisBaer

Ok, so I think it is about time that I get to put my 2 cents in about this whole move to Germany thing since no one ever really stops to ask the dog what she thinks-I'm gonna tell you anyway. Thus begins my first-ever blog entry.

I have to admit that at first I was not so keen on this whole idea of leaving my house, my yard, my dog park buds. In fact, the week of the move, my "people" made me sleep in this small one room house they called a hotel-so I found a secret hidden room that they did not seem to notice and slept in there. I heard them call it a closet, but I think they just didn't know that you could easily fit in there to sleep comfortably...I didn't tell them b/c I wanted it all to myself.

After they let all of those men steal my bed and my toys they made me ride in a big car with all of the stuff they managed to save threatening to fall on me at any sharp turn, just to stay in another hotel that didn't even have their so-called "closet" so I had to bunk on the floor next to their bed...for like 5.5 hours before they made me ride in another big car to this giant place with lots of lights and nice people who I wasn't allowed to sniff. They put me in my crate and then put my best friend (inside of his crate) on top of me and wheeled us around until they let these men in blue shirts steal us away...I can't even tell you what happened next...I have erased those memories...

...but soon enough Rascal and I found ourselves in another big place with lots of lights and people. We were thirsty and scared b/c the people in the blue shirts just left us sitting under a sign that I think said "Odd Baggage"...until my people finally came and got us. They took a while figuring out what to do with me though b/c my crate was too big to fit on any of the carts...so finally they let me out to walk through the big place until we found the USO. I liked that walk-not only b/c it was good to stretch my legs, but I guess I am a celebrity in that big place b/c people were pointing and staring and smiling and even laughing at me and my people. I wish I could have stopped to meet them all, but my silly people don't let me do that-I guess they think it increases my myseterious quality to not meet EVERYONE who I pass on a daily basis. I can't think of any other reason.

My people seemed very pleased to find the USO in the land of Chicago O'Hare but immideately I was taken outside to find a nice grassy place to do my business. It was exciting b/c not a lot of dogs had been where I was so I got to claim a lot of territory.
Just as I was getting used to the USO and the walks, they put me back in my crate and gave Rascal and I to Calvin. Calvin was very nice. He gave us water and was gentle...but he put me back in that loud, cold place that I refuse to tell you about b/c I don't want to scare any little kids who might read this.

We had one last stop in another big place...but this place was different. It had a lot of nice people, but they talked funny and they just left Rascal and I out in the middle of the floor on a cart with suitcases, so my people didn't find me right away. They walked right past me and I was worried that they wouldn't see me and I was too scared to bark at them. But they did find me and they took me to a quiet room where a nice funny talking man met me and petted me and said something like "Welcome to Munich, Germany" but I just hoped that they would let me out of my crate soon so I could run around.
Lucky for me, two nice lady people named Katharina and Arlene had a really big van to take us away from the scary big place and they petted me and drove me to a new house.
The new house what NOT what I was used to. It had no big yard and my people put me on a leash everytime they took me to the little yard. BUT, I did get to walk in fun new places and try to meet new friends. Some of those funny talking people called me EisBaer which always makes my people laugh...I don't really get it b/c I don't know what a polar bear is, but apparently I look like one. EisBaer is not the only new word I have learned. I have also learned HUND and SCHON and NEIN. I am now a bilingual pooch!

Over time, I learned to like the new house but I didn't know where my bed or toys went or why we had so little room-it sure seemed like my people had made a MAJOR DOWNGRADE.

Oh, I didn't even tell you the worst part. SOMEONE STOLE MY CAR. Seriously, one day I was riding around in it, the next it was nowhere to be found. In Germany, my people made me walk everywhere or else ride the bus, which I hated waiting for. I never had to wait for my car.

So I made the best of it and enjoyed my walks and especially the river-ice cold running water. HEAVEN.

I guess Germany isn't all bad. They let me go into a lot more buildings here like shops and restaurants. Once my silly people figured it out, they started taking me with them to dinner most nights. Here I am waiting to see if I will get any scraps of burger or fries...I love mustard.

It has been a long adjustment, but I think Germany is growing on me. I like the mountains-after all, I am a mountain dog. I also like the snow-a lot. And my people finally moved me into a bigger house where I have a yard right outside of the door next to my bed...and yeah...some other men found the men who stole my stuff and they brought it all back to me...my bed, my toys, even my car! So, it feels a little like home now.

Now I take big long walks in the snow, like today, and I am still a celebrity...people stare at me everywhere I go, they want to talk in their funny talk about me. If my man is there, he will funny talk with them, but if it is my woman, then she just smiles and says a few funny words until the funny talking people walk away. But, they must really love an EisBaer here in Germany, b/c they sure love me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter, Christmas, and German customs

Winter has finally come to the Bavarian Alps! Just as we received our car and moved into our apartment the snow and REALLY cold temperatures blew in. Before that all happened, we found a War Memorial up in a pasture on the mountain. Storm found a fountain to take advantage of. It was sad to see all the plaques with pictures of young men, and the place where they died. Most were from WWII, and most died in Russia.

The view from the Memorial is a good one- you can see all of Garmisch and the ski jump from the Olympics.

After we got our car in Stuttgart, we came and left for a quick day-trip to Salzburg. It was a great starter trip- we'll definitely want to go back for a few days to explore the narrow alleys.

Every other vendor at the Christmas markets sells sweets! The roasted, sugared and cinnamon almonds are our favorite.

Partenkirchen, which is connected to Garmisch, also had a Christmas market. The end of it had a really cool view.

On Dec 16th we moved into our apartment and received all of the houshold goods that we decided to bring along. Since then, and for the next few weeks, we'll be opening boxes and figuring out where to place things. It is a great feeling to settle into a place and know that it is yours for a long time. It's also quite a challenge with absolutely NO closets! It's wonderful to experience what is better in Europe, but challenging to miss the things that are certainly better in America. Closets being one of them. The other is the abundance of laws and order.. sometimes to extremes here. The one we're getting used to is the fine you will likely get if you leave your car running while you scrape the frost off your windows. And don't think that there's no way the authorities will catch you!! We've heard that many neighbors will have no problem dropping the dime on you.
I think we'll catch on fairly quickly, enjoy the good things and cling to some of the things that make us distinctly American. Our grill also arrived, and we'll be using that thing every day no matter the weather!