“Das ist Spaß…ja, total Spaß”–Julia, die Tochter des Ines und Henk
“This is fun…yea, totally fun”–Julia, Ines and Henk’s daughter
The second leg of my winter travels took me back to a place that I have visited now a half dozen times. I never tire of the place though and each time I visit I am granted the opportunity to reconnect with people I consider to be a second family to me.
I woke up before the crack of dawn on the 21st in London after spending less than 12 hours back from Ireland.  My flight from Heathrow was due to depart at 6:40 which meant that I had to arrive at the airport well before then.  This presented a problem as the tube doesn’t start running reliably until around 5:30 and given that the train to Heathrow takes about 40 mins, I couldn’t rely on the tube to get me to Heathrow in time to make my flight.  I decided instead to take the Heathrow Express which runs from Paddington Station and takes only 15 minutes or so to go to the airport.  After I paid about £15 to grab a cab to take me to the station I and another frantic Englishman realized that the train was for whatever reason not running and we both jumped into the same cab together to split the fare to Heathrow.  At this point I was in danger of missing my flight and even more disturbing I now had to pay an additional £30 for another cab.  It really sucked.  But nonetheless after a strenuous day of traveling (took me about 15 hours from start to finish) I safely arrived in the German province of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen.
For those who have read this far into this post and still have no idea why I am in Germany at this point, I’ll give you a brief explanation.  When I was between the ages of 3-7 my parents hired an Au Pair (read: nanny) from Germany to look after me and my then new-born sister.  Ines stayed with us for four years and we have obviously remained very close over the past 20 years (God that makes me feel old).  Since her departure we have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to visit her on various occasions, the first being in 1997 and the most recent was in 2010 for her wedding to Henk.  So that’s why I was visiting her and her family again for Christmas or Weihnachten.
Not only was I excited to visit Ines, Henk and Ines’ family, but I was also eager to meet the newest addition to their family, Sarah.  Ines has two wonderful daughters, Julia and Sarah, who can be seen above.  The last time my family saw Julia she was 2 and Ines was pregnant with Sarah.  Now they are 4 and 2 respectively and are quite a lot of fun and full of energy.  I felt bad that Heather was unable to visit along with me as I know how much she would have enjoyed playing with them.
In Germany Christmas is celebrated over the course of at least 3 days.  If Christmas happens to be near the weekend, then the holiday celebrations will be extended even longer.  The 24th was the day when all of the kids were able to open their presents.  Wrapping paper was strewn about all over the floor as Julia, Sarah and their cousins Sven Maarten and Maximilian frantically opened each present that the Weihnachtsman had delivered them.  Der Weihnachtsman was kind enough to even bring me a present and the price I paid for this was to experience some embarassment as I was forced to sit on his lap for about 15 seconds before I could take it no longer.
I really enjoyed being able to spend the holiday with my German family.  This was the first Christmas that I’ve spent away from my Dad and sister and though I knew it was going to happen someday, it was still a little sad not being able to share the holiday with them.  Ines, Henk, the girls and everyone else I was able to visit during my brief stay in Germany were awesome and made me feel very welcome.
so vielen Dank für die hospitalität und ich will wieder kommen.

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