Realities of Expat Life

I would like expand the title of this post to “Realities of my expat life with a baby in a country where you don’t speak the language,” but I thought it was a tad wordy.

I can’t believe that I haven’t posted in almost two months, but the reason for that is that I haven’t had a lot of positive things to post about.   But I hope writing about even the not so great things will help me feel better.

The reality of expat life with a baby is that it is HARD!   Life abroad when it was just Greg and I was easy peasy.   We went where we wanted, ate what we wanted, and didn’t really miss our life in the states.  On the contrary, we relished not having a schedule filled with events every weekend.  We enjoyed avoiding the drama of our lives in the states.  Not to say that we didn’t miss our friends and family, but we were content being on our own.

We came to Germany thinking that we could share that lifestyle we loved with our baby and how hard could it be?   We would be together all the time.   We could jump in the car and go to new places.   We would travel and take our angel along for the ride.

Well, lightly put, we sorely underestimated just what a challenge it would be.   Don’t get me wrong.  Germany is great and the people we have met here are great, but what is lacking here is the support of home.   The first six weeks were great because my parents were here.  While they were here, I didn’t really think they were giving me too much support other than company.  When they left I quickly realized how much they helped.

So it took some adjusting after they left in mid October, but we slowly were figuring it out.  We joined a gym that had a daycare so we could get some working out in, which gave me a break.

All was well until the last month.  To try to keep it short, the hellish month included a health scare with the baby, colds, a stolen wallet to pickpockets, breastfeeding issues, blowing the power out in the entire house, my husband getting the worst flu of his life, and more that I don’t even want to mention.   It feels like a black cloud has been hovering over us and won’t go away.

It was scary, especially with health concerns, to be in a foreign country where you don’t know the language and protocols for medical issues.   When the issues are with the baby, the concern and worry seems to be amplified in this situation.

And my house hunters international house that is so cute and quintessential German is now not so cute and charming.   With a baby on the move, uneven floors with nails popping out are a danger.  The spiral stairs are a hazard on their own, but add a wiggle worm in your arms and you have a disaster.

And travel?  Well, not so easy when your baby despises long rides in a car seat.   And when the baby is sick, that means any trips you have planned are cancelled.  If it were just us, we would stick out a trip with coughs and runny noses, but we can’t expect the baby to do that.  Our priorities have changed.

So we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we didn’t expect to feel how we feel now.  The positive is that it is crystal clear to us just how important having the support of friends and family nearby truly is.  Hopefully this will help us to not take that for granted in the future.


Best Zoo Ever

Just returned from by far the best zoo we have ever visited.   Let me say that I am on the fence about zoos.   After using zoos as an example for a persuasive essay with my sixth graders as to whether they are good or bad, I became persuaded that they weren’t such a good idea.   I also read the book Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French, which turned out to be more about one specific zoo than the debate, but it gave me some more strong feelings against zoos.  I dislike going to zoos and seeing the animals in small enclosures that look nothing like their habitat.    However, I am so torn because I absolutely love animals.   Now that I have a child, I want her to love animals too.   So debate aside, I have gone back to enjoying zoos because I get to see her face when she sees the animals.

On our way home from the Netherlands, we decided to take advantage of a rare sunny day (more on that in another How to be German post) and stop at a zoo we heard about near our home called ZOOM in Gelsenkirchen.   The parking lot was tiny and didn’t give us a ticket to pay, so we figured it must be free and small.   Think again!  Nothing so far in Germany is free, including water.   I could write another whole post on that as well.   Getting back to the zoo, we did have to pay 17.50 Euros each plus 3.50 for parking.  Not cheap, but the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago isn’t either and actually costs $10.00 to park.

Of course, as soon as we got there we had to use the bathrooms, feed the baby, and eat, so we didn’t get far.   But it looked small.  There was one sign that had arrows pointing for Alaska, Africa, and Asia to three entrances.  I actually said out loud, “Is this it?”   Boy, was I in for a surprise.  We ended up only seeing one exhibit because it was so huge.

Unlike the zoo at home, the zoo is separate into 3 habitats.   You have to walk through the entire exhibit.  You can’t just buzz over to one particular animal that you want to see.  That is the only downside.   There are so many upsides though.   The enclosures were huge and seemed so much closer to their real habitats than anything I had ever seen.   Another plus was that there were multiple viewing spots for each animals and many got you extremely close to the animal.

It took us over an hour to walk through Alaska.  I’ve never been, but I felt like we could have been in Alaska.  The animals were all out and awake this afternoon.  We thought it was cute that there were raccoon and skunk enclosures.  We are so used to catching them wander through our neighborhoods, that it seemed strange to see them in the zoo.

The best part was the seals.   We were so close to them we could almost touch them.  It was feeding time so they were all going wild and jumping up catching fish.  There were also three little baby seals right next to where people could stand.   We got to hear two of them call for their mothers.   Their mothers called back then swam over, hopped up and fed them.

We loved it so much we couldn’t wait to see the other two habitats, Asia and Africa, but we were so tired and not sure how much longer the baby could take.  We quickly headed into Asia, after hitting up the candy shop at the entrance where we could fill a bag with an assortment of awesome gummies.   Cherry coke and Schluempfe (smurf) were two of my favorites.   The first animals we saw were tigers and they were so close and playful chasing each other.  Again, we were awed by how close we could get to the animals.

We had to leave though, but will return soon.  As we saw the map on the way out (we didn’t have a paper map because they weren’t free), we saw the Africa section is twice the size of Alaska and includes a safari ride.   We can’t wait to go back and check it out.

So I have found a zoo I really love.   I must say I didn’t feel conflicted while there.  Is that wrong?