This has been an exceptional week for me. I participated in a "class" called People Encouraging People, or PEP, which is a week long orientation for Soldiers' spouses to introduce them to the area, the Post, the Army, and living in Germany. The class was an amazing experience, and I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity.
The PEP is put together by the Army Community Service. They paid for a week of daycare (which was freaking awesome) and they had a combination of host speakers, tours, lunches, shopping... Obviously they can't tell you all you need to know in one week, but that wasn't from a lack in trying.
The past couple months I tried to embrace my life in this foreign country, yet I still felt the walls around me - walls of intimidation maybe? I wasn't quite sure why, but I knew I hadn't really felt quite at home yet. I knew it would come, all in good time, of course, just needed to find some patience. Big R was required to do a short class called "Head Start" when he first arrived here (no juice boxes were distributed) where he was given a rough introduction to German culture, a little language, and a short tour downtown. Although it was helpful, it left many questions unanswered. In many ways, you get into a place where you don't even realize that you had a question, if that makes any sense.
Oh, I had many questions, which is now much more clear. What a cool week. Not only did I meet some incredible new friends, but I now have a new found appreciation for where we live and how many resources are here for us. Things are different in Germany, I don't think there's any mystery in that, and it feels great to not only embrace those differences but to also recognize the many similarities.
Our first day was information overload. We were given countless amounts of handouts and briefings to guide us through our stay in Germany. The rest of our week included a bus ride and quick walking tour through some of the amazing sights in Bamberg. We had dinner at a fabulous Gasthous that I'd been dying to check out, and learned a little bit of essential German in the process. The following day we got a tour of the big industrial area in Bamberg. To those of you back home, I'm sure you are thinking what I was when we were told this was part of our class. Why would I want to see the industrial area? Here in Germany, or at least in Bavaria, they don't mess around with their shopping. Unlike us, mini malls are for shopping indoors. They focus on making the inside look inviting where you spend all your time, and leave the outside to look...industrious. They have entire industrial areas with oodles of stores and mini malls, so that it's all together. Zoning at its finest... From the outside, it looks uninteresting and definitely uninviting. Taking a peek on the inside opened my eyes to the material and consumer side of Germany. I have been trying desperately the past couple of years to veer away from being a mass consumer, but let's face it, sometimes you just need "stuff"...
Our final day was a train trip to Erlangen, which is another university town between Bamberg and Nurnberg. The trip was primarily to show us a German-style shopping mall, and also to familiarize us with using the train system (which is ridiculously easy and very cheap). For the first time in a long time, I spent a huge part of a day shopping with a good friend without the worries of a little munchkin. We embraced the European fashion and spent some of our hubbies' hard earned money, but mostly we just had a great time.
Overall it was a great week for me. I finally have a good sense of where things are in town and I can find them again WITHOUT GETTING LOST - woohoo!!!! We all know this is HUGE for me. It was nice to have a week to myself, and I know little r enjoyed his time in daycare with the other kiddos. (He was enjoying it so much in fact that I started the process to get him enrolled into a German Kindergarten.) This weekend we'll be recovering from our busy week and doing a little shopping for the house (now that I finally know where to find things!).