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My unexpected hike in Germany

GERMANY | Sunday, 18 May 2014 | Views [336]

  At age 17, I won a scholarship exchange to Germany for several months - 30 students from across Australia and New Zealand, where we spent the winter at our various host families' houses throughout the country-side. I was placed in Bad Schwartau, near Luebeck (about an hour away from Hamburg, way up north). As part of the exchange program, we are paired with our German "counterpart"; a host sibling, where we go to school together everyday, join in on their social life and generally stick to them like glue.

  My German, however, was in Canada for the first week of my trip, so I was blessed with the lucky task of sink or swim, auf Deutsch. She was on exchange herself, so her parents were there to meet me and make me feel welcome, but school was a whole other ball game. My German's best friend, Tami, showed me around for the first few days, so it wasn't all bad, but my German language skills were novice at best, so it made for a few funny moments where I had no clue what was happening nor had the ability to have an input into discussions.

  Anyway, my 3rd day, still no host sister, and my host mother said to me on the way to school (well, at least this is what I roughly translated it as) "I know you need to buy winter jackets and clothes, so after school, go shopping down the main street, then catch the bus home, or call me on the payphone if you want a lift". Sounded reasonable. So I had my day of school, bid my class farewell, then walked the few hundred feet to the main strip of Luebeck. I shopped, not untill I dropped, but untill I physiclly couldnt hold any more bags.

  So I jumped on the bus, realised I had no clue which stop was the one I needed to get off at, asked bus patrons in laughable German whether they could help me, but was met with stoic silence. The landscape started to look familiar so I got off, then went for the longest, coldest, windiest walk of my entire life. 3kms in the -5 degrees wind, it was dark, lonesome and I quickly grew to realise that I had quite a stretch in front of me. Thankfully along the way I ran into a nice couple, who directed me to Hamburger Strasse (yes, I lived on the most cliched Deutsch street in the history of ever), where it was just starting to get properly dark, and ... I was locked out.

  I was yet to have a key, because so far I'd been picked up from school each day by my host mother. I didn't have a phone, because again, day 3 - I was too busy eating sausages for breakfast and mandarines at all hours to be bothered about buying a phone. No hope of breaking in - say what you will about the Germans, but they sure know how to build an impenetrable house. Bloody fortresses. So I sat out the front for what totalled an hour untill eventually a car rolled up with my host mums' work colleague - apparently, she had said "I'll pick you up, or call me if you want to take the bus."

Damn it.

So naturally when I was a no show, my host mum freaked and quite seriously sent out a search party, which by the time they found me had been going on for 3 hours. The work colleague let me in, as apparently everyone but me had a key to the house. My host mother turned up within 20 minutes of being called, and we had what I can say with absolute certainty was the most awkward and embarrased hug of my life. 

One of the things they don't tell you about international travel is that you will have the best, and the absolute worst times of your life. This experience wasn't nearly as bad as other incidents I've experienced since, but hot damn it sticks out in my mind. I was very grateful to my German mother, and we both kind of looked on it as a bonding experience. Kind of.

Tags: cold, exchange student, germany, shopping, walk

 

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