Friday, January 1, 2016

My 2015, a year in review

As the new year has come, it's not uncommon to see people reflecting on the past year, whether it's on Facebook, in blog posts, or, heaven forbid, actually in person. I guess I'll jump on that bandwagon. I have a particular interest in this practice; as of tomorrow, it will have been three years (!) since I've moved to Germany and up-heaved my life (albeit in a way that I feel has been very positive).

Let's take a look back at the blog. Many of my 2015 blog entries were reviews of my week versus in-depth entries on living here. I also created fewer entries than I have in the past year, not that it really matters; after all, this is blog is not a work of "great social and political import"(to co-opt a Janis Joplin quote).

It's been a bit of a funky year, overall. I started 2015 strong, planning a lot of events with my social groups, taking German lessons, and hiking. Then I got sick with a nasty sinus infection in February and it put me in a tailspin. I missed a week of work and was so sick that I could barely leave bed to get a drink of water. It took about six weeks to recover from that and I basically was a hermit for a while afterward because I had no energy to do anything other than work and go to class. I was rather miserable in class, for that matter!

I was sick of getting so sick and visited the doctor to get my allergy situation under control. He ordered further allergy testing and I found out that I'm slightly allergic to wheat. Finally I had an explanation for those weird, seemingly random sinus headaches/congestion. I also started actually following the regime of using some of the other allergy control methods he had suggested. It was awesome: I had no further big illnesses in 2015! Usually I get about 4-5 sinus infections a year so I was thrilled. I definitely struggled a bit during ragweed season but I kept from getting sick so it was awesome.

In April, I started getting back into the social circle again and threw myself a birthday party, complete with homemade pinata and a super exciting birthday cake made by my lovely coworker. We all acted like a bunch of weirdos, laughed, and enjoyed ourselves. That's my favorite type of party!

It's a good thing I got some socializing in because between May and June, my friends and I had such busy schedules that we didn't get to see one another often. I had four German lessons a week (back to back two evenings a week) and a meeting with my tandem partner. I also was gone every weekend.

By the time I was down to two classes a week, it was July and the summer was ridiculously hot. We had several weeks that were in the high 90s-100 degrees and it was miserable. I mostly sat around, directly under a fan. I didn't want to do anything, including blogging. July and August were mostly miserably hot and without air conditioning, I felt like a slug.

I also felt consumed by work projects. I was charged with creating our in-person training for staff. I've never had to deal with government bureaucracy like this before; to host two, week-long training sessions it took six months, a legal review, a signed letter of permission from a Very Important Person, conversations with several levels of managers and financial experts from almost all of our locations, coordination with religious personnel (even though my organization has nothing to do with religion; this is how overarching this whole thing is!) and facility managers, international labor coordination, and so on. I swear, I think it's easier to sign a treaty with another country than it is to bring in staff for training, and what we do isn't even something that is sensitive!

By no means am I complaining; even though at some point I think I was grinding my teeth from the frustration of bureaucracy, I did enjoy the challenge. I learned a TON and met (via phone call) the leadership of our colleagues at other locations. Our staff reacted positively to the training and I was thrilled to hear that they felt that they were "very well taken care of" because of the thought I put into the arrangements. Another cool thing is that one of the budget people I had worked with on attendee vouchers became a customer of my organization and has really been happy with our services. Plus, I was able to get presenters from another organization with whom we had really been wanting to partner. Overall, it was totally worth it!

This wasn't the only big work project. We are also merging our database with the rest of the organization's, and will be then upgrading the software. This is a major project and while I'm not the lead on it, I'm helping in various areas and will be tasked with writing the documentation and creating the training when everything is ready to go live. In November, my colleague and I were sent to the US to work with our colleagues there on the project. I was thrilled; I so rarely travel for work (even though our "customers" are all remote) and it was great to see our colleagues in person. Plus, my good friend C, who used to work in our office and was my main travel partner, was now in the US office.

Even better yet was I got to see my other good friend C and former colleague J, who had also moved there. What the heck is it with people moving to Texas? In addition, I met yet another person named C, a new friend of original friend C and J. We hung out after work, almost fell in the San Antonio river, and caught up.

In addition to a lot of productive work related to the project and catching up with former colleagues and friends from Germany, I also took the opportunity of the trip's travel plan to stage a layover in Chicago and take a week of vacation that routed me back to Michigan. It's the first time in almost 3 years that I spent a holiday at home and saw my nieces and nephew. I had a jam-packed week; I spent two days in the town where I used to work, three days in my hometown, and two days in the metro Detroit area before returning to Chicago to fly back to Germany. Man, that was an awesome experience and I was stuck by the kindness and affection that my family, friends, and former coworkers showed me.

In looking back over this year, I'd say that I mostly focused on work and learning German. Until my huge trip home, I had only taken two vacation days - but those were definitely awesome since they were used to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law when they stopped by for a few days. However, I don't regret any of this; I pulled off two successful staff training sessions and learned a ton. The vacation time I did take was with people who are important to me and we spent quality time together. As far as speaking German goes, I can now have somewhat deep conversations and keep up for an extended period of time. This year didn't go as I had envisioned it since I didn't travel much outside the big trip, yet I'm content with how it played out.

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