Life in Munich has started
Blog -> Family
It’s been longer than usual since I wrote the last update. And I guess there are two main reasons for that. There’s not that much news (at least not outside our family), and we’re getting really busy here. Let me try to explain a bit:
We’re getting busy
A couple of weeks ago, I had a short WeChat conversation with a friend in Shanghai. Wasn’t meant to be deeply meaningful, just catching up a bit on “how things are going over there”. She then asked me how we are doing. So I shared a bit on what’s about to begin. And I got shocked myself. Cause basically, within the last 3 weeks, all of us started a pretty packed schedule. I didn’t notice it until that WeChat conversation. And suddenly I realized that we have really arrived in “everyday life in Munich” now.
- I started my freelance work
As mentioned before, I have registered as a freelance worker with the German government. It’s complicated to explain, but basically, it gives me the right to do work as a programmer for other companies as if I had my own company. But I’m not obligated to pay all the taxes like a “normal” company. Financially, it’s a pretty nice opportunity to work like this. Only specific fields are allowed to register their work as freelance. Thankfully, computer science is one of them. So I went back to my previous client that I worked for from Shanghai until 2011 (before I started working for SCF). And I get the chance to work again on the project that I developed back then. For now, it’s 20h/week, which gives me enough flexibility to take care of all the other stuff that is still going on around us. (I’ll get to that “other stuff”)
The income from this project is good enough to keep us above waters. I’m still looking for more projects, to increase our income. But I’m very thankful that after only around 2 months of being here, we’re already able to nearly hold our ground financially. To be honest, I expected this process to take much longer. Originally, I thought it would take us at least 6 months or so until we’re able to be somewhere around 0, let alone be able to save,… But now I expect that in a month or two, we should be able to increase our savings again,…
- Anna started school
The next biggy that happened was Anna’s start in school here. She was quite nervous, lots of changes. Base language is now German, not English. She’s now at a public school, not a private, Christian school. She went from individual learning (basically self study, sitting at your desk, doing your work by yourself, but you can call the teacher when you need help) to a school where group learning, group participation, constant communication, etc. is a high value. To be honest, the night before her first day of school, she told us several times that she wanted to go back to Shanghai. (When we were praying and discussing as a family whether to stay in Shanghai or move to Germany, Anna was the one who was most eager and excited to move to Munich) We knew this wasn’t really her opinion, it was just an emotional statement. But it showed how she felt that night.
Thankfully, so far (nearly) everything is going really well. She just found out that her main teacher is a Christian, so are some of her classmates (That was her biggest prayer request over the summer). They take great care of her, they understand her special situation, and they are very sensitive in the way they treat her. They give her the time and space to adjust and get used to the class, the people, the system,… instead of pushing her beyond her comfort level. (All the other kids and the main teacher already spent a year together. So she’s really coming into an already existing group) She comes home around noon each day, has lunch with us every day, which gives her enough family time and time to unwind. The language is getting easier, she’s getting better each day in expressing herself in German. She’s making more friends, she’s getting more used to “how things work at school”, etc. And tomorrow she’s having her first field trip, going to a farm exhibition (part of the Oktoberfest that is currently going on in the city). She won’t see many things there that she didn’t already see at my dad’s place. But she’s super excited about it. We get the feeling that she’s slowly coming out of her shell, from being passive and observant to actually being part of the class and the group. It’s very likely that she’ll be fully integrated in a few weeks.
She obviously had her difficult days as well (One day she had trouble with one of her teachers, another day she had trouble with a random girl at school that she doesn’t even know,…) But overall, she’s very happy with her school and feels very comfortable going there. We are very thankful for that.
- Noah started Kindergarten
Here we had a bit of a challenge after our arrival. According to German law, everybody born on or before Sept. 30th 2010 has to start school this year. Well, that’s Noah’s birthday. After doing that research a few months ago, we kind of accepted the fact that Noah has to go to school this summer, immediately after our arrival from Shanghai. We didn’t really think about it much. The law says so, so he’ll have to go. To me, that was the end of the story.
Until we visited the school. We obviously needed to register the kids, some teachers talked with the kids, did some quick schoolworks, checking their education level, etc. That’s where some teachers started having some concerns. Noah hit the cutoff day. If he was born one day later, he would have been allowed to stay in kindergarten one more year. As a result, he would have been extremely young, probably the youngest in his class throughout his whole school life. Then add to that the fact that he’s adjusting, he’s catching up with his German,… It would have been a huge stretch.
After talking with the teachers at school, they suggested that we give him one more year. (The school can give a special permission to kids to start school one year later than they are officially required to) At first I wasn’t too happy about the idea. But eventually we realized that throwing him in Grade 1 now would probably be too much for him and potentially damage his self esteem, etc. long term. We talked with his previous teachers in Shanghai who know him well, asked a few other people. Basically, the response was always the same: Long term, it’s just better for him to give him this year to adjust and grow first.
We didn’t expect this. Which of course brought us a challenge: What are we going to do throughout this year? Spots in Kindergartens in Munich are rare, you usually have to be on a waiting list for a year or so until you get a spot. (We’ll put Abi on a waiting list very soon, to increase chances for her to have a spot next year fall or soon after that) If we had known about this, we would have applied for a kindergarten spot long time ago. But since we expected him to go to 1st grade, we didn’t see the need for that. And keeping him home for a year (no school, no kindergarten) would be the worst case scenario, WAY more damaging to him compared to pushing him into 1st grade. We didn’t really know what to do.
But wouldn’t you know that there was one kindergarten within walking distance from both our home and Anna’s school which needed a pre-school child? God is amazing. When I called that particular kindergarten, the woman replied that she needed exactly this kind of child so she can start a pre-school class. She was as excited about taking him as we were about him getting a spot. Some people call it coincidence, I don’t! So Noah was able to skip the whole waiting list, and got a spot right away. He’s in his first week now, and he enjoys it (doesn’t want to leave when he’s being picked up. Does that sound familiar, Miss Alice? *haha*). The kindergarten is actually also part of an elementary school (not Anna’s). So a few hours each week, Noah will actually join the first graders there, where they will be teaching German to kids who didn’t grow up in a German speaking environment. That setting is perfect for him, he can catch up with his German over this year and get used to a “part time school setting”, while still enjoying the fun and playtime of a kindergarten setting.
Initially I was a little bit frustrated that the teachers suggested for him to not join 1st grade this year. But seeing how it all worked out, I can say: God clearly had His hand in that. And it’ll be good for Noah long term. (He’s 22 months younger than Anna, and he’ll be 2 classes under her. So it really all fits together)
- Ryoko started language school
So since all of this wasn’t enough “new beginnings” yet (and of course, since she wanted to do it), Ryoko has started her German language school last Monday as well. 4 times a week for a bit more than three hours in the afternoon, she now learns all the confusing and frustrating details about the German language. Some people say that once you know the rules of German, it’s relatively easy. I’m not sure if I agree with that. I think there’s only one rule in German: There are no rules. Learn it all by heart: Verb forms, singular/plural, past tense forms, 3 confusing genders for nouns,… The grammar is just a nightmare. I really don’t envy her for that.
But so far things are going well. She’s in a class with many Syrians, and she heard a few heartbreaking stories about “where these people actually came from and what they went through”. It’s one thing to hear about such stories on the internet or see some videos. But sitting in the same classroom day after day with such a person,… that makes things different. In addition she’s making some friends from other European countries. And she’s starting to get around Munich without me. So slowly but steadily, she’s starting her own life in Munich as well.
The course is divided in 6 segments and will last until around summer next year. It includes language, but also culture, history, law, etc. It’s built for foreigners who want to live here, so that they can integrate into the German society.
We’re grateful for the opportunity she has to take this course. (Again, there were not many spots left, we signed up just a few days before the course actually started. God clearly wanted her to start this course at this time) And hopefully it will open up doors for her to eventually work here and live here like everybody else, not being limited by “being a foreigner”. (Legally she has the right to stay here, since all other family members are German citizens. But of course, long term it’s not enough to “just be allowed to stay here”,…)
So as you can see, all these things keep us busy. Of course, the beginning of all these new beginnings makes life even busier. Kids need school supplies, so we already spent several half days out there buying folders, rulers, pens and sharpeners, etc (which you only have to buy once a year). Schools have parent-teacher meetings (many of them happening right at the beginning of the school year = now). Ryoko needs to buy books for her course at bookstores somewhere in the city (and of course she has to buy them now). We’re pretty settled in our home, but small things are still missing and need to be bought (and they need to be bought now). Legally we still have a few things to do to live here long term. I still need to do some more work to be fully registered as a freelance worker. And those things need to happen now.
So we’re still in a phase where outside life pretty much keeps us on alert all the time. Hopefully within a month or so, many of these things will be done and we have more flexibility in our lives again. (I can’t imagine what life would look like if I was now employed in a regular 40h workweek job,… I don’t think we could have made it this far,… Thank God He knew!)
Other than that, not that much news
So as you can see, internally we are quite busy. Externally however, it looks like not much is happening. People ask me these days how things are going, how the church is coming together. Well, we are working on it, but due to all the other things, we are still a bit slow. We have met several people who expressed interest in the church before, and we introduced the vision God put on our hearts to them. Some have responded and they committed to the small group. Some others are still thinking and praying about it. Again others we haven’t had the time to meet yet. And some others are still not in Munich yet. So with all this “waiting” happening, we’re still not enough people to really start.
Our goal is still to start a small group early October the latest. Then hopefully things will grow from there. And once we have 20-30 people together, we start a Sunday Service. Everything will be informal for now, we won’t register the church yet or anything like that. We’ll just be a bunch of Christians who meet at our home for now. Then once we have the necessary numbers together, we’ll legally register the church. And then take it from there.
So we have a plan. But as of right now, things are still a bit slow. We have no idea whether we’ll have a Sunday Service in 3 weeks or in 3 years. We have no idea whether we’ll be registered this year, or maybe not until 2020. We have no idea whether our home will be the “church building” for the next few weeks, or many years. We’ll just take it step by step. And whatever God entrusts us, we’ll manage faithfully. And give Him the Glory in all circumstances.
On the other hand, I am VERY excited about 2 meetings I have in the next few days. One is with the Pastor of a German church who sounded very excited about our plans. The other two people I’ll meet tomorrow (Friday) night. They are leaders of an existing Students Ministry here in Munich. Their response to our vision was extremely enthusiastic. I can see a lot of potential for us to work together. I won’t know for sure until we actually talk tomorrow. But as of right now, I can imagine that us working with them could open a lot of doors for reaching a lot of people. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’ll update you on the next blog.
So that’s our update for today. As you can see, a lot is happening. But mostly within our family right now. Might be less exciting right now than “not having a place to live in a couple of weeks” (like it was in August). But certainly also very challenging, just in a different way.
Thank you everyone for journeying with us.
In Christ’s love,
Ryoko & Bernd
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