October 16, 2017 - 1 comment.

My First 40-ish Days

So, you might have caught on to something along these lines, but as of today, October 16th, I’ve been living here in Stuttgart for 42 days! Before I left the States, I didn’t really have a clear idea for what this first month or so living in Germany would be like. I anticipated new sights, sounds and smells, and I knew overall what being in Germany felt like, from the times I had visited, but those things were just a small glimpse at what living in Germany is really like. I knew it was just going to be amazing to be living within an hour of David, and I figured that there would be some sort of adjustment period, but I really wasn’t sure what it would be like to make Germany my home. But, I have to say, looking back, this first month has been so much better than I hoped it would be, but it was also much harder to move halfway across the world than I thought it would be.

When I got to Germany, David and I had already decided to make my first week here a “logistics of me living here full time” & a “let me get over jet lag" week. I’ve had less than ideal experiences with jet lag before, so we both thought that I would be feeling pretty tired and maybe a little bit sick during that first week. So, even though my German course began on Tuesday (the day after I arrived) I didn’t end up going to my first class until Friday. I felt fine about doing that because I already had a little German under my belt from the classes I took last winter, and David had taken that week off of work to help me get settled and to run errands we needed to do those first couple of days, so didn’t want to postpone any important appointments for when David didn’t have time off because of the language barrier.

We spent the first few days going to Ikea to buy things furnish my apartment with, managed to fit in a superb breakfast date, submitted applications at the city hall to register me at my new address, applied for the language learning visa I had decided would be the best option for me, opened a bank account at a German bank, set me up with German health insurance, a new phone plan, a train pass, and three additional months of language course on top of what I’d already registered for. By this point in the week (just 3 1/2 days after I arrived!) I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and a decent amount stressed out (but very luckily, only a little bit jet lagged!). No one can really tell you how difficult it is to constantly be in need of a translator when doing tasks that are already a bit complicated to begin with, until you’re actually in the middle of one of those situations. I feel very, very lucky to have David by my side during this entire process. For example, when we got to the immigration office to apply for my visa, we ended up with an application form that was in German, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Serbian, but no English. On top of that, the building we were in had such thick walls that we didn’t get cell reception, so I wouldn’t have even been able to Google Translate anything if I was on my own! I really am not sure what I would do if David wasn’t there to be my translator, encyclopaedia of knowledge about all things German, and encouragement when I was feeling tired or stressed out. I really wouldn’t be here in Germany (in more ways than one) if he wasn’t the main guy in my life!

I had decided a while back, that even though I had some understanding of the German language, I really wanted to start at square one (besides those 3 days at the beginning that I missed) with language classes, so I started with the most beginner course that you can take - Deutsch A1.1. After beginning the second course, A1.2, a week ago, I can really say that it was very very good that I started when and where I did. I won’t go into detail of this now, but people aren’t kidding when they tell you that German is a hard language to learn! There are a lot of rules, a lot of concepts that are very confusing at first, and a lot of things to memorize. As someone who only took three years of 3-times-a-week high school Spanish, I had no idea what 20 hours a week of German learning was going to be like. Thankfully, I’m a student at a very good school, with students who are in the same boat as me, with teachers who only want success for their students, and living in a place where I am constantly able to practice my German: whether its ordering coffee, understanding and responding to a grocery store teller, or reading signs in the U-Bahn station. I am always discovering just how much of the language I am retaining, and every day I understand just a little bit more. The other day after class, I literally walked up the street from my language school and saw a billboard using the exact same sentence structure that I had just learned an hour before in class. And whereas, the day before I wouldn’t have been able to fully read that sign, that day I was able to look up at it and know just what they were trying to say. Baby steps have become my new best friend!

Between weeks of school and studying and exploring the city, I have been blessed with visits from friends, visits to friends, and the (still) luxury of having David close by! It’s still easy for us to slip back into “vacation-mode” when he’s back in Stuttgart for the weekend, and try to see and do as much as possible, so we’re having to remind ourselves to take it easy - I’m not leaving anytime soon! Regardless of that, out of the 5 weekends I have been here, we been traveling, entertaining friends, and sightseeing for most of those! It just so happened that we had four friends visit for one long weekend, and since I’m one of those people who love it when my different worlds collide, so it was really special having two friends from Tauernhof and two friends from Bellingham come and visit at the same time! Since I’d only scratched the surface of touristy things to do in the Stuttgart area, it was fun to be able to play tourist as well and get to know my new city a little bit better. And for the past few years, I’ve mainly been the tour guide, when my Tauernhof friends have come to Seattle, so it was a treat for me to have David as our local guide for the weekend! We explored beautiful castle grounds and ate delicious pumpkin-y things at Schloss Ludwigsburg, embraced our inner German at the Canstatter Volksfest, and indulged our cravings for quaint, historical German towns in at the Bebenhausen village/monastery and in the city of Tübingen.

Then, after another busy week of school and settling in, and David’s mom’s Masters degree graduation ceremony, David, Jonathan and I set off to Schladming, Austria for the long weekend to visit my college roommate Madi who is currently studying at Tauernhof - where it all started for David and I two years ago! Between around 10+ hours of driving that weekend (due to some pretty awful rain/thunderstorms), hiking, catching up with Madi, and reliving fond memories in Schladming, we were exhausted! So finally, this last weekend, David and I decided to take it really slow and just enjoy not having very much planned. We spent our time cooking, watching Netflix, shooting photos in the city with one of David’s longtime friends, and going on some nice long walks through the fields around my neighborhood.

This last month has been full of learning - learning a new language, learning how to be a student again, learning how to live with a different family than my own, learning how to be a no-longer-long-distance girlfriend, learning how to navigate a new city in a new country… and so many more learning curves that I just can’t think of at the moment (because there really are so many). It really is still strange to think about the fact that this isn’t an extended vacation that I’m on. Every time I talk about something relating to Seattle, or the United States, I catch myself always thinking in terms of that being “home” and this here being “David’s city”. Seattle is always going to be my hometown, and I will always think of my parent’s house as a home for me, but, in time, I know that calling Stuttgart home will slowly roll off my tongue easier, and where I am now will begin to seem more like real life. But for now, I’m content to be in this transition phase - everything will settle in time, and my two cities will learn how to make room for each other in my heart.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in my move and my time settling into a new life. I have deeply appreciated all of your prayers, words of encouragement, and support in helping me carry out everything that needed to happen to make THIS a reality!

Published by: abbycham in Uncategorized


David Chamness
October 17, 2017 at 10:00 pm

I finally took some time to catch up on your life and your thoughts. Thank-you for doing this in that I can share a little more of your life transitions rather than just Instagram posts.
Love you! Dad

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