Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saying Goodbye

As a rather obsessive prepare-for-the-worst planner, I read up on becoming an expat before I became one. I learned mostly about culture shock; the initial honeymoon period, followed by the inevitable pit of despair/regret/homesickness, and the eventual adjustment to a new normal.
to put it mildly
However, I didn't pre-read much on the expat lifestyle itself, post-acceptance phase. For one thing, I didn't realize at the time that most of our friends would also be expats, and that we'd share an intensely-bonded expat lifestyle together. So since moving abroad I've learned more, some by reading but largely through experience. I am now well acquainted with an expat fate worse than culture shock. Many career expats have said it more eloquently than I could, so I will summarize:

  1. Expats inevitably move back home or on to new adventures.
  2. Some of those expats will be your very dearest friends.
  3. Occasionally, several of your dearest friends will leave all at once.
  4. It sucks big time.

Basically, add another giant pit of despair after the "acceptance" part of the graph, plummeting your emotional state past the x-axis into negative territory. I don't know why it's missing here, but I can only assume the graph-creator was too busy weeping in a corner because her best friend just moved away.


This has been a hard, heartbreaking summer for goodbyes.

Yes, in a way it's the only fair payback for being the ones to leave your own family and friends behind by moving away in the first place. But in another way, it's the completely unfair payback gift that keeps on giving and never gets easier.

Obviously, we didn't travel back to the USA this summer. It's so expensive for the four of us to go every year, plus we had family lined up to come visit us here this summer. Yet looking back now, I'm actually grateful that we were here all summer to spend quality time with good friends before they left and to say a proper goodbye, as painful as it was (and still is).

Daphne wrote and performed a special goodbye song for (her honorary Uncle) Martyn.
The. Heart. Breaks.

We said one more big goodbye this month, and that was to Facebook.

Why? It's a long story, but here's the short version: Pete, who was never a big fan, hasn't checked it regularly for years. I, on the other hand, checked it obsessively. I recently tried to cut back on my addiction by un-following over half of my friend list, hoping to focus my interactions on the people I care most about.

Facebook fought back. Its nutty algorithms filled my feed with increasingly extraneous information about (or barely even about) the remaining people, and my news feed was rendered ridiculous. I had felt a bit creepy about Facebook for a long time - my own dependent relationship to it as well as the general way it operates - but for some reason this particular experience was enough motivation for me to cut the cord completely.  So, I deactivated my account. Pete completely deleted his.

And can I just pause for a moment to show you a couple of the manipulative things Facebook did as I tried to deactivate?
Oh NO!  Look who will miss me! I better get distracted from this silly deactivating process and use Facebook to send them each a personal message RIGHT NOW!

And my "486 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch" with me? So, you're saying I'll become completely unreachable? Deactivating Facebook means I will disappear into oblivion!?!
and later…

Wait, you mean if I don't check this box, people can still send me stuff through Facebook AFTER I've deactivated?  But, if they did send me something, I'd be forced to reactivate if I wanted to actually access or see the message!  Oh so sneaky. You almost got me, Facebook, but I stayed strong and checked the opt-out box. And no, I won' be automatically reactivating in 7 days. At least that box wasn't already checked for me!
Thank you, Facebook, for continuing to be creepy and manipulative on my way out, thus reaffirming my decision to pull the plug.


It's been nearly two weeks. Aside from some initial withdrawal symptoms, I honestly haven't missed it much. Instagram (even Pete's), FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Whatsapp are still active, and I hope to continue blogging for the foreseeable future. I remain optimistic that we can still stay in touch with friends around the globe, even after we've said goodbye to them in Luxembourg and despite Facebook's dire warnings to the contrary.

So please do say hello in the comments here every once in awhile. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Catching Up

Time for a general catch-up post in photo form.

Late May through July...and, go!

3rd annual watch-the-ING-Night-Marathon-from-our-balcony party
this year Pete made custom-order fajitas for everyone
James joined a football club, his first ever
all day tournament.  they won the sportsmanship award.

the outdoor pianos came back to Luxembourg city for 3 weeks
we took several opportunities to gather 'round with friends
the kids auditioned for an English production of "Oliver!" and will be chorus members in April 2016.  rehearsals begin this fall.

Uncle Wes and Aunt Rachel visited during an unbearable heat wave (neither homes nor businesses in Luxembourg are equipped to handle excessive heat since it's so rare, so you must swim or suffer)
James went on a 2-night camping trip with his class
we logged our 4th traditional Luxembourgish end of school party
and then they finally finished the school year on July 15th.  they've now completed 3 years (plus 1.5 months) of public school in Luxembourg.
compare this...
....with the beginning of the year!

then Nana and Granddad arrived
I did the Luxembourg Color Run 5k

we took Nana and Granddad to Burg Eltz in Germany
they're already off to the UK to visit more family, will be back in LUX soon

and the kids have spent many afternoons at day camp in the forest.  Aktioun Bambesch runs 3 weeks in the summer for school children in Luxembourg City for free.
We are not headed back to the States this summer, but our 3 sets of visitors help with the homesickness.

And that's what we've been up to!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Europa Park

Mickey Mouse Euromaus mascot
Last month we visited Fake Disneyland Europa Park in Rust, Germany, just across the border from the Alsace region of France.  Europa Park is Germany's largest theme park, and the second most popular theme park resort in Europe, behind Disneyland Paris.

under 3 hours by car
We are not "Disney People" or "Theme-Park People," but we thought we'd go anyway and surprise our kids with a trip on a day off from school.  Unfortunately, because we are not "Disney People" or "Theme-Park People" the kids had no frame of reference when we told them, so the surprise didn't have much effect.  It took a lot of explaining to help them wrap their little minds around the fact that they could go on as many rides as they wanted, as many times as they wanted.  We strictly ration rides at the annual Schuebefouer in Luxville, for example.  So we heard a lot of "Wait, you mean we've already paid for all the rides?  All of them? Are you sure? ….. But will the rides be too big? Or too fast?  Do I have to go on all the rides?  I don't want to go any big rides.  I think maybe I'll just choose one or two rides, Mom..."

See, we're just not very good at this.

But, it was a fun trip.  We drove on Sunday afternoon to stay the night at a small "hotel" 10 minutes away from the park, visited the park Monday, and drove back that evening.

Not an official Europa Park attraction.  This was just an random garbage house with chickens across from where we stayed. 
We stuck to the simple rides.
Elf / mushroom-themed boat ride
hot air balloons
And we went to the Children's World / Viking Land, with some more tame attractions for kids.

had this area to themselves

Manually pull yourself up then let go.  Watch out for rope burns when the ride suddenly ends.
Europa Park is divided into European country-themed sections.  So you've got your Italian-stereotype land, your French-steryotype land, your Russian-stereotype land, etc.  But Europeans seem fairly comfortable with country stereotypes so I doubt anyone is really taken aback or offended.

Italy.  I think.
Spain.  Rain.
Then you've got your shameless-ripoff rides, like the Mad Tea Party Koffie Kopjes...

and the Pirates of the Caribbean Piraten in Batavia

Pete and I haven't been to Disneyland since college, and I had only been a couple times before that when I was very young, so we're not really up on our Disney park knowledge.  But I'd heard and read that Europa Park wins out over Disneyland Paris in many ways.  I'm guessing that Disney Paris has less of that special Disney "magic" that people always talk about than Disney USA, and Europa Park probably has bit less than all of them.  But Europa Park suited us just fine as non-connoirseurs-of-amusement.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Admission is much less expensive than Disney, which even our frugal kids can appreciate.  As a bonus, the food was good and way cheaper than we expected for any amusement park.   No doubt we're also accustomed to Luxembourg prices - Germany always surprises us on that account.  

So overall it was a good introduction to fake real amusement parks for our kids and we'll probably be back to try some bigger/faster rides.