This is Ian again, for one last blog here. I am currently sitting at the computer at home, in Wisconsin, after a whirlwind of travel and visits during the last month. So we'll start with my departure.
Leaving was rough. I managed to see a lot of people before I went, though not all, and had some great times. Saying goodbye was difficult, of course, especially to some of my closer friends, but I will see them again, I'm sure. I mailed one suitcase home, since I didn't want to have to carry it around during all the small flights I took (to Sweden, and then from Baltimore to Chicago), and that finally arrived yesterday. And then, a short ride with Linda later, I was on the plane and headed to Sweden.
The two weeks dancing in Herraeng, Sweden were one of the most amazing things I've ever done. It was an incredible experience being there, surrounded by hundreds of dancers from all around the world, and the feeling in the camp of enthusiasm and passion for dancing and devotion to fun is indescribable. It was totally overwhelming at first, the night I arrived, just having left Germany behind, and now in this crazy environment, and seeing one of my friends in particular again...it was all just too much to handle that first night. The next day I woke up feeling excited and ready, though, and the rest of the two weeks was just the best experience. I want to go back every year I possibly can. I learned a lot, and had crazy amounts of fun, and met some wonderful people.
I then flew to Baltimore to stay with my friend Larren and her fiance Eugene, whom I had never before met. It was great to get to know him, and I really enjoyed my time with them (though I did have an interesting reaction to their cats. Not my normal scratchy throat and eyes, but rather both of my eyes just turned red. Like the deep bloodshot red of someone who hasn't slept in a week. It was...unsettling to wake up to.)
Then it was home to Wisconsin, and a couple days with my mom and dad and my grandma, which were wonderfully relaxing, and then I was off again, headed to the Twin Cities for my friend Charles's bachelor party, a friend's birthday party the next day, then Charles and Heidi's wedding the next day, and then I stayed with a different friend every night for the next week, seeing as many of the folks from Minnesota as I could. It was great to see so many friends again, and to dance in my "home" swing scene again.
And now I'm back, figuring out what I'm going to do. I have an audition on the first weekend of September at a dance studio in Chicago to possibly become an instructor there, and then we'll see where things go from there. I am incredibly grateful to have had the experience I did in Rimbach, and to all the people who helped and supported me, both here and in Germany. When the school year at St. Olaf starts up again, I hope to go up to visit campus, and hopefully speak with a couple of the faculty about the possibility of forging stronger musical ties with the MLS as well, so we'll see how that goes. I'll keep you all up to date, probably through email, since this blog is now Luke's.
On a final note, Herr Fink asked me to write a little something about how much German is acquired during the Rimbach year. In answer, I would say it greatly depends. For me, it had been three years since I'd spoken German when I arrived in Rimbach, and I had forgotten a lot. The Sprachkurs in Heidelberg helped significantly to refresh my memory, but I would also say that my German now is far better than it ever was before. It's certainly not perfect, but I received a lot of compliments on my German, and I felt very good about my improvement. It's also dependent on how much effort you make to improve your German; asking colleagues and friends to correct you, and taking every opportunity possible to speak in German rather than English. I didn't always do that, alas, but those are the strategies to really improve. I would leave any additional comments on the topic to my colleagues at the MLS, who were around to see the change; they can verify or deny what I've said.
Once again, thank you so much to everyone involved with the program, and, before I forget, heartfelt congratulations to Linda Johnke and her husband Mick on the birth of their first son, Deniz Liam! I'm only sad that I wasn't around to meet him, but I look forward to seeing him someday.
I'm handing the reins to Luke now. Take care, everyone, and thank you, and good luck, Luke!