We have just had the most stressful weekend.
First of all, some background information: My husband, Karl, works for a German engineering firm. He was hired by the US branch of the firm in Ohio and was sent here just a couple of months after he was hired for a two-year assignment. In November we found out that the two-year assignment was going to be cut short and instead of going home in October 2008 we'd be going home in January 2008. That made us very sad because we've loved living here and we weren't ready to go home to Ohio yet. Living in Germany over the past 16 months has been a dream come true for us. We love this country and its culture and we love Europe. We wanted to have the chance to live here as long as we could.
(Photo of me gazing out at the beautiful Black Forest view over the Christmas holiday trying to make a mental photo knowing that view would soon be gone.)
Well...this past week Karl found out that the firm here in Germany want him to stay...but not just to serve out the original 2-year contract but permanently. Forever. And ever. Or at least for as long as we wanted to. Five years. Twenty years. Until we retire. Until we die. Our choice.
Be careful what you wish for, people, 'cause it might actually come true and then you are face-to-face with the reality of the situation and it scares you half to death.
Think of what this would mean, being an American living permanently in Germany, because it really hit us hard: our children would grow up German, our families would be on the other side of the world and they might hate us just a little bit for staying on the other side of the world by choice, we'll have to keep downloading the American TV shows we like instead watching them as they air on TV, there are a lot more taxes in Germany and the gas prices are three times more expensive and we would keep paying them, plus we'd have to keep speaking German and working on our German and concentrating on listening to German (and that can really be a work-out on your brain). Of course, we thought of the perks...I mean, it's Germany. In Europe. The land of self-serve produce and baked goods stands and where Paris is an inexpensive train ride away instead of an expensive plane trip. Where we can raise our children bi-lingual and vacation in the Swiss Alps and have much better health-care than in America and eat our schnitzel dinners in cozy Biergartens. Yes, there are definitely some perks.
And then there are the really scary, immediate things like finding an apartment, buying a car and I would need to find a job. The company actually found and pays for the apartment we currently live in, as well as the car we currently drive...all part of the original 2-year contract. But becoming a permanent employee would mean that we would now have to take care of these things ourselves. Of course, everyone kept reminding us that we'd have to take care of all these things -- find a job, find a home, buy a car, etc. -- no matter if we were in the US or Germany. But we kept thinking that if we had to do them in Germany...we would have to do them in German!!
It's like that famous feminist quote -- and I can't remember now who said it -- saying that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did...but backwards and in high heels. Sure, we'd have to take care of all the same stuff in Germany as in America...but in Germany it would be in German! At a job interview I would be less worried about impressing them with my clothes or resume and only be thinking, "Just please speak clearly and slowly so I can understand you and please don't ask me anything that I don't have the vocabulary to answer!" And will my husband be able to convince the car salesman that he knows more than a little bit about cars so don't you dare try to screw us over just because he has as an foreign accent! And what in the world does this renting contract say?! It's all in hard-to-understand German legal language with super-long compound words!!
And the really hard thing about making this decision? We had one weekend's time to make it. We found all this out on Friday and the company needed to know first thing Monday morning what we wanted to do...go back to Ohio or stay in Germany forever. A major life-changing decision. One weekend. Less than 72 hours.
So we spent our weekend making pro/con lists, seeking the advice of our parents, talking logistics with our German friends, coming up with more questions than we could possibly find answers for in one short weekend. And praying. A lot. And getting a lot of headaches and not sleeping well at all.
After gathering all the information we had time to gather, going over and over the pros and cons, and having a lot of meaningful discussions, we began to see the events of the past couple of years of our lives with new meaning and new understanding. Let's just say...God works in mysterious and confusing ways. And late Sunday night we finally came to a decision.
And so...it is with great excitement and trepidation that I declare to everyone in blogland...
Monday, January 14, 2008
We have just had the most stressful weekend.