Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Of two minds

Phase 2 of The Great Adventure is now in full swing. I've managed to get into something like a routine in my new career as a telecommuter, and it is going surprisingly well. Indeed, the thing that I thought would be hardest—simply disciplining myself to ‘go to work’—has actually been quite easy. School/daycare for the kids, as well as other domestic obligations, provide a built-in structure to the day and working just becomes part of that, much as it was back home. I also have the advantage of being able to hole up in Sylvia's university office on her non-teaching days, which helps with focus. And of course, I am quite aware of the fact that I've been given something of a gift by my employer being able to do this, so I'm all the more motivated to prove to them it was not ill-advised.

The part that is taking some getting used to is a sense of being divided, literally of two minds, one of which is trying to function in Morehead, KY, while the other functions in Hannover, Germany. Part of this has to do with he time difference. Since I am in regular communication with people in the US, I am constantly having to calculate the time there, whether to plan a time for a phone call or just to gauge when I might get a response to an email. And with the six-hour time difference, I am reaching the end of my workday right about the time that people are rolling in and becoming active in the US. (With the Phillies in the World Series for the first time since 1993, the time difference is especially painful: tonight's game starts at 1AM my time. Sleep can wait until after the playoffs.)

Another source of strangeness is language. I’ve never been dedicated enough to do a ‘total immersion’ language experience, but normally when I spend time in Germany, I spend a fair amount of time hearing, reading and speaking German. I'm far from fluent, but I can communicate and to a certain extent think in German. But my working hours basically involve going into an English-only bubble for seven or eight hours at a time (even when I am at the university I don’t really interact with people there except for the occasional foray to the Mensa to get coffee). When I leave that bubble at the end of a workday, it feels doubly strange to suddenly be surrounded by this whole other language and culture.

As a result, I sometimes feel guilty that I'm not having a sufficiently ‘German’ experience while I am here, although in the few weeks we've been here I've been to the Opera and the Sprengel Museum, toured the Altstatdt and the Eilenriede, gone to the movies and browsed the markets. I have nothing to complain of; it’s just the difference between visiting a place and living there, and I am doing the latter, if only temporarily.