Through New Eyes, Story One

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

One of the things I’ve mentioned on here continuously is the fact that I just love hearing other peoples’ stories. I love listening to people who are living out their dreams and doing something just for themselves for the simple fact that they enjoy doing it. That said, I have decided to write a series of blog posts featuring people who are doing just that, and who have agreed to answer my mile-long list of questions:). The topics and the people will be all across the board because that is the beauty of this whole thing; everyone is entitled to their own definition of what the words “life goals” mean. And it is in this project that I want to highlight the fact that everyone holds a true passion for something; that everyone has a vision of how they want their life to be. It may not be what you would want yourself, but the common denominator is that we all hope, we all dream, and we all want to truly live.

So without further adieu, my first featured person is…my very own grandma! Let’s just say, travel and adventure runs in my family…haha. My grandma had lived in Cleveland for quite a number of years, but her and my grandpa would frequently visit his family over in Germany. She was always fascinated with the German culture, and adored the German picturesque views which are found in absolutely every direction. It was when her and my grandpa went to visit Garmisch-ParKirchen in southern Germany that she felt a tugging at her heart…she wanted to come back to the area, but didn’t want to come back simply as a tourist. She wanted to live, breathe, and learn the life of a German living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. So, after a number of years of throwing around the thought, she made a firm decision to move over there. This was something she had always wanted to do, so what was the harm in giving her dream a chance? Here is her story, in her own words.

Why did you decide to move to Germany?
I moved to Germany because I have been here many times. I have always loved visiting and have always wanted to try living here. Of course now it is also because I wanted a challenge in my life and I wanted to learn the language and live the culture. This is not anything that I have ever done before.

Why Germany? And why Garmisch?
I fell in love with Garmisch the first time I came here in about 1991. In fact, when we left, the tears were flowing down my face because I thought I would never be able to come back. The mountains moved me so much that I felt this was as close to God as one could get on earth. I also moved here because there are a number of things to do both in winter and the rest of the year. No, I will not be going skiing, but biking and easy hiking may be in store!

How much time and planning did it take you in preparation for your big move?
It took almost a year of planning to make my move. Of course the challenge was first to see if it was possible for me to go to Germany and stay. You have to remember, it is the government of Germany that decides whether one can live here or not. I had to see what the requirements were and if I could meet them.I still do not have their final answer on that. I have hopefully met all the requirements. There are many. I have to prove that I have sufficient assets to live here so that I do not become a burden. I must have health insurance including repatriation insurance. Last but not least I must have a place to live. Hopefully since I am retired I don’t have to show them that I have a job. Then they should grant me a resident visa in order that I can stay here longer than 90 days which is what is only allowed when you come without a visa.

How long do you want to live in Germany for?
My hope is to stay here for 2 years for several reasons. I believe the first year will be the hardest making all of the adjustments and hopefully making friends. I feel the second year will be the year when I can relax more and enjoy myself. By that time I will have a better handle on the language and hopefully have a network of friends that I will enjoy and feel comfortable with. Also, I must return to the states before I go on Medicare because Medicare does not cover you when you are overseas.

What has been the hardest part about moving to another country?
The hardest thing about moving to another country I think is not knowing anyone in the town I live in and the fear of failure. That is my personal fear.

What has been the best part about moving to another country?
The best part has been the little successes that I have had. For example, when I was waiting for the train to take me to Heidelberg an older German woman started speaking with me and we were able to continue our conversation in German on the train. She didn’t speak any English. It made me feel like I can do this. For me personally, every time I look out my living room window and I can see the Zugspitze (mountain top) I am amazed that I am really here and doing this. I also have enjoyed the little travelling I have done and look forward to doing more.

How did you go about finding an apartment?
The apartment hunting I started at home. Thank heavens for the internet. In fact I wasn’t going to move to Garmisch because all I kept finding were very expensive holiday apartments. I don’t know how many times I kept searching and all of a sudden I found a website that showed apartments in a price that fit my budget. I made contact with the real estate agent. Of course when I got here all of the apartments were rented and there was nothing in my budget. But after 2 weeks the agent found me one. I wanted something small. My requirements were: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, living room, finished kitchen, and a balcony or terrace, oh yes. I also wanted an apartment with a washing machine or access to one and the apartment needed to be close to transportation and stores.

What has been the scariest thing about moving abroad?
The scariest thing about moving are probably 2 things. Sometimes the language has becoming overwhelming when I am dealing with very technical or very important issues regarding my staying here. So far they have been worked through but twice they have overwhelmed me. the second item is the worry of not making friends and trying to keep myself occupied and not get down in the pits.

Has it been easy to make friends? How have you gone about meeting other people?
No it is not easy making friends. This could be an age issue and a cultural issue. German people are very private. Older Germans are especially private and many don’t speak English and they, for whatever reason, don’t necessarily want to take the time to speak with someone who they can tell by the speech is not from their country. A young girl from Austria was here for a month doing an internship in a hospital and she told me she was having this problem. Not a single coworker had invited her to get together after work hours. She was feeling very lost and alone on her time off. This was a 23 year old who was actually born in Germany and as a young child moved with her family to Austria. She had also spent 3 months in the USA and said she felt Americans were much more friendly and open to new friends and at the very least making a visitor feel welcome. I must admit that made me feel better. I am attending church to try and meet new people. I also try to make opportunities to talk with people and go to the same stores. I took one day trip on a tour bus with a German group. By the end of the day the ladies who were around me did speak with me. However they are from Mittenwald. But it is a start. I go to the city concerts every Friday evening and hope that maybe I will start seeing the same people and something will strike up there.

Describe a day in your life in Germany. What do you do in the mornings? What do you do at night?
My day. Unfortunately I seem to wake up around 5:45 am. UGH!!! Sometimes I will read for awhile or when I get up I will check the computer for e-mails and facebook posts. That becomes necessary because of the time difference. I take time to sit down and have breakfast. Sometimes a typical German type breakfast and sometimes just some cereal. I usually then listen to CNN International. I am disappointed because they really don’t put on that much USA news. Then if I am doing laundry I need to get it going. Of course there is no dryer so I must get the clothes put on the drying rack out on my balcony. It usually takes most of the day for items to dry. Then I may be off to the grocery. Since the refrigerator is so tiny, less than 34 inches tall, I must go often. the other side of that is I also can only by what I can carry home. It is probably about 2 miles round trip for my shopping. The afternoon usually means I do dome stitching, go to the library or the post office. Yes, I do have a library card for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Library. They have a very, very small section of English books. At the rate I am going I may have them all read in 2 years. Although some of them are not up my alley. I also try to take 2 good walks day. At least an hour in length. I have checked out the hiking and as soon as I get another pair of shoes I will be exploring that more. I will hopefully be getting a bike soon. They are very expensive and I am hoping to get a second hand bike. They are few and far between. My evenings are usually spent watching a little TV, stitching or reading. Friday nights always include the community concert put on by the Garmisch Musiikkappelle.

What would be the biggest tip you would give to someone looking to move abroad?
I think if you are thinking of moving abroad you need to really know yourself and examine all the things you may encounter and be honest with yourself. Can you handle the problems and can you handle being alone if that happens? There may be no one to listen to you or to assist you. Be realistic with your expectations and your answer as to how you would respond. It is not like when you are on vacation.

The world traveler herself!

The world traveler herself!

Seven-Year-Old Dreamer

Through their eyes

So your seven-year-old self is just dying to be a famous actress. You want to live in the eye of the public, soaking up every spotlight and accepting Grammy awards like you have never known anything else. The glitz, and the glamour, and the glam, it’s in your blood, and you can feel that there is nothing you want more in life than for that gift of being famous. You wear your mom’s high heels, three sizes too big, prancing and strutting around the house like you are making your big debut on the red carpet, and you practice your acceptance speech, which always begins in a sophisticated and sultry voice that says “I want to thank the academy”, in a hairbrush that belongs to your older sister. People ask you what you want to be when you are older, and you without a doubt, without a moment’s hesitation, say “MOVIE STAR”. Your eyes twinkle, and your heart jumps, because you’re seven-years-old, and the world is at your fingertips. This is your destiny, and no one can stop you, not at all, not for one second, not even a little bit.

Don’t you remember that innocence of having the biggest, most extravagant dreams? One week you wanted to be a movie star, the next week…a doctor, the following week…an astronaut. And to you, it was the most normal thing in the world. You could change your mind a million times if you wanted, because you knew that you had the rest of your life to figure it out. And you had the same passion and the same assurance about each and every different fantasy you decided you would pursue, because everything was just so possible. The words “I can’t” originally were “I will”, and sometimes adults and grown-ups would laugh and shake their heads in awe of your naïve-ness, having long lost their true hopes and dreams in exchange for bills and responsibility. But I’ve seen it myself, where adults carry an element of sadness to them, because they never gave their dreams a chance. Because they exchanged a true, undeniable passion for something instead that was simply convenient and easy.

But the question I ask is why does that magic need to be lost as you grow older? Why do you lose your excitement and lose the idea that you can make your dreams come true? Many people that I’ve spoke to recently do not like their jobs, but yet they have accepted them and settled in them because they are making a decent income. Because it’s safe. Because nothing about what they are doing now is risky or unknown. Of course, making sure that you are making a good living is important to everyone, but why simply settle for something when you know that there is something more that you would like to pursue? That by no means that you need to quit your job this instant, pick up your belongings, and move to Hollywood (if being a movie star is still what you dream of), but why not keep that dream in the back of your mind, always moving a little bit forward in making your dream a reality? Maybe throw in an audition here and there, try emailing some producers, attempt putting yourself out there, just do whatever you can to make your dream as real as it can get. The only one who is going to make that happen is you, and you alone, and if you have the passion for something, why don’t you try and make it happen?

One of the things I’ve learned about myself recently is that I love hearing about people’s dreams and stories. I love listening to someone explain their dreams, their total and complete love for something. If there were no rules, no standards and expectations of how life should be lived and what should be expected, what would make you totally and completely happy in this exact moment? If you could snap your fingers and suddenly live the life you’ve always wanted, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Whatever that first thought is, that my dear friend, is where your heart wants to go. I asked someone that a few weeks ago, what would make them the absolute happiest, and he looked at me kind of surprised and said that no one had ever asked him that before. But then he began to tell me what it was that he wanted, and I realized in that exact moment that we all possess a passion for something that sometimes we put on the backburner, but when it’s brought back up to the surface, we feel like we are seven years old all over again; filled to the brim with hope and passion.

….And now you are not seven years old, but 37, and you look back and realize that you have done everything you wanted to do up until this point. You went to college, graduated from college with a degree that was ultimately the gateway to your dreams, and now you are living the life you’ve always wanted, wherever that might be. Maybe you have that family and that white-picket fence that you only ever wanted, maybe you have a dream job that you have worked so incredibly hard to get, maybe you have traveled the world and seen everything that you used to only read about in travel magazines. And the greatest part is you still have your whole life ahead of you. How amazing would that be? To know that since you get one life to life, you are living it just the way you want to live it.

Here’s a test for everyone….

Make your seven-year old self proud.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”-OSCAR WILDE

There is Always Peace

PEACE

How does one begin to explain the misfortunes and struggles that are far from hidden in this world? When something sad, bad, or downright unfair happens, what kind of explanation do you come up with? How do you make sense of what has happened, how do you give it purpose and reason? When crawling through the darkness, where do you go to find the light? All too true, we live in a world brimming with hatred, boiling with anger, and bubbling with greed, and sometimes we get lost in that. We focus so much on the bad, so much on the negativity published in the papers and featured on the news, that we get swept up and tossed around in all that is tragic, forgetting how much good there really is. True, there is no amount of good deeds that can erase the bad, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help write the future; the future where hatred is extinct, disease is obsolete, and love is all around.

Let’s think of the events that occurred at Sandy Hook, and the events that unfolded shortly thereafter. While what happened on that day was heart wrenching, wrong, horrific, and utterly ruthless, there came a wave, a tidal wave, of people wanting to do good things for other people. Ann Curry pegged the phrase “26 Acts of Kindness” and encouraged other people to ultimately pay it forward. Maybe it was buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you, maybe it was helping carry groceries to the car of an elderly man, or maybe it was simply starting a conversation with someone new and unfamiliar. I myself bought an elderly couple their meals while I was working as a server at a local restaurant, and that feeling of giving back was indescribable. As I described to them what “26 Acts of Kindness” was, I felt it deep in my heart that they would turn the moment over and do the same for someone else; the powerful and dynamic ripple effect of caring for others, strangers or friends. Whatever it was, there was no denying the fact that good things were happening, and the thought of “how can I make a difference” was rolling around in everyone’s head. The events at Sandyhook pushed people to embrace others both near and dear to them, and people unknown to them.

So where am I going with all of this? Why am I sitting here, lecturing you on things you already know, things you were already well aware of? Of course some good comes out of something bad, so why do I feel the need to harp you on this? Well, I have recently seen just what kind of good can come out of something bad. Back in November of 2012, I became a Make-A-Wish volunteer for a 17-year-old girl who wished to go to Paris. She had osteosarcoma and was diagnosed with the disease in August of 2013. It was a rush wish, which meant that the doctors wanted her to go on her wish as early as possible, but due to bumps along the way in trying to plan her trip, her trip wasn’t scheduled until April 2013. Three days before she was scheduled to leave on her big Paris adventure, some serious health issues arose and her trip was postponed, time and date unknown. Her health rapidly declined, so fast that it was hard to get a grip on the situation, until eventually she passed away on Monday, May 6th, 2013.

I tell you this story not to talk about the sad tragedies of our world today, but rather to show you that there is always some good for every bad. My Make-A-Wish child was overflowing with life, so much so, in fact, that grown men and women looked at her in awe, wondering how someone could be so positive and so strong in the face of such hardship. She said once that she believed that God gave her this disease because she was strong enough to handle it; that she could be an inspiration to other people who did not posses the kind of strength she had. Her motto was “Hakuna Matata”, because, in the words of Timon and Pumbaa, she didn’t want to worry about a thing, and believe me when I say, she absolutely didn’t. Her spirit, courage, optimism and simple love for life has affected me in ways I never knew possible, and it was through meeting Cora that I have understood how to truly live.

She never got to go to Paris, but I know she’s there now, dancing in the lights of the Eiffel Tower, knowing that the mark she left behind is one that will never fade away.

There is good in every bad. It just takes a little courage, and a whole lot of heart, to open your eyes to it.

Paris' Angel

Miss Cora