Last summer, Kail, Piopio, and I moved to our fourth overseas post (technically Piopio’s second): Frankfurt, Germany. (The United States obviously does not provide foreign assistance to Germany, but USAID maintains a regional platform here to support missions in the Middle East and North Africa — including Jordan, so we might head back there for a trip one day!)
While we miss certain things about Jordan, living in Europe has its perks. The best thing so far? All of the parks, open spaces, greenery — so many opportunities for Piopio to play outside and for Kail and I to run, bike, and walk around. There were playgrounds and parks in Jordan, of course — and I ran outside regularly, including a half marathon — but not as many, and it’s not as green, being the desert and all.
My second favorite thing about living in Frankfurt: public transportation (you know my longstanding love of mass transit!). It is so easy to get around — not just on foot or by bike, but by bus, tram, subway, or train. And not just within the city — we have taken the subway to a nearby town for hiking in the Taunus Mountains, and have taken the train to Heidelberg, Berlin, and Brussels.
We do have a car (same old trusty Rav 4) that we don’t really use during the workweek. This brings me to my third favorite thing about living in Frankfurt/Germany/Europe in general: travel.
Let me be clear: With a toddler in tow, travel has forever changed from our jetsetting days to far-flung places like the Maldives or New Zealand. I used to roll my eyes when parents would say they need a vacation from their vacation, but it’s true: “Vacation,” or traveling with a young child, is not restful or all that relaxing — at least not the way I was used to experiencing it.
But still: Within an hour (by car or train), we can be hiking in the mountains or visiting any number of charming German towns. Within three or four hours, we can be in Amsterdam, Brussels, France, or Switzerland. A couple more hours puts us in the Czech Republic, Italy, or Vienna. Not that we’ve been to all or even most of these places — yet.
Six months in to a four-year tour, we have much left to explore. I feel like we’re finally getting settled, and I can look back on our departure from Amman, three months of home leave, and arrival to Frankfurt with a more objective eye.
I won’t lie: The first few weeks in Frankfurt were a tough transition all around. It was easy in some ways because it’s Europe, but difficult because moving to a new place is a transition, no matter what, and moving to a new country, new job, new school — or, in my case, returning to work full time after being at home with Piopio full time, and in his case, going from being with me at home to preschool and daycare — is a lot to take in all at once.
That’s what Foreign Service life is, though, and its rewards — as far as interesting work, cultural experiences, and personal fulfillment — far outweight its challenges, at least for now. I’m just glad we don’t have to move until 2023!
I’ll write more about our travels so far, our last few months in Jordan, summer in the U.S., and other things that transpired over the last year while I neglected this blog.
What do you enjoy most about where you live?