Yesterday at 3 PM Central time, after about 36 hours of traveling, I made it back to Houston. It was a pretty crazy two days that I’m sure will be funnier in a few months than they seem now. The important thing is that I’m back home with the fam, have already enjoyed some pink lemonade and Mexican food, and am looking forward to a busy week full of catching up with friends, doctor’s appointments, shopping, packing, unpacking, and moving.
But before we get into all of that, I guess I’ll give you guys a rundown of the craziness that was my departure from Freiburg.
I should have known that the whole ordeal would be insane when the public transit workers in Freiburg decided to go on strike last Friday. Now, I rarely used the Straßenbahn network or bus system because of my bike, so normally that wouldn’t have been a problem. But Friday happened to be the exact day that I needed to move out of my dorm in StuSie and take all of my luggage 30 minutes across town to my friend Elysia’s apartment. The strike situation complicated that quite a bit.
So after my room was inspected, I strapped my huge hiking backpack onto my back, wore my school backpack across my chest, piled my bags of souvenirs on top of my 50 pound rolling suitcase, and trudged across StuSie to my friend Marie’s dorm, where she had agreed to let me leave some of my stuff while I worked on figuring out how to move it.
I had packed all of the stuff I’d need from Friday until Sunday (the day of my departure from Freiburg) in my backpack, so I decided to take my huge suitcase and souvenirs over to the Hauptbahnhof, where they have storage lockers, so I’d have it off my hands. Because of the strike, the easiest way to get to the Hbf was to walk. Normally, that wouldn’t be so bad, but everything’s a little bit harder with a 23 kilogram suitcase. The normally 20 minute walk took about 45 minutes, but paying the 4 Euro to put that bad boy away for 24 hours was worth it.
After my walk back to StuSie, I once again strapped my backpack on and loaded my schoolbag onto the back of my bike. I rode over to the university in the rain (thank goodness for backpack rain protection!) to meet Elysia after her exam. Because her apartment is so far away from the Innenstadt, we split a cab.
The next few days were filled with stressful errands like selling my bike (finally done!), last-minute shopping, and mailing things back home. Despite these annoyances, I was luckily able to enjoy my last days with friends… I went to my friend Konstantin’s Abschiedsparty before he leaves for Italy, which was kind of like my Abschiedsparty as well. My wonderful friends gave me a book of German fairy tales that they’d all grown up with for me to read and think of them–it was a really nice gesture and provided for some good airplane reading, though I might have attracted some weird looks for reading a picture book.
I already miss these girls!
My last day in Freiburg, Elysia and I went on a hike up the Schönberg, which is right near her apartment. Much to my surprise and delight, it led us right to the Schönstatt shrine, which I hadn’t visited in awhile! Our Lady definitely gave me some grace during my short visit, which I’d need in the coming days.
Sunday morning, I (with the help of Elysia) had hauled all the rest of my stuff to the lockers at the Hbf, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. The last thing I did in Freiburg, which I think was a really good decision, was to to Mass at the Uni Kirche. My friend Leonie and her sister were both there, so it was nice not to sit by myself as I did on so many Sundays.
After Mass I said lots of last good-byes to my friends, but since I had an extra hour to spare, a few of us decided to go get a drink. This was ultimately a good idea–I got to spend some quality time with a few of my friends, spend the last of my Euro “Kleingeld” (much to the dismay of our waitress), and enjoy my last legal alcoholic beverage until March! However, the service was really slow so we ended up chugging our beers, running to the train station, yanking my stuff out of the lockers, and dashing to the platform to make my train.
Some of my lovely send-off crew
I stayed the night in Basel, where I was supposed to fly out the next morning at 10:30. Because of past airport debacles, I got there in plenty of time… only to find out that rainstorms in Frankfurt, where I was supposed to connect, had delayed our flight by quite a bit. At first, I wasn’t too concerned and decided to spend the time charging my computer and watching episodes of Friends which I had fortunately put on my hard drive before departure. However, once the delay reached the one hour mark, I started to get a little concerned, because I only had an hour and 15 minute layover in Frankfurt to begin with. However, the stewardesses assured me that all the flights out of Frankfurt were delayed as well, so even though I might have to rush, I’d probably make my connection.
FALSE!!! FALSE FALSE FALSE!
Upon landing in Frankfurt, I located and info phone and inquired about the Houston flight, only to be told by an all-too-calm operator that the plane had already left. At this point, both the stress of just having missed my flight home and the fact that I was leaving the place that had become my home decided to kick in, effectively reducing me to a crying mess for a little bit as I tried to scrape up enough phone credits to call my parents and let them know what had happened. Then, I broke out the Friends in an ill-fated attempt to cheer myself up as I waited for my number to be called at the ticketing desk. I believe I was number 486, and when I first got there they were helping people in the 390s.
In the nearly 3 hours that elapsed between calling home and being seen at the ticketing counter, my parents called Continental and rescheduled my flight, but were never given my new ticket number, which caused oodles of problems when I finally got to the desk–further complicated by the fact that I was tired, depressed, and generally a mess. After quite a while of struggling, I ended up with a free dinner and hotel room and a ticket on a plane to Chicago the next morning at 8 AM.
That morning, everything went relatively smoothly. The new security questions that they ask you while checking your passport at the airport are a little strange, but thankfully the fact that I bought a scone at the airport did not disqualify me for boarding. Despite an abysmal movie selection on the plane, the transcontinental flight was quite comfortable and I was able to sleep for a little bit, cutting down on the jetlag quite a bit. Upon arrival in Chicago, I even got through customs pretty painlessly.
However, at baggage claim it quickly became very obvious that my backpack hadn’t made it to Chicago, even though my huge oversized suitcase, with which it had been checked in Basel, had. When I asked airport personnel, they ensured me that it would be in Houston when I got there, but I was doubtful to say the least. Especially when I realized that, because I’d never checked that backpack before and had always carried it on, I had forgotten to put identification on it. And that it contained, among other things, souvenirs I’d bought in Krakow, Freiburg, and Schoenstatt, and my teddy bear I’ve had since I was 2 years old. Luckily, the American Airlines baggage people found it pretty quickly–it’s in Frankfurt and should arrive here in the next few days! So, sorry to those of you to whom I haven’t been able to give your souvenirs yet.
So I’m finally back home and basically over jet-lag. Now begins my crazy week of being home, and then a new adventure begins in Austin! It’s so weird to me that my semester in Germany is already over–in some ways it feels like it lasted forever, but in some ways it went by in a second. It was one of the best things I have ever experienced in my life and I can’t wait to make my return to Freiburg!
Also, a point of interest for those of you who have been following this blog: I’m planning on keeping it going even though my study abroad semester is over. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to stretch my writing muscles a little bit, since I love it and hope to someday make a living writing. It’s been fun, and I hope that some of you will be interested in hearing my thoughts about the same sorts of thing I’ve been talking about–life, people, relationships, education, culture…–just without the crazy European travel. 🙂