The Land of Ice Chronicles: Heading Home

(A quick sorry for the late updates; I’ve been busy here at home spending all my time with family & friends)

It is almost time to head home now and if I am being honest, I couldn’t be happier. This whole vacation has been a learning experience. It has been a pleasure to learn (even if it was THE HARD WAY) that negativity can bring your whole world crumbling down the same way that positivity can illuminate all of the darkness before you. It has been wonderful exploring the small town of Limerick these past few weeks. I’ve found beautiful flower beds, creatures, and greenery in places I walked by everyday and never noticed. Positivity really does open doors. It was a wonderful month of exploration BUT:

You can bet your ass I'm ready to go back home.

Like I said… it has been a great past month here. However, nothing beats the happiness one can obtain in the comfort of their own home. I’m excited to be home with my very best friend (my mom). I’m excited for my Abuela’s tasty food. I’m excited to hang out with my friends again. I’m excited for everything in NYC to be honest.

Now… Flash forward to my plane ride home

The plane is about to leave Shannon Airport and I am finding myself thinking about the boy with the pink and green aura. Just the thought of him dancing at the Stables Bar/Club bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. It just makes me so happy that Ivon came into my life. It is as if all the bath experiences I had in Ireland never happened; whenever I think of the lovely country… I think of his beautiful soul.

Listen to that voice. LISTEN! HE IS A LEGEND! (And, he just won a kpop talent competition. SUPPORT IVON! STAN IVON!

As the plane left Shannon Airport, I thought of how a piece of my heart would always be with Ivon. Thank you for everything that you do and everything that you are.

Fast Forward to arriving at JFK Airport

That flight felt like it lasted forever. I was slightly groggy but excited to see my mom. The minute I saw her, I dropped everything I was holding and threw myself on top of her. God, I missed her so much. I missed my mom so much. I felt so safe in her arms; I hadn’t felt this safe since the last time I saw her and I really missed the feeling. We headed to my Abuela’s house and has some delicious food. My entire family was also there to hug me and hear of my entire journey. It was one of those nights that I’ll never be able to forget. I love my crazy silly loud Spanish family and I’m really happy to be back with them.

Heading Home!

So I’m currently sitting on my plane home as I write this, I’ll make another post in a week or so to update you all on being home 🙂 Sidenote: This is the first post I’m actually on time with, so at least I’ve finally caught up!

It’s weird to think about how fast six weeks went. It feels like just last week I was on a plane on my way to Germany. Six Weeks. Gone in a flash. I learned so much, but I feel like six weeks wasn’t nearly enough time to appreciate the culture and language as much as I should have. The first month was spent adjusting to life in Germany, so it wasn’t until the last two weeks where I really had the hang of what was going on.

The last week alone was incredible. I can’t remember what I did Monday or Tuesday off the top of my head for some reason. I think they were mostly spent gift shopping for people (I put that off until the last minute). Wednesday I went to the Wochenmarkt for the last time. It was raining, but it’s one of my favorite things in Münster, so I had to go anyway. I don’t remember if I’ve talked about it in a previous post (and I’m on a plane so I can’t go check), so I’ll give a quick explanation about the Wochenmarkt.

The Wochenmarkt is a huge farmers market that takes place twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, at der Domplatz, or the large area outside St. Paulos Dom. There are all sorts of stands: there’s a whole row of meat and fish sellers, a lot of cheese, lots and lots of bread, so many strawberries (and other fruits), some vegetables, a bunch of flower sellers, people that sell food you can eat right there (like Bratkartoffeln, yummy), some candy and other misc. trucks, and a bunch of people that sell their art/things they make. It’s really cool, and I absolutely love it, but unfortunately it was raining on the last day that I could have went. There’s a really nice man who sells his art, and I was going to buy another print, but because of the rain, and the fact that all of his merchandise is paper products, he wasn’t there. I did, however, buy 500g of delicious strawberries that I then ate while sitting in my afternoon class. I only had an hour that Wednesday, because my teacher had changed our Intensivkurs from Thursday to Wednesday, but it gave me time to walk around one last time before heading back to Kapito. Other than that, I didn’t do much on Wednesday other than start packing and start making a thank you card for my host family.

Thursday was an awesome day. There was a Wasserburgfahrt, or a trip to go see castles on lakes. We went to two castles (one was a Burg and the other was a Schloss. From what I understand Bürge are forts/castles and have more of a military character, whereas Schlösser are fancier castles where royalty livesIMG_4410.), and they were both lovely. On the way I felt super bus-sick, because busses and my stomach aren’t friends, but once I got out of the bus at the first castle, I felt pretty okay. The first one we visited was Burg Vischering, which was a castle from the 1200’s, which was re-built to be stronger in the 1500’s. It was really awesome to see the inside (and the outside), though unfortunately photos weren’t allowed in the museum. After the museum we had the opportunity to walk around the castle grounds for about an hour, so that’s exactly what I did. The bathroom was in a dungeon, which i thought was interesting. (Okay, so maybe not a dungeon exactly, but old castle basement looks quite a lot like a dungeon if you ask me.) The grounds were beautiful. The castle was it’s own little island in the water, and then there was another little island, with a shop, a cafe, and some other buildings. Each of these little islands (I don’t know if they’re considered islands if they’re completely manmade brick islands and not actual earth islands) were connected by bridges (that were next to the now-unsturdy originals), and surrounding the lake there is a beautiful trail, which allows you to see the Burg from all sides.

Everything there was lovely, and I was expecting the second castle to be similar, but it was completely different. It’s called Schloss Nordkirchen, and it was modeled after the Palace of VersaillesGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA  (and is actually referred to sometimes as the “Versailles of Münsterland”), right down to the gardens. It was a beautiful view, despite being a little cloudy on first view. It cleared up shortly after that, which was nice. You walk from a treelined path into a clearing to see a beautiful Schloss with a lovely sculpture garden in front of it, and a still lake/pool in front of you. Everything about the Schloss and the garden is completely symmetrical (though the sculptures do vary on the two sides of the garden). We had a group picnic in the garden, which was really cool. I’d brought some snacks, not expecting to be eating there, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise. I didn’t necessarily like the food, but I got a peach and a lot of gummy bears out of it, so I certainly can’t complain. After eating I walked around the outside of the castle a little bit (mostly because I needed to pee), and it was equally gorgeous on the other side. Then we went home and I tried to get the rest of my stuff packed and finish up the thank you card.

Friday was super busy, but it was a good last day. I meant to write this post last night, but I needed to finish packing, so I didn’t have time until I got on the plane (and it’s an 8 hour flight, might as well give IMG_4419myself something to do). Friday started with class. Last IMG_4418day of school! I took selfies with my teachers, said goodbye to the friends I’ve made in these six weeks, and then met Robynne, Kate, and two others downstairs to finally go to the Pinkus Müller Brauerei for lunch. I couldn’t decide so I went for a potato soup and Flammkuche, which turned out to be a great decision because they were both delicious. After that, Kate, Robynne, and I got ice cream and the other two went home, and then Robynne and I finally went to the Stadtmuseum, or City Museum. We’d been saying we were going to go for the entire program and then suddenly our six weeks were up so we needed to go on the last day. The museum seemed boring at first, but then it was cool once we got up to the third floor. It had a lot of IMG_4464really cool things from the World War II era (Münster was a Nazi Headquarters), and a scale model of just how destroyed the city was during the war. It was really interesting to see the buildings that we walk past every day without roofs, some of them completely demolished. After the Stadtmuseum, we bought flowers for our host families and then went our separate ways. I walked through the city center on my way home just to walk past the Stadtfest (city fest) that was happening this weekend, but I couldn’t really stay because 1) I was carrying around a pot of flowers, and 2) I really needed to finish packing. And then it took me ages to pack and repack.IMG_4475

Later on (like 11 or so?), when Jemima and Angelika got home from the Stadtfest, I went and asked if we could take a photo together (see above!) and then we got to talking. We ended up just hanging out for a while, and then Angelika opened a really old bottle (don’t ask me how old, I have no idea) of port wine to celebrate me having a great six weeks, and we had a toast and a small glass of wine to celebrate. We ended up all staying up until almost 2 am talking, and I added my address and email address into the card I’d given them so that we can keep in touch.

And today was airport day (actually yesterday now that I’ve had time to go through and add photos to this), so I finished packing, and had a cup of coffee with my host family before leaving. My backpack weighs about as much as my suitcase, which was awful on the walk to the train station and walking around the airport, but my suitcase was just under the weight requirement. If a suitcase is over 23kg (about 50lbs), you have to pay €100, which is a little bit much in my opinion. But I made it safely from Münster to Frankfurt, and I’m now on my plane on the way to JFK, and all in all I’m pretty excited to be heading home.

I was excited, and then sad, and then excited again. In the airport I just wanted to go because I didn’t feel like sitting there all day, and now that I’m on the plane I’d just like time to move faster because I feel like it’s going really really slowly. There’s a cute kid next to me though, so that’s always fun.

This trip was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad that I got to go. I’m curious to see how adjusting back to being home will be, but I’ll update you all on that later next week.

TL;DR I had an amazing study abroad program, and an amazing last week, and I’m pretty excited to be on my way home (but also kinda sad to be leaving such an amazing city).

I wrote this on a plane, sorry if it’s rambly in places :p

Souvenirs and Memories

As my departure date increasingly looms over me, I finally realized the weight of what’s happened in my life since September. Coming to a foreign country for three months isn’t exactly something that many people do at one stage of their life, and my own reasons for coming here were more than to learn the customs of another culture. My friends have noticed a change in me lately, that I’m not as talkative or energetic in going out than I used to, when you’re trying to wrestle the joys of coming home to your friends and family but at the same time leaving behind those who supported you in a new environment for a semester; you can’t help but be a little introverted.

Each passing day we share our experiences of our first night in Dundee and those few harsh days in September slowly come back to life. As we do this we take stock of what we’ve learned, who we met and all the good times we shared. We were set to re-enact our first days of kindergarten when we arrived in Scotland; the excitement of going someplace new, not knowing where your class is, taking those first few awkward steps onto a strange bus. As time progressed we grew into our lives here more; going grocery shopping at Tesco, visiting the Union for drinks with friends, and planning trips to discover what the UK is all about. By this point I’ve become too engrained in Scottish culture and society. I shop for music at HMV with my membership card, know where some of the best pub food is, can estimate our time of arrival in Edinburgh by bus or train and use slang several times a day (chips and all). Although my heritage is not Scottish, I’ve learned enough to make my way here without anything getting to me. When life gets to you, you accept that there are flaws, but instead of wallowing in them, you persevere. I think that’s the Scottish attitude to life because if you can imagine the weather right now; it isn’t what you would consider “tropic”, yet I see people walking around in t-shirts when it’s 0 Celsius and are perfectly content. But understanding the mindset isn’t the only thing I’ve learned here.

The other day I was cleaning out my room in preparation for my departure home. On the desk buried underneath my graded assignments and matriculation information were several American dollar bills that I had brought over as emergency cash when I first arrived. It had been a while since I saw George Washington’s face on a crisp bill; as I was more used to Adam Smith and Robert the Bruce when handling money. I picked it up and held it for a while. It felt strange, coarse and stiff; not like the paper thin Pound Sterling I had been using all this time. I was feeling things I had never felt before; a strange disconnect from the United States and for some reason sensing that when I return, I will be a stranger in my own home.

My friends from back home talk to me with an increasing urgency, wishing me a safe flight back to the United States and inviting me to a night out in New Paltz or Albany. In my communication with them I sometimes slip into British colloquialisms like “flat”, “Chips”, “Taking the Piss”, etc. I don’t do this to flaunt my worldliness; it’s just something that’s happened as a result of interacting with people from the UK every single day. Just as easily as I’ve forgotten what my national currency looks like, so too have I adopted the words of another culture.

When I said I was bringing home “Souvenirs” I did not expect to bring home the Scottish mentality to life, but here I am with a few days to go feeling more attached to Scotland and its people more and more. I don’t really know what the future has in store for me when I return, but what I do know is that my experience here has shaped me into a new person. I’ve become someone who has seen the world from a different perspective and force to look at his own culture through another and as a result has become slightly distant from his nationality; save the New York accent. I’m going to miss my friends here and the nights we’ve spent going to pubs and visiting castles. I’m especially going to miss my UK and European friends who’ve welcomed me into their lives with open arms and were willing to show me how to live life day by day. As for now I’m off to do some house cleaning and throw out the clutter of a semester abroad, but I am making sure that my final days here are lived to their fullest.