Uhm… Bye?

It’s 10:38pm US Central Time. I’m leaving tomorrow. Cue weird emotions about moving abroad for two years!

I’ve worked most of the summer (and Target and Ross were awesome!) but I finally became unemployed once again, which is very strange for me as a workaholic. Since I stopped working I’ve been doing a lot of preparatory chores like going to the bank, cleaning out my room so that my aunt can use it to study while I’m gone, and getting more contact lenses for the next year.

Aside from the chores, I’ve also been trying to have some fun. This past weekend I went to Springfield, Missouri to visit some friends. I went to Cider Days, which is an apple cider festival with music, crafts, and such. I enjoyed that quite a lot, especially the Fruit Loops scented candle from Shelly’s Smellies. This candle really is hilarious.

In the evening, I went to the Missouri Food Truck Festival. Once again, there was live music and such, except in lieu of crafts and cider, there were food trucks. I ordered a wonderfully delicious Chicken Tikka Masala Pasty from London Calling. They also have a shop in town that is open Monday-Sunday. Definitely worth stopping by!

Apart from that, we went to a really nice bar. No idea what it was called, but I enjoyed it. I caught up with quite a few people I haven’t seen since high school, so it was somewhat weird, but also very cool.

After I got back from Springfield I had dinner with my sisters who were super ecstatic about their band contest this past weekend. Monday was more relaxed, mostly consisting of errands. Tuesday I had some great food and company at El Caporal in Camdenton, where I went to high school. Their food makes me so happy. Along with Pepperoni Bill’s Pizzeria on the square. I’ve known him since before he opened up shop, and he’s a great guy with a knack for making delicious pizzas!

Wednesday we planned a family photo. You know, because I’m leaving a long time and people might die. I’m not kidding; my grandma has told me too many times that she thinks she’s going to die. But she’s been saying this since before I was born, so you take it with a grain of salt.

Yesterday, my sisters and mom came over so we could do light photos by the lake. They look this this:

SistersUSALight

Today I wrapped everything up, finished packing, watched my sisters perform one more band show and awkwardly said goodbye to people.

It was kind of weird, talking to a good friend and hearing him say, “You’ll have a whole new life next week.” I will, but I guess it’s not so different from that time I moved halfway across the country to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley for four years. Except this time I won’t come home on breaks, and I won’t speak the language, and I have never even visited the school, let alone the country I’ll be in.

I’ll keep you all updated, but I may not be posting much for a while until I settle in to my new home and manage to get the wifi working in hopefully another week. Love you all, and depending on where you live, I may see you in two years, and I may see you in two days. So… Bye, USA?

Cheers!

Emotions and the Number Twenty

Twenty, the calendar says. Just twenty.
How? It used to be so many?

I keep thinking about how badly I want to go. I want to get started with my new life abroad. I want to get lost by the beautiful Bodensee. I want to twist my tongue around another new language. I have come so far, and now there are so few days. It is exciting.

I daydream about my new life. New life, next step in life? I don’t know. I feel like nearly everything will change once that magic number of twenty becomes zero. No, when it becomes negative one, because I have an overnight flight.

And thus, my life reverts back to numbers. Twenty days, day negative one is the big change, two years as an expat, and some finite variable of days left on this planet. Ever since I remember, numbers have been an important part of my life. Countdowns, figuring out how the numerical representation of important days are related, weighing how important numbers attached to different life events are….

So then, what is the weight of the number twenty? I have so little time left at “home,” this little piece of Missouri I’ve visited since a child, and now use as my permanent address. The walls may crumble further before I return. My family members may experience success that I cannot celebrate with them.

But also, some other cherished people may pass away. These twenty may be our last. It may be the last that everything is as it was. It may be the last that I see friends as we drift apart. It may be the last my favorite places exist, as development moves in.

Twenty, the calendar says. Just twenty.
It feels so empty.

But then, there are some numbers that remind me why I am doing this. First, there is two, for the two little boys in Oaxaca, whose lives are so different but the miles between them are so few. Meeting these little boys, and their grandmothers, gives me purpose.

Then, there is four million, the number of Syrian refugees who have fled their country as a result of the civil war that began in 2011. It’s a big number, and it’s disheartening. When I think about numbers like this, I think, “Will anything I do with these Master’s studies actually impact any of those four million?” Maybe, just maybe, it could. That promise gives me purpose.

I can still remember the day that Steve Grande, one of my favorite people in the whole world, told us (Spencer Center student workers) the story about the starfish. A man walking on a beach, throwing star fish back into the ocean so they could live, was asked, “Why do you bother? It doesn’t matter. You cannot possibly save all the starfish that wash up on the beach. You are but one person.” As the man threw another starfish back into the ocean, he replied, “It mattered to that one.”

That brings me to the number one. It’s so amazing that it is the first positive integer, that it is the multiplicative identity, and the most elusive but common answer in my past math classes.  However, most importantly, it is a powerful number for humanity. Mathematics aside, it only takes one life changed for the better for everything to be worth it.

But one is also important for me. I am also one who needs to do this. Investing in my education is a great gift. Pursuing an amazing education is what makes me happy and is the one thing is life I have consistently wanted. Moving to Germany will be an enriching experience. Being at the heart of Europe where a migrant crisis is occurring, multiple economic crises are occurring, and the most developed nations on the planet are working through diplomatic negotiations and moral dilemmas… That’s priceless for my education.

Twenty, the calendar says. Just twenty.
I now realize, it’s plenty.

You see, a lot of bad things can happen while I’m gone. I can miss a lot. However, the truth is that we all knew I’d never stay in this town, and that I’d never stay in Missouri. A few weeks ago someone who has known me since I was in high school told me that I was meant for much bigger things than this little town, and everyone always knew it. I’m still not sure what to make of that, but her statement, coupled with the countless people who doubt I will return to the country makes me think, “Well, I must be doing something right, something I was meant for.”

I have things I need to achieve. Yeah, I don’t know exactly what, or how, but there are things I need to do in places that aren’t here. I can’t sit around here waiting for it to pop out of the rose bushes. I’ve got to get out there, sleep in unfamiliar places, travel on confusing trains, take terrifying classes, get cussed out in German and every other language for being a stupid American, and get lost again.

Twenty, the calendar says. Just twenty.

Cheers.

The Struggle: Learning Some Basic German

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’m going to be flying away to Germany for graduate school soon. While my classes will all be in English and my study mates should have a good grasp of English, I still want to learn German.

Although I began my short little life thinking that English is the best language and everyone in the world speaks it, I changed my mind in high school when I started my journey into Spanish. I hated it at first, and then I loved it as it came more easily to me.

When I got to college, I learned that my school offered Arabic. I already had the language bug, and of the many languages I have wanted to learn, Arabic is near the top of my list. After one semester of Arabic, the department was cut at my school. I stopped taking a language… until my second year of college when I started Spanish again.

So, my life story aside, I have formally studied two languages, and now want to start German. Though this seems daunting, it’s really not.

I discovered Duolingo about three years ago. This amazing program teaches you a language by combining different exercises all at once to strengthen written, listening, and speaking skills.

Duolingo offers several different languages for English speakers, with more being developed and released all the time. Of course, if you want to test yourself, you can try things like learning Portuguese using the French language. The really awesome thing about Duolingo is their mission: completely free language education available to anyone, anywhere with access to the internet.

There are different skill sets (Animals, Numbers, Prepositions, Future Perfect, etc.) with shorter lessons in them to make the information overload manageable. All of the different skills build a “tree” for each language that you want to learn. I completed the Spanish tree before going to Mexico, and it sure did help to brush up!

German is a new one for me, and I’ve been working on it for a little while now. However, after a nastily exhausting 77 hour work week, I stopped my steady progress. Now, three weeks later, I desperately need to pick it up again since I only have 25 more days until I leave for Germany! Duolingo will help me to learn some basic German, though it is by no means going to make me perfectly fluent or prepared for regional dialects. Here’s to hoping I can get by with basic self-taught German!

Cheers!

Dear Time…

Today is August 26. Do you know what this means?! It means that in exactly one month from today, on September 26, I will get on a plane and wave goodbye to the States.

ONE MONTH.

TMOneMonth

That’s not a lot of time. But let’s think about the bigger picture. It has been:

  • 353 days since I went to Northern Ireland,
  • 255 days since I got back from Northern Ireland (and had decided to apply for graduate schools abroad),
  • 102 days since I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree.

Now, to only have one month, 31 days, to go until I leave for Germany for two whole years… Wow.

Time, I feel like you’ve been moving so slow this summer, what with the three jobs and all. Since I’m now finishing up my jobs, does that mean you’ll fly by?

I have so much to do before I become an expat! I have to renew my driver’s license, fill out scholarship applications for the next school year, finish up all of the blogging that I want to do, read the precious books to which I have to say goodbye, drink the last of the wine and cider from Virginia and pack, plus all that other stuff on my mile-long to-do list.

Since I have all this stuff to do, I better get to it. I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes and, of course, the whole arriving in Germany thing!

Cheers!

Introducing Oaxaca

This summer I will backtrack a bit and write about my memories of studying in Oaxaca, México.

My story on the way to Oaxaca is an interesting one. In the spring of 2013 I decided that going abroad for May Term (an intensive short term that comes after the spring semester at Mary Baldwin College) would be my only chance to ever go abroad. It’s quite ironic considering my upcoming plans.

Anyway, I thought that this was my one and only chance, so I applied for scholarships in the fall of 2013 and crossed my fingers. In October, I received an tantilizing email that I was a finalist for the Melissa Mitchell Award. A few more days, and I found out that I had won the scholarship! Shortly after, I paid my deposit for the trip. That, my friends, is the moment that set me on my path to being a world traveller.

Over the spring semester I continued my Spanish courses with Dra. Patiño, who would later lead my trip. We had several sessions before leaving in which we talked about the places we would visit, the school we would attend, and the things we should pack.

I have to say, if there is anything I really learned with these predeparture sessions, it is that I need to pack carefully. In several ways, I should have packed better. Let me break it down for you into a few lists:

Top 3 Things I Packed Right:

  1. Spanish dictionary. This was incredibly useful for doing my homework in the evenings. While it never actually left the home of my host family, I used it a lot. I would recommend that anyone studying a language intensively take a language dictionary at least for homework purposes.
  2. Kindle Fire. I didn’t take my bulky laptop. Instead, I opted to just take my Kindle along for internet purposes, mostly to let people at home know I was still alive via Facebook. If you’re only traveling for a short period of time, don’t worry about a laptop. You won’t want to spend time in your room anyway!
  3. Side Bag. Bringing a small side bag to hold all of my important things as I walked across the city and went on day excursions was incredibly useful!

Top 3 Things I Failed to Pack:

  1. Motion sickness medicine. I hadn’t been motion sick for quite a while, and from what I could remember about flying, I thought I could handle it. Wrong. Flying for multiple hours at a time is much different from flying for just an hour. Not only that, but the turbulence going into Oaxaca was insane. If this isn’t enough to convince you, just think about the mountain roads you might drive for sight-seeing. Bring medication.
  2. A Towel. This seems like a weird one, but our host mom did not supply towels. Thankfully, my roommate had brought two and allowed me to borrow one until I purchased my own. When I went to Northern Ireland, I brought two and was quite glad that I did.
  3. A notebook. I did bring my journal to write down what I was doing each day, but I really needed a proper notebook for notes and homework during the day at the school. The first class I didn’t have anything and luckily the German next to me gave me a few sheets from his notebook. If you’re going to be taking classes, be prepared for the possibility that you may not have time to get a notebook before your first class, especially if said class is the day after you arrive.

Finally, with suitcases in hand, I waited at my dorm doors for the ride that would take the lot of us (six students and our professor) to Dulles International Airport. From there, we flew to La Ciudad de México (Mexico City), where we had our short layover (seems to me that airport delays are not as common in Mexico; we even had an early flight on the way home). In the next post I will pick up on our flight into Oaxaca.

Mountains in Mexico. taken from the plane.
Mountains in Mexico, taken from the plane.

Cheers!