The adventures of a born-and-raised-in-Michigan girl (OK, woman) who's moved to Bavaria with her husband, kids, and dog.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Meet the Neighbors

When Martin first arrived in October, he rented a room in a farmhouse in a large town (Geisenfeld) south of Ingolstadt. As soon as he found the house in Etting and was able to complete the initial purchasing stage, he moved in, as the house had stood vacant for five or six months. So he was living out of a suitcase in the house for about three weeks until we arrived (Nov. 30). During that time, he'd met our next door neighbors (our driveways and garages are next to each other), Doris and Peter, and their tiny ten year old dog, Zuzu (sp?).

Doris is from Wolfsburg originally, and has a son in his 20s who works at VW there. Peter is from former East Germany (somewhere), and Martin got a kick out of the "CCCP" written on many of the power tools he borrowed from Peter in the first weeks. We're pretty sure it's a second marriage for both, but personal details are a little sketchy right now (particularly as my German vocabulary, not to mention grasp of the etiquette rules, are quite limited right now).

Anyway, I hadn't heard much about them from Martin during November, before the kids and I arrived, except to hear that Doris was a little nervous to hear that a rottweiler was moving in next door.

As described elsewhere, our first day in Germany was consumed with bureaucratic paperwork, mostly involving getting our dog.

On the second day (Dec. 1), Martin went to Customs to meet up with our two sea containers (they were driven overnight from Hamburg where they'd been stored since before Thanksgiving, waiting for our arrival). Around 9:30 or so, everyone (Martin, truck drivers, the movers, sea container trucks, and waste removal truck) descended on our little street.

Shortly after the incoming chaos of furniture and boxes began sweeping into the house, Doris and Peter stopped by with dog treats in hand to meet Bella and the rest of us. Bella made friends instantly, of course, with all of them, including Zuzu. We chatted a little bit (Peter knows some English, Doris knows none) about the ages of the kids and the length of the flight, etc., before going back to directing the flow of boxes, etc.

Later that afternoon, they came by again. Peter brought tools and immediately jumped into work mode, helping out by running out for gas to confirm the lawnmower, snowblower, etc. could still be started. Doris invited me (and a sleepy Nicholas) over for a cup of tea, and Bella managed to worm her way into the invitation as well. She made sure she found all of Zuzu's favorite spots, ate a few more dog treats, and then just laid down and watched.

Nicholas had a few shortbread cookies, and our cup of tea turned into a glass of champagne, instead.

An hour and a half later, we emerged, having had a very nice conversation (Martin's curious reaction: "What did you talk about?" underscores my grasp, or lack thereof, of the German language). I felt that my German improved tremendously just on that first day, as we both struggled to communicate. You know, you can really say a lot with gestures, and a few key phrases ("I understand," "I don't understand") that move the conversation forward.

All in all, a very nice little welcome to the neighborhood.

Since that first day, Doris has stopped by to say hello a couple of times, and Peter has been a regular visitor and great new neighbor going way above and beyond... helping us put together some cheap dressers we got for the kids (remember all those built-in cabinets we left behind?), installing simple light fixtures (German households generally come without fixtures and without any kitchen cabinets, countertops, or appliances, as people remove them and take them with them), and troubleshooting our Internet access (or lack thereof) and wireless LAN.

All stuff we could do by ourselves, but great to have another pair of hands pitching in, for the price of a neighborly beer or two. Bavarian currency, I guess.


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