And we just completed week six! I went to Cologne yesterday and it nice to be back in traveler-mode. Thoughts of this week:
Otherness: One of my work friends spent three months in Germany in 2014. Last year, when I was preparing for my three months abroad, she told me to get ready to feel like a serious foreigner. She felt like people were always staring at her. I don't think that's ever really kicked in. Maybe I'm just stupidly optimistic or naive? Yes, there have been difficulties with the legal parts of moving, but a lot of that is the same, as if I was moving around in the United States. Yes, the language barrier is real but my lack of German makes me feel dumb, not foreign. Which brings me to...
German Lessons: They started this week. I really, really suck at languages. One of the women I work with is Spanish but speaks excellent German and English. I think a second language needs to be introduced when a person is young, whether it's a class or another language naturally spoken at home. Just for someone to really understand the concept. I keep mentally translating instead of just learning the language. For example, I'm good at the engineering/study part of learning German. When it comes to theories and obscure rules, hell yeah. I can answer questions all day. But actually translating? No. Between lack of confidence and trouble memorizing vocab...
Visitors: One of my friends was going to come visit me this summer with her husband. They have decided not to, primarily because of costs. Which I totally understand. It would have been a very expensive trip and they have a baby and they're getting ready to move. It's still very much a bummer (they had gotten their passports and everything!). I kind of have the feeling no one will visit me this year, aside from work people, where work pays for the trip.
Politics: Justice Scalia's death is the first big thing to happen in American news/politics since I've been over here and I had no idea it happened. Last night, when it was being announced in America, I was watching a movie and totally unplugged from Twitter/Facebook/etc. It wasn't until this morning when I did a HuffingtonPost/ reddit/r/politics stop that I saw the news and the political ramifications and tweets coming in from everywhere. Honestly, it was nice to have some distance. If I had been at home, I would have been following the news obsessively and refreshing Twitter and that would have been day. Just by virtue of the time difference, there's a good distance to the news itself. That being said, it's still frustrating. Also, I am sorry for the loss to Scalia's family and friends but also really glad the guy's not on the court any more... Mitch McConnell didn't even wait a full day before politicizing his death, suggesting the Senate will delay confirmation until the next president is in office. This year is going to be such a shit show for politics. I'm so glad I'm overseas for this one... Especially without Jon Stewart and 'Stephen Colbert.'
Size: Something that gets me whenever I travel over here: the size of the world. I drove for 2.5 hours to get to Cologne yesterday. And I covered a lot of ground during that time, ground I had never set eyes on before. It's overwhelming. So many people and places, so many different lives.
Driving: Yesterday morning, I got up early and started my drive to Cologne. About half an hour into the trip, I snapped out of my Hamilton soundtrack daze and realized something. While part of the drive seemed not unlike my drives across Indiana and Illinois back home (musical on the radio, dumb drivers - they're faster on the Autobahn, but not necessarily smarter), there were a few things dramatically different. The most obvious - it's hillsides and villages out of a friggin' movie as opposed to cornfields rolling by. Not so obvious - not a single billboard. Seriously. No billboards anywhere. There were informational signs about what was available at the next stop, but that was it. The closest thing to a billboard was the little McDonalds' arch on the bottom of an exit sign, shoved in between symbols for gas and toilet.