Russia


Once again I apologize for my lengthy absence from blogging and e-mailing. At the end of my last entry, I mentioned how much I appreciated hearing from you all, as sometimes things get a little rough on this end. I had no idea, however, how rough they would get only a few days later.

Before I left home, I had already deduced that February and March would be the most difficult months of my travel. Smack dab in the middle of my trip and my least favorite time of year weather-wise (and generally overall), I had labeled these months as the “stagnation” in my whirlwind year abroad. I wasn’t disappointed in my expectations. Exhaustion and homesickness settled in for a considerable visit; I suppose even they wanted out of the cold.

It’s never good to write home when you’re in a bad mood, and it’s certainly not advisable to send mass e-mails or start blogging away about the bleakness of your current situation. Because then you have about 100 people worrying about you, instead of just your mom (although a mother’s worry is certainly large enough to encompass that of 1000 acquaintances). And who really wants to hear complaints like, “I’m so bored, there’s nothing to do here” when here references a beautiful, historic city filled with museums, theaters, and clubs? Or “I just don’t have any real friends” when my fellow Dickinsonians are more than willing to spend time talking and when my host mom at every opportunity is seeking to find things for me to do and people my age to hang out with? Or “Why can’t we just have normal pancakes?” when abnormal means absolutely scrumptious crepe-like pastries filled with thin apple slices and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar? Did you really want to hear such complaints? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

But the most important thing, is that things are looking up. As Cademon’s Call (my favorite musical group) so wisely points out, “Though I’m down in the valley, valleys fill first.” And the spring rains have finally begun to fall in Bremen. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see rain; it sure beats the cold. Daylight savings time has also begun and it was light past eight o’clock pm last night.

A few other things have perked my mood as well. Last weekend I flew down to Stuttgart to visit Dana, a friend of mine from high school. She was an exchange student to the States during my senior year and though we are both (on our good days) more than capable of speaking the other’s native language, we wound up using the one we’d always used. But being at the end of my rope as I was, I did not protest a weekend of English. We really had a great time. Between walking a dog at a local animal shelter, participating in the “Long Night of Museums” (when all museums are open from 7pm to 2am for one entrance fee), visiting Ludwigsberg (near-by town and home to one of the “Lustschlosses”), and—of course—shopping, we did quite our share of walking and were tired and sore by the time I left. Leaving in itself was another adventure for me. From her door to mine required 2 subways (one in Stuttgart, one in Hamburg), a streetcar, and airplane, a bus, a train, and a taxi. And people wonder why Americans love their cars so much. Anyway, here’s a few shots from the weekend.

Mountain Path (during our walk with the dog)

Lustschloss

Library lit up during the Long Night of Museums

Sleeping Butterfly. Wilhelma Tiergarten. Lange Nacht der Museen.

I’m also now actively singing in the choir at the church I’ve chosen to attend here. This past weekend was rehearsal weekend and I spent just under 10 hours preparing for our concert next month (entirely Bach). The music is growing on me, though my voice was not made for classical, I’ve decided. I prefer listening and singing along to my new Nichole Nordeman CD (thanks for the care package, Mom). But I think I need to cut down on the singing along part; I’m getting too many weird looks from the other people walking down the street.

Having a bike is also quite beneficial. I can take off any time I want and head to the river (5 minutes south), to the city park (7 minutes north), downtown (20 west), or to the university (25 northeast). Especially now that it’s getting warmer, I’ll be able to explore a bit more. Plus the exercise is really great, though thanks to the Junk Food Central care packages sent by the Newman Club and DCF, I doubt my pedaling will yield any real results. ;)

My 6 week long language course ends this week. It’s really been great meeting the other students, and the teachers have been great as well, but I’ll be more than happy to be finished. In the few weeks we have before university classes start, I will be traveling to Luebeck, Schwerin, and Berlin as well as hopefully seeing a lot more of what Bremen has to offer. It’s a crying shame that after being here for seven weeks or so, I have yet to make it to a single museum or theater. I have been to the movies (Munick, Walk the Line, Brokeback Mountain, and Sophie Scholl: die letzten Tage) and to one Disko, though I’m not sure that I’m so into the night scene (a big surprise to most of you, I’m sure). I’ve also been doing a bit of reading, most recently Joy Luck Club, A Farewell to Arms, and Pride and Prejudice. The only German I’ve ventured to read is an account of Lake Baikal (in Russia) and a story book. I really should get going on a novel or something.

As I’m starting to blabber I think I should end it here. But before I do, I again have to thank all of you for your support during the past month. I know I am way behind in e-mail writing, post card sending, and telephoning. Kudos especially to Newman Club, DCF, mom, dad, Mrs. Gibbens, Mrs. Spalding, and the Cross Connection team for the cards and packages. It’s like Freshman year all over again!!

I wish you all a blessed Easter season as well. Won’t be long before we can rejoice and sing A——-!

If things are looking gray, it helps to don some rose-colored glasses.

Some pictures from a short trip to Hamburg:

Hey, everyone!! Jen’s wonderful blog has changed locations. For all my new and exciting adventures, check out the following page. You can add this to your favorites, because that’s where the rest of my pictures and stories will be posted!

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/archive/index.php?cat=760

It’s amazing that between all the work and running around I’ve been doing, I’ve still had time to do a lot of thinking, feeling, and growing. And despite the feeling of independence I’ve had since coming here (after all, I found, paid for, and got to this program all on my own), no one grows all on their own. The people I’ve fallen in with here in Prague are some of the greatest, craziest, and sincerest people I know, in particular the five girls I live with (Jenn, I’m including you in our sisterhood). As I said earlier, most of the people in this program are at some type of crossroads in their lives. In the beginning, most of us figured, and openly admitted, that it would be a month of strange, forced friendships until we moved on. But maybe there’s something about humanity that doesn’t let us just go through the motions of friendship. The truth is, we’re all real people and we don’t want to be fake and pretentious with others—even if just for a month. Ok, there are people that do that for years at a time, but I think the vast majority of us are greatly annoyed by those select few.

What I’m saying is—I found myself an amazing group of friends that I’m really sad to be leaving. It wasn’t long before we started opening up to each other—family trouble, good friends left behind, upcoming life decisions—and then of course there’s the gossipy stuff too, shared at our girls’ night last weekend. I know it has a lot to do with our crazy circumstances coming here, but I feel I know some of these girls better (and have learned more from them) after one month than I have after spending years with some people back home. It’s funny. I used to be okay with people popping in and out of my life. I know that’s how it works and decided that it was better to just accept it. But it keeps getting harder to do. I know that if I come back to Prague in the next six months, it won’t be to see all the sights I missed while I was planning my lessons. It’ll be to check-up on the girls of the Pivovar Sisterhood (and the respective boys who might be visiting ;) ).

But learning isn’t complete when it only comes from your peers. Sometimes you really need someone who can say, “Been there, done that.” And for that, there’s Pete and Terry—our two awesome instructors who were never above joining us in the bar after class and talking about more than the future perfect continuous and defining relative clauses. These guys have seen the world, or at least a lot more of it than I have. Before I got too jealous, I realized it was better just to be inspired. Watching the amount of time and energy Terry pours into his work, but seeing that he’s rarely grouchy or bothered by our stupid questions that we could probably figure out on our own (ok, that was probably just my stupid questions) was truly amazing. And I’m not saying this to mean he’s a great teacher, which he definitely is, but rather that he’s a good person. The words sound so trite, but I don’t really know how else to put it. He’s one of those people you want to be around because his sincerity makes you feel respected and encouraged. And, of course I loved him because he’s a linguistic nerd like me. :)

So my first entirely independent venture wound up being, perhaps, not so independent. But we’ve known since day 1 (or—at the latest—day 6) that man wasn’t meant to be alone. And who would pass up great friends for solitude anyway?

But all of that’s not to say that I would rather settle down here in Prague than fly on to Germany, or to say that I don’t miss home. Homesickness finally hit me, probably about the same time that the clouds appeared in Prague. I really do miss my family and friends and church. New relationships never replace the old—something that the members of our Sisterhood know very well. We all have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, girlfriends, boyfriends, and even ex-boyfriends that we miss like crazy. And then there are the little things too. Personally, I miss driving on summer nights with the windows down, wind blowing my hair and music blaring (whoops…I mean, playing at a reasonable level). I miss singing in front of people. I miss having free nights and weekends on my cell phone, and no roaming charges. I actually do miss America and not just the people who live there. And as I walk the land where Mihoks probably walked just over a hundred years ago, I’ve gained a new appreciation for my great-grandparents who took that boat ride at the turn of the last century. They left everything and came with next-to-nothing to a country they’d never seen before—not just for a visit, but to live. I’m sure they came to make a better life for themselves, for their children, and for their children’s children. But did they know they were doing it so that their children’s children’s child could come back to the Old World? Would they think I’m crazy for returning to the land they left, or are they grateful that their history hasn’t been forgotten? I’d like to think the latter, though I know I’m plenty crazy.

Well, this brings me to the end of my adventures for the past five or six weeks. For the few of you still reading, thanks and God bless! I miss and love you all. I’ll leave you with some shots of the Sisterhood.

Jess

Katie & Jenn

Lisa & Vanessa

Guess who? heh

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