So, all that background to say that we would have loved to see a lot more people, but were very glad to get to see the people we did during a relatively short visit, and overall we felt we found a pretty good balance. (Our first trip back was CRAZY! We had over 45 different gatherings/meetings/appointments in only three weeks, one day having FIVE different meetings! I point-blank refused to do that again.)
On our first full day, Wednesday the 18th of April, we took our four empty suitcases and three carseats and got on the train, intending to go to Duisburg, where the A family was going to pick us up. However, just before Oberhausen we heard an announcement that the train wasn't going to be stopping in Duisburg because a bomb was being removed in the area. (I googled it later and found out that it was an American bomb from the Second World War, discovered during construction the previous Friday, but not removed until the Wednesday because of the preparation necessary to remove 500-kilogram bomb in an area that directly affected over 20,000 people...) I quickly telephoned the A family and we hastily arranged to get out in Oberhausen instead and see what the options were, then phoned them again and settled on taking the train to Mülheim-Styrum. No problem there, but it was a bit weird to be in Mülheim, sooo close to where we used to live! Because of some confusion, we ended up waiting there for awhile, but there was a green area nearby and children can always find something to entertain themselves.
I don't think Lukas has ever heard of planking, but one never knows...
The A family has a large attic, where we stored way too much of our stuff when we left Germany nearly three and a half years ago. We still have way too much stored there, but we made quite a dent in it. Jörn threw away about five boxes worth of paper and books and filled a suitcase with things to bring back to Cyprus, mostly photo albums, photos in frames (which I removed from the frames), and knick-knacks, as well as maybe 15 books. I spent most of my time sorting through just one box, wondering why on earth I'd stored these things, and eventually figuring it out: in between lots and lots of definitely-not-worth-keeping things (lots of photos of giraffes cut out of the newspaper, comic strips, notes from my German classes, newspaper articles, etc.) there were also lots of things I DID want to keep, mostly stories I'd written and some letters. Each and every piece of paper had to be looked at individually, so I can imagine that what happened in the craziness of the last weeks before we left was that I got overwhelmed with the sorting to be done and just shoved everything into a box. That one box took me hours. I did throw away well over half of the contents, and brought the rest back. I also eliminated three or four other boxes, but that was very quick, because they were larger objects that I specifically wanted: mainly my dolls, the Lion Quilt my grandma made for me when I was a baby (WHY did I leave that in Germany?!?), a stack of photo albums, our wedding video (not that we have a VCR or even a TV...), my dollhouse furniture, my Dirndl (not that it fits), and a few other miscellaneous things. We still have another box of photo albums, but there simply wasn't any more space. (And although I think we did a pretty good job in general in deciding what to bring here when we moved, I do NOT understand why we didn't bring all the photo albums to begin with...)
Rebecca played with the children while Jörn and I worked, which was a great help and they enjoyed, even if the only photo I took wasn't exactly a great one:
Here's a photo of my sorting orgy (not in the attic):
The pile of papers on the left consists mainly of ALL the birthday cards that the children had received up until the point we left Germany. I've saved all of the cards that they got when they were born, but finally parted with the birthday cards. Oh, and there are also quite a few pictures which various children (not my own--those are in a whole box of their own, still in the attic...) had drawn for me. I kept a few and took photos of a lot of them, which I will post on FB to embarrass them. :-)
Here is one of the things that I photographed before throwing away:
And here is a cheese I made out of clay in my art class in the Fachschule für Sozialpädagogik (not really translatable--"specialized school for social pedagogy", qualifying me to work with children in all areas except for school, in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany, so a rather useless degree at this point...):
I only got a 1- (A-) for it, because although I had, as required, demonstrated perfectly that I had learned the techniques to make a hollow, three-dimensional object with 90-degree joins and put holes in it, the teacher gave me a "minus" because I'd painted the cheese yellow, and that wasn't creative enough.
We had lunch with the A's and then Rebecca had to go to work. Jörn and I had spent far too much time sorting stuff and were disappointed not to have spent much time with Gary and Elisabeth, except for over (a very delicious) lunch, so when they offered to drive us back to Hamminkeln, we were happy to accept because it meant we had a bit more time with them. This was the only photo I took of them, outside of where we were staying.
We had other guests coming soon afterwards (and didn't take a single photo of them :-( ) and felt a bit bad that we couldn't really invite Gary and Elisabeth to dinner, so were quite happy when the family living upstairs, who had met the A's at church a couple of weeks previously, spontaneously invited them to dinner.
Thomas and Ute H came for dinner, along with another couple we didn't know but who wanted to meet us. I got to chat with them a bit over dinner, but as they were mainly interested in Jörn's work here in Cyprus, pretty soon after dinner I started the wrestling-over-tired-over-sugared-not-in-their-own-environment children into bed, which took up the rest of my evening.
And I'd thought I might get a bit further, but this is already more than long enough. Maybe by June or so I'll get as far as the actual wedding.