Germany

I Miss Living with Other People, and Move #2

Ok, so I admit it, I miss living with other girls. When my friends read this they are sure to laugh because I’m always talking about how much I can’t wait to move out of the dorms and live on my own. But after living alone for almost  month I can tell you it’s not all it’s crake dup to be. I miss being able to just run next door and share a story, or just sit in my wall mate’s room for hours on end talking about nothing. I miss getting ready with my best friend in the mornings, even the grumpy mornings we spent together. Being alone is so…gloomy.

Today I made my second move from my apartment on the West end to an apartment where a family I know lives on the North end. I now currently reside on te bottom bunk of a fifteen year olds room and I couldn’t be happier. Tonight we went shopping and then made pizza and ate lemon ice and watch a movie. It was nice to be back with girl again. I love my God family but sometimes being the only girl gets a little old. I loved just laughing with them while we tried to figure out how to make dinner with nothing but one knife, three bottle openers, and four spoons. I loved having to lie on the floor because they haven’t moved furniture in yet. It just made me miss my girls bak home and yes, even my old, moldy, dorm. Though I don’t envy them classes starting next week. I’m perfectly happy with my semester off from school work. But with that said I’ll be happy to see them all when I get home with stories to tell and new adventures on the horizon.

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The Great Postage Stamp Journey

Germany doesn’t actually have postage stamps. It’s not like America where I can just go to the grocery store and buy a book of stamps…actually it might be exactly like that, but since I speak little to no German it’s not like that at all. They do, however have postage stamp dispensing machines, but they only take Euro coins and they are a dime a dozen in Frankfurt. Unless you know exactly where to look you’re out of luck. I have 15 postcards I need to send at some point, and  I have been trying to find stamps since we got here. Today I finally decided I was going to find some if it killed me, so I set out this afternoon prepared for anything. I first looked up where the closest dispenser was to me. I took the U one stop, walked to the bus stop, took the 35 one stop in the wrong direction, then walked about five minutes to find one going the right direction, then took that 35 five stops. Then I walked to where it should have been, and there was no postage to be found. So I had two options, I could give up and go home and sit in my hot apartment, or I could go across town to where I know I had seen one two weeks ago when we went out for dinner. I decided what the heck? I had nothing better to do anyway. So I hopped on the U and went six stops to the Hauptwache, then one stop to Konstablewache, then three stops to the Hauptbahnhof, where I got on the 16 bus and went five or six stops to where I knew there was a machine right across from the bus stop. I finally found it, and then discovered that I had enough Euro coins to buy exactly six stamps. So I did, and then bought myself a cheap lunch to celebrate my success. Then I took the U back to the Hauptwache, one stop back to Konstablewache, and then the 18 the two stops back to my apartment. In total this adventure took me almost three hours, and all I have to show for it is a full belly and six stamps. Please, no applause.

The one thing that did come out of this day (other than my stamps obviously) is that when I ordered lunch, I managed to get through an entire interaction without having to ask the man to speak in English, or speaking in English myself. Granted, there were times when I didn’t know exactly what he said, but I could infer enough to get through the conversation. It made me feel really great to be honest, to be able to interact, in German with someone. Because here is the thing, when you love to travel, and you love other cultures as much as I do, you want to immerse yourself as deeply as possible in each one you encounter. I don’t want to force Germans to speak English to me just because I’m too lazy or slow to pick up their language. I want to respect their home and try to adapt to it as much as possible.

Honestly I wish my whole life could be like this. Just blogging, and reading, and traveling, and filming. Maybe it will be someday.

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We’re Having a Heat Wave and It’s Moving Day!

I grew up in Northern Colorado where, on a bad day, temperatures can reach the high eighties, and humidity is at about 28%. So when I moved to Tennessee where 75% humidity is normal and 80s is a good day in the summer, I was totally unprepared for how miserable I was going to be. I typically spend my summers in Colorado, if I can simply to avoid the heat. Well this year I moved to Germany instead where, incidentally, they are having a heat wave. This last week we have held at a steady 95-100 with 70% humidity, in a city where 75% of the housing are tiny apartments with no air conditioning. Yesterday as I sat in my God families apartment which is really just one small room, with five of us and one fan, I was thinking about how hot and unhappy I was when, like an angel sent from heaven, our friend knocked on the door and said, “do you want to go swimming?” I have never heard such a wonderful suggestion in my life. so thankfully we got to spend the 100 degree day in the swimming pool. But that night was a different story.I kept hoping to get a breeze through my window the last two nights but what I got was hot air and a sleepless night. Last night, at about 3am, between the singing drunk men outside and the heat, I was wide awake. I dragged myself to the bathroom, filled the tub with cold water and just sat there until I felt tired. I then put on as little clothing as possible, opened both windows in my living room and sprawled out on my couch with the hope of catching some sleep. Thankfully I got a few hours under my belt before I had to wake up for moving day.

We all know moving is a drag, so today I agreed to help a family I am friends with move their things from one apartment to their new one. I don’t know if you have ever tried to move when all you use is public transportation, but let me tell you it’s an adventure. First there is the challenge of actually having enough people to grab various boxes and bags. Then you have to get it all on the train without inconveniencing other passengers. And the truth is, we already get stared at when we are all together speaking english, you better believe we got some looks as a bunch of Americans carrying bizarre things through various train stations and down city streets. But we got it all done in two trips AND I found a bakery with my name on it, AND I finally found a hand fan so I don’t have to die in the heat during my commute, AND I found a fan to plug in by my bed so I can sleep, AND I got sushi for lunch/dinner. So overall it was a very successful day, but I wouldn’t complain if some rain wanted to come our way.

The one thing I do kind of like about having to leave all the windows open is Germany has every color of ladybug you can imagine, and they all fly in the house and crawl around my bedroom which doesn’t bother me one bit. They are supposed to be good luck, and even if they’re not, they are awfully pretty.

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God Bless the Apfulwein Mann

I speak German poorly. This is just a fact that I have come to accept. That’s not to say I don’t try, I always try to speak properly and to learn new words, but my retention for languages is just low. Now I talked in my last post about the market that is in Konstablewache square every Thursday. It’s like a giant gathering of food trucks where people sell pastries, flowers, fresh produce, beer, and of course Bratwurst and Rindswurst. There is also a stand that sells Apfulwein or Apple Wine as well as apple juice.

Today, after work, I was wandering the market talking pictures when I decided I would have a glass of apple juice. So I walked over to the little stand and I said “Ein glass Apfulsuft bitte” (My dad always says as longs you can order food in a foreign language, you’re fine) So the man nods, pours the glass, and takes my money. This stand, like many, gives its costumers real glasses, so one has to stand or sit around and drink their drink there so they can return the glass when they are finished. So I set my glass down and went to grab my phone so I could do some reading while I drank. Well the man who had sold me the juice started talking to me and smiling and obviously I have no idea what he is saying. The only word I got was glass.

So I ask him:”Sprechen Sie Englisch

To which he replies: “English? Nein.”

So right away we are at an impasse. I don’t speak German and he doesn’t speak English.

In the spirit of full disclosure I told him: “Ich Sprechen Dutch Nit”

Which by the way is not the right way to say that. I don’t even speak german well enough to say I can’t speak German. The proper sentence is Ich Sprechen kein Dutch, but of course I couldn’t remember that at the time. So he just laughs and the other man who worked with him selling, (and drinking, welcome to Germany) Apfulwein begins to speak to him. I’m not sure what they said exactly, but from what I could make out the second man was asking the first man what we were talking about, and the first man informed the second that I spoke english. So this turns into another conversation.

“Du Sprechen englisch?”

“Ja”

“Spechen dutsch?”

“Nein. Ich sprechen englisch, unt Ich sprechen Dutsch…nit?”

To this he laughed and made the little bit sign with his thumb and pointer finger. gLad that one is universal in Germany. I nodded and he laughed again. And then he told the biggest lie he may tell all week;

Sie sprechen gut!”

Which means you speak good. We have already determined that I do not speak German well and here this man is complimenting me on the three or four words I do know. We laughed and smiled and I moved on. So God bless the little Apfulwein man for being kind to me and trying to make me feel better. I also encountered, at the market, several different groups of Americans which was really bizarre. You know you’re growing accustomed to living in a foreign country when your own language sounds foreign to you. I’m so used to hearing people speak in Arabic or German, that to hear Americans speaking English was actually kind of shocking.

One more quick story and I’ll call it quits. Yesterday I went with my friends to Liebeighaus which used to be the villa of Baron von Liebeig, but is now a museum with art, mostly sculptures, ranging from Ancient Egypt, to the Middle ages. They had some truly beautiful works, including two alter models, and some beautiful Baroque pieces. It was only 20 Euro for five of us which is really quite good. It is a beautiful house with lovely gardens and very nice staff. I would definitely recommend it as a little museum in the river museum district.

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A Romantic Interlude

There are a lot of people writing about the romance of Paris, and London, and Rome, but there are few people writing about the romance of Frankfurt, Germany, so if you’ll allow me, I would like to take a moment and step into that gap.

Frankfurt is a big city with all the charms of a small village. Life starts at 6am, when I can hear the bicycles and cars rushing past my window. Which I leave open because it is August and heat rises, so you can imagine, being four stories up, that I am kept nice and warm in the heat wave they call summer. The commuters of Frankfurt start the day, probably with a pastry, which can be found in any of the hundreds of bakeries on every corner, definitely with a cup of coffee, and perhaps even with a beer depending on how seriously they live by the, “5 o’clock somewhere” rule. The buses begin to fill with people on their way to work, or school, or just to run errands. Perhaps they are off to the market in Konstablewache square that brings fresh produce, flowers, and Bratwurst each Thursday. Perhaps they are going to the river to stroll by the water, or sit with a friend and talk in the cool of the early morning.

As the day progresses, and the sun gets higher in the sky, hundreds of people walk the streets, or ride down them in search of french fries, or curry, or more bread which seems to be a main staple here. They may take a stroll along the lock bridge where hundreds of locks with the names of hundreds of lovers are hanging from it’s metal siding. Or they may take their lunch to the old part of town and eat surrounded by buildings that could only be found in fairytales of old, inhabited by child eating witches, and little pigs.They pass the fountain with the lions heads, and the statue of David atop the severed limbs of Goliath. They meet each other, (one is always running into people they know on the streets of Frankfurt) and they stop to chat, seemly forgetting where they were headed in the first place, as if they had always full intended to meet this person and have this conversation.

After a long day the people pile back into the trains on their way back to their families. Or to Friedburger Platz where on Friday people gather with their friends, beers, and cigarettes, to sit, stand, and lean until someone finally says enough and goes home. Or maybe to the street lined with cafes filled with people drinking wine, where on the corner there is an ice cream shop that people travel from all around the city to eat Mango Sorbet and laugh at some joke I’m, unfortunately, too American to understand. As the sun begins to set, I sit in my windowsill and listen to the bells that ring out and seem to hover on the still, hot air like an angelic chorus. And finally by 10pm the sun has gone to bed and the stars have taken its place. The people have retired tot heir homes and just one or two stragglers wander the streets on their way to their own little flats on their own little streets.

I live with the awareness that I have never been to Paris, or London, or Rome, but that I do live in Frankfurt, if only for a little while, and it seems so wonderful I can’t imagine a place I could possible like better.

I began to feel a bit sad today when I thought of all my friends starting school again without me. And I’ll admit it does hurt a little bit every time I see a post about term starting up in a few weeks. Although it doesn’t hurt as much as the posts from old flames about new girls while I sit alone in my apartment and watch Netflix. And it’s not a real hurt, just a dull ache to think of my life back home and of time gone by. But then, as I began to pity myself I looked around. I realized that I am in Europe, living alone, serving the Kingdom, making new friends and new memories. Why on earth am I thinking about silly things like school starting up and old boes I don’t even have feelings for anymore? If I were there I would be wishing I was here, but I’m here and perfectly happy that I am. So the world can take its fall semesters and new romances and stuff it in a box. I will think about such things when I get home. I will start studying books when I stop studying architecture, history, and language. I will fall in love with a man when I stop falling in love with travel, and new friends, and God’s creation. And it will be a very long time before that happens. In the movie Sabrina one of the repeated lines is, “I found myself in Paris” well perhaps I am going through the process of “finding myself” in Frankfurt, if I believed in such a thing. I am becoming increasingly aware of my own independence, and more importantly of my own ability to thrive in such conditions. I no longer fear the unknown or the terrifying silence of being on my own. I embrace and welcome it as a chance to know myself better.

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How I Met the German Transit Authority

Two days in Germany and I already broke the law. There we were, midnight, filming a short skit between trains. A train had just arrived so we stopped filming and waited. I was on one side of the tracks, my colleagues on the other, when two transit authority officers stepped off the train on their side. They looked at them, they look across at me, and then slowly began to make their way to the end of the track to cross over to my side. Everyone tried to look busy, tried to look innocent, tried to look anywhere but directly at them. They approached me. “Was maschst du?” (which is actually a simplified version of what they said…not that I actually know) I’m smart enough to assume they asked me what I was doing so I told them we were filming a short student film. They asked if I spoke German I said no, they asked if my friends spoke German I said some. FINALLY one of my colleagues came over and talked to them. Apparently it is illegal, without permission, to film or photograph on transit property. So we packed up, while they watched, and finally they got on a train and left. No major trouble, but now we know! You live, you learn.

After, at about 1am two friends rode the train home with me. Frankfurt at night is very quite. There are one or two people out, but not many. Everywhere you go there is silence. It’s quite nice actually. I feel safer on the streets of Frankfurt than I ever have anywhere in the US. I could live in Frankfurt and be very happy.

My favorite part of the day is my morning commute to Konstablerwache, which is a central square in town. There is  Starbucks and loads of shops, and a huge mall, home to the world’s second longest elevator which I had the privilege of riding. I like my commute because it’s one time of the day that I don’t have to be an American. I don’t have to be just another tourist, because as long as I have my headphones in, I know which train to get on and off on, and I don’t speak, no one knows. It’s nice to just be a fake German commuter for twenty minutes every morning. At least until I order coffee an butcher every word.

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Planes, Trains, and Standing on my Own Two Feet

I got on the plane in Denver, Colorado at 4:30PM, got off in Reykjavik, Iceland At 6:00AM, back on at 6:30, and then off the plane in Frankfurt, Germany at 1pm. We gathered our things and went down down down into the train station beneath the airport, where the only relief from the heat is the trains rushing by.

After being in a hot, crowded train for about fifteen minutes, we made it to the square where we were meeting our contact. We walk up from the station into a huge outdoor shopping center complete with McDonald’s and Starbucks. We got the boys a soda which they were very much confused over (they use less sugar in Germany), and then we went our separate ways. My God family to their apartment, and me to my room.

Another train later I found myself walking up four flights (not including the landing) and confronted with a smiling German face. He explained that I was to live in the attic room, which is a nice little room with a comfy bed, three tables, a dresser, and a water heater for tea and coffee. There is no air conditioning, but I assured him that my time in Sutton Hall had prepared me for that.

Back on the street minutes later I was led to a coffee shop called Awake where I was to meet my God family again later. My guide said goodbye to me then and I was left alone in the city of Frankfurt.

As I walked back to my room I begin to get a little nervous. I have never lived on my own before. I’ve never had to pay for rent, or buy groceries, or navigate a foreign city, let alone one where I don’t speak the predominant language. But I got back fine and I dragged my sleep deprived body (I hadn’t slept on either plane) up the four flights. After the day of traveling I was very excited to be able to crawl into the shower and just be clean. After which I proceeded to take a half an hour nap.

I awoke, got ready, walked back down to the cafe and met my God father who told me, quite understandably, that the boys had passed out and were happily sleeping as we spoke. I then spent my evening sitting outside and talking to new friends.

I met a girl named Hannah who is part of a church group that sometimes does church services at the coffee shop. She told us about her upcoming trip to Africa to do some outreach, and about how her church has been moving in Germany. Hannah told us that at a certain point her church realized that people weren’t coming to church buildings anymore (sound familiar?) she said that they realized they couldn’t just have a church and expected people to show up, they had to go where the people were. So they started having small services all over in different towns and cities at coffee shops, hospitals, movie theaters, anywhere they could one a venue and people who needed to hear about God. They opened up the floor to hear from the attendees what they wanted to see done in the world. If someone had a heart for prostitues, they set up an outreach group, if someone wanted to reach the elderly, they set up a coffee outreach. And not only dos the members of the church start mobilizing, they opened it up to non believers who wanted to work on a social project. In this way they have been able to reach not only those they are serving, but those they are serving with. They even opened their mission trips up to secular participants which I think is revolutionary in our age of religious exclusion. It was amazing to hear how God has been moving in Getmany and I heard a lot of things I can’t wait to take back to America and maybe shake things up a little. Hannah told the story of the 101 year old woman who had come to Christ last month. Who says it’s ever too late to except the love and mercy of Jesus Christ?

Mercifully, after our chat, I was finally able to go to the little discount store across from my building, buy some water and some dehydrated noodles, and crawl into bed at about 9:30pm.

As I got ready for bed I started to realize that maybe this is a great chance for me. Maybe this is my chance to live alone and support myself and learn to be a functioning human being. If everyday German woman can wake up, get on a train to work, go shopping, walk all these place alone, then surely I can handle it too. I’m excited to find my own capabilities through this journey. I didn’t come on this trip as a journey of self discovery for me, but that seems like it’s going to happen whether I want it to or not.

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