Ordinary life in unordinary circumstances

[Warning: long, rambling post (with no pictures yet). But it’s Friday, and you’re probably looking for something to pass the time, anyways. Unless you’re running late for work. If you’re hustling to get our the door, then don’t start reading. I don’t want you to blame me for your tardiness.]

This week has simply been a series of life events. Ordinary life in unordinary circumstances. Each day I’ve been meaning to write, but there hasn’t really been anything specific or particular that warranted its own post. Like life everywhere, there’s been a fair amount of frustrations 1 and a fair amount of successes .

This morning, especially, I feel like I have ADD. I can’t stay focused and I am having a difficult time accomplishing tasks. This is not a feeling I am used to, so I’m getting frustrated and annoyed with myself, but I’m also laughing at myself too, because it seems ridiculous that it is taking so many interrupted steps to accomplish anything today. For example, things I’ve been trying to do for the past hour include: going pee, making a bowl of yogurt, switching the laundry, opening the mail, sweeping the floor, making a cappuccino, taking a shower, downloading pictures off my camera, feeding the birds**, getting my camera handy in case said birds arrive, writing a blog post, which if you could see the state of my screen right now with asterisks, double asterisks, superscripted footnotes, and lots of paragraphs, you would nod your head in confirmation that I’ve got some low level ADD happening this morning. This is so weird for me.

[one hour and one very cold cappuccino later] Where was I?

1   Frustrations. Right. I’m going to share the frustrations not to sound whiney or bitchy or anything less than grateful and hashtagedblessed but rather to share some of the reality of what’s happening here. It is too easy in blog form to always sound smooth and exciting and happy. But the truth of the matter is that we are not on a Grand Tour; we are trying to make a new life in a foreign country, and until we get to know the language fluently* we are going to find challenges where there would be fewer or none in our native culture.  In the grand scheme none of these things is insurmountable. These are the hard things that help build character and help us appreciate when things are going so smoothly.  That’s what I tell the kids anyways.

So, this week’s frustrations in no particular order:  Our parking gate won’t open and I don’t know how to go about making that better; there has been absolutely no progress on our kitchen; the software program in the central control panel is wonky; electrical issues still persist — not serious electrical issues like smoking outlets, but annoying electrical issues like five of the nine room darkening shades upstairs won’t open and three won’t close; we are all taking turns with sort of or almost being sick, tho I think the worst of it has passed for Elliot; our doorbell — connected to wonky control panel –fails more often than it works; because of said wonky doorbell we have had packages delivered to neighbors that we have not yet received. Receiving mail and emails now takes considerable time as they need to be translated. One of the glass walls inside our fireplace fell in requiring a repair man. Said repairman said that the fireplace is not right (too much soot/blackening) so he will have to come back. There is constant construction happening in the stairwell that is noisy, dirty, and inconvenient. I am sure it will look amazing when it is done, but in the mean time, it’s just one more little thing. And last weekend we learned our lesson that even though there are 3000 restaurants in Munich, you should make reservations if you want to eat on a Friday or Saturday evening.

2   Successes. Similarly, I want to share this week’s successes not to brag or boast but to capture for posterity the things that went well, not that these are big successes with a capital S. But in reviewing the week, these are the things that feel like we are making it work. Like things are going to be OK, and that we are going in the right direction.

So, again in no particular order:  I went to a PTO newcomers coffee gathering where I met some pretty awesome fellow parents and got some great guidance and advice about the school and about the expat community. Larry and I went to a Newcomers mixer Wednesday evening for the expat group Internations. Anyone who knows me knows that this is also huge. Maybe more huge than going to the PTO newcomers coffee meeting. (Out at night to someplace new where I am forced to talk to strangers is actually one of my Circles of Hell. But it was actually great and I’m happy we went). I was very successful at shopping at a variety of venues, even when I wasn’t (like when I may have accidentally purchased a side of brontosaurus  while trying my poor language skills at the local butcher. I may not have done a great job communicating, but damn! we ate really well that night). I’m comfortable with using the tram and UBahn system. We’ve narrowed down the car choices and should have that task complete by next week. One of Larry’s co-workers invited our family to dinner. We had a terrific time visiting and sledding. We’ve Facetimed with mom and dad and Penny. We’ve talked with Grandma Sara. I have happily stayed chatty with friends through Messenger and What’s App, and Elliot and I have been receiving birthday cards which always feels so good. I researched a Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood because that’s what Elliot wants for his birthday dinner tonight. Larry made reservations at said restaurant and I’ve researched which dishes will kill me so I know what to avoid. Both kids seem to be doing well in school. Merrie seems to be thriving and has even been invited to a sleepover this weekend. She’s taken to fußball and has solicited a piano teacher to give her lessons during her lunch breaks. Elliot is slowly warming up to school (and maybe his schoolmates are warming to him?)  He’s attended cross country and seems to like it. He’s talking more about classmates and people he’s talking with at lunch or in classes. He seems more like himself these days and less despondent about school. It still ain’t great. But it’s better. Also, a big success is that we’ve decided to spend the February break in London! Everyone is looking forward to that. I’ve done pretty well with attempting to communicate well in German. For instance, yesterday afternoon at Ikea, Rossman’s, Edeka, the bäckerei, and even the hair salon downstairs where the post delivered some of our packages, I used only German and it went well.  Another little success was having the chance to hear and speak Italian, first at the Newcomers event on Wednesday and then yesterday at the kids’ sports uniform store. I love Italian. It reminds me of Lia, whom I miss terribly. And it’s such a pretty language. Yesterday, someone told me that Munich is often called the most northern city in Italy. I liked that.

In wrapping up this post awkwardly and hurriedly (I don’t even want to tell you how long I’ve been pecking away or what else I’ve managed to half way do while working on it) I will happily notice that the successes outweigh the frustrations. I think that’s a pretty good thing.

Oh! I almost forgot my asterisked items:

*Fluent language.  Good freaking luck. The good news is that Munich is a very metropolitan city with lots of people who are multi-lingual.  The bad news is that city is in Bavaria, and apparently Bavarians have their own language separate and apart from High German. Will they understand us when we become proficient at German? Yes, sure. But there will be countless times when we will be hearing words that make no sense to us in either English or German. I wonder if we can take Bavarian lessons, too?

**Birds.   I realized yesterday that I was noticing specific birds for the first time (more than my magpies and crows, who are with me almost always).Yesterday I saw specifics: chickadees, Flickers, even a snowy egret — which, who knew they had those here?! (Besides Todd, I mean).  Anyway, I took it as a good sign that I was starting to notice those details, like maybe I’m starting to settle in a bit.

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