(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)
Another busy week, but slightly less eventful than the previous one so hopefully it won’t take any years off your life trying to read this. I’ve been back in the Ordungsamt this week which is the office in which my supervisor works and where they do a lot of different services for citizens. It’s kind of hard to describe or classify without just observing it. On Monday, I was with Frau H again, and she had a lot of computer work to do and calls to make. She finds housing for refugees and other homeless people and works with senior citizens to get them their proper retirement benefits, assisted living arrangements if they need it, etc. It’s a complex position and on this particular day, there wasn’t a lot that I could do, so I read a bunch of articles from online German newspapers to try to inform myself a little better about current events. At lunch time, I went with my boss’s boss to an “Entspannungskurs” that anyone in the office can take part in if they want to. Entspannungskurs literally means “relaxation course.” I had heard them talk about it for the past few Mondays but hadn’t yet been able to go, so I was excited to join this time. We got to this place called “Chi Loft” where the course happens, and immediately the woman accompanying me asked, “Did you bring anything to change into?” Uh…no. Of course, this was the first day since I’ve been here that I decided to wear a dress. Tragic mistake. I thought that a “relaxation course” would entail meditation or something else, well, relaxing that wouldn’t require me to dress in any certain way. Oh, was I mistaken. It turned out to be basically light weight yoga involving a lot of laying on the ground with your legs up in the air moving all over the place, lifting an exercise ball with your legs, laying on your stomach on the exercise ball, and lots of other things for which a dress is quite probably the worst clothing choice. I also don’t really know German yoga vocabulary, so I spent the whole time both trying to hold my dress together at the bottom and copy the movements that everyone else was doing with about a 5-10 second delay. It was so, so hard not to laugh. The second half of the course actually did involve laying down with your eyes closed and listening to the instructor lead a guided meditation, but funnily enough, I couldn’t really relax as I was trying to mentally translate everything she was saying in order to keep up with my eyes closed since I was no longer able to just follow everyone else. It was so very awkward and hilarious, as are so many of my interactions here as a weird foreigner.
Monday night, thank goodness, I still had a friend in Munich and was able to go into town to hang out. We went to the Englischer Garten and walked for a while, stopping to watch the famous river surfers. There’s this part of a manmade canal that runs through the park where the concrete dips in a way that it creates a constant wave. Because of this, there are almost always a bunch of surfers there in wetsuits taking turns riding the wave until they fall. No matter how many times I see them, they’re always so fun to watch. The weather was also pretty perfect for walking around outdoors. After seeing the surfers, we made our way to the biergarten by the Chinese Tower and I had a giant pretzel for dinner, as should pretty much be expected from me by now. While walking back toward the train station and the friend’s hostel, we started to see a bunch of people roller blading down the middle of this very busy street with traffic blocked off so they could get through. We watched as we walked and the roller bladers were seemingly never ending - there were seriously thousands of them! There was no explanation for this at the time so it was just really hilarious, but I looked it up later and found out that “Skate Night” happens every Monday night in summer on a different path throughout Munich and they usually have upwards of 10,000 participants. On roller blades. Yes, roller blades. What? This was a great ending to a whole evening that was significantly more enjoyable and relaxing than the relaxation course.
The next more significant day was Wednesday, when I worked with Herr F in the Gewerbeamt. I was too embarrassed to ask what “Gewerbe” meant for the first half of the day, but at lunch time, Google Translate informed me that it means trade. My host parents call Google the “heilige Google” (holy Google) which I’m finding quite accurate. So Herr F basically deals with anyone who wants to sell anything in Stadt F, whether it be clothing, beer, groceries, restaurants, etc. I watched him do some of his consultations with people and helped file some documents during the first half of the day, then after lunch, he gave me some real, solid, intern-y work to do. This is where my new-found Jerry Gergich tendencies come in. For anyone who needs a refresher on the NBC show Parks and Rec, Jerry Gergich is the guy in the office who everyone hates on and is pretty useless for a majority of the time, but then one day, they give him a ton of envelopes to stuff and he comes to life. He is an envelope-stuffing machine, and everyone else is amused and mesmerized. While no one in my office hates on me (that I know of), I am definitely pretty useless to them most of the time. I am learning a ton but there is only so much I can do for them as a 21 year old with a less than perfect grasp on their language and even shakier handle on the work they do. But when Herr F gave me some more or less menial tasks to do, I became a new person. I was basically typing things from vendors’ applications for booths at an upcoming city festival into this computer program, checking for accuracy, printing out the computerized application, making copies of it, stapling copies together, filing them, and - the icing on the cake - putting one copy in an envelope to send to the vendor. Then repeat. I probably looked like a crazy person for walking from the printer to the copy machine so importantly, exercising extreme stapling precision, and generally savoring this work as much as I did, but it was so good to feel useful! Wow, reading it back, I sound even more absurd than I thought. Moving on.
On Friday, I worked with Herr K in the Baustelle office. Baustelle means construction site, and Herr K’s work is basically to make sure that anyone doing construction that can potentially interfere with roads or other high traffic areas is doing so safely and that there will still be ways for citizens to use the space around the construction. We drove all over town and saw some of the construction sites he works with, potential sites for new construction, and different offices around the city for things like water and electricity with whom he works on construction sites. It’s not something I would have chosen to learn about myself, but I’m glad that I got to anyway. It is fascinating to find out about all the different parts of this city’s government and how they all interact to keep things safe and help citizens out.
On Saturday evening, my host family took me to a nearby lake where a bunch of people swim in the summer. There are lakes all over the place; basically, where we would have public pools in America, they have little lakes with docks that kids can swim out to and jump off of, shore line where parents can set up camp, and usually a small building with concessions and restrooms. It was super hot outside, so it was really nice to wade in the water and even to be shot by my little host sister’s brand new water gun…A funnily American way to spend my second Fourth of July out of the country.
More personally, this week has had its challenges. I’ve been a little homesick, which is something that always sneaks up and takes me by surprise since I usually consider myself such an independent person. I guess I just love my family and friends a lot?? Weird how that works. It’s nice to catch up with people from home either in person or via FaceTime when possible, though, so I’ve been doing a lot of that this week…(Yes, this is an open invitation to let me know if you ever want to FaceTime)…My “what do I do with my life” quest also becomes more confusing every day and I kind of wish at this point that I could be getting more clarity instead of less. Basically, the more that I learn, the more I find myself to be interested in and the more I think, “Well, I could do this…or this…or this…or…” Another interesting thing I’ve found this week is that Germans don’t really go into university undecided on a major, figure out what they love, and major in that because they love it. Rather, they decide upon going into college more or less what they want to be and choose their major based on that. I know some people do that in the States, but at least at my school, there’s a lot of emphasis on studying what you’re passionate about and combining that with good internship/job experiences in college so that you have all kinds of grad school or job opportunities beyond that. So it is essentially very confusing to people here that I am graduating next year with a degree in Sociology/Anthropology and German and don’t really have a precise goal of what I want to do with that degree. I don’t blame them, as many in America have that mindset too, and it’s great to study what you love but also to be practical about the fact that at some point you have to make money. But it can be discouraging to have those conversations here nonetheless and to feel a little less understood than I do back home. I’m not sitting here feeling sorry for myself and I know I’ll look back on this someday when I have a career that I love and think, “Aw, lost little Kaitlyn just had no idea.” I am still so, so fortunate to have the opportunity to be here this summer and learn so much not just about Germany, but about myself, what I love or don’t love, and how I can get along on my own. Every day is eye opening in its own way and I’m truly looking forward to seeing what the next month and a half will bring.
Hope you didn’t vomit too much at my cheesiness and/or occasional whininess while reading this. I’m thankful, I’m fortunate, I’m lucky, and I love and miss most likely everyone who has read this far. :)
XOXO (I don’t know why I sign off like this but it kinda makes me feel like Gossip Girl),