anything and everything

So it seems a lot has happened since the last time I wrote. We took a day trip up to Strasbourg, explored Colmar a bit more, took the bus (after MUCH confusion about the translation of “bus stop” and “bus station”) from Colmar to Freiburg, started getting to know the city a little bit, saw my new digs in the student village, ventured up to the Schönstatt shrine here, and started on all of the little tasks I need to accomplish before Mom leaves on Saturday.

I’m still figuring out this blog thing… I’m not exactly sure what my main purpose is for writing. Is it for myself, to remember my trip? If so, I should probably write a little bit more often. Is it so other people can read about my trip? If so, I should also probably write a bit more often. I guess the bottom line is that I should get into a little bit of a better routine.

Routines are a sticking point with me lately.

For the past few months, I’ve been in vacation mode… while I was in Austin, I had things to get accomplished, but I could work on those things whenever I wanted. The rest of the time, I got to watch as many TV shows on Netflix as I wanted (resulting in me using up my weekly bandwidth allotment for the first time ever, and then 6 more times after that), hang out with friends as often as I wanted (swing dancing, country dancing, random hangouts at the UCC…), and go on spontaneous roadtrips whenever I wanted (such as venturing to see my favorite Aggies whilst watching my team destroy theirs in basketball). I had virtually no routine, which was FANTASTIC. Would that I could live my entire life that way! 😛

I think this accurately portrays how crazy my wayfaring life made me...

For the past week, I’ve been in tourist mode. Traveling around central Europe with my mom (who, it turns out, is not a bad travel companion) is a pretty sweet deal. It’s been awesome… I’ve gotten to practice my German a bit (more on this in a later post) and see some great sights and eat some delicious food and learn a lot.

Delicious food, Luzern edition

But getting to Freiburg changed things a little.

This is the city where I’ll be living for the next 4 months!! Crazazazazazy. So, when walking down the street in the middle of the day, I don’t just think “Oh, this is so pretty, maybe I should take a picture of that church over there?” No, now I think, “Hmm, I wonder if I’ll have one of my classes in this building? I hope public transit isn’t too expensive. Is this church where I’ll go to Mass on Sundays?” Und so weiter.

For the record, I have no idea where my classes will be because A. There isn’t really a ‘campus’, per se… the buildings for my university are kind of spread out all over the city. And B. I haven’t signed up for them yet. I am kind of freaking out about this, because I’d like to know what classes I’m taking and that I didn’t miss a deadline or anything, and also because I need to register for my fall at UT and in order to do that, it would be nice to know what I’m taking in the spring, haha. Mostly, I want to know what my days are going to look like while I’m here. Will I have morning classes? Classes spread throughout the day? When will I have time to study? To hang out with friends? You know? I want to know.

Also for the record, I haven’t really nailed down anything on the church front yet. We went into a church right near the train station today, Herz Jesu, and it was really pretty. I took a little pamphlet about events there and wrote down their Mass times. I also trekked up to the Shrine, which is not really in Freiburg… it’s in a little suburb to the south. It is quite a ways away, but it is BEAUTIFUL! But basically, I’m still trying to figure out where my faith community will be while I’m here. I guess this will be revealed to me with time, but I am getting impatient.

The main thing that’s been on my mind since we arrived in Freiburg is anxiety about finding a community here. Since I started school at UT, I’ve found the most amazing network of wonderful people and created so many good, deep, fulfilling, faith-centered friendships and relationships. It was really hard to leave that behind (for a while), but I took it in stride, knowing that the next 4 months are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and that the community and the friendships I have in Texas aren’t going to, like, dissolve during that time.

I couldn't find a picture that accurately showed the amazing communities that support me on a daily basis, but this one of me, John, and Mike emphasizes how HAPPY my friends make me!

But I also know that I want a community, or at least one or two solid friendships, while I’m here. I know that’s going to take some work, since I literally know two people in this entire city and because I am not quite where I want to be with my German yet, it’s probably going to be a little harder to connect with people. I guess I’m just scared that I’m not going to find anyone and that I’m just going to be kind of going through the next 4 months alone. I hope to God that that isn’t true, and I’m gonna try and trust that I find the people I’m supposed to find, who will help me grow and such; even if that’s only one person, that will be enough, I hope.

I exchanged e-mails with my friend James before I left. James studied in Chile last semester and I just asked him for some advice, since he’s an old pro at this whole “exchange student” thing. His input really helped me get over some of the anxiety I was having, and it is just too good not to share. I hope he doesn’t mind 🙂

“You’re in Europe, and while the depth may be hard to find with some relationships, I’ve no doubt God will give you them.  And if not, He’s asking you to lean into him way more.  That’s what happened to me, actually. Just be bold!  With people, from my experience, I had to take a lot of the initiative, so just be prepared to have to make a lot of forward steps with relationships. They more open you are with people, they more the tend to draw to you, and that’s how I made good friends–I would share a bit, see how they responded, and then continue deepening that relationship in a meaningful way if they wished to pursue the same. And find travel buddies!  Traveling alone is just all right–happiness is best when shared (Into the Wild).” ~James Van Matre, aka my bestiiiii 4 lyfe

So yeah. This was kind of a long post… sorry! I’m moving into my dorm tomorrow, so I will have stories to share. Hopefully no horrific ones.

OH! And before I go, happy Opening Day!!!! GO CUBS GO! You betta believe I brought my Cubbies blanket with me to Germany 🙂

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dormition?

We took the train to Colmar, France, today. It was pretty rainy, so we decided to go to the Unterlinden Museum so we could spend some time inside. Which was a good idea in theory, but we didn’t factor in a 35 minute detour of walking, lost, around the entire city in the rain.

The museum was fantastic. It was mostly Catholic art from the early Church and the late middle Ages, prominently featuring a number of artists from the Alsace-Lorraine area. The main attraction was a huge room devoted to the Isenheim Altarpiece, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen before!

One really striking thing that my mom and I both noticed was the recurrence of this image, or images like it, depicting the “dormition of Mary,” or Mary’s deathbed.

In these images, Mary is always surrounded by the apostles. Christ is generally seen in the heavens, accompanied by a child representing Mary's soul.

The first time we saw it, in St. Leodegar’s in Luzern, we had no idea what we were even looking at. Then, it just kept coming up at the museum today! Luckily, the handy museum tour headset thing was kind enough to tell us what the heck it was… Mary’s dormition, where according to tradition the apostles all came together to comfort Mary as she died. (Apparently they were “carried on clouds from all over the earth…” a cooler image than my mom’s projection that they all just texted each other.)

Then, I came back to the hotel room and ran a Google search and came up with this: “In Byzantine icons and Western medieval art, the most common deathbed scene is that of the Virgin Mary.”

Um, WHAT? I have never heard of this or seen an image like this in my whole life! And neither has my mother! And, to use her words, she’s “been Catholic for a long time”! And we go to museums quite often, too! Are we just the only Catholics who haven’t been informed of this artistic phenomenon?!?! Help me out here, Catholic friends!

wandern durch luzern

**note: since the title of this post is auf Deutsch, I figured I’d take the time to say this now. There are a few things on here that I’ve written in German, mostly cognates or things that aren’t vital for anyone to translate, but if you do want to know what I’ve written, I have linked to my favorite German dictionary at the bottom of the page!**

We’ve spent the past 2 days in Luzern, Switzerland. It’s a relatively-small city on Lake Luzern, and it is absolutely beautiful! Spring has almost sprung here (much to my relief… I was worried that I was leaving the sunny south to come to a frigid pre-spring Europe, but I was wrong!) so there are daffodils and green grass, but the mountaintops are still snow-capped. Here’s what we see outside our hotel window!

We’ve ventured into downtown/old town Luzern both days, following a walking tour from a travel guidebook and kind of making up our own. It’s a really quaint and pretty city (at least the touristy part is)… one cool thing is the way that the history of the city is documented on its buildings. The Kapellbrücke (chapel bridge) is painted with placards of historical figures of Luzern and poems describing what is shown on them, and lots of the buildings and façades bear murals depicting what the buildings are/were used for. For example, in the Weinmarktplatz (wine market square) there is a mural of the Wedding at Cana!

The main motifs of the city seem to be fountains (the water coming out of the fountains, just like all the water in Luzern, is extremely clean, so the people who live here apparently fill up their water bottles out of the fountains!) and churches (which are BEAUTIFUL!).

We saw the Jesuitekirche, Hofkirche (St. Leodegar), and Franziskanerkirche, three very different and distinct styles of churches despite their similar sizes.  We laughed, of course, about the apparent frugality of the Jesuits and their artificial marble and mismatched furnishings. We were a bit disappointed when we stumbled upon the Franciscan church, because there was a symphonic and choral performance of some of Bach’s music… just ending. We walked in just in time to applaud for about five minutes.

I really loved St. Leodegar… it was really delicately decorated with some apparently-very-well-known art.It was once only a monastery, but today it’s simultaneously a monastery and a parish. They also had Eucharistic adoration, so we went in for a few minutes. Always awesome!

At first, I thought Leodegar was some kind of made up German name, but it turns out it's not: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09174a.htm

Our other adventure besides wandering the city was actual “wandern”… hiking! This is a huge pastime in Germany (in our case, the German-speaking world) and we had the fortune of staying in a hotel a mere 30 minute walk from a castle! So we took advantage. It was a great walk with fantastic views that led us to land that used to comprise a single estate, but now it’s owned by a bunch of different households of normal (extremely lucky) people who get to experience the glory of Lake Luzern, vineyards, and the Swiss Alps every day! The castle was pretty–not what you’d think of when you hear “Schloss,” but it was like a beautiful old manor.

Der Schloss Meggenhorn

On the land there was also a vineyard, a Christusstatue that looked a lot like Cristo Redentor, a chapel, some boathouses, and a dock. I may or may not have almost fallen into the water.

We’ve basically exhausted all of the non-summer attractions in Luzern, so tomorrow we head to Bern en route to Colmar, France!

exhaustion + beauty

Hello friends! I am currently typing this from a hotel room overlooking a lake at the foot of the Swiss Alps in Luzerne! But before you get too jealous, it’s 6 PM here and I haven’t slept since 9 AM yesterday! What a crazy day of travel.

A few points of interest…

-I left my awesome travel pillow that I got for Christmas at home. Mistake. If you’re in the position to fly across the Atlantic anytime soon, definitely get one of those babies.

-Lufthansa, the German airline with which we flew, basically allows their patrons to drink their weight in alcohol… case and point, the elderly woman sitting next to me. She had to get up to use the restroom like 3 times and each time complained about her hip replacement. This was after downing like 2 glasses of scotch and a few glasses of wine.

-My iPod is confused… it used to have huge problems matching up album art with the right songs, and it’s mostly corrected the problems, but whenever I listen to any songs from Wicked, it shows one of Josh Turner’s album covers. It’s quite amusing.

I mean, he's good-looking and all, but it really doesn't match Wicked.

-I am going to have trouble convincing Germans to speak German with me. The first encounter I had was a good one… the stewardess asked me (in German) what I wanted to drink! I was incredibly flattered, but that also meant that I had to choose orange juice (Orangensaft) instead of ginger ale (my go-to airplane drink) because I didn’t know how to say ginger ale in German. For future reference, it’s “Ingwerlimonade.” Eine Ingwerlimonade, bitte! Definitely keeping that in mind for future flights. But besides that, apparently Germans have some kind of American radar or something (or maybe it’s because I have my non-German-speaking mom with me… 🙂 ) because they all shot down my attempts to speak German with them. I figured it wasn’t worth the battle with the guy handling passports at the Frankfurt airport, but I’ll definitely have to get more insistent about me practicing German rather than Germans using me to practice English!

So tonight the plan is to explore Luzerne a little bit, eat dinner, and crash hardcore. Yay jetlag!

Bis später, meine Damen und Herren!

settin’ up the pins

I’m leaving soon… like, really soon. For Germany. !!!!! So I figured I’d make a checklist of everything I need to have accomplished by Thursday.

-Turn 20! Check. That was easy. Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes, by the by.

-Finish shopping for Europe necessities: backpack, walking shoes, etc. Check. I really love REI.

-Buy new glasses due to somehow losing mine in my dorm room. Really unsure as to how that happened. Oh well. Check.

Look up the Mass in German! Check. In case you were curious, the new English Mass translation is really not that revolutionary. The response to “the Lord be with you” in German is already “und mit deinem Geiste,” which means “and with your spirit.” I guess this is kind of practice for Advent for me.

-Satisfy my cravings for Tex Mex and barbecue… Check. Thanks to Trudy’s and Pappasitos and Brooks Street Barbecue and the awesome peeps I got to eat there with!

Improve my German? I guess this one has been in progress for awhile now. I still need to go through my notes from my fake-semester at UT, though.

-Pack… also in progress. Do piles on my floor count?

-Realize that I’m actually going to Europe for 4 months and I leave in 3 days…?!?!! Yeah, don’t think I’ll get there for awhile. But I’m working on it.

auf wiedersehen

I am not a huge fan of goodbyes. They just seem so final and harsh.

I’m leaving Austin tomorrow, and over the past 24 hours I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people. (Multiple times, in the case of a few stubborn people who just kept running into me after I bid them farewell.)

It’s been so hard! I’ve shared so much with my Austin family in the last year and a half, and all of those emotions and experiences kind of came to a head at the end of my farewell celebration. A bunch of us shared an extremely tasty meal at Trudy’s (I’m loading up on the Tex-Mex before I leave… I hear it’s not so fantastic in Germany), followed by some ridiculous dancing in the basement of the UCC.

At the end of the night, Bryan and Bailey insisted on everyone praying over me before we all went our separate ways. Which was absolutely beautiful.

But it suddenly hit me how much I’m going to miss every single one of my friends here in Austin. These people are like my second family, my support network, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and it’s really difficult to think about not seeing them until August. It’ll be even harder to say goodbye to my actual (biological) family next week, I imagine.

But the comforting thing about these goodbyes is that they’re temporary!

I’ll have the good fortune to see some of my favorite people while I’m in Europe – my dad and possibly my brother will be in Europe at some point during the summer, I’m visiting Niki, my lovely wifey, and her family in Krakow in June, and I’ll hopefully be meeting up with Megan somewhere between Rome and Freiburg.

As for everyone else, I’ll be back here in Austin eventually, probably sooner than I’ll be comfortable with, actually. And in the words of Will, my wonderful co, “Thanks to the Internet, the world ain’t so big.” So really, very few of these goodbyes are permanent.

One thing that I’m coming to appreciate about the German language is the phrase “auf wiedersehen.” It’s used the same way we use “goodbye” in English, but it literally means “until I see you again.” So appropriate in this situation, if I do say so myself.

So yes, I’m sad to leave behind all of the amazing friends I’ve been blessed with and the city I’ve fallen in love with over the past two years. But I will meet them again, so until then, it’s not “goodbye,” but instead, “auf wiedersehen.”

And just because it’s cute:

“Promise me you’ll never forget me, because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”

-Winnie the Pooh