24.3.15; ERLANGEN, Germany

Well, I was nearly falling asleep writing that last entry so I thought I’d split it into two. Where was I? Ah yes, the weekend. Restful weekends are no more; when three kids are home, it’s anything but calm! I had to go back to sleep almost as soon as I’d had breakfast because I felt so terrible, but I felt better after that. During the day I hung a few bits of washing and did the normal tidying routines. Then I helped with some of the renovation work whilst my host was taking a nap. Said work mainly involved scraping paint off doors. It’s more fun than it sounds.

I find it interesting how nearly every house in the local area is unique; the culture of building your own house is bigger here, much better than the copy and paste neighbourhoods we have in the UK. The house is quite big, with three floors and an attic; but the bottom floor is used as storage and the top floor is the one being renovated; it will mainly be bedrooms; eventually all the kids will have their own, but that will probably take a while yet! I suppose there is something satisfying about building or renovating your own house, but it does seem a lot of effort.

After dinner, I had some really interesting conversations with my hosts about the differences between England, Germany and the Czech Republic, and also a bit about the trips I’d been on so far, and my travels in America last summer.

Best comment award: “As a chemist, I don’t trust margarine.” Well. Alright then. 😀

I was impressed at how easily I could carry on a conversation in German, especially as within the last year I’ve only really been using legal vocabulary. So I could tell you all about the German constitution, but as I found out later, I have trouble getting what I need at the pharmacy. Sunday was a bit of a slower day, and in the afternoon, the eldest daughter went to her first archery contest (which she won, as I was later smugly informed), and I stayed and did a bit of work, and then took the two younger kids to the park. I was by this point feeling absolutely terrible, could barely sleep, and had developed tonsil stones. Just so that you have some idea of my suffering. I’m not at all wallowing in self-pity (well, maybe a bit).  I made it through though, eventually. Spent most of the day ironing baby clothes for the imminent arrival. I swear I must have PMT because I was just casually ironing, when I started CRYING for no real reason at all, listened to some music which did not help at all (Madilyn Bailey covers and a bit of Taylor Swift, if you’re interested) and just generally had a bit of a sob about various things for about an hour. Rationally, I wasn’t even that sad. Sometimes I hate my uterus.

We watched Persuasion in the evening (the 1995 version), and I read the book the next day, and I’m kind of disappointed in myself that I hadn’t made the effort to watch or read it before. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are clearly made for each other, but I’m not sure why the powers that be keep insisting on casting Ciaran Hinds in supposedly “dashing” roles. He’s not terrible looking, but still. Have seen much better. It was cool seeing the locations in Bath where it’s set and filmed. THAT LETTER THOUGH. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony and half hope.” Wow, so dramatic. Please, Frederick, calm down. 10/10 do recommend the film, from what I read afterwards, it was very loyal to the book! Unsure about the newer version as haven’t seen it. Jane Austen knew her way around a love story, for sure. *gets weirdly emotional AGAIN over fictional characters* Brilliant.

I think everyone was glad for the week to start again, when two of the kids are out of the house for at least part of the day! Ventured out to the few shops in town to pick up a few things. Immediately after stepping out of the door, I felt a bit better; fresh air can cure pretty much any passing illness for at least a couple of hours. Sadly, I can still hardly speak for the pain in my throat and weird tonsil stones. Sigh. I went to the general store to get some fruit and herbal tea, to the post office to send some cards to my parents and a couple of friends, and then to the pharmacy, where through a mixture of barely audible German and gesturing to my throat, I came out with a couple of boxes of paracetamol and some throat lozenges. Better than nothing, I suppose. Highlight of the evening was when children were informed that if they didn’t hurry up and brush their teeth, their mother wouldn’t read them… some soup. “Pohadka” vs “polevka” (story vs soup)… Long day. We’re all tired. Easy mistake to make. It was hilarious but somewhat lost in translation, perhaps?

I had another day off today (Tuesday); another trip to Nuremberg. My hosts were sorely mistaken when they said it could all be seen in half a day! I suppose, with my having written my Extended Essay with a focus on the National Socialist regime across Europe, I’m more likely than most to want to visit sites relating to it. I will go back to the Rally Grounds if I get a chance again this week, but it isn’t really that necessary; I feel like exhibitions on the evolution of the National Socialist regime don’t have that much to offer me anymore, considering how much I’ve already read and seen. So though I still find it interesting, I probably wouldn’t find out anything new. My first focus for the day was the Court House where the Nuremberg Trials took place after the war. Sadly, the memorial exhibition is closed on Tuesdays. And yes, that was in the brochure I had in my bag but didn’t bother to check.        So I went back into the city and headed for the Germanic Museum; the equivalent of the V&A or British Museum in London, perhaps?

As usual, I was determined to go around the whole museum in the couple of hours I had to look around, and so despite having only had a croissant at 11am to fuel me for the whole day, I made it around, despite the last half hour not being terribly productive and taking amusingly captioned snapchats of statues and paintings.

     Hmm. It’s a great way to spend a few hours; the museum has an enormous collection of art, sculptures, weaponry, clothing, musical instruments, and artefacts dating back to 200BC. My favourite parts of museums like this are always the same; 20th century art, armour and weaponry, and reconstructed rooms from houses in days gone by.

  

That’s also what I love about visiting castles. I’m so excited to go to Neuschwanstein. Good news, my host in Munich has also confirmed my arriving on Friday; she seems really lovely; we’re going to go and visit the castle together, so I hope we get on well! When I got back, I just dropped my stuff off and grabbed the bike to take the older girl to archery. I went out onto the field too with a borrowed bow and had a great couple of hours shooting. I even managed to tell her a bit about my favourite TV programme, you guessed it, Robin Hood. A pity my friends at home don’t do archery, we’d have a grand time acting that one out…

Anyone would be lucky to live somewhere like this, so close to big cities like Nuremberg and Munich and yet the house is 15 minutes from the woods. And that’s proper forests. As well as fields and lakes surrounding the area, it’s so picturesque and really an ideal location. If a little bit too small of a town! However, Erlangen, of which Buchenbach is a suburb, is a decent sized university town, so it isn’t that small really.

I came across a quote on a postcard in the museum. “Wir koennen den Wind nicht andern, aber die Segel anders setzen.“ It’s a quote from Aristotle, in English meaning; “We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” It’s so true. I really do think that whatever life throws at me now, I can deal with. And I haven’t even made a conscious decision to change myself or the way I think. It’s what I’ve experienced that has made me able to deal with whatever comes my way. Good for quotes, was old Aristotle. I’ll share a few of my other favourites.

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.” Pain is relative. What has been soul-crushing and difficult for me pales in comparison with the suffering of others. But I’ve learnt that my pain is not less significant because it is not as great as that of someone else. Everything which has hurt me, I’ve learnt a great deal from. In the last year, I’ve learnt so much.

“We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.” This speaks to me particularly now because people tell me all the time, and especially recently, that I am brave. Brave to recover from an eating disorder. Brave to leave what I know, a degree with a clear job at the end, a course with high employability and prospects, in favour of travelling the world alone. Brave for starting a new course I know next to nothing about other than that I find it interesting. Brave for managing to do well in a course I disliked whilst in a deep depression and barely functioning, let alone giving my all to anything. Brave for dealing with a rejection from a university I’d been aiming for my whole life because I got distracted. Brave for dealing with that alone in New York. Brave for picking myself up off the ground after being so let down by the first person I’d ever been in love with.

I’ve got to say, with utmost honesty, that none of those things were brave. So often I’ve felt like a coward, like I’m giving up, like I’m losing. Dealing with these things hasn’t been a statement of courage, but more often an admission of weakness when I, more than anything, hate to appear weak. My life has been filled with so much more opportunity than that of the vast majority of people, and I am so thankful. But I am ashamed to admit that I have made bad choices, and spent days doing nothing other than crying in bed, and hurt people, and wished the ground would just swallow me whole. Dealing with my problems wasn’t brave, but I hope doing so has made me braver.

And last, but most importantly, is this. “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” And isn’t that all I need to say?

X Bea

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