BookNotes: Learning to Walk in the Dark

It’s still February. The days are slowly getting longer. It doesn’t really feel that way yet. I still turn on all the fairy lights and turn off the lamps. I still wake in the dark, do yoga in the dark, and tidy my private space in the dark.

But February also means afternoon walks in the woods or on the road, games in the evening because we can see the floor, and dinner before the sun goes down.

February this year brought a new habit. One chapter an evening of a nonfiction book, not scholarly, no note taking, just read a chapter and contemplate for a few minutes. I chose Learning to Walk in the Dark as my first book.

Easter

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with the you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.

 

Germany; 1992-1993

Germany: June 1992-April 1993

Our move to Germany happened very quickly. Shortly after Christmas 1991, I told Kelly that I wanted to get away. Family visits over Christmas had been emotionally charged and difficult.  I wanted a fresh start where our little family didn’t have to fit into anyone else’s pattern. So in late February, Kelly put in the paperwork for an “accompanied, overseas, extended long” tour of duty. We left the location open so that we’d be at the top of the list for “send them anywhere as long as they go as a family.”

In late April, Kelly called home at lunch and asked how I felt about Germany. I loved the idea.  “When?”  Six weeks!  By the time he got home, I had the bathroom and part of the bedroom ready.  We sat down and talked about the base. It was a base closure assignment: short-term and then you can choose your next base.  He signed the paper the next morning and the merry-go-round started immediately.

Passports (on rush), shots, medical clearance — all in the first week. Spouse counseling, international driver’s licenses, and loads of paperwork — week 2.  Movers for bulk shipment (by boat) — week 3.  More paperwork, more shots, and finish up all stateside business — week 4.  International bank account and movers for express shipment (by plane), pick up passports and exchange some dollars for DM, and say goodbye to Ohio. — week 5.  Visit Kelly’s family to say goodbye, fly to Atlanta to say goodbye to my family, and finally board the international flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt Germany — week 6.

We got to Germany and stayed in a hotel for a week and then we moved into a base apartment. Germany was an amazing experience. We spent our weekends exploring the country around us. We found our favorite places (Trier, for one) and picnics on the Moselle River (which was quite near our base). We traveled rain or shine and even in the snow.  We knew our time there was short and we made use of every free moment.

Germany was also the place where my kids got chicken pox, ate from street vendors, climbed over ruins, and learned that friends don’t always speak the same language.  We went to church where German, Croatian, Russian, English, and Sudanese were all spoken.  We had earpieces for the Sundays when the sermon language wasn’t English.

One Monday in early April 1993, the movers came again and packed up our express shipment (which went by air from Germany to the US and then on another plane from US to Turkey).  On Wednesday and Thursday they picked up our bulk shipment (which had to go from Germany to the US by boat before going by boat to Turkey).  Friday we took a shuttle from our base to the airport.  We spent the night in a hotel, and early Saturday flew to Turkey on a C-130.

When we left Germany there were piles of snow and it was cool (45-50 degrees).  When we landed in Turkey it was green and brown and 85 degrees. We knew we were in for a huge change.

 

Texas 1987 (post 3)

I think the most profound lesson I learned in Texas is that adventure (and living in a culture radically different than your own) is not scary, is not dangerous, and is not necessarily expensive. It may seem strange to call Texas a radically different culture than southern Indiana, but when all you know is Midwest, English speaking, white people . . . Texas is worlds away.

I came away from our time there with a confidence that I could communicate with anyone.  A few words in a language (not your own) shows respect, a commitment to relationship, and a true interest in those around you.

I also learned that it is important to find people and a place where you can worship regularly.

And food . . . I definitely learned to eat like a local.  Find the places where the locals go and eat there, buy food in the local markets, and get a cookbook so you can try out food on your own.