I'm on a two-week mission trip with our youth in China. If you want to follow our comings and goings (as much as I'm able to post), see the church website at www.eclc.org. I'm technologically limited at the moment, but will post more pictures too when I return.
Besides still being married to each other after sabbatical, Will and I can now add co-authorship to our list of accomplishments. We collaborated on a piece for Word and World entitled, "Actually, you did go to seminary to deal with parking!" It's an attempt to merge our professional worlds a bit. Maybe not our best writing, but perhaps a peek into what dinner table conversations are like at our house (when we're not telling the kids to stop using their forks as musical instruments. . ). The full article isn't online, but you can see the table of contents at the link above.
To protect the innocent, I have spared you many of the uglier moments of our trip. Suffice to say, we are still married and Child Protection hasn't come for us yet. But if anyone is contemplating travel in Europe with small children, especially three-year-olds, you can see my advice on the matter at Rick Steve's Graffiti Wall.
Those of you who know Will and I know that we can be, um, a bit absent-minded. Add two small children and lots of travel to the mix, and you get a long list of lost and found. I promise not to write forevermore about the sabbatical nearly past, but here's the final tally of gains and losses:
Gains and losses:
Lost and regained: Johannes’ beloved blankie, left in
the cab on the way to the airport.
Icelandic sweaters at the second-hand store (what a deal!) in Reykjavik;Three Norwegian sweaters; One Norwegian wool hat bought at the Fish Market in Bergen in the driving
rain. Salesperson: “Do you need a bag?” Will: “Heck no, I’m going to wear it!”
Russian novels; You’d think I would have had time to read these on sabbatical.
Lost: One big pretzel, dropped in the Bächle in Freiburg (see below); One plastic boat, washed down the
rain in the same.
Broken: Our favorite point-and-shoot digital camera,
a model they don’t make anymore, damaged irreparably when Johannes decided to
be “helpful” and knocked it off the fridge in Freiburg.
Lost and replaced: Katie’s blue bandana, an
indispensably flexible play item used variously as a sling, a baby carrier, a
blanket, or a do-rag.
Removed: One tick from Johannes’ side (see below).
Broken: One Alsatian beer glass, purchased in Strasbourg, shattered
when it fell off the table on the train.
Gained: Five English children’s paperbacks, given to Katie by
American friends living in Paris.
Purchased,Left behind and later replaced:
Johann’s Alles Über die Eisenbahn book, the only book he had along on
the trip, left on the train to Lubeck.
Left behind: Katie’s pink rain jacket, left on the
train from Myrdal to Flom, Norway..
Lost: Will’s good binoculars, left on the bench
outside the grocery store in Aurland, Norway
Forgotten: One giant bag of organic groceries,
purchased in Munich
and left in the back ofa train station
Completely worn out: Two sets of children’s shoes
Gained: One German dictionary and one Russian
phrasebook, not ours,mysteriously
appeared in the DHL box we shipped home from Freiburg.
Lost: Two calendars, mysteriously vanished from above
Confiscated: One piece of Black Forest ham, two Swiss
apples, and two half-eaten sandwiches, tossed in the burn bag by USDA officials
upon our return to Minneapolis (fortunately, they did not fine us $1000, as
they threatened to do when we forgot about the apples and failed to declare
Gained: A sense
of distance from the American political fray, a slower pace, a new perspective,
a happy acceptance of $4 gas and a determination to allow some of the
simplicity of these 12 weeks to remain in our lives at home.
We never intended to do a "grand tour" as part of this sabbatical. I mean, we have two small children and we are not insane. In the planning process, we kept saying, "next time, without the kids." Nevetheless, in the latter part of our time abroad, the numbers speak for themselves:
Eight countries (if you coun the 10 minutes on the train through Austria)
Since we left Freiburg, we have bee on
Eighteen streetcars or subways
Eight private car rides (mostly from our relatives)
Eight boats (water taxis, ferries, and one big cruise ship)
Three bike rentals
One bicycle taxi
and two airplanes
We are tired, grimy, a little tired of each other, and in desperate need of haircuts. Our house is cluttered, the mail will take weeks to read, and the weeds have applied for permanent residency.