Friday, July 30, 2010

Back In Germany

Everything is an adventure, right? I had great thoughts about being able to quickly hop onto my blog Thursday evening and type a simple and encouraging note that read, "Made it back to Germany with no problems" then head off to bed and wake up without feeling the jetleg. Well...that didn't happen, but that is certainly okay by me.
I am in Germany now. I, and all of my luggage did make it here. It just took close to seven hours longer than it was supposed to. A normal travel time from doorstep to doorstep of 15 hours eventually took just over 22 hours.
My flight from Boston to New York City was quick, easy, smooth and comfortable. Howewver once I landed in NYC things started going downhill. My flight from NYC to Zurich was supposed to depart at 10.05pm, giving me a two hour layover in the JFK airport. However as that 10.05 time approached the aircraft we were scheduled to take was slow in getting to JFK, so 10.05 soon became 10.30, then 11.00 and eventually 12.15. A short two hour layover soon became a four hour layover. I knew we were going to get "dinner" on the plane so being the cheap guy that I am, I didn't initially buy any food in the airport because I knew I was going to eat on the plane. However when we continually got delayed I realized I would need something sooner than when the airline was going to offer food. Just my luck, at that time all of the restaurants and shops were starting to close, leaving my stomach empty.
I think it was finally around 12.30 when we started boarding the plane, and everyone (the airline included) was hoping to make a speedy take off and make up for lost time. Somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour into our flight I started watching an episode of NCIS on my computer to help pass the time. As I am watching I heard some screams that sounded awfully real, but poorly timed with my show. After another scream, and some turned heads around me, and I realized the screams were on the plane, not on the show. A few rows back a woman was screaming as her husband was suffering a heart attack. The captains decided to turn the plane around and make an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine. As we touched down an emergency crew met us, and ushered the man off the plane. It appeared as though the man was in good condition, with all things considered.
While on the runway in Bangor, the captain realized there were some mechanical problems with the plane. I took a look at my watch, close to 3.00am. I had been traveling for twelve hours and had gotten as far as Maine, maybe a few hours from where I started!!

Finally around 5.00am we were able to take off, and begin (again) our flight to Zurich. From here on out everything went according to plan, and I made it safely back to BFA...allbeit between six and seven hours later than expected.

A side note, and an entertaining part of the story. To pass time while in the airport I was texting back and forth with different people. Yet as my flight got delayed I saw my friends on the east coast start to text something along the lines of, "going to bed have a good flight. let me know when you are there." So then I flipped through my phone looking for people on the west coast, knowing they would be up a few more hours! Unfortunately, even some of them were going to bed as I was still sitting on the runway in Bangor, Maine.

Made it back to Germany safe and sound. A few glitches along the way, but this is an adventure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Family

Many times I put up posts bragging about my students at BFA. I thoroughly enjoy doing that and love being able to spend time with the students. However for today I want to stop and brag about my family. I head back to Germany in less than a week, after having spent about a month in the States. For the majority of that time I have been in New Hampshire with my family. It has been a time of laughter, fun, good conversations, and relaxation.

My mom and I have spent a lot of time together so far, which is awesome. With her spending so many years as a teacher, I feel as though we are peers and co-workers in ministry. Obviously different settings, but we do what we do for the same reasons. This summer has provided us with the unique opportunity to travel together, which was quite the adventure. Together our unique sense of humor, and ability to make ourselves laugh made some rather unfavorable situations, entertaining and memorable.


The most precious girl in the world. This summer, perhaps more than ever, Whitney has made me laugh. Her stories about work, Duncan, or who knows what, are more often than not pointless, yet they leave you laughing and stunned with entertainment. I have thoroughly enjoyed going out to breakfast with Whit from time to time, and always feel like a celebrity when I visit her at work. Every co-worker of Whitney's as well as every customer is told, "that's my brother, isn't he so cute?"


Speaking of cute, I had to put up this picture of my dad and his "little buddy." Summers with dad would not be complete without a few rounds of golf. Being on the course gets us outside, provides exercise, headaches, frustration, but most of all fellowship and time together. I like to consider myself his good luck charm while we are on the golf course, as he always seems to play better when I am around. Perhaps it is my fluid, smooth swing that provides him something to imitate, but most likely it is my nack for looking the other way when a foot wedge is used to provide the perfect lie.


Unfortunately I was unable to see Philip over the summer. So this picture is actually a few years old, but is probably my favorite picture of the two of us. Despite our geographical distance Philip has continued to be my older brother and provide me with advice (finances, technology, running) and a slap in the head (when I chose to cheer for England over the USA) when I needed it. It is never fun when you realize twelve months (or more) will pass between visits. But it is the reality of life.

With my summer coming to a rapid end I want to thank my family for the love, support and encouragement they constantly and consistently provide me with.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Culture Shock

As was the case last summer, traveling back to the States after spending significant time in Germany has left me feeling a bit out of my element. Culture shock seems to be a term that is thrown around, but never fully understood. At least that is my impression of it. For me, I have been in and out of different cultures periodically for the past two years, and have found a unique way to seemingly adapt without giving it much thought. However, returning to the place I grew up has brought new challenges. In so many ways I know that the American culture has not changed, but I have. There have been too many instances and occasions where I find myself whispering to myself, “I don’t feel like I fit in here anymore.” That has been a weird and daunting conclusion to come to.
Honestly it can be quite comical, as I hope to show you. It can also be quite stressful, and unnerving. But for better or for worse the multi-cultural life has left an imprint on me. Below I have highlighted some of the differences I personally have noticed between my German culture, and my American culture.
With this post it is my hope you can share in a laugh with me, and also gain some insight and education into my world.

Transportation
I know I shared this story at some point last summer, but it is priceless. I remember being in the States over the summer and legitimately being confused and in a bit of a tizzy when I was driving to the grocery store, when all of a sudden another car started driving next to me, going the same direction. I was baffled and thought I was doing something wrong. In Germany I am immersed in a community made up of small villages composed of one lane roads. Stop signs and street lights are few and far between In fact, I can only think of two working stop lights in my “normal“ driving radius. Roads are not simply for automobiles all shapes, sizes, and speeds are welcome on the roads. Cyclists, tractors, mopeds, trucks, smart cars, all travel the same road.
Above all, one of the most bizarre things to get accustomed to has been the size of cars in Europe. For example: when you see a Smart Car on the road in the States it catches your attention because of its size. SUVs blaze by almost making it appear to be a remote control car. Oddly enough, Smart Cars do not stand out in Germany, simply because most of the cars are relatively the same size, or slightly bigger.
I thoroughly enjoy driving, and driving in Germany has definitely been quite the experience. When all is said and done, I know the driving culture is in fact a bit different.

Language
Yes, this is an obvious one I know. But just the other week I found myself surprised in an American grocery store and realized how shocked I was. While in the grocery store I think I finally realized that I am indeed accustomed to living in a country of foreign language.
Even while in Germany, I predominantly speak English. Everything associated with the school is in English. So you might be thinking, “how does this differ from the Sates?“ However, take one step into the community and everything changes. While walking in the Germany grocery stores, in the airports, or in a foreign city it is common to walk around having no concept of what others are saying. Street signs, newspapers, radio stations, etc. are all in German. Therefore, when I vaguely hear English my ears perk up, I get excited, and I start to listen to what is being said.
When I was in the local grocery store and heard English being spoken behind me, without a second of hesitation I found myself getting excited as I turned around and asked myself, “I wonder who is here that speaks English?” Only to later remind myself that I am in an English speaking country, leaving me feel as if I don’t necessarily fit in anymore.

Fashion
Perhaps this is my favorite one to comment about. It is hard to describe but there is something very unique and very distinct about the European style of dress. In all honesty, I have found myself thoroughly enjoying the European fashion and probably hold as many “European clothes” as I do “American clothes” (having the fire in my room last year and needing to replace clothes helped speed this process along.)
One of the more entertaining things to do while in Europe is to attempt to dress “euro” and go out into the community with the mindset of trying to blend in. I have told a few people, “I can make people believe I am European by the way I dress, but as soon as they ask me a question in German and they hear my pathetically spoken reply, they are no longer fooled.”

Observing and learning about the different cultures I have found myself in has been fascinating, interesting, stressful, frustrating and unforgettable all at the same time. It is interesting how I feel as though I now have a better understanding and perception of the American culture after having been so far removed for a few years. Yet, despite how discouraging and difficult it may be, one must always remember to laugh along the way. Which is something I have tried to do while trying to fit into a foreign culture, whether that be the German culture, or the American culture.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

To Pennsylvania and Back

This past weekend I was blessed to have had the ability and time to drive out to Pennsylvania to see some close friends. It was wonderful. The entire trip took five days, two of which for the most part were spent driving. But it was well worth it in order to see friends I had not seen in a while. At least 12 months had passed since I last saw everyone, and for some the time apart spanned over 24 months. Yet I was highly encouraged as the time, distance, and differences did not seem to hinder the fellowship we shared.
I joked to one friend on Sunday that the night before I showed up at a house around 6pm, went to bed around 12pm, and there proved to be no more than 15 seconds of silence in those six hours. With a different friend I couldn't help but laugh as I tried to hide his phone and he chirped at me, "I haven't seen you for two years, but you are still playing the same jokes on me!" Unfortunately due to our schedules I was not able to spend a ton of time with everyone. For some, all I was able to manage was a brief lunch, or an afternoon siesta. One friend and I were headed in two different directions but managed to find a 90 minute block of time where we could meet in Grove City prior to going our separate ways. We ended up spending the majority of that time running, but a comment he made in some ways summed up my trip...
He was verbalizing a conversation he anticipated where someone asked him, "So how was your time with Tommy?" His response would be, "It was great. We connected. We shared. We got caught up." The first person then stated, "well, didn't you go for a run, how was that possible? What did you talk about while running?" To which he responded, "We didn't say much at all actually. Just running together again, being side-by-side, was enough to bring our worlds together and connect us once again."

My time with my friends was short, but no matter how little time we had, we were together. I was grateful for the opportunity to see my friends at work, see their living arrangements and even their pets! We reminisced about the past, shared about the present, and discussed visions of the future.
I am thankful for the friends that have played a significant role in my life. It is extremely difficult for me to go long periods of time without seeing them, without talking with them, and without being with them. But I am thankful for the moments we shared together.
For those I was able to see, THANK YOU. For those friends I was unable to see, I guess you'll just have to come over to Germany now!