Ooooh, boy. I can see me writing a long, rabbling one here. Brace yourselves. Apologies in advance for the jetlad fueled typos!
So I’ve been in Mannheim, Germany for a day and a half already! Time hasn’t exactly flown or drooled, just sort of gone along at its own pace, dragging me along for the ride. Jetlag and general exhaustion has taken a pretty heavy toll on me (I had to sleep through the afternoon here, and I use “sleep” in the broadest of terms) but not as badly as I expected.
Regardless, time and jetlag out of the picture, I have arrived! I have arrived in a completely new country ready to begin again, learning, growing and experiencing.
Ich verlasse mein Zuhause
I left Adelaide in a very weird way. Not happy, not sad, maybe just a bit relieved. To be honest, this whole exchange/moving away business has been a major part of my life, for better or worse, for almost a year now and to see it all come to fruition is a massive release. Of course, there’s always the constant worries of “do I have everything? Am I prepared?”, but as long as you’re confident in yourself and methodically gone through all the details you can at home, then you can leave a fair bit of that worry behind. I’m actually surprised at how calm I was, honestly. I’m a natural worry-wort, so I’m just wondering when it will catch up to me (hopefully, never).
If you read my story about “The Quiet” earlier, you’ll know that leaving Adelaide is a massive adventure for almost any one who lives there. It’s much too comfortable to live there. I encouraged myself to “get on with it” and move out through rather negative means, I must admit. I simply stopped loving my city as much. I deleted the romance from my brain and started to look for negatives to escape, rather than positives to head towards. Probably not the best way to do it, mind you, but it definitely helped me pluck up a bit more courage to leave it. And hey, I’ll probably have a renewed respect for the place when I come back, so that’s something!
The flights were wonderful, really. I didn’t expect to be able to watch the entirety of “Better Call Saul” on the trip, but I did… Not as good as Breaking Bad, by the way. Emirates really pull out all the stops to impress and pamper their passengers. One of the highlights was actually the advertisements for Dubai and the UAE, which were put together like mini blockbuster movies.
Dubai is the closest thing to a real-life Dune that I’ve ever experienced. Not because of the cast of characters, but for the setting and atmosphere. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Dubai itself is, from a completely South Australian point of view, a sci-fi city. It’s centre of sky-defying buildings and futuristic architecture, combined with rolling sands and a haze of heat (it was 35 degrees celsius at 5am!) immediately drew up images in my mind of Arakeen… Man, the moment I wrote that I realised how nerdy that sounds…
But the comparison is fair, I think. Even the airport, which I walked up and down while waiting for my connecting flight, was a marvel of artificial creation. How the hell did they get palm trees to stay alive inside of it? How did the airport grow from a two-lane highway to what it is today in a few decades? The size, the scope, the wealth behind it is staggering and surely made to “wow” and humble anyone passing through it. Even the airport terminals themselves look like the segmented sections of a giant Arrakian worm
The inside, however, is not to my taste. While I think anyone would be impressed by the glitter of gold and silver, too much of it really rubs me the wrong way. There are multiple clones of each luxury store throughout the terminals, all selling the same products in equally lavish ways. When commercialism comes to this level, everything gold starts to rot. You begin to realise how rarity and luxury are tricks played by marketing, and forget the real value of “things”. But this can be said of any major world trading site, so I won’t spend to long on that…
Die Deutsch Beginnt
Thinking about languages right now is making my brain burn. I need a bit more sustenance and sleep and practice before I start trying to work my tongue around the alien syllables of German, but even now, I’m finding the whole thing absolutely fascinating.
The first German I heard was from a family in Dubai International, obviously tired and looking for seats, they complained in German about the lack of space. The second was an elderly gentleman and what appeared to be an exchange student companion. Their German was “klar” and just slow enough for me to pick out a few words here and there. It does the confidence good to be able to do that, but the conscience ill for eavesdropping.
What conversations I have had already have been in completely broken, simple German, and all to order food or tell someone I can’t quite understand them. But even so, I can definitely see myself getting a lot better at it over the coming months. It’s just a matter of being confident enough to try it on people. Ordering food is a good start. I actually asked someone “Wie groß ist der pizzabrot” today and got an answer, so that’s not too bad. Fluent in no time, I think. What can’t pizza do?
Thank you to the dreadlock wearing backpacking girl from Quebec I met at Frankfurt international. Our combined confusion at the German rail system was a lovely little break from the seriousness of it all. I hope you find your way around, and to that music festival I told you about. I’m sorry I don’t remember your name, but Viel Glücke anywho!
“It’s all up to you now”
I told myself when the plane dove into Frankfurt. It was true, I guess, but also a scary realisation. I was alone in a foreign country, literally open to any opportunity and with an entire continent to explore. What the hell was I going to do? After a few seconds of panic I began to see the good in that phrase. Yes, it’s all up to me, but it’s also all up to me! I can do whatever I want, be whoever I want and live in a completely independent way I had never experienced before.
With that, though, comes the obvious downside. You are also completely responsible for your food, your travel and your living. You don’t realise just how much of a luxury living at home, in a country you fully understand, actually is until you leave it. It’s going to take me ages to find everything I need (pots and pans and bed sheets are next!), while in Australia I could have everything sorted in no time. It’s pretty daunting, faced with all that. I haven’t eaten properly since I landed because of that, which is something I’m a bit concerned about. Until I have all the tools to cook and serve myself, however, I’ve resigned myself to spending a little more here and there on outside food. Keep up the water though, that’s important!
Speaking of water, and as a little aside, the whole German process of essentially “renting” plastic bottles then returning them for change is a brilliant idea. South Australia has a similar scheme of giving money for recyclables, but nothing to this extent. Get your head in the game, mates. I want more than 10 cents back for my beloved Farmers Union Ice Coffee bottle.
In the next day or two I’ll be exploring the city and even the north of Germany (praying to whatever part of God lives in Europe that I catch my trains), so I’m aiming to put myself back on track. Now if only I can find some pots and pans for cheap!
I’ve been ducking and dodging this subject through this entire post, but I guess it’s the last place to turn.
I was fairly shocked upon my arrival to Germany/Frankfurt and Mannheim in particular. It’s definitely not what I expected. Well, at least not exactly as I expected. It’s industrial, it’s big, it’s train station has a thriving population of “lads” and the like. I actually spent something like an hour just wandering around this tiny bit of the city trying to get my bearings and looking like a headless chicken carrying a suitcase in the meantime. It’s also (compared to Adelaide’s recent winter) very hot. I haven’t been so sticky in a long time, but I’m very, very, VERY grateful for the sunshine and t-shirt weather. Ayy, I even got a bit of a sunburn! That takes me back to the good old days…
Immediately after causing that spectacle, I took a short bus ride to my accommodation just outside the city, getting a quick look at the rather grey surrounds all the while. I will admit that I’m very pleased with the public transport system so far, even if the tickets are fairly pricey at over €2 a pop. When I arrived I faced a bit of an ordeal in finding the Hausmeister who would deliver my keys, but took the time to sit and enjoy a nearby bar and talk to the very helpful and kind (and, most importantly for me, English-speaking) waitress.
After settling down and laying out my sleeping bag (yep, no sheets yet either), I was greeted by two friendly exchange students who taught me the wonders of cheap and delicious German beer. Oh boy, that was a nice little “Willkommen”, I tell you what. Here’s to the streak of meeting people continuing!
But this last day has been a bit of a challenge. Everything seems a bit “too much”, particularly trying to order a taxi on a purely German website. I haven’t left the room much at all, preferring instead to take a short walk around the area to soak it in and then relax (or try to achieve some feverish approximation of sleep). I’ve been told that that’s normal as well, as the brain is definitely working over time in times like this. I think the heart is also working just as hard. It’s a double whammy for the body, truly, especially for one that is not used to long travel or living far away from family and friends.
I read earlier today that there is apparently a saying that goes “You cry twice in Mannheim, once when you arrive and the other when you leave”. I don’t think I really wanted to cry, but I definitely started to question why I put in all the work to come here. I’ve heard that’s a normal student reaction, though, so I’m just waiting, oh just waiting, for the feeling to go away and for the excitement to come back.
Come on, excitement, I need you right now!
Wow, that was a lot longer than I normally would write here, and much more than I should be at this time of night in my condition. It’s cathartic though, innit? That’s the whole point. I hope, though, that somewhere out there there is someone who is experiencing or has experiencing a similar thing to me. I hope this gives you comfort knowing you’re not the only one. I know that’s what I’m focusing on.
Tschüss, meine liebe. See you again soon. I’m sure I’ll have MUCH more to talk about and MUCH more photos to share over the coming weeks.