Monday, July 30, 2012

A piece of heart left behind

Deustchland, a country that I can claim heritage to... a nation that I called home for the past 359 days. It is a bittersweet emotion that wells up within me as I say goodbye. As I sit on a train bound for Frankfurt, I stare out the window at the countryside rushing past... just as the past year seemed to rush past in my mind. The brown and green squared fields, trimmed with impossibly perfect forests. Perfect blue skies dotted, their white fluffy clouds casting small shadows onto the red-tiled roofs of German villages that barely have names. A scene that I have grown accustomed to, or perhaps I should say a scene I have become so very fond of.

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
The first six weeks in Germany we were situated in Marburg, a small university town near the middle of Germany, and we were surrounded by people. Primarily was Raphael, who if you aren't familiar with was our Fulbright coordinator, with out whom we would not have survived the first few weeks mentally intact.... no joking. The man was amazingly helpful and patient at getting 30 Americans adapted and settled in Germany. After that was our fellow Fulbrighters that both lived in the dorms with us and took the language classes along us. Personalities and people don't always mingle perfectly, but we left Marburg with some good friends and good memories.

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:
  1. Visiting/talking with friends
  2. Vacations
  3. Mariko's Lab
Playing with Liquid Nitro
The lab held parties every now and then for anyone that wanted to come, and at first I was overwhelmed with the amount of German that was being spoken and the amount of German that I was abe to successfully understand. Everyone was patient with me, speaking English occasionally just so that I wasn't completely left out, always offering a friendly smile and another shot of alcohol. Through all the parties (Halloween, Christmas, Bad-Taste, Goodbye and so many more) I slowly got comfortable with each of them... and I am so glad that I was able to be included in that time. They are amazingly fun and intelligent people, and probably will be missed more than everyone else that we met on this trip.

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 whatthis 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.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, David! I can tell you that Germany would have not been such a good experience for me if we did not first have our time in Marburg to meet great people like you and Mariko. Our happy memories started there, and even though I enjoyed Germany, the people we became friends with continue to be my favorite part of our time there (even if the people I refer to are American!). I cannot wait to visit with you again. I wish you the best upon your return to Colorado.