After quite a few hours of travel, we arrived in Germany on last Saturday around noon. Most of you were still sleeping. It feels odd, actually to be in a time zone 7 hours different than home. It is like being in the future and makes home feel very far away. Actually, we didn’t arrive immediately in Germany. Our last flight landed us in the Basel Airport, which is shared by France and Switzerland. After navigating some confusion and crowds, we made it out the door into France, where we were met by Chris Greathouse and his daughter Emma. It only took a few minutes by car to get over the border into Germany.
This southwestern Black Forest area of Germany is beautiful hilly countryside dotted with tiny villages. The houses and shops are all crowded together in the valleys and partway up the hillsides, and then surrounded by wide open fields and evergreen forests. Walking paths are everywhere — through the villages, into the fields and woods, and (if you go far enough) on to other villages. They even have signposts on the footpaths with distances marked to nearby or far villages and cities. If you had the time you could walk pretty much anywhere.
We didn’t do much on Saturday beyond tagging along to the grocery store. I am told that buying processed or ready-made foods is much more expensive here, but that basic ingredients are cheaper (though also available by season instead of year-round). That’s exciting to me since I have found in Arkansas it is often expensive to cook from scratch.
Sunday we headed to church. Bells were ringing through the valley as we left the house. It was beautiful. We went with the Greathouses to the BFCA church, which is in English. The service was great, very similar to home. We met some people, though I can’t remember the names and then were taken to Riedlingen, a nearby village, to eat lunch with two more couples from Northwest Arkansas that work for the international Christian boarding school here called Black Forest Academy (BFA). We had a wonderful visit, including an afternoon walk, which is traditional in Germany on Sundays. That night we joined the Greathouses at a party up on top of the mountain, where we met many more people. We had many conversations about transitioning and living in Germany, especially with kids.
On Monday we decided to lug the big camera around as we got a tour of BFA, the bilingual elementary school, the Janz Team office, and one of the dorms for BFA. We even got to peak into a German Kindergarten. Chris and Jenny took us out to lunch at one of their favorite restaurants. It was Turkish food and very good. Then we spent the afternoon in meetings with Teach Beyond staff. We got more pictures as we walked home through Kandern. It is hard to describe how absolutely picturesque it is here, even in November. I don’t even feel like the pictures do it justice. We hear that the grass stays green all year, even though it gets about as cold as Arkansas in the winter. It’s not as hot in the summer, so it’s probably a different more cold-resistant variety.
Tuesday, John and I ventured out on our own to order coffee (or Kaffee in German) and pastries at the bakery. It’s a bit overwhelming to me to be asked something in German and have absolutely no understanding of the words or how to say I don’t understand. I think after this trip, Spain might feel much more comfortable, just because I have a rudimentary knowledge of the language. We survived, and I even found my way back to the Greathouses’ house in order to tag along with Jenny on a shopping trip, while John was in some technical media meetings. Jenny and I drove to Lörrach, which she described as the Springdale of Kandern. We were checking out a fabric outlet store to look for some fabric for Jenny’s mom that we could take back to her in the states. We couldn’t find the fabric, but we had a good conversation anyway. She also took me to the grocery store that she commonly shops at here in Kandern. It looked and felt very like Aldi’s in the US, down to buying or bringing your own bags (which is common practice here). There were some differences in products, but most looked the same, just with German labels.
In the afternoon, I met back up with John so we could observe a Skype meeting between TeachBeyond and a school in Indonesia. John and I have both found our vision and excitement for what TeachBeyond is doing globally growing, and this meeting increased that. Then we were able to meet with the lady in charge of PR with Janz Team (the precursor to TeachBeyond, and now the German music ministry division) to finish off our meetings. We were invited to share supper with one of the girl dorms. It was crazy and loud, but fun.
Wednesday we visited the bilingual school again to observe a math class taught in German. Elise would attend this school if we came next year, so we had lots of questions about how the bilingual part worked, and how hard it would be for Elise to jump in at 4th grade. We met with a teacher, who was very helpful in answering our questions.
We tagged along with Jenny to France to check two more fabric stores. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find what Jenny was looking for, but John and I got to experience a little of France, including some fancy French pastries, which were available in the sporting goods store of all places.
Yesterday (Thursday) we visited Basel, Switzerland on a sight-seeing day. This is a city of about 1 million people about 30 minutes to the south (45 by bus) with museums, a zoo, and plenty of bigger-city shopping like Ikea. It was a great time to relax and walk, and we were able to experience a Christmas Market (sort of like an outdoor craft show).
Our time here has been amazing so far. The countryside is beautiful and beckons us to stay and see what all the different seasons bring to the picture. The Germans we’ve met have been friendly and kind. Their culture of Old Europe inspires me in many ways.
Thank you for your continued prayers for us during this time. We’ll be here until tomorrow exploring the area and then we’ll be off to the Mediterranean.