Apartment Tour (or should I say, Flat Tour?)

This post will probably be rather boring, since all my energy seems to be dedicated at the moment to stocking up our apartment with the basic necessities like pots and pans (and chocolate), lugging said necessities home, and thinking of tasty things to cook since I started getting tired of the old faithful hamburger (around here they call it beef mince) and random veggies mixture.

Anyhow, on to the apartment. In this apartment, we have a bed:

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Exhibit A

It’s nice to have a bed, because before we were just sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. You try heaving your very pregnant self off a 4 inch high air mattress and tell me it’s easy.

We also have lovely wide windows that Jared has discovered the perfect use for.

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The scholar at work.

They’re kind of like a cross between a window seat and a treehouse, or so I imagine.

Coming out of the bedroom, there’s a hallway to the door, a bathroom on the right, and the living room (reception room in UK parlance) and kitchen on the left.

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The hallway. Fascinating, eh?

Our bathroom feels palatial compared to the last few places we’ve lived. It’s so nice to have a pretty bathroom that rewards you for keeping it clean. And the bathtub certainly doesn’t hurt things either!

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Jared attempts to emulate Sir Winston Churchill now.

For the kitchen/living room, you’ll have to see them filled with people as you would if you were actually visiting. Jared’s friends from school came over and celebrated the imminent arrival of JQ with us this weekend. They brought presents and we gave them food and everyone had a lovely time.

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And helped assemble them (and isn’t it cute?!)
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Opening presents while everyone looks on.
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The steps to the kitchen make for perfect extra seating.

One of the gifts we were given was a cake that was apparently the favorite dessert of the Congress of Vienna (no, it didn’t survive from the 19th century–it’s just the same recipe).

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It was quite tasty when we opened it later. Basically a walnut praline pie or something like that.

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Jared loved it.

Combine a tasty pastry with the peace settlement that resulted in the most peaceful century in modern European history, and you have the recipe for greatness. Maybe it’s why the Congress of Vienna was so successful.

Anyways, we love our little flat, and it’s a great space for entertaining as well. Come by and see us sometime!

Four Ways to Keep Your Faraway Friends

When you’ve grown up with someone and seen them practically every day of your life, it’s a bit hard when you have to move away. You can’t do spontaneous things like going out for coffee in the afternoons or going shopping for a couple hours or even going on a walk like you used to. Instead, you have to balance busy schedules against the rigors of different time zones and different lives. You may even start to wonder if it’s even worth it to keep your friendships going–if perhaps they’d be happier if you just bugged off and let them keep living their lives without constant interruptions from you reminding them what life used to be like.

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The rose bushes are always greener on the other side of the fence.

Fortunately, friendships don’t have to peter out with distance and changing lives. There are still some things you can do that will help your friends far away feel like they’re still connected with you–that you still care.

First, be proactive, whether you’re the friend that left or the friend that stayed. Don’t assume that just because they’re your friend that they can do all the working of keeping the friendship together, or figuring out all the wonky time-zone differences, or figuring out your schedule. If you work together on this, it will also have the bonus that you talk more!

Second, try to make things easier for them to call you. If there’s a foreign country involved (no, we’re not starting any wars or anything!), chances are neither of you can just call from your phone like you normally would. Try to get free apps like Skype or WeChat (which is huge in China!) that will let you talk without one or the other of you spending a boatload of money every time you get lonely. Even $0.05 a minute adds up pretty quickly.

Third, (and this might be the hardest), keep thinking of things that you can talk about. If you’re anything like me, when something interesting comes up that you want to talk about with your friends, it may be a couple days before you get to calling them. And by that time, it might have disappeared! And if I can’t remember anything I wanted to talk about, I’m pretty much the world’s most boring friend. Conversations devolve into a series of “How was your week?” “Fine.” “Anything exciting?” “Nope.” Read a thought-provoking book, or talk about something interesting you read in the news, or even discuss funny YouTube videos. Or, you can remember the interesting things that happened at work that week, like the time your student said “shit” in class without knowing it was a bad word. (He was using it to talk about dog poop).

Fourth, do what you can from a distance to make your friend feel cared about still. (I’m really bad at this one too.) Send a postcard, or an email if a postcard is too hard. Maybe write a letter, or, if funds allow, send a small box. If you feel up to it, visiting is always appreciated. Just think of it as your only chance to see the world.

So, if all your friends have moved away (or if you’ve moved away), your highschool habits of forming friendships just aren’t working anymore, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever make new friends again, or if you’re doomed to die friendless with hot ears from talking on the phone so much, think of these tips. Long-distance friendships are possible–though hot ears are pretty much inevitable.

An Open Letter to the Recently Engaged

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Pretty much what our entire engagement looked like, when we weren’t in two different states.

And since I mean everyone (there have been at least seven engagements in the past three weeks), I thought I’d just post it here.

Dear newly-engaged-people,

I’m not sure I ever really said congratulations on your news, so I’ll say it now, even though you’re probably ready to tell the next person who says it to you to go jump in a lake. Don’t worry–the well-wishes die down after about a year of marriage. Though they’ll probably start again around the time you have your first child or so, though I’m not an expert at THAT phase of life just yet. So anyways, congratulations!

I’m happy for you both as you start this next phase of your life together, and I hope you’ll be able to keep your sanity together as you finish your next semester of school, plan a wedding, and plan a life together. Engagement is a hard time of life (or at least it was for me), since you’re transitioning from one life to another and don’t really belong in either anymore. I think the best word to describe it is tension, because you’re being pulled by your old familiar life as a daughter and a sister and a friend, and you want to keep those relationships, of course. But at the same time, you are starting a new relationship and defining yourself in a new way in relation to a new person, which means you have to grow immensely in ways you never imagined you would.

I don’t know whether you spent much time daydreaming when you were younger about what it would be like to be engaged or married–but it’s not really much like the daydreams. Of course there are those thrilling moments, but then there are a lot more moments of just life, when you have a headache and school to do and you wish he would just go away and let you do it, or when you have to talk, again, about mundane details of your wedding that you really don’t care about but SOMEONE has to think about them.

Sometimes you’ll get tired of kissing and always wanting physical affection–and sometimes you’ll long for it but will be far apart (though not SO far apart for you two as it was for Jared and me!). And always there will be a core of dissonance at the center of your being as the thing which you’re preparing for is not what you are now.

It’s times like these that enable God to show us what his kingdom will be like and what we, here on earth, are supposed to feel as we prepare for heaven. It’s times like these that make “the bride of Christ” such a powerful image, as you, preparing to be an earthly bride, more fully know what the longing for another person, for no longer being single, is.  Don’t lose sight of that understanding.

I love you, dear friend, and I’m excited to share in this new season of life with you, even though I’m far away. Stay strong!

Your friend,

Annika