March has come in like a lion. Will it go out like a lamb?
For those of you following us on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), you know that we arrived to our new home in Poland two weeks ago. This marks a new chapter in our adventures. Spain was a vacation. France was a vacation. This next chapter will be more like day-to-day, normal life – only it is anything but normal for us.
We will establish a home here in Czestochowa for the next five months. We will make new friends, find new markets, banks, hair salons, gyms and local treasures. We will also take long weekends and spring breaks throughout Eastern Europe, day trips to new cities around Poland and delve into histories and cultures largely unfamiliar to us.
But as is often the case after any vacation, there is an adjustment period – the return to normalcy. Sometimes it’s an easy and comfortable slip back into daily life. Other times it’s a bumpy transition. Often, it’s a little of both.
That has been the case for us these past few weeks. It was a relief to unpack the car and empty the suitcases (such a relief!). It was wonderful to wake up in the same house for a few days with nothing to do and no urgency to see the sites. We simply rested. The kids played toys. We cooked, read books and bought a few furnishings and decorations to make the house more like home. We settled.
Since then we have met new neighbors, been invited for home cooked dinners and been taken on tours of local schools, churches, gyms and play places. New friends have brought farm fresh eggs and taken us to restaurants serving the best of the local specialties. Old friends have introduced us to their children and set up play dates. Mike has begun teaching at the university and I’ve begun teaching at home. Routines are taking shape and we are enjoying the time we get to spend together, which is substantial without having to be at work, school, sports, theaters, etc.
We our relishing in the conversations with new friends, which have covered a wide range of topics – Poland, USA, history, politics, education, finance, religion, children, travel, etc. Miss A has even made a new friend, Mr. A. He lives across the street and their bedroom windows are directly opposite one another. He posts notes to her in English and she posts notes to him in Polish. They are both very excited to have a “foreign” friend. As for Mr. N, he has started a daily, family newspaper complete with a crime blotter where he details the offenses of his little sister. It is exhilarating…
And it is exhausting.
As the feeling of vacation wore off, there were also struggles. While on vacation you generally don’t “miss” things because you know you’ll quickly return; but as I said, this is no longer a vacation. This is our daily life now, and with that came some homesickness. We’ve all had our moments. We’ve melted down, cried and been frustrated. We’ve gotten on each other’s nerves, slammed a few doors and written angry tirades in our journals. I don’t say this as a complaint. I say this to offer an honest look at our sabbatical life. While it is an adventure, it’s also real life. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Language barriers can be tough. Unfamiliar surroundings can be challenging and unsettling. Some things that come easily at home are more challenging here. Other things are simply different. None of this is surprising, or even bad. It was expected. It’s part of what will make this experience so valuable for us. But it is tiring and at times trying because as you start to feel settled you almost expect things to feel like home, but they don’t. So it requires patience, new perspectives, learning and energy. Lots of energy. It requires us to come together in ways we didn’t expect and deepens our bonds. It requires hugs, snuggles and empathy. It requires playfulness, focus, listening and observing.
Yesterday was Leap Day. It was also our 50th day away from home. I asked the kids to record 10 things they have learned, observed, felt or experienced up to this point in their journals. What they wrote astounded me. As they are deeply personal, I will not share them here, but they were thoughtful, introspective and even surprising. So while this transition into our new life abroad may be bumpy at times, amazing at others, it is certainly already changing us.
It’s an adventure that will ask a lot of us, but I have no doubt it will give more in return.
So for the next few weeks while we adjust to our new surroundings, we’ll continue to post about our adventures in Spain, France and Germany. Then, once we’re a bit more oriented and in our new groove, we’ll begin sharing more about our daily life. In the meantime, if you’d like more current updates, you’ll find them sprinkled about on social media.
As for today, it’s March 1st, which means the next issue of Wine Tourist Magazine is out and my new column is available online. This month we explore the wine and food of Slovenia (a country we hope to visit in the coming months!). And much like we’re conquering fears on our sabbatical, I conquered my fear of making a yeast bread! For the recipe pictured throughout this post, click here.