Our stay in Cologne has by far been the best experience. We stayed in a smaller town about thirty minutes from Cologne’s center city. Every single person that I’ve met here has been so kind. Children roam about freely riding their scooters down the streets or playing at the playground across the street. Everyone says, “Hallo,” in passing. It’s been really peaceful. I was able to work, more than I would have liked, but I had to make up for the last seven weeks. We went sight-seeing, visited the Chocolate Museum, viewed the Cathedral, and wandered through the art district (I still haven’t had any luck finding dry erase makers. Once I get to South Africa I’ll just have to order some online). Our AirBnB host have also been amazing. My daughter has developed a bond with our host and we have already made plans to return in February for Carnival. This month has gone by quickly.
During this stay, I realized, long-term travel may be more fitting to my needs or it may depend on the location and the people around me. I’m not exactly an extrovert. I thought I would be out of my comfort zone traveling to unfamiliar places with language barriers and cultural differences but that has been easy. My biggest challenge came when our host invited us to a dinner party. She told me they host two big dinners for their friends each year and that about 24 people would be in attendance. I may have remained calm on the outside but inside I was already getting anxious. The thought of having to be in a room full of people I don’t know and having to make conversation are just the types of situations I tend to avoid. I like meeting people on an individual basis so I can feel them out. I’m slow to warm when it comes to new people. However, I must say, I did great at the party.
About half of the guest spoke English so I was able to engage in conversation. Two of the guest were also teachers. I was questioned about homeschooling my child and how she was going to socialize. I thought it was a bit amusing considering my daughter was just as engaged in conversation with everyone as I was. She was floating around doing her thing. I also realize homeschooling in Germany is illegal so I found myself explaining the American school system and homeschooling. As far as the questions about socialization, my daughter will have friends all around the world rather than just in her community. Even though we had to leave early I didn’t have an anxiety (the glass of wine may have helped).
Before we left, my daughter made an announcement to all of the guest and I had a proud-mommy moment because she flourishes in any environment. She’s learning beyond the constraints of a classroom and I’m learning right along with her. I had exchanged numbers with one of the couples I met at the party and the next day we attended another group gathering. They both volunteer with refugees and had prepared to have an outdoor lunch for the families. The families were from Iraq, Turkey, and Syria and currently living in a gym hallway at the neighborhood high school. The conversations at this get together were much different from the ones of the previous night. While all of the children played I learned more about the conflicts in countries I knew/know little about. I was even asked about Trump and Clinton but we mainly enjoyed eating and playing more than explaining our countries political problems.
Now, I have to pack and prepare for a nine over layover in Istanbul as we journey to Greece.