Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"93 Million Miles"

I had every intention of updating this blog before I flew back home: a sort of T-Minus 24 hours until it's all over type of thing. And to be honest it wasn't as if I didn't have time in the days leading up to my departure.

More then once I sat down at my computer in Switzerland with every intention of writing something, anything. I would make myself a cup of peppermint tea and grab my trusty bag of gummi bears and begin to type away, full of confidence that I would succeed. I might have too, if it weren't for the fact that every few minutes I would look up from my computer and glance out of the window in front of me. I would look down on the beautiful city of Lucerne, clinging to the edge of a lake and framed by the famous Swiss Alps. I would slide my gaze over to the castle on the mountain across from me, gleaming white in the sun and casting a shadow over the landscape and daydream of what it must have been like to have lived there, once upon a time. After several minutes had gone by (possibly a half hour, but who's counting), I'd drag my gaze back to my computer and stare at the screen despondently. 

 But really? This view would distract anybody.

I didn't want my time in Europe to be all over, which made finding something poignant and touching to say about my whole experience, and it's culmination, rather difficult. And so, more then once, I dejectedly deleted the few paragraphs I had managed to force onto the page and went on with my day, repeatedly telling myself that it would be easier tomorrow. 

Only it never was.

I believe that not being able to write that entry was my way of foolishly trying to delay the inevitable. I didn't want my grand adventure to be over, and so I couldn't write more then a few, cheesy sentences about its ending. There have been many other AuPairs who have blogged about their experience abroad alongside me. Several of them were returning home around the same time as myself and I would read their 'good-bye entries', so to speak, and become even more frustrated. One in particular was so elegant, and so perfectly expressed all of my chaotic feelings that it made me want to scream. WHY WAS I INCAPABLE OF DOING THE SAME??

After several weeks of reflection and time spent with my family and friends in the comfort of the world I grew up in, I have come to this conclusion:

My last few weeks in Germany I was, quite literally, a mess. I can only hope that I didn't seem half as crazy to the people around me as I felt. I was so distraught over the thought of all I would be leaving behind, but so excited to see my family and friends back home. I wanted to tear up every time I passed a bakery or drank a swig of delicious German bier, but could almost taste my mom's homemade lasagna on my tongue. I would hug the boys and cuddle them close to me, laugh and cry with my friends, revel in the time I had left with my host parents, and then in the next second a picture of my baby sister jumping into my arms at the airport, just as we'd planned, would pop into my head. I felt 
 so torn and so overwhelmed by so many different emotions; 
I even developed stomach pains from all of the stress. So essentially...

this crazy feline was me. 

And I was having a hard time understanding why I couldn't seem to write a single word.

But here it is after all, hopefully coherent and interesting but most importantly: finished, my story of
an American AuPair in Germany.

It ended very beautifully: in the mountains of Switzerland and then finally, back in Munich, surrounded by everyone I'd come to love. My host parents held a dinner party for me two nights before I left. I went over to the house early to play with the boys and spend time with the family. After a few hours Tia and Siobhan arrived and we all sat down to a dinner prepared by Kathrin, my host mom, and her mother. They'd cooked all of my favorite foods and even made GriesBrei for dessert. It was delicious and so incredibly thoughtful, and if you don't know what GriesBrei is, do yourself a favor and Google it. Even if it is considered 'kid food' by mostly everyone I met in Germany...I could eat it all day long :)

After dinner Tia, Siobahn, and I gave an impromptu musical performance to my host family. We sang the cups song for the boys and they thought it was the coolest thing. We spent the next half hour teaching them how to master the technique themselves. They picked it up about two times faster then any of us.

And then, after the boys were in bed, my host parents took us out to drinks at a local bar. Siobhan's boyfriend Lukas met us there and we spent one of the nicest evenings all together. It is one of my favorite memories of the whole year. I've said it many times before, but just to reiterate in case anyone wasn't sure, I couldn't have been more fortunate in my host family. Kathrin and Andreas: my year was so extraordinary because you gave me the freedom and opportunity to make it so. I will forever remember your support and love. I fell completely in love with your boys. I think about them all of the time, and you, and wish you only the best, forever and ever. They will always have an honorary big sister in California 
with her door wide open whenever they want to visit.

My last day was spent packing. By some miracle I managed to re-fit everything back into my original two suitcases. I may have thrown quite a few things out along the way, but the most important thing is that both bags weighed exactly fifty pounds when I went to check them in at the airport the next morning.
Due to this, and the fact that I never once had a problem with lost baggage, zippers that wouldn't zip, or wheels inconveniently falling off of my luggage in the middle of foreign countries, the final score is as follows:
Sarah - 1,582
Disasters Related to Luggage - 25
Some points have been awarded to the opposition due to the loss of Theresa's bags when she came to visit me, but considering I've been traveling around Europe for FIFTEEN months, I'd say that's not to shabby.

My last night was spent with Simon and his family, who've been kinder to me then I ever could have imagined. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And then finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, it was time to go. Saying goodbye was difficult and painful but eventually, I found myself wedged into a tiny seat on a massive plane bound 
straight towards my home. The best destination in the whole world.
I sat next to a delightful man from Canada whose conversation made the journey a bit less tedious and who was kind enough to purchase a sandwich for me when he saw that I hadn't anything to eat. And finally, after fifteen months, I arrived in Sacramento to the best homecoming I could have imagined.

Genuine happiness!

My plane touched down in California late on a Sunday evening. The entire airport was close to shutting down for the night and passengers listlessly walked past me on their way to claim their baggage. We all had that dopey-eyed, 'I've just been on a flight that seemed as if it were never going to end kind' kind of look in our eyes, but as I made my way down the escalator I saw a whole crowd of people waiting at the bottom with balloons and signs, and massive smiles on their faces. It's an incredibly special gift to come home to so many open arms. I felt like a superstar with all of the pageantry and photos being taken: a wonderful, and heartfelt way to end a difficult day.    

And then began the task of adjusting. Moving forward hasn't been, and even now, two months later, still isn't always easy. All it takes is to hear one snippet of a song on the radio or to see the profile of a little boy that looks, for one second, like one of my boys, and I'm instantly transported back. I believe that when you truly fall in love, whether it's with a place, a person, or a whole community of people, you give a little piece of yourself away, entrusting it into the care of someones hands. It's how one person can feel at home in many different parts of the world: some people, some places leave their mark on you. In exchange you gift them with a piece of your heart and then suddenly the whole concept of 'home' seems infinitely great. I find comfort in the thought that I don't really have to say good bye. If home is where the heart is then I will always have a home in Munich, and with the people I've loved there, and that's a pretty cool thought. I've left a piece of myself in Germany. I cannot get it back and even if I could, I would wish for it to always remain there, nestled in the hearts of the people, and the city I love. I've been irrevocably changed for good, and for the better. Who could ask for anything more?

Friends Reunion!!

So for now I'm working on finding a job, settling in, and figuring out exactly which direction I want my life to take. I've always believed I knew myself fairly well: that I knew exactly who I was, and where I was going. I'm not so certain any longer, but I'm learning to live with this too. Uncertainty and the unknown don't scare me nearly as much as they used to. In this moment I'm exactly where I'm meant to be. I'll always find my way; if I've learned anything from my time as an AuPair, it's this.

Home in time for my sister's 21st birthday. Very important :)

 And as a bit of a side note, quite some time ago I was lucky enough to have been approached by the agency I went through, AuPairCare Germany, about linking my blog to their website. The idea is that anyone considering becoming an AuPair themselves can read first-hand accounts of what their life might be like. I haven't exactly used this blog to address the logistics of being an AuPair, but for anyone who might be reading this entry and questioning whether this choice might be for them I have only two pieces of advice.

1. If you have even the slightest inclination, explore the idea fully, and if that idea turns into a desire to take action, go for it. Close your eyes, take the leap, and try to only look back every once in awhile. (It is, after all, important not to forget what you've left behind.) Follow your gut in all things: choosing prospective host families, choosing which pair of heels you could probably live without on the cobblestone streets of Europe, choosing which countries to explore, and choosing the friends who'll become a part of your family along your journey. GO FOR IT. And if something isn't right, reevaluate, make a change, and move forward.

2. Don't underestimate the incredible power of the connections you might make along the way. Let them change you and become a part of you. And when it comes time to say goodbye cry your heart out, unashamedly and with no regrets. Don't apologize for your sorrow: it means you've had the time of your life. Drowning your heartache in a liter of some good, German bier is also encouraged.

For the link to an another amazing blog and the one I've referenced here.

And while I can't say that this is the last you'll ever hear from me (I may not be an AuPair any longer but I'm always up for an adventure), it is good bye for now. Thank you so much to everyone for their support of this blog, and for your faithful and loving support of me.

Auf Wiedersehen und Bis Bald

 "93 million miles from the Sun, people get ready get ready,
'cause here it comes it’s a light, a beautiful light, over the horizon into our eyes
Oh, my my how beautiful, oh my beautiful mother
She told me, 'Son in life you’re gonna go far, and if you do it right you’ll love where you are
Just know, that wherever you go, you can always come home'.

Every road is a slippery slope
There is always a hand that you can hold on to.
Looking deeper through the telescope
You can see that your home’s inside of you.

Just know, that wherever you go, no you’re never alone, you will always get back home."
-Jason Mraz

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer Nights ♥

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer —
one of those summers which come seldom into any life,
but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going —
one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather,
delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”
L.M Montogmery, Anne of Green Gables


When I was a little girl I loved Anne of Green Gables.  Her adventures held just the right amount of excitement and romanticism to ignite the fantasies of someone who, even when I was very small, was always dreaming of far away places and "lakes of shining waters". I think so many children fall in love with Anne, and with Avonlea, because she seems to exist in a sort of fairy world of her own creation, a magical place that is accessible to anyone so long as they are able to see the beauty in the world around them.
And that is what makes Anne so special:
her ability to imagine the extraordinary into being, and to live life with a fiery,
red passion that never seems to wane.

Croatian Parrots are the best sort of parrots.

Unfortunately life can't always be as beautiful, or as fantastical of any of our wildest imaginings,
but every once in awhile moments come along that, while they may not make us perfectly happy,
do leave us with an incredible sense of fulfillment and joy. Moments that we lock away deep within our hearts, ready to be recalled at a moments notice whenever we need to be reminded of how wonderfully remarkable this world we live in truly is.

And this, to get to the point of this blog entry, is how I feel about my summer and
my time here in Munich. It hasn't always been perfect, or easy. There have been
moments where I've felt overwhelmingly homesick, frustrated, sad and frightened.
Moments where, even when I've been surrounded by hundreds of strangers,
or by the people that I love, I've still managed to feel incredibly alone.
But in retrospect these moments have been far and few in between:
just enough to remind me that the most important thing I can do is simply to love myself,
wherever or whomever I may be, because sometimes, on days that seem unbearably difficult,
my own is going to be the only voice that matters. And despite all of these imperfections, I've been gifted with the memory of a magical and inspiring year, one that will always stay with me.

Beer festivals all year 'round!

It's difficult to put into words, with only forty-five days left before I am sitting on a
plane bound for California, just what my year (and a bit more) in Germany has given me.
A better awareness and understanding of the world, the opportunity to see great and wonderful places, friendships built around a common and unique experience that have been so incredibly important,
and an all-consuming sort of love that makes anything seem possible. How exactly am I supposed to put a value on all of that? Or more importantly, move forward with my life,
knowing how much of the world there is to see and explore?

The best sugar cookies you'll ever try, brought to you by Karl and Franz.

It's a question I've been struggling with for quite some time. I don't think the answer will be an easy one:
how to fit in this passion for a different sort of experience into my life back home,
but I also am confident that I will somehow find a way to join these two pieces of myself together.
The girl I was before I came to Germany and the one who will now be returning are just going to have to find a way to co-habit, even if it now feels like there is a little less room to move around.
The most important thing is that, like Anne of Green Gables,
I never completely lose my passion for discovery and adventure.

 Munich in the summertime = happiness.

I can't say that I've been as faithful to this blog as I always meant to be, but I can say that it has done a tolerably good job of representing the most important aspects of my time here in Europe.
And while I can't go into extreme detail about my summer here in Germany,
for lack of an attention span on my part and on the part of anyone reading this,
I can say that it was extraordinary, in every sense of the word.
The best summer of my life,
and one I will never forget. 

Things to remember, in no particular order of occurrence or importance :)
1. The sparkling, brilliant blue waters of Croatia, and the terrace of the apartment
Tia and I stayed in overlooking the sea. Days spent lounging on the docks and
nights spent drinking wine and exploring the city.
2. Wine and beer festivals in Bavarian towns with Dirndls and Lederhosen.
3. My week (and a bit more) spent with my host family in Austria. Riding in tractors
with the boys and catching frogs, eating delicious Austrian food and looking out every
second from the top of a mountain top down onto rolling green hills dotted with houses and church towers, and across those hills, the imposing Alps rising up towards the heavens.
4. HikIng to an old monastery with my favorite group of women, getting positively tipsy, and then running all the way back down the mountain. And impromptu dips into icy cold rivers!
5. Weekly visits to the site of the famous Oktoberfest with Tia, watching as week after week
massive tents were raised towards the skies and decorated with garlands of greenery and ribbons.
Drinking beer underneath those mammoth structures and the stars, entirely alone in a place
 that will see millions of people walk by in the space of two weeks. 
6. Taking a hike up into the German Alps, high above the clouds. Meeting cows along the way
with massive bells attached to their necks and thinking how perfect life can feel sometimes. 
7. Days spent lounging by the Isar in the Englisher Garten. The joy of feeling the sun on my face
and the lazy conversations of the people beside me.
8. Watching the sun set from atop a bridge over the rail tracks leading into the city.
9. Feeling comfortable walking around all hours of the night in nothing but a light shirt and jeans.
Strolling by street musicians at midnight who play beneath the stars in the city center.
10. Balla Benni's Eis...and just ice cream in general. Some things never change.

So they can always find their way home :)

And as my world moves forward so too does the lives of my host family. Their new Au pair
arrived over the weekend. Her name is Lauren and she is very nice and is already building a good relationship with the boys. It will be incredibly hard to leave them, but not having to worry about whose hands they are in after mine makes it much easier.

Things to look forward to:
1. Oktoberfest take two!! T-minus three days. 
2. Lucern, Switzerland.
3. Italy with Tia!
4. Siobhan coming back to Munich for an entire month!! 
5. And a little over a month I'll be holding the people in my arms who
mean the absolute world to me! I know a year can feel like an incredibly long time,
but it's almost over! I'm coming home meine familie! <3

A pretty impressive list for only forty-five days :)


 P.S. This song explains my life.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Time Enough To Be Happy.

A few weeks ago two of the little boys that lived on my street attached a sign to the tree standing in the middle of the court that looked like this:

Translation: we are looking for the sun.

It worked for about a week and then the rain returned in all of it's unwelcome glory. I dream of the day I'll finally be able to bury my winter clothes for good. May they not rest in peace.
Who ever thought I would be saying that in July??

Truly though I was quite lucky. I escaped with my host family to Spain for two weeks during the worst of the storms in Germany and just experienced the last few days of non-stop rain. And by some miracle the weather held up quite spectacularly for my mother's visit, especially whilst we were in Prague and Regensburg. She never really got to see Munich underneath a warm, beautiful blue sky, but I'll take what I can get. 

And now some highlights from my madre's European adventure:

My mom's flight was roughly twenty hours long and by the time she landed in Munich she really just wanted to fall down and never wake up. But after one of the best night's of sleep I believe she's ever gotten we made the most of our three days in Munich, seeing beautiful churches and buildings clouded in history. I've been truly terrible about visiting museums for the past ten months and it was really great to go to some of them for the first time with my mom. We toured two of the palaces in Munich, full of incredible antique furniture and incredible stories of the men and women who'd lived there, and then one in Regensburg as well. 

 Crazy King Ludwig's beautiful castle, and my beautiful mother.

I jammed Balla Benni's ice cream down her throat at every opportunity (and this is not an exaggeration), and filled her stomach with German pastries:
I've given up trying to avoid them; they're are too freaking delicious.
Seriously though, if someone can find a legitimate German bakery anywhere in California you may be my best friend for life. I will, no doubt, be going through withdrawals.

In Salzburg we climbed to the top of a medieval fortress (SYKE! we cheated and took the tram), and saw the most beautiful catacombs I've ever seen. I happen to find cemeteries quite interesting so for me to choose an absolute favorite is kind of a big deal. This one was truly incredible. Every single grave sight either had an intricate iron cross, each one unique from the one beside it, or was headed by a slab of marble wonderfully aged by years of exposure to the elements. The cemetery itself wasn't particularly large, but it was clinging to the hill beneath the fortress of Salzburg, and situated right across from St. Peter's church. The walkways were narrow and meandered carelessly through plots holding generations of families. Many of the graves were covered in beds of flowers and candles. It was relatively small and we almost walked right by it, but it was one of the most peaceful places I've ever seen.

Simply stunning.

And because I am obsessed, you get two pictures :)

 In the Mirabell gardens I found this old couple sitting on a park bench.

The flowerbeds around me were stunning and I loved seeing the famous archways and steps from The Sound of Music but this turned out to be my favorite part. And then to top it all of we ate at a restaurant with ridiculously delicious Italian food. Just one more reason to go back. As if I needed anymore.

From there it was on to Prague where I fell a little bit in love. At least until I went to Spain and to Palma de Mallorca. My European love affairs tend to only last a few weeks at the most.
 I'm obviously having huge commitment issues.

We took a bus from Munich to the central station in Prague and didn't arrive until early in the evening and after we checked into our hotel we decided to take a quick trip into the heart of the city for dinner. The food was amazing, but by this point nobody should be surprised, and it can probably go without saying. I've officially decided that one of the best parts of traveling is experiencing as much of another culture's culinary achievements as one possibly can. Certainly not a new revelation, but one that is particularly awesome to discover regardless. The restaurant was right on the river and we had a spectacular view of the sunset as it lit up the bridges connecting the districts of Prague.

Our first day out the rain tried to conquer our spirits but we soldiered on regardless and took a three hour walking tour of the city, half of which we spent huddled under an umbrella.

 But once the sun did come out, it was stunning.

We discovered a creepy rock wall and albino peacocks, and if all of that weren't enough, the next day we took a boat tour and watched as a car literally flew off of the street and onto the docks below. It was terrible for about five seconds, and then the man jumped out faster then anything I've ever seen and ran back up to all of the gawking tourists above him. Which leads me to believe that he ate a healthy serving of Lucky Charms that day, or whatever the European equivalent is.

We had a celebratory lunch and Pilsner for my beautiful madre's birthday as well as Mother's Day and just narrowly avoided missing our train back to Germany.
Though I loved you Prague, spending the night in your train station would have been awful.

And if anyone is racking their brains trying to figure out a gift for my not so long ago birthday, I will graciously accept this peacock.

Next up was Regensburg, Germany: stunning and impossible to get lost in without eventually finding your way again. The streets all converge in on one another and wind throughout the city in narrow alleys and passageways.
We narrowly avoided being locked out of our hostel upon arrival but even that couldn't put a damper on our eagerness to explore the city.
P.S. Twenty-four hour check-ins are your friend.

And I found my new favorite church.

After touring a palace and taking the world's worst boat tour we went on a much-needed shopping spree for shoes that were devoid of any holes and didn't look as if they'd just been beaten and tortured (thanks Europe for being so cruel to my poor boots). One of the best parts was simply walking around with my mom, with no real plan, other then to stop every time we found something interesting or curious. Definitely one of the best ways to travel.
From there is was back to Munich, and then back to California for my mom.
But having her here was worth all of the tears at the airport when she had to leave. We always said we were going to see Europe together, and now we have :)

To my mother:
Cheers to the most selfless and loving woman I know. You taught me how to be strong and to believe in myself, and to never forget that the most important thing is to surround yourself with people who love and respect you, and to have fun. When I'm eighty four and splashing around in the waves on some beach somewhere, body surfing and diving underneath the water I'll have you to thank for showing me how beautiful life can be. You've always traveled the universe and back for me, figuratively speaking, and now you've done it physically as well. I'd never wish for anything more.

Now, as June comes to a close, I'm entering into my final months as an Au Pair in Germany. I have roughly ninety days left before I have to return home and leave the place that has irrevocably changed me. All along I've tried to pretend as if this were my home, albeit a temporary one, but the truth is I've always been a visitor, an outsider trying her best to absorb as much of this world into herself as possible, and maybe that's okay. I think that sometimes, when we're stuck in one place for too long, we forget to look around and take note of how truly intricate and stunning life, in all of it's capacities, really is. When you are a stranger in a foreign land even the tiniest, most 'insignificant' moments can be the most profound because your eyes are open so incredibly wide, the better to experience all of the wonders around you.

And even though this year hasn't always been easy, and the whole premise behind building a temporary home in a different world is fraught with complications: in just a few days I will be losing two of the most important people I have here in Germany, and in a few short months I will have to board a plane myself and leave behind the city I've come to love, I would never trade this experience for the world. 

And here's why:
I know exactly how a warm, German bakery smells on a snowy day, and can nearly taste the spiced wine steaming up from my Gluhwein mug at a Christmas market, surrounded by twinkling lights and ancient buildings covered in snow. I know every word to the most important songs from Oktoberfest and can tell you where to find the best Vietnamese food and ice-cream in Munich. I can recall the wonders of St. Paul's Cathedral and the powerful chimes of Big Ben. I've walked in the footsteps of great Kings and Queens and men and women who've changed the world with nothing more then a piece of paper and a pen, or through their courageous actions. I've strolled  over bridges nearly one thousand years old and down alleyways tucked away from the trodden path. I know what the winding, tiny streets of Palma de Mallorca feel like, with the warm cobblestones and the houses packed so tightly together that you see only slivers of the brilliant blue sky above the ancient wooden balconies and pots of bright flowers bursting forth over doors and underneath windows. I've heard incredible music in dilapidated Irish halls, in magnificent churches all over Europe, on Spanish beaches, on street sidewalks, and in world renown concert venues. I know how instant and profound the connection can be between two strangers passing through each others lives for only a moment, and I know how to build a family and a life from nothing more then promises and dreams. I understand fear and loneliness and that no matter how little time there is, there will always be enough to fall in love with the world around you, and with the people who you are lucky enough to share it with. I've fallen in love with four little boys and have even begun to love myself and the girl I have been, and always will be, and while a part of me wishes I could hold on to these moments forever, I also know that I'm meant to move forward, and that I'm ready for whatever else life has in store for me. And I understand now that the place I come from is just as extraordinary as the place I will be leaving behind, in different ways and for different reasons. I just have to remember to stop and look at it every once in awhile with eyes wide open.

"Because there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away." -Sarah Kay

These last few weeks in Munich have been so incredibly perfect and bittersweet, filled with epic nights and days spent in bier gardens and lounging by the lakes and rivers. There have been rope swings and mountain hikes and spontaneous creek swims. Bike rides through thunderstorms with the smell of rain on the pavement and picnics on terraces underneath the sun. If I only have so much time left with these people, and in this place, I'm going to make the most of it.



Friday, May 10, 2013

The Wonder Twins in Germany!

When I walked away from my family at the airport nine months ago I was a bundle of nerves. I was so incredibly excited and apprehensive that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. My mind was running in what felt like a thousand different directions. It actually made saying goodbye to my parents and my grandmother easier: I was consumed by so many different emotions that it was difficult for any one to truly take a hold. It was a few days before I began to dwell on everything that I had given up, like time with my family and friends. Initially I came to Germany having accepted that none of my family would be able to come and see me (P.S. Theresa Rose, you count as family). Imagine my surprise and absolute delight when, in January, I suddenly was faced with the prospect of seeing three of the most important people in my life all within the same month. It was like winning the lottery.
So due to this, and the fact that their visits all fell so close together, my last post was just the beginning of a series of homages to three awesome woman, who never cease to inspire and amaze me with their love. Up next: my best friend and partner in crime, Theresa.

Freshmen year flashback...I think so.

But before I go to far into all things Wonder Twins, I have to first share with you the story of yours truly on a genuine, Bavarian farm. Because it was an awesome experience.

I had one week between the time I dropped my sister off at the airport to when I was due to pick up Theresa, and during that time it was Easter. I am officially a professional at spending holidays away from my family and know that the best way to not end up wallowing in my room with a jar full of Nutella is to distract myself. Which in this case meant pizza, friends, and late-night conversations. Now before you judge me for not going to church on Easter let me remind you that in Germany the clocks change on a different day then they do back in the states. This day just happened to be the day before Easter. I had every intention of waking up to go to church, not realizing that my phone hadn't actually adjusted itself like it said it had. So I watched the new pope deliver a sermon on YouTube while I got ready for the day.
Score one for technology.

My host family spent the Easter holiday on a farm and while I wasn't with them for their egg hunt and massive chocolate consumption extravaganza, which is probably a good thing, I did join them a few days later. And if you've never holidayed on a farm before I have only one thing to say to you:
you are missing out.

Baby Cows!! In case you weren't sure.

Apparently this is a profitable and popular business in Bavaria. Farmers will convert an empty building on their property into a vacation home and will rent it out for days at a time. You spend your time surrounded by beautiful countryside with the Alps in the distance, listening to the soft murmurs of distant cows and fresh milk delivered to your door every morning. It is traditional for Bavarian houses to have all sorts of murals depicted on their walls and to be covered in incredible wood work and the farther you go out of the city the more examples of this you will see. The closest town to us was like something out of a fairy tale.
And the farm didn't even smell that bad. Although I suppose that, given time, you can get used to anything.

Wilkommen to my life.

There were chickens and rabbits you could feed and a stall full of baby cows to coo over. The big ones were a bit less inspiring and a bit more smelly, but still entertaining to watch. Especially when babies try to make conversations with them.

  Like so.

But the best part had to have been the MASSIVE hay loft that the family had converted into the coolest play area I do believe I will ever see. Seriously, I had just as much fun in this place as the boys. And because I am a thoughtful person I present you with a video tour of the play loft of every child's fantasy. You're welcome.

 Total hours spent playing pirates and swinging into hay lofts with the boys: roughly ten. Which is not to shabby for only being there three days.
Please excuse the weird noise I make at the end.


So the moral of the story: if ever you find yourself craving a different sort of holiday, find a farm.
Although I have to admit, watching the farmer and his wife wade through massive piles of cow manure two times a day has irrevocably cured me of ever wanting to live on a farm myself. Not going to lie.

 And now, Theresa.

Speaking of fairy tales, our friendship comes pretty close, only it's the awesome kind of fairy tale that actually exists in real life. And while I know that every once in awhile we may come across a fire breathing dragon or some sort of evil witch intent on our destruction with a delectable poison apple, I also know that our dragon slaying skills are seriously impressive, and that our parents did an excellent job teaching us about stranger danger. So to all of life's Disney villains and twists and turns I say bring it on, because I know that with my best friend standing behind me I can pretty much take on the world, and that's an awesome feeling.

 Off to the famous Shumann's Bar for some delicious cocktails!

Theresa and I met our freshmen year of college when we were randomly assigned to the same apartment and within the first few weeks developed the base for a friendship that has irrefutably changed my life for the better. We lived together for four years, spending nearly every day together, and were in each others company so often that one of the men working at the bar we frequented in college began to call us the Wonder Twins, and the name stuck. We'd been talking for awhile about the possibility of her coming out to visit me, and then all of a sudden we had a tangible plan and the reality of her being here could not have been more uplifting or perfect. Thus far we've seen Ireland, Amsterdam, and Germany together. The only question left is, what's next?

I'm getting pretty good at the whole 'waiting for people at the arrivals terminal' bit, and even remembered to bring my own bottle opener this time for our celebratory beer. It's a lot of fun, watching people come out of the gates from baggage claim and be picked up by the people who love them. And despite the airline losing Theresa's luggage, our trip started off great from the second we saw each other. She had slept quite a bit on the plane so we decided to go out into the city after we dropped the little luggage she had off at my house.
P.S. Theresa, props to you for living on next to nothing for three days.
I took her to Augustiner's, which is officially my favorite beer hall in all of Munich, and then out to a pretentious club called P1 where the prices for drinks were much to high but where we had fun dancing nonetheless.

Her plane arrived on a Saturday night and so on Sunday she was introduced to a little phenomenon called 'everything in Munich is closed on Sundays'. And this is hardly an exaggeration. The only things you'll find open are restaurants and museums. And the movie theaters. Grocery stores? Closed. Bakeries? Closed. Anything even remotely related to merchandise? Closed. The airline told her that if she had to buy anything to supplement her missing possessions she could turn her receipts over to Lufthansa. To bad nothing was open. The joke's on you American tourists.
  So seeing as how our choices of entertainment were somewhat limited, and the weather wasn't holding up too well, we decided to visit the BMW museum.

Three cheers for awesome cars we can't afford!

When we weren't drooling over lush, leather interiors and sleek car designs we were pretending to drive the cars themselves. At one point I was in the drivers seat and Theresa was in the back, playing with the buttons controlling the cars stereo system. She would periodically turn the volume up really high, meaning everyone in the vicinity would stop and stare at me with eyes that clearly said, "You're one of those people." It wasn't long before a BMW representative made their way over to the car, at which point we scrambled out as quickly as we could before we were yelled at in German for acting like the children we secretly are.
Which, in case you were wondering, is the story of how Theresa almost got us kicked out of the museum.
But in her defense it was really fun pushing all of the buttons.

And I bought a motorcycle!

 The third night she was here my host parents recommended an Italian restaurant for us to try, which ended up being amazing for a handful of reasons.
1. The food was ridiculously delicious. We had scallops and delicious salad and crusty bread being thrown at us from every direction. The wine was heavenly and don't even get me started on our entrees. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
2. We were given free wine and sparkling champagne by the Italian wait staff.
3. The restaurant closed while we were still enjoying our dinner (we didn't arrive until much later in the evening), but instead of hurrying us out the door the Italians decided to have a karaoke party.
4. Theresa was serenaded by our Italian waiter.
5. The entire night the conversation was a mix of German, English, Italian, and French.

6. Did I mention the delicious food?

During the week we explored the Englisher garden and on one occasion happened to run into a few guys from Colorado. We ended up spending several hours with them at the Chinese Tower, a massive bier garden in the middle of the gardens, and taught them how to drink like the Germans.
Every once in awhile the weather decided to be lovely and one of those opportune times just happened to be when we climbed to the top of St. Peter's kirche in the heart of Munich. And I truly mean we huffed and puffed our way to the top. You have to tackle a seemingly endless number of stairs before you reach the top of the bell tower, but once you're up there it's all worth it.

 You can see for miles in every direction.

We also spent quite a bit of time with the boys, who later told me that she looked like Kristin, only with golden hair, which obviously makes you a princess Theresa. Only princesses are allowed to have golden hair. And we saw Neuschwanstein! It was considerably more fun visiting King Ludwig's famous castle with my best friend beside me. We developed a plan along the way which outlined how we were going to take hold of the palace and turn it into our own permanent residence. It involved wooden swords and helmets from the gift shop, and shields made out of plastic. We were fully prepared to use force if necessary. But can you really blame us? If something so fantastically perfect as this exists...'s only fair that we be allowed to live in it as princesses of the realm.
And in case you were wondering, I have the same theory about Ryan Gosling. Men like him should only be allowed to exist if every woman gets to have one. Equality makes the world go round.

We ate gelato every chance we could get and gorged ourselves on delicious Vietnamese food. We met friends in the most unlikely of places and Theresa developed a definitive taste for Krapfen,
A.K.A Theresa crack.

The girl was addicted.

Imagine the most perfect doughnut in the whole world, baked not fried, light and fluffy, filled with delicious jellies and cream pudding. Sprinkle some powdered sugar and love on top and you've just created a Krapfen. Bakeries all over Munich mourned the loss of my best friend when she got on the plane back to California, and I was crying right along with them. I've already mentioned how hard it was to say good bye to my sister in my last blog update and won't go into explaining that feeling again, except to say that I've watched three people walk away from me now: it never was any easier watching them go. 

And we went star-gazing!!

 Theresa Rose: you are officially a Bavarian lass. With a real Dirndl and everything.
I'm so fortunate to have you in my life and to be able to call you my best friend. I'll love you no matter how many times you beat me at Yahtzee and can't wait for whatever adventures life has in store for us.

"I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn, and we are led to those who help up most to grow, if we let them, and we help them in return. Well I don't know if I believe that's true, but I know I'm who I am today because I knew you."
*Please take special note of the creeper in the background.

In six days I'll be celebrating my twenty-third birthday and in eleven days I leave for Mallorca. Somehow I'm going to find time before that to write about my mother's visit. We traveled the world together, or at least a small part of Europe, and being able to hug her for the first time in nine months was incredible.
It felt like being home.

Sometimes I can hardly believe how much time has already passed since I've been in Germany. Some of my friends back home are graduating now and it seems like yesterday that I was there myself, melting in the hot sun, waiting for my diploma. I miss my family and friends but am not quite ready to return back to California, and have decided to delay my return by a few months. My host family offered me more time and I gladly accepted. Originally I was slated to return home in August, but will now be back around the end of October. Instead of three months I now have six left to get as much from this experience as I possibly can. I'm very fortunate and plan to make the most of this extra time: traveling, spending time with the boys, and enjoying the beautiful summer months Munich has to offer.
And who in their right mind would say no to a second chance at Oktoberfest?
Not this girl.


“I'm not in search of sanctity, sacredness, purity; these things are found after this life, not in this life; but in this life I search to be completely human: to feel, to give, to take, to laugh, to get lost, to be found, to dance, to love and to lust, to be so human.”
-C. Joybell C.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Everytime We Say Goodbye.

 This blog post is dedicated to my sister Fabio.
A.K.A Kristin.
Also known as Sporty Spice.
And coincidentally one of the greatest people you will ever be lucky enough to meet.

“You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you...”  George R.R. Martin

I am a self-confessed lover of airports. For all of the cliche reasons too. I think you can find some of the purest examples of the depth of love and devotion possible between humans, whether they be friends, lovers, or in some cases sisters, standing at the arrival and departure gates. It's a beautiful thing to watch and although I have experienced those raw feelings of emotion myself several times in my life, nothing before could quite compare to the joy I felt as I saw my sister walking towards me, and then the overwhelming despair when I had to say good bye to her one week later.
I suppose in some respects eight months is not a terribly long time, and I must say that while I do have moments of homesickness and longing for my family my time here has flown by and I haven't once had a moment of true regret. 
But for eight months my worlds were separated by a very large ocean and almost the entirety of the United States of America. My family and friends were in California and my temporary life was here in Munich. But when those two collided, when my sister stepped off the airplane and into my German reality suddenly the clear lines between the two weren't so distinguishable anymore.
Dropping her off at the airport was incredibly hard; a part of me was sure that I wouldn't cry but let me tell you, the waterworks were out in full force. Of course there were people standing all around me with similar looks of loss and sadness on their own faces and mascara stained cheeks. 
So at least I was in good company.
But the worst part?
Taking the train home, imagining her sitting across from me in the same seats.
Walking into my house and being able to picture her boots lying by the door.
Going down into my room and seeing the water cup she'd sipped from the night before, and the bed she had been laying on with the blankets all tangled, just as she'd left them.
For one unforgettable week I'd spent every single moment with the beautiful, strong, and incredibly loving person I am fortunate enough to call my sister, and to suddenly no longer have her there felt like she'd taken a part of me with her. A part that I won't have back for quite some time.

She was here, if only for a short time, but now she's gone again. 
And while her visit has brought on a bout of the strongest homesickness I've had since coming to Germany I still wouldn't change it for the world. Because even if one week could never feel like enough time with someone so incredibly important to me, it was still one week more then I would have had otherwise. And despite an almost comical string of unfortunate occurrences I still had the time of my life. Definitely worth it.

Things that tried to ruin our trip, but ultimately were unable to:
1. Horrible weather. We're talking wind and snow and rain, cloudy skies and foggy mornings. The forecast for the week started off tolerably well and then each day got progressively worse. I think we saw blue skies one time, for about half a day. Thanks a lot Germany!
2. Trains that didn't quite correspond to our purchased tickets. One crabby ticket woman later and I was forced to say "Auf Wiedersehen" to eighty euros. One mistake I will NOT be making twice. 
3. Plans that kept having to be altered and changed because of said weather and other unforeseen circumstances. We weren't able to see and do everything I'd originally hoped we could but we had fun nonetheless.
4. Stomach viruses!
Unfortunate occurrences: 300
Sarah and Kristin: 900
I have to give them some credit for putting up a valiant effort.

And now for the good stuff :)

How familiar are you with the Sound of Music?
Do you know all of the lyrics to every single song?
Did you pretend to march down the stairs in a school uniform with the Von Trapp children as a small child?
Do you know that to learn to sing you must start at the very beginning, and that the first three notes 
just happen to be Do Re Mi?
Because Kristin and I could answer yes to all of those questions. We have been Sound of Music fiends since we were seven and five years old, respectively, and so of course a visit together to Salzburg was mandatory. And if you were to ask me whether we sang along to all the songs played during the time we spent on the tour bus I would unashamedly look you in they eyes and say one thing: 

We saw those hills. They may have been covered in snow and the view obstructed by storm clouds, but they were still there. It counts.

We knew that the tour would be a lot of fun, simply because we are exactly the kind of people who would enjoy visiting all the sights in Salzburg used as a backdrop for the film, but what we weren't expecting was to fall completely in love with the city itself. Salzburg is truly incredible, and this was when it was covered by gray skies and a bit of snow. I could just imagine what it must be like in the spring and summer. We hadn't any sort of plan for our visit other then the tour itself and ended up using a map provided by the hostel we stayed at to do our own walking tour of the historic city center. We huffed and puffed our way up to the medieval fortress situated on a mountain high above the city with incredible views and when we were hungry chose an authentic-looking Austrian restaurant.
Spinach dumpling balls = deliciousness.

 Truly I think I would be happy in Salzburg for quite some time. The only real draw back was that smoking is still allowed inside restaurants and cafe's. Which is fairly disgusting.
But look at that view!

We had quite a few epic nights out in Munich filled with adventures and escapades, all you really need to know is that they generally involved German Bier. Kristin tried on the cutest Dirndl I do believe I've ever seen. It has inspired me to go out and buy another one of my own. I'm trying to resist seeing as how I already have a perfectly beautiful Dirndl, and they are quite expensive. I'll let you know how that resolution goes. But I really can understand how Bavarian woman own four to five different Dirndl's of their own. These things are addictive and pretty much look awesome on everyone. They're like magic dresses.

 All dressed up with lots of places to go :)

While exploring Munich we found an adorable cake shop. The display window faces the street and is filled with some of the prettiest 'Tortes' you ever will see. I've passed by it hundreds of times and never stopped to try one, so it's a good thing Kristin was there to persuade me to stop in. Or not such a good thing, depending on how you look at it. I'm sure my gym membership won't be too happy. But seriously, these little creations were amazing. One of the most disappointing things in life is when you bite into something that looks heavenly only to be sorely disappointed. Thankfully this was not the case.

 If you ever find yourself in Munich find Cafe Maelu. And then send me a cake.

We almost froze during a tour of Dachau. At one point the guide commented that we looked pretty miserable every time we were asked to step outside. Kristin had an excuse, literally just having come from California, I had absolutely none. I was cold because I didn't wear warm enough clothing. Once I heard someone say that there is no cold weather, only inadequate clothing. True story. I do have to say though that it added an almost surreal element to the experience. The last time I was at Dachau it was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining and it was warm. The whole place was surrounded by lush, green trees and framed by a perfectly blue sky. A harsh contrast to the reality of the camp itself. This time I was so cold and uncomfortable that it was hard not to imagine the prisoners standing outside in the camp yard themselves for hours to be counted and berated in little more then pajama sets and worn shoes, and in weather much colder then what we endured. It was a stark reminder of how little I had to actually complain about.

This iron gate leading into Dachau with the infamous "ARBEIT MACHT FREI". English translation: work will set you free. This slogan was placed at the entrances of many of the Nazi concentration camps.

We made friends at the famous Haufbrauhaus and Augustiner bier halls and drank our Maß down like champions. And by some miracle the absolute BEST eis place in German had just re-opened for the spring and summer season. So Kristin got some of that as well. Twice :) :)
P.S. Winter: take a hint. I am so over you.

And of course, we spent quite a bit of time with the boys who fell head over heels in love with meine schwester. She truly had them wrapped around her finger. At one point we were told that they had a new plan: when my year was up Kristin was to come back to Germany and take my place. Keeping it in the family! But don't worry Mom, she intends to finish school first.

Things Kristin can now appreciate about Germany:
1. Super cool old churches.
2. Super cool old buildings. 
3. Schittgablerstrasse.
4. Balla Benni's!
5. German bakeries. (She fell in love.)
6. Dirndl's.
7. Gummi Bears!
8. Cute German babies! Seriously, they're pretty adorable.

We love Haribo.

To my sister: thank you for sacrificing your spring break to come spend a week in the North Pole. I'm sorry Germany tried to freeze the life out of you. But you survived! I love you as much as the whole world and back again and I can't imagine the person I would be without your influence. With you I will always be home.

P.S. I still say our next adventure should be the Amazing Race. We would knock everyone's socks off.
And because I was lucky enough to have my best friend visit me one week after my sister left you should all expect that blog update very soon. Despite the (finally) BEAUTIFUL weather outside my window it's going to happen. Get ready Theresa Rose!

Twelve days until I get to see my mama and one month until I'm lying on the beaches of SPAIN!
And today I found plane tickets from Munich to Rome for 90 EUROS. So that's definitely happening.
Happy Spring to everyone in Europe who is seeing the sun for the first time in months, and to all my family and friends. Goodbye winter, hello bier gardens and Fruhlingsfest!