Is That Your Final Decision?

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Do you remember the first time you moved out of your parents house? Everything was new and exciting. Even the grocery store. You walked up and down the isles with twenty bucks and the knowledge that if you really wanted to, you could blow all of it on nothing but cookie dough (yep, I did that once… only once). You invite your friends over every weekend. You make your own schedule, and you feel amazing when you realize that you’re making it on your own. You feel like you could conquer the world. Then, when you return to your parent’s house for a visit, things are different. The sofa’s been rearranged. The kitchen is full of healthy food, and your room has been turned into an office/workout area. You realize that this house, while it will always be “home” really isn’t yours anymore.

The first time I moved out of my parent’s house, that was my experience, and I’m amazed by how similar it felt to move abroad. Colorado had been my home since I was like three. It was a safe place, and leaving it was just as exhilarating and terrifying as leaving the safety of my parent’s house. Would I succeed? Would I be able to keep up with all of the changes? The answer was yes. After a period of adjustment, my entire family fell in love with our life in Berlin. When our time there came to a close, we struggled. We knew that staying there, at least for now, wasn’t an option. But we also didn’t want to go back to the way things were before. I didn’t want to find myself working 70 hours each week at three jobs, and I knew it would be hard to resist. Tyler, having been born and raised in NorCo, was still craving something different. We all got a taste for adventure while away, and we wanted to continue to be lost from time to time, to hike new trails, and to stretch ourselves in a different culture. Colorado wasn’t an option for us.

Then, when we arrived in Colorado a few weeks ago, Tyler and I both questioned whether or not we’d made the right choice in not returning to live there. But the longer we stayed, to more we realized that it felt just like returning to your parent’s house after living on your own. It was amazing to be with our friends and families, but things also felt different. It didn’t feel like ours anymore. I’m glad we got the chance to spend time there, not only because we got to catch up with so many people, but because, despite my initial feelings, it affirmed our decision. Colorado and the people who live there will hold a special place in our hearts. But for now, a new adventure in calling.

So what’s next for the Messenger crew? I’m sure many of you have already guessed it, but we’ll be hanging our hats in Oregon for a while. Tyler got a teaching position at Jefferson Elementary School in Corvallis, I will be teaching at Leslie Middle School in Salem, and we will be living in Monmouth (a small college town that’s between our jobs). We’re planning trips to Canada and Japan, and we’re enjoying all the outdoor adventure that Oregon has to offer.

-Bekkie

 

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The Truth About Why We Stopped Posting

It’s been a while since our last post. Almost a year, actually, and that’s because somewhere in the last year our overseas adventure began to feel more like home. When we first started this blog it was a way to share a two year wild ride in a foreign country with our friends and family. For a while we did. We posted after every trip and when anything big happened, and last summer we stopped. Our surroundings didn’t seem so foreign anymore. We all made friends. Our travels were exciting, but they were part of the life we’d slowly begun to build. Our wild ride turned into a life we could see ourselves living indefinitely. And that made our decision to leave really hard.
The truth is, when we came to Berlin I didn’t expect to make such amazing friends. I didn’t know that we’d be invited to work alongside missionaries reaching out to refugees whom I would come to love like family. I had no clue that our first landlords would go out of their way to help us settle in. Nor could I have guessed that the friends my kids have made would be so incredible, and understanding, and accepting. But we got all of that and more.
I cried quite a bit when we left our lives in the US. There were so many people that I would miss, but I was comforted by the thought of seeing them again in just two short years. That’s why leaving Berlin is proving to be even harder. When I step on the airplane that will take me back to the US, I will do so without any finite plans to return. Sure, there’s talk of visiting in future years. Tyler and I sometimes picture what it would be like to come back in five years to let our kids finish high school and go to college. But those thoughts are just what-ifs.
Berlin has been a wonderful home, and it’s with the fondest memories that we’ll look back on our time here.

**A few weeks ago Tyler posted the first of three announcements about our future plans… we wouldn’t be staying in Berlin. And now, for part two, I’d also like to tell you that we will not be returning Colorado (though we will be visiting this summer).

To be continued…

-Bekkie

The Messengers… where are they now

Click here to view a short video recap of our first year!

Germany is good, but hard. I could not understand some things at first, but now I can. I made lots of new friends named Alex, Linus, Paul, and Jacob. My favorite foods are doner, falafel, and jelly donuts. It can be hard here, as I write this our house has no internet. But people are nice here. This year I hope that I’ll start school easier, and I’m looking forward to the sixth grade class trip to the mountains. I think it’ll be fun.
-Dylan

My first year of German school was really good and I had so much fun! I liked exploring Europe, except when I couldn’t take a brake and rest. My favorite place so far has been the castle’s because they’re so big and they look cool. I think Germany is pretty cool. Most German’s speak English. They have weird stuff here like you’re allowed to be naked when you’re in a lake. This year in Germany I want to go down a water slide and make more friends.
-Evan

One year…

Comics bought and libraries visited from almost every European country we have visited. We try not to eat American fast food, but it has happened, especially since we have a lack of Mexican food in Berlin. Chipotle in Paris, France and Taco Bell in Valencia, Spain, and we frequent the local Starbucks in most places. We also visit local churches and cathedrals even though we are not catholic, they are beautiful pieces of art and there is a since of calm and quiet in each one. Serenity. 

In our travels we try to live like locals, opting for VRBO’s and AirBnB reals instead of hotels. We visit local grocery stores and restaurants. We try the local dishes when it comes to food and drink. This means we have consumed many unusual items. The kids might turn up their noses at first, but they too have tried and liked a variety of flavors across Europe. Street food and art are my favorite thing to find.

Here in Berlin we have been blessed with a wonderful community and have made many friends and people we will miss and be sad to leave when that time comes. We have been blessed with family coming here to visit us as well. Mark Jr., my parents, my friend Sean from college, and Bekkie’s parents. We look forward to seeing Bekkie’s sister and her family in the weeks to come as well. Any of our Colorado friends coming? You’re invited! 

What will this year have in store? A lot! We can’t wait to visit new places and make more friends and relationships. I can’t wait to see what and where the Lord will take us in the year to come. Many of you have asked are you coming back or when are you coming back? This move to Berlin has done so much for us as a family. Filling us with experiences. We all have a new since of adventure, love of travel and learning new cultures. Whether we return — or not — we will continue this lifestyle of learning about the world and its people and how we are all one and the same. I wish everyone could experience what we have and gain a new perspective on life and how others live. Maybe experiences like this would create a world of unity and not of hate and fear, because in the end we are all people, period. Gender, colors, religion, size, shape, age: people.

-Tyler

I have this tendency to make myself as busy as possible (not surprising for most of you, I know). Before we moved I was working fifty plus hours a week, volunteering and trying to write as much as possible in addition to helping my boys with homework, household chores and so much more. To be honest, when I first heard about this opportunity I panicked a little. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to work in Germany I tried really hard to secure some telecommuting positions. But shortly after we moved, I learned the value of slowing down.
The first few months were an adjustment, but a good one. Trading hours of work for quality time with my family and new friends, and trading tedious tasks with travel, I learned to enjoy the here and now, to take it all in and enjoy the moments as they come. With that, I’ve been able to see so much and connect with amazing people, and to serve without worrying about time or other obligations.
In January I finally felt ready to add more to my plate, not because I wanted to be busy, but because I was so rested and full that I wanted to take on something new. I researched colleges, and two months later I began an online program through CSUGlobal to earn my Master’s in teaching and learning, two things very close to my heart. Months into it, I am loving the chance to learn without having to work full-time, and I find myself applying my new knowledge as I work with my own kids.
In short, though we were all challenged at the onset of the move, I have found that this experience has brought tremendous growth and opportunities for the entire family. I’m glad we took the leap of faith, and I’m excited to see what happens in our second year abroad.

-Bekkie

 

Espania: The beach, the brews and the fartons

Oh Espaina…Or as I was hoping for was the European Mexico. Was I right? Yes and no. Going to Valencia, Spain was muy bueno! It was weird to be able to drink the water in a Spanish speaking county as well. and it was nice to get the chance to practice my ever rusty Spanish skills. Bekkie and I found ourselves speaking Deutsch when our vocabulary was lacking. This is a total 180 from when we moved to Germany when I would speak Spanish when I was flustered and couldn’t think of the right words.
The sun was out, the coastal breeze and beach were present. We ate our share of sea food like squid, cuttlefish, and other tapas and Spanish specialties like fartons (think: churro meats doughnut), paella, orxata, papas bravas, and churros. Valenica sure loves their Amstel beer which we stayed away from. But we did drink some Spanish beer on the beach as well as a tasty micro-brew. We also drank Piña Coladas and Agua De Valencia night caps. We also ate at a few non-Spanish establishments like a burger place, which again I’d have to say had better burgers than Berlin does. We also ate Döners (of course), and at a Mexican restaurant where we ordered al pastor tacos and burritos. We also made a guilty stop at Taco Bell. Ouch! Hurts to admit that. I also committed I believe another Valencian sin which was when we were at Horchateria de Santa Catalina I ordered a Horchateria and asked if I could have rum put in it. They we hesitant, but cash in hand rules.
The kids were at home in the Mediterranean Sea. They loved the water, the sand and even ignored the topless ladies and Speedo wearing old men which I had trouble with in keeping a straight face and not laughing. I have to say Valencian’s own it, no body issues there. The boys also had trouble understanding that they don’t use the Peso and use the Euro like we do at home.
We loved our Spanish adventure and came home with a ton of memories and a few treasures. They boys took home some old Spanish comics and we took home some sand and shells from the beach. We also bought some gifts for loved ones and chufas or tigernuts to make our own rum Horchateria here in Berlin.

Tyler

Click here to see the a video slideshow.

Praha smells like noodle soup

On second thought, drinking copious amounts of coffee before getting behind the wheel for the first time in a year was probably not the best idea. When I wasn’t white-knuckling the steering wheel, or being honked at my cars as they whizzed by, their drivers yelling in German, my hands were shaking and my stomach felt like it might run away. Thankfully, though, it turns out that driving, like riding a bike, comes back to you. By the time the autobahn stretched out in front of us, my shoulders had descended to their regular position, and I was ready to enjoy the picturesque country side.
To say that the roads were pristine would be putting it lightly, they were the smoothest surface I’ve ever driven, no liter, potholes, skid marks or retreads lying about. The views alternated between fields of yellow blossoms to hills and valleys, old architecture and new, and the occasional windmill.


The drive, however, was only part of what made this trip so grand. Prague was amazing, the old buildings and streets, the food, and the beer were all worth experiencing.

Tyler found some really cool sculptures…

We saw the World Clock and the Dancing House…

Then we walked across the famous Charles bridge where street performers played violins, photographers sold their work, and statues of saints lined the walkway, we found the Lennon Wall and some pretty awesome views of the city.

On our last day we drove to Kunta Hora, a church decorated entirely with bones…

On the way home we were detoured. I was admittedly annoyed at first, but then we stumbled upon a little town named Altenberg. We were struck instantly by the Bavarian charm, and when we saw that there was an alpine slide, we had to stop.

In all, we had a blast on our trip. The boys loved it, even though they thought the entire town smelled like noodle soup :).

Here are a few more pictures from the trip…

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Break in London

Spring break and London bound. The four of us, along with my parents took to the streets of London. This was the first vacation in our European travels where we could read the signs, speak with confidence and eaves-drop on other conversations. Needless to say, it was strange… in a good way.

London has to be one of my favorite skylines to date with a wide variety of architecture reaching to the cloudy skies above. As always, we ate our way through the city. Fish and chips, pasties, and Scottish eggs, we ate it all. Oh, and we drank it all too. Bitter beer in cask kegs, honey cappuccinos, and English tea at the curiosities museum.

We road the Underground (the Tube) and double decker buses, seeing the changing of the royal guards, the feeding of the pelicans, and the wide open country just outside the city. We even walked Abby Road just like The Beatles did. On Easter Sunday we visited a 250+ year old pub and not only drank cask ales, but participated in their yearly egg rolling contest in the street. The idea is that each person tosses a hard boiled egg the farthest they can without breaking it too much. The person with the farthest toss won free drinks. None of us won, but we still drank beers  and enjoyed some conversation with the locals.

One of our bucket list items was to find a library bar as well (beer and books seems like the perfect combination). On our third day we found a comic book library bar that sufficed. It had comics painted on the walls, skateboards hanging from the ceiling, and bookshelves full of comics to read.

We saw strange and unusual things at The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, and learned a lot at the Natural History Museum. It was great seeing my little brother Tim and we can’t wait to see him again soon, now that we all live in Europe!

Tyler

Click here to watch a short video presentation of our trip.

Thinking of Brussels

We were in Brussels just a few weeks ago. We stayed for three days and that was enough time to settle in our minds that out of all the places we’ve gone so far, Brussels was the one we couldn’t wait to return to. On our first day there we even talked about moving, we walked through neighborhoods first thing in the morning wonderfully surprised by how small the city felt. And now this. Now the unthinkable has happened. And Tyler and I both sat silent for a long time. Then we talked and we decided that still want to return. We’d still move there, we’d still visit as much as possible and that’s because a place isn’t what’s happened to it. A place is made up by the people who call it home.
In the aftermath, that’s what’s on my mind. I’m thinking about the many men who stopped us on the sidewalks when we looked lost. The ones who didn’t wait for us to ask for help, they just offered. There was one man who, on his way to work, took fifteen minutes to talk to us, give us recommendations, and wish us a great stay. “People think we’re at war here, and they don’t want to come anymore,” he said in frustration before he went on his way. “It’s not true. Thank you for visiting.”
I’m thinking also of the waitress at Monks who served our drinks and spaghetti. She chatted with me, answering my many questions about the city and even indulging my boys when they asked her to say a few phrases in Dutch. Her dimpled cheeks and wild, curly hair made her look no older than fifteen, but you could tell she’d worked at the restaurant a while. She knew the regulars, called them by name, and chatted with the bar tenders and cooks, all while smiling a broad, contagious smile.
And of course I’m thinking about Sarah (aka the fifth Messenger), the little girl who joined us for dinner on our last night in Brussels. I keep thinking about her smile, her messy, mousy hair, and the way my lap felt suddenly warm at the end of our meal. Yes, it was because of her we had to call it a night and go back to our hotel room so I could wash my jeans. Even still, Sara was awesome. She instantly took to my boys, and we instantly took to her, and I wonder today if she’s alright.
I wonder about all the people we met. I hope they weren’t close when the unthinkable happened. I hope they still know that people are kind, that they will share a meal, talk, and care. That there are people that worry about them. Mostly I hope that when we come back, and we will come back, that Brussels will still be as delightful as it was weeks ago.

Click here to view some pictures from our visit to Brussels.

Athens

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We were interviewed by a local news station on on first full day in Athens. We’d only been out of our apartment for a couple of hours, long enough to find the Church of the Holy Apostles and tour the Acropolis. Both sights were awesome in their own way.
From the Acropolis there were breathtaking views of the city. The boys and I sat and tried to picture what it looked like when the apostle Paul journeyed there, what the structures looked like in their glory days, how his sandals felt on the ancient streets and cool marble. From the top Dylan asked if we could come back to that spot again. He couldn’t get enough of hiking around in a place filled with so much history.
From there we ventured down a walking trail, and that’s when we ran into the reporter and her crew. They wanted to know what we thought of Athens. The reporter asked if we thought the city looked impacted by their financial crisis, or if our expectations were being met.
“It’s wonderful here,” I told her, explaining that this city was the number one place to visit on my Europe bucket-list.
“We came for an adventure,” Tyler added. “We didn’t know what to expect, but it’s nice.”
We told her about our plans for the next few days to see the changing of the guard, eat as much baklava as possible, and bask in the sunlight. Then we told her about the warm welcome we’d already received.
“The people are all really nice,” I said. “I’d never know there was a crisis if I hadn’t heard about it before.”
The reporter seemed please. She thanked us and went on her way.
I’m glad she talked to us on day one. I meant what I said about not being able to tell there was a crisis going on. Up until then we’d seen some really beautiful things. That same day we visited the Plaka neighborhood where we found cute little shops, rooftop restaurants, and pristine churches. We went to the parliament, walked their outside mall, picked some fresh lemons and oranges, and marveled at the amount of cats that were everywhere.
But the following day we ventured further out of the city center. On our trip to the sea, we saw for the first time what Athens looked like away from the tourist destinations. There were run down apartment buildings, shanty homes, and more homeless individuals than I’ve seen in a long time. The day after that there was a protest in the streets, people marching, chanting and fighting against new taxes that would make it harder on those who work tirelessly as it is.
If we’d been interviewed on our last day, I’d be lying if I said you couldn’t tell that they’ve been in crisis. You can. And it’s sad because the people are amazing. On our first night we were directed to our apartment by a homeless man who couldn’t read, but knew where the landmarks are. I didn’t ask for him help. He just gave it when he saw me pull out a map. There were restaurant owners and merchants who sat and talked with us for much longer than they needed to. They all genuinely cared whether or not we were enjoying our trip. Most made recommendations, some even gave us free treats.
Despite the crisis, the people in Athens were amazing. The history remains rich. It’s still a place I’d visit again. I’m glad the reporter spoke with us on day one. I hope her story will bring light to a place that needs it right now, and I hope that the economy bounces back. When I return someday, I want to see the city at peace. I want to find flourishing businesses around every corner, in and out of the city center. But more than anything, I want to see the people as happy as they made us feel.

-Bekkie

Click here to see a video slideshow of the trip.

Muscles in Brussels

On the second morning when I left our place in Brussels I went out looking for coffee for Bekkie and I. I didn’t get to far before being solicited by a prostitute. “Looking for a good time?”
Yes I was, but not like that.
My family and I found a good time in Brussels, Belgium. This place has had, by far, the nicest people we have met in Europe to date. On our first day we were stopped twice by people who thought we looked lost. One man even walked with us a while, made a few food recommendations and lamented about the reputation Brussels has as of recently. “We aren’t at war,” he told us. “It’s safe here.”
We felt safe. Never once did we feel threatened.
The boys, my wife and I walked everywhere, the city is small enough that you don’t need to worry about public transit. Our hotel was close to the Grand Place, but it was a hike to get coffee in the morning. On Sunday we went in search of a coffee shop to duck into until the Comic museum opened. We’d marked a place on the map, but paced back and forth on the street where it was supposed to be located (we later discovered that it was underground in the subway station). But while we searched we came across a homeless man. We walked by him at first, but stopped, feeling compelled to give something to him. We dug out a couple of Euros and let the boys drop them in his cup. At that moment, another woman who was watching stopped to give as well. As a parent, it was awesome to see my boys influencing others to act in kindness.
The rest of the day we thought about what else we could do, we looked for opportunities to spread more joy. In the meantime, we sampled fantastic beers, ate wonderful food and gobbled down enough chocolate to make us drunk from the sugar. Then we stopped at a restaurant to eat some mussels in Brussels, something we’d heard was a must-do.
That’s when we met Sarah, the waiter’s daughter who looked bored to tears. I imagine she’s spend countless hours at the restaurant with her dad, and probably had to keep to herself for the most part. Not with us. We first welcomed her to sit with us, and it didn’t take long before she was on Bekkie’s lap, playing with and kissing the boys, and eating the food we ordered as if she was part of our group. When her dad protested, we assured him it was alright. When Sarah’s diaper gave out and Bekkie’s lap suddenly felt warm, we decided it best to get back to our hotel for the night.
Overall this was a much needed trip to get away from report cards, grades and the snow in Berlin. We loved Brussels, and we want to go back soon.
-Tyler

Click here to see a video of our experiences in Brussels.

Dezember

I was nervous about this month. I thought we’d feel lonely and homesick more than we have before. We had no travel plans, like the months leading up to this one, and no plans to do anything crazy in Berlin.

But December was amazing.

The days got shorter which allowed us to see some beautiful sunrises and sunsets on our outings. We visited five Christmas markets where we drank gluhwein and grogg while eating cookies and stollen. We volunteered with refugees, taking the entire family to the intake center, a heim, and a youth party. The boys loved every minute of that. They talked about how much they connected with the refugee kids, and they can’t wait to do more.

On Christmas day Tyler and I pranked the boys, wrapping some of their own things and a bottle of dish soap. They didn’t think it was funny, but we did (see the video). Then, on New Year’s Eve we ate Indian food, watched belly dancers, and we were nearly blown away by the fireworks (Not really. We were perfectly safe, Mom). On every street corner, and even in front of our house on a quiet street, people gathered to light off what we would consider “professional fireworks.” We also enjoyed jelly doughnuts on New Year’s Day, as per German tradition.

We’re so ready for this next year, to see all that it has to offer… up next is a trip to Brussels in January and Greece in February. Not too bad.

Click here to see a video recap of our December in Berlin 🙂