Sunday, July 22, 2012

Durst ist schlimmer als Heimweh

"Thirst is worse than homesickness"

    I leave Munich a terrifying five weeks from today. (Okay, five weeks and one day.)

    There are days, usually when I'm fighting with screaming children or ironing unending piles of clothes, when I'm more than ready to leave.

    But then there are days when the weather is beautiful, it's warm and friendly, and I just want to dive into the wonderfulness that is living in Europe, and I can't imagine why I would ever want to leave this amazing city, where I truly feel more at home than I've ever felt in Yucaipa or Orange or LA. I feel the pulse of this city far more so than I ever have anywhere else. I love the ease and comfort of living somewhere where there are universally understood rules that everyone follows. I love having friends with whom I can switch languages if one doesn't seem to be getting the point across. I love the openness with which you can sit down near someone who you exchange a cursory greeting with who then ends up talking with you for hours and paying for your dinner. I love the challenge of having a conversation with someone when I know I can't perfectly say what I need to, but they have the courtesy and the understanding to keep listening, smile when I acknowledge a mistake, and have the kindness to keep talking to me.

   I can open a beer bottle without a bottle opener, type on a keyboard with the z and y reversed without trouble (and even find my various umlauts and Eszett without flinching), navigate one of the world's most extensive public transportation networks after far too many beers, ride a bike while carrying several bags of groceries, and drink a beer in order to quench my thirst.

    More than anywhere I have ever been, I have fallen in love with this city.

    And the thought of going back to the land of catcalls from construction workers, doors not being held open, and walking down streets past dark being a dangerous experience is one I'm not ready to face yet.

    Suddenly instead of counting up from my arrival ("here three months today!"... "six months today!..."), it's counting down. Letters arrive from the Kreisverwaltungsreferat, telling me I'm running out of time to do something about being allowed to stay here. What do you mean, less than two months?

Thank God for these five more weeks.

    I am, however, ready to be done being an au pair. Though I do still think wholeheartedly that I got incredibly lucky with my host family and had a wonderful, wonderful time being their au pair, I'm ready to be in control of my own life again. Being an au pair is unique in that, unlike every other job, there is no such thing as being not at work. Even if it's my day off, non-working hours, et cetera, et cetera, I'm still at work. I can be asked at any moment to empty the dishwasher, cancel my evening plans, skip a concert so my host parents can go out to dinner. And it's incredibly frustrating. There's no such thing as ending your day and going home. Not ever having worked a true 9-5 job, I can't completely say what that's like, but I'd imagine there's some comfort in knowing that whatever crap you have to put up with during the day, at least there's a definite ending point to all of that.

    Though it may seem like the most carefree job in the world, it can actually be pretty stressful. And I will also say that after this year is done, I will have had my fill (for a while, at least) of relaxing. Having nothing to do is hard. And boring. And doesn't make you feel very good at the end of the day. I'm ready to have a purpose to my day again, and to do something that, while maybe it doesn't actually "make a difference," with all that heavy phrase implies, at least accomplished something other than ferrying two tired children home from kindergarten and stuffing bread and cheese into their tummies. As much as I love my kiddies (I really do; my future children will have some high expectations to live up to), I will indeed be more than okay with being done as an au pair.

    But the idea of leaving Munich terrifies me a little, right now. As time goes on, I find more and more reasons why I could actually be happy here. My shallow reasons like not eating Mexican food, not being able to find black beans, not getting to go the beach, et cetera, et cetera, slowly fade as I find my feet more and more here. I know where to go for good (not Rosie's or Cuca's class, but good) Mexican food (anything surrounding Giselastraße, for some reason). Black beans are, indeed, findable, if you know where to look, as is American brown sugar (one of my successes of this week). Last weekend, Leigh, Sarah and I went to a little "beach" on the island in the middle of the Isar, and drank beer whilst sitting in the sand (without breaking any laws to do so!).

   But life goes on, and us with it. I miss the days when a year was actually a long time. Now, a week goes by without my even noticing.

   But I try my damnedest to enjoy the remainder of my time here. I will be back all too soon to the land of obligations and requirements, of problems like paying for car insurance and coming up with money for deposits on apartments. To waking up daily at god-forsaken hours of the morning (I hope so, at least; if I'm not, that probably means I'm unemployed...or working a night job. Ew). And I will go back to my country with a smile on my face, because I am excited to see people (and my dog), to see my home, and to see if I still fit into the place I took myself out of.

   But I'm glad I still have five weeks to pysch myself up. I no longer feel like I need to go home. Three months ago, I was more than ready. But then something clicked, and I finally felt like I got my feet under me. It helped, of course, that I got to see my parents last month--were that not true, I probably would be a lot more eager. And I don't not want to come home. I'm just realistic (maybe too much so) about what it awaiting me there.

   And in the meantime...well, all I can say is I'm not done here yet. And I'll be back.

   Photo disclaimer: a lot of these are old. Though this weather is definitely not July weather by California standards, it hasn't snowed, at least.

Bayerischer Landtag 


Englischer Garten

St. Lukas Kirche
Bavaria monument
Englischer Garten

Isar, looking north
Volksbad and Gasteig
Isar, looking south
BMW headquarters
The field next to the kindergarten
Englischer Garten


  1. This is a thought-provoking and well-written post - maybe because some of it I resonate with. I think you hit the nail on the head with this thought: "...There's some comfort in knowing that whatever crap you have to put up with during the day, at least there's a definite ending point to all of that." And I think that's the great thing about having a 9-5 job, knowing that there's an end to it, and you can (generally) find time to put up your feet and not feel compelled to continue to work.

    Anyway, I digress. Good luck in wrapping up this phase of your life journey (one journey out of many), and take time in figuring out what's next. :)

  2. Beautifully put, Laura. What a fantastic year this has been for you in so many ways, what a growing time, and so much you've learned about yourself and about the world. We're waiting with open arms!! xoxo Mom

  3. Well, I'm just about on the verge of tears. You put into words perfectly the entire experience of living in Germany as an au-pair. These are the exact paragraphs I feel like I wrote in my head a couple months ago but never could fully formulate to put in my blog. Now I'm sitting in Starbucks. Up to ears in job applications. And again, verge of tears. Enjoy your last 5 weeks!!