Monday, December 10, 2007

The big move!

We left for Germany on Friday, December 7. I had class that morning and Abby went to school, but after class Wayne and I gathered all the luggage and took the tube to Holborn. He then waited on the platform while I went to collect Abby from school. The Deputy Headteacher made a nice speech to the class and all the kids hugged Abby and said goodbye. There were a few tears as we left – Abby really had some good friends in year one. We met Wayne on the platform and took the tube out to Heathrow. We were limited to one 20 kg bag apiece. We ALMOST made it – one bag was 24 kilos, but the lady was nice and didn’t charge us. Security was a pain. They made us wedge our largest carry on into the size thing. To make it fit I had to duck into the bathroom, change Abby’s clothes (from her school uniform to her bulkier jeans), and tuck a few other bulky items into my jacket pockets. So we wedged it in, took ten minutes to get it back out, got through security, and then refilled it as it had been. What a pointless exercise. They allow only one carry-on each leaving London, and that includes purses and computer cases. Our flight was an hour and a half late leaving Heathrow, which put us into Frankfurt at 10 p.m. It took 45 minutes for the bags to come, so we ran for the train to Wiesbaden, catching the 10:59 with 4 minutes to spare, which got us to Wiesbaden at 11:40. We caught a cab to the youth hostel, which closes at midnight, JUST in time. The woman at the desk remembered Wayne from his two previous visits, and was as nice as could be. The youth hostel in Wiesbaden is extremely pleasant and clean, so it was a good place to spend our first night. Abby was thrilled with the bunk beds in our room. She was a real trouper through what wasn’t the easiest day. Saturday morning, Wayne left early to go pick up our rental truck. He came back to get us and we met Frau Schumann at our new flat. Wayne did a GREAT job picking out a place. Abby ran around and said, “Are all these rooms ours?” We had all gotten used to our one-room flat in London, so this feels like luxury! It has 3 good sized rooms, a small kitchen, and one and a half baths. It’s on the ground floor, but the windows are high enough to feel safe. The neighborhood is good and relatively quiet (especially compared to London), and it is an easy walk to Abby’s new school and to a park. We dropped our bags and went immediately to see some friends in Mainz. They not only had some things for our new flat, but took us to meet a neighbor who is elderly and moving in with her daughter. She gave us a bed (with sheets & duvet), 4 wardrobes, 2 armchairs, 2 other chairs, a shoe cabinet/bench, and 4 nightstands. Abby’s room is set, and that gives us a wardrobe for our room, the living room, and a narrow one for the bath. This is a huge help, as our flat has no closets. In addition to all the stuff, they also gave us a delicious lunch of pumpkin soup and Turkish sesame ring bread. From there, we went to see another set of good friends in Mainz. Their daughter Caroline played with Abby while we went to our friend’s office to raid the storage room. We got silverware, plates, trash cans, and decided on a table & chairs we can use for our living/dining room. We couldn’t fit it all into the truck, and it was getting late. We did load up a small table for the kitchen as well as 3 mattresses and they loaned us some sheets. Abby stayed with Caroline while we made a quick shopping run to Aldi – a store completely devoid of charm and with limited selection, but low prices (sort of a grocery store version of Fred’s). We went back to get Abby, and headed to our new home. It was late – already after 8 at this point. We were all starving, so I unearthed enough kitchen gear to made a very quick dinner while Wayne unloaded most of the truck in a light (but cold) rain. This was one of those times when I wished we liked McDonald’s! We passed one and I thought how easy that would be! We threw mattresses on the floor and made them up, put Abby to bed, unloaded the big pieces of furniture that required two, and then collapsed for the night. Sunday morning Wayne got up early to return the truck. He took the bus back and stopped at a good bakery on the way. Abby and I slept late (almost 9) and then played for a while. When Wayne got home we had breakfast and then started unpacking in earnest. On Sunday we got Abby’s room totally set. Most of the kitchen gear has found a home. And thank goodness for Wayne’s superior planning abilities. It was wonderful to open the 2 suitcases he’d taken to Germany last May and find toiletries, towels, kitchen stuff (including oven mitts, which we never did get in London!), a couple of blankets, and even a couple of “new” items of clothing. On Wednesday we’re going to rent another truck and get the remaining 2 wardrobes, the table & chairs, and a desk. That will leave us with only needing 3 big pieces – a sofa, a bed for us, and a washing machine. All in all, we’re feeling very happy with our new digs and grateful for friends. Sunday night we went to the Christmas Market in Wiesbaden. It was beautiful. Gorgeous lights, fun shops, lots of food and drink, live entertainment. It was fun. We told Abby that if she wanted cotton candy she would have to order it herself in German, and she did it!

Today (Monday) Abby started her new school. She was a little nervous about it. Over breakfast she said that the good thing about going to school while traveling is that she meets so many new people, but the bad thing is that it is scary to go to a new school. We dropped her off at 10, and at the teacher’s request, stayed out of sight for about 45 minutes until she came to tell us everything was going great. When we returned at 12:45 to pick Abby up, she asked why we had come so soon! And tonight as we put her to bed, she said she was so excited about going to school tomorrow. After her inner-city London school, she is thrilled with the huge playground at her new school, and she seems to already be playing well with the other kids, who speak only German. The school has beautiful facilities and we seem, yet again, to be extremely lucky with teachers.

We’re continuing to work on our flat. It’s amazing how many things you take for granted (darn! No vegetable peeler! and “Hey, let’s just nuke the . . . oops, no microwave!) While I have set up household in a foreign country before, I’d forgotten how exhausting it is to have to figure out what store sells what and to read labels in a foreign language. Wayne is learning new German vocabulary – he’d never needed to know the specific words for baking soda vs. baking powder before. We haven’t found a good grocery store yet – I’m missing Tesco and Sainsbury in London! I look for things in the wrong places – eggs aren’t refrigerated here, for example, and come in cartons of 10. In London they came in cartons of 6 or 15. I know putting a dozen eggs together is an arbitrary thing, but any other number just seems wrong.

We don’t have Internet at home yet, so e-mail access will be irregular. I'm also handicapped by using a German keyboard- just different enough to make it hard! And by saying, "Ich mochte bitte surfen" with a straight face at the internet cafe.

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