All the best people

July 20, 2015

(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)

I know that I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks and they have been full. Full of ups, downs, great moods, why-am-I-here-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moods, and more. I’m going to try to hit all the high points here.

Starting with…Courtney! One of my best friends, Courtney, came to visit me the weekend before last. I had been having the roughest week yet in terms of homesickness and getting to spend a couple of days with her was the best gift at that time. It started out when I met her at the train station and we took her stuff to my host family’s house and relaxed there for the afternoon. She pretty much immediately became best friends with her fellow only child, my host sister, in spite of the language barrier. They jumped on the trampoline for most of the afternoon and I joined when I felt like being fun. That night, my host mom took us to Kaltenberg for a medieval festival! I went to the same festival last year, but this time we went on a special Friday night with a bunch of concerts and fireworks, so it was a fun and different experience. It also made it so that Courtney’s first impression of Munich was a bunch of fully grown adults in medieval costumes sword fighting each other and singing along to (apparently) famous medieval Celtic rock group, Corvus Corax. It was really hilarious and fun, and we got to eat some fantastic food like Flammkuchen, which is warm bread with leeks, cheese, and bacon cooked on top of it. I also realized that by the end of the day I had had two whole liters of Spezi (coke mixed with orange soda) to drink…on my own. Living very healthily here. The next day, we went into Munich and sweated out all the Spezi. Seriously, it was hotter than it’s been since I’ve been here. But nonetheless, we tourist-ed all day long! Started at Schloss Nymphenburg, a beautiful palace in the city limits with really gorgeous gardens to walk around. Then we caught a tram to Königsplatz, where we ate in a cafe before getting some gelato and eating it on the steps of this old, beautiful stone…structure. Words are escaping me now and I don’t really know what one would call that particular building, but just know that it was a pretty ideal and picturesque place to eat ice cream. Then we walked further into town and hit some main tourist highlights - Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, Viktualienmarkt. The highlight was probably climbing the stairs to the top of St. Peter’s Church to see Munich from above. That view does not get old. We made it back home by dinner time and enjoyed a relaxing evening eating and playing games with the host family. On Sunday, we slept in a little…or a lot. We had breakfast with the family, took our time getting ready, had lunch with the family, and then headed into Munich to get Courtney to a couple of final sights. First stop was Englischer Garten, where we ate ice cream (are you surprised?) and saw the river surfers again. Then, we went to Olympiapark, where the 1972 Olympics were held, and walked around a bit. It was a really beautiful day to be in both of those places and a perfect and relaxing end to a fun weekend. Thanks to Courtney for making the trip!

Next up, work. The past couple of weeks have been busy, as usual, but a few things have changed for the better. I was at a point two weeks ago where I was so overwhelmed by so many things - first time working an 8-5 schedule anywhere, first time speaking/hearing/reading/writing German 24/7 - mostly in a professional environment, longest I’ve ever been away from home and family/friends…blah blah, whiny whiny. I know it probably sounds pathetic - “aw, middle class white girl living in Europe for the summer has such a hard life.” I’m under no illusions that I’m not one of the most fortunate people in the world, but that can sometimes make it even more challenging mentally when I know that I should be happy but there’s a disconnect between knowing and feeling it. Bottom line is that I was struggling to keep going and feeling ready to tap out and come home to my mom. I finally got it together enough, however, to talk to both my host mom and my boss about how overwhelmed I was feeling. Because they are wonderful, caring people who understand that I am still a young person who has never worked in a foreign country before, they were so kind to me and helped me figure out how to better enjoy the rest of my time here while getting the most out of my internship. Basically, my schedule for the rest of the summer is geared a little more toward the areas that I have found that I am really interested in, which has been the plan all along. This makes the days more entertaining for me and also gives me some variation in how much I have to take in throughout the day so that I have a little more time to process everything. Very, very helpful. I think the most helpful thing, though, was just telling anyone at all about how I was feeling; I tend to internalize everything and let it build up until I feel like exploding (or in this case, coming home to mom). That’s about as healthy as drinking 2L of Spezi per day. Yet another example of lessons I’m learning this summer that I never really saw coming. I am more thankful for this internship all the time. Even when it’s challenging, I know I am learning more from this experience than I have from most anything I’ve ever done. It’s such a unique opportunity and I hope to never forget it all.

A big part of why this summer is amazing is my host family. I could devote an entire blog post (or maybe book) to these kind, funny, genuinely wonderful people who have taken me into their home for two summers now. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty for a host family; they haven’t just provided me a place to live, but have helped me integrate into the culture and feel at home. They take me to do fun things on weekends, they are always curious about how my day was and if I need anything, they never let me pay them for anything, they pick me up from the airport or bus station or wherever so that I don’t have to take public transport late at night. They’re taking me on vacation with them in a couple weeks! Seriously, how did this happen to me? How did I just randomly get matched last year with this family who has made me one of their own and really changed my life? I am more thankful for them every day that I am here. I look forward to years in the future of staying in contact and visiting each other. The Salzmanns are the best pseudo-family I could’ve dreamt up.

Some other people who are really cool - my biological family. This brings me to this past weekend. I got to spend a couple of days with my dad in Madrid and I am so thankful for our time together. It was the end of dad’s first trip to Europe and I’m really glad I could be a small part of it. He makes me feel at home wherever we are and that was much needed this weekend. We can laugh together all day, but we can also have the important conversations that leave me feeling inspired and, more than anything, supported. In our couple of days in Madrid, we spent a lot of time in Parque Retiro walking around, eating, and enjoying the pretty nature. We also saw the palace (stunning) and ate in this super cool indoor marketplace with a bunch of different Spanish street food vendors. Definitely the most full I have been in a while - shoutout to the Jamon taco. On our last day, we spent more hours than either of us realized walking just about every inch of the Prado museum, looking at hundreds of years’ worth of art from around the world. I really love art museums and this one was pretty spectacular. Dad is probably one of the only people who would’ve spent close to four hours with me doing that. While our visit with each other was short, it was certainly sweet (because ice cream) and I miss him already.

The rest of my parents are pretty awesome, too. I’ve been able to facetime with all of them and doing so always makes my day. Don’t know how I got so fortunate to have four intelligent, caring, supportive people in my corner for life.

That goes for the boyfriend too…the word “boyfriend” always sounds kind of trivial to me and doesn’t represent the partnership we have. I’m thankful to have such a cool person who can be thousands of miles away doing his own thing and still makes the time to talk every day about things that matter.

I know I’m talking a lot about people in this post and that probably isn’t going to make this the most fascinating piece of literature about my exotic life abroad. This summer has been so eye opening for me, however, by way of showing me how essential it is to have your people in life. It is so, so easy to get wrapped up in my own head and think it’s me against the world when in actuality, I’m only me because of the people who have made me this way…does that make sense? Genuinely not sure if it does. But the point is, I’m so thankful for the slow and subtle realization that I can’t just set off and expect to save the world on my own. I will always need people in my corner, and more than that, I want them there. The relationships I have with family, friends, boyfriend make me feel happier and more fulfilled than the most ideal-sounding career move or trip around the world. I think it’s that happiness and fulfillment that will make me capable of being my best self and doing the most for the world around me in return.

This blog post just got really philosophical in a way that I did not plan. Probably a little weird to put this much of my own head out on the internet, but no turning back now?? Anyway, here are some pictures to finish it up.

Until next time…

XOXO

Kaitlyn