In the fall of 2020, German chancellor Angela Merkel repeatedly warned us to be prepared for a long hard winter battling COVID-19. She was right. While the Fedibblety organization is grateful that we were able to stay healthy and mostly continue working, home-schooling and the absence of sports activities and social contact for months on end made 2021 a challenging year.
In December 2020 the kids started doing home schooling, with the hope of returning to in-person school after Christmas break. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Instead, both kids were at home doing online school. For Spencer, this meant 2-3 hours of Zoom meetings per day on average. For Meg, usually only 2-3 hours per week. The digital learning was definitely better in 2021 than in 2020, but still left much to be desired. After about 5 weeks of all digital schooling, they started going every other day, in order to minimize the number of contacts. School went back and forth between distance learning and half-time in person depending on the number of local COVID cases up until June, at which time the rates were low enough to go back to normal for the last month of school.
We celebrated birthdays in February in a small fashion. Spencer had his friend André over for a marathon gaming session and his typical ice cream cake. Meg had her friend Jana over to enjoy her Minecraft-themed cake.
In work news, Rob got moved to the Tumblr team at Automattic, where he worked on improving search for the many cat gifs and other assorted memes that are popular there. Working on a product geared towards the Zoomer generation definitely made him feel old, but he is actually starting to embrace old age, and the wisdom which comes along with it.
The second quarter continued to dominated by COVID, with continued home-schooling or half in-person schooling.
Clare completed her contract with the Jülich research center at the end of April, and started planning the next phase of her life. Her immediate next project was to prepare our house in Colorado for sale. We missed her as she spent all of June in the USA doing minor repairs and improvements to the house to get it ready to show.
For Easter break, we planned to rent a cozy cottage in the nearby Eifel region and play board games by the roaring fire. As we were about to get into the car to leave, we received a call from the owner telling us that only business-related stays were allowed because of COVID, so we unpacked the car, and prepared for another week stuck in the apartment. We did manage to keep up some traditions like hot-cross buns, and we did play a bunch of board games.
In May we were able to celebrate a number of occasions in small groups, such as Clare’s birthday at the garden plot of our friends Thomas and Ulli. For father’s day (celebrated on Ascension in Germany), Rob made a strawberry rhubarb pie and we took a family bike ride to the Würselen forest to enjoy the rapeseed in bloom and trees full of leaves. We are thankful that COVID does not seem to infect the fields and forests.
|2017-06-15||Notre Dame||Paris, France||1163|
|2018-07-15||Cochem castle||Cochem, Germany||1100|
|2018-10-14||Montjuïc Castle||Barcelona, Spain||1640|
|2018-10-20||Alzacar castle||Segovia, Spain||1120|
|2018-10-20||Egyptian Temple de Bebod||Madrid, Spain||-100|
|2019-04-20||Porta Nigra||Trier, Germany||170|
|2019-10-10||Roman statues||Sorrento, Italy||-50|
|2019-12-21||Magna Carta||Salisbury, England||1215|
|2020-05-14||Burg Wilhelmstein||Würselen, Germany||1000|
|2020-10-18||Temple of Apollo||Naxos, Greece||-500|
The third quarter began with the end of the school year. Meg finished the 4th grade, which is the last year of elementary school in Germany. They had a very nice graduation ceremony, in spite of extra hygiene regulations due to Corona.
We had a few days after the end of school to get ready for our big trip to the USA. Clare had already been there for a month in Colorado. Rob and the kids met up with Clare in Michigan, where we stayed for a week to visit the Feltys and other friends. We stayed at an AirBnB on the Huron river which was in a beautiful spot, though the mosquitoes were absolutely terrible. We referred to it as the leaning tower of Pisa, because the floor was at a 10 degree slant. Nevertheless, it was in a great location to visit our friends, and we did get out on the river one day. We enjoyed frozen custard at Bob Jo’s, root beer floats at A&W, and great middle eastern food from Shish Gardens. We played cards nearly everyday with the grandparents, Erika, and Sadie. Rob, Spencer, Harold, and Sadie went golfing one day. We also hung out in Ann Arbor with our friends Christine and Ian one day, and even got to see Rob’s old band members play at a barn concert . It turns out the owner was German and is friends with a local band in our area which we have seen; it’s a small world.
While we were vacationing in Michigan, our friend and realtor Liz was busy showing our house in Colorado, and we got an offer over asking price within several days.
After a week in Michigan, we spent nearly four more weeks in Colorado, which felt like a whirlwind. We managed to connect with many many friends, complete the sale of our house, throw ourselves a farewell party, get rid of a bunch of stuff we had in storage, and ship the most important stuff to Germany. We camped for several days on Grand Lake, and made several trips to amusement parks and golf courses. We were so busy we didn’t even get around to blogging much – maybe someday we will post photos.
We had about a week to get over jetlag before school started up again. Spencer had new teachers and courses awaiting him in the 7th grade, like Latin and Chemistry, while Alice (formerly known as Meg) made the big leap to the gymnasium. Now both kids are at the same school for seven more years, which is very nice. Some days they bike to school, and some days they take the bus. Alice was elected class speaker, and is doing a great job with it. Spencer volunteered to be a crossing guard, and was elected to the climate change council.
Once we were back into the rhythm of school, we set out to buy a house in Germany. We had actually been trying for some time, but unfortunately we had several deals fall through for one reason or another. Once we had sold the house in Colorado, we could focus on looking more seriously in German again, and finally we found a house we all liked – the only caveat is that we can’t move in until June of 2022. So, we need to be a bit patient still. For those who like to plan ahead, starting in July you can send us letters to:
Jülicher Strasse 26
For the fourth year in a row, the highlight of the fourth quarter was without a doubt the company retreat. This year we continued the trend to visit ever older artefacts with our trip to Malta in October. This year we were joined by the Dibble parent organization, which was really great. We didn’t get to enjoy the beach in Malta as much as we did in Italy or Greece in the past years, but we did add a new experience – for two of the days there, Clare arranged a private tour guide, who drove us around and took us to all the great historical sites in Malta. There are a number of temples in Malta which are about 5,000 years old, some of the oldest in the world. One of the tour days we spent on the main island of Malta, and the other day on the island of Gozo. We learned so much from our tour guide, and it was very nice not to have to take public buses, or try to drive on the left side of the road.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with international flare – 1 Austrian, 1 Liechtensteiner, 1 Italian, 1 Belgian, and 4 Americans, all living in Germany. Most of the Christmas markets were once again cancelled because of COVID, or highly restricted. We decided to forego them altogether. We did have some Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle for Rob’s birthday with our friends Thomas and Ulli at their garden house, with a little fire to keep us warm. We also were happy to have our old Christmas tree and ornaments from the USA back, and had fun making all of Rob’s favorite Christmas cookies together, and even made a gingerbread house
We had planned to celebrate New Year’s in Cyprus, but unfortunately we ended up deeming it too risky because of COVID.
Our biggest project for 2022 will once again be moving. Even though it is only a few kilometers, it is still a lot of work. While we have enjoyed our apartment very much, and we will definitely miss the view, we are looking forward to having our own place again. Did we mention it has a guest suite? We hope that more visits from friends and family will be in the forecast as well.
Wishing you a safe and healthy 2022,
Rob, Clare, Spencer, and Alice