Buxtehude! – Oh dear. Gesundheit! Bless you, child.

Today is Wednesday, August 27, 2014. It’s hard to believe that an entire week has passed since I arrived in the city that I’m about to call home for the next eleven months. It’s already becoming difficult to remember the fears and expectations I had about moving here, apart from the weather of course. I remember telling myself “It’s going to be cold” as I wiped sweat from my brow in the sweltering heat of my living room in Casselberry, Florida, “I hate cold.” Incidentally, it’s also summer here in Buxtehude. But summer is a different concept when you add 25 degrees to your latitude coordinate. By the way, you may be wondering where Buxtehude is in the first place. Don’t be embarrassed to not have known, dear reader, that Buxtehude is a small town of nearly 40,000 citizens, about 40 minutes west of Hamburg. It’s okay. It turns out that Germans don’t know where it is either. I’m told that there’s a saying in German for when someone mentions a city that no one has heard of. The conversation would sound something like this:

Saskia: Where did you say we were going to have orientation?

Katja: We’re going to Maria in der Aue.

Saskia: Where?

Katja: Maria in der Aue.

Saskia: Maria in der… what? Buxtehude!

So yes, I apparently live in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, back to the weather. Right now, it’s nighttime and it’s a balmy 48 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Now you can imagine how I’m grinding my teeth in an attempt to hold back the sarcastic “isn’t summer wonderful” remarks. But to be fair, the cold, rainy weather really isn’t as bad as you would think, even if you are a native Floridian. I’d like to think of it as a lesson in seizing opportunities and living in the moment. My very first day in Germany was Tuesday, August 19. I had been traveling for more than 24 hours when I arrived at the train station in Stade to be picked up by the principal of the school where I’ll be working. She took me to her house, offered me some refreshments and immediately starting pushing me out the door. “Wouldn’t you like to go for a walk?” she urged, even as it drizzled rain in the fresh 65 degree weather outside. “Why not?” I thought. “Sleeping in the middle of the day won’t help my jet lag.” And as I trod the cobble stones down an old street in a fairytale village, a full, vibrant rainbow appeared across the sky in front of me. Now let it be known that I don’t like to think of myself as being superstitious, but I always take rainbows as a sign of good things to come. And I will take a chilly walk under a glittering rainbow any day over sleeping with the covers pulled over my head. (Oh, but if only I had had a camera there with me!) If there’s one piece of advice I could give to anyone who’s currently studying abroad, it would be this: Don’t sleep in. Go outside. Smile and talk to strangers. Live as much as you can! Or as one of last year’s Germany Fulbrighters would put it, “Say yes to everything!” (Thank you, Ryan Lambert.)

Now, for the sake of not writing too much on my first blog post, I would like to end it here with a giant   T H A N K   Y O U   to those who are reading this and please continue to follow me on my adventure. I will dedicate a later post to recognize all the incredible people who made this journey possible for me (AKA the “A Worry Free Year” team) as well as share with you the exciting aspects of culture I’m getting to experience first hand in this frigid, windy, rainy, beautiful country.



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