This is my 300th post, which still seems crazy to me. When I started the wordpress.com version of my blog more than three and a half years ago, I’m not sure I really thought much about how long it would last. I know I didn’t think I’d be switching to a self-hosted site just a few months later. Now my life is different in so many ways I never could have imagined back then. But instead of looking back like I did for my 200th post, I thought I’d take a look at where I’m going.
Andy and I had been talking about our future, our goals, and what we wanted our lives to look like for months. Mostly in vague terms, no concrete plans or decisions to make it happen at first. But sometime during the summer we started getting more serious. We really needed to make some changes. We didn’t want the traditional life of going to work in the same boring office every day and trying to make the most of our few weeks of vacation each year. We wanted more.
March was a bit of a blur.
I’ve mentioned a couple times here that I have a disease called ulcerative colitis. It’s an intestinal disease that I have to take medicine for each day for the rest of my life. It usually doesn’t bother me, but occasionally problems come up. I won’t get into too much detail, but it affects my large intestines, so I’m sure you can use your imagination. Or, you know, don’t.
Shortly after arriving in Germany, Andy and I went into the immigration office to get my visa allowing me to live here. Since Andy has a job here and we’re married, there really wasn’t much to it. But I was told I needed to take a German integration course, which is 600 hours of language classes followed by 60 hours of an orientation course. The orientation course teaches German history, the government structure, the school system, and basically how German society functions. I finally began the integration class in June 2012, and thus began a stressful and intense eight months. (Note: I will not be mentioning the name of the school or any people involved.)
We are well into winter here in Germany, even though technically the first day of winter isn’t until December 21st. Most days the temperatures are right above or right below freezing, sometimes even colder. We’ve already had more snow this season than Atlanta normally gets in two years. Freiburg is also in the southwestern corner of Germany, and it’s the sunniest part of the country. Though you’d never know it by looking out the window these days.
I love to travel. I make no secret of that, and I’ve made it my mission to encourage others to travel. So I don’t think it surprised too many people when I announced my plans to move to Germany. Even before I met Andy, it had always been a dream of mine to try living in Europe. But like most things, the reality usually doesn’t match expectations, and being an expat often feels like being in a weird travel limbo.
I’m sure you’ve faked something at one time or another. We do it to protect ourselves. No one wants to be made fun of or seem vulnerable. So we cover things up or pretend we’re someone we’re not to hide the insecurities. We’ve all been there.
Sometimes I fake it too.
I love the sound of the trams in Freiburg, as long as it isn’t the one I just missed. It reminds me I don’t have to sit in traffic anymore to get where I’m going. No more rush hour stress, but perhaps a little “will I make it to the tram on time” stress.
I love the sound of the church bells chiming in the distance, even though I don’t attend. Whether it’s Sunday morning, faintly ringing, not loud enough to wake me up, or random weekday mornings as I rush to the tram stop on my way to class, they make me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.
May 27, 2011 was my last day of employment. I can’t even begin to express how happy I am to not still be at my old job. The boring insurance regulations I struggled to memorize, the awful office politics, the back-stabbing egotistical corporate ladder climbers. Even as I shed tears for the work friends I was leaving behind, walking out the door on that last day was such a relief. But it’s really strange not having a job. It’s really weird depending on someone else when I spent so many years taking care of things myself.
Culture shock comes in many forms, lurking behind unexpected corners, and attacking when you least expect it. I’ve experienced it on short trips, when the stress of travel hits and I just wanted things to be like they were at home. So I always knew I would have to deal with culture shock when I moved to Germany. But I had no idea what that really meant or what it would be like or what the triggers would be.