Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Life back in Germany

So, I've been in Germany for three weeks to be exact, but somehow it seems much longer since I celebrated Billy and Julie's wedding and said goodbye to friends and family. My journey from the states was a bit more rushed and stressful than normal, for a variety of reasons.

First, I was surprising Thomas, who thought I was coming a week later. This was just a test of my self-control, because many times I just wanted to tell him how stressed I was trying to get everything packed and ready before the wedding weekend. I finished the packing on time and had Friday and Saturday to enjoy the wedding festivities, and enjoy them I did. I was exhausted by Sunday morning, going on minimal sleep, with still a baby shower and birthday party to attend before leaving for Newark in the late afternoon.

One should know that normally before leaving the states for an extended period of time, I prefer to spend most of my time just hanging around with my family. So, when it hit me Sunday afternoon that this was it as far as family time goes, I was very sad to be leaving. It didn't help that I had just had a blast with friends the past two days and now it was time to go.

Sunday evening, there I was sitting with Teri on our way to Newark where we would spend the night and take the flight to Frankfurt the following evening, or so we thought. I was flying standby on a buddy pass, which saved me a bundle of cash (Thank you Teri!!). By Monday afternoon, I was anxious and ready to get the long journey behind me, but when we went to check-in it didn't seem likely that I would get a seat on that plane.

There were plenty of free seats for standby passengers, but since Teri was working the flight I was not allowed to use a buddy pass. Thanks Continental for implementing a new rule and not informing your employees, awesome! Teri and I panicked with equally rising blood pressure, but in my mind I quickly resolved that somehow, someway I was getting on that plane. After and hour or two that seemed like awaiting a possible death sentence, Teri was able to talk to her supervisor and get an emergency drop on working the flight so she could "accompany" me on the plane. (Like I was some convict that needed supervision.)

Luckily for Teri, she got a first class seat there and back. She flew to Frankfurt and then got back on the same plane roughly an hour later to fly back to Newark and then MCI. So, not only did Teri and Brian let me crash on their bedroom floor during Spring Break at their lovely condo in Puerto Vallarta, now Teri was spending about two days of her valued time (leaving Brian in charge of Wyatt and his growing business) just to escort me to Germany. Wow, I felt like a complete selfish asshole. I can't say thanks enough to Teri and Brian, and I can't say enough good things about my family in general.

Ok, so there I was frazzled, excited and back in Germany, only a train ride away from surprising Thomas. Upon arriving in Wuerzburg, I decided to walk, bags and all, from the train station to the new place to wake myself up. I guess I didn't remember how long the walk was or how heavy my bags were, so I rang the doorbell as a sweaty, out of breath mess. Thomas didn't answer the door but he arrived downstairs quickly after with a somewhat blank expression on his face. Surprise! Mission accomplished.

I spent the greater part of the next week adjusting to the time change, sleeping more than I usually do, relaxing in the garden behind the house and strolling through the vineyards that surround the city. The weather was sunny and refreshingly warm. I saw the city in a completely different light compared to the gray dome of Winter. Then, before I knew it, it was time to think about the new, adventurous job I was to begin on the 26th in some small village in East Germany.

Not really knowing what the hell was about to happen, I read the emails from the Language Farm owner about what the week would include, what I needed to bring and a few other vague details about when to arrive, etc. I found myself thinking..."Damn, I wish I would have been able to attend the orientation weekend. Oh well, just go for it without expectations and you'll be fine."

The good news is that I did make it through my first week, more or less successfully. The other news is that I nearly lost my sanity along the way, didn't know if I could maintain the needed energy level to surpass another day, and lived in a state of sleep deprivation lows and caffeine highs for five days. In all honesty, there were more than a few times when I just wanted to say "I quit". But a quitter I am not, or something along those lines.

I was lucky to have a lot of help from the other counselors, who have worked there for at least a few years, and the group of kids was very well-behaved and fun to be around. Their English was good enough for normal conversation, which makes life a lot easier when you are cooking with six kids (age 13) for a group of 35 people or when you are preparing a skit. More or less, the key to enjoying this job and being successful is letting yourself be as crazy and theatrical as possible for extended periods of time. In other words, losing your sanity to sleep deprivation or whatever else is perfectly acceptable.

I arrived back in Wuerzburg Friday night and felt like I had been gone for a month to a strange English speaking land. I still wasn't even able to form complete thoughts about what had just happened the five days before and I still had dreams about work that night. After a few recovery days, I realized that working there for more than two weeks a month was completely out of the question, unless I wanted to become a raging alcoholic. So, for now I am keeping the Language Farm out of my mind until I go back at the end of May, hopeful that it will get easier with more experience.

Now, I'm faced with the question of what to do with all the free time that I have. Studying German is high on the priority list; however, my motivation to do so is not so high. I'm considering taking another German course which would definitely help me with the motivation problem. On the other hand, I could use that money to go somewhere...and everyone knows that I like to go 'places'. But I suppose I'm not just here for the sake of traveling around and continuing to enjoy my quarter life retirement, or am I? Puede ser...

Or maybe it's just back to that life lesson that my dad loves to preach. How does it go? Something about just enjoying the present moment, just being instead of always trying to 'do' something, ya I guess that's always something I could work on. I seem to be the master of this art when placed in the right conditions, read: beach, sun, waves, sand. Now, to internalize this simple concept is a challenge that will probably last my lifetime.