Much has happened in the last few months. First of all, I was finally offered a job! I am a substitute teacher at an international school. It is what Germany calls a “mini job.” It means I can only make a certain amount of money each month, but the money isn’t taxed. As you can imagine, it isn’t a ton of money, but it helps my husband and me feel a little more secure and that’s a wonderful thing! The school is 30 miles away which is a lot for Germans. Fuel is so ridiculously expensive here that, according to my husband, most Germans don’t drive more than 10-15 miles to work. I do hate the drive and would love to find something closer to home, but for now, this is okay.
I sub for grades 1-12 but prefer grades 1-5. Teachers in Germany teach an average of 4-5 lessons a day so I spend my days running from one classroom to the next. I can only work 30 class periods a month before reaching my monthly limit, but currently, I’ve worked enough that I already have 2 hours for the month of May. I would love to work enough that I get paid all summer but I’m not sure that’s possible. Perhaps the government would take notice of the fact that subs were getting paid while the kids weren’t in school and that would be a bad thing. However,now that I’m working again, the days I’m off feel much more boring than before. I want a full-time job. I like being busy, and a little more financial security would be a breath of fresh air.
The other big-happening is that we moved to a new apartment! Our old village was tiny (about 100-125 people), and it was a 10-15 minute drive from the next big city where we did all of our shopping. Now we live in that next big city of 40,000 and can walk to the store and the train station. We weren’t planning to move. We were reasonably happy in our quaint 650 square foot roof-apartment, but we did have a few complaints. For starters, there were 6 apartments in the house and we were the only one without a tenant who smokes. All the smoking tenants smoked in the stairwell and the communal laundry room in the cellar. Rewashing clean clothes because someone put their cigarette in the drain of the laundry room floor that was directly beneath our drying rack made me furious. I’m not afraid of confrontation and times like that made me REALLY wish I could speak German. Thankfully though, my husband was able to give them a piece of his mind.
The second complaint was the lack of windows. Each room had one window but the apartment still seemed really dark and dreary and my husband and I both like lots of windows and lots of sunshine. We were also one of two apartments in the building without a balcony. Lastly, the apartment wasn’t constructed very well. Originally, the house only had 4 apartments and the roof “apartments” were just serving as the attic. However, a few construction workers needing a place to stay, negotiated to only pay the utilities if the landlady would allow them to turn the attic into two apartments. She, of course, agreed to the free labor and thus, two new apartments were born. We just went to the old apartment a few days ago to finish filling in the holes in the walls and repaint, and between the living room and kitchen, there were about 50 dead flies around the windows. The house was simply not sealed properly so we had spider and fly problems, and could also smell whatever the people below us were cooking. We could hear them sneeze, too, so I’m sure they could hear all of our conversations. Overall, it just didn’t feel very private, but we were settled there and not looking for a new place.
One day, my husband’s friend suggested we look at the vacant apartment above his office. He said it was really big and a great price so we decided to look at it just for fun. We didn’t expect to fall in love. It’s also a roof apartment but the ceilings are much higher. In the old apartment, I could put my hand flat on the ceiling with room to extend my arm further. Here, I need a step stool to touch the ceilings. But the high ceilings are far from the best thing about the apartment. When I walked in, turned to enter the living room, and saw an entire wall of windows leading to a massive balcony, it took my breath away. If you read my last post, Winters in Deutschland, you can imagine how important it is to have lots of windows in this country in order to get through the dreary winters. The apartment also extends the full length of the house. I feel like we’re in the penthouse! It’s 1350 square feet (over double the size of our last place!). It has 1 1/2 bathrooms, floor heaters, a dishwasher, a fireplace, two bedrooms, a separate dining room, a large balcony, two garages, and a washing machine hookup right in the bathroom. AND, the windows are very large and let in a lot of light even on the cloudiest days!
We should never be able to afford a place like this, but the rent isn’t much more than our last place. We couldn’t believe it! We talked about it for a few days, crunched and re-crunched the numbers, and finally decided to take it. We’ve been here 3 weeks now and we both love it more every day.
Moving was absolutely excruciating though. I naively thought, “Ok. It’s down 3 flights of stairs to move out and up 3 flights of stairs to move in. That’s a lot of stairs. It won’t be fun, but we can handle it.” It was so much worse than just “not fun.” First of all, my husband’s friend who helped us move the heavy things warned me, “You know your husband moves A LOT, right?” My husband later told me he’s moved 9 times. HA! I counted 21 times (including the 3 times I moved in and out of the college dorms). He said, “No wonder you Americans have almost nothing in your houses! You move so much you don’t want to move more than you absolutely have to!” All that to say, I guarantee you that my husband, by himself, has more possessions than the average American household of 3-4 people.
It took us more than 2 weeks to move and every day I felt like my body got weaker rather than stronger. The first week, I could go up and down the stairs 5-8 times before needing a 2-3 minute breather, but by day 14, I could get about halfway up the stairs with a box in tow before feeling like I couldn’t go any further. In a moment of sincere exhaustion and delirium, I remember thinking, “My body will never stop hurting. I can’t do this anymore.”
The last time I moved in the States, I drove my car through the yard and pulled right up to the door. I took a box from the house, pivoted, and put it right in the car. Then I drove to the new place, pulled my car up to the door, and took the things directly from the car to the house with little effort. Hauling your things, one box at a time, down 37 stairs and up 37 more is sheer torture. I got to the point where I was carrying a heavy bag on each shoulder, a box in my hands, and smaller bags hanging from my fingers. It took twice as long to lug them up the stairs, but saved me about 3 trips. It was absolutely terrible, but the new apartment made it all totally worth it.
My husband did a great job of making me feel at home when I moved into his apartment after our wedding, but despite his efforts, it still always felt like HIS apartment. As if I were a guest in his home. He already had it decorated when I moved in and it was so small that I felt like there was no place for me. I never told him how I felt until we moved into our new place. It made him sad to know I’d felt that way, but he understood. I now feel like we have a home of our own and it has made a world of difference for me. I no longer feel like a visitor in this country. I feel like a real German resident!
One day while we were nearing the end of our move, I was driving to the old apartment and randomly thought, “I love this country!” And it wasn’t just a good day or because of a good mood. I knew in that moment that the feeling was pure, deep, and real. In the midst of one of the most physically exhausting times of my life, I felt a deep love for Germany and it was a defining moment for me.
To conclude, I have to mention my blog-friend, Ami im Schwabenland ( http://bhejl.blogspot.de/ )… Last summer I wrote a blog about the things I miss from America. At one point she told me, “Trust me, eventually you stop missing those things and fall in love with Germany.” I thought of her the day I realized how much I truly love this country and I realized that I could only remember a handful of things from that “things I miss” list. Sure, I still miss Mexican food. The proper ingredients to make your own can’t be found here, and the Mexican restaurants are a real joke. And of course I’ll always miss my friends, family, and dog, and I’ll always hate our stupid canister vacuum cleaner, but I honestly can’t remember much else from the list. I genuinely love it here. I feel good and happy and settled and that’s such a wonderful thing!