Highlights of 2015 (Part 2)

Here are the rest of the Top 15 of our 2015:

Goofing off at the wedding party.

Goofing off at our friends’ wedding party.

7. Throughout the year we had visits from family and friends who are like family. I love this. What can I say, it is great to share our home with people who travel all the way here to visit us.  We don’t usually head out and do touristy things as a family so when guests come to visit we are often experiencing our city in new ways with them. It was great to have guests spread out through the year and we’re looking forward to seeing who drops by in 2016;)

Visiting Peacock Island with family

Visiting Peacock Island with family

8. Many care packages arrive with people who are on their way to see us, but some show up in the mail and catch us all off guard. It is wonderful to get tastes of home throughout the year.

9. In Germany grade school begins with the first grade and it is a big deal. Einschultag is a big celebration welcoming the new students to the school the Saturday before they begin. We were caught unaware and since Micah is our youngest we now know how it works. The people were dressed up like they were attending a wedding, we were wearing jeans- all 5 of us- but at least Micah was wearing a button down shirt., we also forgot his backpack. Luckily he was full of grace, or didn’t notice. We did however remember the Schultütte which is a giant cardboard cone filled with candy and gifts. He ended up receiving about 5 or 6 of them including one from some great neighbors who even bought him a new stuffed animal that he brought with each day of his first week. It is weird having all the kids in school, when did we get to this point in life?

Micah and Daddy before the ceremony.

Micah and Daddy before the ceremony.

10. We have only left Berlin city limits a handful of times in the last 18 months and one was our birthday present to each other. We decided to take a bus up to the Ostsee (Baltic Ocean) for the weekend in September. It was no longer peak season and was cold and windy, but it was a definite highlight for us all. Being Minnesotans who aren’t bothered by a little chilly wind, we rolled up our pants and waded in the water searching for shells and jelly fish, both of which we found many of. We ate fish sandwiches, enjoyed our first Danish ice cream, and strolled along the promenade with the kids. It was really a wonderful getaway weekend and we all hope to do it again.

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Searching for shells

Searching for shells

11. We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner here for a family from our building and a Minnesotan man that Denny met this past year while wandering Berlin. It was nice to provide a taste of home to someone and to introduce an American holiday to others. We have already talked a couple of times about how to make it even better next year and for how many people could we possibly invite to our home.

12. A highlight for me was reading my first book in German that wasn’t a children’s book and that I could actually understand. For me, it is a celebration of just how far I have come linguistically since we arrived.

13. Christmas Eve was a wonderful day for us. We enjoyed dinner at our pastor’s home again this year with people from 6 different countries. We made our way home around eleven-ish and then I spent some time talking with my family in Florida. Our kids loved Christmas this year, it was mellow and relaxing. On Christmas night we had a couple guys over and played cards into the morning hours. A mellow Christmas was the perfect celebration for us.

Kids and the mystery elf posing with the tree.

Kids and the mystery elf posing with the tree.

14. For New Year’s Eve we had some friends over and they introduced us to the classic (short) film Dinner for One which could easily become our New Year’s tradition also. We had a table full of snacks including our first cream cheese wantons since we arrived here, although we have asked repeatedly no Asian food restaurants here serve them. The kids set off fireworks and at midnight Isaac went down to enjoy the craziness that welcomes in each New Year with Denny and our friends. I stayed up with Leah, who didn’t want to go down, and Micah who had fallen asleep and remained sleeping through the loud partying. We played a new card game with them and a neighbor until 3:30 in the morning and at 4 I finally had to go to bed. I don’t know if I have ever been very good at all-nighters, but I am worse now than I ever was before I am sure.

Kids resting before the midnight fireworks. One didn't make it to midnight this year.

Kids resting before the midnight fireworks. One didn’t make it to midnight this year.

15.The ultimate highlight of last year came as a surprise last week as I was planning this post. As I searched through photos to share I came to the realization that Berlin is home. We live here. We have favorite cafes where the baristas know us, we have friends, we can communicate, we have made memories and we live here. We. Live. Here. We are not just surviving here, we are living life here- birthday parties, church retreats, coffees, football watching evenings, neighbors who drop by for “a cup of sugar”, kids learning to ride bike out front, life is happening and it is good. All the hard things of 2015, they would have happened no matter where we lived. All this life, these awesome points of 2015 happened here, they happened at home.

Bring it on 2016, I’m dreaming big for you. But I don’t know if you can top that.

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Part one: Highlights of 2015

As I was reviewing 2015 and dreaming big about 2016 I took some time to flip through my (sporadic, okay very sporadic) journal that I kept through last year and in them I noticed the hard. Amidst those challenges I noticed the great things that God had done over the last year. Honestly, I loved last year, the hard parts were hard, but the good parts were so very, very good. And looking back through those momentary memories, I know that the good parts far outweighed those harder parts that grew me in unexpected ways last year.

Looking at them I can see that winter was my most challenging time last year. Those days were filled with learning how to navigate doctor’s offices and medication boxes with instructions I could not understand. In addition to winters here being dark, gray even after the sun has risen, and rainy/drizzly/foggy, it was also the low point in my first year that every expat had warned me would come. But doesn’t everyone have those times no matter where in the world they live? I think so, but it could be my optimism trying to shine through my realistic nature.

Last year came in with hours of fireworks outside our window and left in the same way- it is like we are celebrating in joy the ending of one year and the excitement of the year ahead. Here’s to pressing in to the uncomfortable situations in life, growing into someone you never imagined, and coming into the New Year enjoying the fireworks as a sign of the great to come. As we have done in years past I want to share some of our highlights with you from 2015 because there are 15 of them, because hey- why not, I’ll post some today and the rest later this week.

  1. For our anniversary Denny and I enjoyed a date day with a big German breakfast, a boat tour on the Spree River, and enjoying some craft beer at a festival with some friends.IMG_20150516_133652-EFFECTS (1)
  2. In May we attended our church retreat. It was in a place just outside of Berlin that reminded me of where our church in Minnesota would have their annual retreat and it was on the same weekend as our friends at that same MN church were having their retreat. Denny and I helped out with the kids program a little and enjoyed all the social time and worship. It was a weekend way out of my comfort zone, the language barrier was draining for me, but I am glad we went. It allowed me to see some of the great ways that God is providing for our family the things we may have missed but now do not have to.

    The guys playing chess at the church retreat.

    The guys playing chess at the church retreat.

  3. In the summer I helped work with the TREK7 Berlin team for 6 weeks. It was amazingly wonderful and challenging as it was my first year working on the project. The experience was great and I look forward to it again this year.

    Summer also brought a week at summer camp. It was a highlight of the oldest two's summer.

    Summer also brought a week at summer camp for the oldest two.

  4. In July we had a ministry conference in Slovenia for a week. The kids attended a kids program and we all had a wonderful time. It was certainly a summer highlight for all five of us.

    Heading to conference.

    Heading to conference.

  5. At some point in 2015 both Denny and I reached (a little more than) functional German. Which is a highlight and an accomplishment. The language learning continues, but at least now we can actually communicate with people while we improve our vocabulary.
  6. Language school in general was so great. We found friendships there that continue outside the four walls of our classroom. We had the best German teacher we could have asked for, if you move here, we would recommend her.
2015- the year of board games.

2015- the year of board games.

 

I am excited to reminisce on more highlights from 2015 later this week.

Preparing for Christmas

Happy second week of Advent!

Many people have asked lately how Germans celebrate the time leading up to Christmas. Advent it the period of four weeks leading up to Christmas Day and it is celebrated widely here. I was caught off guard the Friday before the first of Advent as I was checking out at the store the sales clerk wished me a, “Frohes erste Advent!” I paused and just looked at her wondering how I was actually supposed to respond. While in the US people in customer service cannot say Merry Christmas to customers, here they can wish that and a happy Advent season. Advent is huge here, it is the kick off the start of the Christmas season. It is such a known and revered point that some people refuse to shop in stores that decorate for Christmas before the first Sunday of Advent and the Christmas markets open up the week leading up to it. The stores are filled with Advents calendars for young and old beginning at the end of October, and if you wait too long you’ll end up with whatever was left (I have done this two years running now). Those corner flower shops? They begin selling Advents wreaths in November.

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What are we doing for Advent? This year I decided that having an Advent “wreath” was important based on the fact that they are everywhere. I know ours isn’t really a wreath but I haven’t met an Advent wreath yet that I’ve wanted to bring home so I made our own. In addition to having an Advent decoration the kids have candy calendars that they open once a day after we have read from a devotional. This year we are reading through John Piper’s book Good News of Great Joy. Yesterday we received another calendar from our church and each day has something written in it: something to read from scripture, a reflection, or something to do to spread the joy of the season.

The kids enjoying waffles at the Weihnachtsmarkt.

The kids enjoying waffles at the Weihnachtsmarkt.

What else happens here leading up to Christmas? Christmas markets of course! We have only visited one so far this year, but are hoping to pop into a few more as December goes on. The kids look forward to crepes and asking for no less that one thing at every booth we get close to. This year I have a list of a couple traditional foods I have yet to try that I hope to find at a market. (For the curious: Chestnuts and Schmalzbrot.) Visiting these markets is a relaxing way to enjoy some sights and sounds of the season (and tastes!). Since it gets dark here so early we can take the kids with us and enjoy the after dark Christmas lights and still be home long before bed time.

Enjoying a brunch with traditional carols, what a treat!

Enjoying a brunch with traditional carols, what a treat!

I attended a women’s Christmas brunch last Saturday morning and as I sat listening to Christmas carols in English, sipping my coffee, I realized how amazing it was. Normally in Minnesota, on this very same weekend I would be attending a women’s Christmas Tea and here I am sitting in Berlin doing the same thing! Oh, it is these little things that make me think: How much my Lord cares for me! In these small things He shows His love for me.

Filled boots for Nikolaustag! He sure was heavy on the chocolate this year;)

Filled boots for Nikolaustag! He sure was heavy on the chocolate this year;)

There is so much more happening here around Christmas, but I wanted to share a little bit about what we do here in December to celebrate the days leading up to The Day.

Second Thanksgiving

Last year we nervously hunted for traditional ingredients to pull off our first thanksgiving in Germany. I think we found them all, but we didn’t have the ability to host anyone for a few reasons, mainly a sick child and a lack of planning. The theme of my first year in Berlin was: Now I know how to be better prepared for next year. And it was the same for every holiday or special event of our first 12 months here.

Now we are in our second year and I know what is coming, I also know the work that goes into pulling it off. What I forgot to factor in was that we would still be in full time language, with our children in school, along with the basics of life and ministry.  We did better this year than last and next year will probably look even better. Perhaps this year’s saying is: it looks better than last year, but next year will be even smoother. Or maybe that is just how we all approach life, next time I’ll get it.

Making the cranberries was my first "thankful for the beauty of the holiday" moment.

Making the cranberries was my first “thankful for the beauty of the holiday” moment.

This year when we started talking about Thanksgiving we began to realize just how curious people here are about it. What do we do? What do we eat? Are there traditions outside of the food? Are there traditional Thanksgiving gifts? The list of people interested in joining us for dinner was larger than our tiny oven could handle.  I set the number of people I could logically cook for and fit at my dining room table, if I could have pulled of Thanksgiving for 40 people I have no doubt we would have had enough interest to fill the places.

After the turkey was out we triple stacked the rest to warm them up while the bird rested.

Sometimes I think I need a bigger oven, this one rack, fits only a turkey contraption makes it so a strategic baking plan is necessary.

 

On Thanksgiving our kids were in school, Denny and I skipped class to pull it all together, and our guests were sitting at work oblivious to the scurry and scent that is filling my home through the day. Year number two and we pulled off another delicious meal, like everyone else who celebrated around the world I have not doubt. During the day I stopped to record things I was thankful for so I will share those with you.

  • I am thankful that we are able to buy and create our traditional Thanksgiving meal, other than the Minnesota traditional green jello. We maybe could create this, but since only 1/5 of us actually eat it I won’t put in the effort to find it or create it. Sorry, 20% of my family who feel the loss of this dish.

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  • I am thankful that my husband is willing to go to the grocery store and lug home all the ingredients to create this amazing meal on his back or in his arms. And who graciously peeled all the potatoes for the dinner. I am blessed.
  • I am also thankful we can do our grocery shopping the night before, or the day of Thanksgiving Day without worrying that a key ingredient will be sold out. See, there are perks to being abroad during certain holidays.
  • I am thankful that my children realize that although my pumpkin pie is ugly this year, it will taste amazing. My pie pan is apparently a 10 inch therefore leaving me a significant amount of crust about where the pumpkin deliciousness stops…. I guess we’ll fill it with whipped cream.
  • I am thankful that we have a full and functional kitchen! That is something that I never have thought before moving abroad. Living without one for a while opened my eyes to the difficulty of hosting without that necessity. I am also thankful that this year we have a larger kitchen table, thanks to the neighbors who thought of us this summer.
  • I am thankful that we live in an age where we can have contact with family on the other side of the world. I got to text with my dad, the kids talked with their uncle and aunt in MN, Denny with his family, and we got to talk to my mom the day after. The holiday would have been sadder had we missed this family connection.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone, but I hope that the gratitude of the past week flows ahead during the holiday season that is upon us. We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend as well!

I cried over salsa.

If you want a deep moving post- this isn’t it. This is a post about how a little treat from home can move me to embarrassing tears.

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The last month we have received multiple care packages from the U.S. and we are feeling the love! Early in July we had a visitor who brought us a box of notes, peanut butter and other home specialties. It was fun to watch the kids negotiate over how much peanut butter we could eat when to make this stash last as long as possible (we still have plenty so the negotiations have ceased for now). Later in July some co-workers brought some stuff we had ordered to their house back for us. Then, we were at conference and we were blessed with another bag of exciting U.S. items.

One of my fav magazines!

One of my fav magazines!

The cried over package came on Monday, really they were all so very special but this one contained a magical treat. We had some visitors from our home church in Minnesota in town for a couple days and they had offered to bring some stuff to us. Our list of requested items was not very exciting: deodorant, some eyeliner, marshmallows, and baking powder. I know, it was not the greatest list of all time, but the up side is that we don’t “need” much from home if this is the extent of our list after a year. Yes, I can find German equivalents to all of those items, but if someone is coming to visit and they can bring it from home then I’ll take it. They brought some notes and a lots of exciting items from home we certainly hadn’t thought of.  Our friends had packaged the items from home like professionals so when they arrived to our house we got to open packages like it was Christmas morning!

Our favorite things!

Some of our favorite things!

Be still our hearts- beers from Minnesota, skittles, a couple new games, the listed “boring but necessary” items, syrup, peanut butter, so many lovely things, and ……. salsa verde. When that jar of green deliciousness came out of the package I squealed and cried, no joke, real tears, and there were witnesses. It is like gold, green-flavorful-fragrant-gold, a green unicorn of delicousness if you will. All those items are wonderful gifts from home, but at the top of our missed list (next to family and friends mind you) is Mexican food. That beauty will be saved until the moment of choice and then it will be savored, I already have amazing plans for it.

The culprit.

The culprit.

This has been a full and wonderful month. We have had visitors from home, we received special packages, went to a conference where we were ministered to, and worked with a great summer team here in Berlin. I am full, my extroverted self has been pushed to the limits for the first time in over a year, but my love tank is over flowing. And when it wanes I will just go enjoy a couple Twizzlers and remember this month.

Thanks for the love Minnesota!

One year in

I know, the year happened over a week ago but I just had no idea of how to write about it. Multiple times over the past year I have sat in wonder, I never saw myself living in Europe or  a city of this size anywhere in the world. I never saw my life being lived out in the German language either. I had always heard that German was too difficult of a language to learn and use. Plus, where in Minnesota would I use it often enough to not lose it? Oh life, you’re never what I expect!

Check Point Charlie

Berlin has changed me in many ways. I feel like I know myself better today than I did the day I flew out of Minneapolis. I am seeing strengths and weaknesses in myself I didn’t know I possessed, I am more culturally aware than I was before I came here,  I used to externally process things but now I don’t have that option, or at least not in the same way I did before (oh, my poor husband). I am forced to sit back and think through the situation and why I am feeling the way that I am. It has been a great learning experience for me. I am growing and it is good, hard and sometimes painful, but worth each second of it.

There have been highs and lows in the last year, and there will be highs and lows of this one too! One of the main things I learned as I was processing life this year is to ask myself if whatever was happening was hard because of where I was or if it would have been hard no matter where we lived. There was a month where all three kids has some sort of sickness/ infection that was consuming my thoughts and our time. In talking with a co-worker I realized, this would have been hard in the U.S too, it wasn’t being here that made it hard. Yes, the medical language and not understanding how to mix my own antibiotics were challenges I wouldn’t have had in MN, but they were not what made it draining hard, they were little details that just were.

I asked the kids questions in the previous post, but my answers to those questions aren’t as fun. One of the frequent questions I get asked is: How are you settling in to Berlin? Better than expected. Please don’t read that as “Perfect!” because it isn’t. I mean what I say in better than expected. We expected hardships, pain, sadness, confusion, loneliness and we got them, but we still like living here. We have friends and relationships, and it is better than expected.

Picture of Berliner Dom on our anniversary rive tour.

Picture of Berliner Dom on our anniversary rive tour.

Do I miss home? Sure do! I miss family and friends most of course, the other things I miss change a lot.  These lesser things I miss come and go; usually it is a place or a concept, like Target or being able to get a glass of tap water at a restaurant, or free refills on these hot thirsty days. A week ago it was hot so I’ve missed air conditioning and a personal vehicle. There is nothing like a 90 degree day packed into a train with all the other commuters and no ac. That will be a far thought from my mind come January though, so you see, it changes.

A highlight of my first year in Berlin was certainly the language. I am far from ready to stop taking classes, but I can hold conversations in okay German. It happened slowly and almost unnoticed for a while. It became a highlight when women I have talked to multiple times noticed and said, “We are actually having a conversation!”. Yes, yes we are and I am just as excited as they are, or perhaps even more.

Wall off German words and their opposites. This is one of three sections of this list that is painted on a courtyard wall.

Wall off German words and their opposites. This is one of three sections of this list that is painted on a courtyard wall.

We are a year in, it is surprising and scary. Where did the time go? It seems like we haven’t run through four seasons of life here, but we have. My wish for us is that we are better prepared for this next year, knowing the emotional and material needs that each season has. And that because we are more settled and able to speak a bit now that we will be able to be more present, enjoy the months of year two, and will end with even more stories to share.

 

The kids thoughts on one year here

Our one year anniversary in Berlin is this week so I figured it was time to do an interview and let you know what our kids have to say about that. I thought about editing a couple answers, but I decided to allow them to be candid responses.

The kids at Teirpark June

The kids at Teirpark June

What questions do people ask you the most often?

I: People from Europe ask: Are you from England? People from home ask: What is your favorite food there? (Answer: Döner, Currywurst, and Omeletta) Where is your favorite place in Berlin?

L: Where do you like living more? Are you learning new things at school? Do you like the food? Are you making friends?

M: How have I been at Kita? (Kindergarten)

What do you miss the most?

I: Friends and waffles

L: Family, corncakes, friends, colored sprinkles

M: Family and friends

What is your favorite thing about Berlin?

I: There are lots of places to play and rest.

L: I have a friend who lives close.

M: That I am going to go to school.

What do you think should everyone know about Berlin?

I: They are really careful with their garbage (it is sorted) and have lots of trees.

L: People pee on the street.

M: (Lists a bunch of sites to see.) And that there is lots of ice cream here.

What is the coolest thing you have done?

I: Definitely black light mini golfing.

L: Victory column because the view was nice.

M: The Russian fest. I had a huge cotton candy.

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What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen here?

I: I don’t know, lots of stuff.

L: A rat in the neighbor’s basement.

M: Dog poop on the sidewalk.

What is your favorite German word?

I: Geil (please note this is slang for awesome)

L: Na, und? (Yeah and?)

M: Spree (the name of the river in Berlin)

Has anything about Berlin surprised you?

I: Yeah, it costs money to use the bathroom.

L: There is better chocolate here.

M: No.

What was their reaction when I told them it has been almost a year?

I: That is a long time, I still am sad sometimes because I miss my family.

L: (Wide eyed) Um, I feel crazy, because it doesn’t feel like it has been that long.

M: It makes me miss home.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

I: Sixth graders get out early sometimes. And I’ll be old enough to see other movies.

L: (Deep breath and a sigh) Camp?

M: Going to school. (Said with a fist pump)

Is there anything you want people to know?

I: That I already have friends and a school that works for me.

L: That strangers, like that drunk guy, just come up and talk to you.

M: That I am having fun.

 

Hope you enjoyed their lists. Another humorous note: we now have two kids who rock socks with their sandals and our daughter has somehow forgotten about the concept of free refills on drinks. I look forward to writing down some of my thoughts about our first year here later this week.

Finally visited a salon

Getting my haircut is something I love to do. I go in, get pampered for an hour or so, and leave with a fresh new hairstyle. It is my quiet, selfish, me time. Okay, I know it is necessary, but I call it me time. One of the last things I did in the U.S. before we moved was get my haircut. I had put a lot of thought into that last appointment, because I wanted to make sure that whatever I had my beloved stylist do would be able to last until I got up the courage to get my hair done in Berlin. Things like that in my second language just seem bigger than they probably really are, but true to my nature I was planning that far ahead.

Fast forward to this month, after eleven months in my new city I finally went and got my haircut last week. I just could not put it off any longer.  I had listened to scary stories of expats getting their hair done so I did my research on respectable looking salons near us. But in the end, after three months of seeing the task “Haircut” on my to-do list,  I marched across the street on my way home from school and made myself an appointment for a wash and cut. It is much easier for me to make appointments in person than over the phone, I find I am more patient in person and so whoever I am talking to.

On the day of my appointment I was so nervous. Would I be able to explain what I wanted? Would they understand me? Would they talk do me during my hair cut?  (Please say no!!) Would I like it? (Please say yes!!)

So what was different here versus the salons back home? First, I was offered a dry cut. I couldn’t even try it, not for my first haircut abroad, maybe next time if I’m feeling adventurous. Second, sink to wash my hair was portable, the just stylist wheeled it over to my chair and washed my hair right there. I didn’t see how that worked because I already had my glasses off, but that is what happened. I have seen these at many salons I have walked past here so I know it wasn’t location specific.

The two hardest points were when she asked if I wanted layers in my hair, I said yes but as soon as she started cutting them in I had an inward panic attack because- I don’t actually like my hair layered! What was I thinking!  Oh, the delayed responses I have during conversations in my second language. The other challenge was the conversation in general. I was really hoping that once she heard my poor German she would have just cut my hair, but no we had a conversation which was probably better and less awkward, maybe. We talked about politics in Germany and the U.S., we talked about health insurance, about why did I move here, and about her vacation destination this summer. I don’t talk politics- like ever, no matter the country or language. I don’t like them, I just avoid thinking about them, reading about them, talking about them- all of it. Clearly I need to educate myself a little before the next haircut, or choose another salon that hopefully won’t talk to me about politics.

A few inches later.

A few inches later.

In the end it was better than I expected. I would totally visit her again, after I read an up to date newspaper of course.

With one visit under my belt the next one should be relatively easy…. maybe.

Perks of getting lost

One of my favorite street art pieces.

One of my favorite street art pieces.

I recently had a couple opportunities to get out and see areas of Berlin I had not spent any or much time in. One was for a meeting on the north end of town that I am not familiar with at all. I had a couple hours before said meeting began so I researched worthwhile coffee shops in that area and headed out to one to get some writing done. Unfortunately I didn’t read the hours and it is closed on Mondays (please help me understand who closes a coffee shop on a Monday???). So, I found a chain bakery, grabbed a Chai and powered through a couple writing assignments I had on my plate. After that I wandered around the neighborhood until I arrived at the meeting. I am glad I had the time to stroll through this area, in this walking and getting lost I tend to see more of the city than I would if I stayed on the bus, tram, or trains. These times open my eyes to how diverse and completely different each area of Berlin truly is.

Checkpioint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

I also got to play tourist in my own city for part of a day! I finally went to Check Point Charlie for the first time. After the photo op we went to visit an exhibit called the Berlin Wall Panorama by Aissi. The photos here are moving. The voice recording from the inner room reminds you where you are and what you’re seeing. History happened here, literally right there where Check Point Charlie is less than 100 meters from the entrance, you have to step over bricks marking where the wall once stood to enter, you are standing where these stories happened. It is amazing.

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Inside the exhibit the walls are full of graffiti, but don’t worry it is encouraged here. They room is full of cement walls, floors, pillars in the middle and markers for your to make your mark. You were here. What does freedom mean to you?  Who do you love today? Marks over marks, the entire floor and every cement surface in the whole place is covered.

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I am moved by the fact that an artist can seem to bring to life these moments that so many people I meet here have lived through. I hear their stories and as I stood in this exhibit I can relate just a little more. While I will never be able to fully understand what life in Berlin was like historically, I will embrace each opportunity to understand it more. Each time I step into a new area of Berlin and each piece of history I learn give context for the conversations I have with people who have lived their entire lives here.

Here’s to living life in a diverse city filled with history and learning opportunities. May I never tire of learning it’s story!

Easter abroad

Easter photo

Happy Easter!

I think holidays are sneaky. I know they are all marked on my calendar and in reality I know they are coming, but it still seems like they suddenly show up and are waiting for me to figure out how to celebrate them in our new context. My question this week has been- what happens in the U.S. so that I know Easter is coming? Do my holiday rhythms really hinge on Target’s decorations and merchandise? Being as we are from Minnesota I am fairly sure it isn’t a change in the weather that helps me know Easter is near. I can say this because while it was cool and rainy here the week before Easter it was warm and sunny there, but now there is snow again in MN so clearly the weather is not my trusted source. I knew Easter was coming, we have a two week school break surrounding it, so really I knew it was coming. Half the problem was not knowing what Easter in Berlin looked like. I did some research: I asked a couple Germans how they celebrate Easter here, I read things online, I researched what was happening in the city during the week before and over the weekend, and I looked for what the church does that weekend. As with Christmas and Thanksgiving, I am now better prepared for next year.

I missed our churches Good Friday service- the reflection on what Christ did for us, in a safe and known place, with a reflective message and music. I didn’t realize just how much I relied on that yearly event to bring the weight of Easter to my mind. If I skip over that day, all it entailed and what it points to I don’t feel like Easter has the same joy (or pomp it usually does) because I have skipped important details. Now I realize this I will need to be conscious of this for the coming years and figure out how the local church remembers that or, start traditions surrounding it in our home.

Working on making baskets

Working on making baskets

On Saturday we colored Easter eggs like we would back home. The colors were really vibrant from the color kit I bought at the store and the kids each had fun coloring several eggs. As they get older it requires less and less work on our part. I set up the colors and we did very little after that, oh the mixed emotions of kids growing older. We also made Easter baskets/ bowls from a paper kit I bought at the same store (which on Easter morning were filled with quality German chocolate bunnies and eggs).

Leah with her finished eggs

Leah with her finished eggs

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That evening we went to an Osterfeuer (Easter Fire) with some friends. These happen all over Berlin (probably all over Germany) and are considered a traditional Easter event. Some of these are serious fires. The one we attended was pictured in newspapers and on websites featuring Easter weekend events all over the city and since we are new we decided to go to the biggest we could. We took buses for almost an hour to get to a beautiful park, that if it wasn’t almost dark and so cold we would have wandered around to enjoy. We met a couple from language school there, so that was fun. The fire was big, really big (and was about  2.5 meters wide and about 2.5 meters tall), but sadly fenced off so you couldn’t get too close. There was a live “folk”/country music band playing (Johnny Cash covers), beer tents, a couple food tents, and a big hill that the kids ran up and down for a while. It wasn’t as large an event as I thought it would be, but we are glad to have gone. Promptly at 9 pm the firefighters snipped the wires holding the logs together and blasted it with a water hose, party over.

View from the other side of the bridge.

View from the other side of the bridge.

 

As close as we can get.

As close as we could get.

Sunday we got all dressed up (like a normal Easters) and went to church. The highlight for me was just how much of the sermon I could understand! When we first attended church there in September I was certain I would never get to the point where I would be able to understand a sermon and on Sunday I understood almost all that was preached. After church we stayed for cake and coffee (normal on Sundays there) and chatted with people for a bit. Then we came home and started cooking Easter dinner.

Check out this baby pineapple!

Check out this baby pineapple!

We knew we were going to be Skyping with family back home so we planned to lay low, eat dinner and stay near the computer. Easter dinner took a little longer to make that I had anticipated, but it was so delicious it didn’t matter. Like Thanksgiving we learned that we can indeed create and entire Easter meal ourselves. Buying a ham was not as easy as it would be in the states. It was in the section of the meat department that sold: tongue, pig stomach, pig hooves, and other odd meats. I was a little nervous about what we were really buying, but if it wasn’t ham in the end I was fooled;) Denny whipped up an amazing glaze for it and I am sure we will be recreating it in the future. New to us this year was eating white asparagus instead of green, it was delicious. We did see green at the store but they wanted 8.99€ for one bundle and white was only 2.99€ per bundle so we embraced something new and it worked out well.

Yummy ham!

Yummy ham!

 

Another new to us Easter thing was a lamb cake, which I had heard that this is a pretty common tradition. A lamb cake pan was gifted to us this year so I baked one up at 8:30 Easter morning. The box with the pan had a recipe that I used and I set it in the oven. A little while later I smelled something burning and looked in the oven only to see that the cake was coming out of the pan like a volcanic eruption. I cleaned that up, put a pan under it and finished baking. I didn’t decorate it, I should have but ran out of time/energy/will power/ all the above. Next year I plan to make another one, with a pan underneath, and decorate it (these are lofty goals). **I have no idea what happened to the photo of it after it came out of the pan. Seen as we have now eaten his head I will not be posting any photos of our completed lamb.**

Before baking.

Before baking.

After second erruption

After second erruption

We finished out the night on Skype with Nicole’s mom and Denny’s parents before sending the kids off to bed. It was a good first Easter in Berlin, full of learning experiences and lists of what to do again and not, just as any “first” should be.

We hope your Easter celebrations were full of joy, laughter, love, and rejoicing over our Risen King.