Tales from the Krippe

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The German word for daycare is ‘Krippe’ which sounds a lot like the English word ‘crypt.’ This seems fitting, somehow. Both places are stuffy, confining, and full of the ‘unknown.’

Oh, and can I also say that both are scary?

I’m obviously going to have a really hard time in August. I’ve been with this baby just about every waking moment of her life so far. The idea of dropping her off all day long at a daycare center where she doesn’t even speak the language is terrifying. I know, babies pick up languages fast. I’ve seen it happen. Back when I worked at a daycare center a little Russian twelve-month old came in and spoke fluent English approximately five hours later.

But—this is my baby. Until we’re months in the future and I see she’s doing fine, I’m going to dread this whole thing.

The other source of fear comes from the fact we, um, haven’t exactly found a Krippe, yet? Oops?

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No reason to be sad, no big goodbye’s.

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“There’s no reason to be sad.”

That’s the line I use to reopen this conversation I’ve been having with my parents for fifteen years and counting. On average, it comes up every third day for the duration of the time I’m home for a visit (with variations in the talking points depending on my life situation and level of alcohol consumption.)

I’ll write the most recent version of this conversation. I had it with my dad while we strolled Laken around the Buffalo suburb I grew up in.

Here’s me, revving it up: “There’s no reason to be sad.”

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Toe Dipping

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Today a new friend came over, and I told her about this blog.  (I’ve been keeping it relatively secret at the moment in case someone actually reads it before I’m ready to “go live.”)

She and I can relate to the topics I want to explore here on multiple levels. For one thing, she used to teach English at the school I currently teach English at.  We’re the same age, we both came over to Heidelberg a long time ago with the idea that there was no other city on the planet we’d be happy living in, and now we both have children and very little chance of being able to move back to the States any time soon.  I think we’re also similar in that this fact confuses us, emotionally.

It’s funny, this stage of life that we’re in.  Both of us worked so hard to establish ourselves as long-term expats.  But, now that we’re married and have young children there’s this whole new slew of questions, doubts and stress that accompany that.  I think it’s a given that mentalities/dreams/etc. change when you have children. And, that’s true a million times over when you live 4,000 miles away from family in a culture that, no matter how long you’ve lived there, still isn’t quite your own.

Anyway, in our three hour, animated conversation an interesting question came up—what type of expat did we want to be at this point?

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Turkish Birds

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Fifteen years ago a carpet salesman in Fethiye, Turkey offered me the strongest, muddiest cup of coffee I’ve ever had. After I was done drinking, he read my fortune in the leftover grounds at the bottom of the mug.

“What does that look like to you?” he asked, pointing.

I peered down, trying to see something clever in the dark smudge, but he answered for me. “It’s a bird. It means you’re flying in the direction of your happiness!”

He was right on two counts. First of all, that clump of grounds really did look exactly like a little bird traveling up towards the rim of my cup. As soon as he said it, the thing transformed, came in to focus. Second, everything that happened in my life after that trip ultimately led to what can only be described as my happiness.

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In front of the carpet shop.

Now, he could have been a bit more specific and told me that it was not going to be an easy journey. I wouldn’t have minded a head’s up that it was going to involve all sorts of things—like, the decision to leave the so-called ‘gravy train’ of teaching middle school on a military base in Germany to pursue a Master’s degree in creative writing in London, subsequently moving back in with my parents when I was 30 years old (single, unemployed, and broke,) sleeping on a friend’s dorm room floor in London while I job hunted the following year, a detainment on my way in to England, a deportation on my way out (both bureaucratic nightmares, neither one my fault, I swear!) There was a relationship with someone twenty-two years older, an attack while riding my bike in Germany, and two rounds of expensive, invasive fertility treatments before we were able to have a daughter.

But…

At this point in life I can say the prophesy has been fulfilled.  I’m living in Heidelberg, the city that first drew me to Europe. My husband is the ultimate life partner. I enjoy my job. I have a baby daughter who is the light of my world, and two grown stepdaughters whom I love and who have accepted me from day one.

The thing is, in a very strange way, the past few years of happiness have made me…lazy? Definitely less motivated.  Desensitized to my surroundings, even?

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