Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 30, 2010: Germany! part one: the journey here

We've been here for nearly two weeks now, there's no hope of truly "catching up", so this is going to turn more into just a list of what's happened so far. One fairly exciting thing for us has been the snow. :-) Not that Jörn has appreciated it at all, and Germans love to say, "Who brought this weather?" (to be fair, they ask it about weather they're happy with, too, and in fact, if they ARE happy with it, are more likely to say, "Ah, did you bring this weather?") to which we generally answer that yes, we probably did. At least the children (and I don't dare plead not guilty...) had prayed plenty that we would have snow in Germany. We've had lots of snow--in fact, more snow than any of the first 17 winters I lived in Germany, and maybe about the same as my 18th winter in Germany, just before we left for Cyprus. Although not quite as cold. It was around MINUS 12 degrees Celcius in Germany the day we moved to Cyprus, and the lowest temperature I've seen since we got here was -9, and it's generally been closer to freezing. The children had played outside in the snow some, but it wasn't snowman-snow until Thursday, when it warmed up a bit. They built three snowmen in a friend's garden, and then the next day it rained much of the day. There wasn't any snow to be seen around here by the time we went to bed last night--but we had another 10 centimeters or so waiting for us this morning! backtrack, we left my parents' house on Monday, January 18th, just after 8:00 a.m., completely filling up two cars with the seven of us, my parents, and my sister, Erin, who had come up for the weekend. The drive to San Francisco went very well (Helen slept the entire way!) and my dad decided to head right back north to put in at least a partial day at work, but as my mom didn't have any hurry, and had to take Erin home anyway, and we were pretty early for our flight, we talked Mom into staying with us at the airport for a bit, and Erin took Mom's car home. (Ten minutes from the airport--a lot more sensible than paying SFA parking!!) We enjoyed the extra time with Mom, and it was also quite a treat getting to ignore what the children were doing while we were filling out address tags and checking in, since they were all occupied with Grandma. Then she wanted to get them ice cream, which turned out to be more complicated than expected (I have to say, Sacramento Airport has a MUCH better selection of food than San Francisco, or at least better than the part of the airport where we were), but we did finally find ice cream. Helen, however, begged for a banana, instead, and although the thought of paying $1.19 for a single banana was painful, it was less than ice cream and better for her, so I gave in. Her siblings all shared a bit of ice cream with her, too.

We finally had to go through security, so said good-bye to Mom (who then called Erin to come pick her up--never having heard anything to the contrary, that all worked fine), and headed off. We had to take off shoes and sweaters, etc., but nobody commented on the bottle of cough medicine that I once more forgot to take out of my carry-on and which was bigger than the allowed 100 milliliters...

Our flight here was a bit better than our flight to the U.S. Still United Airlines, and they forgot to load the children's meals, and still didn't have any activities or treats of any kind for the children (much less sewing kits, socks, masks, etc., which used to be pretty standard), but at least the flight attendants were all polite on this flight and happily handed out as many extra bread rolls as the children requested. (This was especially good after one "meal" was a horrible sandwich with mustard on it--only Jörn ate it. Actually, Helen, who eats absolutely everything, ate a little bit, too, but then even she refused to eat much.) Also, the flight was well under half-full, maybe not even a third. They blocked several extra seats for us, so we had two sets of three and one of four--ten seats for seven people (only six with tickets) made for a much more comfortable flight, and at one point while walking up and down the aisles with Helen, I saw that many of the rows (three seats on each side, four in the middle) were occupied by one lying-down, sleeping, person each.

However, time was a bit close once we arrived in Frankfurt. The departure time had been changed since we had bought our train tickets, then the flight left late, and arrived in Frankfurt even later. Our luggage came through fairly quickly and we rushed to the left-luggage office to leave three bags with things we didn't need while in Germany (mostly things for other people and one 45-pound bag of books, mostly from Sonlight!), which friends of ours in Frankfurt (Peter and Christin) picked up for us later that day. We'll be staying with them our last two days before leaving Germany, so it was good not to have to take them on the trains. We then got to the train station with almost 20 minutes to spare before our train, so I left Jörn and the children and the luggage, and went to a bakery and bought Brötchen! Translated, that means "little breads", or "bread rolls", but one simply cannot call the wonderful, scrumptious, fresh-from the bakery Brötchen by such a common, boring term. They're Brötchen. :-)

We then got on the first train, an ICE, which is fast and stops only at big cities. About two hours later we changed in Cologne, no problem. (I've often said that it doesn't matter WHERE one is going, you HAVE to change in Cologne. It's a major hub in the west and I've changed there nearly every time I've ever been on a long-distance train.) Then we took an RE to Wesel, a slightly less fancy train, but fine (even the least fancy trains in Germany are fine--I really like the public transportation here), which left on time, but arrived about 12 minutes late, according to the announcement. As we had had 13 minutes to change scheduled, that was a bit close and we didn't even look at the clock--we just ran. Jörn took his carry-on, the lap-top, and two suitcases, and ran down the steps from our arrival platform and up the steps to the platform from which we were departing, Lukas and Katie each had their carry-ons and were told to "follow Papa!!" and Marie and Jacob each had a suitcase and their respective carry-ons and started down the steps. Yes, there was an elevator, but at the other end of the platform, and train-station elevators are notoriously slow, so there was no way there was time for that. I followed with my carry-on, another suitcase, the stroller, and Helen in the sling. Not quite sure how we made it (I think Marie waited at the open door of the train with the luggage Jörn had gotten there and Lukas and Katie, while Jörn and Jacob came back to help me?), but we did. The last train was an RB, and only 9 minutes from Wesel, but only goes once an hour, so we REALLY didn't want to miss it. And upon arriving in Hamminkeln, we had about a two-minute walk to the Globe Europe headquarters, and it only took us that long because we were tired, it was dark and snowy, and we had far too much luggage. :-) We arrived 23 hours and 15 minutes after leaving my parents' house in California, although the actual flight was less than 11 hours.

Eddi, the German director of Globe Europe, welcomed us, showed us our rooms, and gave us keys. By this time we'd woken up a bit more (I find jet-lag coming east MUCH more difficult than going west) and were hungry, so Jörn went shopping at Aldi, just down the street. We had dinner, made the beds, and did all fall asleep fairly quickly. And then of course woke up around 2:00. I was awake for about five hours that first night, the children less time each, but at all different times. The first night I slept through was the fifth or sixth night, but we're all pretty well adjusted now.

I'd been going to write more in this first post, but as usual, it's already too long, so I just changed the title to reflect what I've covered so far, and Helen just woke up, so I don't know if I'll manage another right now or not.

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