Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Germany - Day 76

This song has little to do with the actual post, but it sets the mood.
Press play and read.

What Germany taught me this week:

My favorite 6-year-old! He's cute AND British.

I had been in Germany for less than 3 hours when I found myself sitting at my boss' desk. I was tired from the long flight in, stressed about my makeup looking absolutely terrible and scared out of my wits about living in a strange country all by myself. It took every ounce of strength to hold back tears.

I sat there across the table from her. Staring at the black stained wood. Wondering why I had decided to do this.

"You're in Germany right now for a reason, Taylor. You're supposed to be here," she said. I smiled. I couldn't decide if I believed her or or not. "I know it, and I hope you know it, too."

I retained very little memory from that first day in Germany. I was so jetlagged and culture shocked to really grasp anything going on around me. But that moment lingers. And during my 76 days in Germany, I've tried to discover that reason why I'm supposed to be here.

I remember feeling multiple promptings to apply for this internship back in September. I ignored most of them, thinking I didn't have the money to live abroad for three months, nor the desire to leave my friends, an awesome job, my truck, a boy that I had a really, really big crush on, my country, a really great apartment, and everything I knew behind. But I caved. I couldn't escape the thought that I needed to give this thing a try. So off I went!

Application. Tense three-week waiting period. Acceptance. Super tense 4-month waiting period, full of uncertainty, excitement, doubt and anxiety. Arrival.

I couldn't help but think I had made the biggest mistake of my life when I first got here. Where had that hopeful, adventurous feeling of "Germany sounds like fun!!" gone? But now, 76 days later, I can't help but wonder why I ever doubted this place. Why I ever thought I couldn't do this. Why I was so scared of this experience. And, most of all, I've continually wondered about why I'm supposed to be here.

And I came to the conclusion that I'm supposed to be in Germany for people.

To meet people. To watch people. To learn from people. To get to know people. To see a very wide variety of people. To connect with people. To work with people. To watch people grow. To be a part of other people's lives. To let people in.

I'm here for people.

Today I said goodbye to one of my friends leaving on a mission in a few days. And it was really, really hard. Full disclosure: I cried. And I got to thinking about how in the world I managed to get so close to somebody in just two and a half months. How I could be so sad about leaving Germany in a few weeks because this place has become a part of me. How I managed to come to love a country that I still find really strange.

It's because of people.

When I first got to Germany, all I could see were the differences. In people, places, culture. Everything. I would sit across from people on trains and just think, "There is so much more than a language barrier that separates us." None of my friends know what a rodeo is. I tried explaining the American dream to somebody (a German) and they just laughed at me. I told people I drove a truck and they looked at me like I was some sort of mutant swamp creature. At the end of the day, I just felt really lonely and isolated.

Fast forward 76 days.

I was sitting on the train this morning and realized: we're all in this together. I looked at the young Turkish girl across the aisle from me, at the old lady a few seats away, at a businessman dressed to the T. And I realized that even though we have very little in common, we all want the same things out of life. More or less.

We all want to find happiness. We all need safety and security. We all long for love and acceptance. We all strive for success.
And even though our ways of going about these things are different, at the end of the day, we're all just trying to get through this crazy thing we call life. (Or "leben" in German!) None of us were given a road map to get through all the trials and struggles. All the ups and downs. All the pain and heartache. But we're all doing our best to get through it. And that's all that matters, right?

Once I started realizing this, things in Germany got ten times better. Happier. More fulfilling. And I'd be willing to bet the same would hold true anywhere in the world. So stop judging people. Stop dismissing people before you've learned anything about them. Take down those walls and let people in. Whether they be German, British, half Welsh, American, Chinese, or anything in between, people will amaze you. They will astonish you, they will uplift you and they will be there for you. But you'll never know that if you don't take a chance on people.

I took a chance on people and I'm a better, happier person because of it.
Try it sometime.

I took a chance on this kid and now I consider him one of my BEST friends! He's going to CRUSH IT in the Alpine German Speaking Mission!!

Friendsies :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Germany — 2 down, 1 to go!

Ain't Germany pretty??

Former East/West German border. Semi-eerie.

Left: My personal tour guide :) Right: Semi-illegally pretending to be a preacher!

I was in the car a few days ago driving around with my friend Gwyn when I looked at the clock on the dashboard. 10:03 a.m.

10:03 a.m. "What the heck?" It hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

It was March 30th. At that exact moment at 10:03 a.m. on March 30th, I realized that I only had one month left in Germany. I realized that exactly a month from that moment, I would be sitting on a plane waiting to fly back to the States. The clock was literally ticking. Before I know it, it'll 3 weeks...Then 10 days...Then tomorrow. And then I'll be back in Provo.

And I started to think: Am I ready for that?

You know how it is when you're driving on the freeway or something and there's grass on the side of the road just whizzing past? You know it's grass, but all you can really see is a yellow-ish green line for miles and miles. And you try your little heart out to focus on a single patch of grass for a second. But it's just so hard. That grass is moving so fast. 

You finally focus your eyes on a patch of grass. But then, in a split second, that patch of grass is 200 feet behind you. And you're wondering why the heck you couldn't just look at that grass just a little bit longer.
(Or am I the only one that had that experience as a kid??)

I think my experience in Germany has been a lot like that grass. First February, then March, and now April.

When I first got here, all I could see was that seemingly endless line of grass for miles and miles ahead of me. And I couldn't really focus on anything but the sheer amount of metaphorical grass that didn't look like it was going to end any time soon.

I tried so hard to focus on the little things — to take things bit by bit and day by day. I focused in on February and March —doing my best at work, figuring out what foods were safe and what to avoid at the grocery store, trying my best not to get lost on the train ride home, attending FHE and institute even though everyone spoke German, trying to make friends. 
Doing my best to keep my head up. Focusing on being happy.

And like those patches of grass, two months of this experience have flown by. February is long gone and March is on its way out the door. And now, as I'm staring April in the face, I've started to think a lot about the difference between what I expected going into this experience and what's actually happened.

For example, I had every intention of traveling my butt off while I was here. Everything is so close in Europe! Paris, Vienna, Prague, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Zurich. I was going to visit them all. 
However, I've been here for two months and I haven't left the country. And at first I was a little disheartened by that. "What the heck am I doing here, for crying out loud?!" I thought to myself. But then I realized I've had the opportunity to see a lot of Germany! Frankfurt, Rothenburg ab der Tauber, Heidelberg, Aschaffenburg, Berlin, Potsdam, Leest, Dusseldorf and about a zillion little villages in between, along with museums, castles and so, so much history. 

Add that to the fact that I've been able to make several really great friends here, and I'm totally fine with not traveling every weekend. (And even though I haven't traveled every weekend, I have had something to do every weekend, whether it's work, tagging along with the senior missionaries on their adventures, or spending time with friends! There's never been a dull weekend!)

I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am to the people I've been able to associate with here. Making friends was really hard at first – it's just not part of the German culture to be super open with new people. But with a little bit of luck, persistence and, of course, some "I'm a cute American" charm, I was able to wrangle in some pretty great amigos. They've introduced me to really great Italian restaurants. They've taken me to birthday parties and introduced me to their friends. They've seen me eat 8 donuts in one night and didn't call me fat (at least not to my face). They've hung out with me until 2 a.m., watching movies and talking about crazy things. They've sat with me and watched YouTube videos for hours on end. They've given me a giant bag of delicious British candy. They've waited for me at train stations to make sure I don't get lost. They've been my personal tour guides. They've been there for me. They've made this experience so much less frightening
And most of all, they've made this experience worth it. (You all know who you are!)

I could go on and on about the many, many things I expected to happen here in Germany (I expected it to be warm by mid-March. No dice. It' still in the 40s and it snowed today! All the walking/working out I do is negated by the massive amounts of chocolate I eat. Can you believe I expected to lose weight here? Europeans do not dress better than Americans. Except for men's formal wear: Yummy. I expected to like riding the train everyday. But three-hours of commuting everyday quickly wears on a person. I will never take my truck for granted again! ), but I'll spare all of you.

On my first blog post about Germany, I included some lyrics from George Straight's "Here for a Good Time." While they all still apply (I really ain't here for a long time...),  one line in particular stuck out at me this week:
"When I'm gone, put it in stone: he left nothing behind."

At 10:03 a.m. on March 30th, I couldn't help but think if my experience in Germany will somehow fall short of what it was supposed to be, or what it could have been. 
But, of course, George had the answer to that: "I ain't here for a long time, I'm here for a good time!"

I'm here to say that my time —albeit short — here in Germany has been filled with good things. Happy things. And I know I will always be able to look back on this experience with so many good memories and lessons learned

And for my last 29 days in Germany, I plan to squeeze every ounce of adventure, every ounce of fun and every ounce of happiness out of this place. Because I'm here for a good time! 

My advice to everyone reading this: Stop focusing on that huge, daunting task in front of you that seems so ominous and so endless. Stop staring at that long line of grass, wondering just how far it drags on. Start taking things bit by bit, day by day. Start focusing on those little patches of grass, remembering at every step of the way how beautiful each and every individual cluster is. And before you know it, that long line of grass will be a thing of the past.

Not only will that big task go by much more quickly, but you'll have so much more fun along the way. You'll be able to focus on the wonder and beauty in the little things — all the little things that make up this crazy, beautiful thing we call life. 

Trust me. 
Germany told me so.

Hessen Park with Gwyn! So. Much. Fun!

Left: Saalburg! Right: A really pretty church in Bad Hamburg.

My new boyfriend.