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.
Germany told me so.
Hessen Park with Gwyn! So. Much. Fun!
Left: Saalburg! Right: A really pretty church in Bad Hamburg.
My new boyfriend.