Sunday, March 14, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland. Vielen Dank!

Well, the time has come. In some ways, it feels like we just arrived. In other ways, it feels like we've been here for a long time and have become quite cultured. We're used to the differences that have come with moving to another country and we're now heading back to the U.S. to take our permanent residence in the Chicago suburbs. I cannot believe this California girl is going to be a Midwesterner. As I've told my husband, you can take this girl out of California, but your sure as heck cannot take the California out of this girl. It's inherent. It's about guacamole, good Mexican food, smog, and amazing weather.

But, back on topic. We drove around the other day to grab a few snapshots of a couple gorgeous places we enjoyed looking at during our lives here in the Nordrhein Westfalen region of Germany. The castle is in Altena and we took our parents. We've been a couple times now and think it's amazing that castles are just everywhere in Europe. No big deal, right? Such incredible charm. And the right is just a small snippet of the incredible churches (big and small... big = Cologne cathedral as the most breathtaking and we visited 3 times!) we lived amongst.
Surely before we left... it was required to visit the gelateria next door. It was closed for much of the winter and has since re-opened. Here are the beauties:
Our 300-year-old German house is to the right about 10 steps. Picture it.
In true Wilson style, we had Mexican for our last meal in Germany. I know... 

Why would you have Mexican when you're leaving the land of potatoes and good sausage?

Well, the honest answer is: I hate sausage, Ray's had at least 2 tons of it, and I LOVE Mexican (as those of you close to me already know). Anyhow, I had nachos and they were actually really good. We know better than to be hopeful about good Mexican food this far from Mexico (New Zealand takes the cake on worst Mexican food of all time), but surprisingly, it was tasty! Well, mine was. Ray didn't really have "Mexican food" at all. At least I don't classify a chicken breast topped with peanut sauce and a side salad as Mexican.
Hmm... well, they almost got those nachos right. Kidney bean {failure}!
We're pretty certain they put Ray's chicken breast through the schnitzel press.

But something that didn't disappoint... the drinks! That margarita was definitely excellent & Ray had a Corona.
Prost! (Cheers!) ... to a wonderful adventure, great friends, amazing travels, having friends and family visit us, experiencing and appreciating other cultures and this beautiful world...

Now onto our next adventure! Did I mention we will be officially homeowners in about 3.5 days? Life is great!

Here's (almost) the last of the journaling. While I won't be writing a daily journal (I wanted to write the entire European adventure and I'm on the 103rd page!), I will be updating regularly with our Midwest adventures. I have one more day of writing and my book is being shelved. I hope you enjoyed. It will be something fun to look back and read in our upcoming years! I'll add the final day of writing in its own post when we're settled in Chicago.

Well, without further adieu...

Dienstag 09.03.2010 (day 176)
Lunch day! I like cooking for others, but I get nervous. I want to make sure they enjoy the food and have a pleasant time eating it. When Ray left, I got up and started the soup again to warm it up. The soup was actually still a tad warm from the night before and I had it sitting in the fridge for EIGHT hours! It shows that the contents of that pot are intense, and that the mini German fridge we’ve been using has no power. Then I boiled the pasta (I bought 3 bags) and began the process of adding the ingredients together for that dish. When Ray came home at 11:00 to pick me up, we loaded the car with the soup and pasta bowls—yes, don’t have a bowl that can hold it all, and headed out to the bakery at the Lidl market in Werdohl to pick up some baguettes for lunch. I proudly spoke with the woman in all German asking if I could have a baguette and if she had any more than the one I saw there. I ordered three smaller baguettes and “hausbrotchen” as well and had that sliced. We got to work and hauled the food inside and I began preparing and making it available for lunch time. Unfortunately, the only minor mishap was that the soup started to burn at the bottom of the enormous pot (shocking really because it takes about 25 minutes for a pot of water to boil). After fishing out a few black chunks, I gave up and decided that it wasn’t worth getting all bummed about. Who doesn’t like a few black chunks in their pea soup, right? People were so kind about the lunch, but since there were some vacationers (oh, and I made food for 60 people, haha), we had leftovers. We left around 4:30 and headed home with more food than we intended on having left. I made dinner a bit later of leftovers. It’s going to be a reoccurring trend for the next few days, actually. We also found out that our flight leaves Monday morning here and arrives Monday night rather than Tuesday like we thought! I don’t know what we were thinking. We are gaining time going back west, so of course we will arrive on the same day. Karston is taking us to a hotel near the airport on Sunday night so we can have a normal night’s sleep before our flight. And… so he doesn’t have to wake up super early and deal with traffic on Monday to get us there on time and stress about that. We spent the rest of the night watching the Amazing Race I taped and relaxed. Nothing more to report here!
Mittwoch 10.03.2010 (day 177)
My whole body ached this morning. I worked out serious on Monday and I have been feeling the pain ever since. My feet even ached. No pain, no gain, right? Well, I’m not gaining much today considering the lack of movement I’ve been doing. I was sitting on the couch watching Larry King (comes on at 11 a.m. here) and the doorbell rang. Oh, that sound. It gives me such anxiety because it means I will have to explain that I don’t speak well enough to understand them talking in German at a mile-a-minute. It was a woman this time. She wasn’t carrying a backpack, clipboard, or any meter-reading devices. She was carrying a basket of fruit. They are so much more rustic here in Germany than we are. They carry baskets everywhere! They have wooden ones and sleek metal and canvas ones. She had a wooden one with a knife, oranges, apples, and bananas inside with pieces cut out of the fruits. She went on talking about vegetables and fruits and was obviously soliciting the purchase of her produce to me. I let her know that I was sick… okay… that was a lie but I was wearing my PJ’s, had no makeup on, and my hair was a mess. I sure looked sick and anyone who is in their PJ’s until after 11 probably is… unless you’re just being lazy like me. She stepped forward and began cutting the fruit to hand me a piece, now inside the house. I told her no, politely and she left. Weird. Weird. Weird. I promptly showered, changed and cleaned myself up in case anyone else showed up at the door with fruit. While it’s in my brain, I should also mention something about doorbells. Our new home has a doorbell mechanism in the hallway, but no place to ring the doorbell outside. There is no button at all! Weird, huh? I wonder where it went and how they covered it up. There are two door knockers, so that’s all that we really need. I don’t care that much about the doorbell so long as we can hear when people come to our door. We need to replace those door knockers, though. I do believe someone else’s name is engraved on them—if they leave them behind. We’re also wondering if they will leave the bathroom mirrors behind. There are 6 mirrors in question and I sure hope they do! That’s a good chunk of change to have to replace because they are high quality and match the hardware and wood in the bathrooms. Ray came to get me a little after noon and we headed back to work. Kirsten & Sascha both brought soups to celebrate their birthdays. They made a “cheese” vegetarian soup and another cream soup with mushrooms and meat. Oh, and cake. I poked around online for cars since I’m in the market for one pretty soon here… and jobs. Oh, how daunting. I even looked into possible college positions. Most call for a PHD, but many junior colleges accept Master’s degrees along with teaching experience. I applied for one position, but like all the rest, I am but a number and an online paper. It’s even worse than being a real paper! It’s so much easier to turn the computer off or click buttons than get rid of paper on your desk in forms of resumes. I am just going to be patient, feel things out when we actually live on the soil in Illinois (oh man… woo hoo!), and pray about it. I guess there is a plan for me. We left work around 5:30 to drive and take some photos. Since we have 5 days left here, we figured we’d take some photos while the sun is bright, the days are longer, and winter is finally leaving. Well, I guess we didn’t leave early enough because the sun wasn’t as bright and the dusk haze was setting in… but the few I did take will be posted to the blog on the weekend. We headed back home for a dinner of leftovers and American Idol from last night!
Donnerstag 11.03.2010 (day 178)
Can I just say that I’m still sore from working out on Monday? I must have really overexerted myself on that one. So, in true lazy style, I chose not to work out for the rest of the week. Awful, right? I prepared lunch and Ray came home to eat with me before heading back to work. I watched The Bachelor wedding and actually thought it was very pretty. I loved the green they used. I prepped American Idol for our viewing this evening and at around 4:30, Karston came into our office to lead us to the conference room. There, about 15 employees were there with Prosecco, liquor, drinks, salads, and 2 platters of sandwiches! They also had a really nice gift waiting for us. We spent some time just talking and giving small speeches, and opening our present: a digital photo frame with photos from all the people at RL. The photos were all taken by Manuela. She is such a great person and one of my favorites at RL. She’s young like myself, a vegetarian, and she reminds me a lot of my former Scottish roommate, Catriona. I miss Catriona, too! The food was put together and picked up from the Metzgerei (butcher) by Siegrun. She is quite possibly one of the nicest and most sincere people I’ve met and certainly the nicest we met in all of Germany. She just makes you feel warm and comfortable. When she isn’t at work, you can tell. She just makes your stay that much more special. We watched the photo show, drank some champagne (okay, just me), and hung out until nearly 7 p.m.! Our tutor, Sabine, showed up to celebrate as well and we said our goodbyes to a lot of people today. We’ll be at work tomorrow, but some of them may not. When we left, we headed to Sparkasse to get some money from the ATM (learning curve…) and headed home. Ray isn’t feeling 100% and it doesn’t help that Lothar is sick and has been the last few days. I made Indian for dinner and ate alone—Ray had enough to eat at the work function. We watched the episode of American Idol that I downloaded and relaxed for the duration of the evening.
Freitag 12.03.2010 (day 179)
This is Ray’s last working day at RL before we leave on Monday morning. We already said many goodbyes yesterday, but today we’ll give our final farewell to everyone but Karston, who will be driving us to our airport hotel on Sunday evening. I woke up and was up before Ray left for work and we were reunited again at lunchtime. Coming home for lunch is probably coming to a close now that we’re heading back to the States. I don’t think Ray would come home for lunch and I’m not sure I’ll ever be home to make it! I am yearning for independence. I love my husband and I am so thankful we’ve had the last 8 months together, fairly uninterrupted. However, I need to have my own car, visit stores on my own, meet friends and spend time alone, and get my own mail. Seriously, this mail thing has made me pretty depressed. I feel like I have no communication (aside from the Internet which isn’t always warm) with anyone. Our mail is often returned to sender from our PO box and I am so anxious to stop all the forwarding, know my mail carrier by name, and receive my own boxes and packages in my own mailbox. Next week, reality starts. Cannot wait! We’re awaiting 6 days until we own our dream home! And yes, it has a cute mailbox. The afternoon was fairly uneventful. We said goodbye to Lothar as he and Anya will be vacationing in Dubai for the next week, starting tomorrow. We cleaned all of our items out of the office and took them with us. Our main route to our city, Neuenrade, has been closed for the last couple weeks. We were told that it often shuts down for repair during hard storms or after the storms are over for repair. We have been taking the long way up and down and so has everyone else. When there is only one way to an area, it can be quite congested. Well, as we made our way to this long and winding street, we saw a traffic backup. There was a fire in some house and the Feuerwehr (firefighters) were putting it out, they blocked the road. We had to drive into this neighborhood and thanks to the GPS, we managed to pass above the blockage and continue on our way. When we got home, we had dinner from the limited stock we have left on hand: pea soup, eggrolls, pasta, or leftover Indian. I had pea soup and an eggroll (these are amazing and I will miss them) and Ray had leftover Indian and an eggroll. I sure wish we could buy good quality to-go eggrolls in the U.S. They sell them in single packages and they’re the size of burritos. They cost about .59 Euro cents each. Speaking of meals… I’m practically on a pea soup diet. It wasn’t meant to be this way, but since I made so much for work this week and had so much left over, I didn’t want it to go to waste. Also, we are trying to use up all the food and save money. Whatever we have left, we take back home and exchange for dolla dolla bills! Since we have to buy a new fridge and mattress upon moving, we are saving those pennies. So, pea soup has been a part of my daily diet for 4 days now. I actually really like it and I’m sad it took me so long in my life to discover that! My mom would make it when we were kids, but she would always include the ham—and since I thought it looked gross and I hate regular pees, I was never interested. We watched the American Idol results show and spent the rest of the evening hanging out. We’re feeling about 10% under the weather from being around sick people and the crazy weather changes, so we need to rest. There’s nothing fun about being sick on very airplane rides!
Samstag 13.03.2010 (day 180)
We woke up late. It was marvelous. I love Saturday mornings! I woke up earlier than Ray by 30 minutes and made us pancakes for breakfast. We dug in, did a little Internet searching, then got ready for our day. We left the house around 1 and headed to Kaufpark to turn in our final collection of bottles and purchase a bottle of wine to take over the one of RL’s newest employee’s house. We also bought another tea. If you (whoever reads this) ever come to visit us, ask to try some of our German teas. We will have 5 varieties and they are excellent. We started our drive 1.5 hours to Martin’s house. We got gas along the way (last time in Germany!) and made it by 3 p.m. We sat down for coffee and this incredible coconut cake (probably my favorite dessert in Germany thus far) that Martin’s wife made. She works at a bakery and it looked absolutely gourmet. We also had a chance to meet and hang out with their daughter, Stella. She’s 8 months and full of personality. We toured their new home (they had it built in 2008, the same year they were married—two months before us!), looked at their wedding and home-building photos, and had dinner with them. They made pizza from scratch and it was tasty! We had a great time with them and we’re really happy that RL is adding a great leader to their team. We look forward to having them out in Chicago to visit us. We drove back home just after 7 and arrived in Neuenrade at 8:30. We began our packing spree and laundry at this time. It’s near 1 a.m. and I’m still listening to the dryer. We have one more load to dry… but that will have to wait until the morning. We’re going to be packed to the brim on our luggage because of a few things: all the books & technical manuals Ray has, the ski clothes, and the new jacket he received from Rosta that is huge! We were really good on luggage space until all those items started appearing… we’ll make it. Now, for our last night in our adorable 300-year-old German house!
Sonntag 14.03.2010 (day 181)
Peanut butter toast for breakfast. Now we’re really trying to use up all the good stuff so we don’t waste it. Let’s just say we’re pretty sure the layer of peanut butter was thicker than the bread in which we layered it upon. Haha! After being woken up 3 times (2 by bells outside and once by our cell phone downstairs), I figured it was time to get up. We finished our packing and we’re definitely bursting at the seams over here! I’m so glad we have nothing more to take. We’ll be wearing our big jackets on the plane simply because we have no space left in our suitcases for them. I am hoping that our luggage is not overweight… we’ll find out! Oh, the prospect of not living out of suitcases excites me more and more everyday! We had pasta for lunch and cleaned a lot for our landlords. We want to maintain a good relationship with them because it’s possible that the company may use their rental unit again. I cleaned the bathroom, all the laundry, dishes, and put everything away. We put back all the furniture we had moved to our liking and left everything nice and tidy. At about 3:30, we headed next door to the gelato restaurant. Can you believe we hadn’t been there in all of our 6 months? In our defense, it was closed for about 3-4 months of our stay… but still! We figured, now, or never. We bought a mandarin frozen yogurt and a chocolate gelato. They were excellent and only .70 Euro cents each! Too bad we hadn’t experienced the greatness sooner! We packed up our car with our extremely heavy luggage (we may need to make some changes to avoid heavy charges!) and drove out of Neuenrade for good. We headed down the long way (the other way is still closed) to RL to meet Karston and drop off our car. We loaded our luggage into his car and headed for Frankfurt. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Ray picked this hotel over others because they had a Mexicanisches Restaurant. Well, since I know German-Mexican food is so sub-par Southern California’s food, I had low expectations. The menu wasn’t all that promising either. The “vegetarisches” section of the menu consisted of 4 items that consisted of a whole-wheat tortilla, random vegetables, and a baked potato. That doesn’t resemble Mexican food in the slightest. Luckily, I spotted the nachos! I ordered nachos with guacamole (gasp!) and beans. Ray ordered chicken masala which came served with peanut sauce on top and a quesadilla (microwaved) and a small salad on the side. Oh, and let’s not forget about the drinks: a strong margarita (with table salt on the rim… oh…my…) and a Corona. Drinks were good and my meal was good. Ray’s was good too, he says, but there was nothing “Mexican” about it. My food arrived without the beans I ordered, but the manager promptly brought them out… KIDNEY beans. Who puts kidney beans on nachos? Eh, either way, I got my beans and the meal was actually really spicy (hard to come by here in Germany) and delicious. Ray actually wanted my meal instead of his and wish he’d ordered my meal instead! We went back to our room to relax and prepare ourselves for tomorrow! Now I’m sitting here on extremely slow Internet contemplating whether we should rearrange some of our luggage to even out the weight. Eh. Later. I’m attempting to blog with this slow Internet connection… but perhaps that’s impossible! Tomorrow is a big day! I am going to be an official Midwesterner. But, what I told Ray stands… You can take the girl out of California, but you sure can’t take California out of THIS girl!


Sneaker Teacher said... [Reply to comment]

Congrats on (almost) being homeowners! You are entering another new and exciting chapter! It seems like you have had a wonderful experience in Germany with lots of traveling, but I am sure you will enjoy being back in the U.S. Have some REAL Mexican for me when you get back!