I've been in the Midwest all of my life. However, I've also had some really incredible experiences that have profoundly shaped who I am as a person. I have been blessed with four overly verbal children, can you say KARMA? And while I've always liked writing, it has become sort of a therapy for me. ...let's just say I don't have to look to hard to have something to write about in this house full of characters.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
...17, slightly naive and fences...
I traveled to Germany to be an exchange student for a year. Before we were sent off into a foreign land, they taught us a little German, let us drink a little, and wished us well...quickly, I learned that there should have been a few other refresher courses offered, such as "Child Labor and the American".
Now, I should have known from the first letter, before I even flew over the ocean, that these people were slightly unorthodox...I still remember my brother looking at a few pictures the German family whom I would be living with sent, I believe his direct quote was, "...well, it looks like they lay out topless with their dog there, good luck..." I tried/hoped/prayed that this was just some cultural thing that we weren't used to...it was only the beginning.
I get to these peoples house, knowing very little German, them knowing even less English and thought, okay lady, sink or swim...but as time went on, I realized they were not hosting a student for cultural enlightenment, they had a business scheme, where I would do all of the foot work and they would collect the money. As the days turned to weeks, and I noticed that while there are 'cultural differences' there is also no words to describe your German dad walking in on you in the bathroom, EVERY TIME YOU ARE IN IT, clothed or unclothed, old German Grandpas grabbing your behind, not being fed, never being able to clean your clothes...not to mention, I quickly started picking up German, but decided I ought to play dumb as while I was around them I could be entertained by the fact that they spoke about me in German...
Only as an adult did I understand why they always had me make calls on Sundays...they would drive me to one of their works, arm me with a flashlight and point to a phone...thankfully, I made a call that would change my life. Terrified that I was just being un-adaptable, I called the first name I saw on the list. I was instructed I had five minutes, and in those five minutes I managed to say Happy Birthday, and ask as many questions as possible, "...does your host dad try to watch you bathe? do you get fed? are you working?"
Thankfully, someone tipped off the Exchange Program I was with that these people's intentions weren't correct...I would be moved to another family. Well, to say that ruffled some German feathers...The day I was supposed to leave, they locked me out of the house, and told me the only way I was going to get my things was to climb their back gate and get it myself...me, 5 foot something...And I don't know if you know this, but GERMAN SHEPHERDS are like the number one dog in Germany...I vaguely ever saw this dog, just heard him and he sounded like KUJO...cut to me, scaling an 8 foot fence, gently whispering, "good doggie...nice doggie...", and running like hell to the back door to get my suitcase!
This wild story ends here, from this point comes one of a family that took me in, taught me about their culture, and treated me like family, and still to this day I am blessed to have them in my life.
Now, I sit and laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing, and sort of marvel at the fact that I made it out with one of my very best friends, a billion more stories, and a group of then teenagers who knew me when (and I seriously consider them family today)...I'm grateful for the experience, beyond thankful for the stories, and gratified by the notion that I might have a past...