ein kleines Update

This is mostly for me to look back at later as a reminder of how I feel right in this moment.

I leave in exactly one week.

We all knew this would end at some point and here we are.

I feel so at home here. It took a while for that to be true. I’ve liked it here the whole time but it didn’t quite feel like home. But about two months ago it finally clicked. I have a family here (it feels wrong to call them only host family), I have a best friend here that is always up to whatever shenanigans I have in mind and can usually one-up me (to Addie: EW), I know the streets, I know the bike paths, I have my favorite bars and my not favorite bars, I have my favorite club for once every several months (Barrachoooo), I’ve cultivated my obsession with H&M, I can converse in broken but mostly understandable German, I can understand a lot more German than I can speak, I know every food Sophia doesn’t like, I can usually make her laugh, she can usually make me laugh…

This year has been far beyond what I expected it to be. Instead of it being a year of my life, it has been my life. That doesn’t quite make sense but I don’t know how to explain it better. It’s not a cutout from my regular life, a year I spent abroad. It has just become my life.

I’ve felt really daunted the past month when imagining coming home and I still do. I’m excited to see friends and family; that hasn’t changed. But I don’t have much interest in picking up my life again. I enjoy having an international group of friends. Not just Americans, not just Germans, but a United Nations of sorts. I like traveling to different countries. True, I didn’t get to that many. But I did go.

Germans are funny creatures. (I mean that in the nicest and least offensive way possible, just fyi.) Culturally, very similar to Americans in certain ways and so different in others. This has been great and a pinch in the butt at times. So it goes.

It feels like when I left New York, except worse. As I had hoped, I’ve been able to go back to Buffalo more or less every year since I left. This obviously isn’t possible with Germany. I have possibilities to come back and live for a bit later (get a Master’s perhaps), but that’s the future. Right now there are no guarantees. So while I don’t feel like saying, “Goodbye,” how can I not at least have the possibility in my mind that this is, truly, goodbye? And then I’m scared the memories will fade, the connections will loosen, and ten years down the road I’ll think fondly but distantly at “that one year I spent in Germany.” This is my deepest, darkest fear at the moment because this isn’t something I ever want to think of as distant.

My heart is breaking a little bit each day but I’m going to enjoy my week here. There will be cake, lots of glühwein, and a fair amount of Zwick’l in my near future. It’s not even noon here but a Zwick’l sounds pretty good…

To future me, if you’re reading this more than six months after you get back home, text/call/skype Karin and Addie. Right now. And don’t ever let yourself forget the feeling of home you had here. Because, even if briefly, Bayreuth was your home, was the place you felt most comfortable in the world and I’m just not willing to lose that feeling completely.

Update: Turns out this is the three year anniversary of my blog! This is the first time I’ve ever had a three year anniversary for something. I’ll be honest, I’d rather have it with…say…a person, but a blog is nice, too!

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Things I’ve Been Doing Lately

Whoooooooooops. It’s been over a month since I shared my life on here. I’ve sat down and told myself to write several times, yet no words came that I wanted to share. Things have happened, life has progressed, but it seems my muse has left me for a little while.

Since I feel that my poor blog deserves better than my neglegence, I’ll give you a list of what I’ve been doing for the past week or so.

In the past nine days I have:

  • Spent time in Bonn (I learned that Beethoven was born in Bonn AND it’s the city where Haribo was created…who knew?)
  • Stayed at a dairy farm for a few days (Cows, cats, and more cats!)
  • Went to Berlin for two days/one night (Saw a ton and left with the feeling that I must go back and see MORE.)
  • Read a lot (Merry and Pippin just got reunited with their Company in The Two Towers and Saruman has lost control of Isenguard. Exciting time for the Company.)
  • Thought A LOT abut writing a blog post
  • Didn’t actually write a blog post until right now
  • Thought how fun it is to be PMSing (It had to be said because…wow.)

This isn’t really the blog post I wanted to create but at this point I just want to write something new. I was trying to think of a funny story that’s happened in the past month but my mind is failing me and as I said before, I’ve misplaced my muse and can’t seem to find her anywhere. Hopefully she’ll come back soon and I can get a real blog post up.

Springtime in Deutschland

Spring is here and better than ever. Last week the flowers started to pop up in unexpected places. They seemingly came overnight and it was enough to put a very broad smile on my face. Now the trees are starting their shy comeback to the world of the living. The birds are singing sweet hymns and everything is just awake.

This weather is so conducive to my feelings about footwear which is nice. I like to be barefoot as much as possible and wearing TOMS the rest of the time. That doesn’t really jive with cold temps. My naked feet are quite happy that winter has said its last goodbyes. Socks=get out of my life.

I got to spend last week with my mom and uncle which really put the cherry on top of my springtime sundae. (Dear sweet Jesus, I just said springtime sundae.) Of course, they didn’t get to enjoy much of the high-of-65 weather that we’re having this week (that started on their last day) but it was sunny for the duration of their visit and just having them here with me was really surreal and exciting and AHH MY LIFE IS GREAT.

Though of course the real world is ever present and I still have dumb things to do like taxes and homework and other such nonsense, I’m feeling very light these days. I’m in love with a lot of things right now that I would happily list for you but won’t because this post would quickly become novel length.

Next week my cousin will be here to finish up her latest whirlwind European adventure, then I’ll have a week of normalcy, and then I’m off to Paris for four days with a good au pair friend of mine. My semester at UCF is also ending in the next few weeks and my semester at Uni Bayreuth is starting on the 14th soooooo this month is going to be a crazy mixture of amazing and stressful and MORE AMAZING and lots of other stuff too, probably.

Sorry for the lack in posting. Life has been beautifully hectic and I don’t see that changing until maybe sometime next month. But hopefully I’ll take better care to update my blog/online journal of random thoughts more often. Note the naked feet in the picture below.

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Carnival in Cologne

From Saturday-Monday I was Carnival-ing in Bonn and Cologne. In case you’re like me and Carnival is all new to you, it’s a few days of parties, parades, and general merriment before Ash Wednesday kicking off Lent. Cologne hosts the biggest Carnival celebration in Germany. And I was all up in it.

On Saturday, we hit up a small, local parade. It lasted about 20 minutes and was great fun. Sunday we went to a bigger Bonn parade. For any of my Bradentonians, it was quite similar in size to the Desoto Parade, around 1.5 hours. Monday we went to the mother of all Carnivals in Cologne. It was a five hour parade and wow…

Below are some facts and observations I made throughout my Carnival celebrations:

  1. EVERYONE dresses up. Not just kids and college students.
  2. No beads. Candy, little toys, and flowers (if you’re lucky) are where it’s at.
  3. Showing some cleavage makes getting flowers easier. Red lip stick doesn’t hurt either. Don’t ask me how I know that.
  4. Beer is always appropriate. 3:00 PM, 10:00 PM, 9:30 AM, every time is a good time for a brewski.
  5. If you’re a real pro, you’ll have a cup hanging from your neck so you can go hands free with your beer.
  6. You should be learning the songs that go along with Carnival from a young age. I missed the memo. They’re still fun, though.
  7. Be prepared at any moment to lock arms with the people on either side of you (stranger or no) and dance.
  8. Also be prepared at any moment to yell “Alaaf!” three times in a row. *Note: This changes depending on the region you’re in. DON’T screw it up.
  9. Clowns are always in style. Pirates too. (I was a pirate. I like to conform.)
  10. Riding the train into Cologne on the day of the big parade is really a fun sight to see.
  11. Getting back to the train at the end of the day is almost an equally fun sight to see. Much less excitement. Many more looks of exhaustion and drunkenness with a smidgen of regret thrown in here and there.
  12. Even when not actually at a parade, Carnival time is party time. Be prepared to socialize. A lot. Social anxiety be damned.
  13. Different parts of Germany celebrate Carnival differently and some don’t celebrate it at all. It’s actually really crazy how strikingly different the cultures are in different regions here.
  14. You can get really pretty painted hard boiled eggs and they are delicious.
  15. Standing for five hours is not nearly as tiring as you would think when you’re having fun, eating candy (gotta keep that blood sugar up!), and drinking a moderate amount of beer. Have I mentioned beer enough in this post? I sure hope so.

So that is what I experienced condensed into a very small nutshell. There are of course about 3,000 other things that happened but I think for those 3,000 things you kind of just had to be there.

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

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My good friend, the Cologne Cathedral.

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Saw this BEUT at the second parade. It had multiple Confederate flags and was surrounded by cowboys and Native Americans. I fear that flag will follow me wherever I go in life.

I’ve Been In Bayreuth A MONTH!

In honor of tomorrow making it a month since I arrived, I broke my time here down into some numbers.

One Month in Bayreuth

Things I’m Loving In Deutschland (So Far)

Well week two here has come and gone and I started to think about how it’s gone so far. Instead of trying to recap it all, I decided to make a list because lists are great.

Things I’m Loving In Deutschland:

  1. THE FOODS. Holy mother of God. I’ve tried so many new things since I arrived and I can honestly say I’ve liked everything. I think my new favorite thing in the world is pretzel dumplings. And cheese. I love cheese. Thank God I’m not lactose intolerant.
  2. I feel like I’m in the Secret Garden anytime I leave the house. Cobblestone and spongy green moss abounds.
  3. You don’t really need a car here. This is the first time I’ve ever lived in a place where public transportation, walking, and riding a bike will pretty much get you anywhere you need to go.
  4. It’s cold! Alright, it’s actually been unseasonably warm here but it’s had cold moments and I think we’re about to ease into more coldness soon.
  5. People are nice. Yep, 99% of the people I have met so far have been extremely nice. Every time I have to speak to someone and I’m not sure if they speak English I get really scared (at the grocery store, book store, etc.). Silly me, though. Either they do speak English or are nice enough to help me anyways.
  6. The leaves. Newsflash! Fall is beautiful. That is all.
  7. The beer. Or bier, I should say. But for reals. The beer. THE BEER. *Prost!*
  8. The German language. I, along with most people in the States that I’ve talked to, have never thought of German as the prettiest language. However, I’m kind of changing my tune now that I’m here. There’s a subtle rhythm that, with a lilting cadence, can lead to a really beautiful sound. (Side Note: I don’t possess said lilting cadence when speaking German. Or rhythm. I sound pretty terrible, actually.)
  9. The town center. It’s gorgeous. Cars aren’t allowed for the most part so you can walk at your leisure through the myriad of shops and restaurants. (Side Note: A lot of the restaurants with outdoor seating have big, soft blankets on the chairs. How cool is that?)
  10. The opportunity. I am in a country with so many wonderfully stunning things in it. I am in a country that is surrounded by other countries waiting to be discovered. How have I been so lucky as to get here? I can’t wait to make this the best year of my life.

My First (Half) Week

So, I’ve now been here for about four days. How it’s only been four days, I don’t know. It is beyond my comprehension that I was in my bed at home in hot and sunny Florida only five days ago.

I’ve thought over the past couple days about what to write concerning my first few days here and the words aren’t quite coming. I mean, I can tell you what I’ve done (I’ll do that in a second), but I wanted to write this beautiful, artistic description of my journey adapting to life in a foreign land. First, I’ll give you the facts. Maybe then I can give you the frilly version.

The family I’m with has been nothing short of amazing. They’ve all been so nice and so patient with me thus far. Sophia (the child I’m taking care of) is sweet and funny and has been showing me the ropes. The house I’m in is beautiful and my room is bigger than any room I’ve had in the past so you’ll find no complaints from me. My own balcony? Why yes, yes that is a thing I have.

I saw a lot of Bayreuth on bike with Karin the other day. I dressed as if it were -234875423 degrees but in reality it was mid-high 40’s which means I was way too warmly dressed and kicked myself later as a result. Even still, the town is so bike friendly and it’s so beautiful my breath was continuously taken away. This bike ride was not solely for sight-seeing though. Karin and I were on a mission to get me signed up for a German language course at the university and since it starts on Monday, there’s been no time to laze about. After a few hours and three or four stops, we got as far as we could get for the day. We went to the school again the next day and got everything finished. I am now a real, bonified Universität Bayreuth student. The International Office has given the impression that they take an active part in their guest students’ time here so I have no doubt I can get involved at school when/how I want to, to make friends.

I haven’t taken nearly as many pictures as I want/need to because Fall is in full swing and I must document it ASAP since I know it’s fleeting. But for real. This is the second Fall I’ve seen and it is still just as amazing as it was the first time.

My birthday is this Monday and I have very divided feelings about the matter. Of course, on one hand I’m going to miss everyone at home doubly so because of all the days I’d want to spend with them, my birthday is pretty high up on the list. However, as has been pointed out to me, I will NEVER forget where I was on my 22nd birthday. I’ll be able to say I was in EUROPE!! How many people can make that claim? Other than residents of Europe, probably not many. As I’ve said a million times, this is such a unique and wonderful opportunity and for that reason I am glad I get to spend my birthday here.

I’ll leave you with the few pictures I’ve taken with promises of many more.

Sophia's sign for the airport. ♥

Sophia’s sign for the airport. ♥

Karin, Stephan, and I got to share a toast the night of my arrival. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I'd ever been toasted to. I liked it.

Karin, Stephan, and I got to share a toast the night of my arrival. I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’d ever been toasted to. I liked it.

Heck yeah I did.

Heck yeah I did.

This is the view from the back door. I LOVE FALL.

This is the view from the back door. I LOVE FALL.

Surprise Plate. What is it? Candy/chocolate arranged surprisingly on a plate after lunch. What is it also? The best thing ever.

Surprise Plate. What is it? Candy/chocolate arranged surprisingly on a plate after lunch. What is it, also? The best thing ever.

Here's the view from the upstairs window in my room. Incredible? I think so.

Here’s the view from the upstairs window in my room. Incredible? I think so.

Travelling To Deutschland

This post is pretty much only about the flight. I wrote almost all of it while travelling and only fixed minor errors and added a couple things towards the bottom. The first part is just a stream of consciousness so it’s disjointed and random. I was just writing down whatever came into my mind. I miss everybody and will be adding more pictures soon!

I flew over England. I could see its sleepy morning lights below me. And the water. Whatever body it was. It was shining the brightest pink I’ve ever seen even before the sun had even risen. Watching the sun rise at 2:00 in the morning is a very surreal feeling. The excitement came back strongly. Ever since leaving Tampa, fear, sadness, and bland indifference had been my overwhelming emotions. But, even if just for that moment, the excitement had returned and chased the fear away. I had not slept a wink but I was glad. I don’t do well on a few hours of sleep which is all I could have gotten. My legs were so crampt and my neck continued to warn me not to kink it that trying to sleep was a frustrating affair. I don’t know quite how I get myself into the adventures that I do, but goddammit am I glad. Thank you to whatever invisible force pushes me into these situations because what’s life worth if you don’t get a good story out if it? This was the first time I’d been able to write a creatively inclined blog post that I was proud of in a long time. Maybe my muse is a fan of international adventures. I hope she is, because if so she’s in for one hell of a ride. If there’s one thing I could wish for, it’s one more hug from everyone I love. But of course, I think I’ll always want one more hug. There were so many windmills. Go you, Germany. The landing was the coolest part of the flight. I don’t recall ever landing when it’s cloudy out. Of course, you always go through a layer of clouds. But this was different. We were in a world made only of clouds. Hills and valleys and great mountains looming in the distance. And then it was as if we completely ceased to exist. We were simply lost in the clouds, maybe never to be found again. And then we’d emerge once again. Every so often I’d get a glimpse of that beautiful blue sky shimmering in the background and I’d realize it never left in the first place, it was only hiding.

Reasons I’m not very fond of the Frankfurt airport:

Keep in mind that by this time it was about 3-4 AM my time and I was running on no sleep.

1. It’s HUGE. From when I got off one flight and got to the gate of another, it was about half an hour of walking and a tram ride. Plus once I went through the gate, it took another five minute shuttle ride to the actual plane.

2. They made me go through security again. Seems like a design flaw in the design of the airport.

3. They’re missing a lot of their ceiling. It’s strange.

4. It’s dark. Turn on an extra light or two, man.

5. No free wifi. It’s 2013. Although I will admit my suspicions that this is more of a European thing than a Frankfurt airport thing.

Silver lining: the guy outside the plane clad in a full body reflective yellow suit dancing (to the beat of his own drum I’m assuming).

Fun Facts Learned During My Travels

1. I sat in a window seat overlooking a wing in all three flights.

2. PDA on a plane is just as gross as PDA anywhere else.

3. Watching a sad in-flight movie while already emotionally unstable is a terrible idea. Even if you forgot how sad it was, it’s still a terrible idea. (The movie was Dead Poet Society.)

4. The coke bottles in Germany are made of much thicker plastic than the ones in the US. They’re probably much worse for the environment, but I like them.

5. Luggage carts cost 0.50€ at the Nuremberg airport, even if you don’t have 0.50€ on you. That can potentially be problematic.

Ice crystals formed on my window while flying over the Atlantic.

Ice crystals formed on my window while flying over the Atlantic.

My view from the plane over France.

My view from the plane over France.

Wanderlust

Wanderlust: A strong longing for or impulse toward wandering. A strong desire to travel.

Honestly, I think if you ask most people if they like to travel they’ll say yes. People may not like planes, they may hate to pack, they may love sleeping in their own bed, but when it comes down to it most of them still love to travel to a new or foreign place. Well, I’m starting yet another adventure three weeks from today. Blogging has always been my friend when it comes time to make crazy life-altering decisions so I figured I should probably come back and get comfortable because this one’s going to be a doozy. I’m moving to Germany for a year to be an au pair. (If you don’t know what an au pair is, click the link.)

For all the poor souls that have heard the word “Germany” more than any one person should, I do sincerely apologize. I feel constantly annoying these days. But I can’t help it. Just as when I was 18 and packing to move to New York, just as when I was 19 and packing to move to Orlando, this is both an exciting and a terrifying time for me. I’m leaving Orlando in a week to spend a couple weeks at home before I go, and I find myself asking the same questions I do every time. “How can I leave my home? My friends? My family? My LIFE?” I will be back in a year, but in college years that’s about ten. Most everybody I know now will be graduated, possibly have already moved on from Orlando. I’m still taking online classes while I’m gone, but even still, this trip is pushing my graduation back a little so I’ll have a couple semesters to complete upon my return.

And then when I realize that the reason I’m doing this is because it’s the most amazing opportunity I’ve ever been given, I feel a little more bolstered. This is right. This is amazing. But that doesn’t make it less sad. I’m going to miss my nephew. He’s over a year and half old now. He’ll be the better part of THREE YEARS OLD when I get back. I’m going to miss Cheryl. Who am I going to celebrate Galentine’s Day with? I’m going to miss my family, friends, Esme (the dog), my cute little house, my bedroom, Lazy Moon (pizzzzaaaa), you name it, I’ve probably thought about missing it in the past week.

And what happens if my host family hates me? Especially Sophia. It’s no use telling me they’ll love me because A) I’ve already been told that and B) Deep down I’m sure they won’t reallllly hate me. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m absolutely terrified that either they won’t like me or at least it’ll take a while for them to warm up to me. I want them to love me and I want to love them back but I’m scared and when I get scared I picture them really finding me annoying.

Will I make friends? Throughout my life I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with the ability to make friends. How does this hold up in a foreign country? Where am I to meet said friends? Will I end up spending every night alone in my bedroom watching Netflix? I want so much to travel and I swear I’ll do it alone if I have to but I’d really rather have a friend to do it with. I tend to think travelling with a friend is funner and I don’t really like getting mugged so that’s a thing too…

What happens when I come back? Sometimes I think back to my time in New York and almost wish it had never happened simply because I loved it so much. If I had never gone, I would never have had to feel the heartbreak of leaving. Will it be the same way for Europe? Will I bring home a heavy sadness in addition to my wonderful experiences?

Are you beginning to understand where my head is at right now? This being my last week in Orlando is really helping me to realize how soon I’m leaving. It feels so final sometimes. I couldn’t be more excited but I’m feeling a lot of other things right now too. This is meant to be my “I’m Back!/Update About My Life” blog post. So…I’m back!

See ya in Deutschland kiddos.