Our first 10 days and nights were tough. We were tired all the time. The kids thought all the food and the milk were weird. Jack (2 yrs) woke every night once or twice, calling out “Mama, Mama.” I’d shuffle to his crib, rub his back and whisper nice things to him. He’d fall right back to sleep. I thought things were settling for us and then Nora’s (6 yrs) homesickness hit hard one night. Gary was traveling and I was in a deep sleep when I heard Nora sobbing in the hallway, then gagging. It’s happened a few times before that she’s been so upset she gets sick. So, I jumped out of bed and rushed her to the toilet, just in time to make the target. “I missed you so much, Mama,” she kept saying. I realized that she just missed everyone and everything that was familiar to her and loved. I felt so sad for her and I empathized too-while excited for our adventure I was feeling the isolation of this new place where we have no friends or family and only a small patchwork of new acquaintances.
After we talked for a while, I settled her down to sleep. Just as I was drifting off in my bed, she started sobbing again. This pattern went on for the next 5 hours. And, during one of her quiet times, Jack decided to wake and start crying. I thought I was going to lose my mind.
But the next bleary morning, to my relief, Nora was actually OK. And, so far, we haven’t had another one of those nights. Now she pops out of bed every morning and gets dressed fast. I let her go downstairs to breakfast by herself and Jack and I meet her a few minutes later. I’ve even let her take Jack alone 2 times. During Jack’s naptime, when she isn’t watching our only DVD, The Parent Trap–my mistake– I forgot to fish some DVDs out before the movers packed us up– I let Nora go exploring in our hotel which is full of hallways, staircases, and hidden rooms. Today she even told me how much she likes Germany. Phew!
If not for GPS, I would be lost somewhere in Albania right now.
Yes, German cars are fantastic. I’ve been driving an Audi Q5 rental for the past 2 weeks and keep having to remind myself that there are children in the car with me. It’s so fast and the Autobahn is so tempting.
Yet, I have found one thing that German engineers have completely failed to master: the grocery cart. It is a disaster. Every time I grocery shop, it is a constant battle to get it to move forward. It only wants to move to the right side so I’m so busy wrangling the cart that it’s hard to focus on what I’m actually trying to do there: get food.
I’m so intrigued by this issue that I’ve actually sat in my car in the parking lot watching others try to maneuver their carts. I wonder why everyone seems to accept it. Do they like the exercise? Do they consider it a challenge? Or, do they feel they must be punished? These are big questions.
We’d heard from Herr Schaefer, our hotel owner, that on the island across the river from the hotel is a farm that is a wonderful place to bring children. All you have to do is take the ferry across and walk down “a little while” and you’ll get to this farm where there are horses and the children can play in the water and also make cookies (?).
When I woke this morning, I decided today was farm day. But first had to do my first ATM transaction in German. Felt a little silly holding my English-German dictionary but I did it. Then had to make a grocery run with the kids of course. First stop, the drinks store (more on that later). Second stop the food store. Raced home and started making a picnic lunch. It was cloudy and spitting rain and I almost cancelled the outing but the rain stopped so I raced us out the door to the ferry down the road.
The ferry ride is only about 2 minutes and as we exited I asked the woman running the ferry what time we could get back to the other side. She told me the ferry was now stopping for 2 hours–yikes. “Do you know vere you’re going?” she asked. “Not really,” I admitted. “Vell, take ze zecond left and valk down ze dirt road about 2.5 kilometers until you gets to the farm,” she smiled. I looked down at my flip-flops and considered turning back. It was get back on the ferry now or plunge in for the next 2 hours. So, away we went and as I hit that zecond road on ze left, my heart sank. It was all dirt, with big ruts and it seemed to stretch for miles. Crap. So, I gripped Jack’s stroller handles, told Nora (who was starting to whimper) to buck up. We were going to have fun if it killed us. Oh, about 1KM into it, rain gone and now scorching sun, I realized I had done this all before but just on a different island and with a different child in the same stroller. (See “Chappy Joe,” http://www.mvmagazine.com/article.php?17725)
We’re all sunburned now but the forced march was all worth it. We arrived at the farm and it was the most amazing oasis. Huge stone barns framed a courtyard filled with tables and shade. Meat sizzled on an immense grill and applewine and pils were flowing from the taps at the bar. To one side was the Rhine where we washed our filthy feet and sat down to eat our lunch. Afterward, Nora and Jack chose ice cream bars. I tasted the applewine but decided it was only a half step up from hard cider. I opted for a cold glass of German white (not Gevertstraminer or Riesling). We sat down again and watched the barges float down the Rhine.
We visited some lovely chestnut horses and N+J monkeyed on a playset. We never found that cookie making part but it didn’t matter. The place was pure bliss and I don’t even know the name of it. I was hoping to find a kind soul with a car but no luck. We had to hoof it back and Nora sprinted to the stroller and parked herself in it with authority. Sorry, sweetie, and she climbed out. I bought a bottle of water for the trip back and the label said “Still.” But when I opened it for Nora down the road, we heard the unmistakable fizz of gas escaping. Nora’s wail could have been heard for miles. She and Jack have not made the conversion to “fizzy water.” Nora refused to drink it and onward we trudged. She was probably feverish by the time we hit the ferry but she was really a good sport.