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Saturday night sunset over Frankfurt!
Left: Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, where the American sector used to come to an end... Right: German parliament building in Berlin!
I woke up on Saturday morning to a Google calendar reminder. "DAY 45!!!" I read. "YOU'RE HALFWAY DONE!"
I stared at the ceiling. "There is no way in heck this experience is halfway over," I thought as I fought with the pancake of a pillow my hotel gave me. (If you ever stay at a hotel in Germany, bring your own pillow!)
As I went throughout my day on Saturday (breakfast, filming the German newsroom videos in Dusseldorf, driving back to Frankfurt, movie night with Gwyn, Jake and Dylan, eating way too much junk food...), I got to thinking about my time in Germany.
I sometimes still feel like "the new girl" and like I'm still getting my feet underneath me. But when I really think about it, I've seen, learned and experienced so, so much during my first 46 days in Germany!
It doesn't seem real that from here on out, I will be on the downhill slide. In just 44 days, I'll be back at Frankfurt am Main International Airport, boarding a plane bound for Dallas. And it just doesn't seem real that it's that close.
Brad Paisley's "Southern Comfort Zone" has pretty much been my theme song during this experience. During my first month here, I probably listened to it at least thee times a day.
Today, one of the senior missionary couples I work with drove me home from church — the same ones that drove me home after my first day of work. The weather was almost identical today as it was that first day in Germany. And as we drove through the German countryside, I couldn't help but remember the way I felt that first day.
"When your wheelhouse is the land of cotton, the first time you leave it can be strange. It can be shocking..."
I remember looking at all the road signs that looked so different than what I was used to. I was disheartened looking at all the stores, billboards and signs with words I didn't know the meaning of. I stared in bewilderment at the cars that didn't resemble anything I knew. I was terrified. I was confused. I was so full of doubt. All I really wanted was to get on a plane and go back home.
But today, driving down that exact same road, I didn't feel any of that.
"Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea. Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap, boots and jeans. Not everybody goes to church, or watches every Nascar race. Not everybody knows the words to Ring of Fire or Amazing Grace."
Today, I realized how much I've grown during this experience. I realized I'm learning so much more than I ever could sitting in a classroom at BYU. I realized just how eye-opening this experience has been and how much I really needed it.
During my first 45 days in Germany, I....
• have not gotten lost! Not once!
• visited 8 German cities outside of Frankfurt (and there are plenty more to come!)
• spent an evening at the Frankfurt temple, and did all of the work in German!
• went on a date! With a German!
• rode a train almost every single day. Public transportation is my new best friend.
• went on a business trip to a big city all by myself. And survived!
• ate more chocolate than I probably have in the past year. (Germans sure know what they're doing when it comes to chocolate!)
• learned how to use Euros.
• made friends. I have friends from Germany, the UK, Spain, Peru, Hungary and a bunch of other places!
• tried wiener schnitzel!
• stayed up way too late (on more than one occasion) watching movies and talking with my cool British friends (sleep when you're dead!!)
• met a General Authority!!
• successfully made chocolate chip cookies!
• got WAY too little sleep.
• worked in a really cool job (I love the Church! I love public affairs!)
• had my articles published all over Europe in several different languages.
• wore a skirt/dress 6 out of 7 days of the week (I'm sometimes shocked at how professional and grown up I look!)
• did not have a free weekend. Ever. I've either been traveling, working or hanging out with friends around Frankfurt every weekend.
• went running regularly (evening runs through the German countryside...Wow.)
• understood very little of what was going on around me.
• missed my friends and family.
• learned new things.
• overcame doubt.
• realized I'm stronger than I ever thought possible.
But most importantly, I learned how to get outside of my comfort zone.
"And I miss my WYOMING home, but I can see the ways that I've grown. And I can't see this world unless I go outside my southern comfort zone."
One of my high school history teachers told our class that life is about stretching yourself. It's about gradually getting outside of yourself and growing a little bit every single day. It's about looking back on your accomplishments and thinking, "Wow. I never thought I would be able to do that."
And I think that's just what I've been able to do in Germany. Whether it's grocery shopping, corresponding with people all over Europe, scripting and directing a video, attending church activities, using public transportation or making friends, I've had to learn to get outside of myself and really (really, really, really, REALLY) stretch my comfort zone. And I've been able to keep a smile on my face while I do it! Gone are the days when I was constantly fighting back tears.
But at the same time, I've also come to appreciate things back home. I would be lying if I said I didn't want the next 44 days to go quickly. I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited about that 11-hour flight back home.
"I miss your biscuits and your gravy. Fireflies dancing in the night. You have fed me, you have saved me, Billy Graham and Martha White.
I have since become a gypsy and I just can't wait to pack, 'cause I know the route I leave on will always bring me back."
But I would also be lying if I said I wasn't extremely excited about what the next 44 days hold. I'm excited to travel some more (I have four trips planned!!). I'm excited to meet more people and grow closer to the people I've already met. I'm excited for my projects at work.
But most importantly, I'm excited to continue to get outside of my comfort zone. My first 46 days in Germany have been such an adventure, and I have no doubt the next 44 will be any different.
Adventure is out there!
"I can't see this world unless I go outside my southern comfort zone."
Left: My mommy sent me a package full of goodies because she's awesome and she loves me. Right: Sister Brande and I in Aschaffenburg!