Thursday, December 22, 2016

Deutschland

Christmas markets were something I looked forward to all year long when living abroad. I had a list of the ones that were my favorites, the ones with the best glühwein (Strasbourg), the ones that had the best ornament selection (Colmar), and the ones that transported me into a magical Christmas fairytale-like land (Basel, Dresden, Vienna) and gave me the feeling of anticipation about the holiday season.  On Black Friday in Kandern, we would pile into someone's car and drive to Colmar or Strasbourg or Freiburg and spend the evening sipping hot wine and eating all sorts of delectable goodies while wandering around these more or less magical little shops filled to the brim with ornaments and so much Christmas, it almost made you wonder if Santa Claus himself had set up all the shops.

So naturally on Monday when I heard about the attack at the Christmas market, I was stunned. Not because I didn't expect it - in fact, I had wondered when it would eventually happen at a Christmas market- but because I knew people in Berlin, knew what it was like to innocently walk around those markets without a care in the world, except that of being able to find the car in the busy parking garages.

The market that was chosen was in one of the most touristy places in Berlin. I've not been to Berlin during the Christmas season, but I've been in that area before and I can remember what it looks like from memory. I kept thinking about those tourists, who, just like me, wanted to go out for a lovely evening of Christmas. Perhaps they were sipping on a glühwein or about to purchase an ornament for a loved one back home. I've been there doing that exact thing. The last thing on my mind would have been an attack.

I've been talking to my friend Brie who works with GEM in Berlin. She told me the day after the attack she felt compelled to go to the site and pray. I told her to do it if she felt so lead. When she arrived, there was a prayer vigil being held with leaders of the country. She told me she was so glad she had gone.

Today, I got a text from her and she told me she and her friends had a fondue party tonight with their small group. Among their group included three guests - two Syrians and one Iranian. I immediately smiled when I read it. In the midst of all of the chaos and the tragedy and the "yuck" in our world, there was unity happening.

Every night and every morning I've woken up with my other home country on my heart and mind. I've been praying for wisdom and peace among the leaders of Germany and the EU.

It's all I can do from over here.  












Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Joy.

That is just one word to describe the weekend. My kids went into this competition wanting to take our One Act to State competition. I went into it praying we'd at least get a Superior for all of the work put into it.

We were sitting together on Saturday night at the Best in Show Ceremony. They were flashing who got All Star Cast, Excellents, and Superiors. I was looking down at my phone when they flashed State Selected One Acts. I glanced up and saw Fire Exit (actually they had spelled it THE Fire Exit but whatever) and did a double-take.

I looked over at my kids who were screaming and jumping up and down and I started to cry. For many reasons.

I cried because obviously this was a good thing. A very good thing. Something that I had only hoped would happen inside. And it had happened. And we're going to State.

I cried because the last four months have been hard. I've missed my kids at OHS. I've missed my kids in Kandern. I've missed living close to family. I've missed my friends. I've missed familiarity. And I hate transition. And let's face it - I've been transitioning since I came back to the States 2 years ago because it seems every six months, something else happens.

But this weekend was confirmation that it was all worth it.

I still miss those things and those people. But there's a new peace inside that has given me hope to know that this is where I was supposed to end up. All of the tears, all of the "why God why's" and let's not forget all of those moves, were worth it.

I know there's still a lot of hardship ahead because this is life and life isn't supposed to be easy or fair.

But in that moment on Saturday night, the joy that filled my heart was something I haven't felt in a long time.

Monday, October 17, 2016

I Miss Home

I miss fall.
I miss pumpkin festivals.
I miss students stopping by my house for coffee.
I miss walking to my friends houses.
I miss long walks in the fields behind the school.

I've been thinking a lot about Kandern today. I saw Ashleigh's blog post and knew I had to finish this one. And last night, Hannah Jane posted a beautiful piece of art work that reminded me I'm just in the middle of transition once again.

I know things are different in Kandern now. Students have graduated. Kids who were in middle school when I started are about to finish their last year. And I often feel that I'm forgotten now. I've done so much since I left in just a year and so months. I've had 3 different jobs and I've moved 3 times.

So many things changed. 

I am blessed by Hannah Jane. I am blessed by Ashleigh. I am blessed by Ellie. By Lizzie. By Megan. By Carl. By Joey. By Abby. By Anna. By Anna Summer. By Audrey. By Emmalee. By countless other students who changed my heart for the better in the time I got to be their teacher. 

But I miss home. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Importance of Community

This weekend my friend Brittanie from GCTS came into town with her family. I hadn't seen her since I left MA in 2012 so we had a lot of catching up to do. At dinner on Saturday evening, she said something that really resonated with me. She said she missed the community at GCTS and asked me if the community at BFA was anything like that.

It sort of struck me that that was what had been missing in my life for almost two years. While in MA, I lived on campus while I was at grad school and had a plethora of friends who lived down the hall or around the corner. When I moved to Germany, my friends were within walking distance of my apartment. So for a total of four years, I was never without a community of friends within walking distance.

Last year when I moved to Jacksonville, I tried desperately to find that same type of community that I'd grown so used to, but in a big city, it's hard for that to happen. I know it will never be like it was at GCTS and especially in Kandern. As I'm trying to find my way around South Florida again, I am yearning to find that group, that community, who will fill this void I've felt since I moved back. And I know it takes time to transition somewhere, but I can't help but yearn somewhat for the days when some of my dearest friends lived across the street from me.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Random Musings about Europe and Travel

Sitting in Brie's living room and listening to a British solo artist while sipping on coffee. It's a lazy day and my last full day in Europe (unless you count traveling tomorrow which I don't). I've been to Berlin before, so I don't feel that I'm missing out on many of the touristy spots.

Plenty of people have asked me before what it is that I like about being in Europe. It takes me a while to think about "what" b/c I have so many things I love about being over here. For one thing, I don't mind the smell of smoke. I know it's killing us all slowly. But there's something comforting about smelling cigarette smoke and feeling at home. I know this is super odd. And in America it's completely different. But I digress.

It makes me sad that Europe is now seen as "unsafe." I feel like the world in general is unsafe. But we can't live in fear. We can't let this hold us back. Those of us who love travel, we must continue to travel and see the world.

I'm excited to see my family and I'm excited for what is ahead with my new job, but there is a big part of my heart left on this continent and there always will be. I will never be done with Europe or seeing the world.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

European. Traveling.

For the last 13 days, I've been traveling Europe. The first 10 days, I was with a group from OHS. We landed in Ireland and from there went on to Wales, London, and Paris. For someone who has lived overseas three times, it was funny to hear these following statements:

"I miss ice in my drink!" (I never missed ice. In face, I can easily drink a glass of water without ice)
"I miss air conditioning!" (Yeah, me too. But you get used to it. Or maybe I have. Or perhaps I'm just remembering that one sweltering summer in Kandern where we traveled to the Alps to cool off)
"I miss real ketchup!" (I guess the ketchup over here is a bit sweet. To me, it tasted delightful)

The things that were a constant missing need for the students were things I didn't think twice about. Sure, it was hot. Sure, the drinks could be lukewarm. But for me, it made me feel right at home.

I landed in Krakow on Thursday and have been going nonstop since then. My first day in town, I grabbed dinner at a lovely little hole in the wall spot that was filled with locals eating delicious Polish cuisine. I walked around the crowded town square (World Youth Day is also in town) and then headed back to my apartment for an early night.

On Friday, I went to the former Jewish ghetto to tour the Schindler Factory. The display from the inside is something to see. It's a whole exhibition on Jewish life and culture in Krakow pre and post-war. The tour took about 2 hours and when I was finished, it had started to drizzle outside. The streets were a mass of people and walking back towards town, all I could think about was getting coffee and some lunch as it was well after four by then.

I stumbled across this pub just after the Old Town and indulged in a coffee, steak tar tar, and pierogis. For someone who normally enjoys being around people, I have savored these meals that are just me and myself.

Yesterday was probably the most stressful part of this time in Krakow. I wanted to be up bright and early b/c I knew Auschwitz would be super busy due to World Youth Day. It took me an hour to get to the train station b/c of so many people in the streets. By the time I got there, the earliest train I could get was at 10:26, which meant I had a good two hours to spare.  I ended up getting a coffee and taking advantage of free wifi while I waited.

The train journey took exactly two hours. I walked as fast as I could to Auschwitz and was met with a line that was forever long. But since this is the main reason I even came to Krakow in the first place, I got in the back of the line and waited. Standing in front of me, were two people and I heard them speaking English so I asked them how long they had waited. We ended up talking for the rest of the line (a total of an hour and some minutes) and then were put in the same tour group. Simon and Isobel. What gems!

I can't even begin to describe Auschwitz. I had been reading about Auschwitz for as long as I can remember. I've watched documentaries, read personal accounts, and follow their updates on social media. But I was here. I was looking at that famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign that you always see in the pictures. I've been to Dachau, but there was nothing that could have prepared me for Auschwitz.

I think the most sobering experience was seeing the pots and kettles that people brought with them. Our guide reiterated to us over and over again that these people had no idea they were stepping into death. They simply thought they were being relocated in the East. So they brought everything with them, including their dishes. Something else that was tragic was seeing the faces of these prisoners who died mere weeks or months upon entering Auschwitz. I took a picture of four women, one of which was just 18 when she died. I know that there were younger victims, but seeing her face and putting faces and names in for these prisoners was humbling.

Some of you might know that Auschwitz is broken up in two parts - Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz II which is Birkenau. We took a bus over to the other camp and it made me gasp at the sheer size of it. It was huge. You always hear that it was huge, but until you see it......wow. I tried to put myself in their place. I tried to imagine being taken away from my family. I cringed to think that little children were separated from their mothers without ever being able to tell them goodbye. I can't imagine being hauled off to an unknown place, told you were taking a shower, and then suffocating to death.

It's incomprehensible and one of those sites that you really can't describe unless you go. So. I'll leave it at that.

This morning, I woke up and was beyond exhausted. My feet hurt, my back hurt, everything hurt! This was another reason I was glad to be by myself. There was no rush. In fact, I went out and grabbed a coffee from the grocery across the street, then came back and read and piddled around before going out for lunch (I found salad praise the baby!).

I'm still pretty worn out and since I'm here for yet another week, I've decided to take it easy and not really venture out until later this evening. Not to mention, once I get back to the States, I won't have any time to relax as I start work on the 8th!

This trip has been wonderful. I forgot how much I love traveling alone. It gives you a sense of who you are, it makes you appreciate the small things, and it shows you that you can do more than you think on your own.




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

There

Wow, twice in a month is rare for me to blog. But I had some extra time on my hands so I figured, why not?

In less than a month, I'll be one of three leaders on a trip to Europe. We're going to Ireland, Wales, England, and France for a total of eleven days. If that wasn't already awesome enough, I decided to extend my trip by 9 days and visit Kraków, Poland for 5 and see Brie in Berlin for 4.

Because of the math test looming over my head, it's been hard for me to get excited about anything. But sometimes, when I allow myself to think and ponder, I get almost giddy inside thinking of being in Europe for three weeks. I think that as excited as I am about traveling with some of my kiddos and friends, is getting to explore Kraków.  I've even made a Pinterest board about places I want to go and see.

A lot of people have been like, "Poland? Really?" Yeah, I know. Most people if given the chance would probably pick a more exotic location like Capri or Malaga, but I've always been fascinated with this country, particularly the city that holds so much of the history of the Holocaust and World War II. And I'm also excited to explore by myself and rediscover the nomad within.

Some of you know that I have a goal of 40 countries by the time I turn 40. That leaves me a little less than 2 1/2 years (oh. my. gosh.) to get to 9 more countries. Here's what's on my list:

-Iceland
-Sweden
-Finland
-Estonia
-Latvia
-Russia
-China
-S. Korea
-Australia
-New Zealand
-Brazil
-Argentina
-Chile

There's definitely more I could list, but these countries are the top places I would like to hit before my 40th. Or at least have 9 of them knocked out.

Any travel buddies to accompany me?