It was Peter Mayle’s fault.
Well, perhaps not entirely, a love of stationary, notebooks, and diaries combined with January’s reputation for new habits, plus the unholy marriage of my perennial bright idea to try and blog mixed with my distaste for journaling (isn’t it a bit narcissistic?) is most likely to blame. A Year in Provence just provided narrative tone. This version of the first person seems much more palatable, or at least, more looping than turgid ‘I did this and then I did that today’.
Combine this with the fact I was wide awake at 12:50am for no good reason and unable to fall asleep again here going on two hours later with the journal my new sister-in-law gave me and here we are, the first “diary” entry I’ve made in at least a decade, I think.
So thanks, Mr. Mayle.
I’m rather hopeful about this diary (and blog). Perhaps it’s the 2am speaking. Or maybe it’s the fact unlike most diaries I’ve bought with bright ideas and good intentions this one is thinner, only 48 pages front and back, rather than like 400. And since the lines are wide and my cursive is notoriously big, beautiful and impossible to read I have a shot a filling this thing. Also, my life has suddenly gotten marginally more interesting since Christmas. I’ve gotten married, my new husband has immigrated from Germany and started working in Virginia (meaning I’ll be moving in the near future), I should be dissertation, and I turned 28, so I am officially basically 30 (although I’ve been like 65 on the inside for some time now). All of these things – or at least any given combination of two of these things – is enough for a diary. Maybe not the level of A Year in Provence but then we can’t all be ad execs who expatriate to a French National Park in the 1980s. So here we are, with a now blunt pencil at 3:02am on January 17th.
I departed Columbia December 15th, Prius jam-packed with everything I’d need for the busiest month of my life and Abelard, who promptly threw up in his carrier an hour into the drive then laid in it. The 15th I drove five hours to my parents’ in Ames where I’d set up camp and leave Abelard (much to the annoyance of my parents’ cat, Heloise). The 16th I flew from Des Moines to Charlottesville to meet up with Armin, freshly in the country on his brand new H-1B visa to find a place to live and get him established for work. Technically his first day was supposed to be the 25th, but his boss had kindly given him his first week off so that we could get married. Everyone laughed at the Christmas start date but it was a Godsend as the H-1B only allows one to enter the country ten days before the start of their work. A more normal start date and Armin would have missed Christmas, at least.
The 16th – 21st we were in Charlottesville not stopping. We got him established with work and immigration and all that jazz, looked at an apartment, signed the lease on it, got the keys to it, bought some provisional furnishings (an air mattress, toilet paper, and wifi), bought a car, met his co-workers and generally explored the city which will be our home. It was great, except for the fact we never once got to relax. The 21st we returned to Ames.
The 22nd Armin’s sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces arrived from Germany to spend Christmas through New Years with us. I love my in-laws, admittedly its easy when they live an ocean away, but all of them have gone out of their way to welcome me into their homes, lives, family, and kept mostly straight faces as I’ve butchered their language.
Tine and Julian are still sorta my favorites, probably, shamefully because they speak the best English. I also feel emend solidarity with Julian as he is also a non-native German speaker. Julian is Argentinian, so his first language is Spanish, although he learned both English and German in school. Our bond is deeper than even just having to learn German. Armin and his family are Swabian and speak the Swabian dialect exclusively at home. Like they know hochdeutsch but don’t use it much, so the German one learns in school (Julian) or with an app (Me) only sorta works. A random German student I met in a Thai restaurant here in Missouri described Swabish as the equivalent for other German speakers as watching Trainspotting without subtitles. Apparently it’s impenetrable. Of course Julian has me at a ten year advantage, plus having formally learned German, but still – Out-law solidarity.
Tine and Julian have the cutest kids. Lena is seven and Anna is four, both are as dark as their father and have the biggest, brownest eyes ever. Neither Anna nor Lena speak English yet, though both are learning it. Which has made for lots of fun moments in cultural exchange. I was sorta fun watching people who expected either English or Spanish to pop out of the girls’ mouths react when it was neither. Both girls took everything in stride – far better than I would have at their age being jet-lagged and surrounded by a language I only vaguely understood.
Anna was the funniest about the whole language barrier. My Dad would often forget that the girls don’t speak English and would often enthusiastically ask them questions (he loves kids). Anna would just stare at him perplexed, then my Dad would stare at her and it would be clear both had the same thought, ‘shit what do I do now’. My Dad is many things, a linguist is not one of them.
The other time Anna brushed up against the language barrier we were at the mall and another kid came up and spoke to her at the play place. She ran back to her mother: “Mama that girl speaks a different language! I don’t speak a different language!” Of course five minutes later they were playing just fine.
Lena, my Mom is convinced, actually knows English. This is based on the fact Lena has innate comedic timing and occasionally said stuff in mostly English that made you go, “wow, you sarcastic little shit.” Lena might be my favorite.
The 27th of December until the 30th we were in Nebraska City for the wedding (the narrative of which would be an even bigger digression than usual and will be written about later).
From Nebraska Armin and I, parents and siblings in tow, returned to Columbia for two and two half days (12/30-1/2). We celebrated my birthday and literally everyone but me and my Father-in-Law, Ferdinand, was some kind of sick. My parents had a light cold but all the Germans were laid out. It was a helluva wedding, nearly everyone involved came down with something after. We were so sick instead of exploring like the original plan was, we marathoned Dark on Netflix – except for the last 30 minutes of the last episode when the Roku froze (rude). It’s a mark of how out of it Armin was that he sat still for 9.5 hours.
The 3rd everyone was on a plane. Tine, Julian, and the little ones flew out of Des Moines to Detroit to Stuttgart. I flew DSM -> ORD -> CHO. Martin, Angelika, Ferdinand flew out of Omaha to Germany, while Armin flew to Charlottesville, meeting me in Chicago along the way (and almost missing the flight cuz O’Hare) In Charlottesville we got a blind Taxi driver to get us to the apartment, then drove to Kroger where Armin tried to do a weeks worth of shopping, list-less, in the 30 minutes before the store close. I was so tired I wanted to murder him. After being a considerable bitch he finally took me home. I of course, dropped the grocery bags on the concrete instead of the backseat and shattered the glass Starbucks frappachino bottles, so the car smelled like stores for like two days. I also distinctly remember being so punch drunk tired trying toast up the inflatable mattress I cried a little. It was very newlywed humorous movie montage.
Armin started work Friday the 4th. I slept in, then went stir cray because there was nothing in the house but wifi and two bar chairs and a bed, plus four giant suitcases I unpacked on the floor but couldn’t put away because there was nothing in the house. After Armin got home we went to Target. We went to Target twice more and Walmart once in two days. I know where nothing else is in Charlottesville but I can get to Target. From the 3rd to the 12th I was in Charlottesville. Our ‘honeymoon’ was Armin working 9-5 and me hanging out at home and cooking dinner every night with exactly two plates, two bowls, two glasses, two knives/forks/spoons, one pot, and one pan. By the time I lift the furnishings had increased to include a futon, bookcase, two camp chairs, and some actual cooking utensils. We watched Netflix in the evening, propping a laptop on the bookcase. It’s a sad little bachelor pad but there’s no use in buying new stuff when I have a furnished house here in Columbia that’ll move in a few months.
I flew home Saturday the 12th ahead of a storm that had people behaving like the end was nigh in Charlottesville. They got, according to Armin, an inch of powdery snow. I made it to my parents’ house with only a four hour delay in Chicago, which wasn’t weather related, and honestly I should have expected it since O’Hare hates me. Columbia got hammered with snow, 14-20 inches of it. So my plan to drive back Sunday stalled. Mom and I spent my long-distance snow day watching the A&E adaptation of A Year in Provence with John Thaw (see, it’s all coming together), followed by half of Stranger Things 2, which has been in my queue for…. ever since it came out. I drove home with provisions Monday. Tuesday I shoaled the walk instead of unpacking, then finished watching ST2. I still haven’t unpacked. I started a self-indulgent blog instead.