This is one of my insanely long posts. Instead of just passing it off as tl;dr, make yourself a cuppa and stay a while… or just skim the headers. We can still be friends.
We are that crazy family… the one that others sometimes speak of as brave when they really mean insane.
In case you’re new ’round these parts and aren’t sure if I’m for real about the nutty bit, this post should convince you.
Rewind with me to last autumn. We left our home in Freiburg at the beginning of October 2014, and ended up in Arizona just shy of New Year’s Eve. Seems simple, right? Ha – not so fast.
Hang on to your hats and follow along on our ride from Germany to Arizona via a dozen other destinations.. with all the madness and mayhem in between!
Please note that I am including some links to posts that have not been published yet. If you discover one of these, you can bookmark this post and come back later to read the linked posts, or you can just follow the blog via email (sign up on the right) or Facebook to be notified of all future posts.
By the way, if you’re reading these posts for the culture shock aspect, I’ll be honest and admit that recapping the events below is difficult for me. There are certain aspects of living in Freiburg that I miss somethin’ fierce, and I get a bit choked up when I dwell on certain memories for too long. So keep in mind that this adventure is two parts insane, one part pain.
Moving is never easy, and moving from one continent to another just multiplies the trouble. The ins and outs of our move is beyond the scope of this post, but I will briefly mention that we shipped most of our things to the US via DHL. Because of this, we did not have to schlep ten, fifty-pound checked suitcases and three children. Just the three kids, they’re non-negotiable.
Instead, all five of us all had backpacks and carry-on suitcases. Additionally, we took two gigantic checked bags and a car seat bag. If my math is right, that’s 13 pieces of luggage.
Hey, I never said I’m a pro at moving light – just packing light.
We bid Freiburg farewell and boarded a train to Leipzig. When we changed trains in Frankfurt, and Alpha and I literally ran to Chipotle in the rain to fetch one last German burrito. While there, we bumped into old friends from the US I haven’t seen in over ten years, also getting their burrito fix. Super fun, and super random. It’s a small (Mexican food) world, indeed.
Leipzig and Dresden
In Leipzig, Doc Sci attended one last conference for his post-doc while I had a fun meet-up and playdate with a blog reader (hi, Rose!). I also took the boys to Dresden… by myself.
After three days in the City of Heroes (Stadt der Helden), we flew to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. Turkish offered the cheapest fare, and it actually turned out to be even less expensive to stay in Istanbul for 3 days on a stopover rather than going straight to the US.
Welcome to America
Our first stop in the US was Washington Dulles to visit family.
Of course (of course!), we landed on the day that the extra special screening for Ebola at passport control rolled out. Not exactly the best welcome to be stuck in customs/immigration for hours…
We then flew to Orlando to reunited with friends, boxes shipped from Germany, and our car.
The last time we drove our car, Charlie was in an infant seat. Now, we have three lanky boys, all in forward-facing car seats. We shoved, pulled, squished, and prayed that three car seats would fit in the back row… of our Honda Civic.
In the end, we managed – but just barely. Good thing, too, because this car was to be our home for the next two months.
During our time in Orlando, Doc Sci started applying for jobs. We took turns hanging out with the kids and searching for open positions. At night, we both researched universities, cities, companies; we emailed out CVs and cover letters.
We dreamed, and we prayed.
Just before Thanksgiving, we road-tripped up to Nashville for a change of scenery. We set up camp at Grandma’s house, hung out with friends and family in Music City, and applied for more jobs.
It was during our stay in Tennessee that Doc Sci had a phone interview with the university that eventually hired him. But, we didn’t know that at the time, so after two weeks, we then set our sights on the Big D.
One of our Freiburg friends is from the Dallas area (hi, Cheril!), and her parents were up for letting five dazed and confused ex-expat strangers take over half of their house. Generous souls!
We drove from Nashville to Dallas, and unpacked the car once again. More fabulous reunions with friends in the heart of Texas, employment meetings and emails, spelling tests, and math worksheets.
This is beginning to be a repetitive story, eh?
The News – and the Dilemma
Somewhere in the middle of the Metroplex, we got the call that a university in Arizona wanted to offer Doc Sci a visiting professor position for the spring semester.
Great news – except for one thing. The job started in less than one month.
Should we say accept the position? Should we move for a job that was not guaranteed for more than four months?
Beyond the philosophical, we also faced a physical dilemma. We stood, at that moment, halfway in between the Arizona job and our stored possessions in Florida.
Should we attempt to rent something furnished and run the risk of having to go back to Florida if the job turned out to be permanent? Or, should we go get our things in Florida now?
To complicate things further, Doc Sci had set up an in-person meeting in Atlanta for two days later.
One more interview and less than twenty four hours in Atlanta later, we were zooming down I-75 on the way to Orlando again. We were positively sick of being on the road, but we needed those four hundred and fifty miles to discuss whether or not we would move to Arizona.
Ultimately, we said yes. And, we took our stuff.
Just shy of two weeks after that major decision, we emptied our storage unit, packed a truck, and said goodbye to Orlando.
Over the next week, we logged a minimum of eight hours of solid driving each day – not including breaks – to make it to Arizona as soon as possible. We needed to have at least one week to move into a house and prepare for Doc Sci to teach (for the very first time, I might add).
I drove our car with the three boys in the backseat, and Doc Sci manhandled the moving truck. If there’s such thing as an ideal road trip, this was the exact opposite.
We encountered some of the most intense rain I have ever driven through, a hail storm while on the “stilts” of I-10 in Louisiana with no place to pull over, snow in Texas, and ice in New Mexico.
I had done my best before we left to buy new DVDs, arrange little goody bags, dollar store toys.. you know, all those cutesy things you see on Pinterest.
But, after a couple thousand miles and sitting ALL DAY LONG for days on end, things got pretty frazzled in the back seat (okay, in the front seat, too).
The one bright spot was spending Christmas Eve and Day with our new friends in Dallas (remember those nice people that let perfect strangers take over half of their home?) and the rest of their family.
We’ll always remember 2014 as the Christmas where we literally could not uphold any traditions (no Adventskranz, Adventskalendar, cookie swaps, or gingerbread) and barely managed to fill the stockings. Instead, we received the fabulous gifts of generosity and hospitality from strangers turned friends. Humbling, indeed.
We rang in the new year at a hotel in Arizona, roasting marshmallows in the fake fire pit outside.
Hey, it could be worse. We had survived our road trip, and we were all healthy and alive!
Unfortunately, the house we rented wasn’t ready for us to move in until after Doc Sci started working. In the meantime, I shopped with the kids in the mornings, looking for basic furniture for our new home. When we moved to Germany, we gave nearly everything away because it didn’t make financial sense to store it.
In the afternoons, the boys did school while Charlie napped. When Doc Sci came home from work, I left to do more shopping and research.
On moving day, we pulled up to our new house and found that all the vendors (painters, cleaners, etc.) had packed down the snow in the driveway, leaving us a housewarming present of a two-inch thick slab of solid ice on which to unload our things.
A kind neighbor lent us a snow shovel; the boys chipped away at the ice while Doc Sci and I tried not to break any bones.
Insert snarky comment about how with America’s fabulous system of healthcare, we wouldn’t have had coverage for any ice-related injuries since Doc Sci had not started work yet…
Once we were moved in, Doc Sci had to turn his attention back to the paying customers – students – leaving me to assemble the furniture, unpack, and set up our home.
After sleeping in twenty different beds in a mere two months, we felt like guests in our new-ish house with brand new furniture. The scars of pro-hoboing must be deep because even after six months here, that feeling has just started to subside.
Since the job in Arizona was only temporary, I wasn’t exactly motivated to really move in – you know, hang pictures, decorate, make things “for real.” Plus, it was hard doing everything alone.
Doc Sci left early in the morning, worked all day, came home for dinner, and then worked again until nearly midnight almost every night in an effort to stay at least one class ahead of the students.
I know this is reality for many families, but it was new to me and just.one.more. adjustment coupled with all the other changes.
The Bright Spot
The bright spot in all of this was that the two of us did not grow apart, though that would have been rather easy to do. We both worked hard in different ways, and we respected each other’s efforts. We asked for help when we absolutely needed it, and gave as much as we could to each other in that time.
Looking back, I do not know how we made it through apart from the grace of God.
Our kids managed to overlook our flawed and stressful selves. Although they moaned and complained here and there about having to do school, I think they were just so relieved to not be hobos anymore.
I love to travel, but those months were an adventure I surely do not want to experience ever again.
Things are looking up for us now, maybe because it is summer break or because we have made some friends here and we don’t have any more boxes to unpack. I do still have more pictures to hang and projects I think would make this place more like home. But, we’re getting there. I can feel it. Inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter, minute by minute, day by day. We’re making it.