Tag Archives: germany

Back in America 385 Days Later



385 days after saying good-bye to our German Exchange Student… we are welcoming her back to America! What a fast year plus 20 days it was! If you don’t already know the story, Lara came to us in August 2011 for the 2011-2012 school year at age 15 and in 10th grade. She left us June 2, 2012 at age 16.  She was home for a just couple days when she told her family she wanted to come back to America for her next summer break. Oh, how time flies! It went so fast that I figured the blog was still active so I’d start writing again. I initially started the blog to document my experience of being a Host Mother who was responsible for another woman’s daughter halfway around the world… and for a keepsake for Lara’s, and our, experience! Almost two years since the blog started and we have had more than 11,000 hits! A link for the blog is also on the website for the Exchange Company Lara used for her trip here so students can read about her experience. Lara also volunteers there by helping other students prepare for a similar journey to America. You can read the very first blog here: https://lifewithlara.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/the-exchange-experience-a-host-mothers-view/

1001176_10201421529129353_687189846_nSo…385 days later… we are back at the airport with most of the same friends who were there when she left,  We waited impatiently for 90 minutes until she came out of the International arrival doors. She was welcomed with a banner and everyone yelling, “LARA!!” We were definitely the largest group there to welcome someone at the airport!

385 days later… Lara’s room at the house remains intact. When we returned home from the airport, Lara quickly went to “her room.” It’s a little different than it was when she left but I made sure some items were left in place, like her Bible that she decoupage with the YoungLife kids still resting on a shelf, her old school notebooks on the desk and some of her pottery she made in Clay Class. In the closet were some clothes she decided to leave here, like her Homecoming dress!

20130622_194926385 days later… Lara’s friends are still giggling with her, telling old stories and ready for a night of swimming in the pool after a BBQ.  Some things never change! Brittany, Morgan, Gabby, Erin, Addy, Charlie and Jack were in and out of the pool for most of the evening, along with our son, Travis, and his girlfriend, Rubyann. Then they had to make the traditional trip to Ocean Blue, a yogurt shop around the corner, was a must-do, followed by a movie. It was certainly a late night and a long journey for Lara after 15 hours on planes and jet lag!

385 days later… I realize nothing has really changed since Lara left. Social Media helped us all keep in touch almost every day. I’ve been texting with Lara at least 3 to 4 times a week through WhatsApp, a phone application that’s free texting. We can send photos, videos or record our voices too.  Of course, we’ve Skyped about every other month and had fun sharing things on Facebook and Instagram. Brittany, and has kept in touch with Lara a lot through SnapChat, along with Morgan and Gabby.

SAM_0836385 days later… it’s like Lara never left. Everything is in the same place in the house… some furniture has moved around or is missing but it’s still “home” to her. As I write this, she’s back in the pool on the rafts and playing with the dogs! When she got to the house, she walked right in and checked out the pantry, some of the cabinets in the kitchen, the fridge. She’s just like anyone else in the house and knows I won’t do everything for her. She’s on her own and has to make herself at home again.

385 days later… I’m back to planning some trips with Lara. During her 10 month stay we visited Washington DC, New York City, went on a Baja Mexico Cruise and to Los Angeles and Disneyland. Somehow… we never made it to the Grand Canyon. I know… pretty sad on my part, right? So… a trip to the Grand Canyon is in order. I’m also taking her to “small town America” for the 4th of July. It’s just too hot in Phoenix to do anything so we’re headed up to cool country and Prescott, Arizona for a carnival, live music, fireworks and an Arts and Crafts Show. A trip to Las Vegas is in the works, staying at Mandalay Bay where there’s a beach and lazy river. Lara met her mother in Vegas for a couple days towards the end of her stay in America but I’d like to take her to see some other sights there with Brittany. And if we still have time…we might make it to the beaches of San Diego and Sea World.

385 days later… I can see it’s definitely going to be an action-packed and busy summer! And of course, I’ll document our reunion along the way right here!


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Easter in America


Easter 2012Easter in America… or Germany… or anywhere else in the world…is really the same thing, isn’t it? The true meaning is the same no matter where you are… a universal Holiday based on the death of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and then Resurrected giving us eternal life. he message is the same… the traditions are just little different.

Lara tells us Germans also have the Easter Bunny and colored eggs and jelly beans and chocolate rabbits! But Germans get a few more gifts than most people I know in America. When the kids were little, we would put little toys in their baskets but nothing big. Small things like squirt guns, yoyo’s, maybe a small car or a small doll. But now that they’re older, a chocolate bunny and a couple other candies seem to cover it. In fact, today, I didn’t even get to the baskets until tonight…we were just so busy the past couple days!

This morning we attended the 9am service at the church we’ve been attending for the past 5 weeks, Mission Community Church in Gilbert. We actually succeeded in getting out the door early and getting to church 20 minutes early so we’d be sure to get a seat. That was a great accomplishment for the 5 of us! The sermon was wonderful… probably similar to what many of you heard in church…but our Pastor just has a way of explaining things that makes it so understandable and enjoyable. My favorite Bible verse used in today’s lesson was John 16:30-” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Canyon LakeAfter church, we hurried home, changed clothes and went to Canyon Lake, about a 40 minute drive from our home in the Tonto National Forest. Part of the drive involves winding roads in mountains and then a drop to the lake that’s surrounded by canyons. It is beautiful and the first visit for Lara. We used to have a boat, years ago, and had it moored here but haven’t been back in about 5 years. It brought back many memories for me, Terry and the kids. And I think Lara enjoyed hearing about our life with a boat so many years ago. There’s a restaurant at the lake where you can sit outside on a balcony so that was where we had lunch. It was so peaceful enjoying the great outdoors!

We watched the large ferry boat take off from the dock…. filled with Easter day Tourists. We walked around the boat docks where we used to keep our boat and enjoyed the scenery. We also bought some food to feed the fish and ducks below the restaurant. Then we drove down the road about 2 miles to a little town called Tortilla Flats, that really consists of a store and a restaurant, and that’s it. Cute little place. Then we made a couple stops at stores on the way home and when we got home, all the older kids came over. Everyone had made previous plans because we were supposed to be at Disneyland this weekend but our plans changed due to our business. Melody and Brian and Amber went to a Brunch Buffet with Brian’s parents who are in town from Minnesota. Tyler and Sharon went to a picnic with friends. We all sat around the kitchen table laughing about the past and talking about Sharon and Tyler’s baby on the way!

A beautiful family day celebrating that Christ is Risen! As our Pastor explained today…. Before His death, Jesus had promised eternal life to those who followed Him. If the story ended at His death, Jesus would have been no more than a religious figure with a finite life span. But the fact the Jesus rose from death demonstrated He has the power over death, and only through Him can people have hope for eternal life. Jesus said,  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Happy Easter to all!  Enjoy our Easter photos!

German Karneval festivities start in November


We’ve all heard of the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s been celebrated for centuries and is known world wide. However, many people do not understand what Fasching is in Germany… so Lara helped me understand it..

“Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday.” Traditionally, it is the last day for Catholics to indulge—and often overindulge—before Ash Wednesday starts the sober weeks of fasting that come with Lent. Mardi Gras has long been a time of extravagant fun for European Christians.

In the United States, Mardi Gras draws millions To New Orleans every year. It’s been celebrated on a grand scale, with masked balls and colorful parades, since French settlers arrived in the early 1700s. Hidden behind masks, people behaved so naughty that for decades in the early 19th century masks were illegal in that party-loving city.

Fasching is Germany’s carnival season. It starts on the 11th day of November at exactly 11minutes after 11am and ends at the stroke of midnight on Shroud Tuesday – which is Fat Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). Fasching is more or less a Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox celebration and most Protestant and non-Christian areas do not celebrate it.

Fasching (also known as Karneval) is a time of festivity and merry making – a time to break the rules, poke fun at those who make them and then to make your own new rules.

In Germany, particularly in the Rhineland area, the tradition can be traced to medieval times where many countries existed under harsh rules. Kings, princes and other powerful people maintained their own courts. In doing so, they flaunted before each other their own pomp and splendor at the expense of their population.

During karneval time, the common people took a chance at ‘living it up” and “talking back to their rulers”. They would make a mock government of eleven people, as well as other officials. A price and princess were selected to rule the country during the Fasching season. Political authorities, high placed persons and sovereigns were the target of ridicule, and featured in humorous and satirical speeches. To avoid persecution and punishment, these antics were played out from behind masks and costumes. Parades, dancing in the streets, masquerade balls and comical skits filled the days and nights.

Karneval festivities have become annual events around the world. Also known as Fasching, Carnival and Mardi Gras, the most famous are located in Köln, Germany, Nice, France, Trinidad, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and New Orleans, Louisianna.

Although Carnival in Rio is probably the craziest of all, Germany is undoubtedly the most enthusiastic Karneval center in Europe.

Nearly every town has its own festivities and it is celebrated in homes across the country with the same enthusiasm in which we celebrate Halloween. The Karnevals vary from area to area, but no matter where the celebrations are held, there is fun, happiness, laughter and a certain nostalgia.

Taking Driver’s Education in America


Learning to Drive

Turning 16 and getting a Driver’s License is like a rite of passage for the American Teenager. In other countries, like Germany, it’s more like a privilege to be able to drive…and it’s expensive! So, Lara, our German Exchange Student, is taking advantage of being in America and saving some big bucks!

Depending on the Exchange Student Company a student is working with, some Foreign Exchange Students can get their driver’s license while they are in America. And some states do not even allow exchange students to get a license because they don’t have a social security number. You may be asking the same thing I asked when I first heard this: “Why do they want to get their license here?” The answer was shocking! It costs as much as $2,000-to-$4,000 to get a driver’s license in other countries… and more work! In Germany, Lara said it is about $2,000.

In Germany… when someone turns 16-1/2, they can start the process.
First, they must take 12 theoretical classes… like lectures on different topics about driving.
Second, they must take 12 driving lessons.
Third, they take the theoretical test.
Fourth, they must pass the theoretical test AND the 12 driving lessons BEFORE they can take the driving test.
But… they must be 17 to take the driving test.
If they don’t pass, they can take more theoretical and driving classes.

When they pass and get their license…and if they are under 18 years old…. they get a “Special License”. It states they must must drive with a parent and that parent is listed on the driver’s license. On their 18th birthday, they can get their license.

For those of you reading this in other countries, it is much easier in America. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing or if that means American drivers are not good drivers…but it’s definitely worth noting! In America, you must be 15-1/2 years old to get a permit. All you do is study a book about driving signs and laws… and take a test. For 6 months, you can drive with an adult over the age of 21 who is sitting in the passenger seat. At 16, you must pass an actual driving test behind the wheel of a car and you get your license. That’s it!

If you do not attend a driving school, it costs $7 to get a learners permit. It costs just $25 to get a license. A total of $32. That’s a HUGE difference from other countries! And that’s exactly why Exchange Students get their license here.

Keep in mind, Aspect Foundation, the Exchange Company Lara is with, does not allow students to drive while in America. So you may ask, “Then how do they practice?” The answer: Driving School! Yep… those Student Driver cars you see on the road driving very carefully could have an Exchange Student behind the wheel!

In Lara’s case, we took her to Stop ‘N Go driving school, where our son learned how to drive. I wouldn’t get in the car with him but my husband did. And we still thought it best for him to learn from someone else. Plus, if you attend Driver’s Education in Arizona, you can get a discount on insurance…which we all know can be very expensive for teenagers!

So, this past Sunday morning at 7:40am, Lara was in driving school! For $319 she takes an 8 hour class and gets two 3-hour sessions behind the wheel with an instructor. In class, she learned the same things that are in the book but someone was explaining it in more detail. By 3:15pm, she had passed the test with 100% correct! They gave her a paper showing she passed which she will bring to the Department of Motor Vehicles and be given the actual plastic card with her picture on it!

Oh wait… it can’t be THAT easy, can it??? Of course not! Today we went to the DMV and got turned down! Even with her Passport and all the other legal forms we have for her… her parents must sign the application and have a Notary sign and stamp it. And it must be ORIGINAL signatures! We emailed it to her parents tonight but they have to MAIL it back. And trust me… mail from Germany is NOT a 3-day process! It’s more like 10-14 days!

Why is that an issue??? Because Lara must have her permit for 6 months from the time it is issued…. and we’re racing against the clock! Her 16th birthday is May 10. She goes back to Germany June 6th and must take the test before then. So, if she doesn’t get her Permit until December 1, she can’t take the test until June 1. And with little practice behind the wheel… she may not pass the first time. Aspect Foundation does not allow students to drive the Host Family car, even in the final driving lesson, so she will definitely have little practice! Most American Teens get hours and hours behind the wheel with their parents!

And what happens when she gets home? She can trade her American license for a German one. She’s not sure of that means she has to still wait till she’s 17 or 18 to actually drive so we will keep you posted on that… and on her progress! For now, we will just hold our breath till that paper comes in the mail!


NOVEMBER 29 AND THE PAPER CAME IN THE MAIL! It’s now the 30th and Lara got her Permit! She can get her license May 31 or June 1. She leaves for Germany June 2. Whew! That’s cutting it close!!!