Monday, February 8, 2010

February 8, 2010: Germany, part six: the third week

It's now Monday, February 8th, and I should be packing, but most of this had been written already, so I'm going to go ahead and post it! Besides, it's hard to pack when some clothes are still drying. :-)

Monday, February 1st: This was one of our earliest starts to a day, as Jörn drove me (and Helen and Helen's car seat) to a slightly further away train station to get the train at 7:30. If I'd taken the train from here, I would have had to leave at 6:45 and after a nine-minute train-ride, had to wait for my connection for 35 minutes, so my husband took pity on me. Unusually, I only had to take two trains: one from Mehrhoog to Duisburg, and then one more to Krefeld, where my friend Sabine picked us up at 9:00 for the La Leche League meeting that I had attended every first Monday of the month since Marie was four months old, and then after I qualified, had helped lead for a couple of years. After LLL (three of us leaders--Ute, who was the original leader and is still there, and with whom I've been pregnant at the same time several times, as she had three children when we met and I had one, and now she has six and I have five, Sabine, and myself--and only three "regular" mothers), our friend Elisabeth picked us up to take us to her house in Neukirchen-Vluyn, where Helen devoured grapes and I devoured made-by-Elisabeth candied almonds, and then I read and Helen slept, while Elisabeth went to pick up Jörn and the other children in Angermund.

In the meantime, Jörn and the others had left at 8:45 for a much less pleasant event. The children were happy to be dropped off at Jill's house, who had also kept her five-year-old, Eva, home from preschool to play with Katie, but then Jörn met Phil and Margaret to ride with them to a funeral. Just over a month before, Ralf had been perfectly healthy, traveling and evangelizing in Siberia, and his sudden, and very short, illness had been quite a shock. We'd heard last Sunday that he was in the hospital and not at all well, and Monday morning he died. While not the happiest of places to be, Jörn did say that it was a very good funeral, and he also got to see several people he wouldn't have otherwise seen, from the mission work he'd been involved in for the seven years before we left Germany. (He had planned to attend one scheduled meeting, but the date got changed on short notice, and he couldn't go to the new appointment.) After the funeral Jörn took the train back to Angermund (as Phil and Margaret were staying for the coffee time afterwards, which Jörn also would have liked to stay for had they known before-hand that it was planned.)

So when Elisabeth with Jörn and the children got home to Elisabeth's, as well as the two teenagers, John and Rebecca, we had lunch, and also climbed up in the attic to visit all the things we stored there when we left Germany just over a year ago. I'd really wanted to get the rest of our photo albums (we only took about ten years' worth with us to Cyprus, and I've missed not having Marie's baby pictures), but we just don't have space in our luggage and I don't want to risk sending them by mail, so I didn't even open the box. :-( Jörn got his winter coat (which, for no reason I could understand, he'd insisted on leaving there, and had really missed since we arrived in Germany, although he was able to borrow one) and I got my maternity clothes and the baby clothes that I'd stored. Maybe I should have let the doctor tell me the gender, because it seems silly to take all of them to Cyprus now, but oh well. There are very few boy clothes (I only kept my very favorite things, and although boy babies are just as cute as girl babies, their clothes aren't...) and girl clothes only for the first few months, as Helen was four months old when we moved to Cyprus, so everything girl and unisex from that size up is in Cyprus already anyway. But there are also the sweaters my grandma made and two snowsuits (one bright pink, one red), which we most certainly won't need in Cyprus...and are probably going to take anyway.

Gary arrived towards the end of lunch, in time for cake (I'm not sure I ever realized before how much cake one eats in Germany, even though I DID remember how good it is...), and we were all able to talk while John and Rebecca entertained the children. Around 5:00 Gary and Elisabeth took us (in two cars this time, so one trip) to the K family's house in Viersen.

Leigh K. is one of the two people at IBCD who have been there longer than I have (or had...but I AM technically still a member) been, definitely one of my longest-standing friends. She's another U.S.ian married to a German and I absolutely love her sense of humor and appreciate how well she understands me. And yes, Leigh, I'd be writing that even if I didn't know you're reading my blog, and no, there isn't anything else I would have written if I'd thought you weren't! LOL For several years in a row the K's hosted an open house on December 26th, to eat lots of food and play games, which we enjoyed very much, and we weren't the only family who thought it was a pity that it only happened once a year. So it got turned into a monthly "games evening", the first Friday of every month for another several years, almost always meeting at the K family's house. We weren't able to make it to the February games evening, but this Monday just for us was just as nice, and less chaotic with fewer people! Connie and her daughter Vida also came for the evening, Connie being the fourth-longest member of IBCD having arrived very shortly after I did. In a church with an annual turn-over of about 1/3 of the congregation, it's fairly noticable who the "old-timers" are!

Dieter went to sleep at his mother's house, as there were so many people in his, and he would be getting up early for work, Anna slept in her room, four of our children and Lindsey slept in the living room, and we were given Leigh and Dieter's room while Leigh slept in Lindsey's room. Except once we'd gotten everyone else settled down, Leigh and I hung out in Lindsey's room for another couple of hours talking. Another good reason that we're staying at the Globe Europe headquarters and not with friends, as I would stay up talking late EVERY night, but I certainly enjoyed it! Helen and I finally went to bed a little past midnight and slept very well.

Tuesday, February 2nd: The next morning Leigh drove us to the train station (in two trips--it was very icy and we definitely weren't risking squishing), where we took--as with almost every single trip we've taken!--three trains to Honrath, where Lisa S. had been going to pick us up in their 15-passenger van. (They have seven children, the seventh having been born a couple of weeks after we left Germany.) However, we were met by Paul in their five-passenger, four-wheel-drive jeep, as the van was iced in and they couldn't get it out. He'd taken time out of work just to get us and take us up to the house (and we did squish everyone in--it was a short drive on very quiet streets, in a 4WD), and then he went back to work. We had lunch and a wonderful afternoon with the S family, then Paul got home from work, so we had time with him, as well, and then dinner, and then he took six of us back to the train station. Marie stayed there to spend the night, as their daughter Alice is a good friend of hers.

Three trains later, Jacob, Lukas, Helen and I arrived in Hamminkeln. Jörn and Katie got out in Düsseldorf to take the train to Angermund to pick up the C family's car again, and didn't get home until quite awhile after we did. When we changed trains in Wesel, it was raining, and I was not looking forward to the walk home. It's quite short, but pouring rain gets one wet very quickly. However, by the time we arrived in Hamminkeln, only nine minutes later, it had changed to nice, fluffy snow! I was happy to not get wet--Jörn was less excited about the drive in the thickly falling snow.

Wednesday, February 3rd: Brad and Jan got back from the U.S. on Monday, so we'd arranged to meet with them this morning. Jan had all our sympathy for not making it because of the jet lag, but it was good talking with Brad for a couple of hours, and we arranged to have breakfast together on Friday. After lunch, Jörn left on the train to meet Marie in Düsseldorf, where she (together with Alice and Emma) arrived by train. He saw Alice and Emma off on their train back home, and then they took another two trains to Kaldenkirchen, where our friend Caro picked them up. They arrived at the house just a few minutes before the other children and I arrived there by car at 5:00 p.m.. Her husband, Lutz, unfortunately couldn't be there as he was on a business trip, but the children enjoyed Jonathan (21 months) and his toys, and we were pleased to have Spätzle, a type of noodle, for dinner. Caro took Jörn (and Jacob and Lukas--this time Jörn had a "schöner Tag ticket", which is good for the whole state and for up to five people, so it didn't matter if he took someone over six this time--he's often taken Katie because she doesn't have to pay, being under six years old) to the train station, and the girls and I headed home in the car.

Thursday, February 4th: Jörn and Katie got the train at 11:45 and the rest of us left a little bit later in the car to visit the H family in Oberhausen, in their new house. I found their house easily enough and left the three older children with Andrea and Nils (16 and 14), to go pick up Jörn and Katie. Finding the main train station with all the one-way streets was less easy, and then they weren't there. Drove around again, finally parked and got out to look for them. It turned out that their train was 20 minutes late, which is rather unusual. Also, the train station was eerily quiet, as all the public workers in the city were on strike today, so no busses or trams were running. That also explained why Andrea and Nils were home--anyone who lived more than a 30-minute walk from school was not required to go to school, and very few people in their right mind would go to school on a day they've been told that they don't have to!! But I did eventually find them and we got back to the house, where Barbara was starting to make lunch, having just gotten home from Mini-Club, the playgroup that she leads and that I attended for over seven years on Thursday mornings--first with Marie and Jacob, then with Lukas, and finally with Katie. Barbara also became a good friend of mine and had babysat for us some, including having Marie, Jacob, and Lukas overnight the night that Katie was born, and Marie and Katie overnight the night Helen was born, and was the very first person outside of our family (except for the midwives!) to see Katie and Helen after their respective births.

After lunch we headed for the place where Mini-Club meets, as Barbara had arranged a get-together for the "old-timers". Several of them came without children, but we made quite a large group--I think there were eight or 10 other children, and at least 14 parents. Some of them had been there with me with Lukas already, so people I'd met six or so years ago. The hottest topic was of course how all their children were doing in their respective pre-schools (or in some cases, schools), but it was a good afternoon.

Back at the Hs' house we talked a bunch, while the children played with Andrea, and then we had dinner (not much...a big lunch and all that cake again!) and came home, this time in two cars, as the B family from Mülheim came by to lend us their car until Sunday night.

Friday, February 5th: A friend came in the morning to meet with Jörn. We were actually a bit nervous about this meeting, as we thought we were going to be "told off" about something, and didn't know what, but it turned out that he wasn't upset with us and that his insistance about meeting with Jörn privately and face-to-face, and not on the phone, had more to do with what he wanted to share of his own life than anything else. It was a good meeting and we're glad it worked out at the last minute for him to come up to Hamminkeln.

At 12:00 we left for Düsseldorf, where we had lunch with Marie's violin teacher. Marie had looked forward to playing the violin together, but Katie ended up occupying rather too much of the limited time by locking herself in the bathroom and not being able to get the door open again. I was eventually able to talk her through turning the key to pull it out, and after trying several other keys from the house (German inside doors usually have what I think of as "old-fashioned" keys, and sometimes--but not always--all the keys in one house will be the same, or at least some of them will be), we found one that would unlock the door. Marie did get to play one piece for Frau S, but then we unfortunately had to rush off to get back to Mülheim for Mutter-Kind-Kreis and Jungschar.

After the playgroups, we went to the B family's house for dinner. Jörn sweated a bit parking their car in their narrow driveway (between a hedge and a step) while they watched, but other than that, cheese fondue and great conversation and our children all occupied with their three children made for a very nice evening that surprised us by not ending until after 11:00!

I did finally start to wonder why I bothered bringing pajamas for at least the little ones along on this trip...the vast majority of the evenings, they've been taken sleeping out of the car or off of the train and put in their beds in their clothes. At least, over the years, I've finally stopped packing more than one pair of pajamas per person: if the one pair they have is in the laundry at bedtime, oh well--a t-shirt works just as well!

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