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?

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How to Be German

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My sister and her boyfriend gave me this insightful and quite funny book called, How to Be German in 50 Easy Steps by Adam Fletcher.   I thought I would use this book as a kind of blog series to check off when I have done one of the steps or to add steps of my own.

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I will start with number 10, which is Drink Mixed Beverages.    I had already been introduced to the cola and orange pop combination by my sister.  It is known as Spezi here in Germany.   Both Pepsi and Coke have their own versions.   Here is my angel interested in drinking her own spezi while out to dinner.   We have also had the German Radler, which is beer mixed drink.   It is like a shandy, beer mixed with a lemonade pop.  Both are good!  If you are interested in finding Mezzo Mix in the states.  You can taste it at the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta!

Adjusting to a Our New Home Country

If it were just Greg and I, adjusting wouldn’t be much of a problem.  Having lived in Greece, we are used to a lot of the nuances that make Europe different than the states.   The tough parts of adjusting right now are the baby, the two cats, and trying to live dairy free.  

THE BABY

At five months old, she had been sleeping 9-10 hours a night for almost two months straight.   We arrived here and the jet lag has hit her the hardest.  The first night she was up at 2 in the morning giggling and talking and ready to play, while we were fighting to keep our eyes open.   Every night she goes down about an hour earlier.   She has also been fussier, but I can’t tell if it’s because she is teething, my change in diet, or the move. Feels like we are back to month one where I am up feeding her twice a night.

Also, not having the comforts of home (our glider) I am having a hard time getting her to sleep at all without nursing her.  But a great friend of mine made me realize that everything thing is so different for her right now.  Nursing is one of her only familiarities right now and that is what she needs.

 THE CATS

The cats are also having a difficult time, but get better each day. As I have said before, cats don’t like change and everything about our new place is different and strange to them.

ImageThey have never done stairs, let alone spiral stairs, so we had to teach them to go up and down.  

 They never had windows that open because we are on the fourth floor of our condo and feared them falling out, so we always did AC instead of windows.   With no AC here, we have to open windows.  They love it but we are a nervous wreck.  

Living on the top floor of our building, they also never heard noises above them, so anytime someone is walking or talking upstairs and they are downstairs they get nervous.   We also don’t have a door to the outside in the states since we live on the top floor.   Here we worry about them escaping out the door to the outside world!

Little by little they are getting used to the sounds and smells.   Everyday they get more comfortable.  The cool thing is that I think it has brought them together.   The last two days we have found them sleeping together, which they haven’t done in years!

THE DAIRY FREE DIET

My dairy free diet is nearly impossible.  If you don’t speak the language, eating out in another country can be extremely difficult if you have diet restrictions.   I know the word for milk and can check labels, but I don’t feel comfortable asking in a restaurant.   So basically, I am avoiding blatant dairy containing foods like ice cream, pizza, and straight cheese. I might order food not expecting it to have dairy and it does.  If that is the case, I will just go with it.

I did have success today and found soymilk, a soy coffee drink, and a soy chocolate pudding that are all delicious.  So that will allow me to have cereal, coffee, and a dessert at home.

UNCOMFORTABLE NOW, COMFORTABLE LATER

It all comes back to that mantra of Greg and mine.  Things may be uncomfortable now, but with time we will all be in the groove.  We are already so happy with our decision to come here and it’s only been a little over a week. 

Our German Cottage

The hubs and I are ADDICTED to Househunters International, especially the European episodes. We would watch it and say, “Look.  Those people moved abroad with their kids or their pets.  We can do it too!”.

We love guessing which of the three houses the people are going to pick and also like to say which one we would chose. Well, if we were on an episode ourselves we would definitely choose the home we are in now.  Just like the show where each choice has its pros and cons, so does our new home.  It has boatloads of charm with the thick wooden beams, original wood floors, and German antique and modern furnishings and decor.   It feels so homey.  I love the smell when we walk in the door, it just screams Germany to me.  I don’t know why.

The downside is that those original floors creak loudly and are not always level.  The walls are quite thin, so you can hear anyone walking or talking upstairs.   And the spiral staircase!  It is a necessity for such a small house, but can be a challenge when trying to carry a baby up and down or if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.   Even so, the positives far outweigh any negative.

This is the first time in any home in Europe where we have had so many appliances.  We have a dishwasher, washer/dryer, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, hot water boiler, iron, CD, and tv.  We feel very spoiled.  We are loving our new home.

Solicitors Welcome??

On our second day here, we had an interesting experience with a solicitor.  She rang our front door bell.  Since we don’t know anyone here yet, we didn’t want to answer.   So we let it go.  She walked around the house to our back door and knocked.   Hubby went to the door and told her we don’t speak German.  In English, she started to tell him that she worked for the storm company and wanted to know if we owned the house.  He said, “No, we are renting.  We can’t help you.”  We thought that was the end of it.  Then we look out the window a few minutes later and she is sitting at our patio table having a drink and organizing her briefcase on the table.   Hubs ask her what she was still doing there and she said, “Just having a rest and a drink!”

Is it just me, or is that kind of strange?  I wouldn’t see that ever happening in the states.  She finished up her drink and threw the bottle in our recycling bin.  Did I mention that they are crazy (in a good way) about recycling in Germany?

We Moved from Chicago to Germany!

We did it! We are finally here. We made the move with two cats and a baby to Germany. It has only been 4 days since we left Chicago, and already there is so much to tell.  I would like to use this blog sort of as a journal to capture our time here, in addition to sharing our experience with others.  I already have many stories to share about the first week. I will try to break it up into separate topics so far. Can’t wait to share our adventures with those who are interested.

Embracing uncomfortable

Is anyone surprised when I say we are moving back to Europe? We must sound like a broken record!

We are going back to Europe so Greg can play basketball again.  Our destination is Hagen, Germany, where Greg played two years ago.   What makes this, his 8th season of professional basketball, crazier is that we are going to be taking our two cats, Zoe and Micho, and our baby girl.

You can’t believe how many people say things to me like, “Wow!   You are an amazing wife to keep doing this for Greg!” or “How do you keep putting up with this?”  I guess people don’t understand that going is just as much for me as it is for him.  While he gets to follow his dream of playing professional basketball, I get to follow my dream of living abroad and passion for travel.   I am not “putting up” with anything.

Are we excited?  Definitely!  Are we nervous? Most definitely!  The strange thing is that the part we are most nervous about is bringing the cats, not the baby.  The baby will adapt, but will our cats? It’s no easy task to bring cats overseas.  We are not only concerned about getting the right vaccinations and documents, but seeing how they will do on the plane and in their new home.  Will they howl the entire flight?   Will they be stressed about their new environment?  Cats do not like change.  They would be content to stay in the same place forever if they could.  Unfortunately, their parents (Greg and I) feel the exact opposite.  Staying in a comfortable place for too long makes us uncomfortable.

That’s our new motto, by the way.  “What’s uncomfortable now becomes comfortable later.  What’s comfortable now becomes uncomfortable later.”

Will it be difficult to leave family and friends? Yes (uncomfortable)

Will it be stressful moving our family on only 1 suitcase each? Yes (uncomfortable)

Will it be challenging to be there without a support system and dealing with a different culture/language? Yes (uncomfortable)

Anything worth doing is going to be uncomfortable at first.  But we believe that doing what you love will make you happy in the end, you just have to get through the hard work and difficult phase. The discomforts of the move far outweigh the feelings of regret we may feel later.   So for now, we are embracing uncomfortable.