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Monday, February 25, 2013

I Feel It In My Bones

People keep reminding me that I never actually finished this blog. I swear I haven't been ignoring it, I just honestly have not had the time to work on it until now. This is going to be my last post, because this blog is really only about my year as an au pair, and that's over now. So I hope it wraps things up for anyone who has been waiting in anticipation for the conclusion.

I never posted about my last 18 days in Berlin. Unfortunately, it's been awhile now and I don't remember things as well as I might have if I blogged them right after I got home. But I'll go ahead and give you a rundown of the things I can remember. Of course one of the big things that happened just after I got back from Munich was my birthday. I spent the whole day running around the city by myself. I visited some Christmas markets, did a little shopping. It was really great, except that I was seriously at the end of my shoes' life and my feet were soaked within 15 minutes of going out. Other than that, it was awesome. And my host family even took me out for dinner that night. I choose Indian food and they took me to a restaurant that I hadn't tried before. We had way, way too much food, but it was really good. I just love Indian food so much. I definitely need to find somewhere to satisfy that craving back home.

I can't remember which day it was exactly, but I know sometime in this time period I went to the Christmas party for the Kita. I went to one for my Hopi group and got to meet all the kids' parents, which was really nice. They even gave me a little present. And then I went to one in the evening for all the employees of the various Kitas and Horts. It was a lot of fun. I met some new people and got a gift card to Karstadt. And I got to hang out in a really fancy restaurant and eat some delicious food, so that's a win!

And then one week before I left I spent my last day out exploring Berlin. I did some shopping (and used my Karstadt giftcard for a cute new shirt and purse!) I hit some more Christmas markets, including the big one at Schloss Charlottenburg, which was extremely beautiful. I ate sausages and all manner of sweets. I drank the requisite Gluhwein, which I did not particularly care for, though I did appreciate the souvenir mug :) And I went and saw Wreck It Ralph, which was so cute. I loved it. Even though I was one of only three people in the theater, lol. So it was a good day and I plan to cherish the memories of that day for the rest of my life.

On my last night in Berlin I went out to dinner with my host mom and the kids. We went to the Italian place near the new house. I don't remember what I ate, but I remember that it was delicious and that the kids behaved quite well. It was a really nice little dinner and a good way to get to say goodbye one last time.

So basically those are the big things that happened that I remember. I know there were a lot of goodbyes and definitely some mixed feelings. As excited as I was to go home, I could feel how much I was going to miss that city and everyone that I met there.

On Thursday, December 20th I got up early and my host mom drove me to the airport. My two suitcases, duffel bag, and backpack were all completely stuffed, though I have no idea how since most of my clothes and shoes were so worn out that they had to be thrown out. There was some confusion with my tickets that morning, but we eventually figured it out. I said my last goodbye and walked through the gates. Of course, it took me more than 24 hours to get home thanks to the fact that all three legs of my flight were delayed. But I did make it eventually and I can't even describe how nice it was to see my mom waiting for me in the Spokane airport.

Since I've been home, things have been a little crazy. I found that stepping back into my old life wasn't really gonna be a possibility, so I've been working on building a new one. I bought a car and got a job. I'm working on building new relationships and figuring out exactly what I want to do from here on. And that's the hard part. All the changes I went through in the past year have left me with a completely blank canvas. I may know myself better than ever, but this is by far the least I've ever known about my future. And I think that's ok.

I miss Berlin every single day. I miss the kind of people you find there. I miss the parks and culture. I miss the sound of the train approaching my platform. I miss the ease of meeting people. I miss döner. I miss my kids. I miss the undeniable history. I miss the opportunity to learn more and more German every day. I miss all my friends. I miss the night life. I miss it all. But for now I'm looking for my next big adventure. Probably I will stay in the States for awhile, but I make no guarantees. All I know is that somewhere along the way I grew into a person that I never realized I could be. A person that I am extremely proud of.

And all I can hope is that someday I get to experience the magic that is Berlin once again.

It was hard, by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was also worth it. Spending a year as an au pair in Berlin, Germany is far and away the best decision I ever made.

I'll leave you with one last song. I usual post the artist's video, but I think the video for this one is terrible and really distracts from the beauty of the song, so here is this one instead. The lyrics, as always, really connect with how I feel right now. It's called Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Enjoy, and goodbye!

Monday, December 10, 2012


My time in Berlin is just about at an end, so I really need to get my post up to tell everyone about my trip to Munich. I've taken a lot of trips this year and seen a lot of places that I never thought I would. But even with all that, Munich stood out for me. This trip was special because it was my last excursion in a year of adventures. Even more than that, it was a place that I had dreamed of seeing for many years.

The very first thing I saw in Munich was the snow. The train ride from the airport takes about 45 minutes and brings you through the rural areas outside of the city right into the center of town. The snow was falling on the way in and it was beautiful, just the way winter is supposed to look. Unfortunately by the time I got into the city, the snow was more like rain. But I did manage a stroke of luck. I found an umbrella on the train that had been left behind, so I adopted it.

I checked into my hostel and then got in touch Chelsea, a friend from back home who happens to be living in Munich. It had been a few years since we'd been in touch, but it was really great to see her anyway. I think I was just kind of happy to be able to talk to somebody who knew everyone and everywhere that I was talking about. So that first day Chelsea and I went on the free walking tour, which was sadly the worst one I've been on yet. I didn't care much for the guide, but I will cut her a little slack as it was terribly cold and wet out and she was trying to hurry through the tour before we all froze to death. After the tour we went to Chelsea's house so we could warm up and I got to meet her family that she is living and working with. And then that night we went to Hard Rock, of course. I had the nachos and a ridiculously good raspberry margarita :)

So my second day in Munich got off to a much better start as the snow/rain nonsense had stopped. I had been pretty miserable the day before since I really don't have any winter gear. I was wearing my canvas Vans, which meant my feet were wet and freezing the whole day. But the plans we had for that second day made it impossible for me to look towards the day with anything except excitement. That was the day that I would get to check off one of the only for sure things that had ever been on my bucket list; Neuschwanstein Castle, King Ludwig II's fairytale castle in the Bavarian Alps. So we took a two hour train ride followed by a short bus ride to arrive at the foot of the mountain where the castle sits. And believe me, that view, with the castle nestled among the snow topped trees, it was beautiful. It was everything I'd hoped for and more. In fact, I'm pretty sure I may have come off as a bit crazy, as all I kept saying was "It's all so winter wonderland-y." The snow just made everything there look beautiful and perfect. Anyway, we got a quick bowl of soup to warm our bones and then we paid to ride in a horse drawn carriage to the castle itself. And yes, normally I travel really cheap and wouldn't waste money on an overpriced tourist trap like a horse drawn carriage, but I was fulfilling a dream here and I felt it deserved a little splurge. Plus it saved us some time and we even got those plaid blankets to lay across our laps! So when we reached the castle we had to wait awhile for our tour time. You can only go in the castle on a guided tour. We spent the time taking pictures and enjoying the absolute majesty of the surroundings, while stomping our feet and trying to keep our toes from falling off. When we finally got to go into the castle, it was just as breathtaking inside. Because Ludwig II died at age 40, the castle is not even half finished. But the rooms that were finished were gorgeous. King Ludwig II was known as the Fairytale King or the Swan King. He loved the works of Richard Wagner and had a special proclivity for swans. And it was obvious. You could see the inspiration in every room of the castle. The funny thing is, a lot of people think he was crazy. But I think he just dreamed too big for this world. In fact, I feel like we would have been friends, Ludwig and I. I bet he was a real cool guy to talk with. Anyway, I loved it. I loved everything about the castle. All the fairytale motifs, the hidden swans, the intricate wood workings, and the over-the-top romanticism. It was exactly what I thought a castle should be. The only disappointing thing about the whole experience was that they're doing repairs on one side of the castle, that being the side that you always see in all the pictures, so we couldn't go out to the famous bridge across from the castle to take pictures from there. But I guess that just means I'll have to go back someday! And maybe next time I'll get to see it in another season. I bet its just gorgeous up there in the fall.

Well anyway, that was Neuschwanstein. After the castle that night we went back to the city and Chelsea showed me some different Christmas markets. If you're ever in Germany during the Christmas season, particularly in Bavaria, the Christmas markets are definitely something worth seeing. And it wasn't even just tourists. The locals hang out there too to drink their Glühwein and eat their sausages. I myself partook in a delicious Rotwurst and way too many Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (which are types of Christmas cookies).

On Saturday morning Chelsea and I met up with nothing planned for the day, so we ended up just walking through some of the parks and things so Chelsea could point out all the places she knew. Even though it was winter, I could tell how the whole park scene and everything there is very different from the way it is in Berlin, which I found to be really interesting. The absolutely laidback park culture in Berlin is one of the things that I love dearly about the city, so I'm pretty sure I'd miss it if I lived anywhere else in the country. Anyway, at the end of the Englischer Garten Chelsea showed me one of the neatest things I saw in Munich. There's a bridge where you can stand and watch people surf on this single wave on a small man made river. It was super cool to watch. The surfers would line up on each side and take turns surfing for a minute or so before letting themselves fall back into the water and be pulled away by the current. You remember that I mentioned before how cold it was there, right? These people were far braver than I. And they were mesmerizing to watch. We ended up just standing there for quite awhile until my feet got too cold and we had to leave.

From there we actually went to a cafe to get some lunch and warm up. I really only mention the cafe though because I had a seriously delicious piece of Bailey's creme torte there. And I feel that's something worth recording in this blog :) So yeah, that's all I did on Saturday. We actually just spent the rest of the evening at Chelsea's house since she had to work, though it hardly felt like work with her adorable 2 year old and 2 1/2 month old charges.

Then came Sunday, which I spent by myself. I tried to get some shopping done, but I was basically unsuccessful because I forgot that Germany all but shuts down on Sundays, something I still find to be absolutely frustrating. So instead I went ahead and went out to see Dachau.

Dachau is a concentration camp outside Munich. It was actually the very first concentration camp, the one on which all others were based. Now I think it's important for me to say here that I have been torn about whether I should visit a concentration camp since I arrived in Germany. I always thought it was strange that the first thing most people say they would do in Germany is visit a concentration camp. I mean, first of all, there's a lot more to this country than that. There is a lot of beauty and a lot of life and culture here. And secondly, you don't need to visit one of the camps to see and understand the effects of the war here. The Germans, from what I have seen, are very open about what happened and have faced their history rather than try to hide it. And it's just that, it's history. But yes, I know the importance of learning from our pasts, though I never really thought I'd need to see something like that to know that thinking that way and treating anyone that way is wrong. So basically I spent 11 months trying to decide whether to go and in the end it came down to this: I had nothing else planned for the day and it wouldn't cost me anything, so I might as well. And I guess I'm glad that I did go. It was not, of course, a pleasant experience. But it did help me to let go of a little bit of the cynicism and hate that I've been having such a hard time with since my experience this summer. The memorial, and all of the information therein, kind of helped me to see from an outside perspective how easy it would be to end up filled with such irrational hatred. So it was good for me in a way. Honestly though, I expected to feel more, and I was kind of surprised that I didn't. I guess it was just the way other people had described their experiences that made me think I might have more of a reaction. But I didn't. And maybe that's just because it's not a part of my time. The war never directly affected me and even though it makes me sad that all those events happened, I am not personally connected to them. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. I think it's just part of life. A mental coping mechanism. Because if we let every terrible thing that's ever happened weigh fully on our conscious we'd be too broken down to ever get up in the morning. So instead I took the mental lessons that I could from the site and I left with that.

I didn't do much after Dachau. I went back to Munich and had lunch at a beer hall, the Augustiner. It's a nicer, less expensive, less touristy beer hall that is actually located directly across from the very famous Hofbrauhaus. I ate Leberkase and Stampfkartoffeln, though I can't really tell you what Leberkase is because I've never looked it up for fear that finding out what it really is might end in my no longer liking it. Oh, and I had a beer there that was absolutely wonderful. Now if someone would just teach me about beer so that I would know what to remember to ensure I get just as delicious of a beer every time I went out.

And then I went back to the airport and successfully snuck my overweight carryon bag back onto the plane. Oh, and on the way to the airport I managed to lose that umbrella from earlier on a train. I mean, I meant to leave it behind anyway, but I legitimately lost it. I think it was the world's way of saying share the love :) So yeah, that's about all I did in Munich. It doesn't seem like much, but it really was a big trip for me as far as my bucket list goes. As much as I adore Berlin, Bavaria is what we think of when we think Germany, and so I am really glad that I got to go there and experience what they had to offer.

I saved this trip until very last so that I could feel the magic, the wonder of traveling, that I used to feel, because I knew Munich, a place that I have always dreamed of visiting, would do that for me. And I was right. It didn't disappoint at all.