Life is short but sweet for certain

Yesterday, I visited the palace and gardens at Schloss Schönbrunn, the “Austrian Versailles,” or the 300-year-old summer home (the fact that this was not just someone’s residence, but someone’s “just for fun” residence… there are no words) to many years of emperors and empresses.

Though the sun shone all day, the trip felt extremely solemn, as I had just found out about the passing of one of my best childhood friends. The friend I lost was a lover of life and an infectiously upbeat personality. As I looked around the lush, green gardens and gazed over Vienna at the hilltop view, I felt an even greater appreciation for the beautiful sights than I normally would have. I knew my friend would have loved visiting the palace. I hoped that through my visit, I could expand my experience of the world in his honor.

So, my friend, I took some pictures in hopes of capturing the day I spent reflecting on our friendship and our priceless memories. Your loss is a reminder to me to always enjoy life and to experience as much as I can during my time on Earth. You are truly missed.

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Hiiiii again!

So, it’s been a while since my last post. Things have been a little crazy over this way! Jacco and I just got back from an 8-day trip to Bavaria — my first experience in that part of the country. We stayed in a small village called Füssen, which almost sounds like the German translation of the word feet… Possibly named because Füssen is located at the foot of the German alps, but I thought it was ridiculously cute that the town’s crest consists of three legs/feet making a triangle. Puns are great. It’s the little things…

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So, although it was a work trip for Jacco (the orchestra performed all week at Neuschwanstein Castle), we really had a great time. We got to explore the castle and see many of the incredible sights in the area. Every day was like living in a fairy tale. The mountains were just AMAZING. Inspired by the Hollywood-worthy view, I even climbed up on a rock one day and started (loudly) singing that Lonely Goatherd song from The Sound of Music — I thought I was alone, but wouldn’t you know it —- I wasn’t. I glanced over my shoulder to find a pack of tourists. Awesome. So, I kind of awkwardly walked away but was comforted when one of the older men continued the song after I left. (I was later to come across many, many American tourists singing songs from The Sound of Music — I’m telling you, it ain’t hard to pick out the Americans in this neck of the woods).

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On Saturday, we hiked into Austria. That was a big highlight of the week for me — a new country to mark off my bucket list!
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Our trip was unforgettable to say the least. I’m feeling super blessed to have the opportunity to explore new parts of the world. Now that we’re back in Dresden, it definitely feels like we’ve been jolted back into the real world! Jacco is preparing for the premiere of Die Tote Stadt by Korngold, and I’m hitting my practice time hard in preparation for my audition this week. Exciting, but busy! Just the way I like it.

Germlish

My weekend was full of my favorite new language, Germlish. Communication in a new language can be equal parts rewarding and confusing, and these days, my goal is for conversations to be mostly rewarding and just a little confusing.

My Germlish skills vary depending on the scenario and/or with whom I’m speaking — sometimes it’s basically nothing but English and the classic smile-and-nod, sometimes it’s a really “creative” German-English combo with sign language for extra clarity, and sometimes – the times I like the best – I manage to chirp out some German sentences with decent, or even clear, understanding of what the other person is telling me.

Friday, Jacco and I walked through the farmer’s market in Dresden and concluded the shopping trip at Karstadt, where I bought a postcard and some other touristy things. In an effort to “learn the money,” a.k.a. figure out which fancy coins are which in the Euro system, I checked out at the register without allowing myself to ask Jacco, “Ok, so can you find €7.68 for me?” 

I dug through my Katze-shaped coin purse for the closest change I could find while I stood in line. I could tell Jacco was watching my progress. The line in front of me shortened. I’m panicking. Honestly, it’s like I’m back in Kindergarten learning the difference between a nickel and a dime — except now I’m 23 years old and feeling extremely humbled by this ridiculous challenge. Finally, it was my turn to hand the clerk my merchandise and my exact €7.68. I smiled to myself and thought, “Nailed it.

Later, Jacco asked me, “Did you know the cashier at Karstadt was talking to you when you were in line?” 
Me: “What? No, I had no idea…”
Jacco: “Yeah, she told you to move up and use her register! You were so concentrated on finding your money, you didn’t hear her!”

Jacco apparently thought it was endearing and cute, but I was embarrassed. I felt like an idiot. The difference, I’m learning, between a second language and a native language is the active listening involved in the new language. Understanding German, at this point, is not without its effort. It takes energy and attentiveness — but that’s what leads to those rewarding conversations that I’m learning to appreciate so much.

Today, Jacco and I visited a friend and his wife who agreed to teach me German lessons this fall! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to turn my Germlish into actual, grammatically accurate, legitimate German!!!! 

Last night, Jacco performed with the Robert Schumann Philarmonie in Chemnitz for their open air concert, the beginning of this year’s season. The finale was “Themes aus Star Wars” — and someone put an incredible amount of time and planning into a perfectly-timed firework show, which had me completely geeking out. It’s great to know Star Wars and fireworks transcend all languages. 

Here’s to an awesome week of new experiences.

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Theaterplatz, Chemnitz

Home, Sweet Home

After a month’s delay… I’m finally back in Germany! It’s crazy how quickly plans can change and how much flexibility is necessary just to stay on track… life is a funny thing. I spent a little more time in the U.S. this summer than I had planned, but extra time with friends and family was much appreciated… and needed! And now, I’m back in Dresden, enjoying a cup of tea with my handsome boyfriend and musing about how things always seem to turn out just right.

Through a pretty thick haze of jetlag, I also feel a little homesickness settling in, though I’ve been looking forward to being here since the prospect of moving to Germany first popped in my head. Saying, “I’m home” here in Germany feels more and more natural every day, which leaves me convinced that home can easily be more than one place for some people. Today, I’ve felt homesick for the house I grew up in, the same house I stayed in almost all summer this year; for my undergrad friends and classrooms and campus; and for the school and city where I did my graduate studies. At the same time, I was so ready to finally be at my Dresden home while I was traveling 28 hours to be here, and I’m sure I’ll be homesick when I leave again. As a current continent-hopper, I’m actually getting pretty used to homesickness as being my emotional norm.

I don’t see this as a negative thing. I have this exciting, gezellig (MY NEW DUTCH WORD! Meaning: cozy, fuzzy, warm) feeling when I realize I’m lucky enough to have several wonderful places where I feel at home and can share time with people I love. So, in the midst of all of Jacco’s and my planning for the coming months… it’s really good to be home.

Part of Your World (Days 12-16)

As I’m writing this, someone is singing a karaoke version of ‘Part of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid on the street outside our apartment. The irony of hearing this song — not to mention the unexpectedness of someone singing Disney melodies on the street, and not even in tune, but ok, whatever — kind of has me thinking about the ‘fish out of water’ concept and how much I can relate to little Ariel, minus the seashell bra but definitely plus the intense desire to explore and belong in an entirely new setting.

What I thought I looked like when I arrived in Germany:
Edward Kitsis, once upon a time
What I actually looked like:
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In other words, I don’t have a big rock with water splashing around me and the ocean perfectly framing my fins, I just have a neck pillow, but the idea is the same. I’m ready and optimistic about this new phase in my life. Since I started writing, I’ve heard two other karaoke songs on the street: ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin (actually my favorite Disney movie) and ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked. There seems to be a positive theme going on here…

Recounting the past few days, I watched The Netherlands (Jacco’s home country) destroy world champions Spain in their first match of the World Cup (Hup Holland Hup!), completed the final concert of our chamber series (I felt the best about this one!), explored the art museum here in Dresden (Jacco got in trouble for trying to take a picture, so we hid the camera and he snuck another pic — I almost had a heart attack — being a rebel is not my thing), and went to a garden party in a town near Leipzig for the colleagues in Jacco’s orchestra. Fun times 🙂

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Now, karaoke girl is singing Taylor Swift… and I’ve decided the karaoke connection to my life is cut off for now. Bis bald...