Joe and I just spent 8 days together on a trip to Germany. It truly and honestly was a trip that will happen just once in a lifetime. We took a time-out from the hustle of having 4 young kids and simply reconnected. Real conversations. Uncontrollable laughter. When we had dinner, we actually took the time to chew our food.
We missed our kids like crazy though. I worked very consciously to not be sad and downhearted about being away from them, and yet I kept having thoughts about what Vince would think of a certain way a machine is set up, or how Liv might appreciate some pretty pattern on a napkin.
So, what did the days look like?
Who: 30 farmers, 3 Claas company reps. It was the most eclectic group of people anyone could have ever dreamed up. Some walked a very straight line, some made me blush in regular conversation. Nobody else had little ones at home. Some were younger and hadn’t entered this stage of life, but most were about 20 years older than us. When we sat down to a meal, you couldn’t even come close to predicting how the stories might go.
What: It was about half Claas (an agricultural machine company) stuff and half tourism. We first visited a distribution site in Hamm, where we learned how they organize millions of parts so they can ship all over the world as quickly as possible. One part of it was robotic and that was really neat to watch. (Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed on any of the tours.) At other sites, we watched everything starting from the foundry where steel was made extremely hot and then poured into molds to form the basic parts — all the way to the final assembly lines. Joe was absolutely in his element, and for me, it was actually not as boring as I thought it might be.
Where: Flew into Dusseldorf. Then, Hamm (parts distribution), Paderborn (pre-assembly), Harsewinkel (Claas Jaguar assembly), Rothenburg ob der Tauber (touring the step-back-in-time walled city, Bad Saulgau (foundry and things like metal bending, also a dairy farm tour), Fussen (tour Neuschwanstein castle), Munich (tour of city, Hofbrauhaus, BMW headquarters, free time). Flew out of Munich to Atlanta to Minneapolis with 14 hours in flight.
When: We didn’t have much of a concept of time because we just got on and off the bus as told! It was pretty relaxing. The time change was 7 hours ahead. Almost all the meals were planned and ready when we showed up. We really rarely watched a clock. However, as we were closing in on the 8th and final day, most people were really ready to go home.
How: The trip was given to us. Well, Joe kinda twisted some arms saying that it was maybe our turn to go. Each year, a group from the Midwest is gathered. The dealership (store) pays for about half of it, so they make the call. We were the only couple from Minnesota, so it seemed like our dealership from here wasn’t as likely to send people as, for instance, the dealership just north of Green Bay, Wisconsin that sent about 7 couples.
I am such a people person that my absolute favorite part of the trip was finding out what made each person tick. People open up to you way faster and in a larger sense when you aren’t local. Often, in answering people’s questions about my kids, the story of Ava’s farm accident that left her without use of her right arm would come up. Let’s just say she has expanded her circle of prayer warriors. People are kind and caring wherever we go.
What was the reaction of the kids when we came home??? They were already sleeping so we waited until the morning. Vince gave me the first real hug I have had from him in years and years. Liv held on for a very long time. Ava started running around, spinning and giggling. Violet put her arms our for me and then snuggled right in. It was unforgettable.
We are working back into every day life here, mostly trying to adjust to the time change and not fall asleep during supper. We are anticipating warmer weather this weekend and it truly feels like spring is just around the corner.