We've hit the halfway point! Honestly, I'm not totally sure where that point is; my final date here isn't established and there's vacations all over the place. But hey, sometime in the last month!
These sort-of weekly posts have been all over the place - new things or differences I've discovered, complaints about my temporary country, or musings on what I miss from home (Mexican, Mexican, and Mexican).
Since we're at the halfway point, I would like to take the other angle: what I'll miss once this year is over and what I need to take advantage of while I'm here. The latter is very much on my mind. A year is big and open and 'oh I have so much time left'. Six months is much smaller and more tangible. That's 24 weekends. Time to start hitting the Deutsche Bahn on the weekends and enjoying those local restaurants and the Haribo gummy bears while I can. So here it is, the stuff I'm going to miss when this year is over but, more importantly, the stuff I need to enjoy the hell out of for the next six months.
- Travel. Let's get the obvious and the biggie out of the way. Travel is so easy here. I can go almost anywhere in Europe for the weekend. With some internet sleuthing, I found a bus ticket to Milan for 80 Euros. 80 Euros! Honestly, I'll probably take it up. And yes, when I return to the States, I can travel there. There's trains and planes and cars in America too! But let's be real, it's not the same. Two examples: While I lived in Portland, I frequently flew to Indiana or Illinois for the weekend. Between delays and security and long layovers (necessary for those delays), I would spend upwards of twelve hours in an airport for a day or two back home. Really inefficient and difficult to schedule. And expensive. A train ticket to Paris is 120 Euros. A plane from Portland to Indy? For the weekend, possibly five hundred. Another example: I went to Miami for the weekend in November. The ticket wasn't as expensive (only $200!) and the timing much less demanding (a direct, two-hour flight). However, airlines are no Swiss trains. Sunday night, my flight back was delayed and delayed and, ultimately, canceled. I found myself taking a flight from Miami to Chicago, then driving to Indianapolis. Not cool. Trains all the way.
- Beer and Wine. Real talk: German beer lives up to its reputation. I'm okay with beer in the States - I prefer cider but I can drink a Heineken or a Corona if I have to (I know, neither of these are American beers). I will never like Bud Light (sorry, Grandpa) but I can drink a beer when there are no other options. Not a problem here. The beer is everywhere and it's excellent. Also, the wine. The Germans keep the good Riesling for themselves and the muscat I had in Strasbourg is some of my favorite. Additionally, both of these things are ridiculously cheap. Beer and wine is, at most restaurants, literally cheaper than water. When I'm back in the States, and I order a chardonnay only to remember I really don't like American chardonnay and also that it's $8 for a glass, I'm really going to miss it here.
- Food. Honestly, I'm getting kind of sick of schnitzel and potatoes. But I imagine frequent visits to whatever German restaurant is in my neighborhood in the future. Germans really know how to handle a potato. My company's campus cafeteria is incredible. The open-faced sandwiches alone! But there's also the usual place stuff. I can list half a dozen restaurants in Indianapolis I think about on a weekly basis. Abuelo's. Napolese. Chatham Tap. Bakersfield. Mesh. Nickel Plate. And it's going to be the same as soon as I leave this place. That restaurant my boss always takes me to, the Italian place that has the best soup, the Thai place around the corner.
- Separation of Self and State. I am grateful to be an American. I'm privileged to come for a country that (for the most part) doesn't care that I'm a woman and lets me do the job that I want and vote how I want, etc. That being said, I'm really enjoying living in a different culture for a period of time, to be able to take a step back. Especially during this clusterfuck of an election.
- My apartment. Honestly, this apartment is amazing. The relocation company that picked it for me has taste. I'm going to miss the courtyard - there are trees and old European buildings and birds chirping in the morning. The apartment has lots of windows in general and the natural lighting in this place made me realize how much I appreciate and need natural lighting in an apartment. There's the floors (no carpet, a major departure from my Indianapolis pad) and simple Ikea furniture and kitchen drawers and a refrigerator that doesn't look like a refrigerator. Also amazing: biweekly house cleaning. Definitely not going to be this fancy again.
- My colleagues. There are always going to be bad apples. That guy that's mostly a jackass or the one who always complains or the slacker who you can never count on but always ends up assigned to you. That being said, the people I work with here are honestly lovely and supportive and helpful. Always concerned how I'm doing and if there's anything they can help with. Offering all kinds of suggestions for me both around town and traveling. And always making sure I have a lunch buddy.
- The Expert. Hopefully this is something that happens again... Without getting bogged down by details, I'm in Germany to bring a specialty we've had in our US office for years to our German office. So I'm in the only person in our German office who specializes in this thing. And honestly, being the expert isn't the worst gig. I'm constantly getting new requests from various projects for support - I've had to learn how to say no, which is not an issue I've had before. I get simple emails asking for suggestions on this one topic or I find myself giving half day workshops to specific subteams. It's not the worst feeling in the world. Also, my US colleagues have been taught our processes and perspective for years and I forget that it has taken a lot of time and learnign to get there. Want a reminder on how far you've come? Work with newbies! Additionally, I'm the go-to on English matters. After years of trying to convince my American colleagues that you really do a need an Oxford comma, the grammar nerd is loving being the only native English speaker.