[ During lunch Ciocia turned on the coverage of the festival on TV. It is just like American coverage for a Thanksgiving parade - except this goes on all day for the entire fest I think... And look at the announcers - Sitting before the festival on TV in Lederhosen and Dirndl drinking beers! ]
Ciocia had made an excellent lunch, and at quarter to two [ I was departing at 3 pm in the carpool] I kept trying to calm her that I had enough time and that we could still sit and enjoy the last bit of time together. She had spoiled me so much this weekend, from letting me stay over, to the great meals she made [ she pinched homemade pierogi for me! ], to the ferris wheel ride, and bavarian lunch downtown - everything was really wirklich zu viele Ciocia! Vielen Dank! [ Really, Too much! Thank you soo much!] To which she would always smile with a response of Nicht zu danke, Krzysiu, nicht zu danke. [ Nothing to thank me for ].
Her huge generosity wasn't done however, because she sent me home with a bag filled with a bunch of ingredients and food - Kiełbasa from Tarnów, Poland, Kabanosy from Kraków, Poland [ both cities that I have relatives in! ] as well as a bunch of Bavarian specialties like Knödel dumplings and Schwäbisch Maultaschen [ a type of ravioli - the name is roughly mouth pockets... like bite sized!]. I know that with everything, my host family back home was really going to enjoy all of the regional flavors [ I even had some left over pierogi to take back too!]. Ciocia really sent me back loaded with gifts. I had such a great time with her, and I definitely hope to go back and see her this year. Hopefully we can follow through with are plan to maybe see Neuschwanstein castle together! Munich was beautiful, and I was so fortunate to have such a caring aunt living there to introduce me to the city and local culture and fill the three days with so much fun.
Everything for the mitfahrgelegenheit carpool went much more smoothely for the ride home. I met Nicolas and two other carpoolers at three o'clock sharp at the street crossings that we had planned, and Ciocia waited with me until everything was set, and then after a lot of buzi [ kisses in Polish ] the door was shut, all my food was packed away, and I drove off waving.
The carpool back was enjoyable. Everyone seemed exhausted from the weekend so talking was at a minimum in the beginning and everyone relaxed the rest of the way home. There was a lot of traffic because of people leaving Munich back home [ and Germany seeming to have too many two lane "highways"...] so the trip took over 6.5 hours. Regardless, it was still just as awkward as the first trip sitting as the token American with bad German fumbling out my stories to the group and trying to be involved in the conversations auf Deutsch with complete strangers in a tiny car. [ Which I find funny, because I am a tiny guy, so tiny cars are fine for me - and unlike Japan, where the people fit perfectly into their tiny cars, the tall German guys that usually tower over me all were wedged with their knees angled sideways to just find a comfortable sitting position!]
I have noticed already - in my almost two months of living here in Germany - that there are places where it is difficult to learn German - be it that the area is very touristy like Oktoberfest and English is almost the first language, or sometimes in a big city where the clientele and pedestrians will immediately speak to you in English if they even remotely sense that you are a foreigner. There are other places, however, where Germany and other parts of Europe can still seem extremely overwhelming and foreign. It may take a little more work searching here than, say, Japan or Finland, but being in a car with a bunch of mid-20's German guys that I have never met and communicating and being in the same tiny car for a quarter of a day is pretty intimidating. Even so, I was still content squished in the back seat with my bag of sugar frosted heart cookies on my lap wafting the warm seasonal smell of gingerbread up to me the entire ride back.
[ Some examples of my heart cookies - so typical at the Oktoberfest festival. I asked for a random selection - and I got some very sweet ones like " I mog Di" - Bavarian dialect for "Ich mag Dich" I like you. I also got the one on the left... Miststück, which literally means "piece of crap"... Angelika laughed and really like the innocent mistake. It is still hanging in the dining room...]
As a matter of fact, for the ride to and from Munich, I borrowed a book from a friend that our class has all been chatting about lately. It is the autobiography of Julia Child, My Life in France, which is connected to the movie Julie and Julia out in theaters now with Merryl Streep. The book discusses Child struggling as an American trying to learn French cooking in France and picking up the language - and essentially living a similar experience that we are all now as well. There was one part of the book that stuck out to me, and really connected with how I felt sitting in the back seat of the car driving by seemingly endless German farmland.
"... Yes, it was nice to have a bathroom in the hotel and fine service at breakfast, and I'd probably never visit those grand hotels again, but none of it seemed foreign enough to me. It was all so pleasantly bland that it felt as if I were back on the SS America. I don't like it when everyone speaks perfect English; I'd much rather struggle with my phrase book."
If there is anything I have learned about myself spending half a year of my life [2 months Japan, 2 months Finland and now 2 months in Germany] it is that I think I thrive off of that excitement - and stress - of feeling stranded and confused in a foreign environment. It is just so much fun. Even when you are in those situations and learning new things, and new vocabulary at rapid pace, you actually are constantly reflecting and finding connections to reminisce to other memories as well.
It is hard not to compare my excitements in Germany to meeting my host family in Saga, Japan in the airport for the first time, or my fast-learned humility nude in a Finnish sauna, but as the sun was setting over the rolling hills of southern Germany, and I didn't really know where I was going or what direction was home, it also reminded me all the way to memories like I was a toddler or young kid again eagerly staring out the window like I would on roadtrips to Chicago or Florida with my family. Nicolas, the driver, also had an airy sounding whistle through his front teeth that he would follow along with the music on the radio and that only could give me a little nostalgia thinking about my dad doing the same and a bit of homesickness wishing I could have shared the great weekend I had with Ciocia Zosia with everyone back home as well. I think that is why I take so many seemingly redundant pictures. Everything that catches my eye is usually in mind of someone that I would love to have shared that moment with.