I’m a native Texan. That is to say, my mother went through 48 hellish hours of labor (thanks, Mom!) so that I could be born in to this world, and the place she endured said pain is Texas City, Texas. She told me, when I was little, she choose that particular place for me to be born because it was easy to remember. Also because she had flown from a town very difficult to say correctly (Bayrouth, Germany) and it made a lot more sense, what with my dad loving Texas and all. I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in between those tall tales and the one where my Grandmother happened to live near a hospital in Texas City, Texas, at the time and my mother and father needed a place to stay after returning to the states from many years over seas. I come from a long line of story tellers
I am sitting now under the starry night looking directly at Orion’s belt. I am drinking German beer, not because I found it at the local World Market, but because it came from the (supermarket) two blocks from where I sit. There is a church tower around the corner that dates from 1591. I am in Nuremberg. Or Nürnberg, if you’re a local. I hear the Germans on the street below and I am surrounded by the fresh smell of my laundry, the only hint of home that wafts in the dark in the breeze.
I am oddly home.
I have a sense of nostalgia here. It’s as if I’ve lived this life here, or one very similar, in other times. I am lost, in present day, unable to fully communicate except with broken pieces of German. It’s comical, really, when someone walks up to me and I say, “Hallo!” and they say, “Hallo,” and I exchange light talk, “Gruße Grote!” They begin to ask a question and I shake my head, “um.. uh.. er… uh, do you know English?” They laugh kindly, either nodding yes or no, and we smile awkwardly as I admit I am not really from here however much I sometimes forget that fact.
Except that I can never forget that fact.
The cashier at the cantina at work asks me in German what I want to eat. I make weird faces and motions with my hands saying something about Salad and Veggies and No More Bread For The Love Of God and she hands me a lovely sandwich on a thick roll with meat and cheese. I smile, say “Danke” and offer her my cash. She smiles back, say Bitte, and I am on my way to another ten pounds.
This same conversation happens fourteen times a day.
I manage around town on my bike, a borrowed vehicle from a local friend. I am thankful, a thousand times thankful, for my local friend who not only speaks English but also four other languages and has a love of pasta. This means we eat a lot of Italian at real Italian places most of which the cooks speak only Italian and hit on women like a dog on salami.
I marvel at how far I can bike. I breathe heavily as I bike the 12km from Nürnburg to Erlangen where the office is. I arrive breathless and sweaty and I smile as I enter the building, like this is a normal day for me: Just another commute to the office via bike in the villages of Germany. I mean completely nothing special. At all.
Except oh, even the horses here speak German.
I breathe deeply the air, the coveted Nuremberg air, the German-ness (if I may) of the whole experience. How I rarely understand a conversation, how lost I am daily, how nothing is open on a Sunday except two cafes, non of which serve alcohol or protein. But it has been a week now, an entire week of my living here, and I already appreciate what I heard my father saying to me so many years ago. “Oh, Leslie,” he would reflect when I was old enough to listen, “the Germans. GOD BLESS ‘EM. I love the Germans.” The hundreds, or thousands, of stories I’ve heard as a child bring me to this balcony on this day thirty years later, smelling my clean laundry on the line, listening to the Germans below, watching lights in the village flicker on or off. In a way I hardly understand, I am home. Tomorrow I walk the valley of a monastery who serves beer with my boss and her boss. We will walk the woods, drink amazing beer, reflect on work and life in the States. And again I will say to you: I am home. Oddly enough, foreign as I am, I am home.
Hey! Glad to hear that you’re enjoying yourself. I love the Germans too, although there’s a whole new set of obstacles to get past once you do understand them I also love Nürnberg, which is kind of a home from home, as all of my in-law-family and my hsuband’s oldest and dearest friends live there.
How are you fixed for a trip to Munich? Hope to see you soon!!
By Kathie Staub on 2012 03 19
And it’s Bayreuth, with an “b”. It’s pronounced “Bye -roit.”
Oh, and the Germans’ cultural differences will get a little annoying after a while. Just wait until you encounter the “This is the way I was told to do it” attitude when there are clearly 50 better ways to do it.
Remember the story about the German who was issuing us hour furniture? I didn’t want an end table and a coffee table. I wanted two end tables, or “table ends” as he called them.
“Nein,” he insisted, “you are autorized vun table end and a table coffee, und dat’s vat you get.”
“But” I explained, “I don’t need a coffee table, it just gets in the way. I’d much prefer two end tables.”
“Nein, nein, nein,” he continued, “if you get two tables ends, den zumvun vud get two table coffees. Ve vud run out of table ends.”
I sighed as I looked at the several hundred end tables behind him in the ware house. “It looks like you have plenty ....”
“Look loit-nant. Ze regs zay vun uf each. Dat’s it.”
He just stared when I told him to just give me one end table, I’d buy another at the store.
By Yo' daddy, again on 2012 03 19
That was supposed to be “e”, not “b”. Sorry.
By Yo' daddy, again on 2012 03 19
You are in the honeymoon stage as they call it….
By betty in munich on 2012 03 19
It’s a truly odd feeling to be where you have descended from… I got the most overwhelming sense of ‘home’ in Scotland, though I had never been there before, and knew that I belonged there. So strange.
By citricsugar on 2012 03 19
I have the exact same adoration and feeling of home about Northern Ireland. I’ve visited 6 times, and I actively miss it between trips. I’d go tomorrow if I could. My family believes strongly in “genetic memory,” that sense of being home in a place our ancestors dwelled.
It’s nice to see your name pop up in my Reader!
By dancing_lemur on 2012 03 19
Aahh yes. The memories of living “on the economy” instead of on post so we could live the true culture of German life for more than 3+ years. An experience we treasure. What is so compelng is the fact that we were there during the cold war and the stories we have of that time in history will never be forgotten. I cherish our time in Bayreuth and am forever greatful that we were there.
By omaflinger on 2012 03 19
It’s really amazingly incredible! Sometime when life slows down (ha) you’re going to have to tell me all about it… xoxo
By Mays Cole on 2012 03 22
I don’t know who mays cole is, the alter ego of my iPad apparently
By Sydney Cole on 2012 03 22
Omigod I am actually spamming you now, I am so sorry. But what if you never really know who these are from? What if you just spend your whole trip wondering who the hell mays cole is when it’s just my iPad insisting on changing my name? It’s me, syd. Not mays. Syd.
By Mays Cole on 2012 03 22