Saying goodbye to my classmates felt like I was pulling something out of my chest. Classmates surrounded me this whole trip until now and I had to just walk away and figure it out on my own. I hugged everyone goodbye and each hug felt like I wouldn’t see them again for a long time. It’s like that feeling after graduation when you’re pretty sure you’ll see them again, but you truly have no idea.
Thankfully, that feeling didn’t last long because Juliana showed up pretty soon.
It was fantastic to see Juliana’s hometown, Bad Nauheim. It’s this small little town outside of Frankfurt near Friedberg. The beginning of it (Bad) means that it is a relaxing town or a place that has a spa or bathhouse. And this is true. When we were just wandering around the different parts of town, Juliana told me that there are a lot of old people that live there, usually after they’ve had surgeries or just want a relaxing vacation. We wandered pretty hard for the first few hours, just walking around and sightseeing.
Then we got to her place, which was right above the main street in town, opposite the park, an amazing view. She told me she lived her whole life in this apartment like it was no big deal. Well, Juliana, it is a big deal. The interior of the apartment was large and spacious, a homey feel to her apartment. This was actually her mother’s place that she only visited every now and again. She goes to school in a different city, but comes to visit her boyfriend in town, but she just stays at his place when she actually comes to visit. So she only really uses her mother’s place as a common ground.
After the first round of sightseeing, we had to go pick her mom up from work. Turns out her mom only knows limited English and really only speaks German. What a great challenge it was for me to listen to her. She talked a little slower when I was around to make sure I could follow everything that was happening. It was actually really nice for her to do that because now I finally got some of the language immersion that I’ve been looking for. Granted, I wouldn’t intervene much in the conversations happening around me, but I was able to follow along for the most part. That’s why I figured it would be better to just hang out and just listen to the language more.
One leap I have made this trip is understanding that another language really isn’t that hard if you’re surrounded by it. Now any language teacher is going to tell you that, but it’s true. After being here for long enough, I can point out what words I don’t know and which ones I do. I can listen and not be incredibly overwhelmed by the foreign-ness of the language. Once I tried to talk with Juliana’s mom and sister, I saw that it really is getting easier to understand.
Understanding is paramount.
We wandered the town some more and ended up at one of the fountains of the town. There is a fount that gives natural mineral water, including iron and several other healthy natural things. Juliana said it’s pretty gross and warned me to the taste.
I actually loved it and asked her to go back before I leave so I could fill up my water bottle. It tastes a lot like mineral water, just a little bit of gas and iron tasting. This is what natural drink is. Wow. I want more already. Juliana hates that I like it. Apparently it’s gross? I would severely disagree.
Then we went out for food in several different places. We took a drive with Juliana’s boyfriend, Sandro, to the top of the hill nearby. There was a small villa sort of place with a café installed. The view was brilliant and the coffee was 12 Euros.
We drove to the other side of the hill and got to see the large valley behind Bad Nauheim. It functions as a small flying school, using just the grass as a runway, rather than slapping cement onto the ground. I wonder if that passes regulations. It’s probably unsafe.
Dinner at Sandro’s restaurant was incredible. Pasta filled with pear and cream sauce. Cooked veggies. Salman covered in a cream sauce. Red wine. And he invited us.
That was something new I learned: being invited. It’s the same as having a meal on the house. Both Juliana and I tried to pay at the end so we could go check out the local bars, but Sandro was adamant that he invited us. He was very nice about it, even after both Juliana and I tried to shove money at him to pay. Not only did he pay for my meal, but he was also welcoming enough to let me stay at his place for the night. Bless Sandro.
After checking out the local bars (which reminded me of just a small version of Mick’s Office with more smoke and 19 year olds), we made our way back to the restaurant to visit Sandro before he had to close up. But as soon as we got inside, we made our way to the piano. I just played. No reason. No feeling. I just played. It felt good to just have a piece of home, something I was familiar with in its entirety.
Then for breakfast this morning, bless Sandro and Juliana, we sat on the balcony facing one of the main streets with the bright morning sun beating right on my face. Warm forehead, real bread with jam and butter, scrambled eggs with tomatoes and cilantro, warm cup of coffee. A great start to keep me going all the way to München.
Vielen Dank, Julian und Sandro. I can’t wait to see you in two weeks.