That's a phrase I don't hear often anymore. So it's been about a month since I arrived in Germany now and I figure it's about time to give people updates. Alas, my procrastination can only hold out so long.
First off, I'm kind of writing this on the fly, so as far as excellent grammatical structure and a coherent theme go, expect to be underwhelmed.
By contrast, my arrival in Germany was somewhat overwhelming. I didn't get much sleep the night before I left, because I naturally spent the entire day procrastinating packing and to my horror realized around 2am what a huge job it was to pack for an entire year. Nevertheless, it worked out, and an employee at the airport was nice enough to ignore the fact that both of my checked bags were slightly overweight. Hopefully saying that here won't cost her her job, because she's clearly a baller.
My flight also happened to be delayed on the tarmac for 2 hours with no AC, so that was awesome. Thus, when I landed in Frankfurt, in addition to being jet-lagged and exhausted, I had to frantically find my meeting point with Romy and hope that she hadn't given up on me when I was two hours late. So I dragged over 100lbs of luggage a ridiculously long distance to find out that her flight had also been delayed and I waited for her to arrive. I was greeted by Romy and Tilo who were very accomodating and we traveled back to Rimbach together. At my apartment I unpacked and was very tired and homesick. However not two hours after I landed, one of my podmates from college, Brandon, and his high school friend, Dode, arrived to stay with me two days. I had at first thought that I would need more time to settle in, but their visit proved to be just what I needed. I couldn't be homesick with guests, and together we explored my new town. We even made it to a local bar and I made my first group of friends here in Rimbach.
I spent the next three weeks here at a language course in Heidelberg and it turned out to be quite a great experience. My German improved faster than I could have imagined and I am usually able to say what I want to when I need to. I also met a bunch of friends my age from all over Europe at the language course, and we had fun together on the weekends. It was also a great way for me to practice my German, as it was pretty much the only language we all had in common. Also it has been hard for me to be very talkative with native German speakers because I am embarrassed by all the mistakes I am making. However, with other foreigners, making German mistakes is just normal. Sadly some of the friends I made there have already left back to Greece or to the Netherlands to continue on in their lives, but I hope to see them again sometime. Furthermore, I will definitely continue to hang out with the friends that remain there.
Some of the more potent memories from the first three weeks here are as follows: One night, about ten friends and I hung out on the Neckarwiese in Heidelberg, which is like a 2km long stretch of green grass on the shore of a river that runs through the middle of Heidelberg. We were speaking in like a total of 5 or 6 languages and just enjoying the beautiful sunset in the valley with the Heidelberg castle overlooking us. It was also a blast to go to the swimming pool in Heidelberg and attempt a front flip from around 10ft, the highest I've done a flip off so far, but I'll increase that. I also got dinner with Helmut Hartmann at the local Fischerfest and we enjoyed one of the most picturesque moments of my life. We were eating fish and drinking local beer under a large tent filled with long tables and benches occupied by a ton of locals. Meanwhile, music was playing and the sun was beginning to set. We were sitting on the edge of a hill, looking down on four or five large ponds with walking paths winding between them where couples lazily wound their way home. There were telephone poles strung with light bulbs around these paths. Meanwhile, all around the tent and the pools was a large pine forest. Rising above the trees on the opposite side of the pools were a couple hills with pastures and old wooden fences upon them. I felt like I was in Hobbiton, and Helmut was able to appreciate that. As if that wasn't nice enough, as we ate, a hot air balloon began to land on the hill across from us. As it landed, a herd of horses crested over the top of the hill, ran under it and down the hill towards us. I just broke down laughing, it was ridiculously perfect.
The last few weeks have also contained their fair amount of stress. I've had to figure out how to pay my rent, get visas, navigate public transportation, set up health insurance, set up a work contract, cook, and learn how to be a teacher, all in a language I only mildly understand. If it weren't for the extensive and unending help of Romy Schuster I would truly be helpless, and I need to express my sincere and overwhelming gratitude at how helpful she has been already. Probably the most stressful experience for me was the Friday before school started. It was my first day in the building and I was told how to basically do everything for my job then. I should probably have been preparing a bit more beforehand as to how to teach my English courses, but I felt pretty overwhelmed. Nevertheless, the support offered by fellow teachers at the Martin-Luther-Schule is incredible.
My first day in class was a double hour with the 11th grade in 90+ degree weather from around 3 to 4:30 in the afternoon. To be expected, I was very nervous. Also to be expected, the kids did NOT want to be in class anymore. It led to a rough first day, as I partly took their lack of interest and positive feedback personally. Nevertheless, the next morning I taught them again as well as a 9th grade class and things went much more smoothly. I am still trying to get the hang of the whole teaching thing though, and I have plenty more to learn as I begin my second week.
Also, I joined a basketball club last week, and that has truly been a blessing. My knowledge of German did not really extend to the physical sport vocabulary realm, so I've been learning a lot of that, but the language of basketball is somewhat universal. I have appreciated in America how basketball can connect me to people far different from myself, and I appreciate it here as well. Despite playing with complete strangers on our first day, after a half hour we were high-fiveing and congratulating each other like old friends. It feels great to play that sport again, and a March Madness watching party at my apartment has already been unofficially scheduled.
There are more observations I would like to point out, but this blog entry has already been a bit of a rant. I think I really will update it more frequently now, as that will lead to less wordy entries and also allow me to point out smaller observations. Nevertheless, I hope you find reading about my experience here interesting and I cannot stress enough how much I appreciate the support of friends and family both back home and here in Germany.