Challenging and Exhilarating… Those are perhaps the only two words that could properly (if generally) express my experience of Deutschland so far. I have experienced so many new things, had a lot of fun, but have also, inevitably, encountered numerous frustrations. I am definitely looking forward to the future time (I hope will come!) when I’m a little more familiar with everything and stumble a little less often!
The highlight of this week was Marieluise (Isi) coming to visit! Many of you know that my family hosted a German exchange student back in 2008-2009, when I was in sixth grade and Marieluise was in eleventh. Fortuitously, Marieluise (and most German students) are on break right now, so she came to visit me! Marieluise and I last saw each other in 2014 (I believe), and although we have since been in touch through Skype, this was quite the reunion! As Isi said several times, “[I’m] not in sixth grade anymore!”
Isi and I really had a wonderful time together. While the weather was not ideal (read: rainy and cold) for most of the time she was here, we made the best of it! One of our first treks out was to Schloss Drachenberg, a massive, medieval-looking castle just outside Bonn, with stunning views over the city. The castle sits on Drachenfels, one of the “Siebengebirge,” or “Seven Mountains,” situated on the bank of the Rhine. After our hike up the mountain Isi and I were feeling rather hungry, so we stopped at a small, very cute patisserie, where we shared two cakes – one chocolate pistachio, the other coconut cherry, both delicious!
Alongside our fun activities, Isi also helped me press on with my efforts to take care of some paperwork and official tasks related to my becoming a resident and student in Bonn, Germany for the year. I knew that it would be rather complicated to figure out all of these registration tasks, but I admit it has been far more so than I ever imagined! To make a long story (kind of) short, in Germany you need to register with the city in order to get a normal German bank account. In order to register with the city, you need a rental contract and a form from your landlord. And in most cases (including mine), you need a German bank account in order to pay the deposit on your apartment to get your rental contract. If you followed all of that, you probably realize that equation doesn’t quite add up.
I managed to get a German bank account without having my registration form, but only through a rather nontraditional online bank. Monday night was a particularly trying one, as I found out I needed to have the money for my apartment deposit by Thursday, but I also found out that the transfer of money from my U.S. bank account, which my mom had initiated, failed. Further, I found out that the online nontraditional bank essentially doesn’t accept transfers from the U.S. So, as I sardonically told my roommates Monday evening, “I have money, I just can’t access any of it.” We all burst out laughing at that – and I must say, I’m glad I have good friends here I can laugh with in frustrating times like these! Overall then, having Isi – someone I trust who understands German law/norms and speaks fluent German – here was an incredible asset my second week in Germany! While I still have a lot of tasks to complete, and I have run into yet more obstacles along the way, Isi helped me to secure (legally) my housing arrangements for the year! So whatever else (frustrated, confused, etc. etc.) I may be, I will not be homeless, and that’s a very nice thing to know!
After taking care of the housing headache, Isi and I enjoyed a few more fun activities! We visited the Haus der Geschichte (House of History), enjoyed some traditional German food, watched Dirty Dancing auf Deutsch, ate some Ritter chocolate, visited the Haribo factory (did you know that the “bo” in Haribo stands for Bonn?), and had a lovely bike tour along the Rhine. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, involving exploration, accomplishment, and lots of time spent with a wonderful friend/sister!