This weekend will mark the end of our third week in Germany. It has been a strange time for me, not so much from culture shock as from the relentlessly unsettled life we have led since September, when we first started getting ready to move. We spent those months dividing our life into Before and After, shedding numerous belongings, organizing our remaining belongings, taking a lovely three-week holiday at my parents house in Delaware, then, on Jan 17th, 2009 flying to Germany. There was a sense of passage on that day, as we finally passed from Before to After, and After became the present.
We spent the first week in Hornaue at Stefan's parents' house while we waited for our shipment to clear customs, after which we moved into the house in Hoisbuettel. It seemed like so much stuff when we packed it--nearly 100 boxes on three palettes comprising almost 300 cubic feet--but as we unpacked, it seemed like less and less. We brought most of our cookware, but no dishes or kitchen appliances; plenty of books, but no bookshelves; a few boxes of out-of-season clothing, but no furniture; our mattress and bedding, but no bed.
Odds and ends of furniture have appeared at the house over the last two weeks as friends and family have donated or lent them. In addition to our four folding banquet chairs and Eris's high chair, all of which we had shipped, we have acquired an Ikea-style television stand and side table, an eighties vintage recliner, a crib for Eris, two German bed frames, a couple of chests of drawers, and a small bookshelf. We did buy a coffee table and a dining table on a recent trip to Ikea. Although we don't have a couch, the coffee table was on super-duper sale, and someday we'd like to have a couch. We needed to get the dining table as it was getting a little hard on the neck eating at the kitchen counter while sitting in our banquet chairs.
An interesting twist is that we don't have any closets in this house. All of our clothes are in the aforementioned chests of drawers and bookshelf. Nor do we have a basement--all of our books and excess clothing are currently stored in the upstairs crawl space. But we have so little stuff that storage is only an issue for the clothes we are using. Storage we will eventually need, but that need pales in comparison to the basics we are missing. We don't have a washing machine and we live in a rural village with no laundromat. We don't have a car and we live in a rural village with reliable but infrequent transit. We don't have broadband internet access. We don't have a landline telephone. We will have neither of these for weeks. We have two (donated) televisions, neither of which works because they are pre-digital. We have a stereo receiver that doesn't work and a couple of speakers that may or may not work, but we can't test them because the receiver and televisions don't work. We don't have a microwave or blender or food processor. We don't have any tools. We have a borrowed tea kettle.
This is not meant to be a lament of the things we do not have, rather an illustration of the continued state of unsettledness we find ourselves in. I don't understand the radio, can't watch television, and, without high-speed internet, can't easily navigate public transit or look up places to shop. Although we have technically passed from Before to After, it is indiscernible--I am still waiting for things to happen so that the next things can happen. We need a car so we can go places to get things, we need a washer so I don't spend so much time washing-wringing-hanging, we need the internet so that I can learn something about where I am and where I need to go. Although I am living here, I am not yet participating in life here.
This could be a moment to realize how little we really need to get by, but it is also a moment to recognize those things we rely on to feel comfortably settled and engaged in our surroundings. Mobility. Information. Communication. And clean clothes.