life · living abroad · travel

Urlaub

English translation: vacation

Our translation: Matt gets 4 weeks of vacation per year!

On one of the first days of being in Germany, I tagged along with Matt to a quick meeting/orientation with one of his directors, Wilhelm. Right off the bat Wilhelm made us feel comfortable and welcome by making sure we were getting along ok in our new environment – “How was your flight?”, “Have you found an apartment?”, “Are you getting around ok?”, etc. He even helped us fill out our city registration form, which is one of the key pieces to getting our residence permits!

Of course, most of the meeting revolved around Matt’s work contract and duties as the post-doc at the social cognition center – how many sick days he can take (apparently as many as he needs unless they’re 3 or more consecutive days, and then he just needs a doctor’s note!), who he’ll be working with and the collaborations they expect, the different programs and facilities available to him…all in all, pretty typical topics for a quick rundown of a position. Until we started talking about vacation days, or the amount of time he gets for ‘holiday’, as they say here (and almost everywhere else that isn’t the U.S.).For Matt’s position, he’s entitled to 4 weeks of vacation every year. His sick days don’t use them up, and he doesn’t have to earn them or build them up over time.

Germany as a nation has a statutory minimum of 20 paid vacation days per year, regardless of the job, according to the Wikipedia article here (if you’re wondering how many the U.S. has, I’ll save you some time – it’s zero). The average amount of vacation leave worldwide is somewhere between 15 and 25 days per year (just ballparking it) with several countries offering at least 30 days! Remember, these are the minimum amount of vacation days. so I would suspect that depending on the employer, you may end up with more days off than the minimum. I know Wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable source, so feel free to do some extra searching (and correct me if I’m wrong) if this topic interests you!

According to Wilhelm, most people split the four weeks of vacation time into two, two-week vacations and travel all over. We won’t be using up any of those vacation days any time soon, because a) we’ve only been here for a couple weeks and still feel like we’re on vacation, and b) we just had an awesome trip to the Outer Banks in July!

I told you all in the last blog that I’d come back to what we were up to last month, and boy, was it busy! After our quick stay in Ohio, Matt and I started on what was supposed to be a 7.5 hour road trip from Dayton to Hillsborough, NC, which turned into a 9.5 hours drive after we sat on the highway for over an hour in West Virginia due to a semi blocking the road (a non-injury accident).

At least Matt had a good book to read!

Once we got moving again, the rest of the drive was beautiful, even though it rained the whole time. A section of the highway in West Virginia and Virginia cuts through Jefferson National Forrest and crosses the Appalachian Mountains. We’ve taken this route three times now, and every time I can’t help but be reminded of the Misty Mountains in Middle Earth. Probably because they’re always misty.

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No dwarves or hobbits in these mountains.

Once we got to North Carolina, it was time for relaxing, family and fun! On our second day there we all went out to a lake party to welcome the new UNC Ophthalmology residents to the department where Matt’s dad works.  Matt and Scott canoed and fished, I kayaked, and Matt and I rode the jet skis. The most amazing thing was that the lake is heated by a nearby plant, so the water never gets below 80 degrees, even in the winter!

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The highlight of our stay with the Baldwin crew was, of course, our trip to Corolla in the Outer Banks and all the family time we spent with aunts, uncles, and cousins. It had been years since the last beach vacation with the whole extended family, and we were blessed that they made it happen before our move! In fact, it may have been the last time that we will all fit into one beach house! Here are some of the highlights from the trip:

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The vacation wasn’t all fun and games though. Halfway through the week Uncle Ninny (Dennis, to those outside the family) had a mishap with one of the bicycles and broke his collar bone – in four places! He was a real trooper and ignored the injury as best he could – maybe a little too much. He was out crabbing with us the next day! In the same place where Ninny wrecked the bike, I stepped on a tick nest. The ticks themselves were only the size of a poppy seed, and when I realized what was on my legs…

The ticks didn’t cause any long term damage…except maybe psychological.

After we got back from the beach, it was only a week until our move, but we packed in as much as we could. Shopping, playing games, making meals together, doing an all-cousin workout in the middle of the living room…you know, normal stuff that families do together. No trip to Hillsborough would be complete without a meal at The Mediterranean Deli – or the Med Deli for short – and the night we went produced this beaut of a storm cloud:

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Thinking again about our vacation and time off in North Carolina, and the days off we have to look forward to here, it makes me realize how blessed we are: to have family to visit and spend time with, both mine and Matt’s, jobs that provide us with the funds to do so, and currently, to live in a country that understands that every working man and woman needs time to rest and relax.

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