Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just a few more days in Germany

We have only two days left in Germany. My husband and I moved here almost exactly 3 and 1/2 years ago. It was kind of a fluke that we even moved here. A fluke or maybe part of God's plan for our lives. About 6 and 1/2 years ago my husband started working for the Corps of Engineers in Texas. Soon after he started he noticed the Corps had a department in Germany. We both joked about how cool it would be to live overseas, something we both wanted to do since we were in middle school.

One day my husband saw a job open up in Heidelberg, Germany with the Army. I said with excitement, "that's great! Apply!" time passed and the evening the job closed he said, "the job closes tonight, I need to apply for it." I told him it was really late and he could always apply for another one. He said it would only take 5 minutes. This is coming from a man who is very detailed and perfectionist. I told him to go ahead. He literally was done applying in about 5 minutes. I really couldn’t believe it. Granted he was very well qualified and most of his resume was already in the system. 2 months after he applied, we arrived in Germany, a country we had never been to before.

We have had a great experience in Germany but have also endured many challenges. Some of my friends have lived in Germany for 6 or more years, others have only been here a few months. Others have lived here their whole life. One verse that I really relate to is Jeremiah 29:11.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

The background to this verse is that a number of Jews were uprooted from Jerusalem and exiled to Babylon. This had to be very disruptive to them. Many of my American friends in Germany can relate to the Jews Jeremiah is writing to in the sense that they didn't have a choice to move here. Others of us made the choice to move to Germany and encounter the challenges that come with living in a foreign land. And some of you have lived in Germany your whole life. Never the less, I think we can all relate to this.

God's message to these people was to go on with their lives. They would encounter hardships. But that didn't mean they should give up. They were to work hard, have children, live with the people and seek the welfare of the city where God sent them into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf. For these specific people God had plans to return them to Jerusalem and to fulfill His promise to them. Many of us who live overseas will one day return to our home country, whether that is the U.S. or somewhere else. God didn't make a promise to us about where we would live. However, I believe God has plans for each of us. He has a purpose for us. But what does God say we need to do? We need to pray to him, we need to seek him. He says in verse 13: "you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." I want to encourage you to seek out God. To learn about Him, lean on Him during difficult times and lean on Him during joyous times. God wants a relationship with you. God loves you and sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to die for you. There will be times that you feel lonely or maybe afraid. Pray to God and ask Him to comfort you. Lean on each other.  Surround yourself with loving friends. There is no way I would have made it without my dear friends in Germany. When we arrived 3 and ½ years ago I only knew my husband. Now I am blessed to know people who have or will live all around the world. No matter where you live, you don't have to walk this life alone.
I don't know what God has in store for us in Texas.  But I trust Him.  We are praying that God uses us to bring glory to Him.  We are truly blessed to have been able to spend these last 3 and 1/2 years in Germany and are forever changed because of it. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Document EVERYTHING when you rent from a German

We are finally out of our house.  We have been sleeping at a hotel for the past week while the movers and packers were packing our things.  Overall the movers seemed to do a good job and my husband and I worked our tails off cleaning the house to leave it in a much better condition than when we moved there 3.5 years ago.

I know some Americans have had good experiences with German landlords but we have heard of some horrible stories as well.  Sadly, we were unlucky and got a bad landlord who was very cheap and was very slow to repair broken things in our house.  I don't want to speak badly for all Germans because we have some wonderful German friends and I know if they were landlords they would not be like this.  But here's a warning to other expats as they move into a German house.

1. Document everything!  Every dent, every crack, everything.  We're staying at a hotel right now and the owner said we should have spent a day going over every inch to document.  Many Americans stay at his hotel and he hears all the horrible stories too.

2. Talk to previous owners before renting.  This is not always possible.  Or you find out things after you're already living there.  We found out after we signed our lease and were living there that the previous tenants had a lawsuit against our landlord, that was a huge red flag that we wish we knew about beforehand.

3. Take pictures.  While you document damage, even what you would think is normal wear and tear, take a picture of it as well as write it down.

4. Stand up for yourself and fight for what's right.  If you feel taken advantage of, go to someone higher up for help.  Someone in the company you're working for or other people who can help.

5. Ask for your deposit back in cash.  We got most of our deposit back in cash, thankfully.  But our landlord is wanting to keep over 1000 Euros.  He wants 300 Euros to re-grout the shower, which I found out should be done every 3 years anyway, and 700 Euros for a new but old shell shaped sink that matches the other one for a small hairline crack that was there when we moved in.  We found a nice Villeroy and Back sink for 75 Euros that is much nicer than the old one.  We are going to offer to pay for two and installation in hopes of getting at least 450 Euros back (almost $600).  At least by getting your deposit back in cash, you don't have to worry about them holding it for up to 6 months.

Overall I'm glad we lived where we did in Germany because of the location and more importantly our wonderful neighbors.  Some of our closest friends in Germany were our next door neighbors both Germans, Americans, and a Slovakian. However, being cheated out of quite a bit of money at the end of our 3.5 year stay has been disappointing. Which is why I hope to help future expats when they move to Germany or anywhere else and rent from someone.  Hopefully they will have a better experience than we did. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Preparing to move!

I really don't like moving.  The process of moving, that is.  I'm not naturally super organized, which I am striving to become, but have yet to master.  I have a system, it works for me, but I don't maintain it as well as some do.  So getting ready to move and going through things is somewhat of a challenge to me.  I easily get overwhelmed with what needs to be done.  Thankfully, my friend, Angy, came over today to help me.  She was a huge help!  This is only my 4th time to move a whole household to another place.  I don't count all the times I moved in college since the stuff I had in college was so minimal compared to what we have today.

Today we worked tirelessly getting the kitchen, bathroom, and most of Blue Rock's toys ready for the packers.  While throwing out half-opened food such as pasta and flour, I let Blue Rock dump a lot of it in a big container and gave him a big spoon to mix it.  He made quite the mess but it kept him entertained.  I wish I would have taken a picture.  We also packed Blue Rock's clothes.

There is plenty left to do and we will stay very busy through this weekend going through stuff such as paperwork, mine and my husband's clothes, and the rest of Blue Rock's toys and a few other things here and there.  Another big thing we've had to do is go pick up all our German medical records so we can get them translated before we leave.  What a pain!  For instance, we called a doctor I saw in Mannheim and asked where to pick up the records and when.  They gave us a date.  So when we had to take care of some more out processing, we stopped by the hospital.  They didn't have the records, it was in another location.  They said to come back in a week.  A week?!  We are running out of time!  And the hospital in Mannheim is about 30 minutes away, so it's not right around the corner.

On the bright side, it looks like we found a place to stay when we arrive in Texas.  Some friends from church have a furnished house they rent to missionaries when they come home.  Some missionaries returning to the Ukraine are moving out this week, so it will be available when we return.  God is taking care of us.  Now we just need to decide on a second car and a place/neighborhood to buy a house in.

I wanted to give a quick update but I need to go finish up some more things tonight.  Customs is coming tomorrow to inspect everything.  They said they will be here from around 8am-4pm.  I'm not sure what to expect but it seems to be never-ending.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My car is shipped!

This morning we went to ship my car overseas.  While it's not actually on the vessel yet, it is now out of our hands.  When shipping a vehicle back to the States it has to be in perfect condition.  Thankfully we don't eat in our cars and we don't have pets.  But still, it rains a lot in Germany so we had plenty of dirt to on the mats to get up.  They told me the estimated date of arrival will be Feb. 27th!  Boy that's a long time.  We are hoping to get it before then but most likely we won't.  We delivered it just in time too, because not too long after handing it over it started hailing on us.

There is so much to do when getting ready to move overseas.  I felt rushed when we made the move over here 3.5 years ago.  Of course I had to quit a job and try and sell our house.  Back then it was just my husband and I so that made things a little easier.  Now I have a very busy 2.5 year old who loves to get into everything.  Thankfully some of our friends offered to watch Blue Rock the first day the packers are coming.  Now we just need to find someone for the following two days.  Meanwhile I am going to continue selling items and deciding what to ship in unaccompanied baggage.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome 2012!

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year!  We spent the evening with our next door neighbors.  Blue Rock went to bed at 7:30pm and we hung out with our neighbors after he went to sleep.  Around 7pm we shot off fireworks for him so he could see them before bed.  Again, we were amazed he slept through the midnight new year's celebration.  Germans put on a great new year's show.  Sadly, someone in our neighborhood seemed to want to shoot something off every hour on the hour.  So at 4am, it woke Blue Rock.  My husband and I feel asleep around 2am so this was not a happy surprise.  We ended up bringing him to our room.

I know some of you receive updates via email.  I wanted you to know that my domain name expired.  I'm trying to buy it back.  Sadly, someone I don't know bought it after it expired.  In the meantime, you can visit my blog here -

May this year be one of the best years there is!  2011 was a good year but we had our challenges and lots of losses.  May you and your family have lots of love and prosperity in 2012.
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