A Time for Everything

Thus far my blog has mainly chronicled Aaron and my travels. Right now though, I think I’ll share a little bit of an emotional journey that I’ve embarked on over the past few months. To start, I’ll share the below post that I wrote a few weeks ago, originally just for myself. As the weeks have passed and I’ve gone back and forth battling with the same emotions I dealt with below, I thought “Gee, maybe I’m not the only one who needs to hear this… maybe someone else does too!” So in that hope, if you’re lonely, tired, dispirited, or just in need of a little encouragement, I hope the below post gives you Joy.

Caio! Meg

March 2, 2016
I am a people person. I LOVE people. I love sad people, quiet people, happy people, loud people, people. I love people.

“My best life now” is when I am surrounded by people 24/7, pouring into them and they pouring into me. It’s why I loved college.

Even in college though, there are times when people are not around. I remember anxious hours of waiting late at night for my roommate to come back from study sessions in the library. I remember hours spent by myself in the dorm. I remember whole days my freshman year where I had little to no meaningful conversations. Those times frighten the Dickens out of me.

Why? I think I often use people as white noise to drown out thoughts that I don’t want to deal with. I’m stressed, so I distract myself with people. I’m bored, so I fill my time with people. If I make them feel better, that’s a good thing, right? But then there are times when I’m not with people. What happens then? If I define happiness by being surrounded by people, can I be happy alone?

To make me answer this question, God picked me up out of my comfortable familiar life back in the states and plumped me down in the middle of a country where I don’t know the language. Added to that, he placed my husband in a job where he is gone for about 75% of the day. So…… Now I have to confront that niggling doubt that’s always been in the back of my mind: can I survive without people I can communicate with?

If you were able to look at my heart over the last two weeks, you’d say no, I cannot. The best moments of these last few weeks have been when I was with people. But sadly those have also been the only moments when I was psychologically OK. So I know, I’m in a new country, leaving behind friends and family. I should allow myself to go through a hard time, it’s only natural, right? Wrong. Yes, I should expect some hard times, I should be patient with myself, but I can’t keep up with self-destructive behavior. It’s not fair to me, it’s certainly not fair to my husband, and most of all, it is not obedient to my God.

This past Sunday Aaron and I went to the contemporary service of worship at the base about 45 minutes south of us. Aaron is most comfortable in a suit and tie, so it was a big deal for him to don jeans, use the gas, and drive us to church. His experience with base chapels has not been good, so he was not really looking forward to the service. However, the pastor surprised us by reading large portions of the bible and preaching directly from it. A government employee being brave! He preached about the woman at the well in John 4. At the time, I’ll admit I kind of tuned out. I’d heard this sermon many times, and I let my mind wander.

Temporarily refreshed by being around people during the weekend, I dreaded the upcoming week and the time alone. After a few more days of depression, selfishness and moping, God changed me this morning.

Usually after seeing Aaron off in the morning, I jump straight into the shower. This morning however, I decided to read a few chapters of That Hideous Strength, a sci-fi story written by C.S. Lewis. This book does something I’ve never seen another book do: it creates a sci-fi world that is meshed with Christianity, fantasy, and philosophy. In a true Lewis manner, it uses description of fantasy to show the true beauty of Christ (much like Lewis’ better known series, the Chronicles of Narnia). As I read, God used the words to transform my spirit and remind me of my true Joy and purpose as his child. He showed me that the last few weeks I’d been responding to spiritual attacks in a fleshly manner. Much like the woman at the well, I’d been going day after day to pour myself, water from an ever-shrinking well, when all the time a fountain of Living Water had been welling up behind me, ready to refresh my soul.

This revelation came to me in such a burst of joy that I almost jumped and danced right there in the flat of the Hotel Maas. The world had taken on a new perspective because once again I had found those things I’d been trying to find in people (joy and purpose) in the one Source who would never disappoint, and who was always there for me. Not only does He speak English, He speaks the hidden language of my heart.

I truly felt this morning that I had been liberated. I still love people, but at least right now, I can remember that I don’t need them to be happy. This is the truth I’ve caught glimpses of over the past years, but never felt so fully. I know the attacks will come. I know the world, the flesh, and the Devil will do what they can to push me back down into the pit of selfishness, but I also know that I can come back to the fountain of Living Water and drink from it until I am satisfied. In Christ, I am more than a conqueror.

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Cross-Country Training Part 2

 

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Last Saturday morning Aaron and I rose (somewhat reluctantly) at an early hour to drive to Cochem and take the train from there to Cologne via Koblenz. I tried to remember what I had learned from our guide in Trier, but apparently did not select the right tickets because the only option the machine gave me was for a ticket costing 300 euro. Deciding I needed help, I walked over to the information booth where a young German man was sitting. Thankfully he spoke excellent English and soon had us sorted with the right tickets and an awesome schedule detailing when and where we would need to be to get the train home. Praise!
We boarded the train with a few other student-aged Germans a few minutes later, and were soon speeding towards Koblenz along the Moselle river. When we first boarded the train we noticed how many of the passengers seemed to be in a very jovial mood. They were sipping alcoholic beverages out of glasses (where they got the glasses, or if they brought them along I guess I’ll never know!) and talking to each other in loud voices. We caught a glimpse of a young woman in a white dress, holding flowers and surrounded by other young women in red dresses some way down the train. We shrugged our shoulders and Aaron said: “Wedding, I guess?
We seated ourselves and before long we heard laughter and loud German voices coming our way. The “bride” and her party came up to us and amid laughter breathlessly said something in German. I responded with my ever-handy “My German is not good, do you speak English?” phrase and one of the young woman who spoke some English took over. “We have choco-balls” she pointed to a bowl one of the red dress-wearing woman was holding, “roses for your wife” she said holding up her bouquet, “and also shots of alcohol!” With this last triumphant display the woman in white pointed to her belt where, ammo-like, she had little glass shot bottles strapped to her waist. Aaron bought me a rose and I got two choco-balls to share, but we declined the alcohol: it was after all, 10am.
We were confused as to why on earth the women were selling these things, or whether or not this was a normality on German trains. When we switched trains in Koblenz we did see lots of people wearing the white and red colors of a local soccer team, so we think the women might have been selling concessions to raise money for something having to do with the game. Anyway, we made the switch at Koblenz Hauptbahnhoff and had a longer ride to Cologne. As we neared the city, the train became increasingly crowded as more people hopped on. By the time we arrived, we were rather squished and eager to get off.
The whole reason we went to Cologne was to meet up with one of Aaron’s college friends who was studying theoretical physics at Oxford, and was doing a research project for his PhD in Germany. The last I had met him was at a nice burger joint in Columbia. I was struck by his charming eccentricity, but he did not seem to make sense in the context of Columbia. Here however, he was perfectly at home. “I’m sitting on the steps of the cathedral right outside of the station.” He texted Aaron. “I am wearing a violently blue toboggan. You can’t miss me.” We walked out of the station and sure enough there he was: sitting on the steps in front of the massive Cologne Cathedral and wearing a very blue hat.
Here in Europe, Jim seemed right at home. Aaron once told me one of their mutual friends had described Jim as “A 30s actor playing a theoretical physicist.” Looking at him now, I could see why. Jim personally reminded from a character out of Brideshead Revisited and I could easily pciture him walking along the stone cloisters of one of the Oxford colleges, chatting about physics with an Oxford Don.
As we walked we talked about everything from the state of current American politics (an inevitable item for Americans abroad), Germany, school, plans, and philosophy. We walked a little ways until we had found a restaurant that looked pleasant from the outside, and went in.
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It was crowded, but we were able to find a place near the window. A waitress arrived soon bearing a huge wooden tray with glasses of pale yellow Kolsch beer. Incidentally, one should never order Altbier (the beer made in the nearby city of Duseldorf) at a restaurant in Cologne: these cities are as proud of their beers as American colleges are of their football teams. We all ordered schnitzle (when in Rome…) and were soon feasting, talking, and laughing in the leisurely European style.
After a lunch that lasted over two hours, we made our way back to Cologne Cathedral and went inside. I have seen several cathedrals now, and a few abbeys. This one topped it all – pun intended. Cologne Cathedral was by far the largest cathedral I have been in, and one of the tallest in the world. The church I was married in could have easily fit inside it. It was very dark – much more dim than any other churches I’d seen, and not just because of the cloudy day. The candles, however, burnt more brightly because of the gloom, and the effect was not at all unpleasant. After roaming around and viewing the restored stained glass (the original was almost all destroyed in the World Wars) we decided to climb the belfry.
For some reason we had to pay several euro to do this. Considering the feat, I think we should actually have been paid to do it. Half-way up the narrow winding steps I was already out of breath, and by the time we reached the top, my legs felt like noodles. The view from the top was worth it though: miles upon miles of city stretched below us, and we could make out most of the 12 Romanesque churches scattered throughout the city, as well as the long brown Rhine stretching away below.
Our next stop was the museum of modern art, and we spent several hours on a self-propelled historical tour and philosophical conversation as we meandered past Surrealism, Dadaism, and Postmodernism. By the by, I am not a huge fan of modern art, but I really enjoyed talking about the movements, the artists, and the philosophy behind them with Aaron and Jim. We finished around five and had time for a quick coffee in the nice restaurant attached to the museum before Jim had to leave. I hope we shall get to spend more time with him in the future, he was an admirable fellow-adventurer.
Aaron and I had time to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant before we left, but soon enough we were also speeding through the night, past the German countryside and to our home. Two train rides in three days, and I must say that I am a fan of this mode of travel.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below with your favorite train experiences – I’d love to hear from you.
Meg

Cross-Country Training Part 1

In the last week, I have been on the first two train rides of my life (unless the ride at Tweetsie Railroad counts), and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The similarity of the German train system (in appearance and organization) to the London Underground meant that I felt accustomed to the operation pretty much right off the bat. However, the comfort and ease of travelling by train far surpassed the Tube, and I must agree with Aaron that “Travelling by train is my favorite way to travel.”

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My first ride was a short trip: just from a station outside Spangdahlem down to Trier. Captain Payne picked me up from the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, and we met the group we were to travel with. It was led by an indomitable German man: wine-taster and connoisseur, chef, hiker, backpacker, and guide. He was basically the equivalent of a cultural Gandalf, and I asked him many of the questions I’d had about Germany since landing over a month ago.
The group was an extremely diverse one: one young couple just arrived, a civilian contractor who looked more European than most Europeans (she was actually from Florida, I think), a few other singles (Aaron had to work, so I was soloing this time), and several small families. We bused to the station, but then when our guide (pretty sure his name was Andy – I missed it at first and didn’t have the courage to re-ask!) went in and talked to the stationmaster, we heard that the train was going to be a few minutes late. I decided to take a look at the station, which was a brick castellated building, surrounded  by woods and the ever-present bike-trail.
Soon our train arrived, but we had not been on it for more than 10 minutes when an announcement in German came over the loudspeaker: alas, our train was going to have to drop us off at a nearby station and another would pick us up. I never found out why the trains switched, but sure enough when we reached the next station (this time attached to a tiny German village) the train stopped and everyone went to the doors. I made a mental note to always ask in future if I heard an announcement over the speakers that I didn’t understand! We had about 30 minutes of standing around on the station platform, so I walked up and down the village front to see if the village had a bakery or cafe – alas! It was only houses.
Before long another train had arrived, and in no time this one was zipping into Trier with all of us safely on board. We got off at the giant (comparatively speaking) Trier Hauptbahnhoff (main-station), and headed downtown, led by our German Gandalf (can I just call him Germdalf or Gandman? I can’t even remember if his name was actually Andy…). I had already seen many of the landmarks that he pointed out, but he was able to shed new light on a few of them, and I learned all those interesting historical tidbits that the best of guides knows.
We lunched at the famed Kartoffeln house (that means potato house for the uninitiated. It is very German and quite delicious!). As we ate, Gandman (I’m just going to go with it) told us all about the local wines (apparently the white Reisling is the best) and how to drink it. He told us about how and where he got his vegetables and fruits, and I listened attentively to that. Our new village has no grocery store, so getting fresh vegetables is going to be an interesting challenge.

After lunch, the group had several hours of free time. I joined our guide and a few others who went to a local bookstore so that Gandman could show us the best hiking maps for our respective area. I left with one myself, already daydreaming about hiking all along the creeks, fields, and forests of my new neighborhood. I split from the group then, and in the remaining hours before our train left, I walked down the main street and then sat drinking a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe.

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As I sipped my delicious coffee I realized that it was the moment thus far in my trip when I felt (simultaneously) most at home in my surroundings and most definitely in Europe. My previous trip to Trier and the coffee in my hand explained the security and comfort, and the sunny stone-paved street, the cheerful cafes sprinkled about with people on tables (none of whom were on their phones, by the way) and more people strolling by with their shopping or ice creams explains the feeling of consummate European-ness.
After a while I headed back to the station, meeting up with my group along the way. We had a pleasant, uneventful ride back to Spangdahlem, and I left that evening thinking with gratitude of the all the things I had learned; not the least of which was that now, at last, I felt at home here in my new surroundings.
Meg
P.S. Keep an eye out for Cross-Country Training part 2 – a trip to Cologne!

Dining in Deutschland

I’ve had a couple people ask me about the food here, so I thought I’d do a short post on some of my culinary experiences thus far.

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(View out of our window-seat at Zum Domstein in Trier)
Several times within the first week of our arrival, I had heard people mention how tired they got of the food at the hotel where we were staying. This surprised me, especially after my first meal there. I ordered a chicken, stuffed with sage and topped with cream sauce, with carrots and potatoes, and found it quite delicious. Aaron and I chuckled a little at the English translations on the menu. (Side note, English and German syntax are so different from each other that word-for-word translations can be quite laughable.) But after some further translating, Aaron got beef with Mosel peaches, and enjoyed his meal as well. In the ensuing weeks I tried wienerschnitzle (pork with mushroom and cream sauce), chicken with curry (there are some interesting Turkish and Indian influences mixed into the German culinary palette), tomato and veggie soup, and more. Aaron had spatzle several times – a sort of special noodle made with potato, I believe (probably a safe bet, everything here is made with potato).
Once I got situated and learned how to run the gauntlet that is the German grocery store, our meals were varied by my own culinary attempts. As our stay at the Maas lengthened, these home-made meals became more frequent and agreeable. Eating at one restaurant every night for weeks can certainly bring on a sense of ennui, and Aaron and I both lost the initial fervor that we had for the restaurant’s food. I used not to understand the Americans who, in foreign countries, sought out the nearest Chipotle or McDonalds. Now, I have more sympathy. Food is such an innate part of comfort and community, that one sometimes wishes for a familiar meal at the end of a long day.
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Besides the Roman meal we ate in Trier (see previous post) most of our meals have been similar to those described above. Germans seem to thrive on pork, potatoes, yogurt, and salt. Even dishes that seem to have none of those ingredients seem somehow to taste like them, though not necessarily in a disagreeable way.
One of the most interesting experiences I have had with German food thus far happened last week. Normally at the Maas while your food is preparing, a nice waiter or waitress will bring out a basket of delicious bread, and a small dish of a sort of sour cream with herbs in it. Aaron prefers butter (being the good Anglophile that he is) and usually forgoes the cream, but is generally happy to help me with my portion of the bread.
Last week as were waiting for our food, the waiter brought us something different to go with our bread. This waiter is probably in his early twenties, kind and very German-looking, and has served us many times. Though he doesn’t speak much English (and we don’t speak much German) he has always made us feel at home with his ready smile and constant question of “Alles gut?” (“Is all well?”). He seemed particularly pleased that evening when he brought us something else in a small dish to eat with our bread that night. I thought at first that it was the usual herbs and cream, but instead it was something that looked more like stiff mashed potatoes. “Was ist das?” I asked him. He smilingly replied in German, but I had no idea what he meant. He obviously figured that I didn’t understand, so after thinking a few moments he said: “I don’t know how to say. But all I can say is that it is pig-butter?” I nodded and smiled, pretending to be ok with this strange item. He pointed to the bread, and said something in German that obviously meant “You dip your bread in it.” I thanked him again, and after he left looked in dismay at Aaron.
We were equally divided between amusement at the strange dish (which we think might have been lard?) and the uncertainty of how we were going to pretend that we ate some. In the end we smeared it around a little in the dish and hoped that it would do. Neither one of us considered for an instant the possibility of eating any. Perhaps we were not being adventurous enough, but when it comes to pig-butter, I think I can be safely allowed to pass.
On a more agreeable note, our wonderful new landlady had us over a few Sundays ago to discuss our house etc. and served us a fine afternoon tea while we were there. Beef and cucumber sandwiches, egg sandwiches, cakes and tarts of all sorts were laid out for us on a beautiful table decorated with candles. She even got our her china for us and served us coffee! We felt like royalty.
German grocery stores have inexpensive and fresh fruit and veggies, and that has been a delight to an apprentice cook like myself. But that’s a story for another day, perhaps.
Until then,
Meg

Tramping around Trier

Trier was incredible. As Aaron said, “It will be like our Charleston while we are here.” It is a mix of historical buildings, fun events, good shopping and food, and best of all, just under an hour away.

The first thing that drew us to Trier was the multitude of Roman ruins. Founded in 4BC, it may be the oldest city in Germany. The Romans and Byzantines left many ruins there, from the Porta Nigra reconstructed by Napoleon to the Basilica of Constantine. The Porta Nigra was the first thing we saw when we walked out of the parking garage, and I suppressed (almost) all of the Lord of the Rings references that sprang to mind. The gate was colossal, and must have been even larger at the height of the Roman occupation of the area. The stone was dark and sooty-looking, meriting its name. It was truly the gate-way to our experience in Trier, and we walked beneath its massive opening to make our way toward the hauptmarkt (main market) and the buildings beyond.

The buildings that surround the main market -all half-timbered houses painted bright and pastel colors – were built in the 1600s, but the market cross and fountain date much further back from that. I felt as though we were passing back in time as we continued through the town, going from Renaissance through the Middle Ages to the Roman times.

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The beautiful Trier Dom (cathedral) dominates the center city. Built on ruins from Constantine’s time, the current building dates from sometime after the 9th century. The inside was much more ornate than Maria Laach, reminding me more of Westminster Abbey in London. Gothic windows filled with stained glass poured light across the marble floors and carved wooden pews. Music was floating quietly through the building; whether it was a recording put on to quiet the otherwise chatty crowds of tourists, or the sounds of a distant group of monks practicing for mass I never could determine.

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Besides being an impressive architectural structure, the dom also contained a treasury of articles of immense antiquity and value, including the drinking vessel of St. Helena (Constantine’s Christian mother) and a nail supposedly used to crucify Christ.

After touring the dom, Aaron and I walked across the street to Zum Domstein, a restaurant specializing in Roman recipes from 30AD! We both tried the pork and fig dish, and I also had the Roman “mulsum” cocktail: honeyed wine and herbs. They were definitely different from what we were used to culinarily, but we enjoyed the restaurant and the food immensely.

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After lunch, a walk through a street or two of shops brought us to the Basilica of Constantine. The massive brick building was impressive, and I longed to go inside. The building was locked however, so we contented ourselves to listening for a few minutes to the organ music we could vaguely hear playing inside.

A walk around to the other side of the building brought us to the Baroque palace built alongside one of the Basilica walls, and the combination building -Roman and Baroque – served as such a perfect image of Trier as a whole that I had to stop and snap a picture.

We spent a few hours in the nearby museum, which once again reinforced our desire to learn German. Aaron Sanders in a museum where he cannot read about the displays is truly a sad thing! We had coffee and cake in the little cafe attached to the museum, and discussed the merits of modern architecture while the sun slanted down through the large glass windows.

We walked back to our car, stopping into a few antiquaries and home-goods shops on the way.

In the few hours we spent there, Trier already began to feel comfortable and homelike. “You know,” Aaron said as we walked along the stone streets. “There is still one thing that Trier doesn’t have that Charleston does.” I nodded, knowing already what he was going to say. “The sea.”

So it is. Trier was wonderful, Germany is incredible. But some part of my heart still remains in the States. We enjoy our time here knowing it is just a brief time in the span of our lives, but I look forward to the day when we can walk not along the stone streets of Trier, but the cobbled roads of our own beloved Charleston once again.

 

 

Maria Laach

This past weekend, Aaron and I went exploring.
We were finally fully recovered from the first few hectic weeks in this new country, and were itching to look around at all the incredible historical places that were just a stone’s throw away from our hotel.
After a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon (always good to eat well before adventuring!) we took to the autobahn. Aaron is now quite skilled in the German art of autobahn driving, so we sped along quickly through snowy German forests and past fields lying fallow, but looking for all the world like they were sprinkled with cotton plants. The snow of the day before had melted from the roads, and left the country pleasantly clean-looking and bright under a cloudy sky.
After about a half hour of driving, we took a winding road through the country for some miles, which suddenly opened out on our destinaton: the ancient Benedictine Abbey of Maria Laach. The turretted and steepled abbey rose suddenly out of the forest on our left, and on the right a large lake (Laacher See) opened out under an overcast sky. We parked and walked up to the back of the abbey, the romanesque monument towering over us in a grand display of architectural prowess.
We arrived a little early for the organ concert we had planned on attending at noon, and so we snuck in quietly and sat on the dark wooden pews at the back of the cathedral as the black-robed monks finished singing their latin mass. The leader of the mass was speaking in German, so I did not understand any of the words spoken, but the meaning transcended the foreign languages and as the murmured syllables fled up in echoes to the dark vault of the ceiling, I felt a sense of reverenace and awe equal to what the author of Hebrews describes in chapter 12 of his book.
After a few minutes, the monks filed out quietly and we were left alone with the dozen or so other onlookers who seemed to have come for the same purpose. As the noon-bell struck high up in the steeple, an older gentleman wearing black walked out and introduced himself and the program as he stood behind a lectern made from the outstretched wings of a golden eagle. I only caught the meaning of a few of his words (he too, naturally, spoke in German) but I was excited to hear him say “Bach” and “Johannes Brahms.”

The gentleman walked to side of the nave and disappeared from our sight, but a moment later the great organ began to sound throughout the stone hall and the whole place was filled with music. The concert lasted about half an hour, and in that time I had the opportunity to steal glances around me at the inside of the incredible church.

The abbey was founded in 1093, but has been restored several times since then. The walls were mainly composed of grey stone: mostly light grey with detailing in a darker shade. The only color came from the stained glass windows (these shone dully, as the sun outside was mainly obscured by clouds), and the ornately painted ceiling above the altar in the front of the church. Like the monks, the hall seemed clothed in darkness, but was illuminated by the dozen or so massive chandeleirs that hung between the pillars. Once I suppose they held candles, they now had been replaced with the soft glow of electric lights.
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The item in the room that kept drawing my eye however, was the ornate stone canopy that covered the altar. The canopy was Gothic or Romanesque in style, and upheld  by six slender columns that must have been incredibly strong for their size: they seemed too delicate to be supporting such an ornate structure.
After the concert ended, Aaron and I walked around the old structure, reading in the english guidebook about the sources and dates of each of the artifacts housed inside. We then strolled outside where the sun had at last begun to peek through the clouds. The monks of the abbey have crafthouses and gardens where they supply the goods for the gardenhouse, grocery, gallery, and craft store that now take up the northern side of the grounds.
At the bookstore I purchased a “stocknagel”: a little pewter medallion with an engraving of the abbey and the words “Maria Laach” inscribed beneath. I had just read in a book about Germany of these stocknagels, and was excited to have found one myself. Many German towns and places of interest sell them, and they are meant to be nailed onto and adorn wooden walking sticks as momentos of the places the owner visited.
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After a brisk walk down to the lake and admiring the abbey from the waterside, we packed ourselves back into the car and headed for Mayen. However, as I have written quite enough to tax the patience of even the most avid blog-reader, I think I will save our adventures in Mayen for another day.
Tchuss!
Meg

Praise God for Hospitality

Hospitality is always something I’ve taken for granted. My mom practices it every Sunday lunch, and often during the week. I’m used to getting together with my friends at their houses, dorms, or apartments, and until the last few months, I have taken that for granted.
When I moved out to Texas to be with Aaron for his last few weeks of training, we had the blessing of enjoying the hospitality of a couple in the church we attended who invited us, and a dozen or so other young people, to dinner and Bible study every Sunday night. The nights with the Hills in Texas are some of my fondest memories from those few weeks. We knew we would be leaving that behind when we came to Germany, and that was hard to bear.
I should have shared this story last week, but life here has already become busier than I could have expected!


Back to last weekend, our first in Germany. After a few days of trying to recover from jet-lag, land on our feet, and get Aaron started on in-processing to this new job (all without phones or cars) we originally thought our weekend was going to be a quiet one. I had spent several days more or less by myself in a strange town, so when Aaron returned from work on Friday to tell me that the Chief had invited us to spend the night with his family in Wittlich, I was excited, despite also being pretty tired.
The reason we were to stay with the Chief and his family that night is very complicated, but the gist was that he was going to help us meet up with the Commander the next day, so that we could look for cars in Ramstein (about an hour and a half away).


Chief Cord picked us up around 5pm two Fridays ago, and took us to his house in Wittlich, swinging by the local grocery store to pick up some bottles of wine to go with dinner. We arrived at the Chief’s house and I was surprised to see that he was speaking literally when he said “we have plenty of room for you – we live in an old hotel.” The quaint German hotel has been beautifully modified to fit the Cord’s needs, with a dining area and the old breakfast room repurposed to create a homeschool room for the Chief’s two children.
The place was very comfortable, and the whole family put us at ease. We soon sat down to an amazing dinner of Shepherd’s Pie (Kaylee Cord is an AMAZING cook), which made me at least feel quite at home – this being one of my favorite dishes that my mother makes!
Sitting around in the living room after dinner, having unlimited wifi access for the first time in days, playing with the children and the family’s two cats, and talking with the adults while sipping Italian wine was literally like heaven after the cold and empty hotel flat in Lutzerath. For the first time since touching down several days before, I felt comfortable, and safe. And with those two feelings came a sense of gratitude for the people who had re-arranged their weekend to open their house to two young people in a foreign place.
I’ve had friends before describe hospitality as heavenly, but I’d never felt that myself until that weekend. Now I know what they mean.
In the last few weeks I’ve run into other Americans newly arrived at the Maas, and I’ve tried to extend as much welcome as I can, because if I’ve learned anything, the comfort of friendship and kindness in a foreign land is like a warm fire on a freezing day. I am beyond grateful that our stay in Germany could have started off on such a foot – may I have the diligence to do the same for others in the years to come!