Monday, April 13, 2015

Cheers, Scotland.

We arrived on 3rd September 2012, and we're leaving on 16th April 2015. That's 3 years, 7 months, and 13 days. That small amount of time doesn't seem to equal the major ways in which this experience has changed us. With our move to Germany just 4 days away, I feel more prepared than I thought I would. Here's why:

Transition is complicated, but builds character. Our first flat in St Andrews was less than ideal. We signed the lease sight unseen, and the mould that greeted us upon arrival almost had me on the morning plane back to Seattle. That first night we slept in our sleeping bags on the living room floor, and I cried. Hard. The next day we walked to the East Sands beach and I told Garrick, "I guess I can live here."

In just a few days, we're moving to another country, Garrick is starting a new job, and we'll become parents in early June. These changes are all good and we cannot wait for our daughter to finally be on the outside. But we're going into this knowing there will be rough times. Garrick's German is decent, and mine? Well, I know how to ask for help at the grocery store. It will take a few months at least to feel settled, but I know we'll get there.

Our second day in Scotland at the East Sands.

Community is essential.  A week after arriving in St Andrews, we met our first friends at church. A year later, new faces arrived, and we made more friends. And, some left. This was our first taste of the transience of the academic life. While we were excited to make new friends each year, we were sad to say goodbye to others.We also made friends with my coworkers, and we tease them that they are our local tour guides.

During our time here, we had times of joy and times of sorrow. Academic accolades often came with lots of rejection. I had several job changes, some positive, some negative. There were deaths in my family, and also the birth of new family members. We are joyfully anticipating the arrival of our baby girl in June, but experienced two miscarriages last year. In these times, we had people eager to celebrate with us and to comfort us. As our families were thousands of miles away, these people became our family.

We are being very proactive about forming a community of friends in Wuppertal. It's slightly more intimidating as we are the only Americans we know of so far, and our language skills need work. But I know that we need community to thrive.

PC: Spencer Bentley

Living in Europe is a privilege. Being a Washingtonian, it takes at least a full day of travel to get most anywhere in Europe. Plus, jet lag is a pain. When I list the countries I've visited since moving to the UK, I'm immediately thankful. In Germany, so many beautiful places will be within driving distance. It's pretty cool that our daughter will have dual citizenship and travel to many different places from birth!

Different isn't bad. In Scotland, vegetables are tinned, not canned. Eye glasses have legs, not arms. "Hiya" means hello. "Cheers" means goodbye. Washing machines often are in the kitchen. And these differences are minor in comparison to accents or other cultural conventions. In our early days, I would come home exhausted. I felt like I was translating all day long. I would often revert to the thinking that my way was the best way, and anything different was bad.

But soon, I started appreciating some of these new ways of doing things. I'm excited to learn from the German culture and adapt to a new lifestyle. I'm sure some things will drive me crazy, but I'll be less quick to assume that the differences are negative. Also, I will actually be translating all day; not just trying to understand new accents.

We're on the same team. I'm competitive and so is Garrick. It's easy for us to forget that we are in this together. On days when I had to walk to work in gale force winds, or when we were tight on money, I would often blame Garrick. This was counterproductive to working through anything. I often remember the words Brian Muchmore said at our wedding, and the baseball he gave us with "Team Allen" written on it. This truth grounds us. 

We both decided to move to Germany. This will be true on good days and bad ones. We have been focusing on being good friends and supporting one another through this uncertain time. I even stayed up late to watch the first Mariner game of the season last week, and Garrick has been very attentive to all of my pregnancy needs and makes me laugh all the time. What a blessing it is to do all of this with my best friend!

Cheers, Scotland!

Friday, April 3, 2015

30 Weeks

In less than 10 weeks, we'll meet our little girl. Even though that's not much time, much will take place before she arrives. On Tuesday, we turned in the keys to our flat and enjoyed our sea view for the last time. We are currently living with generous friends while we wait for Garrick to defend his thesis on the 14th of April. Then, we move to Germany. So, the birth seems ages away, even though it's very soon.

I'm feeling okay. By 8 o'clock, I usually like be be horizontal due to my sore back. My favourite part of pregnancy is feeling each and every wiggle, kick, and somersault. It's even better when Garrick's hand is pressed to my belly during these moments. I've learned that pregnancy is filled with highs and lows, like most life experiences. But, even during the lows, this life inside of me is growing, healthy, and a precious gift from God. Garrick's sense of humour keeps me laughing (most of the time) and makes the days pass quickly.

Our daughter has a name: Eloise Harper. Referring to her by her name has helped each of us feel bonded with her. We have a one-line a day memory book that we're writing in to capture this unique season. Garrick thinks we're cool parents already, but I'll leave that up to her to decide. Soon, her nursery will be underway at our flat in Germany. She already has quite the wardrobe and lots of books to read thanks to our lovely friends and family. Introducing her to her grandparents will be very special, and both sets are coming to Germany soon after her birth!

That's all for now. More to come soon.

(A friend in St Andrews took these photos of us last weekend in front of our flat. Thanks, Kate!)