Approximately 36 hours after I left home Thursday morning, I arrived home on Sunday morning.
While I had moved the last of my stuff out of my old apartment last week, I still was at home in Kandern doing the last of my lasts for a few more days. I had my coffee in an Oregon mug overlooking the cute little German town I've called home the past decade while looking online for new rentals near my church in New Zealand. There was not a lot of normal in my last week, but I was able to end well with some last goodbyes and pretty exceptional moments.
The deregistration from the rathaus wasn't particularly special, nor was adding the power of attorney in my bank account, but each of those events on Monday came with a significant goodbye with two important people in my life. Tuesday had some spillover of last minute things to get done; so did Wednesday and Thursday. Fortunately, I'd planned well enough to have margin and to say my goodbyes well while also getting my last Bombastic burger and a few extra meals at the bistro - plus two stops at the Eis Cafe in my last week. Y'all know I had to get a spaghetti eis before departing. Also a schokomint becher was my last last in Kandern because that's my go-to fave and Heather's kids wanted to take me there (as an excuse for them to get ice cream).
I don't generally have lots of overt emotions, but there are feelings deep under the surface. Through this whole process of leaving well, I've tried to let myself face things as they come rather than ignore or repress, but there just wasn't a lot of emotion - until Wednesday night. I went out to dinner with the Pecks and then had an intentional goodbye moment with them and the Yaus at our picnic bench. I've quickly grown to love the Pecks living upstairs, and it's been such a joy to watch the Yau boys grow up living in the same building as them the past nine years. Truth be told, Anna was one of the very first people I told that I'd applied to the job in New Zealand because it meant that I wasn't going to get to teach her son who is entering 11th grade this year. He joked I was leaving just to avoid teaching him, but that was one of the only hesitations I had about leaving. I've stayed in Kandern longer than most staff do, so watching some of these kids turn into teenagers just in time to leave is really hard.
Heather's daughter drew me two pictures before I left which I plan to hang in my home and my offices as reminders of the students I left in order to love and serve the students to whom I am called here. I'll circle back to that before ending this post, but I've got to tell you about some other significant moments in the past few days.
So after saying goodbye to the Yaus and the Pecks, both families headed inside the HammerHouse, and I left the property for the last time in the foreseeable future. Once I hit the street, my eyes got a little blurry with tears thinking of all the good God has done in and through me on that property. I woke up Thursday morning to head to Hieber for a final time and load up on candy to bring to Jacqui. I also was delighted to see the bakery had chocolate croissants and bought myself one of those to enjoy on my last day. I made my way along the river and parked myself to enjoy the hillside view of the monument while enjoying my German baked goods. And wipe away some tears. Actually, right when I got there, Mike and Kari ran up and gave me a hug goodbye which was a coincidence they were walking by, and that got me pretty emotional, so it's probably the Greenhoe's fault I got so teary.
While I'd joked with Heather that Thursday's plan was to "stew in anxiety" all day before leaving, I was really grateful for the margin I had in their house to have my final goodbye with Hans and Gundi who literally hunted me down across Kandern. After discovering that I was no longer staying in my apartment, they walked across town to Sarah's apartment and asked her where I was. Fortunately, she knew I was staying at the Powers and escorted the Lacostes to see me. When Gundi sniffed and pulled out a tissue, I lost it. I actually cried. I've talked about how much I love this German couple who adopted me when I wrote about their generosity to host my going away party for all my German friends. I genuinely cannot express my love and gratitude for how they have contributed to making Germany my home for the past decade.
There are so many people who have made me feel loved and at home in Kandern, and another one of those people is my BFF Chris. There's a long running joke Chris and I have about him being my "Best Female Friend" because of some confusion over the common acronym, but this dude genuinely has been a good friend to me not only because his family adopted me to feed me tacos weekly for several years, but as one of those solid work friends who you like to hang out with because they sharpen you and help you love Jesus better. I can't tell you how many prep periods I've spent going into Chris's room for a cup of coffee and a chance to talk through something or listen to what he's working on with students. I burst through the door one last time for one last cup of coffee and had the bonus of a goodbye with another coworker who was hanging out in the room as well before finishing the coffee and heading to a delicious dinner at the Powers. Heather snuck in two last firsts by making me an Asian food meal that I'd never had and wouldn't kill me and then driving me up for sunset at the monument.
For those who aren't familiar with this place, it is very much not accessible. But we drove up the don't drive part of the road and figured no one would complain if they knew the context: my last day in Kandern and I'm disabled. We had a stunning view and a beautiful chance to reflect on my years of service here and both of our decisions to follow Jesus onto the mission field and be so richly rewarded. Then we went and got ice cream.
I showered and went to bed though I didn't sleep a whole lot in anticipation of starting my long journey from home to home the next morning. Stacie rocked up at 7:30 to load me into her van before we picked up Chrissy and headed to the Zürich airport. I am incredibly grateful for these women who get things done. They refused to leave my side until I made it to the security door. Chrissy snapped a photo in the exact spot her husband took a picture of us before we flew together to Christchurch my first time.
"On my own" at that point, the kind Swiss assist woman escorted me through security and to my gate. She returned to help me to the door of the plane where the Singapore Air crew took great care of me. I did my best to sleep though I didn't get much quality rest on the plane. Fortunately, one of my generous supporters had made a reservation for me in the terminal hotel. I'd booked the hotel with wide margin on both ends of arrival and departure, but upon actually getting to the check in desk, I was a full hour early and asked to add the time as well as another hour on the end for ten hours instead of eight. I was escorted to my room to discover an incredible disabled shower. I'd not planned on the shower being safe, but was overjoyed at this chance to be clean for the second flight and to have the extra hour on the end so I wouldn't lose sleep to get the shower. After sending a selfie to a few people to let them know I'd safely made it to the hotel, I put myself to sleep for the majority of Saturday in Singapore. It was night time to my body, and I slept hard; it was glorious. I woke up at 15:45 local time, showered, and got myself some sort of breakfast or dinner at 17:00. There was a little confusion as the room service menu said "available 24 hours," but when I called reception to order, they told me it was "24 hours beginning at five o'clock." I did, however, have the freedom to get a voucher to go to the buffet in the lounge next to the hotel. I checked out and headed around the corner to discover to my absolute delight that the lounge shared a wall with the butterfly pavilion I'd somewhat lamented not being able to visit because of my travel assistance needs. The kind man on duty kept refilling my plate with the safe to eat options he'd helped me find, and I felt awake and ready to start the next leg of my journey.
The special assist employee picked me and my belongings up from the hotel and escorted me to the waiting area where I had about an hour to chill before they transported me through the extra layer of security for the last gates in the terminal and I waited to board my flight home.
Thanks to the fantastic night of sleep in the hotel, I was totally unable to sleep on the plane, so I picked up where I'd left off of binging season one of Flight of the Conchords to get me back into Kiwi culture. That actually made the flight pass quickly, though I was disappointed to have stayed awake the whole way. As I write this, I've been awake for about 20 hours, and I was hoping to stay awake until three hours from now... Who knows when I'll crash, but thank God for Uber Eats (sadly, Zambrero is closed on Sunday, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow for my burrito). Once I got off the plane, the special assist employees were flooded with work, and I ended up waiting in the hall before the passport check for about fifteen minutes waiting for someone to come help me. The kind woman apologetically told me they were short staffed for the needs today, but I successfully made it through passport control and biosecurity questioning with all my medications, wooden objects, and German lollies dutifully declared. Once we cleared customs, Haley bounded up to give me a huge hug. Four years ago she was plotting how to keep me from leaving, and we laughed about how it took a while, but I'm finally back for good.
"I'm home!" I beamed when we made it outside. This city is my home. Haley was just as excited as I was about that, and I cannot tell you what a joy it is to arrive in a place where I am so loved and wanted. As Haley loaded my stuff in the back, I manoeuvred into the front seat to discover this gem of a woman bought me Marmite. She remembered the post on my Facebook months ago announcing my return to Christchurch via my empty jar of Marmite.
Since I arrived in the morning, Haley was also tasked with getting me coffee, and my request was Black & White Coffee Cartel. I wanted banana bacon maple pancakes with my coffee, and by the grace of God, they were still on the menu. Not exactly the same style, but the right ingredients on the plate. The second task of the day was to get me a sim card, so I'm now set up with a +64 and data. She also walked me through the grocery store (because these Kiwi heathens have all the mall stores open on Sundays) to get a few vital items (like TimTams) to survive the next few days.
By then we were in the target zone to check in to the hotel. I'd requested to stay in a hotel instead of a friend's house for at least the first two weeks to be able to have an accessible bathroom for the initial transition to living here. Since this is intended as a long term move, I'll be hoping to find a forever home soon (tomorrow actually - please pray fervently for the showing I have), and rather than land in someone else's space and transition while navigating a new shower situation, I wanted to make sure I could be clean and safe while finding a place to move. God has prepared the way so far, so even if tomorrow's place is not the one, I'm confident God will open doors soon - which is why I'm confidently asking for prayers to see God at work in my housing situation.
Before leaving me at the hotel, Haley brought up how the week my appointment on staff was announced was the same Sunday her kid was dedicated in church. Remember the comment I made about Heather's kid all the way at the start of this post? It was hard to leave so many precious kids behind, but I'm so excited for the ones I came to serve here. What an exciting story to tell when Haley's kid hits high school that I can say, "I've been here since you were dedicated as a baby, and I'm so excited to watch you grow into your faith through high school."