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Saturday, August 07, 2004

Living in Germany

When I was back in California at Christmastime, a relative asked me what I liked about living in Germany. I was so surprised by the question--I thought I had more than answered that over the years--that I hardly knew what to say. As I'm starting this blog, I thought it might be nice to begin by talking about why I love living here.

I'm also going to try to keep my postings shorter, more readable in a small amount of time, so I may only begin on that topic.

We moved to Germany at the end of 1996. My husband, Steve, is in the U. S. Air Force Band, and he got transferred as a volunteer to be part of the U. S. Air Forces in Europe Band.

About a year before, I had read an article in "Postive Living" magazine that suggested writing down your dreams. On a whim, I wrote down several. These weren't goals. They weren't things I thought were likely to come true any time soon. They were simply neat things that I would love to have happen. When we moved to Germany, 9 of them came true all at once. How could I not be happy?

The biggest dream was that I got to quit teaching Math. I have a Master's degree in Math, and since I got that, I had been teaching at the college level. First, I taught full-time at Biola University in California, where I also did my undergraduate work. When Steve joined the Air Force, I began teaching part-time at night for Burlington County College in New Jersey. We moved to Illinois in 1991, and within a week I had a job teaching part-time at night for Belleville Area College.

I learned to enjoy teaching somewhat, but it was never something that came naturally to me. I love doing math, but teaching people who don't like it simply isn't as much fun. I'm an introvert, and I don't like facing a classroom full of people I don't know. (After the first night of a class, it only gets better.) I don't like having to prepare lectures--You can't possibly prepare enough to make sure you'll "perform" perfectly. My favorite part was probably sitting at home grading papers, though that's a drag when they don't do well. When is it the teacher's fault and when is it the student's fault? I wanted my students to do well, but you can't make them study.

Anyway, with moving to Germany came something wonderful called COLA--"Cost of Living Allowance." They pay servicemembers in Europe that to make up for the expenses they have in another currency and the extra cost to living overseas. When we moved it was about $150 per month. Now it's more than $750 per month! (It goes up when the dollar goes down; it's tied to the exchange rate.) (We're going to miss it horribly when we go back to America.)

That was just the little bit we needed to enable us to squeak by without me working. There are American colleges here, so I could have found a job teaching, but Steve would be traveling more than ever and I didn't want to have to find babysitting, and I wanted to be home with my then-two-year-old son and maybe, finally, make some progress on my dream of becoming a writer. (I found that teaching math isn't a good side job for trying to be a writer. When I had extra time at home, I spent it preparing lectures and grading papers, which didn't leave much time for writing. Better is a job you can leave at work.)

So, the first dream that Germany fulfilled was the chance, for a year and a half, to be an at-home Mom. Timothy and I thoroughly enjoyed that time!

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