I recently read Slipping Into Paradise, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, about how he moved to New Zealand and felt he had come home. That made me mull over what makes a place feel like home.
Even when I was only in college, I refused to say I was "going home" when I went to my parents' house. I decided that I wanted to live in my own home, even if it was "only" a dorm room, thank you very much!
How much more, now that I have a husband and children, is my home where I live with them, rather than some far-off place where I grew up? I have no idea where we will move once we go back to the States, but I do know that I hope it is not a big city like LA, where I grew up. Yes, America has things I am familiar with, and they speak my language (though not in my parents' neighborhood, which is Spanish-speaking), but, for now, my home is in Germany, and I'm very happy here.
I have to admit that my feeling of being at home here goes deeper than making the best of things. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with this place.
Now, I should mention that we have lived in four different places since we moved here. The first place, Leithoefe, is a village of 11 buildings and had 31 inhabitants when we were there. It also has a stunningly gorgeous view. I would sit on my sofa and stare out the window and my soul would be fed.
We were halfway up a hill, overlooking a green valley. On the other side of the valley was another little village and also forests. Inside the valley were green fields. Over the valley, birds soared and played on wind currents, and rainbows shone when a storm blew through. Deer ran across the fields or grazed during the winter. I had never lived anywhere remotely as beautiful.
When we heard that our landlords had another use for our apartment, we were devastated. Since then, each move has gotten us a slightly less beautiful but slightly more convenient place. Even now, five minutes from work, we can take a short walk to get to a hilltop with a lovely (if not spectacular) view.
I do love living in the country, with many conveniences of the city not too far away. Another thing that makes it easy to be at home here is e-mail. We moved here in 1996, about the time most of my best friends got connected. Now I can chat with the people I love most in the world regularly, instead of waiting months for letters. I feel closer than I did when we lived in Illinois!
I also love being in the middle of Europe. We're not far from France, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium. We've had fabulous, but relatively inexpensive vacations to Ireland, England, Scotland, Austria, Paris, Bavaria, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Prague. Our list of places we want to go visit only gets longer, and it's all possible now that we live here and don't have to worry about the price of international flights. I didn't used to have a travel bug, but now I love seeing these places I have read about all my life.
I do like the German language. I didn't grow up speaking the same language as my neighbors, so maybe that's why that part of it doesn't bother me. German is so lovely and logical. They don't seem to have as many different words as we do--they simply put words together. For example, "raccoon" is "Washbear"! When all is said and done, it's awfully close to English. Little words, like "Das ist gut" in English come from the German roots.
And who knew how much fun taking pictures of castles could be? I've always liked taking pictures, but now I have a new hobby--taking pictures of castles. There's something magical about an 800-year-old castle and the fact that it's stood there for so long and has seen so many people come and go. I also like the fascinating shapes left in the ruins and the fact that they almost always have a stunning view up on a hill.
Of course, the extra money in the form of a "cost of living" allowance that my husband is paid doesn't hurt a bit. They want to pay us more to live in Europe? That sounds like a good deal to me!
Another thing I love about being here is that, thanks to the "cost of living" allowance, I got to quit a job I disliked (teaching math) and switch to one that I love (working in the base library), with a year and a half in between getting to stay home with my two-year-old. I now read at least three times as many books per year as I used to. I finished writing my first children's book and have started another. I'm publishing a website, Sonderbooks, that is getting more and more popular.
I should also add that, when we extend for another "tour of duty" here in Europe, the Air Force pays for a trip back to see our families in the States. (They save the cost of moving someone.) No one paid for us to visit family when we lived in Illinois! And our families are surprisingly more eager to come visit us than they were then!
I can't imagine being happier with my life than I am now. What do I like about making my home in Germany? Well, what's not to like?