For consistent readers of the FeDibblety annual report, you may have noticed that the 2017 report never arrived. We had some big news which we were waiting on to release the 2017 report, and by the time it arrived in February 2018, we were too busy to write a report. Thus this report covers 2017 and 2018. For more details about the timeliness of the organization’s annual report, please refer to Figure 1
So, on to the big news. The FeDibblety organization has relocated to Germany! Rob was able to relocate to the Nuance office in Aachen for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to become bilingual, get to know a different culture better, travel around Europe, and challenge ourselves. We are currently planning to stay for 2-3 years. So far it has indeed been challenging, even for Rob, who was the one wanted who it most. Please sit down and grab a drink for a medium-length summary of this epic journey.
2017 First Quarter
During the Christmas break Rob started thinking about moving to Germany. Clare suggested that maybe we visit instead first. Rob talked with his managers, asking if he could work from the Ulm and Aachen office for a week each. We also contacted our friends in Erlangen and Nürnberg, and they were also available for a visit. And to sweeten the deal for Meg, we decided to end the trip in Paris for several days, since her Great Aunt Jean has managed to convince her that Paris is the best city in the world. So we booked some flights and got the kids passports, and booked some AirBnBs for us to stay in.
2017 Second Quarter
The second quarter continued much as usual. Spencer played another season of flag football, for the second time with the Crushers. The coaches were very demanding, but he loved it, and learned a ton. We celebrated Easter at home with traditions like dyeing eggs and making Hot Cross Buns. Meg learned to tie her shoes (beating her brother by a few months at this milestone). We got to enjoy watching both kids at their school’s field day competition.
2017 Third Quarter
As the second quarter and the school year closed, we began our European vacation. We arrived in Ulm around dinnertime on Saturday, and got some groceries to tide us over for a day or two, since most stores are closed on Sundays in Germany. On Sunday, Rob’s colleague Rainer took us along with three of his six children to the medieval walled city Nördlingen. Monday through Thursday Clare bravely dragged the kids to tourist attractions in the area including Neuschwanstein, crazy King Ludwig’s castle which was an inspiration for Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
On Friday we went to Munich for one day. We arrived just in time to see the famous Glockenspiel strike 12 noon at the main square, had lunch in the historic Augustinerhaus, got some ice cream, briefly toured the Ludwig Maximillians University where Rob studied for a semester nearly 20 years ago, and played soccer in the English Garden.
Saturday we headed for Erlangen to visit the Misofs. Kerstin (then Will) was an exchange student with the Feltys in 1993. As usual, their hospitality was phenomenal. We came at the time of year to visit the yearly Bergkirchweih beer festival, and enjoyed fresh beer and pretzels bigger than your head. After 2 days with the Misofs, we then spent several days with the Kunerts. Their son Emmi was an exchange student at the Feltys’ in 1997. We enjoyed several days of touring around Nürnberg.
Thursday we headed from Nürnberg to Aachen, for the second round of work for Rob. Rob’s colleagues from Nuance were extremely welcoming. We spent one day at a nearby historic amusement ride festival, one day in Maastricht, Netherlands, and one day in Ghent, Belgium.
On Friday we packed up and took a two and a half hour train ride to Paris. First stop was the Eiffel Tower, which was worth the wait, even though they confiscated Rob’s pocket knife. We spent a lot of time riding the Bato bus on the Seine, wandering through the parks, and hitting some other highlights like Notre Dame, and the Musee d’Orangerie, which houses Monet’s famous water lilies. On Monday it was finally time to say goodbye to Europe and get back to enjoying Colorado through camping trips and visits to the pools.
After some reflection on our trip, we decided that moving to Germany was worth further investigation. Rob asked his boss for some more information about moving in July. In February he finally got an offer.
2017 Fourth Quarter
We ended the fourth quarter and rang in the New Year at the Felty headquarters in Trenton, Michigan. It was really nice to see Sadie and Erika and the grandparents. We squeezed in as much as we could, including sledding with the van Kampens, New Year’s Eve with Luis and Courtney Sanchez, New Year’s Day with the Moores, a day at the Henry Ford museum, and a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts. And of course there was also plenty of good food, cards, and fun at the grandparents. The cousins particularly had fun playing house and store in the basement.
2018 First Quarter
While we waited for the official news about headquarters relocation, life continued mostly as normal. Spencer joined a basketball team, and was the team’s best rebounder. Meg continued to do dance at school. Both kids made pinewood derby cars with scouts.
We celebrated Spencer’s birthday at an indoor amusement place called Boondocks. For his actual birthday dinner he made us all grilled cheese; he has become quite good at making it. He also learned how to play Happy Birthday at his sax lesson.
We celebrated Meg’s birthday at home with a surprise slumber party. She had specifically requested a surprise party, and it mostly worked, except that one of her friends mentioned the sleepover during school. A good time was had nonetheless, with another round of the chocolate fountain.
In March both kids got awards at school – Meg for outstanding citizen; Spencer for academic excellence.
2018 Second Quarter
The second quarter was consumed by preparations for the relocation of our headquarters across the ocean. We spent several months sorting out all our stuff into several categories: (1) Take; (2) Climate-controlled storage; (3) Regular storage; (3) Sell; (4) Loan to friends; (5) Donate; or (6) Throw away. Each of us traveled with 1 large suitcase, 1 large trunk, a carry-on, and a backpack. Rob also shipped a medium box of books. It was going to be an experiment in minimal living. Clare and Rob both went through phases where they were ready to give up. Fortunately these were not simultaneous, so that the other was able to give the other person the courage and strength to continue during these moments of despair.
We did manage to escape the hustle and bustle of packing by spending the week of spring break enjoying the beauty of the Grand Canyon with the greater Dibble organization. Dave and Ellen took the kids in the RV, while Clare and Rob enjoyed the road trip by ourselves, stopping at a hot springs on the way there. It was fairly cold sleeping in a tent, but it got warmer each day, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
One decision we had made for this quarter was to try to minimize kids’ activities. Rob stepped down from leading the Cub Scout Den, and we didn’t sign Spencer up for Flag Football. However, one week into the season, we got a message from the Stencels asking Spencer to join their team, which was practicing right behind our house, so we agreed to let Spencer play if he could get himself to practice. He almost never had a problem doing this, although one of us frequently had to go drag him away from practice to come to dinner. Meg also continued doing dance, which was also conveniently located behind our backyard.
Our final week in Colorado was a whirlwind. We moved into the Dibble parent organization, while we continued to empty out everything in our house. Our friend Sarah Demers worked with Ellen to plan a fantastic 40th birthday / going away party on May 20th. It was quite an affair, and definitely had all of us wondering if we were making the right decision, leaving the friends and family we had amassed over a decade in Colorado. We finally got the last load of stuff from the house at 23:59 on May 28th. We slept in a bit on the 29th, packed up our suitcases, had lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and headed for the airport, with mixed emotions of hope, sadness, fear, and excitement.
2018 Third Quarter
If the final week in Colorado was a whirlwind, the first few weeks in Germany were like a tornado. Clare figured out that counting our house and her parents’ house, we lived in 6 different places in 6 weeks – that also included 3 different vacation rentals around Aachen, and finally our new apartment in Würselen. During these first few weeks we shifted back and forth between apartment visits, shopping for a car, setting up a bank account, appointments at the foreigner office to get Visas and so on. We also tried to make sure to get the kids some exercise and an occasional ice cream. After about a dozen apartment visits and one declined attempt we finally found one that seemed perfect – reasonable price, guest room, good schools, and good bus connections. If you would like to visit us, we have plenty of room!
Both Meg and Spencer joined the scouts, and went camping after only a few weeks of living in Germany, which we thought was very brave. They had a pretty good time, other than getting lots of mosquito bites.
Ellen came to visit us while we were staying in our 3rd AirBnB, in a large house in Stolberg, about 15 kilometers east of Aachen. She brought us an extra bag of stuff we didn’t need right away like winter coats and kitchen knives, and was very helpful getting our new apartment in Würselen set up. German apartments usually come pretty bare bones. For example, there are usually no light fixtures, just bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Ellen installed 4 lamps for us, which have come in very handy. On one weekend we rented a large van and drove all around Aachen picking up used furniture. Several friends from work, Christian and Tobi, helped with this endeavor. We have not given them enough thanks yet!
Once we had gotten settled into our apartment, Rob made an appointment to meet with the principal of the closest school. Somewhat to our surprise, the principal said that the kids should technically start right away. However, since there were only a few weeks of school left, they let the kids “visit” a couple hours per day. This worked out really well for them to get a taste of school before having to jump in head first. For the last week of what should have been school the kids spent the week at a youth hostel learning German through a Berlitz program in picturesque Cochem an der Mosel. It was their first long time away from the family, and went mostly well. Meg called home on Friday in tears, but we convinced her to stick it out until the end on Saturday, and she was happy she did.
In the midst of all this, Clare applied for a part-time position at the research center in nearby Jülich, and got the job! The one complication was that she had to start in August so she could be trained by the Ph.D. student who had just finished and was leaving the lab. We were able to make it work by sending the kids to some day camps for several weeks, and then Dave came to visit and watched the kids for the last several weeks of school break.
One piece of sadness in this quarter was the passing of Clare’s grandmother Dorothy. She had spent the last three of her 97 years in Colorado, and Meg formed a special bond with her. It was very hard to be an ocean away. We are thankful for all the time we got to spend with her while she was in Colorado.
2018 Fourth Quarter
While the third quarter was full of turmoil and change, in the fourth quarter we finally started to settle in to new routines.
The kids started school on August 29th; they were excited, but also understandably anxious. One day before school started we learned that they had been accepted from the wait list into the after school program (OGS), which has proven to be very helpful, especially since they are done with school most days around noon. They get a hot lunch every day, which is not always to their taste, but they have learned to be polite, and that some food is usually better than no food. They also get help with their homework, which they have almost every day. In case you haven’t heard, Germany has taken in over 1 million refugees from around the world in the last several years, which is more than 1% of the population. One effect of this is that there are many programs available to help people learn German, which is beneficial to us. The kids have special break-out sessions several times a week to help them with German. On top of that, they are meeting people from all over the world – Nigeria, Turkey, Syria, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Ukraine, and of course Germany.
After a month of near full-time training at work in August, Clare cut back to the planned part-time schedule, and added German classes at the community college two days a week. We also learned that the world is small, particularly in a relatively small city like Würselen; word spread quickly that there was a new American family in town. Rob worked hard to meet people by volunteering in the school, and soon learned from our neighbor Ellen across the street that there was another American woman in Würselen named Dawn that used to live right around the corner from us, and Ellen put us in touch with her. Clare reached out and was soon having coffee with Dawn semi-regularly, and they even invited us to Thanksgiving!
Spencer gave up American football and switched to real football (i.e. soccer). Rob signed him up with the club just a few minute walk from our house, and it turned out to be a great team. The parents and coaches have been very welcoming, and Spencer has made fast friends with the kids, and improved his soccer skills quite a bit.
After 6 weeks of working hard at school, the kids got 2 weeks off for fall break, which we spent traveling around Spain. Highlights included seeing the nearly completed Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, a nature/amusement park in the mountains of the tiny country Andorra (instead of visiting the beach in Valencia as planned, because they were experiencing flooding), visiting a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct in Segovia, and watching a Real Madrid soccer game.
Shortly after fall break Meg joined the swim team, which has been a great addition to her schedule. The pool is only a 10 minute walk away, and the coaches are really great. One difference we have noticed with German swimming instruction is that they seem to teach breast stroke before front crawl, so both kids are a bit behind their peers in breast stroke, but ahead of them in the crawl. Even after 6 months of being here, there still seem to be frequent occasions where we don’t quite understand what is going on, e.g. when suddenly swim practice turned out to be Meg’s first swim meet, at which she did very well.
In December we found ourselves busy with Advent and Christmas activities and preparations. Clare had 2 Christmas parties at work; Rob had one. Spencer’s football team also had a party. There were also a number of visits to the Christmas markets, including in Aachen, Würselen and a nearby castle (complete with moat!). While the Würselen market was not as big as the others, it was also less crowded, and the Glühwein (hot spiced wine) and Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) were just as good. Plus the kids school had a booth selling waffles on a stick.
We closed out the year with a visit from Dave and Ellen. We enjoyed sleeping in, playing with our new toys from Christmas, and doing a little bit of touristing, like enjoying the thermal baths in Aachen, and the nearby picturesque town of Monschau, famous for its mustard and glass blowing.
The one thing that has been constant in the Fedibblety organization is change, and we expect more of that in 2019. Rob will most likely be working for a different company, as Nuance is spinning off their automotive division, though his fate is still not certain. Clare will hopefully publish a paper from her research on enzymes. Spencer will start secondary school, most likely at the Gymnasium (college preparatory school) in Würselen. Meg will enter 3rd grade. We will continue to struggle and grow as we explore Germany and Europe, and we also plan to visit Colorado and Michigan in August.
Wishing you an excellent 2019,
Rob, Clare, Spencer, and Meg