I am writing from Hannover, Germany, at the outset of what will be a year-long adventure for our family. Like any real adventure, it involves a foray into unknown territory and an element of danger but also the promise of great rewards. Summarized, it is simply this: Sylvia is on sabbatical this coming year and she is spending that year as a visiting professor at the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität here. Stated that way, it hardly seems like Indiana Jones material, but the repercussions of that one decision are what bring in the element of adventure. Dante and Licia are also spending the year in Germany: Licia will complete first grade in a German school, while Dante will enter a German Kinderladen. I am only here for a couple weeks (my annual vacation allowance) while everyone gets settled; then it’s back to Kentucky and work for me. However, I've negotiated a six-month work-from-home arrangement with my dean that will allow me to come back in September and be here for all of Sylvia's first semester of teaching (we are choosing to interpret ‘home’ very liberally in this arrangement). So, there are challenges for everyone. Sylvia has to be a single parent for two months now and four more next summer while teaching new classes in an unfamiliar university environment. The kids get all the usual trauma of moving—new home, new environment, new school, new friends—plus the added challenge of being thrown into the deep end with the German language. As for myself, I’ll be splitting time between two existences, both rather different than my current one: country bachelor while I am in Kentucky and globe-trotting telecommuter while I am here. I’m not sure which one of those scares me more. Both will require degrees of discipline I am not sure I possess.
Fortunately, we aren’t undertaking this adventure unprepared. Sylvia did massive amounts of research and organization over the past several months to triangulate living-, school-, and daycare arrangements. We also have allies: one of Sylvia's best friends from growing up lives here with her family, literally a few blocks away; various members of Sylvia’s family live within a couple hours’ drive as well. It also doesn't hurt that this is Sylvia’s home town, although having been away from it for almost 20 years, she is finding there's a lot of readjustment for her too.
So far, so good
At this point, not quite 48 hours into the adventure, it is going as well as could reasonably be expected. The flights to get here went without incident (to their credit, Dante and Licia are real troopers when it comes to travel). All 12 pieces of luggage (9 suitcases, 2 car seats, and a stroller*) made it to our destination, intact no less. The apartment we rented sight-almost-unseen (we did have pictures to go on, and our agent on the ground reported on it favorably) is really quite nice and well-situated in quiet cul-de-sac in the List neighborhood (also only a stone's throw from a Netto supermarket). We are recovering from jet-lag reasonably well, and attacks of homesickness have been mild thus far. A bank account has been established, and our friends’ spare cell phone ('Handy' auf deutsch) plus a prepaid SIM card gives us basic communications capability. The next major logistical objective is Internet access (which, if you are reading this, you can assume to have been achieved).
Which brings us me pretty much up to date. I am going to make a real effort to blog semi-regularly at least during this initial phase. We’ll see what the rest of the coming year brings. If nothing else, it will upset routine, which is probably a good thing at this point. I've been in a bit of a rut, both professionally and personally, of late, so perhaps adventure is precisely what I need.
- This is one bag over the limit for an international flight (one car seat and one stroller-type item per child are allowed beyond the usual 2 bags/person allowance—one of the few breaks the airline industry offers parents). We were prepared to pay the $100 extra bag fee (which compares favorably pound for pound with transatlantic shipping rates), but the US Airways people either forgot to charge us or were so impressed with the fact that all our bags weighed in at almost exactly 50 lbs. (one was 50 lb. on the nose, two were 49.5 lb., and the rest ranged down to a minimum of 44 lb.) that we earned ourselves a bonus bag.