Alrighty. Welcome back to life in Germany- sorry for my absence the past month or so, I’ve been very busy, tired, and busy. With what? Well that’s a long story. The biggest reason is that my favorite time of year has come again: decision time. (By favorite I mean… least favorite). I’ll be done here in Reichenhall by the end of September and so deciding what to do this fall is a choice that weighs pretty heavily on me right now. I’ve spent hours pouring over websites looking into the possibility of masters courses in Ireland, England, and Germany. I’ve sent emails to directors of various programs looking for internships, mission years, or jobs. I’ve been networking to find internships, mission years, or jobs. And housing. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of staying another few years in Europe or coming home right now. Don’t freak out about me staying in Europe because that hasn’t been decided yet 🙂 There are a lot of moving pieces. Needless to say, by the end of the day the last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer again. So I don’t. Suddenly I realize it’s mid April already and I haven’t blogged in a good while. I started receiving emails subtly questioning my choices:
I decided to comply.
My last post was before Easter – so let me begin from there!
My Easter this year was relatively un-celebratory in many senses of the word. Holy week was somber for me in a different sort of way; although Holy Thursday (Gründonnerstag) is a recognized feast and Good Friday (Karfreitag) is a national holiday, little else around me changed and so I spent the triduum trying to find moments of silence in the midst of daily life. On Friday night I went to what I thought was stations of the cross but what was in reality some sort of walk and mediation, complete with torches. Which were cool. I understood little of what was said, but I received a rope at the beginning and then at each proceeding stop an item to add. I left more confused than inspired, but the feeling of being a bit lost was in and of itself a good reflection. Also I think God has a sense of humor and was secretly amused with me trying to understand German culture.
I was invited to a concert on Holy Saturday and so I rung in the dawn of the Resurrection in a tiny little bar in a tiny little town in Bavaria, drinking a beer and watching a very Bavarian band of men make music. I didn’t bother going to sleep when I got home and instead went to the 5am Easter Mass. Which was beautiful and freezing. Remember how they don’t heat their Churches over here? It’s especially cold at 5am. I won’t lie, the not sleeping part was probably not the smartest, because by the 4th reading I was seriously dozing off. It doesn’t help that everything is spoken in a different language. Translating takes a serious amount of concentration and brainpower. I did enjoy the ringing of the bells during the Gloria though. That was exciting. I also learned that at the 5am mass it is tradition to bring a basket full of food. Or so I gathered from the abundance of baskets filled with food that everyone had with them in their pews. I felt like I stood out for having only brought myself. I discovered during the final blessings that these were actually Easter Breakfasts: apparently tradition is to bring your breakfast to Church in a basket and then you receive a special Easter blessing over your Easter food. Cool stuff.
I went home to sleep for 2 hours and then woke up in time to go with the family to the grandparent’s house for brunch and to watch the girls look for the baskets the Easter Bunny had left. This provides yet another cultural reflection from yours truly: though not one that is particularly related to Germany. See, Christmas has become fairly incorporated into our cultures, and the question of religion is -or has been- fairly ignored by those who don’t care. In fact the movement to remove religious association with Christmas proves simply that it has become a very well established event that requires little religious motivation. Easter, on the other hand, doesn’t have presents, warm fuzzy feelings, and the general spirit of giving to help it stand on its own. The only thing warm and fuzzy about Easter is the rabbits that you are never supposed to see, and who once a year are believed to have laid eggs. Or hid them. (I’m actually not quite sure what I’m supposed to believe there). Point being, Easter without religion is actually a pretty pointless holiday, and since I’m living in a religion-free zone, I was entertained to watch the struggle to make sense out of this event that causes the entire country to go on holiday for 4 days. It’s interesting therefore that the idea still prevails of going to Church on Christmas and Easter- as if this is some sort of tradition that validifies the gift-giving or chocolate-bunny-eating activities we (also) inarguably commit to.
I digress. It was extremely entertaining to watch the search for easter baskets. Don’t let my cynicism in the last paragraph lead you to believe I am against easter baskets. Because I will never, ever, turn down a bucket basket full of candy. The 4-year old had trouble allowing her little sister to find the basket on her own, but the pure joy on the face of a small child who has found what she believes to be a basket full of chocolate all for her is priceless. The hiding of said basket so she doesn’t begin to bathe in it as every single piece she’s somehow managed to fit into her hands melts slowly… that is the parents’ easter adventure. Needless to say, we had a lovely day and a lovely meal, and I even got an easter basket, which was a fun surprise. While I may have missed celebrating with my own family, I did have a relaxing day which is a good way to spend such a fantastic feast.
Easter night was a beautiful warm night, and I walked to the train station to pick up a friend coming in from Florence. This has been the perfect year for me to be living abroad. Having only graduated one year prior, I still have many friends still in school, and junior and senior year of college is the year most of them study abroad. As you may remember, I’ve already met up with people in Florence and in Italy. This semester brought in a new batch of friends to my back doorstep. My friend John, who I worked with last year at college, and is dating one of my best friends who coincidentally also worked as an aupair here, came to visit. Did you catch all those connections?! 🙂 John stayed for 3 days and I showed him around Bad Reichnehall and Salzburg.
I live a 5-minute walk from the oldest cable car in the world. Riding it sounds like a dangerous idea. Well it’s always been something I planned on doing, but haven’t yet. It was a perfect activity to do with a friend, and so I joined John that day in exploring Reichnehall via the Predictschulbahn to the top of a mountain. It was a trippy trip, but the view was spectacular and now that I know what sits at the top of this mountain I see everyday… it will be difficult not to spend all my money traveling up there every week.
After these adventures, John travelled to Munich, where I met him and a few other students later that weekend once I was off work. They all flew out of Munich Sunday morning and I went to visit the community of people I know there. I don’t know if I’ll ever cease being amazed at how small the world becomes when you have connections. It’s incredible to me that I could come almost halfway around the world and walk into a group of people who seem to already know me, and who welcome me with open arms. My world got infinitely smaller when I met a guy who had spent a year in the states working with my best friend. I’m becoming somewhat of a strange figure to my host mom because of how often I come back with stories of “my friend in Ireland” or how “I met this random person who knows me in Munich,” etc. I have a strange life.
As always, it is exciting for me to have people to travel with. Since a bunch of these students were in town, I took them to a castle I’ve never been to and a beer garden I’ve never been to. It was a warm sunny day and I had a blast. I also learned never to travel with Italians. Streets? nah. They walk everywhere, always. Germans do not. Having been to Italy I understand the way that you “just walk” across the street no matter the cars, otherwise you may never cross. I couldn’t decide whether I became the mom or the police man who was always pulling them off the street because they were about to die. I think I’m becoming accustomed to the culture.
We are entering the season of birthdays here at the house. Last weekend was Grandma’s birthday, this weekend is Grandpa’s birthday, next weekend is other-Grandma’s birthday… you get the point. A lot of celebratory breakfasts and dinners to attend; flaming birthday cakes and traditional dresses in celebration. And a lot of paper, glue, and glitter for me to control as I ‘help’ the girls make cards and presents.
The dad’s birthday is next month and the mom is planning a big surprise party for him. Well the surprise part only lasted about a week, but the party is still on. She’s left several times this week to scope out locations: because he is a chef she’s been pretty particular about the quality of the food at the places, understandably so. She just found a hut, a 30-minute hike into the mountains, so look forward to pictures and stories mid-May about my adventures with two small children at a party in the mountains.
Something that is nearly impossible for me to communicate to you is the presence of the hotel and restaurant in the family. It’s a huge part of my life, actively, passively, and sometimes awkwardly. You may remember from previous posts or pictures my mentioning it: this is the Guest House owned and operated by the dad who is for both the hotel and/or the restaurant; Chef, Butcher, Manager, Booking, Web and Hotel Layout designer, and much more. This work keeps him extremely busy and the mom often spends her days there assisting in various capacities. This leaves me bringing the girls “to work” some days, or rather “To visit Papi,” and is always a really exciting day because we get to take the bus.
Usually we’ll play there in the field, watch the cows and stay away from the electric fence, or try to feed the pigs straw, screaming when they get too close. The food is always fantastic. Having worked in the service industry, I am familiar with the ups and downs of employment and customer satisfaction. Sometimes my job is keeping the kids at bay while tensions run high everywhere else.
In addition to this enormous business, the mom is also an on-call therapist for emergency situations in the area, and a couple times a month will be called out to a case. The nights are sometimes late for both parents and lately I’ve been doing a lot of babysitting at random hours throughout the day or evening. This is the primary reason I am a live-in nanny for this family, since their schedules are rarely predictable and often require last-minute adjustments. This has become a great source of annoyance for me, mainly since I like to make routine in my life and have been almost unable to have any at all. I always believe, however, that we have the choice to grow or regress with the choices placed before us, and since this is not my life forever, I’m working on finding the best parts of the day and am learning to adapt very quickly to changing environments.
The one thing that has been relatively consistent are my mornings, and while the mountain weather is even worse than the infamous Minnesota patterns, Spring is definitely here. I’ve begun running again, which has been fantastic and I’ve fallen right back into my old routine. Lies. It’s been painful and disappointing haha. But I’m excited to be able to get out again and find new paths through the foothills here.
Friday I had a day off for the first time in 2 weeks. I took the train to Berchtesgaden, a stunning town in the mountains only about 25 minutes away. I have a lot to catch up on, and one of those things is time to think. I sat at a little café, had a delicious 5€ breakfast, and well, now you’re all caught up on the basics of my past month! Here’s some pictures of my adventures during that off day: the breathtaking views and the random American food that amuses me trying to be all cool and shtuff appearing all the way over here.
There’ll be more to come… believe it or not summer is soon upon us, and tickets have already been booked for our flight to Spain. I’m on the home stretch, but there’s still a lot of adventure still coming. Hope you all are enjoying your fourth week of Easter! Buy some ice cream or something to celebrate, because this is a 50-day party that you better not be selling yourself short on!