Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | October 12, 2013

Affairs of the heart

Cheers to Katie and Pat!

Cheers to Katie and Pat!

The hardest part about living half a world away from those you love is you miss some pretty special moments. That’s happening today for us.

Two years ago, a few weeks after we first arrived in Bulgaria, we missed the wedding of Teri and Eric Hatchell. Teri is my cousin, but it’s more accurate to say that she and her sister, Katie, are like nieces to Melody and me. Heck, Katie still calls my darling bride Auntie Melody.

Katie and Teri are close to Jenna, our daughter, in that cousin-y kind of way. They have traveled with us (most notably about 15 years ago to Washington, D.C., where they served as babysitters during my father-in-law’s wedding). But they also visited us in Minnesota, spent time together at Jenna’s grandparents – my parents – Up North, and it was Teri’s influence that helped Jenna find her way to the University of Wisconsin.

Katie and Jenna share Chicago as a home base now. There’s lots of overlap, lots of connections.

And today, Katie is getting married in Milwaukee to a heck of a sweet guy and, as with her sister’s wedding two years ago, we’re going to miss this one, too.

The pull of family is strong for those of us in this ex-pat world. We resist. The pull, like gravity, never lets up. Yes, we fill our days and nights traveling unfamiliar roads, meeting new people and fighting the inevitable pull.

It comes at us in waves sometimes. Yes, we miss those joyful moments like Katie’s wedding – and Teri’s. But we also miss the mundane. A quick visit over a cup of coffee with my mom. A game of golf with my dad and brother. A beer in a favorite pub. The familiar patter of conversation with long-time friends. A walk in the woods along trails I’ve trekked since I was a young boy.

We substitute it with new friends and new experiences, but the pull is strong and unrelenting. We will resist. There is still much to discover – about ourselves and our surroundings. And there is joy in creating new connections, new life-long friends, new stories that will certainly be shared over a beer many years from now. It just takes time.

In the meantime, and on a less sentimental note, I’ve had a rough start to the school year, health-wise. A bad knee kept me off my bike for long stretches and I was worried I’d have to have surgery. I hurt my knee at, um, a wedding this summer. Let’s say I was over-enthusiastic about the “Jump Around” part of the festivities (so it’s probably a good thing I’m not at a Wisconsin wedding after all).

Anyway, I saw a doctor in Sofia and he prescribed a supplement/medicine that I don’t think is available in the U.S. But my knee is miraculously better. (Turns out I have osteo-arthritis. I’d probably benefit if I dropped a few kilos, but that’s another story for another day.)

But I’m back on my bike and, lo and behold, had my first real dog scare of the new school year today. Up on a trail I had traveled several times previously, I was chugging along when out of the corner of my eye I saw two dogs take off after me. I was on a dirt path but traveling slightly downhill; I figured I could outpace them. I was wrong. One of them was pretty damned fast and was gaining on me. I pedaled harder, but couldn’t shake him. He was barking furiously and I wasn’t sure what to do. So I yelled. “HEY!!!!!” I went full lunatic and the dog stopped in its tracks. I’m sure he was confused. I was relieved. I haven’t been bitten yet by one of these guys, and I’m not altogether certain if they are just barkers or biters. But I’m not eager to find out, either.

Anyway, someone told me they hadn’t read much about me biking, so I figured I’d throw that in there. I’m riding now about three times a week and the weather here has been incredible. … I’m hoping for a couple more months of this, but that might be too optimistic. We shall see.



  1. What fun and information, Mark! Yes, affairs of the heart and your middle –years, knees,separations, waistline. It is always good to hear you outclass those dogs some way. Your students are lucky! Hugs, Ava Dale

  2. Great report. Dogs must not have been of the weinerdog variety. Advice there: give him/her a treat. Calms their nerves. Hi to Melody. best/ j

  3. i’m glad your knee is better. and i’m pretty sure i’ve seen you do “full lunatic” in the newsroom in days gone by.

  4. I know only too well the pull of a faraway home — the slightly schizophrenic state of being happy where you are, but still missing those beloved faces and familiar places. But I’m glad to read that you’re finding some solace in the new experiences you’re amassing, and in your new friends. Plus, you’re getting to try supplements/medicines that aren’t available in the U.S.! Hope your knee is back to 100% soon. As for those wild dogs: Well played, with the full lunatic bit! I would very much like to have seen the bewildered look on the dog’s face. Ha!

  5. Why you gotta make me cry with all your posts?? You should re-post the video of the wild dogs chasing next time–that will get some laughs 🙂

  6. We are back home now after the festivities of the wedding weekend. It was wonderful to see Jenna [after many months!] and good to meet Alex, a nice young man! So now your dad is recovering from the so-called “dancing” and thinking that he needs some other type of shoe for this aerobic activity that in no way resembles the slow dancing of our generation. Weddings are great events to see relatives and friends that we don’t see often enough and so we are sorry that you and Mel missed that chance to catch up on some family gossip, Hopefully we can arrange some kind of a family get-together next summer as they all want to hear about your adventures.
    Hmm, I see that others recommend doggie treats like your dad encourages you to carry. But I can see that a fearsome yell might be quicker.

  7. Nice update! Miss hanging with you guys!

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