Once upon a time, a young American couple moved to a small, quiet suburb outside of Munich called Ismaning. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed husband and wife looked like they could pass for locals, but when they opened their mouths everyone knew that they weren't from Ismaning, and they definitely weren't German. The husband's place of employment said, "We'll pay for your housing!" and the young couple jumped up and down with excitement. Being paid to live in Germany seemed like a dream! And on that first rainy day in Munich they dragged their luggage into the quaint, sleepy town and met their landlord at their apartment, which also turned out to be his house. Soon after, the landlord's wife crawled out of the shadows with her rules and her DAS IST VERBOTENs and her crazy eyes, and they knew that Petra was the Big Bad Wolf who had come to blow their hopes and dreams down.
And that's when the wife's dreams of a sweet, paradisaic six months to study art whilst her husband spent his days in a German office ended...
I'm painting a rather grim picture, but that's how many days for me felt living in Germany. I say for me because John had a pretty different experience in Munich. We shared the same stresses about our housing situation, which was grim indeed, but every morning he woke up and biked to work across the river. He liked his office and his coworkers, some of whom we spent time with out of the office. At the end of the day he felt like he was doing work that was, for the most part, fulfilling. On the weekends, we did some traveling (see posts on Bamberg, Rothenburg, Nuremburg, Passau, Edinburgh, Athens, and Paris, for example), and were really thankful for those opportunities to see the world in our backyard, especially when we thought it was going to end in October of 2014 when we left Spain.
I, on the other hand, didn't have anything pulling me out of the house on a daily basis, and you can only spend so much time in a local bakery before they start looking at you funny. Especially because Germans don't sit and work on their computers in public spaces like Americans tend to do.
Prior to moving to Munich, I was excited about this time to dig into writing and art classes more. Technically, I could have worked in a German business because I had a European Blue Card (similar to an American Green Card), but my options would be seriously limited due to my non-existent knowledge of German. But our first week in town, it became abundantly clear that I was going to have to find some way to escape the house. Our apartment was tiny: essentially it was an itty-bitty studio with a tiny loft. We had one dresser and no closets. The only door was to go into the bathroom. And our behinds barely fit on the tiny kitchen table chairs.
And yes, we lived in the same house as our landlords. Why John's company thought this was a good idea is beyond me. (And why they didn't mention this fact to us is also beyond me.) A fifty-five year old German couple with a child in the university (empty nesters, in other words) decided to turn a TINY part of their large house into an apartment to make some dough, but they were exactly the wrong kind of people to do this. They wanted to manage the times we took our showers, when we washed our dishes, and when we washed our clothes (and dictated when we could dry them...and sometimes if we could dry them). We weren't allowed to open our windows (there's a draft!) or our blinds (there are robbers!!) but had to open our windows when we cooked (?!?). All of this was happening with a pretty big language barrier on both sides. By week two, I was nearly having panic attacks because The Big Bad Wolf was trying to micromanage when we could breathe and was leaving her Ten Commandments of heretofore unsaid rules on our doorstep. #nojoke
(If you haven't guessed yet, the moral of this story is NEVER LIVE WITH YOUR LANDLORDS. EVER.)
I took two months of introductory German classes (but please don't ask me to speak any German!), but didn't want to continue--it's expensive and my commute was pretty long. By the end of my A1.2 class, I could order in a restaurant and understand more supermarket vocabulary. I was definitely more comfortable existing in Germany.
At the same time, I was taking a writing class with the University of California as well as a digital design class. I had things to do, but I had to stay at home to do them. That was tough.
But when we met our super awesome friends Jimmy and Deborah at church, and Deborah finished her master's degree internship in February, things began to change. She had a project to work on, and I had lots of drawing and writing to do...so we met up several times a week to do work, drink coffee, and eat Turkish pasta (YUM). Spending time with someone else while doing work and getting out of the house made such a huge difference to me; it was a God-send for sure. Being in a tiny apartment + bad environment scented with incense (the Big Bad Wolf was a hippie at heart, apparently) + super quiet suburban life + being alone all day is a recipe for depression and disaster. Having a friend makes it all OK.
So all this to say that Germany had its challenges FOR SURE. And though I blogged about our travels, I didn't blog about life much because I was having such a hard time and so much of my heart was just longing to go home. Not knowing the language, hating where we lived, not having a car in the suburbs, frequent cold/dark days, and loneliness weighed especially heavily on me. And yet, John and I have talked frequently about how through it all, we wouldn't trade that experience for anything. We met wonderful friends (Jimmy & Deborah, Christian & Antje), experienced a new culture, and got to travel (sometimes with friends!). And those things were so, so very worth it, even though other things were really hard. I had time where there was absolutely no pressure to work where I could focus on this new path I'm exploring with art and writing. We leaned on each other and we leaned on God.
Now, I don't want to go back to live in that town and you better believe I never want to see that house again...but Munich, hard as it was, will always have a special place in my heart.