I want to go back.
You’d think it was because of this view, but there’s more.
See, I’m voluntarily protective of learning foreign language, literature and culture, and the only explanation I can offer why I am that is that some sort of divine passion grips me and makes my ears perk up when I hear German spoken, or makes me start shaking with excitement when my English class dives deeper into a poem, or makes me swoon when I hear people civilly discussing the problems of today.
At the root of this divine passion is really a desire to understand everything – that’s why I ask a lot of questions. That why I prefer to listen. That’s why I feel so strongly about learning language, literature, and culture, and find them so fascinating – because studying them basically makes one a better “understander” of her fellow humans.
Why I chose German as my main squeeze is up to the Universe to know, but I know I connected with it the first time I saw a travel program about Switzerland during Christmastime. The chocolate – for one thing – mesmerized me, and there was something about the European style of celebration and tradition that enticed me.
Then, the language, too, transfixed me: I remember sitting at my desk for a few weeks in middle school studying a German language book from the library and I’d spelled Deutsch wrong on the cover of the notebook I studied with. Conveniently, however, that was the year my middle school allowed us to study German at the high school, since only Spanish was taught in the middle schools; and thus I learned not only how to spell Deutsch correctly, but also how to speak Deutsch, itself.
So that’s why I want to go back: I was only just beginning to understand Cologne. Germany. The German language, as a native speaks it. Traveling abroad. Being truly myself because I didn’t know anyone there like me (yet). I want to understand those things more and I want to define my experience – understand it. That will realistically take until I return again, so what I can define for you are the memories that I will, in all honesty, cherish for the rest of my life.
For instance, I will remember the fall of last year, when my friend Sibby stopped me in the hallway between classes and said, “My mom is taking me to Germany for graduation and said I could bring a friend and I thought of you. Do you wanna come?” I think I may have slurred my words, but I said something along the lines of, “How could I say no?”
I will remember the familial affection I instantly felt for my friend Sibby’s extended family in Germany – including their cat – ever since each one of them embraced me in my nasty airplane clothes without having ever met me before.
I will remember the time I sat in a circle of Germans, Americans, and German-Americans speaking both English and German, laughing and eating and drinking together as if being a family were just that easy.
I will remember the time I spoke English with some German teenagers, and asked them what it’s really like to learn the troublesome past of their country as a native citizen, and learned that it’s difficult and awkward and boring – just as any over-done topic brought up over and over again becomes – but necessary, because one finds these historical themes all over the world, past and present.
I will remember Sibby’s mom telling me that “it’s hard to be yourself in a foreign language,” and realizing how great it is to impolitely vent in English sometimes…
I will remember the entire 2014 World Cup final match, wearing my schwarz-rot-gold lei and other German paraphernalia when Germany won, and the three weeks it took to find a damn 4-star Weltmeisterschaft jersey in the Vaterland that won the darn thing.
I will remember the extremely minimizing feeling I felt when I slid my eyes up facade of der Dom and remarked “My gosh. That is huge.”
I will remember trying to slyly weep after leaving my “adoptive family” on our last night there, and getting caught by the people actually related to them, who instructed me to stop cryingbefore I make them cry, too.
I will remember tearing up again as the plane landed in America and then bursting into tears as I hugged my mom, sister and dad, thinking I had been done with the waterworks. My eyes leaked for a final time when I hugged and parted ways with my two marvelous traveling partners, Sibby and her mom.
Now that I’m home – and even though I had only a week to recover before moving into college, where I sit forcing myself to finish this awfully late post – I realize that I like my home. It’s important to me to have a place called home, where I can return and regroup between my quests of “understanding.” Now that I’ve entered my newest adventure, I’ll be mighty glad each time I return home to sauteed vegetables, incredibly sassy pets, and relatively normal life. And though I may not cry each time I return – it’s only an hour away! – I need a home-perspective to understand where I’m coming from and have something to compare to wherever I’m going.