My German experience

My German experience

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Our first stop was Germany. The school was a fun memory because my teacher, Frau Weiss, and the kids were really nice. Frau Weiss spoke English and that really helped me a lot because I did not speak German. One of my friends was Joel but I had other friends in Germany too. They helped me as long as we stayed. Everyday after school in Germany we came home from school and started to jump on the trampoline for along time.

Pastor Johannes was the pastor at St. Jakobi Kirche and he spoke English. So that was good because we could talk to him. He could speak German too so we could get help from him so we did not look like fools! One night pastor Johannes brought out his bow and arrow for us kids to shoot and for Mom and Dad to shoot. I thought it was fun because I had never shot a bow and arrow before and I almost hit a bullseye. The church at which we were staying had two bell towers on the top and they were really high. When we went to the top it was really scary but you could see everything in Schönebeck.

On the weekends we went to different cities to sightsee. We got there by DB which is the Deutsche Bahn train. The trains were a lot more clean than the trains in Chicago and they were a lot more quiet. One weekend we went to Potsdam to see Ren, my friend from Madison. Potsdam was like Paris without the Eiffel tower. On another weekend we went to Wartburg castle. It was like a medieval fair on a mountain with shops, potions, swords, and shields.

Ultimate Flexibility

IMG_2360Years before Sara received a prophetic Facebook post and our planning began for a year long journey, she introduced me to Travis Eliot’s Ultimate Yogi program.  I should preface this by first stating that in 2007, Sara had given birth to our first born, Anjali, and shortly thereafter joined a fitness group for moms called Stroller Strides.  I had been exercising and getting into better physical condition by that point and I scoffed at the notion that I would be challenged by a fitness routine for a bunch of stroller toting moms.  I was most assuredyly wrong.  I so enjoyed the group that I even attended on a fairly regular basis when Sara was out of town or otherwise unable to go, Anjali in her Bob Stroller and all.  So it should not have surprised me that several years later, having recently moved to Madison, that Sara would inroduce me to a new program which I would underestimate only to learn to love it later.

My initial misgivings with the program revolved predominantly around the idea of Yoga as a fitness routine.  I guess I envisioned a white bearded old man sitting cross legged surrounded by a plume of incense smoke and humming mantras.  The first few practices I saw Sara doing I was unimpressed and I am sure I made it known.  But, as a strong woman, and someone who knows me well, she took no offense and continued after her objective of achieving the 108 day program laid out by Mr. Eliot.  I continued about my regular routine of running and visits to the gym until one day I saw Sara doing a practice that left her barely able to breath.  Sara has always been a better athelete than I so for her to be winded made me think back to the Stroller Strides days and to reconsider my thoughts on the Ultimate Yogi.  So, sometime around mid-May, Mother’s Day if I recall correctly, I agreed to join Sara for a yoga practice.  I should clarify that I had done a practice once before at the local gym and rather enjoyed it, but I was somewhat hesitant about sitting in my living room and having a dvd version of Travis Eliot talk me through an hour long program.  To up the ante a bit this particular practice was going to be way, way outside my wheelhouse.

You see, the Ultimate Yogi program is 108 days of scheduled practice, meditation, and diet.  The program for this particular day called for a practice known as Yin Yoga.  Yin Yoga, for those unfamiliar with Yoga parlance, is a practice in which you get into a yoga pose or asana, and hold it for a long period of time.  I had thought at this point that I was fairly flexible, and I was very wrong.  The one hour program proceeded to stretch muscles I was unaware even existed and in my competitive spirit I stupidly tried my hardest to stretch more than I could.  I fortunately did not pull anything but I did proceed to become phsysically ill from the release of years of pent up toxins.  I felt immediately terrible, relaxed, loose, and exhausted simultaneously.  It was blissful in hindsight.

I share this rather embarrassing event because, as we fast forward to present day, I am gazing across our room at the two yoga mats Sara and I insisted be part of our travels.  We weren’t sure what our fitness regime would or could be while travleing but we knew that no matter where we were we could find enough room for a mat and that we could carve out an hour for yoga.  I have not been a diligent practitioner of Yoga, not nearly as much as I would like, but in the last three years or so I have greatly increased my flexibility.  My body feels better, my fitness routine is improved, and I can see a palpable difference in my mood and sense of well being on the days I practice.  This is by no means an infomercial, but rather an observation on the benefits of flexibility, and not just physcially.  Through this process we have learned to be flexibile in so many ways.   The Apostle Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Philippians.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-14

His faith gave him the flexibilty to handle the challenges that he encountered because God gave him the strength to do so.  In times of stress we have leaned on the same faith to give us the ability to smile through our troubles and know that our outcome is in the hands of God and that His plans will prevail.  Likewise our physical ability to handle the trials of travel has been enhanced by our yoga practice.  We are more physically and mentally able to handle the change and challenges ahead because we have been given the tools and strength to do so.

We are currently residing in Thailand and to be sure this was our first real challenge of this journey.  With very few English speakers and immediate obstacles to our travel plans upon arrival, we had to muster every ounce of our flexibilty.  We found ourseleves in the Bangkok immigration office working on a visa extension for 30 days.  However, some improper planning on our part had put us into a bind with our hotel check-out time and plans for a flight to another city that night.  For a brief time we were stressed, lamenting just what would happen and how we could possibly make everything work.  And then we let go.  We became pliant and allowed the situation to come to us rather than fight our way through.  We had a budget that would allow for unexpected costs and we had been been under budget in other areas.  It was not ideal to spend the extra money to accommodate the changes we needed to make but once we finally let go of our concerns and made the choice not to fight the reality of our situation, but rather embrace it, we were at peace.  We looked at the benefit of being able to spend one more night in Bangkok, another night for the kids to swim in a pool, less stress to concern ourselves with how we could race back to make the flight.  We simply…were.

The world is a yoga mat.  Every day we have a choice to practice, to engage, or to quit before we start.  We can embrace challenge and change and become stronger or we can walk away from it and hope that tomorrow will offer something easier and more familiar.  Either way the mat is always there, always waiting, for whatever we choose to do.  I end with two quotes.  One from Buddha, fitting since we are living in a country that is over 90% Buddhist, and one by Travis Eliot.

Freedom and happiness are found in the flexibility and ease with which we move through change.

– Buddha
“I know it can be a little challenging but the benefits are worth it.  Be focused, be committed, and be ultimate.  And we’ll see you next time on the mat.”
– Travis Eliot

Become Like the Children

When you allow humility to take over, you find peace in “becoming like a child” and may find yourself closer to Christ.

We have been in Schönebeck for over a month now (I forgot to post this–this blog was from Sept 11, 2018) and reflecting back on our first stop of this year journey, the Matthew 18:1-5 continues to be a constant reminder for reflection and inspiration. At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom He put on among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes such a child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5). This verse has brought me a lot of encouragement over this last month, as I have had to rely on the help of so many different people (children, adults, strangers, family, friends, etc.), just like a child. Since the beginning of our time here in Germany, I have felt many times just like a child and I must share with you that it is a very humbling experience; I have felt lost, confused, isolated, alone, and completely helpless at times. When I have felt most like a child during this time, I try to remember this passage in which Jesus tells us that it is important to become “like a child”. Maybe this is not entirely what he meant, but I think there is truth to the idea that when you put yourself in a situation where you are having to rely on others, you are opening yourself up to being vulnerable and must learn to accept the help and love of another.

Now for someone like me, this is not an easy thing to do. I know that I am not the smartest person in the world, but I do feel like I am competent and well educated. I have my Masters in Social Work and while it has been a while since I have worked in the field (for those that don’t know, I was blessed to be able to stay home with our children for the last 11 years), I do have a level of competence that helps me to feel like I can help those with basic needs. I have been volunteering in an elementary school here in Schönebeck, specifically a 1 Klasse (this is the first class children attend in elementary school). The students are learning their colors and shapes, their alphabet and numbers (and how to write them), and starting to put letters together to make a word (for those in the US, this class is comparable to our Kindergarten classes). So given my education and background I felt that I could be of help when I was asked to help out a special needs student, basically to help keep him on track and help him with the assignments as he needed it.

The first several weeks was quite trying and extremely humbling. As I sat in class with these children, I realized that I was not there just to help, but to also learn right alongside them. I was learning my numbers, letters (and the sounds they make in German), my colors and shapes, etc. I was a 1 Klasse student and helping a student with whom I couldn’t speak to because of the language barrier. The simplest of tasks became quite difficult (ie.“write your number one from the top down not the bottom up”—I don’t know how to say this in German, so I have to try to show it through action).

Now the language barrier is challenging enough with adults who are patient and willing to help and learn alongside of you, but a language barrier with a child who already has difficulty learning and paying attention….sigh. I was starting to wonder how helpful I actually was until the teacher I am working with asked me to stay and continue to help (of course knowing that we had plans to change locations at the end of September). Now this job is nothing like the high stress job I had before and there are many times I still feel pretty useless, but I know that I am helping both the teacher and the student. And it may be a small way in which I am helping, but this journey is about just that, helping people where and how they needed it. Right now, this teacher and this student needed me to help in this way, and even though I may not always feel effective and competent, I know that I am giving them something that is making their life just a bit better for this moment, and that is wonderful.

The really amazing thing about this time in Germany and in the school is that not only am giving to others, but I am getting so much from them. I have been given an opportunity to learn how to laugh at myself and how to accept the help of others. I have learned that sometimes conversations and meanings just get lost in translation and when it happens, laughter seems to bring everyone back together. The people here in Schönebeck have shown our family so much love, patience, and acceptance that I can’t help but hope and pray that we all learn to show the same to others who don’t speak our language.

New Beginnings

Doesn’t it seem like God will remind you that things will get better? When you know that you deserve the consequences of your actions but they feel like they are ruining your life. I guess the words “Like the ocean” sum up the world pretty well. Maybe God wanted us to see the ocean so he made it so appealing. The reason why is that you have good and bad days. Some days are still waters, and other are rough. They are balanced. Last night, I felt like the world was coming to an end. The evening was going just fine when it came time to brush our teeth. Lucia was already in trouble and I wanted to tell David something while I was brushing. When I did, dad told me stop again and again, and I didn’t. Then he told me that I had to brush for 20 minutes. I talked yet again and I was done. I had lost dessert and things just went off the rails at that point. I honestly don’t remember what happened, maybe I talked back or something. I was being a butthole (dad used the 3 letter word😆) and I knew he was right. I was retardedly angry over such a dumb reason!

Being able to grasp and see something that God shows to you when you’re angry is something I’ve never seen until last night. I opened up a sketch diary planning to write or draw something, when the first thing I saw was a tree I had drawn a few weeks earlier and had forgotten about somehow. When you see a tree what do you think of? Maybe a squirrel or reading a book. When I saw that tree, I saw hope and a new beginning

A quick, but special trip to Paris

Paris, originally a Roman city called Lutetia, is a really pretty and clean city. Recently, I was there with my mother to see my best friend, Nadia. The first thing I exclaimed when we got to the airport was “This is amazing! I feel like I’m in a gas pipe!” The design of the airport made it look like a large metal tube. We then took the train and after a ton of stops, we got off and walk to Nadia’s apartment in which she was staying. Her dad met us outside and walked us up to surprised her! When I walked in, she was sitting at the kitchen table and when she saw me, she jumped up and hugged me. Nadia then started to cry and so did I. It was my favorite part of the trip! That night, we went out to dinner. We eventually settled for pizza which was really good. The next morning, I woke up, ate breakfast and soon after Nadia woke up, we went to a nearby bakery and bought some macaroons. We then walked and took a subway to The Notre Dame. The stain glass was just gorgeous. They had separate chapels for each saint. We took a boat tour and then climbed the Eiffel Tower. We clambered up to the first level and then to the second. I wanted to summit, but it was “too saturated” as they put it, but the view was beautiful either way. On the first level, there was a glass floor. It was scary looking down, but eventually I got used to it. We climbed back down and we went back to the apartment. We went to bed late and when I had to get up in the morning, I was exhausted. I have to say, Paris or formally known as Lutetia, was the best city ever!

A new confidence

It was hard leaving my friends. It was also hard to leave the house and Madison. And the neighborhood.

It was hard because all my favorite memories are in Madison so are my best friends are in Madison and I miss them.

I saw God at work when we were leaving Davin and Kai’s house in Wisconsin. He came down and gave me some confidence to handle the trip and all of the places that we visit. When we left I was sad about leaving somewhere so special to me, but He made me feel a little better. I was still sad when we got on our plane, but I felt even more convenient than before we left.

First Impressions, A Play by Anjali

Narrator: Once upon a time a few moments ago DOT DOT DOT. That is not how you start a play. I mean excuse me. I mean are you ready!?

Random person in the play #1: What the heck are you doing?

Narrator: The opening sentences. DUH!

Random person in the play #1: Ok, I’ll do this. Thank you everyone for coming to our play tonight. We will be talking about how the narrator feels about the trip so far. So without fur…

Ridiculous child: I am a UNICORN THE SIZE OF THE MOON!

Random person in the play #1 slaps himself in the head and walks off the stage while the ridiculous child prances around on a paper mache hot dog

Narrator: Please welcome to the stage, OUR FIRST ACT!

Audience: BOO! We want you to tell us how you feel!

Narrator: Fine. The things I like about the trip so far are the wa…

Ridiculous child: THE WAY THE UNICORN PRACE AROUND WHEN THEY NEED THE LOO!

Narrator: What the heck. And NO! I like the way that everyone i super nice to us. I like how we try to speak German and they try to speak English and how somehow, we sorta understand each other. It’s really cool! I also like our apartment it has 2 lofts for us kids to plày around in.

Narrator: Now BACK TO THE PLAY!

Ridiculous child: AND THE UNICORNS!

THE END