“Is this real life?”
We asked ourselves this question several times while meandering through vineyards and quaint German villages with colorful flowers in full bloom on our way to the Hambacher Schloss (Hambach Castle). It just seemed too picturesque and fairy-tale like to be real.
This past weekend two other JYMers and I traveled (in a car on the Autobahn!) with our director to Edenkoben, a small town in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) to meet Gerhard Falkner, a German author and poet. As part of the JYM program, I am translating the beginning of his novella, Bruno, into English, and Erin is translating one of his poems. Not exactly an easy task, but I do enjoy it. Needless to say, the weekend was filled with literature readings, philosophical ponderings, and cultural excursions. It was a bit nerve-wracking to read part of my translation aloud to the original author, but Gerhard and his wife were very encouraging and talking about his works (and the difficulties of translation) was very helpful. And from buying honey from a small bee farm, to seeing a fire eater perform during a Middle Ages festival in the village, and eating my first Bratwurstsemmel (roll with a bratwurst), this weekend reminded me of how cool German history and culture is and how lucky I am to be here.
Even though I’ve been here two and a half months, sometimes I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that I am actually in Germany. In one sense, it’s a simple concept—there are a lot of countries in the world; people travel between them, and that’s what I did. On the other hand, taking classes in a country on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean with a different language and a different culture from what I’m used to isn’t something that I personally have done before (obviously), and it’s kind of surreal.
It’s not that I haven’t settled in and gotten used to life in Munich. I know my way around a good chunk of the city; I understand the U-Bahn and S-Bahn system; I know how to navigate the different stores to find what I need, and it’s weird when I hear people (who are not other JYMers) speaking English around me because I’m so used to hearing German. But there is something about being here that feels like I’m still in a dream.
Maybe it’s a good thing that I still find seeing the Alps from my balcony magical. As well as walking downtown on a warm spring evening to get gelato, buying a delicious soft pretzel for lunch from a local cafe, running through the English Garden in the crisp mornings, or driving through the rolling German countryside. Before I left people told me that Munich was pretty and that I would fall in love with the city, but I didn’t understand how a city could actually be pretty. But with clean streets, lots of trees and flowers, colorful buildings, fountains and cool architecture, Munich is a pretty pleasant place to live.
Clearly, I’m still learning that life defies expectations and figuring out what it means to “be present in the current moment while still being responsible for the future.” I don’t know if life will bring me back to this lovely city, but what I do know is that I’m here for another five weeks and a few days. I’m taking each moment as it comes, or trying to at least. Each night, I find I am surprised by the day’s events and take a minute (or two) to ponder what I am learning through these experiences. Which could possibly be that I still have so much more to learn.
“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”–Albert Einstein