Like all life changing events, it was definitely strange when we first arrived. I wasn't sure where I fit into German society, my American sensibilities wanted more comforting stability. But my familiarity with the language and the country came back slowly at first and then more gradually as our first days lengthened.... and I look back and see how I changed in that impossibly long/short year. Looking in the mirror one rarely sees the changes as they happen from day to day, and as so I couldn't feel the differences as I grew and adapted to such a foreign environment.
|The first two people we met in Germany|
|Drinking with Fulbrighters|
|The Marburg Fulbright group (Minus us)|
After Marburg came our home city of Braunschweig. Mariko's boss helped us for the first few days to get settled and purchase all those little things that you never think that you may need. Our first impressions of the city were a little low, mainly due to the high expectations that Marburg left and our location just slightly off the path of things. But soon the city began to grow on us and I explored while Mariko was busy at work.
Which lead me to a whole different situation.... I was alone all day with no job to occupy my time. Mariko, the quieter of us two, was getting more social interaction in one day than I did in an entire week. It was definitely trying for me at times, but I was able to keep things going for me. Mostly I busied myself with baking, Facebook stalking friends (yes this means you), blogging (well... mostly until the spring) and playing video games. I'm still surprised to this day that Mariko never killed me when she got home... I tend to try and get as much interaction in while she was there.
I can contribute the survival of my social skills to three things:
- Visiting/talking with friends
- Mariko's Lab
|Playing with Liquid Nitro|
|The Bad Taste Party|
Sadly now I compare my German skills to what they were at the end of the language course and I know that I have lost a lot of grammar and vocab... but instead I gained comfort with the language and understanding of German society a bit better. Though I always prefer to let Mariko do the German talking, I don't hesitate nearly as much as I once did to speak the language.... which apparently was quite amusing for some of the lab people to hear.
The countryside still flashes by as our train ride continues and I try to find words to express what I this year means to me. And yet they escape me. It has been wonderfully frightening and horribly pleasant at the same. As if just now I have woken from the dream of the past year and the incredible tangle of events have settled into the back of mind and avoid all attempts of explanation. Even without the words to express myself, I do know one thing; Germany has a piece of my heart.
Knowing that tomorrow morning we fly back home to Colorado brings both a smile to my face and a proverbial tear to my eye. The smile is for the friends and family that await our return with barely suppressed patience. The tear is for the pieces of our hearts that we leave in this country that is contradictorily old and new, this country that we love. Goodbye Deutschland... goodbye for now.