Friday, October 19, 2012

Home Is Where Your Heart Is.

Well guys, I'm officially the worst blog-keeper-upper ever. One of these days I'll post about Barcelona, Belgium, and Berlin. But for now, I just wanted to reflect for a minute on coming home. PS, does this photo look familiar? 

About the middle of July I started feeling the burn. A figurative burn of course, because it was 50 degrees and raining in Aachen. I was homesick, bad. And I was confused, because aren't you supposed to be homesick when you get there and get it all over with and cross it off your list? Not this girl. In Germany, exams go a little bit differently then they do here. You have your typical last day of school (on July 1st may I add...) and then instead of squeezing all of your exams into one big FINALS WEEK, for some reason they decided to stretch finals into three weeks. So July for me was the most unproductive, un-exciting, un-warm, unproductive Allison ever. This was mostly because since all of my friends and I were taking different classes, we all had finals on different days. So between all of us, there wasn't really a day were we could do anything fun. This to me was rock bottom. I started feeling depressed, and by now the rain and grey days were taking their toll. I mean, come on, it's July and all my American friends were out at the lake, sunbathing, vacationing, and here I was stuck in a three-week exam period. The night that we celebrated the fourth of July it started raining, so we had to run to take cover under some trees. Give me a break weather, seriously. 

Here's a picture of our awesome "American Dinner" that I cooked for everyone (complete with Nachos, Sloppy Joes, Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, and Oreo truffles) to prove that we ate more things than just hamburgers. Everyone wore red, white, and blue just for me, it was so touching. 

I would be lying though, if I said I was only feeling down because I was homesick. I was in completely in denial about leaving my beautiful country, leaving that exciting and difficult language, and most of all leaving my international friends. It was different for them because they were all either staying in Europe to find internships, or going back to schools at least within a 10 hour central meeting point from each other. I knew that there was a great possibility and small certainty I would never see any of them ever again. There's always talk about reunions, and meeting up, and having an international vacation somewhere, but I count myself in the crowd of people who know about how busy life can get sometimes. I had spent the majority of 5 months with these people, and we knew each other surprisingly well. I think this was because we had each shown each other our vulnerabilities, and had so much in common living in a new place, using a different language. We had shared our cultures with each other, taught each other new words and phrases, and traveled together. 

Needless to say, it was the most bittersweet feeling coming home. My Czech friend Kristýna helped me take all my bags to the airport in Köln, and I'm proud to say I didn't cry until she waved me "Auf Wiedersehen," which is goodbye in German, but literally means, "Until I see you again."

It was a long journey back home, and I didn't think I was going to catch my Paris connection. After sprinting through Charles de Gaulle, I finally relaxed on the 737 that was taking me home. 

I had a short flight connecting Atlanta to St. Louis, and my wonderful boyfriend  picked me up there. My parents never knew I had changed the date of my return flight to be a week sooner. They were planning to pick me up the next week and hadn't thought any more about it. 

The first thing I noticed when I got back was that I kept expecting to flinch when I walked outside because of the cold, but it turned out I could go outside and it felt wonderful!! The second thing I did that was weird was that when people bumped into me, I wouldn't say anything at all or I would start to say, "entschuldigung" (excuse me). I got used to this in Germany because sometimes it was easier to not say anything than to get myself in a conversation. I kept forgetting that people in the stores here spoke English! 

Well, when we finally got back to my hometown, I knocked on the front door of my parents' house. I could hear my dad on the phone downstairs, so I waited, while I heard my mom coming down the steps to open the door. She flung it wide open and just sort of stopped and stared for about 5 seconds like she didn't know who I was. Then she just started shrieking. .... AHHH AHHH AHHHH AHHHHH!!!! Dad in the meantime is trying to explain to whoever is on the phone why his wife has just started yelling uncontrollably like a banshee (he didn't see me yet either). So finally she let me through the door and I got to hug everyone, dogs, sister, dad. It was probably the best surprise I have ever pulled off in my entire life, they were so excited. 

 Since then, I feel like life has done three somersaults on me and catapulted out of the starting blocks so fast, I've been sprinting just to avoid being lapped. I think about Germany every day, I talk to myself in German when I'm home alone, I've started to try and write letters to my friends (we have a Facebook communal thread which makes things a lot easier), and I've begun printing photos out to hang on my walls. It seems so unreal when I'm safe in my bed in Springfield to think that just a couple months ago I was snorkeling in the Mediterranean near Barcelona, or playing card games using three international decks. 

At the same time, I know I've come to appreciate my country more, my culture, my heritage, my friends and family, and just to appreciate how LUCKY I am. I am so blessed. I feel like I'm writing the last chapter of this part of my life and it breaks my heart. I don't want to let go, I don't want closure. I don't want to forget. I don't want time to erase. I want to continue to wake up every morning wishing myself Guten Morgen. Even though in the grand scheme of things 5 months is just the blink of an eye, I know I have forever left a piece of my heart in Aachen, Deutschland. I know I will always consider it "home." And I know most of all, that one day I will go back to visit that piece of my heart, because after all, I only said "Auf Widersehen."