Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Germany, you've captured my heart.

Although this week has been a whirlwind, this month has seemed very close to perfect. More than likely because I spent 3 weeks of it with a certain German boy, but that's debatable. ;)

Here's a few snapshots of my recent adventures in super Deutschland.
Also, I have come to the permanent conclusion that Bavaria is indeed 100% more beautiful than the rest of Germany. Plus, they have dirndls and apfel studel galore.
I'm sold!

*Although Berlin does have enchanting French bulldogs and Pug puppies that roam the streets like angels. Hmmmm...*

Sailing on the gorgeous Forgensee with Sebastian, his father, and youngest brother! Our sailboat was called "The Seahorse."
I am a VERY terrible sailor and would make a better mermaid, perhaps. This was such a fun day! A gorgeous view, packed lunches, learning how to control the dastardly sail, getting a little sunburned, laughing when the cold water splashed everyone. Perfection! :)

Do you see the little castle at the foot of the mountain? That's Schloss Neuschwanstein! The "Disney" Castle, and the very same I visited only a few months earlier. It's even more lovely on a nice summer day!

Speaking of schloss type things--Berlin has it's very own castle in Charlottenberg! The gardens here were really beautiful, and we arrived just at sunset. Just in time to see this adorable little pug playing with his family in the distance. *sigh*

I really loved the fuzzy little flowers! They reminded me of something my mom would really like. :) I'm not sure what they are but the red and yellow peepers are beauties too.

Taking a sightseeing break with my German boy by the schloss, and the really disgusting pond. It became so chilly that evening! I'm so excited that Autumn is just around the corner. 

The amazing Reichstag! Hopefully next time Seb comes to visit we will be able to hear an actual debate from the Bundestag. Must work on my German...

We finally found the Berlin wall! The Topographies Des Terrors was unfortunately not as interesting, but I really enjoyed the walk around the city and this site nonetheless. Ignore the fact that I look parched! We forgot our waterbottle during the sightseeing spree!

The Holocaust Memorial. It's located right beside of the American Embassy. It was really eerie during that time of day!

Playing hide and go seek with my Germany boy. I'm not sure who won!

Checkpoint Charlie. It's a good thing these men aren't really American soldiers! They were the laziest flag holders I've ever seen!

At the historic Brandenberg Gate! I had to creep around until I asked someone to take our photo. I think we had a marvelous dinner after this!

Stay tuned--more Berlin adventures to come!

Traveling Light

This is my second week of classes at Hertie, and I've only just realized that I've been living in Berlin for over one month now. Time, and all of its properties, have flown by much more quickly than I could ever imagine. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, necessarily, but I'm still smitten by the bare essence of this city. I feel like a greedy, little moth that can't soak up enough of the light that Berlin emits. Even in the midst of utter chaos this week (getting kicked out of my apartment by my insane alcoholic, bipolar roommate--and being extremely thankful that my amazing boyfriend was there in that terrible situation, watching the American flag burn on 911, slight shock from ridiculous student protests on my Cairo campus, watching Libyans mourn the death of a precious American ambassador, seeing petty commentary regarding Obama vs. Romney, searching for a United Methodist Church in Berlin, walking around with two contacts in one eye, chopping my bangs into near oblivion, and the list goes on).

I do realize that there is always some sort of chaos or delusion in my life, but frankly I've grown accustomed to it and obviously realize that I work best under pressure and with tedious amounts of stress peering out amongst the cob webbed corners. However, I've also learned over this past year that while one is LIVING in a chaotic atmosphere, one must learn to TRAVEL a bit lighter to create a more harmonious balance.

I'm not talking about traveling in the literal sense, because God and everyone else on this great, big planet knows that I am almost, impeccably incapable of "traveling lightly"...this is another thing that I need to work on. Eventually. I've become entranced, again, by the thought of traveling a bit more lightly, spiritually. I've managed to find a United Methodist Church in Charlottenberg, not too far from where I am living now. I actually intend on going to the church this Sunday in the evening to attend a worship service there. Thankfully, their services are held in English instead of German. Lucky me!

This summer I was able to attend my church, Oakland United Methodist Church in Greenback Tennessee, almost every Sunday. I may have been a few moments late, half asleep, or in worse conditions (like after seeing Magic Mike in the movie theater and having one too many jumbo margaritas) but I made it! Going to church has always given me a sense of peace, especially during the more stressful moments of my life--the times that I don't necessarily like to share with others right away.   After attending church this summer I made a promise that I would continue going to church in Berlin, and it's already been one month since I've stepped foot inside a house of worship. Seriously I am despicable. I realized this yesterday when I was talking with my other roommate, a sweet and sane girl from Romania, about an incident that happened in my church only weeks before I left for Germany. 

I was sitting in the front pew in July with the preachers daughter (one of my best friends) and the Poling family (a part of the backbone of the church, and some of the nicest people I've ever met) while my preacher was speaking to the congregation. I remember being so touched by his words that day, and even felt my eyes stinging a bit because of the words he proclaimed--which was a relief since I have had major spiritual issues over the year and why I forced myself to return to church this summer. I heard a quiet pattering behind me, and I turned my head slightly to see which small child was escaping from their parents. To my surprise I saw an older woman, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, slowly moving down the aisle. Her long gray hair was tied back into a messy braid and she wore a vacant expression on her face as she gripped the Sunday bulletin in her shaking hand. My preacher stopped in the middle of his sermon and looked down at the woman, who had a possible mental illness of sorts, and said something along the lines of, "Hello, welcome to Oakland. Would you like to join us for worship today?" The woman, who had stopped beside of my pew, returned his gaze and said, "Well, yes sir. If that's okay. I just need to go to the bathroom." My pastor then said, "That's fine, the bathroom is right over there." As eyes followed the woman, she slowly said her thanks and meandered towards the women's restroom, and without missing a beat my preacher picked up his sermon right exactly where he left. 

While the woman was in the bathroom I couldn't help but think, "She is taking a long time in there, I hope she's okay. Well, what if she's one of those crazy woman that would partake in church shootings. Whitney, don't be so obscene. Really, what IS taking her so long!? Did she faint? Maybe she didn't go to the bathroom at all!"Before I could think of any other terrible things, the woman appeared and found her seat in the congregation and everything was just as before. I was ashamed as I had been so easily overcome with the burden of worry, and went to hug the woman after the sermon was over so I could welcome her to the home of Oakland. 

Isn't it funny sometimes how the most beautiful things appear in our lives when we least expect it, regardless of whether or not we are surrounded in peace or turmoil? I keep thinking back on that day, and how proud I was to be a member of Oakland because of the ease that most everyone accepted the newcomer. My spirit was high that week, and I tried to pray more for others and less for myself. That's how you begin to travel light, by getting rid of your heaviest load and focusing on the grace that is found in life. By focusing less on burdens such as worry, guilt, homesickness, arrogance, self-reliance, hopelessness, and discontent (burdens that the author Max Lucado states we were never intended to bear).

So with high hopes, I intend to go to Charlottenberg on Sunday to meet a new congregation and new friends. This past week has made me a little weary, and yes my burdens are occasionally heavy (although not as heavy as my suitcases...and carry ons), but I have a feeling that I will find rest,
Simply because, "You are with me. Psalm 23:4"

*Also, I have a request for all of you. One of my best friends, Ashley, is going through a very difficult time right now. Her father passed away earlier in the week. Please pray for her and her family, or spare a thought when you have time. It would mean a lot to me.*