Fitting in

Nest bench #aachen #germany

I'm trying.

I suppose we could sit at home and drive each other crazy and slowly venture out once we have better language skills and understanding of how things work here. But I can't. It's not in my nature to just hang out...I crave variety, something new every day, finding out what's over that hill, stumbling on treasures from a spontaneous outing. And besides, our kids are HIGH energy, life engaging little folks just like us, and they seem to like adventures too. After a full day at home we're all ready to run for the door, even if just for a walk in the rain.

Splash! #rain #play #aachen #germany

But it's hard sometimes.

I know lots of words in German so far. I do the grocery shopping mostly and manage our farmshare ordering so I know what all the fruits and veggies and grains etc are called. I interact with Bird's school and the parents and teachers. Day to day life and my own curiosity led me to learn colors and numbers how to order from the bakery, make purchases at garden centers and hardware stores :o) I've figured out how to bid on and buy items (toys!) on German Ebay and manage paying for them with our German bank account. I can translate everything that comes over email and type into Google translate program what comes in the mail (tedious but it works).

Real life connecting is challenging though! I feel like an outsider just about all the time. And we are really. Outsiders. We've never been in this place, and it's uncomfortable.

Aqua Fit with the German ladies was fun :) #aachen #germany #pool

But trying to fit in. I joined an Aqua Fit class that meets at a beautiful public pool in the center of the city. Marble, tile, mahogany, stained glass. Just gorgeous. And open to all! The class is filled with similar aged ladies who are pretty fit. I totally dreaded going however. The whole way there I self-talked. "It's okay, if you don't like it you can cancel..." etc. etc. I realize how little I enjoy being the center of attention. And that's what happens when you are the only one who doesn't speak the language and the teacher feels compelled to help you understand what they're doing. I would much rather have submerged myself under the water's surface with a straw for breathing and stay there the whole of the class than feel like I am inconveniencing the instructor.

But I will keep going. I need the exercise!! And I was invited out for a drink by a couple of ladies afterward. Nice right? I unfortunately didn't take them up on it. I was totally nervous about riding my bike home in the dark UPHILL ALL THE WAY, and couldn't imagine doing it after having a beer and it being even later. I'm a scaredy cat. Boo hoo. Next week I promise. The ride home wasn't awful except for getting a tiny bit lost and having my chain fall off in the middle of a busy intersection. ;o)

Trying a gym class

I also signed Bird up for an afternoon gymnastics class. Unfortunately it didn't go quite as expected. Does the picture above say gymnastics to you?? It was a terribly crazy day to start and this was just another twist. Griffy had slept fitfully since 3am, then I had to strap him in the ergo carrier on my chest to keep him from screaming (teething!) until nearly 9am. We walked Bird to school then walked to baby swim class. This has been a good sort of "putting myself out there" experience so far. It's something we can walk to which is always fabulous. There is another (very nice) mom from kindergarten in the group with her son who is Griffin's age. And Griffin loves the water so much that it was enough to get him out of his funk and bring back the cheer. When we got home after class I got Griffy a nap, Jared showed up (he needed the car in the morning for driver's license practice driving), we drove him back to work, drove back home, walked over to get Bird, hung out at the park trying to continue to make new friends, drove to the "gymnastics" class in a busy part of town, then got a text from Jared saying he had a last minute meeting lasting till 6:30. So we put ourselves out there once more and asked a local mom and her kids where to go. We ended up walking to and hanging out at a park we'd never been to before (top image in my post) and I got to teach Bird how to deal with aggressive boys on the slide. Because at the end of a challenging day this Mama does not put up with rude bully boys harassing my daughter. And Bird totally did not get pushed around because she stood up for herself. So empowering. Then it was off to get Jared, with two kids crashed in the backseat, starving for dinner. Which thankfully had cooked in the crockpot all day and was waiting for us when we finally got home.

I'm sure it would be easier to just do this.

Cozy boy #germanshorthairpointer #dog #owl #plush

But the hardest part of the week was the "back to school" night at Bird's kindergarten. I sat through an hour and a half of presentation and discussion all in German, with which I understood zero. The first part was actually okay. It was all the parents/teachers/principal in the big room and they were overviewing something having to do with a grant and fundraising. But then we moved to smaller groups into our kids classrooms and it was really obvious in our little group of 10 that I was the only one sitting there like a lump on a log, not contributing, understanding, participating. I actually had to hold back the tears. I guess I had expected one of the teachers to help me out with translation at least a little bit. I interrupted twice to ask about things like why do I have to sign this paper? What does this permission slip mean, etc. I could feel the other parents glancing at me and occasionally giving a "feel sorry for you" look. One of the dads came over afterward and told me (they all seem to speak fairly decent English!) a few things from the meeting which I really appreciated.

Then when I went to leave I realized it was raining. I shoved my bag under my jacket and ran home, feeling pretty pathetic that I forgot an umbrella in Germany where it rains so frequently.

Jared was kind and helpful when I got home. He suggested we find a German language class for me sooner than later. It's just something I need to get by here. I think I was most frustrated by the fact that back in the states I was so involved in Bird's school. I knew everything about her daily life. In this situation I have no clue what they do at school for the most part. I have to just hope and trust in the school and Bird's teachers and what she tells me in her 4 year old descriptions. I 'm trying to be okay with that.

Hugs from Germany,