Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Frohe Weihnachten!
I am here in Wuppertal, Germany spending Christmas with Blake and Clara and Clara's family. Wuppertal is close to Köln (Cologne), in the mid-western part of Germany, here is a map to give you all an idea:
I arrived last night a little later than expected because of snow in Germany; our flight left later to begin with and then we had to circle the airport once, waiting for the runway to be cleared of snow. It worked out perfectly though because Blake and Clara got to the airport late to pick me up because of the roads. I am so thankful for the well trained pilot who landed our plane in the snow as well as Clara's sister, Mira, for taking so much time to drive in the horrible weather! The normal hour and fifteen minute car ride took over two hours for us and as Clara pointed out to me, I rode on the Autobahn. She said that most foreigners always want to know about that highway since it's so famous, but it really wasn't anything different...and there was a speed limit!
In Germany, the 24th is the main day to celebrate Christmas, so this morning we all just hung out and talked, very relaxed. About mid-day Clara's older sister and brother-in-law, Lina and Emie (and their son Aaron), arrived to spend a few days here. Normally, the family would have gone to church somewhere in the afternoon/evening, but because of the snow and weather, they decided to stay at home. So we started dinner earlier than usual, had the first two courses: cream of celery soup and then a mango, lentil and celery salad with a small portion of duck for the second. It was so delicious! Everything we ate today was wonderful in general, but the celery soup was to die for! Then we all opened presents, which took a few hours and it was really nice because everyone took their time and we all enjoyed the gifts that each person received. I even got a special gift from the States, from my Mom! It was so nice to have a little something from home on Christmas; I almost cried, it felt so special that my Mom had made sure I had something! But I also got a gift from Blake and Clara and Clara's parents gave me some chocolates and candies to take home with me, that was really sweet of them! After presents, we went back to the table and ate the main course: fish (not sure what kind) or steak with mashed potatoes/red beans and a boiled cabbage salad that had spinach and chestnuts in it...the main dish was so rich and wonderful! Both the fish and meat where so flavorful and tender, and the cabbage salad was amazing! I would love the recipes for the entire meal! Then it was desert and we had some cake that I thought was ice cream, but it wasn't, I'm not sure how to describe it and a baked apple. I think it was baked, it had been cored and then the inside filled with pine nuts, it was so yummy!
Then the family all chilled out and talked about how full we were! Clara's parents, Viktor and Eva, went to bed after a little while and Clara, Blake, Lina, Johnny (Clara's older brother) and I stayed up talking about the Enneagram book that I got from Blake and Clara. We actually just got done a little while ago; it is 3:30am now!
I would have to say that even though I was not at home and with all the people I love, it was a very enjoyable day and a wonderful place to spend Christmas! Clara's family has been overly generous and they all have been very good at either speaking English as much as possible when I'm around, so I'm not so lost, or one of them will translate a little bit for me if they do speak in German. I don't really mind that they speak in German around me, I have gotten used to being in a place where I can't always comprehend situations, but it is nice to be able to have conversations with them and they all speak English so well! So already, I have really enjoyed and appreciated my time here in Germany because I have been shown hospitality like none other and Clara's family is fun and they have really intelligent, engaging conversations.
I miss everyone back home and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas day!! I can't wait to be home in less than a week and seeing all my family and friends; I've missed you all more than you'll know!!
Lots of Love!