It seems like this blog could use some concluding thoughts, no? Assuming anyone’s here. Well for the record anyway. So here I am on the way home, waiting in Chicago for my delayed flight to Madison, traveling with our last suitcase (ski box with skis that Emily made, Maya’s skateboard, and who knows what else?) retrieved from a short visit back to GaPa. We’ve been back in Madison a bit more than a month, back in school, back to teaching, back to our selves, bad habits and all.
Being back to Garmisch for 36 hours was somewhat surreal. Not quite long since we left to really feel all that different or unusual. Conversations were had in German at stores. I could still be angry or make fun or tourists (like the airplane load of Finns wearing Lederhosen on the way to Oktoberfest – which despite being a super awesome party, I can still skoff at like a local).
But It did make me think about what we learned or missed. Sabbatical is like being at summer camp in some ways. It ends feeling like something changed. Lots of emotions, adventures, some that are even hard to describe. And hard to talk about negative things to someone back home when they ask “How was your year abroad, galavanting around the world?” So in some ways, nothing changed. Maybe not exactly summer camp, more like a survival wilderness camp. Because nothing comes prepackaged, and one is uprooting a family and their lives and every little detail from visas to schools to buying a car to work environment customs must all be navigated mostly on your own. So I suppose that’s a healthy thing.
With that, I think I’ll just conclude with a reflection on the things I miss and don’t miss. I tried to separate them, but then I realized for most of things I thought about – it’s hard to separate the two.
Free weekends – Obligation free weekends and a sense of “we’re in Europe, we can’t just sit around all day” led to a lot of day trips, hikes, ski runs and the like. But it’s nice to have more friends to visit and Shabbat programs for the kids and not feeling guilty about being downright lazy.
Unstructured time and half day schools – Work days and home days had far less structure for everyone. No teaching, school out at noonish everyday, very few after school activities. We all learned to be more independent and creative. But it wasn’t easy. There’s something nice to having a bit of adrenaline going between various activities of life. But it’s nice to have the kids free to roam back in Madison and 11 year olds make great babysitters!
Goat based traffic jams and other driving wünder – To survive the high speeds of the autobahn and the narrow streets of its villages, not to mention their complex driver’s tests, Germans tend to relatively law-abiding drivers (and pedestrians – Berlin excluded), which makes getting around predictable, even if hair raising when being passed at 200 km/hour or having to maneuver around a herd of goats or cows passing by your apartment (a regular thing), shepherded most likely by one of Maya’s classmates. But to have wide streets and cars big enough to load all of crap into and ability to actually take advantage of cruise control and gas that costs half the price – kinda nice.
Ski and bakery dates and hiking out the back yard – Monday mornings were reserved for ski dates in winter and bakery or hiking dates in the spring and summer. More vertical to climb on trails right outside our house than five Wisconsins stacked on top of each other! An entire meal out of dark, crusty, hearty Bavarian bread, nothing of which like it exists in America. Definitely miss these. Nothing to not miss here.
Renting – It sure was nice to not have to deal with maintenance or yard work or various utility bills. We came back to a house with new basement flooding spots, a bat in the bedroom, paint job getting worse by the minute, attic crammed with all our junk, and other endless things. On the other hand, the kids have their own rooms and bikes and are happy to be in them or on them and running around their neighborhood.
Beer – Bavaria has more breweries than just about anywhere else and each bar serves one brand of beer and each town has their own beer. Lots of history and folklore with breweries going back 600 years in some cases. 1/2 and 1 liter mugs. Low alcohol lunch time beers and beer mixes like Radlers (half lemonade, half beer). And yet, the lack of variety, ales, flavorings made many of the beers quite similar to each other. It’s nice to be back in microbrew heaven.
Lost in translation – There’s something nice about the clatter of languages, ignoring most of it, and the sense of being lost. It heightens the senses to pay closer attention to things and not worry so much about the small talk. Of course, this also meant very little small talk, random overheard conversations, and getting things done the right way the first time.
I learned a lot last year. Lots of old projects at work got finished and new projects got started, including some exciting new research initiatives. New friends were made. The kids became resilient and adpatable and excellent travelers. They speak another language. We saw our roots, culture, and heritage in Germany, Israel and India. At some point, each of us cried or missed something terribly. And at some point, each of us did something awesome or for the first time. And the University gets its money’s worth with renewed scholarship (I hope).
So thanks for following or reading. Maybe some short stories from the kids on their adventures in Iceland and a few trips not reviewed will pop up. I owe the blog a guide to gluten free eating in Garmisch. Maybe another random note on some idea or another.
And then whatever technological communication platform of the day exists in another 7 years – we’ll be there!