Hi. My name is Anna and I am addicted to chocolate.
You see, it first started out small. One Ferrero Rocher for an afternoon snack perhaps. Then I moved to Germany and it turned into three or four or five pieces of chocolate for an afternoon snack with my cup of tea. Now I’m eating chocolate before noon and in the afternoon and creeping out of my bed in the middle of the night for more chocolate. I can’t seem to stop.
I’m ready for a chocolate purge. Never thought I’d be saying that! I have absolutely loved being in Germany this month, but I am ready to go home and away from the endless supply of chocolate, cheese, and bread. One of the best parts of traveling is that it makes you appreciate what you would take for granted otherwise.
Oh what a month it has been! I have learned and experienced and laughed so much. I have been more uncomfortable than I ever have been before due to the fact that I have about the same ability as a small infant to communicate and am not nearly as adorable. Many people asked me about the language barrier when they found out I was heading to Germany for a month. Hah! I am completely capable of handling it, I confidently thought. However, a semester spent studying in England and other trips in Spanish-speaking countries where I had some background of the language had in no way prepared me. Working and living in a small town is completely different than being a tourist in a different country. In the end, I can only look back and laugh at some of situations, frustrating as they might have been.
I apparently created my own bus route home. I wondered why I was literally the only person on the bus for the last ten minutes. When the bus driver spoke to me I just kept saying Nordkirchen and nodding my head. This happened multiple times until it was finally communicated to me that I should go to the other bus stop. Ah ha!
My taxi bus driver and I would have conversations in the morning where he spoke only in German and I spoke only in English and we think we understand each other. For example:
Driver: “This ticket is not good for this week.”
Me: “The family I’m staying with got this ticket for me. I’m pretty sure it is good.”
Driver: “No, look it ended last week. You need a new ticket.”
Me: “Oh, I see. Well can I fix this tomorrow? I really need to get to school.”
Driver: “Sure, bring a new ticket tomorrow.”
Me: “Ok, cool thanks.”
One day, I was riding my bike and a man passed me saying, “It’s cold here!”
Oh my gosh, I understand what he said! Somehow he knows I speak English just from seeing me on my bike. How cool!
“Yeah, it is,” I responded.
I later told this story to a group of American and German teachers and discovered that “Es ist kalt hier” is really what the man said in German, which happens to sound very similar to “It’s cold here” in English. Darn. .
Just today I was shopping at the local store in my town. I had a basket full of Spekulatius cookies (they are kind of like crunchy gingerbread cookies-I love them!) and a lady came up and asked, “Where did you get those biscuits?” looking at my basket. Did she just speak in English to me or is this like the cold business, I wondered. Nervous to open my mouth and prove myself the German fraud that I am, I jabbed my finger in the general direction and said “there” hoping I wasn’t coming across as too rude.
I am looking forward to coming back to a land of English where I will be able to laugh when other people laugh instead of sitting and blankly smiling. This experience has given me such an appreciation for the ESL kids in school. Probably most of the international student teachers put something like, “I want to see what it must feel like for the ESL students in school” when explaining their reasons for wanting to teach abroad. It’s not possible to understand the level of discomfort that comes from being completely immersed in a different culture and language and until you experience it (and I was other English speaking teachers and student teacher!). There are parts of this experience I will miss in a weird way.
I will miss my awkward climb into bed as I tilt my body in order to not hit my head on the slanted wall.
I will miss my runs to the castle where I would always see the same old man in the wheelchair doing exercises by the moat.
I will miss riding my bike despite the battles we fought.
I will miss the Christmas markets with all of their holiday festivity.
I will miss working with the other teachers, Sarah, in particular.
I will miss the perfect, dainty sized cups of coffee.
Nevertheless, independent Anna who can drive her own car and communicate with a cell phone and hold conversations is ready to be back! Hallo, good ole’ USA!