On Halloween I headed out bright and early in the morning to meet up with Mark. For having a 5 day weekend, I sure didn't get to sleep in much. Or at all. Well, technically I did sleep in on Thursday, until about 8, when I got up and scrubbed the floors in my flat...yeah. Anyhow, I met Mark and then we headed out to Germany to spend the weekend with his sister and her family. I must confess I was going through all sorts of levels of nervousness. None of Mark's family speaks any English, so it was going to be a language overload weekend for sure. Gives me a chance to understand more of how he feels when he ALWAYS has to talk to me in English :)
My German skills are rusty at best, and really never were much to write home about. But I was determined to at least try to communicate with his family. I can't say I did the best job with his sister. I kept losing all ability to speak when she talked to me, but I was at least able to follow most of what she said to me. It was easier with the kids: Nathalie (10), Jennifer (8) and the twins Nicolas and Christian (2 1/2). Kids are more forgiving and less intimidating in general. So I did my best to say a word or two here and there to them. Even manged to come up with some nice simple sentences.
A little while after we arrived Mark and I went with Nathalie to her church. She was practicing to be part of a ceremony there. It was really sweet to see these kids really wanting to take part in their faith. I also was able to take some cute pictures of Mark and his oldest niece. They're about the same number of years apart that David and I are, and they have a very special relationship that was really amazing to see.
It was a really busy day. When we came back we had lunch and then Mark and I took Nathalie and Jennifer in to the city so we could enjoy the sights. The family lives in a little village just outside the city of Weiden. Mark, who always has plenty to say about Czech history, wasn't quite as well versed on German history, but we enjoyed our little walk around with the kids in town.
When we came back we dressed the twins up and they joined us on a little walk outdoors. It was really cold and they were really active. It was rather a relief to get back to the house once again. It's been a while since I've spent much time with little kids, and it's a lot different when you know them well and can speak a language they actually understand...
In the evening I was surprised to learn that they actually celebrate Halloween in Germany. I really had no idea. So Mark and I helped the girls get ready for the event. It was fun to help them put makeup on. I was reminded of the last time I went trick-or-treating, which was in Alaska. Oh the memories of the girls bundled up in huge coats to walk through the snow with their costumes on the outside...Oh the memories.
The whole event was pretty exciting. Mark had never really experienced Halloween before, so it was great to go around with him, and watch how he responded to it all. While the Germans do celebrate Halloween, it's not nearly the huge affair it is in the US. There were a couple houses with pumpkins out, and a few decorations, but it was mostly pretty low key. The best part was when the kids would go to the door and say their trick-or-treat auf Detusch, and then the people would disappear into their houses to ransack their cupboards in search of something to give them. The kids really scored. They got whole bags of Haribo gummies, packages of cookies and even a whole bag of chips. Definitely not totally prepared, but it was fun.
At one house, while the kids were all intent on their task, I held back around the corner and waited. Mark wondered if was getting bored, so he let me be as well. Then, when they came back around the corner I jumped out and scared them all really good. It was so much fun to hear them all scream :) A great night.
We stayed the night there, and then headed back to Cheb in the early afternoon on Sunday. I had some time to play with the girls a bit, and by the end the twins were warming up to me more and more. Hopefully we'll have a chance to visit them again before they all forget who I am. In all it was a really lovely visit.