Our first few days in Germany have been a whirlwind. The kids and I arrived at Dusseldorf airport at 6am. Brett took the kids and the luggage to Mulheim an der Ruhr, while I took the train: there was room enough for all the luggage or all the people, but not both. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out which train to take in spite of being severely jet-lagged. On my scouting trip last month, I managed to find the correct line, but got on the wrong direction (oops).
After arriving, we met up with our new and amazing friend Karen to tour Marissa's school in Kettwig. We met one of her classmates and had a quick tour, so we at least have some sort of idea what to expect. It seems that high school in Germany is more like college in the US: kids are expected to be far more independent in their studies. She met one of her future classmates, who also happens to be her FB friend (thanks to our friend Karen) and I've no doubt she'll have a wonderful experience.
We then raced to visit the boys' school, the International school Ruhr, in Essen, which is about 20 minutes minutes away according to google maps, but I've been reliably informed that traffic can turn the commute into 40 minutes. That should make life interesting for us- anyone who knows me can imagine what a mommy-dearest I am in the morning without traffic. Anyway, the school is beautiful, and the staff was very welcoming in spite of our last-minute drop-in. I think the boys will settle in wonderfully, although I'll miss the short walk we had in Sgt. Bluff.
After that tour, we had our real adventure for the week- and hopefully our last. On our way to lunch, Hunter slipped on a stair and split his head open. Horribly. We were without our guardian angels/interpreters (as we had split ways hoping to give them some sort of reprieve from the annoyingly helpless auslanders), which made the experience even more frightening for me. Fortunately, some kind soul called emergency for us, and the ambulance team spoke sufficient English to help me calm down, but poor Hunter was terrified. We were seen immediately, the wound was cleaned, glued (in lieu of stitches) and dressed, with instructions to return if obvious signs of infection or concussion appeared, which fortunately haven't. We were then shuffled to the accounting dept to pay, but I had no phone, no Euro, no copy of my insurance card (left that with Brett in my panic) and running on empty in the sleep dept (remember, we arrived at 6 am that morning). The poor man in the office didn't know how to handle me, and with my broken German and his broken English, I was in less than prime form. Fortunately, Sven, the white knight, arrived with Brett and the other two in tow before tears erupted. We paid our bill of approximately 23 Euro and were sent on our way. I know it's our only experience (and hopefully our last), but the care was efficient, friendly and fast. So, +100 points to socialized medicine.
The following day (Friday) was spent obtaining a German phone so that I wouldn't feel quite so helpless again, and resting up for the Feuerzangenbowle party: (according to translate google) fire tongs punch. A bowl of delicious gluhwein ( I must figure out how to type an umlaut) is heated and a large sugar cone is laid across the top of the bowl. The sugar is soaked with a high-proof rum and set on fire. As the rum burns, it melts the sugar into the bowl of mulled wine. It's beautiful and tasty, although a bit dangerous, as I understand it has led to a scorched ceiling. The party was wonderful. Brett and I met a lot of English-speaking expats that live in the area and the kids had fun with other kids. We are amazed with the warm welcome we have received.
Saturday, Marissa met with her new friend (part of the White Knight family) at the train station to take her maiden train voyage to Essen. The rest of us traveled by car there to pick up electric transformers and to tour my happy place (aka Ikea). In the evening we went to a Renaissance type Christmas Market where we watched a woman juggle fire and watched a play of sorts spoken in old German. We also tried Gluhbier: the jury is still out on that one. It was warm and sweet, but after 1/2 a mug, it tasted more like cherry cough syrup than beer.
Sunday we met with our friends from the Netherlands. It was so easy to fall right into our old friendship even though it has been over 4 years since they moved away from the US. Bram and Hunter are still two peas in a pod, although they spoke to each other a little less. Darwin started talking Emma's ear off right away- he fell into step with Emma and Bram so easily, I'm not sure he ever realized that they hardly understood a word he said. We all toured the Christmas Market in Essen and enjoyed the warmish weather and the Christmas sights, until the rain drowned us out. The day went too quickly, and we're looking forward to our trip to the Netherlands on Christmas day.
Tonight we've been catching up on relaxation, as the week has flown by, and I'm finally recounting our adventures. I hope future posts are more clever or humorous, but I'm making no promises.