Today, I installed lights.
That’s right, lights. In our apartment. Which came without lights.
That’s par for the course here in Germany because, hey,
the lights the last person bought wouldn’t be my taste anyway, right?
There are so many small things that make living in a new place difficult. Here is the saga of the three lights I installed today but first, the glance into why this process took almost two weeks.
What’s Black and Crispy and Hangs from the Ceilings in Germany? An American Ex-pat Electrician!
I have tackled many a light installation in my day. I’m not afraid of a few live wires. I’m your regular Handy Manny.
But notice, please, that there is no junction box. No place to anchor. No way to join the wires to the light fixture.
So, to wire up a light, one must not only secure the wires, but also find a way to anchor the light into the ceiling. While drilling into the plaster where the wires are run. So be sure to turn off the power! But also, you’ll need power to operate the drill . . . .
All of which takes a trip to the hardware store (just like at home). Only here, I don’t know what anchors are called (Dübeln), or screws (Schrauben), or anything else that I need. Much less find them in the store or explain to an employee what I am facing.
We do have help here. One day, a friend tried to painstakingly describe to me what he called a “Hoken.” Evidently this is a special type of screw that is needed to install this sort of thing. Perhaps something only found in Germany for just such an occasion as I was facing. So I went to the store, armed with this new information.
It was a “hook.” I needed a hook.
We take for granted how much language is tied to menial, everyday tasks. Not speaking German adds time to almost every task, which is why installing not one, not two, but THREE lights, all while navigating around German quiet hours (no drilling between 1-3 PM, or before 8AM, or after 8PM) is a big deal. It was a good day.
The three lights included:
A cabinet/mirror/light combo over the bathroom sink. This required a good bit of motivation, as I drilled through tile once only to find that I measured my anchors incorrectly. Metric system, you win again!
Then I moved on to the light in Cade’s room. Note again the picture from above:
I drilled and hit steel. Then again. Steel. Maybe if I move a few inches the other way?
Evidently to drill into these situations you need a “Bohrmaschine,” a drill with titanium bits and hammer action. This is not your grandma’s drill (wait, what?):
How would I have known that I needed a “Bohrmaschine” without someone telling me (and also offering to lend it to us for these projects)?!?
But finally, Cade’s light is up and running with what I will call a couple of extra “heat vents” surrounding the base. I’m sure there will be some sort of hole-filler compound I can plug those up with.
Third, armed with my new-found understanding of all things ceiling-like (ceiling-y?), I installed the light in our living room. That’s right, after dark, it has been dark in our living room, for over two weeks!
This one went way quicker, and the holes I drilled originally (that hit steel) had now met their match!
So grateful for a chance to learn
There are so many instances where we find life presenting small challenges. Things that shouldn’t be difficult are suddenly riddled with obstacles like a minefield, or like the Agro-Crag on Nickelodeon GUTS!
But we are grateful for the opportunity to learn and develop. We have great friends here already, who are helping us overcome these small steps. Because of their help, we were able to go downtown and get all of our paperwork submitted for our visas. Because of their help getting settled, we were able to meet with a language school about the best options for us. Little challenges arise, but day by day we are getting settled.
Because we are with an organization that encourages us to take time to “become German” (at least as much as is possible), we can figure these things out and build relationships along the way.
Because of the help we have received from many wonderful and patient people here, I am writing this in our living room.
And I’m grateful!