Exhaustion thy name is jet-lag! I cannot recall when I have been more physically tired in my life than upon the day we landed in Germany. We flew out on Monday Jan. 28th at noon from Oklahoma. We landed at 8am Jan. 29th in Frankfurt, Germany. However, to us it was more like 1am! The Clarks met us at the airport to help us get our rental car and settled into our apartment for the week. They encouraged us to NOT give in to the overwhelming desire to take a nap, but one by one we fell prey to this debilitating fatigue. I believe someone could have performed surgery on any one of us without the threat of our awakening. Truly this was awkward in many ways. For one, we have never been to their home in Germany. I was hoping my kids, as well as Lynn and I would give a polite and warming first impression. But the luring weariness, just controlled us all. Here I was excited to be in a new country and see my friends’ home for the first time and I simply laid out on her sofa and fell asleep! When I awoke looking for Lynn, I went up to their third floor bedroom/office to find Bro. Walter studying at his desk while my husband was practically passed out across their bed! I didn’t remember having this feeling when we went to Romania a few years ago, but it was the real deal now.
That first evening we went to the Bible Study that they hold on Tuesday nights at the church. We were all nervous but also excited to meet everyone. Bro. Walter did a good job leading the Bible discussion, but I must be honest – I cannot even remember what the discussion was as the room was spinning while I struggled to stay awake. At one point I thought I was falling out of my chair! My only hope is that I was able to keep my eyelids open enough that nobody would notice!
After dinner we went to a family’s home that were members of the church. When they can, they hold a prayer meeting on Thursday evenings. We were impressed with their sincerity and openness with the prayer time for their personal needs as well as the church needs. They were all very welcoming and we enjoyed the fellowship after our prayer time. This is where we were introduced to all that the Google Translator App can do!
Driving was an intimidating concept to say the least. Only Lynn was on the rental as a driver since we would only have this vehicle for the first week until the Clarks left for the States. However, as I observed and learned the rules of the road along with him, I was overwhelmed. There aren’t any stop signs over here, just turnabouts. This is a good thing in my opinion as it keeps the traffic flowing. However, there are many more pedestrians and bicycles than what we ever see in the States. Our family joke has been repeating Bro. Walter when he told Lynn, “Watch out for the bikes and pedestrians. They really frown upon hitting them over here.” As if they don’t frown upon that back home. But we understood what he meant, they have rights over here and are in more abundance over here than at home in Oklahoma. So added to the observation of the driver is the roundabout rules, the yielding rules to the side roads on your right and the bikes and walkers. This doesn’t even touch on the Autobahn and all the rules of that road. you can practically feel the breeze as cars speed by at warp speed. Believe me there are no problems with people dawdling in the left lane around here!
Schnitzel: Walter and Dalene took Lynn and I into Heidelberg on night three. By now, we were still tired, but able to function like normal humans. This is where we tried Schnitzel for the first time. Basically it’s chicken fried pork cutlet with any of 101 sauces over it. The atmosphere was great, the company was great, the conversation totally enjoyable. The schnitzel -meh. I think it will have to grow on me. I guess I have 100 more options to try before my final verdict, but so far, I do not care what Julie Andrews says, this is NOT one of my favorite things. We walked around Heidelberg that evening and totally enjoyed the old European flair of this amazing city. The castle was lit up above us on the hill and was awe inspiring to behold! Lynn and I both felt like we were at an amusement park in the States that was built to look like we were in an old European city …but, no, it was real!
This leads me to my next impression:
Grocery Shopping: Dalene took the girls and I into town to grocery shop on Friday. We started with the bottle recycling area.
Side note: Germany is green extreme! This is not a criticism, it’s an admirable thing. The garbage isn’t even near the same as they recycle everything they can, so there are four trash bins, paper/plastic, compostable, glass, and then the “everything else” bin. As good a thing as it is, I’ll admit, I suffered from a paralyzing fear of putting something in the wrong trash bin for the first week or so.
Anyway, we were walked through the steps of taking plastic bottles to recycle so we could get credit on our groceries. This wasn’t much different than when I was a little girl and we would take in our glass pop bottles to get dimes at the grocery store. We were at the store for a couple of hours I’m sure as Dalene showed me the differences and how to find the things I’m used to finding. This proved to be one of my biggest culture hurdles at first when I tried this on my own and felt lost and rushed. Thankfully, that church members who introduced us to the camera feature on the Google Translate App saved my life as a shopper! I can scan the shelves at the store and translate items so as to choose the right one. It’s not 100%, but it sure is a life saver! It still takes me a couple of hours to grocery shop, but some of that is my own dilly dallying around the store.
Bratwurst (brot vurst): On Saturday of our first week, we went with the Clarks into downtown Mannheim. It’s a bustling large city like most I’ve been to, so the size wasn’t too unfamiliar. Of course it mixes the old with the new as some parts of the city or buildings are older than our own country! It was here we tried our first pretzel on the street – oh so delicious! Then, for our first real German bratwurst. Of course I didn’t get pics because I was too busy stuffy my face. This too was delicious and large! It was a delightful day navigating around this large metropolitan area. Our favorite part was the marketplace that had stands with fresh cheeses, olives, flowers and the list goes on. It was abuzz with people everywhere. It was unfamiliar with the language barrier and trying to navigate a large city, but we felt at ease having the Clarks with us as guides.
Money: We fast learned that people in Germany do most of their transacting with cash only. Even Burger King! This wouldn’t have been a big problem but that even though we had gone to our bank before ever leaving the U.S. to make sure our ATM card would work, we still ran into problems. After a few emails with our bank’s fraud dept. things were set straight and we were able to access our accounts and navigate on our own without having to constantly trade money with our friends.
Church: The whole reason we are here! We went with the Clarks in the morning to a service of another missionary in town who holds his services all in German. It was a good service, well as much as we could get out of it. We did feel our novice status here as we were observers more than participators in the service.
However, in the afternoon at the service with the church for which we came to help, we were able to feel more at ease. They share the same building as the church that holds the morning service, but minister to an entirely different demographic of people. Rhein River Baptist Church is made up of an international group who all speak English due to their diverse backgrounds. There are people from Brazil, Russia, the U.S., England and Africa all in one little body of believers. I love this diversity as it feels like a glimpse of Heaven to me! Sometimes, in day to day life we get caught up with our own little part of the world and forget that we have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world! I find it such an energizing feeling when I am able to meet people like this! Of course this is also a relieving detail since Lynn doesn’t have to learn an entirely different language or work through an interpreter for this short 3-month stint as filling the pulpit.
Since it was also the first Sunday of the month, they have a time of pizza and fellowship after the service. This was an enjoyable chance to get to know some of the members and chat for a while.
We felt like we were getting our land legs as the jet lag was subsiding and we were learning new things each and every day. That one week felt like an entire month, but we were in for more as we approached the time of the Clarks leaving us for the States…