The day has finally come. It’s 7:00am, time to get up. Plane leaves at 12:44pm. I’ve got plenty of time to catch my flight. My bags are packed, and I’ve been ready to go. I give the wife and kids plenty of hugs and kisses, I’ll see them in a few weeks.
Texas in the summer is as miserable as you’d think. Humid, sticky, hot, and not much around. My family will stay here in Mineola with my mother-in-law while I complete a 6-week German language course, while living with a host family. So, I head to Dallas where I will hop on a cheap flight with several layovers. My mother-in-law and my oldest son are dropping me off.
My connecting flight from LAX to Manchester, England is delayed by 1 day. I’m now in Los Angeles, flying in reverse it feels, but just enough downtime to call my best friend Keil. Keil is a Lyft driver who works in LA. He picks me up on the morning of my flight. We’ve been friends since high school and have never lost touch. We grab breakfast and before getting dropped off at LAX, we park at the Westchester Golf Course. It’s a beautiful sunny day, near the ocean and 15 minutes from the airport. We crack a couple cold beers, Modelos to be exact–I won’t be having any cold Mexican beer quite some time. We share old stories and say our goodbyes.
The flight to Manchester is restless. So many thoughts swirling like a maelstrom through my brain, leaving it flushed and drained. This is the longest I’ll ever be away from my wife and kids.
How did I end up on this flight? There were so many decisions that let to me sitting in this seat. I quit my job at Trader Joe’s after 7.5 years with them, I negotiated the termination of my lease, I applied to 23 scholarships, and I bought one-way tickets to Germany for my entire family. I planned my course substitutions, spoke with every engineering department chair on campus to get courses approved, and so on. It’s more than just a seat on an airplane. I left everything behind in search of renewal.
My goals over this next year are as follows: obtain fluency in the German language, participate in everyday European culture, become involved in my community and university, and provide the best possible experience for myself and my family. My children have been accepted into kindergarten facilities. My wife is enrolled in a beginner German language course that runs for three months. We are prepared. We are taking full advantage of the resources.
What value can I provide to German culture? What stereotypes exist between our cultures? How can I best represent the values that Americans hold dear? I will probably be asked about politics, which I don’t mind talking about. I will definitely make mistakes with the language and feel stupid at times, but I welcome the process. I will possibly get homesick, but I doubt it. With family in tow, our home is wherever we make it.
As I make progress, I know I will change dramatically. I’m not going to be the same man as I am now. The exciting thing is waiting to see what those changes will be. I am excited for my family as well. We are all going to learn German together. I especially want my children to be equipped with skills that enable them to thrive and encourage them to journey the world.
My first few days were in the city of Tübingen, a college town with 89,000 inhabitants. This is where I will study for my first semester. Here, I spent 3 days exploring the town and attending orientation. On Friday August 17th, I took a bus to the beautiful village of Horb am Neckar (on the Neckar River). Here I met my host family and they drove me to my new temporary home. We drove 10 minutes to where I am now, in the small village of Dettingen, a “suburb” of Horb.
My host family is warm and welcoming. They own a German Gasthof, in the family over 250 years, which is a traditional tavern for travelers and local residents. The Gasthof holds 15 rooms on the 3nd floor, private housing and dining room on the 2nd floor, and restaurant and banquet hall on the 1st floor. I live on the 3rd floor, staying as any regular guest would. I have a shower and private balcony that overlooks homes, a church, and a glimpse of the Schwarzwald (the Black Forest).
A couple of weeks into my German language boot-camp, I am becoming more comfortable with everyday conversation and getting around town. I still have so much to learn, but I am making excellent progress. I miss my family. We FaceTime each other almost every day. I can’t wait until they arrive, but at the same time, I still have much to do before then. One day at a time.