Category Archives: Germany

The Final Night

April 25th, 2012

The crowds in the restaurant roared for the soccer teams. Surrounded by a foreign language, I didn’t picture my last night in Germany to be so boisterous. I’d imagined a peaceful night on the town, soaking up the last rays of moonlit culture. I pictured a small group of friends, whose relationships transcended a language barrier, sharing a few last laughs before our plane left early the next afternoon.

So infatuated with the image of what I’d hoped my night to be, the crowd’s cheers fell to the background. I asked Lena if I could graciously make an exit, and to much of her own displeasure, she agreed. I pushed my seat back, nearly colliding with the table next to me, and stood up. I walked out of Louisiana’s quickly and deftly. I didn’t care if my presence went unnoticed, I just cared about being in the out-of-doors, breathing in the breaths of fresh solitude. As it so happened, my quick getaway hadn’t gone unnoticed, and my friend accompanied me.

We started walking around the city streets, so unlike anything we’d experienced before. The cobblestones felt smooth and jagged at the same time beneath the soles of my Converse, and I was thankful I hadn’t been conned into wearing high heels by Lena. We walked wherever the wind took us, feeling weightless and stress-free. As it so happened, we wound up at the pink palace, known to us by no other name, and a great symbol of our time in Trier. The night we had arrived in the city last week, Lena told the two of us in broken English, “Welcome to the most beautiful place in Germany. I come here. Sit, think, think more.”

And so, that final night, that’s exactly what I did. I began to string together my thoughts about the trip so far (in combination with what I’d learned from a tour guide earlier) into an allegory, what I called “The Allegory of the Palace.” I said, “You know, that palace is a lot like me. Not because it’s pink or anything. But because it’s lopsided.” One wing of the palace was cut short, and the other stretched far beyond our sight. We continued to pace the gravel that lined the palace gardens. “It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful just the way it is. And some idiots thought it wasn’t. Those same idiots thought it was better to hire a groundskeeper to plant a tree in front of the longer wing, to make it look symmetrical. Hey, why can’t palaces be asymmetrical? And look! The tree isn’t even blossoming! Now it just looks like a dumb bare tree planted in front of something that was beautiful the way it was. That palace is a lot like me. I’m asymmetrical, man. And when I’m not perfect, someone’s always there to mask my imperfections. I wish people just stopped planting trees and stopped making excuses for why I’m not perfect. Maybe we wouldn’t have to bend our vision so much if we spread around more acceptance.”

 I was quite proud of the story by the time I had finished, and  our conversation caused me to trail off, and stare into the dark distance. I thought about everything I’d experienced that had ever caused me to hurt. Some of it I vocalized, and some of it I didn’t. Either way, my hurt and pain dissolved into tears and a brief period of sobbing. Silently he sat there, staring at the palace, and occasionally making attempts to console me.
After I’d had enough of being being sad, angry, and frustrated, he said to me “Don’t you want to break the rules every once in a while?”

I replied, “Yes, I suppose so.”

With that, he stood up from where he’d been sitting next to me, and walked towards the gardens before the palace. He said,
“Betroten verboten. What does that mean?”

“Treading forbidden. It means don’t walk on the
grass.” He inched closer towards the grass, and the sign that was pegged in the
soil. “Don’t wreck something beautiful!” I yelled at him, as it was in contradiction to our Allegory.

“I won’t, but don’t you ever want to take a leap, Amanda? Be courageous, stand up, and let go.” As much of a cliche as it was, he was right. My allegory had said exactly that. I stood up, walked next to him, and stood in awe, staring at the palace. With a quick movement, he grabbed my forearm, and pulled me onto the grass and over the sign, careful to avoid any flowers that could have been damaged in the process.

Just Tuesday

April 24th, 2012

It was time to tough out my cold: I got up early and went to school with Lena. While my classmates went swimming in the local pool, I had to stay in school, for fear that my already worsening cold would progress to pneumonia. Harrumph!

There’s an aspect to being the exchange student that is akin to the life of a goldfish. You can feel yourself being watched through the hallways, and the words “der Amerikanischer” didn’t fall on deaf ears. So, needless to say, being in school one more day while sick was a lot to handle.

After the school day was out, Lena and I walked around downtown Trier, and did some window shopping. It was nice to get the time to ourselves, as well as eating at Pasta Pasta. Lena’s work at ESPRIT came shortly after that, and Mrs. Kraiker came downtown to spend some time with me.

We drove to Luxembourg for cheap gas and chocolate, and having realized it was one of my last days in Europe, I panicked about not having gifts to take home for my family. As a result, we walked around the city more, and did gift shopping so I’d have small bobbles to take home. We talked about church, religion, family, and all our shared core beliefs over coffee. It was nice, and our initial language barrier hardly stood in the way anymore.

When we were done shopping, we picked Lena up from work, and went home. Mrs.Kraiker made the most delicious meal of fish and rice in a cream sauce. 😀

The rest of the night was Lena and I eating ice cream out of a tub and watching movies! Quite lovely indeed!

Seven Years

April 23rd, 2012

This morning I woke up with a sore throat, and had to accept that the cold I’d tried so hard to suppress had finally won over. So instead of waking up at 6, I stayed in bed until 11, and woke up to a nice plate of apple slices and pretzels laying on my bedside table (courtesy of Lena’s mom!)

I dragged my sick self downstairs to find a warm broth waiting for me for lunch. Could my day home sick get any better? Yes, yes it could.

Lena’s mother brought out a few DVDs she told me she’d bought recently, and our collective efforts put the movies on English, and I relaxed on the couch. Also: over the weeks, Lena’s family picked up on my affinity for ice cream. They had noticed my face light up at the mention of “Eis” several times. Mrs. Kraiker walked into the living room with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a spoon. I’ll repeat: a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a spoon. Just for me!!! I happily and lazily watched movies for the rest of the afternoon, curled up with my blanket and ice cream.

I think this may have been when I discovered just how much Mrs.Kraiker reminded me of my own mom. Aside from the chauffeuring us around, she was the main care giver of the family (like my own: a broken one.) And Mrs.Kraiker worked a full time job as an EMT and ambulance driver! The amount she gave to her family, her home, her job, and now her guest just proved her willingness to go the extra mile. Do you want to meet someone with true integrity? I remained close to her for the rest of my stay, for the pure interest in her genuine character.

When Lena got home from school, I was elated to catch up with her. Shortly after, however, I learned I had to meet Lena’s step-grandparents prior to dinner. Despite my illness, I put on a happy face and some make-up to cover the Rudolph look I was sporting, and we drove further into the mountains to meet the extended family.

As it turned out, the meeting was short and sweet. Here’s why: Lena’s step-grandmother is half-Scottish. Whatever those fractions work out to be, both of Lena’s step-grandparents spoke English, and conveniently so did their Scottish guests! I was in Heaven.

When their guests asked me what I knew about Scotland, I may have mumbled something dumbly about “Braveheart…I saw the Highland Games a few times…” When they asked me what I knew of modern day Scotland, I said something to the affect of “There’s a modern day Scotland?” Hehe…

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After the visit and goodbyes, Lena, her parents, and I rode to an Italian restaurant called “Mossimo” or “Moggimo”, whichever you prefer. Dinner was lovely, as always, and table etiquette was followed as always.

Speaking of, I forgot to mention an important detail of the dinner proceedings. When I first came to Trier, Lena’s parents warned me that if I didn’t look everyone I *clinked* glasses with directly in the eyes, I would have “seven years bad sex.” The adults’ seriousness in the matter made me giggle, but every night since then I’d been SURE to stare wide-eyed at my hosts over “Cheers!”

Post dinner, we journeyed back home, and I caught up on more much-needed sleep to (hopefully!) kick my cold once and for all.

Kegeln

April 22nd, 2012

Yet another day I slept in. How lovely! When Lena woke me up, she had a cappuccino and full out breakfast waiting for me at the kitchen table. What a way to begin Sunday!

We spent a considerable amount of time deciding what to do with our day. The options seemed to be limited to: movie, skating, or kegeln. After several phone calls and exchanges between the German students, it was decided we’d go to kegeln. Thanks to my iPhone translator, I learned “kegeln” is German for “bowling.”

We drove into the city to a little eatery that, by day was a quiet lunch pub, and by night probably housed drunk older men looking to reminisce over a few Bitburgers. The man working behind the bar when we walked in eyed us eerily and gestured for us to follow him. He took us behind the bar, and through a door leading to a steep flight of winding stairs. The lack of lighting made us feel like this was the end.

When the stairs came to an end, so did the sausage factory jokes, and we saw the dimly lit room that expanded into a single wooden bowling lane, where everything was manual.

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The room had a mini fridge equipped with sodas, glasses, and assorted straws. It also had a chalkboard for score keeping, and a counter for eating.

As the rules of the game were explained to us, the rules very closely resembled those of bowling. However, in kegeln, there are 9 pins, and the kegeln balls vary in size, depending on the preference of the bowler. (Kegeln-er?) Also, you must bowl underneath a taut string tied at the front of the lane. This prohibits people who like to overstep their allotted “runway”, and also sifts out those of you who throw bowling balls like tennis balls. WARNING: If you hit the string, you will have to pay 5 Euro cents.

I won my first game of kegeln, which I was quite proud of. One of the boys from Germany told me “My grandpa plays kegeln here every week. He is in a club.” I believe it may have been tacked along to an invite to come see a true game of kegeln, but I was more concerned with my earlier assumption being confirmed: This was, in fact, a place old men congregated.

When we got hungry, we called up to the pub and ordered Schnitzel and fries. Later on, a mysterious cabinet dinged and we went to figure out why. The mysterious wooden cabinet was a dumbwaiter, and it carried our food from the kitchen to us, and vice versa. So cool!

When we’d called it quits with the game, we headed back home; already I was feeling the affects of a cold coming on. I called home for the first time as well, and almost immediately homesickness started to set in. I burst in to tears at the sound of my family’s voice, and coupled with a cold made for a sleepless night! But I think that’s all there’s to be said for today.

Saturday, Soccer, and Sewing

April 21st, 2012

Around 11:30 Lena and I rolled ourselves out of bed and ate breakfast with her Oma. Lena’s mom came to pick us up shortly after, and we dropped Lena at work downtown.

Lena’s mom and I then drove to one of the local fabric stores where she browsed for fabrics, buttons, and zippers. After that, we went grocery shopping followed by a quick trip home so I could change before a soccer match.

The game was a big one: it pitted one German exchange student against the other. The game also confirmed my previous notion that soccer, is in fact, a pointless sport. Second to curling.

One tiring ride home later, I was at Lena’s home relaying the facts of the game, as we sat down to dinner with her parents and her young nephew Ben. When I say young, I mean 2 years old. Even the baby spoke German.

I think I’ll take this time to set the dinner time scene for you. I’d grown accustomed to the language barrier: when I understood the beginning of the sentence or conversation topic, the rest would be worth listening to, or trying to figure out. However, if the topic and language were completely foreign, I had to turn my ears off and stop eaves-dropping to avoid frustration. It was a small way of “picking my battles.” When I was addressed directly, I’d smile politely and nod. When everyone laughed, so did I. It was more of a survival technique than anything else. The Trierish was difficult to pick up already, but even harder amidst a group of people so familiar with one another.

Post-dinner we journeyed again into the city, just walking around, enjoying the night. Like always, we ended up in McDonalds to satisfy our ice cream cravings, and went home shortly after.
That about wraps it up!

A Friday Night Feeling

April 20th, 2012

This Friday I went to school with Lena, and the day proved to be simple and uneventful. The real story lies in my night.

After a delicious dinner of Spargel (asparagus) and prosciutto with sauce, Lena and I hit the town with some exchange friends. We bounced around from Kaufland, to Rosso, to one of Lena’s friends apartments, until we all called it a night around 4am. That’s when Lena and I retired to her Oma’s to sleep. Thankfully, her Grandma lives right in the city!

A lot of what happened that night I shouldn’t type. And so I’ll let it go unsaid. But my greatest conclusion of the night: if you read one of my earlier posts from Venice (it would have been 2009!), you may remember a certain reflection on the easy-attitude of Europeans. Well, 3 years later I’m here to make the same observation. Nothing is a rush, nothing is forced, but everything is relaxed and simple… Ready for the kicker?…

If you let it be!

Waltzing through Trier these past few nights has given me an air of weightlessness, just drifting and floating through the city streets at night. I am happy: truly happy. And have never been more content.

~As written by me that night

Maybe everyone thinks that way, but not everyone has had the opportunity to feel that way. And, at 17 years old, I’ve found it, twice? I truly am the most fortunate girl in the world.

Burg Eltz

April 19th, 2012

We took the train from Humboldt Gymnasium to a little town near the Mosel River. The group of us (9 rambunctious American teens, and 3 chaperones) walked through the town which was small and seemingly unperturbed. The houses were characteristic of a small German village, and the only people I saw were elderly people doing yard work. I felt a heap of guilt as we noisily walked through the small streets in the misty morning fog, like we were harming something beautifully innocent about the small town, and I and heaved a sigh of relief when we finally reached the entrance to the hiking trail.

We hiked a mild mile to Burg Eltz, a castle located deep in the woods among the mountains outside of Trier. The castle was gorgeous, with it’s tiers and courtyards.

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We took a tour of the castle, and our tour guide spiced up what would have been a dry (beautiful, but dry!) tour. I don’t think it was intentional, but our tour guide talked EXACTLY like one of the men in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. For strictly entertainment value, I recorded an audio clip of him talking. I wish I could share it with you all…
Either way, I had to resist the urge to ask, “Shall three be the number of counting?!”

Our tour and lunch break was followed by a hike through the untraversed side of the forest, across an open field, and down a rocky mountainside, covered in loose shale. Much to one of our chaperone’s panting disapproval, we sprinted the majority of the way. There was a big risk we’d miss the train. And so, I told her to stop being a “Heulseuse” (crybaby), and ran after my peers. Can you blame me? It was a high adrenaline afternoon!

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We caught the train within mere seconds, and rode to our next stop: Cochem. Cochem was a cute town, clearly designated to appease tourists, nothing more. That kind of atmosphere was tiring, and so I explored the outskirts of the town, where the school and important town buildings were.

Culture: found!

Then we took the train back to Trier and I met up with Lena and her family once more, never more excited for a full night’s rest.

Catch up! Don’t fall behind!

Posting about the last week of the trip will take place shortly! In the mean time…have you gotten all caught up yet? 😉

Humboldt Gymnasium

April 18th, 2012

Today I went to school with Lena for the entire day. She had a 10 hour school day, which was long compared to the 5 hour days she’d been having. To break up the dullness of the day, I went to a sixth grade classroom to present a slideshow about “Where I’m From.” The presentation, per my teacher’s advice, had to say more than “The middle of nowhere.” With that, I talked about lobster, the beach, and other things characteristic of Massachusetts.

As I walked around the room helping the kids with their English, one boy asked me “Do you like baseball?” Psh, do I ever! Trying to speak simply, I replied “Of course!” He then asked me, “My dad’s favorite team is the Yankees, they’re the best. Do you like the Yankees?!” Trying to formulate the best response without expletives in my head, I replied “I know the Yankees, yes. But the Red Sox are my favorite.” His disappointment quickly turned into a coy smile as he looked me square in the eyes and said sternly, “No, Yankees!” I matched his stare, and retorted “Red Sox!” “Yankees!” “Red Sox!”

This continued for quite some time, as his coy smile melted into a beaming grin, knowing he had gained the attention of not just the American, but his classmates who were then giggling at the debate. I called it quits, having to walk away after a point. I told him I’d send him a box of Red Sox caps to distribute to his friends. I have yet to make good on that promise…

Later on in the day I went to a fifth grade classroom to watch kids in their first year of English perform mini-skits. A little too young to understand the humor in what they were performing, my classmates and I couldn’t stop laughing at their adorableness.

Lena’s final two hours of lessons were English. Finally! We watched The Truman Show…in English…with English subtitles. I was in Heaven. Overall? I’d say it was a successful school day!

Luxembourg

April 17th, 2012

Today we took the train to Luxembourg. Like Disney World, it reminded me of a cute little world nestled in the real world. Luxembourg has 3 hills, each one dedicated to the different styles of architecture, and the different eras of Luxembourg’s considerably short history.

We toured the newer city first, with a crazy old man as our guide. Maybe crazy’s too harsh a term to describe him…let’s go with “eccentric.” Our eccentric guide told us how there was a direct correlation between when Americans stopped smoking cigarettes and when we started losing wars. Moral of the story? Smoke cigarettes: only the true winners smoke. Not the advice I’m used to hearing at 17 years of age…

Following our brisk tour of the city, we walked to the old castle and toured there. The fortresses enveloping the city state were unbelievable, and to this day are beautiful. The hills and villages and solitude of the area made for a silent and solemn atmosphere, as our journey continued. It reached a point where I couldn’t wait to leave the tri-lingual country, the chilling environment was too eerie.

When we finally went back, I met Lena after her work was done, and we went into town with the other students to watch the soccer game, Bayern vs. Real Madrid. Now that was an incredible atmosphere!

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