Discovering Germany 2006
A Shaky Beginning
16 May 2006
KRIS: We've got our maps and passports, and we are on our way to Germany!! My sister Sharon and I will be accompanying my German 101 professor and three other students on a two-week study abroad opportunity. The focus of this study abroad is simply to discover and experience the German culture. The three other students are Thom, Derek, and George.
We are all students at Western Kentucky University. Derek and George are Freshmen. Derek has had one semester of German, and George has had two. Derek's major is broadcasting, and George's major is political science. Both plan to get a minor in German.
Thom is about to graduate with a major in History. He plans to teach high school history and will begin his student teaching in the fall. Thom has had one semester of German, two years ago.
Sharon is an accounting major, and I am a healthcare administration major. We have both had two semesters of German. We are Mennonites and chose German as our foreign language requirement because we have German roots. We can already speak a dialect of German called Pennsylvania Dutch, which comes from our parents' Amish backgrounds.
Dr. McGee was a high school exchange student to Berlin, Germany, and has been to Germany about twenty times or so since then. This makes her an excellent guide and interpreter.
We all call Kentucky our home. We hail from Franklin, Bowling Green, and Louisville, Kentucky.
Unfortunately, the joy of traveling is dampened, as always, by the need to pack. Sharon and I started packing on Sunday and didn't finish up until late last night (Monday). I used Sharon's Packing List, and even as comprehensive as it was, I still found things to add. We have to pack in such a way as to be able to bring home lots of chocolate.
We were originally scheduled to leave at 10:30 this morning, but alas! The flight was canceled, and we had to step our departure up two hours. This meant we had to be at the airport by 6:30 am, and therefore, had to get up at 5:00 am. Because of the change in schedule, my brother Martin took us to the airport instead of Mom, as was originally planned.
Now Martin drives what I call the Camel. It is an older Toyota 4-Runner. Every time I ride in it, I feel like I am about to fall off the side. It is not designed for those who like to Ride Well. When we left the house, and I climbed into the Camel at that early hour, something was not well-coordinated, and I smacked my head so hard against the door frame that it was a good two miles down the road before I could function again, although limitedly. I cradled my head in my hands, just sure that when I brought my hands down, there would be blood seeping through my fingers. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as it felt.
We stopped at Wal-Mart on our way out to the interstate so that we could buy a power converter yet and a few odds and ends we had missed in the multiple times we had made a Wal-Mart run in the last several days. I think it is almost as expensive to prepare for traveling as it is to do the traveling itself. Anyway, Sharon and I ran our errands while Martin made a quick breakfast run to Hardees.
When I climbed back into the Camel when he picked us up, I made sure to proceed with great care. I said, "I am treating this door with respect this time!" after which I promptly lost my footing in the morning dew. My leg went flying out and smacked the bottom of the door every bit as hard as my head had hit the door frame.
If I were any smaller at all, I would have been in the fetal position by this time. I eventually assured myself that my shin bone wasn't broken, and with due haste, I decided to approach all things on this journey as Threats with Which to be Reckoned.
We arrived at the airport at 6:45. We encountered no other problems. We didn't even have any security issues because we now have security figured out. We now know exactly how much metal we can have in our hair and still get through security without being “strip-searched.” It is very important that we begin the journey on the right note.
We ran into Thom just before we went through security, but because we had to take all our hair paraphernalia out, we told him we'd catch him on the other side.
Dr. McGee and Derek soon found their way to where we were waiting at the gate. Unfortunately, Dr. McGee has forgotten her digital camera, so she is going to get her landlord to send it to her.
The flight to JFK was uneventful. We caught some quick catnaps during the two and a half hour flight.
We met George, our sixth and final traveling buddy at the JFK Airport. He had flown in from Cincinnati. And then we had six hours to wile away, while waiting for our flight to leave for Berlin; it was scheduled to depart at 6:00 p.m.
We all ate lunch, then Dr. McGee, Sharon, and I parked ourselves in a Starbucks restaurant and proceeded to utilize her computer and our PDAs. Our plan is to type our journaling on our PDAs with our fold-up, wireless keyboards, then take a card reader and upload the files to our blog in some Internet cafe in Berlin.
The time finally came, and we boarded the plane. It was a 2-3-2 seat formation across the plane, and Sharon, Thom, and I had been assigned to the middle three. Thom had had the foresight to move his seat to the exit row where he would have more leg room, so Sharon and I ended up with three seats between the two of us. Thank goodness for that. It was uncomfortable enough with that arrangement. The seat handles wanted to gouge, the head rests would not hold up to a resting head, and the leg room available really was pathetic.
It would be nice to say that once we had finally settled down after our meal of chicken and rice, that the rest of the trip was uneventful. Unfortunately, even on this trip, we had those people who tried the patience of those around them. On Dr. McGee and Sharon's side was a guy who jabbered and jabbered and jabbered away while the rest of the plane was entirely silent, trying to sleep--all except for the guy behind Sharon and across from Dr. McGee, that is, who graced his neighbors with his snoring. On my side of the cabin, I had the gentleman who could not put his book down. Almost all lights were out...except his. I should've asked him for the title because it was so all-consuming that there were only about ten minutes the entire flight when he wasn't sitting there reading with his light on. This would've been fine any other time of day... except when people are trying to sleep.
Thom, who had moved to the exit row, had the pleasure of also being near the bathroom and was bumped almost every time someone used the facilities. And believe me, there was a steady stream--in more ways than one--all night long.
The night was not a restful night at all. I kept waking up every twenty to thirty minutes, and half of those times, my head had fallen into an impossible position, giving me both a neck and backache. We were awakened to the sound of breakfast being served, and we were all very grateful that the night of rest that never happened was about to come to an end.
Locations Visited: Berlin