Germany


One day after returning from Egypt, I took a train to the beautiful city of Prague with Matt. We spent several days there, visiting synagogues, cathedrals, and castles and buying painted eggs from the Easter markets. We also went to a classical music concert (you kind of have to, if you go to Prague…)

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(The famous astronomical clock)

The language was frustrating, as well as the transportation systems, but people were nice and most could speak at least a little German or English. The only problem with our trip is that, on the way back, Matt forgot that our train would be separating in Dresden. He went to go read in another compartment so that I could sleep, and realized too late that my part of the train was heading back to Bremen and his was not. He had his shoes and passport, but nothing else, which meant that I had to get all of his luggage back home, as well as help to arrange for a new ticket back. Oh well.

After two straight months of traveling (I visited 7 different countries!) I was exhausted, but had to get ready for the start of the university’s summer semester. I had four new classes, most of which were interesting. The weather turned gorgeous and hot. Katie and I hosted a massive picnic for Easter, which ended with a bike ride to go wading in the Unisee (a lake). I also spent a lot of time at the Weser River and ice cream parlours with my friends–both from Dickinson and Germany. There were lilacs and fluffy ducklings everywhere. Everybody was always in a good mood.
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A big part of my springtime was our local football (soccer) team, Werder Bremen. I had kind of forgotten about them after Jens took us to see our first game, but found a renewed interest in April. I saw nearly every game with my friends on a big screen in a bar, and Katie and I actually bought tickets off of eBay to go to a live game in the Weser Stadion. That was wicked cool. We wore jerseys and scarves and celebrated with thousands of die-hard Werder fans when our team won 3-2. I used to think soccer was boring, but not anymore. It will be sad to return to the United States and not be able to watch Werder Bremen play every week.
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Undaunted by my trip to the ER, I continued with my travels by flying to Egypt three days later. Katie (my roommate) and I had been planning this trip for months and I was determined to go. We flew with Egypt Air from Berlin. I was pretty sure that the plane was going to crash upon take off; it wobbled and jerked and bobbed like crazy. It didn’t help that Katie is terribly scared of flying. But we made it to Cairo in four hours without any further problems. Two leaders from our tour group met us there, helped us get a visa, and drove us a luxurious hotel with expansive and beautiful gardens.
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It was hard to believe that I was in Egypt! Our tour started the next day with a journey to the pyramids of Giza. I’d wanted to visit Egypt for my entire life, and now I was seeing the famous pyramids and Sphinx…it was unbelievable. And unbelievably hot, too…and it was only March! We went down inside one of the pyramids (dark, even hotter, no air, difficult and steep climb down broken wooden planks) and then rode camels. I guzzled water. Here’s a picture of me, looking like a super-tourist:
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We did so much in the week we were there–after Cairo, we took an overnight train (which was absolutely disgusting and jolty and cold, but worth the experience) down to Luxor, where we saw the vast Luxor and Karnak temples and more pyramids and lots of ancient tombs in the Valleys of Kings and Queens. Everything was incredible. We got up before dawn one morning to take a hot air balloon ride (my first!) as the sun rose, then landed in a farmers’ sugar cane field, which did not make the locals happy.
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We rode (and I got to steer) a felucca down the Nile, shopped in the massive markets of Cairo, bargained with the natives, ate fresh falafel and drank Egyptian beer, saw the famous sarcophagi and masks of Tutankhamun, lots of mummies, and made some friends with the people on our tour group. What was even better was that both Katie and I had studied Arabic at Dickinson (thanks, Professor Blosser!) and could interact with the country and the people in a way that most of the other hordes of tourists could not. It was hard to leave, but when I returned to Germany, I realized how fortunate I am. I’ve never seen poverty like I did in Egypt.
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Unfortunately, life during the long break wasn’t all fun and easy…three days after returning from Ireland, I became really ill at about 2:00 AM. And by ill, I mean I was in the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move…I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Drew called Jens, who said that we should call a taxi, not an ambulance, because in Germany the ambulances only arrive quickly if someone is bleeding to death or having a heart attack. The taxi was faster. After dragging me outside and into the car, I lied in the back seat, shaking and clutching a plastic bag in case I threw up. I thought it was quite considerate of me. The taxi driver was a big jerk.
“Has she already thrown up?” he asked. “Is she going to?”
And then, after Drew told him to just take us to the hospital and not ask dumb questions, the driver felt the need to comment: “You should have called an ambulance, not me.”

Thanks. Very helpful and kind from a man who was about to earn 20 euros from us. And he took us to the wrong hospital building. Luckily, a nurse quickly got me into a wheelchair and brought me to the emergency room, which was only 50 meters away. It was a good thing that Drew was there, because I pretty much lost my ability to speak any German in the haze of pain and fear. They pumped me up with drugs and did some tests to find that something was wrong with my gallbladder, but nothing so serious that I couldn’t go home after a few hours. I would have to get surgery later. At about 4:30 in the morning, Jens showed up to drive us back.

The experience was quite scary but also very interesting. Unlike a trip to an American ER, everything progressed really smoothly. They simply took me in, asked for my German insurance card, and took care of me. No endless paperwork or filing on the computer or need for identification. No co-pays or billing. The German healthcare system is effective and good.

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