We spent the large majority of last week in Vienna visiting our colleagues there and getting to know them. This week we are taking advantage of our language teacher’s vacation and are discovering our town a little bit more.
It’s been over 10 days since the last post, so I thought I’d put some pictures up from Ian and Ellison’s time at camp. I took these the morning that I came to pick them up and they were good and tired but had learned lots more German and really made some good connections with new friends.
Here is Ian leading the kids in German in sports games!
Some of the fearless leaders with another camper.
What is camp without a camp flag?
Sleeping quarters. Ian slept in the navy blue tent on the right and Ellison’s tent was dismantled by the time I arrived. She stayed with another girl and her mother.
Jude turned 5 today. To me 5 feels like such a big number and 5 years is a significant time span. A lot has changed in our family over these past five years and today we got to celebrate one of the best changes of all, our son Jude. Yesterday, we were trying to figure out what to do exactly and we narrowed it down to a few things. We decided that we’d wait till this morning to see what the weather was like. It turned out that it was raining which meant all plans were off and we were staying at home. Jude loves being at home, it’s where he is most fully in his element and it ended up being a really good plan.
After nap time, the sun came out and we decided to head out to KFC for dinner. Although it’s different from KFC at home, they have the BEST kids play area and the food is really good.
While everyone back in America is starting a new school year and posting pictures all over Facebook, we are just at the beginning of our summer vacation. Ellison ended school on the last day of July and we were all kinds of pumped to pick her up from school. We had the cameras ready hoping to get a big smile and this is what we got…
It turns out that her last day of school ended with her not being able to find one of her house shoes. All kids are required to wear house shoes inside of school and she was really excited to bring hers home at the end of the year to have in the house for the summer. For some reason, she could only find one shoe. She and her teacher looked all over the classroom but with no luck. It stinks because it was a really rotten ending for her.
The difficult thing about writing this blog is that I am tempted to only write when things are sunny and cheery. The major problem with that is that we are tempted to tell only one side of the story. The truth is, a life in a different culture away from nearly everything familiar comes with challenges, many challenges. Sometimes even a lost house shoe can bring a girl to tears for hours (yes hours), even when there are lunch guests downstairs. Sometimes just the image of something familiar from home like a box of Corn Flakes can bring on a big funk fest and sometimes missing the Olympics because you don’t have tv service because it’s just too much to figure out with not understanding the language…well it just stinks.
Thankfully not everyday has been like this and God has been incredibly gracious to our family and we are thankful for all that He has done to integrate our lives into his story in Augsburg, Germany-who would have thought. I guess there’s really no real reason to write this post except to tell you that some days are better than others and sometimes when we’re silent here it’s because we are in the throws of doing life and figuring things out and those are the times that we need you at home most to pray, pray and pray some more.
Thanks for reading and following us on this journey!
So, there is a lot to juggle around here. Ellison just got out of school last week for summer break but in just over a month we’ll have 2 kids in separate schools 5 days per week getting out at different times each day. We’ll have 2 adults trying to learn German full time with a private instructor and independent study time each day. In addition to our instruction time and study time we are required to have built in speaking time with partners as well. It is also recommended that Ellison has a partner. We are looking into easy activities that our kids can do to help enhance their German and culture learning as well. On top of it all there are other commitments with our interning church to factor in. When you throw in keeping the house clean, keeping everyone fed, and ministry work it makes for 2 tired people at the end of the day which doesn’t make for a healthy family at all.
One of the toughest things we’re having to figure out is who does what, when, where, and how. Learning to say no to good things is a very close second for us and that is a whole ‘nother post in itself. By nature of our lives we have to take things one day at a time. Each day just does not look the same for us which is really really hard for me. I know that it’s impossible at this stage of the game to have it that way. Now that all of the boxes are out of site, it felt like the right time to bring some order.
This weekend while Ian was away, I was happy to have spent lots of time organizing our lives on paper and making plans (Hallelujah Chorus is still ringing in my head). For over a week I’ve been on Pinterest swooning over the wealth of creativity in organization plans and charts. I tried to scale back and go with simple to jumpstart our efforts. Thanks to my time online, I created a cleaning schedule, downloaded some chore charts for the kids, and started an organization board for the family that really was the springboard for a lot of this. Take a look at it if you can. Doesn’t it just say order :-)?? I found some old wood in the back of our place so it felt like a sign to try and create one…right. I also took a look at our ministry organization system (yikes) and I revamped some of our personal organization stuff as well.
Ahem…Now I’m fully aware that my laid back, down to earth husband will return tomorrow and let me give him the grand tour of our orderly lives and then he will help me scale back just a bit. But for now, I feel so much better with some order in place and I’m praying that it will help our family succeed in our goals for this season.
There was a certain excitement in Ellison’s eyes and voice as Jude, Asher and I picked her up from school. She was talking almost non-stop the entire drive home and touching on everything she had done that day. This is not totally normal for her and I think it is because she is finally finishing up her first grade year. Ellison started first grade in Atlanta toward the beginning of August in 2011 and is finishing her first grade year on the last day of July of 2012 in Augsburg, Germany. So I guess she has great reason to be excited- She has been in the first grade for quite a long time. Almost an entire calendar year.
I asked her if she was a little disappointed to say goodbye to the friends she had made in class but she responded with an abrupt ‘No.’ I was a little taken aback but with hardly a breadth she kept on talking. Ellison mentioned that only a few kids would not be in her class next year. I was reminded that here in the public school system they stay with the same teacher and mainly the same students for their first four years of school. There really is no reason to say goodbye for the summer as they will see the same classmates and teacher only 6 weeks later. And for our first grader who has a warped since of time this is basically a long long weekend.
I wondered about this difference and the long term effects it has on people here and on me as an American. This idea of staying with the same class for four years connected me to previous conversations with other Germans that I’ve been having about church here. I started intertwining with these other thoughts. So much so that I had to remember to pay attention because I was still driving on the Autobahn (All I have to say about that is that you better be 100% sure that you want to get in the far left lane)! Anyways, along with these thoughts I started immediately comparing with my own memories of the ‘last day of school’ feelings and the ‘first day of school’ feelings I had when I was a ‘Junge’ in Atlanta. As an American educated kid I dealt with the saying goodbye to friends at every end of the year along with saying hello to new friends every new year. I felt that we were constantly in situations where we were making new friends and saying goodbye to ones we would more then likely not interact with again. Even with our seasonal sport schedule, you are constantly meeting new kids and saying goodbye. Our culture is much more transient and people are always moving around. It’s just normal.
This idea of staying with the same class for four years connected me to previous conversations with other Germans that I’ve been having about church here. On many occasion the natives here in Germany have said that Americans are more open and trusting and inviting which makes it a little easier to invite people to church or carry on conversations about God. I have always wondered if that is really true and if this is true, why? It made me wonder if a small part of this openness comes from the saying goodbyes and saying hellos that we learn every school year. On the contrary I also wondered if the 4 year commitment to a class and teacher helps to foster this idea of a closed knit group of trusted friends something that we have observed after just 3 months here. I wonder if this contributes to the culture of being very skeptical of outsiders or not wanting to venture out too far away from the base or the norm?
Cultural learning and language learning are two very different things. In learning a language, with it’s excitement and difficulty, we are bound to make mistakes. These mistakes typically don’t harm any of the relationships we have made to this point because everyone totally understands that we DO NOT speak German(yet). On the other hand, learning something less blatant like a new culture can have serious ramifications if not done well. Making an unknown cultural mistake can seriously detriment a relationship or even worse ruin influence. Not only are we making a mistake that we do not even realize but the recipients of this mistake do not necessarily understand that this is a cultural difference. All they see it as is ‘wrong’.
Cultural learning is vital when it comes to truly connecting with a person – something that we so earnestly want to do with people who we are meeting here. It’s why every experience leads us down a trail of thoughts and comparisons into our own experiences growing up. So, moments like today where I get a slight glimpse into how a culture grows up and I am able to easily compare it to the differences I experienced when I grew up are key factors in our success here.
I hope they are building in a sensitivity to other people’s points of view and that they will help to give grace when I can’t always connect the dots and understand why an idea I have simply will not work in this culture.
How grateful I am to have kids who have offered us more opportunities to take a look into another culture in which I otherwise would never have imagined. And lets face it, most of us are the way we are because of how we grew up. As an adult why else would I ever think of the elementary school years if it not for my kids!