Monday, February 25, 2013

Germany Week 3 - Adulthood at its Finest!

I didn't want to include a song/video this week, but this one really sets the mood. Press play and READ.
Listen to the whole song. It'll make you feel really good about yourself.

Saturday, February 23, 2013. 12:17 p.m. 

"Wait until 1," I thought. "Maybe it'll stop snowing by then. Wait until 1."

It was a long walk to the grocery store and it had been snowing all morning. All I wanted to do was stay in my pajamas and watch Seinfeld all day. But I needed to go to the grocery store. I was out of milk, bread, yogurt, fruit, peanut butter and was running low on cereal, bread and carrots. I couldn't NOT go to the store.

1:12 p.m. It did not stop snowing by 1. So, I (very reluctantly) left the warmth of my tiny basement apartment to go grocery shopping.

Walked two kilometers(ish) to the grocery store. "Do Germans not believe in salting their sidewalks on Saturdays or something?" I thought as I slipped and slid down the hills and streets to the store. My pants kept falling down. "Should have brought a belt to Germany after all."

1:37 p.m. Made it to the store. 11 containers of yogurt, two liters of milk, 6 apples, one loaf of bread, one box of cereal, one jar of peanut butter ("American. Yesssss."), one jar of blackberry jam and two bags of mini cookies later ("Wow, I got a lot for only 21 euro..."), I desperately hoped it had stopped snowing.

1:56 p.m. No dice. Still snowing.

2:07 p.m. I had to stop and rest about every 5 minutes. The strain of balancing my groceries, my umbrella and my iPod at the same time (whilst trying to keep my pants pulled up) and trudging my way through the snow was wearing on me. My feet hurt. I was wearing way too many layers.

2:11 p.m. "Remember yesterday when Stephan asked me what I liked about Frankfurt and I couldn't think of anything? It's because I. DON'T. LIKE. ANYTHING."

2:19 p.m. Drop grocery bags on the counter. Throw scarf, coat, keys and purse on floor. Sit down on the edge of the bathtub. Cry.

I've always felt strangely at home in grocery stores. I used to love going to the store with my parents when I was younger, and I worked at Albertson's for four summers and several Christmas breaks. So, the animosity I've felt toward grocery shopping here in Germany has been somewhat disconcerting to me. That mixed with the absolutely miserable experience I had walking home through the snow proved enough to snap my 19-day streak of NOT CRYING.

I had been doing so dang well.

2:26 p.m. Walk into the kitchen. Continue to cry. Stare at groceries on the counter. "They're not going to put themselves away, you know."

I began to neatly stack my yogurts in the fridge. "This is what it feels like to be an adult," I realized. "Being an adult means, sometimes, you have to drag your groceries uphill through the snow."

And then I realized something else. I could keep crying about having to carry my groceries through the snow, or I could get over it. It was up to me. I could act like a lost little girl and cry about all the things I dislike about Germany, or I could be an adult, shake it off and GET. OVER. IT.

So that's what I decided to do.

10:03 p.m. Board train in Bad Vilbel bound for home. Think about the great night of food, friends, games and laughter I just had. "Tonight was a good night."

10:32 p.m.Take the cute little jar containing exactly 117 gummy bears out of purse. Place on desk. "Tonight was a good night."

10:45 p.m. Log into Facebook. Chat with a friend from Germany. "Tonight was a good night."

11:07 p.m. Climb into bed. "Tonight was a good night."

11:14 p.m. "This is what it feels like to be an adult. Tonight was a good night."

As I laid there Saturday night, I realized that being an adult means that sometimes, you have to drag your groceries uphill through the snow. Sometimes your feet are blistered and sore, but you have no choice but to keep on walking. Sometimes you have to do your best to understand what's going on around you when nothing is in your native language. Sometimes you have to take public transportation everywhere you go and sometimes you have to sit by smelly old men on the train. Sometimes you feel lonely, sad, angry and inadequate. Sometimes you miss home.


Sometimes you meet really cool German people who want to be your friend. Sometimes you make friends who pull you out of the way of speeding buses and who take time out of their day to make sure you get on the right train. Sometimes you take a step outside of your comfort zone and realize things aren't as bad as you think they are. Sometimes you eat eight donuts in one night and are perfectly okay with it. Sometimes you experience more hospitality, generosity and love than you could have ever imagined. Sometimes you play bocce ball with a British guy and kick everyone else's butts. Sometimes you try new things, new foods, new adventures and you realize that the world is full of amazingly wonderful things, places and people.

Sometimes you learn that being an adult is about striving to do your best and to be happy on a daily basis. Even when you feel like you just can't carry those groceries uphill through the snow any longer.

And that, my friends, is what being an adult is all about. Finding happiness in every day, every experience, every moment. It's about being grateful you can afford those groceries you're dragging through the snow. It's about being grateful your feet are so sore, because you have the opportunity to go, do and see so many things, people and places. It's about being grateful there are so many wonderful people who care about your well-being. It's about making new friends, seeing new places and trying new things. It's about getting over all the things that suck and learning to be happy.

That's what Germany taught me this week. To suck it up and put a smile on. 
Because no one is going to do it for me.

Schoneck is such a happy little place when it's NOT snowing!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Germany — Day 19

Press play and read.

Friday night at the Frankfurt temple! No place I'd rather be! :)

Left: Saturday morning at the Schloss castle in Aschaffenburg! Right: My FIRST wiener schnitzel in Rothenburg!

Today marks 19 DAYS that I've been in Germany! And I'm still alive. And what an accomplishment that is, indeed.

I'm beginning to settle into things here. I get up really early every morning, get to my trains, get to work, work all morning, have lunch with a lovely little group of people and discuss crazy things, work all afternoon, attend FHE or institute (depending on the night), sometimes go shopping at the Zeil, go home, go running around Schoneck, make some dinner, then go to bed. I know how to get to various places in Frankfurt. I know how to use Euros. I (kind of) know how to grocery shop in German. I even figured out how to do laundry.

But things are still hard. I get frustrated not being able to understand anything. I struggle with loneliness, coming home every night to a completely empty apartment. I feel like my mind and body are always so, so tired. Sometimes I think I'm not cut out to live completely by myself in a strange country.

You feel like a candle in a hurricane, just like a picture with a broken frame. Alone and helpless, like you've lost your fight.

But that's where Rascal Flatts comes in. This song came on when I was at a low point on Monday night and just wanted to go back to America.

Start holdin' on, keep holdin' on. 'Cause when push comes to shove, you taste what you're made of. You might bend 'til you break 'cause it's all you can take. On your knees, you look up, decide you've had enough. You get mad, you get strong, wipe your hands, shake it off. Then you stand.

Germany has been showing me what I'm made of. I've been faced with challenges that absolutely terrified me, but I feel so dang good about myself when I overcome those challenges. I'm reminded on a daily basis that I'm capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to. I think that, deep down, we're all a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

So, as I've gone about my 19 days here in Germany, I've learned/noticed some things.

There are bazillions of bakeries, all with breads and pastries and cakes and yummy things that LOOK SO GOOD. But they generally look way better than they actually taste.

It seems like everyone here smokes. Old people, young people (REALLY young people), guys, girls. Everyone. It'll be strange going home and not constantly smelling cigarette smoke.

McDonald's is about 18964301421 more classy in Germany than it is in the United States. They take the whole "McCafe" business very seriously.

Pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. I saw a girl get hit by a car the other day. Most traumatizing thing ever. (She was okay, by the way.)

German chocolate. Enough said.

Dogs can understand German. Or I guess any language, for that matter. I was on a run and heard a guy talking to his dog in German and I was like, "Wow. Dogs can understand German, too!" Strangest realization ever.

Streets are really narrow here and Germans drive really tiny cars. I realized the other day that most of them would never get to experience how romantic it is to cuddle in the bed of a pickup truck while stargazing or watching the sun go down. And I felt semi sad about that.

Fruits and veggies here are so much more fresh and delicious than they are back home.

Cobblestones are about 583201412 times harder on your feet than regular sidewalks. My feet pretty much hate me (and Germany) right now.

The toilets here have significantly less water than they do in the U.S. I had a half-hour long conversation with someone the other day about why Americans need so much water in their toilets, which I had never really thought about before...But why do we need so much water??

Water at restaurants is not free. So you might as well order a Coke.

Greek yogurt is big in the U.S., but I PROMISE you, the Swiss do it better. I've discovered some yogurt from Switzerland that is absolutely to die for. I already know I'm going to go through withdrawals without it when I go home.

I see new things everyday. I learn new things everyday. I am constantly exposed to the unfamiliar, and I am constantly adjusting to the things around me. And while I find all this learning and adjusting difficult, I know I'm growing so, so much everyday. I can feel myself becoming a better person because I'm experiencing Germany up close and personal!

Continue to wish me luck!
Left: View from the Princely Estates at the Schloss! Right: Rothenburg with the Cravens!

Every time you get up and get back in the race, one more small piece of you starts to fall into place.

Must remember...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Germany — Week 1!!

It is absolutely necessary that you listen to this video while you read. I PROMISE it will tie in later!

I have now been in Germany for 11 days!! Has it really been that long? Have I really been able to survive 11 days in a completely foreign country? How do I even begin to sum up the past 11 days??

Thursday, January 31
After getting about 4 hours of sleep, I got up early and readied myself to get to the airport. I didn't want to take two carry ons and when I realized I couldn't fit my wallet in my backpack and would HAVE to have two carry ons, I broke down. I couldn't do this.
I pulled myself together long enough to drive to the airport, check in, etc. Then my mom hugged me and again, I broke down. I really couldn't do this. I really didn't think I wanted to do this.
But the ticket was nonrefundable. So, I (somewhat reluctantly) climbed aboard a plane bound for Dallas, and then one bound for FRANKFURT.

Friday, February 1
Got off the plane around 8:15 a.m. I was excited. WAS I REALLY IN GERMANY? I was so pumped for all the things ahead of me!
I was told by the senior missionary couple that picked me up that Friday was "Keep Taylor Awake Day." And that's what they did. I went to the office, met everyone, saw a bit of Frankfurt, fought back tears the whole day, that type of thing.
They took me to my apartment in Schöneck Kilianstädten around 4 p.m., at which point I cried. And cried. And cried. I pulled myself together long enough to unpack, go to the store with my landlords' daughter, and see a bit of town. Then I cried again.
I couldn't do this. There was no way in heck I could live by myself for three months in Germany.
After about 34 hours of being awake, I finally hit the hay around 8:30 that night.

Woke up around 10:30 (14 hours of sleep!) and got ready to have lunch with Ralf, my internship supervisor, and his family in Nidderau, the neighboring town.
Ralf and his daughter gave me a tour of the old part of the town, which was really nice. I didn't have my camera with me, so no pictures. But it's exactly how you would picture Europe! So quaint.
Lunch consisted of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. An authentic German meal! It was good. I was really thankful for Ralf and his family's hospitality.
After they dropped me off, I couldn't figure out how to unlock the door to my house. I twisted the key EVERY direction I could think of. I pushed. I pulled. Nothing. So, again, I cried. I couldn't do this. I couldn't even unlock a door, let alone live in Germany for three months!!
After Ralf and his wife came back and unlocked the door for me (shocking how easy it was for them) and I finished breaking down, I read. I didn't have internet, so that was really my only choice. I read The Great Gatsby. The whole thing.

I went to church in a German ward in Hanau with my landlords. Didn't understand a thing anyone said. But you know what they about how you can feel the Spirit in any language? Well, that's definitely true.
After church, I read some more. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Read it from cover to cover.
I managed not to cry at all on Sunday, which I was pretty darn happy about.

My first official day of work! My cute little landlord walked me to the train station (I surely would have gotten lost had I tried it on my own). Took the train from Schöneck to Frankfurt, and there began my journey toward semi-normality!
I had lots of orientation and training that day. I found out what projects I'll be working on over the next three months, and I'm super pumped! Public affairs work is definitely different than the journalism work I'm used to, but I know I'm going to enjoy my projects. It's so cool that I get to work for the Church for a bit and help further the gospel!
I got INTERNET on Monday evening. I swear, I could have died and gone to heaven at that point. I was SO HAPPY!
In my joy over my new internet connection, I figured out how to call a mobile phone from my Skype account. So I called my momma. Which was good, but also a bad idea. I talked to her and my dad for about half an hour, and I pretty much cried the whole time. 
Sometimes I feel so dang homesick. During my short time here, I've learned what it feels like to miss someone so much it hurts. It's not a feeling I like.

More orientation at work!
For lunch, I went with two of the senior missionary couples to an open air market in Frankfurt and we all got bratwurst for lunch! It was SO SO SO good. Wow. You haven't lived until you've tried an authentic German bratwurst.
Tuesday night marked the first night I could fall asleep prior to midnight. The first sign that I was getting over my jetlag!

More orientation! I never knew there would be SO MUCH to learn when I got here! I guess I shouldn't be surprised though...
After work, I went on my first run in Germany! It was quite nice running around my little village. There's so much to look at and take in! As I walk/run around this place, I can't help but think, "I live here. Do I really live here??"

Last day of orientation!
A few of the people in the office and I took a long lunch and saw a bit of Frankfurt. The old town square, the Zeil (one of Europe's busiest shopping streets), and some churches. It was a really good time. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a dream, because I really can't believe that I live in this big, wonderful city!
Thursday night I went to YSA institute, which was nerve racking at first, but I'm glad I went. I had to leave early to catch a train, so I didn't get to mingle with people after it was over, but I'm really hoping I'll make some amigos from the YSA group!

My absolute favorite day in Germany so far! I went with two of the senior missionary couples for a "cultural day" to Heidelberg and Rothenburg. It was such a fun day! Castles, ancient city walls, quaint houses, cute little shops, forests, old churches, historic places, charming town squares...Everything. Germany is such a beautiful place. And there is such a rich history here. I want to take it all in!
I also had my first wiener schnitzel while we were in Rothenburg! It was really, really good! I have to admit, however, that the french fries that were served with the schnitzel far outdid the main dish. But, nonetheless, I can mark eating authentic wiener schnitzel off my list.
It snowed on and off all day Friday, and it was pretty chilly, but it was a really, really good day! I'm so glad I got invited to partake in "cultural day." Hopefully there are some more in the future! :)
By the time I got home, it was about 9:30, at which point I thought about going for a run, but my tired, blistered feet would have hated me. So I refrained and went to bed instead.

Slept in until 9:45! Sleep is becoming my best friend here in Germany. I'm pretty much over my jetlag, but I always feel tired. Always.
I went into Frankfurt with my friend Amanda (she's American!) that afternoon, and we walked around the Zeil for a bit. That place is incredibly crowded. As we muscled our way through the hoards of people, I realized why I love Wyoming so much. No people.
I was on a mission to find myself a cute, semi-inexpensive purse. If you've ever been shopping in Europe, you know that finding ANYTHING that is "semi-inexpensive" is hard to do. Everything here is so pricey! After walking around for a bit, seeing the Fasching parade (it's karneval in Germany right now! So much fun), and having lunch at a really charming little place I can't remember the name of (I scarfed an entire pizza. Don't judge me.), we FINALLY found a cute purse. A nice little blue one at H&M for only 25 euro. At that point, we were both beat so we hightailed it home!
I went grocery shopping all by myself on Saturday night. Shopping in a foreign country. Always an adventure. I had to carry my 30 pounds of groceries about 2 kilometers (uphill) to my apartment, which was the most miserable 20 minutes of my life. Now I understand why Germans go to the grocery store almost daily.
After I recovered from my treacherous walk home, I ran. I love running here! It's so much more refreshing here than it is in Utah or Wyoming.

I went to the international ward in Frankfurt, which is where I will be attending from now on. They speak English, which is refreshing. You know how sometimes you go to church and feel like you got nothing out of it? Today was NOT one of those days! Sacrament meeting was absolutely wonderful. Sunday school was magnificent. Relief Society was so uplifting. I don't think I've ever come away so nourished from church. I felt like each and every lesson was tailored specifically for my needs this week. It was incredible. I know the Lord is looking down on me.
After church, I had lunch with three of the senior missionary couples (I went to TOWN on those Hawaiian haystacks). They're all American. It's really nice being able to be around them on a daily basis. If it weren't for them, I would have fallen apart long ago.

So, now I'm here. 
Writing this blog post. This blog post that I feel like doesn't even scratch the surface of all the things I've experienced, all the things I've seen, all the things I've felt in my 11 days in Germany.
Things have been really hard here. I don't speak ANY German. I came here completely by myself — no other interns, no other BYU students. Just me. I came here not knowing a single soul. I live in a small village about 30 miles away from Frankfurt, where I know no one and am close to nothing. My landlords don't speak any English. There have been times that I wished I could just go home. There have been times that I wondered why the heck I thought coming to Germany was a good idea. There have been times I felt like the world was caving in around me.

The other day, one of my coworkers looked at me and said, "You know, you've got a lot of grit for coming out here all by yourself."
And it was at that moment that I realized I'm going to be okay. While there have certainly been struggles (and there are certainly more to come), there have been so many good times! 
I have met incredible people who are looking out for me and care about my well-being. I have seen beautiful scenery, beautiful architecture, beautiful people, beautiful things. I get on and off trains everyday that take me all over Frankfurt, and I do it without knowing any German. I get to take part in an incredible work — the Lord's work. I've never felt closer to God than I do now. I know that with Him, I can do anything.

Like George Strait said, "I ain't here for a long time. I'm here for a good time. So bring on the sunshine!"
I have 79 days left here in Germany. And I'm going to make the most of them. I know I have hard times ahead of me, but I know there are also some pretty awesome things ahead of me, too.
"Life's too short to waste it, I say bring on anything!"

Wish me luck!!