28 October 2008

Time Going By

I regret that I haven't been able to write more in the past couple weeks, but, for one thing, I've found that preparing for my classes requires a lot of time and, for another, there has not been much of noteworthy action to share. Nonetheless, here's a run through of activities since the last post.

The next Saturday after my last post I traveled to Nuremberg with Franzi, my tutor, and a few of her friends. They wanted to spend the day shopping in the big city, and asked if I would like to come along. I had flashbacks to the time I spent a day in Munich with four Italian girls who had the same goal in mind, and hesitated slightly, but I accepted in the end as it was a chance to go somewhere out of Eichstätt.

The train ride to Nuremberg took about an hour and a half. Not much seemed to have changed since the last time I was in the city about a year ago.

Before hitting the stores, we ate lunch at a restaurant called Bratwursthäusle. The specialty, as the name suggests, is the Nuremberger bratwurst. The small restaurant is a landmark in the old city and has been around for centuries. The tables and chairs in the dinning area felt like originals from the Middle Ages with their short heights. The open kitchen is in the middle of the building and can be seen below.

Nellie provided her watch to prove that we were indeed drinking beer at one o'clock in the afternoon, which is nothing out of the ordinary in Bavaria.

And of course a picture of the house specialty--bratwursts, sauerkraut, and mustard.

Next we headed to the stores. Below is a view from inside a department store that sells better quality goods, or at least ones with higher prices. The espresso bar on the right side might help you understand the store's atmosphere.

One of the interesting finds I made during the day was a shoe brand by the name of Memphis. I quickly took out my camera to document this connection to my hometown.

The girls found several articles of clothing to bring back to Eichstätt. I found an iron.

We wanted to eat at a Mexican restaurant for dinner, but could not find an open table in the establishment. It would have been helpful if the restaurant had a waiting list, but as this is Germany and that concept is reserved for only the nicest of restaurants, we settled for Italian.

We returned home in the late evening. Below is a photo of Connie and me on the train back to Eichstätt.

The following Monday was the first day of my classes. I have two on that day of the week: U.S. Current Events and Debate and Discussion. Current Events is made up of mostly foreign students representing Russia, Ukraine, Poland, France, and Italy. There is one German out of the 11 students. As it is a morning class, 9:30-11:00, it seems to be tough to get the class to wake up and start talking. Following the advice from the other English teachers to appear strict on the first day, I wore a tie to class. Incidentally, the Italian girl whom I briefly mentioned in my last post and who apologized when she found out I was a teacher is taking this class.

In Debate and Discussion I have 8 students, as long as none leave by next week. I've planed the semester in such a way as for me to avoid as much work as possible for the class. There will be two group debates, four students versus the other four. Each of these debates will take nearly the whole class period, and of course the students have to perform the research for the debate topic and resolution. For the rest of the semester each student will have to lead a 30-minute discussion, again performing the research on their topic themselves. The goal of the discussion is for the student to convince the rest of the class to agree to his resolution. All but one of the students is German; the exception is a girl from France. I'm fairly certain that I'm younger or the same age as all of them.

That following Tuesday was a bar crawl conducted by AK International, the international student organization. I haven't been getting to know the foreign students as well as my first time here. I know there are about five new Americans for the semester, including one from Memphis, but I do not see them often. Unfortunately, I believe that some of the foreign students who know that I am here as a Teaching Assistant see me in a different light, no matter the fact that I am the same age as them if not younger. I can understand that to a degree though. Exactly how should a student act at a party with a guy who happens to also be his teacher, or could be next semester?

On Thursday are my two other classes: American Culture and Conversation on U.S. Current Affairs. American Culture is the class that I am most looking forward to teaching. We started the class with a quiz for fun to test the students' knowledge of America and its culture. Questions included, how many states are in America and what are the four most popular sports in the U.S.? I also asked the students to draw the outline of the country, only the lower 48. Then they had to label cities and some features that I called out. A couple guys thought they were being witty when the drew arrows on their maps to a some rough squares they labeled as Iraq and Kosovo.

I also asked for some of the stereotypes and cliches that they hold of or know of for Americans. These included such things as Americans. . .

  • only eat fast food and are all over weight
  • think they live in the best country in the world
  • don't care about the rest of the world
  • all own guns
  • don't know much about the rest of the world
  • are superficial (one student wrote, "for example, 'how are you?'")
  • are hard working and enjoy challenges

As you might expect, I feel that I now have some pressure on me to reveal America in a better light to these students. To give them the benefit of the doubt though, I didn't ask for their personal stereotypes of Americans; many of them could simply have written the ones that they know exist.

Current Affairs also went well for the first day. This, like American culture, has about 15 students. The course lessons will be very similar to Current Events, but this class is meant for students from all majors, while the Current Events is only for those who study English.

Thursday night was the semester beginning party in the Theke, one of the most crowded of the year. Friday night I went to the climbing hall with Anna, Franzi's friend who was with us at the festival in Fürth.

This past Saturday I rode a train to a city called Hof, which lies in northern Bavaria. The ride took almost four hours in all, including stop overs and time needed for switching trains. Rachel, a Memphian who studied abroad in Eichstätt during my second semester here and is now also back in Germany, had a birthday party. Almost all of the Americans who were here with us and have found their way back to Germany came for the night. We made sushi rolls, caught up with each other, and also played a short limbo contest. My prize for first place was a pineapple. Below is a scene from dinner at the party.

I didn't actually see much of Hof. We spent a little time on Sunday strolling around the city center while looking for a place to eat lunch. Here's one of the views that I saw.

Matt, who is now studying in Munich, and I rode the train back together. We missed the connecting train in Nuremberg because our first train was late. After a little under an hour we caught the next south-bound ride heading to Eichstätt and Munich. On the way I started to drift off and Matt told me to go ahead and sleep; he would wake me when we reached Eichstätt.

Soon after, as the train sat at a station, I found myself prying my eyes open and drowsily asking Matt where we were. He told me that he wasn't sure, but that he believed Eichstätt was the next stop. We both gazed out the window to look for a station sign, but could see none from our perspective. The train lurched forward and then a sign came into view. On this sign were the words Eichstätt Bahnhof. I looked to Matt and laughed as he apologized over and over.

I got off a few stops and twenty minutes latter in Ingolstadt, and then rode another train back north.

Tonight I went to a juggling class, but I'm not sure if I'll return next week. Fencing is not being offered this semester.

That catches you up to today. I have nothing in plan yet for this weekend, other than some potential Halloween activities. Perhaps I'll travel to a new town in order to see some new sights. I'll try to post anything exciting that might happen, but understand if it does take some time until the next post.

10 October 2008

The First Ten Days

This Wednesday marked the passing of one week since my return to Germany. Here’s a summary of what the past ten days had in store for me.

I arrived early on Wednesday morning in Munich. The leasing agent for my apartment met me at the airport and drove me to Eichstätt. We entered the town from the same route as I first did by bus two years ago. Now, as then, Eichstätt is aflame; bright hues of red, orange, and yellow from fall foliage engulf the community on the surrounding valley slopes.

The town has not changed much; Eichstätt remains Eichstätt. There are some new additions, such as a new apartment building and some new stores, but for the most part it just as I remember it. As I walked around town on the first day I honestly did not feel any strong rush of excitement or fascination about being back. Not to say that I wasn’t enjoying myself, rather I felt like I had been away for no more than a week. I was back now, and everything felt in order.

After the agent opened the apartment for me, which by mere coincidence is again in the Freiwasser complex, where I lived last time, I walked into town to meet my new tutor. That’s right, the university assigned me another tutor. Better yet, she’s studied here for only two semesters; therefore, I have as much experience with the university and the town as she does. I probably didn’t really need the assistance this time around, but because unexpected problems could arise and I looked forward to the opportunity of making a new friend, Franzi and I met in front of the post office.

Walking around to the different stores and businesses during my first few days offered me glimpses of familiar faces. The Turkish boy still works in the grocery store where I shop, but he wears a goatee now. The staff at the post office remains as attentive as ever. The owner of the Sultan Grill still translates the toppings for döner kebap into English for me, never mind that I don’t ask him to. And I remain uncertain of half the things the proprietor of the bike store says to me.

AK International (the international student organization) held a welcome party Wednesday night for all of the new foreign students. I attended and felt a large dose of deja vu as I met several of the new students.

At one point I was talking with an Italian girl. She asked me which out of the four levels of the pre-semester German course I would attend. I told her that I wasn’t taking the course.

She jokingly said, “Do you think you’re too smart?”

I couldn’t help but respond with the best, but honest, come back. “Actually I’m not one of the students; I’m a teacher.”

She instantly tried to apologize, but I gave her the full story to spare her from any additional embarrassment. To be clear though, other than that humorous incident I am not trying to distinguish or distance myself from the other students by any means.

On Thursday the nightmare of German bureaucracy began. I would do this anyway, but in order to receive my salary from the university and to pay my rent I have to open a German bank account. In order to open the bank account I have to have a visa, which, again, I would have to have anyway. In order to receive a visa one must present several documents. One such document is a verification of funds to ensure that the applicant can support himself financially. For me, this was a printed balance from my bank in America, stamped and given to me by a teller at my neighborhood branch.

Unfortunately, German bureaucrats are particularly finicky about sticking to the rules and official documentation. In the opinion of the Eichstätt office of the equivalent to Germany’s state department, my verification of funds did not look official enough mainly because it lacked a letterhead. Their first suggestion was to open a German bank account and then come back. Of course that would be impossible because, as said, I would need a visa in order to open a German bank account.

The second suggestion was to have my bank in America write a second, more official, letter stating the balance of my personal account. I followed through on this and waited for the letter to arrive on Tuesday. Keep in mind that I essentially could not take care of any other official or necessary matters until I had my visa.

Forced to wait, and needing to relieve some stress, I traveled to Munich of Friday to meet up with some friends and to go to Oktoberfest. I missed this world famous festival the first year, and I was not going to allow that to happen again.

From the minute I arrived in the main train station, I could feel the festive atmosphere in the air. In the view below, a Bavarian man clad in lederhosen talks on his cell phone. The subway station for die Wiesn, as Bavarians refer to Oktoberfest, was congested with a slow and steady procession of people exiting the trains. Several others drunkenly stumbled through the crowd and, hopefully, not onto the tracks.

Oktoberfest was first held in 1810 as a celebration for the marriage of King Ludwig, the leader of Bavaria. For but only a handful of instances, the celebration has reoccurred annually since then. Over time, Oktoberfest morphed from a beer-drinking and horse-racing wedding party, to a beer-drinking and tradition-steeped festival. In all honesty, Oktoberfest strongly resembles an American carnival or county fair. Stands sell junk food of all types, and numerous rides offer thrills for all ages. Naturally, the main difference from American fairs is the presence of the gigantic beer tents.

The tents, which total 14 in number, are large enough to cover a football field or two. And don’t let the word tent fool you; these are complex structures of two or more floors, indoor plumbing, and other conditions not found under a simple circus tent. Most tourists flock to the Hofbräuhaus tent, but each of the 14 presents its own atmosphere. The locals also know to arrive early in the day, as in before noon, in order to find a place to sit down inside a tent. This is important, as you will only be served beer if you are sitting. The festival was especially crowed on this day not only because it was Friday, but also because it was October 3rd, the Day of German Unity, a national holiday celebrating Germany’s reunification after the Cold War.

My friends and I luckily found some open benches in the outdoor seating area of one tent. You may recognize some of the faces below. In the first picture is part of typical Bavaria pretzel, for which I had such a longing while back in America, and a liter glass of beer. At Oktoberfest, one can only order beer by the liter, or a Mass as the Bavarians say. In the second picture from left to right are Dylan, Annabel, and Matt. Dylan and Matt are both Americans who were with me in the second semester in Eichstätt. Dylan is now studying abroad in Salzburg, an Austrian city on the border with Bavaria, and Matt is doing the same in Munich. Annabel is a German who is still studying in Eichstätt. Not seen are our other friends, Rachel and Michael. Rachel is another American now living again in Germany, and Michael is a German who has finished his studies in Eichstätt.

Nearby was a mixed group of New Zealanders and Canadians drinking beer after beer and singing song after song. From what I could tell, the locals, at least the few around us, were a bit more controlled.

While one can also find the stereotypical bratwust to eat at Oktoberfest, there are other items to consider. I opted for the Steckelfisch, something to the effect of “fish on a stick.” This is usually any popular kind of freshwater fish grilled on a spit over an open flame. Following are the before and after pictures of my meal. You could say I enjoyed it.

Not much later into the evening, we decided to leave Oktoberfest and head to a Munich beer hall. In the event that one cannot find a seat inside a tent, like us, he can always follow our lead. As said, the festival atmosphere permeates the city, and Oktoberfest continues inside Munich’s large restaurants and halls. We went to one of the locations of Augustiner’s, a respected brewery and beer hall in Munich. Here’s a photo of Matt, Dylan, and I from the inside.

In the beer hall was a clearly local crowd of hundreds strong. At times, a table from one corner of the hall would erupt with a song or the banging of mugs, and the rest of the dinners and drinkers in the voluminous room would join in. My friends and I decided to give it a try. For those who know it, we chose to sing the tune from The White Strips’ “Seven Nation Army,” a popular soccer song in Germany at the present. We counted down from three, and then opened our mouths, not sure if we would be successful or suddenly turn red. As we beat our mugs on the table, the group of Germans to my left joined us. Then, like ripples in a pond, it spread to the surrounding tables, before, as far as I could tell, the whole hall was participating. The communal song reached a climax, fizzled, and then died. The room fell back to the boisterous sounds of conversation.

Before we left the beer hall, we were witnesses to another humorous event behind us. Presumably as a joke, and perhaps motivated by the consumption of liters of beer, a young man shoved a fat and fresh potato dumpling into the face of the young girl across the table from him. After the girl wiped herself clean, she stood up, grabbed the man’s mug of beer, and, before he could react, poured it over his head. The beer hall filled with cheers and applause. Then, to the surprise of many, the man reacted by pouring the girl’s beer mug over her own head, as seen below.

This time the beer hall booed.

A waiter came over and demanded to know who was responsible for the mess. The man and woman pointed at each other. In the middle of the waiter’s interrogation, an older man near the girl stood up and offered his napkin to the girl, but his assistance did not end there.

And the beer hall, with the girl, laughed.

The day ended and I caught a train back to Eichstätt. On the way I met a couple of friendly German drunks returning from Oktoberfest. After an hour and a half of very confusing and, at least on their part, mindless conversation they had labeled me the best American ever.

On Saturday I did not undertake an adventure of any kind, unless you would put buying a new bike under that category. In the evening I went to the Theke (the student bar) with Franzi, and reunited with my favorite watering hole in Eichstätt.

Over the weekend there was a market and fair held in town; on Sunday I walked around the vendors and stalls with Franzi and a couple of her friends. The event was called the Eichstätt Kirchweihmarkt, and marked the anniversary of the local cathedral’s founding (if I understood correctly). The same market took place during my very first weekend in Eichstätt. In many ways this sequel is beginning in much the same way as the original did. A couple photos of the market and vibrant Eichstätt follow.

Monday morning I met with a couple of the full time English teachers at the university. Our department is known as the Sprachenzentrum, or the Language Center. We are not technically connected with any one of the academic faculties on the university; we are independent. However, students whose majors are, say, English or Spanish must take courses from both the Sprachenzentrum and the actual foreign language and literature department. The other teachers offered some advice for my courses and teaching in general. They highly recommended being strict on the first few days of class, and then easing up as the semester progresses. Bearing in mind that about five months ago I was still a student and that in roughly one week I will be conducting my own university-level courses, I still feel a bit odd about all of this.

I have four courses in all: Debate and Discussion, U.S. Current Events, American Culture, and Conversation on U.S. Current Affairs. The first three are open only to students who study English as one of their majors, while the last if open to all students. This means that the first three will likely be filled with students with a good grasp of English, and the last class could contain all levels of comprehension. The general goal of the classes is to improve the students’ ability to comprehend spoken English and hold conversations in this language; it is not my responsibility to teach written grammar. As the names suggest, each class has a different theme on which the conversations and lectures will concentrate. American Culture was my idea for a class after the leader of the Sprachenzentrum, Dr. Schäfer, gave me the chance to create a new course. After asking Dr. Schäfer and speaking with the full time teachers, one thing has been confirmed for me: there is no curriculum for me to follow for my classes. As Dr. Schäfer put it, I am independent to decide the content of the courses and how they are conducted so long as I conduct at least one exam in order to determine a student’s final grade, which, again, I will determine; although, this exam can come in the form of a written test, oral questioning, or class presentation. To sum it up, while my title is Teaching Assistant, everything else seems to suggest that the “-ing Assistant” should be replaced with –er.

I can’t help but feel that after this year is over I will possess much more respect for every teacher and professor I ever had.

Monday also marked the return of the German bureaucracy problems. My letter from the bank arrived and I walked back into the visa office. In terms of the verification of funds, the matter was then at a rest, but a new problem arose. In order to receive a visa, one must also possess health insurance valid in the European Union. I could include another complex story here about why I couldn’t obtain the national German health insurance, how I tried and failed to fool the national healthcare system, and then eventually found a suitable replacement, but I’ll spare you from that. Suffice it to say that I left the visa office, and found my way to the replacement health insurance office only to find that, thanks to strange German hours of business, they had closed for the day at noon. All official business I had left to complete would have to wait for at least one more day. By then, though, I was expecting additional unexpected twists to appear.

Tuesday began, and I returned to the health insurance office. I finished the paperwork, presented my identification, signed on the line, and was then told to come back on Friday to pick-up the confirmation letter I could use for obtaining the visa. As said, because the rest of the necessary chores associated with moving to a new city and country could not move ahead without a visa, I could not do anything else but shop for groceries and other supplies until today, Friday.

As another break from the stressful German bureaucracy, I joined Franzi and a couple of her friends on Wednesday on a visit in the city of Fürth. The community of roughly 100,000 people lies about a one-hour drive northwest of Eichstätt and directly west of Nuremberg. Nellie, a friend of Franzi, lives in Fürth. The reason for our visit was the Fürth Kirchweihmarkt, similar in purpose as Eichstätt’s but much larger. Think of it as a fair or carnival. Nellie’s mother described it as the Oktoberfest of Franconia, the cultural region of northern Bavaria. Here’s a view of Fürth as we walk from Nellie’s house to the festival. Only an hour north of Eichstätt, yet the architectural style differs significantly from the Baroque buildings of the smaller town to the south.

Originally each German festival like this one was an alien environment to me, but after three festivals in one week’s time and all the others from my first year abroad, I have learned what to expect. For one thing, there are several rides like one would find at an American fair. As the following photos attest, we took part in several ourselves. In the first view you can see me and another friend of Franzi’s, Anna. The pictures after that are of the actual thing that we rode on.

Then of course there are always the food stalls at these German festivals. Again like an American fair, they offer a wide array of junk foods. One can choose from several delectable looking candies and sweets, as seen in the next picture. These include gingerbread hearts, candied almonds, chocolate covered fruits, and licorice. For more savory alternatives, vendors sell several versions of sausages, french fries, skillet-fried potatoes and mushrooms, grilled fish, and smoked fish sandwiches. As you might expect, one can also find stands offering mugs of beer, glasses of wine, and servings of other liquors and spirits. Franzi and her friends recommended for me to try Franconian Federweiser, a drink similar to wine but not allowed to ferment for quite as long, which results in a weaker but much sweeter taste. The second picture below is another view of the festival, which was held in the heart of Fürth’s old city.

Towards the end of the night we rode a few more rides. Below are some pictures I took before we were thrown around on the roller coaster. In the first picture I’m sitting next to Anna. In the second view you can see Franzi on the right and Nellie sitting next to her.

Then it was on to the Ferris wheel.

Anna and I rode one last ride that the others found too scary to try before we headed home. Nellie stayed in Fürth, and the two other girls and I drove back to Eichstätt.

Skipping Thursday, due to the lack of activity, brings me to today, when I finally received my visa. After picking-up my health insurance confirmation letter, I rode my bike to the visa office and confidently displayed it to the man behind the counter. He then told me that my verification of funds was invalid because the requirements had changed; I could not use a letter from my bank in America to satisfy the German government. Also, he stated his dissatisfaction that my bank letter was in English. By then I was assuming that it was his requirements not being met, and not those of the German government. My confidant smile grew only wider at that point though.

I instructed him to turn to another of my documents in the folder he held. It was a letter from the university stating how much I would earn for my work. It was also in German. He finished reading it, closed the folder, and told me that his colleague would assist me from that point on.

An hour later my visa was in hand, my bank account open, and my mind at ease.

There you have it—my first ten days back in Germany, more or less. The semester starts this coming week, but my first class is not until the week after. Hopefully by next Friday I will have a better idea of what I will say and do for each one of my classes’ first sessions.

06 October 2008

Fire at Will Again

“I will say goodbye to Germany very soon, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it will not be my final farewell.”

I wrote those words on this blog a little over a year ago, and I could not have been more right. Life has presented me with new targets, and, as always, I am eager and ready to hit my marks.

As of this post, I am reactivating this blog for my second year in Germany. Furthermore, not only do I find myself in this country again, but also in the town that won my affection the first time around—Eichstätt. If sequels can exist in real life, then this coming year must surely count as one. Swaths of German bureaucracy are still keeping me busy, but I will soon post on the other activities that I have undertaken since my arrival on the first of October. New friends have already been made, and old ones seen. One festival has come and gone in Eichstätt, and a slightly larger one by the name of Oktoberfest warmly welcomed me as a visitor. But first, how did this return come to be? How did I find my way back to the Metropolis of the Altmühl? To answer these questions I must provide you with a bit of an epilogue to my first year abroad.

I returned home to America on August 14, 2007, but a part of me remained on the other side of the Atlantic. Life in Germany had taken a strong hold on me, and it would not let go anytime soon. Sometime in September or October, while still lurking about in the depths of Germany withdrawal, I searched for a way to return. One day something sparked a memory and then an idea.

While I was in Eichstätt the first time, there was an American named Chris who was working as an English Teaching Assistant at the university for the year. Perhaps I could hold the same position for a year after I graduated in May. I scanned the university’s website for any information on the TA position but could find nothing. In the end, all it took was the simple act of asking.

I sent a couple emails to employees of the university, individuals whom I had made as contacts in my first year. They replied and informed me that the position’s availability was momentarily in doubt, but that they were pleased that I was interested and would update me on its status as soon as they could. A few weeks later I received word that the position was open and that I could apply. The position’s supervisor instructed me to hurry because apparently she and her colleagues had set the application period to last for only one month. I sent in my documents and emailed a couple geography professors at the university, ones whom I had met and who knew me, and requested that they put in a good word for me. I didn’t know if it could help, but it couldn’t hurt to ask. The university received my documents, and then I waited.

The novelty of my return to Memphis and the stories I brought back after my year abroad began to wear away for my family and friends, but Germany stayed fresh on my mind. I found Paulener Hefeweizen beer in a local grocery store and rejoiced at the discovery of an authentic connection to Bavaria. I turned through the pages of the German cook books I had brought back and tried, often with success but sometimes without, to recreate my favorite German meals and treats. Around Christmas I baked Stollen and prepared some Glühwein for drinking. And on my attempts went. Germany would not leave my mind.

Then early in the new year I received an email from the university. The subject line read simply “TA Position,” and offered no hint to the outcome of my application. I anxiously clicked on the line to open the email. My eyes moved across the lines of text with excitement. I read it twice to be sure. Then, even though I was nearly positive I had read it correctly, turned to an online translation site to ensure beyond a doubt that I had understood the German sentences. Surely you can correctly guess what news the email delivered to me.

Sprint ahead several months to last week and I was again on a plane bound for Munich. A second year in Eichstätt had begun.

In the time approaching my departure, friends and relatives questioned if I would again write on this blog. I honestly could not say if I would or not. After all, sequels rarely live up to the hype of the original. Could a blog for my second year in Eichstätt be as entertaining as the first version? Or, for that matter, could the second year itself be as exciting and worthwhile for me as the first one?

Clearly, the answers I arrived at were yes. I have returned in the capacity of a teacher, not a student, and surely tales worth sharing will originate from my classes. I will travel to new destinations and provide more looks into these locales on the other side of the world. I will venture deeper into my host land. During the first year I lived in Germany and Bavaria, swimming in the inviting waters of their cultures; in the second year I want to submerge myself in them for as long as I can hold my breath, or, better yet, learn to breath underwater. I will continue in my aim to motivate the reader to travel and experience life to the fullest. And, of course, I will remain in touch with friends and family with my posts. The answers for how and why I am in Eichstätt have changed, but the general purposes of Fire at Will—to entertain, to educate, to motivate—have not.

There is also one other major difference between this year and my first. Two years ago I was living in what felt like a pause in that stage of my life. Now, though, I have graduated college and finished that stage. Unlike last time, I do not know exactly what I will do when this year ends; an automatic return home is not certain. Indeed, this year marks the beginning of a new stage in my life, and where it takes me remains to be learned. With this thought in mind, I provide you with the words of Goethe, a well-respected German author of years long passed, to conclude this post. May his words hold some truth as I settle into Germany for a second time.

“Jedem Anfang wohnt eine Zauber drinne…” (In every beginning there lives a little magic…)