Last night at supper I asked my family if they’d noticed I had stopped drinking pop.
No one had, but Errol wondered why.
An excellent question. I love pop so much. Opening a cold can of Coke Zero gives me such joy. I live for free refills.
Drinking pop in Freiburg isn’t as joyous. It is sold in 1.25 liter bottles instead of cans, and one must pay a 25 cent deposit on every plastic bottle. Plus, without a car, the pop was adding a lot of weight to the groceries I carry home.
I’m going away tomorrow and bought extra stuff to help Errol get through the weekend. I ran out of room in my bike basket. I wrangled my shoulders through the grocery bag straps and wore it on my ride home. Making it work.
zwanzig Eier, bitte
For a few years I’ve been dreaming of sending Thom on a grocery errand.
In Princeton, McCaffrey’s is about a mile from our house. The distance isn’t problematic, but the effort of getting everyone there and controlling them in the store is tiresome.
Three out of the four kids had field trips this morning, and we spent the afternoon at the See Park. By day’s end we were all tired. As we filed into the flat, I remembered I was supposed to stop at the farmers’ market on the way home. We were out of eggs.
Our neighborhood farmers’ market is every Wednesday and Saturday and three blocks from our flat. I gave Thom a basket, two empty egg cartons, and five euros. The time had come.
He did great.
Thom returned with twenty eggs and a big smile:
“We just spoke German!”
He recited their entire conversation with pride.
I really like how German kids have the freedom to be independent.
An Awkward Choice
This morning I went back to the used bike shop Thom and I first tried. We only inherited one balance bike with the flat, and the twins have been very vocal that they each need one.
The shop owner found a bike, and as he was raising the seat, he began to tell me a story:
"Last week I had a very nice lady from New Jersey come here. She had a son with a small hand--he was born without a hand. They came for a bike for him, and then they left. My son said it was because of the money. Oh, I wish I would have known. I would have verschenken. . . i would have just given it to him."
Obviously, this was Thom and me.
I had two choices and neither seemed ideal.
I decided against revealing that I was the cashless mother of the one-handed child. Instead, I acknowledged his generous heart and paid for the balance bike--in cash, for ten euros less that what his son priced it on our last visit.
The other option would have allowed me to tell this man that Thom had indeed found a bike. I believe he would have found joy in this news. Perhaps we shall write him a letter.
Am I in the right room?
Tonight I took the placement test for my next round of German class. It was required and hilariously over my head. At one point I thought the proctor was still giving directions (in German), but it was actually the fill in the blank section of the exam. I’ve never left an entire page empty on a test, but I did tonight!
This afternoon we lunched at our neighborhood gasthaus. I thought maybe real German food would contribute to the German test prep. It did not, but the salmon was delicious.
Errol came home from his retreat on Saturday afternoon and told us we needed to see this place.
Lake Titisee: here we come.
FRIAS chartered a bus, and the fellows stayed in a hotel high up the mountain. Look at Errol's Instagram for beautiful shots of that place.
We regular folk relied on the Regio-Bahn and rode the train 30 minutes up the mountain, through tunnels, and over a trestle--almost like living Donald Crews's book, Freight Train.
We all loved Titisee and the lake. The weather was perfect. The kids took off their shoes and socks and waded in the water. Errol gave us a great show of skipping rocks. Neddy was popular with the Japanese tourists, and Thom informed us that some interrupted his play to take a selfie with him.
This week Thom started to play organized soccer again. We were about to lose hope, but Errol finally received a positive email. Blau und Weiss Wiehre welcomed him to attend trainings. After practice on Thursday, they invited him to play in games. Errol reported his first game was Saturday in a neighboring village, Merzhausen. Errol would be away at his weekend retreat for FRIAS.
“You don’t have to take him,” Errol said.
“No, I will. We’ll have to do something!”
We left the flat this morning happily. Taking public transportation to a new location is never super easy for me, but the twins especially love riding buses. I find comfort in checking the stops every few minutes.
Thom is thrilled to be on a team again. I love watching him play well. I also like watching the coaches. Their expressions and gestures always amuse me. It’s almost better that I can’t understand them.
While Thom was playing, Vinnie was getting into a pickle. She had punted a little plush ball on top the roof of a picnic shelter. She climbed the chain link fence but couldn’t reach it. I couldn’t think of anything to throw at it that I wouldn’t mind getting stuck too. I noticed a bunch of high school soccer boys walk by. I wished I knew they would understand me if I asked one of them for help. I imagined how easily one of these boys could scurry up the fence.
Suddenly, it hit me. I could probably do that too. My body pump classes and fitness circles could have a real life application! So, I did. And the kids cheered.
Is that the Harmon Hurricane?
It’s always a little thrill to go to a new playground. In Germany, it’s even more exciting because their equipment is so different from the usual stuff we see in America.
This afternoon we stayed in the part of town where the bigs go to school. Freiburg’s See Park is on the other side of Oberlin’s tram stop, and we headed over after pick up. Vinnie said she saw a gigantic slide when she was riding a pony out there a couple weeks ago.
The gigantic slide was actually three slides held up by wooden poles attached to a wooden shelter. It looked like water slides without the pool. The kids loved it.
Our sweet twins are doing well. The transition to this new life has been easiest for them. No matter what country they’re in, their goals are the same:
I will climb that.
I will eat that.
I will touch as many surfaces possible.
Wine on a Park Bench
This afternoon our Virginian friends made the journey to our part of town. The kids were thrilled at the idea of having a playdate. They even helped pick up. A little.
Thom took some pictures of Laura and me. He was, as always, very interested in the adult conversation and our adult beverages. When Laura took out the bottle of wine and cups from her backpack, she assured Thom that public drinking was legal in Germany. I was happy to contribute to Thom’s German culture education.
Building Travel Tolerance
Our flight from Glasgow on Sunday landed on time at 11 p.m. The last train from the airport to Freiburg for the night was at 9:53. The next one didn’t come until 2:15 a.m. We took this train, and it arrived in Freiburg at 5.29 a.m.
When I learned about the 4+ hour gap in trains, I felt bad for ever complaining about the lack of trains from EWR to Princeton Junction. Another difference between NJ Transit and Deutsche Bahn is advance ticket purchase. In NJ, the ticket price is set. Most of us buy tickets minutes before we board the train. On Deutsche Bahn, the ticket price varies similar to airfares.
Luckily, I knew this set-up before Sunday and had learned about our unfortunate train timing issues when I bought our tickets last week. It was annoying but not impossible. I was confident that Vinnie could handle a night’s sleep in three places. I slept a bit on the train.
Errol did not support my plan and urged us to stay in a hotel in Frankfurt. The concern was appreciated, but I respectfully declined.
For years following my backpacking trip, each night I’d fall asleep thanking God that I had a warm bed of my own to sleep in. I don’t remember when I stopped, but I had.
Last night, when I crawled into my Freiburg bed, I remembered.
Sometimes I need a lost night’s sleep in transit.
Anne Thomsen lord
Writings on our year abroad.