Turning 21 in Germania.
I thought that the motto of the day would be “It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to”. For those of you who don’t know, my brother and I share a birthday. We have never spent one apart. This was going to make being away from home on my birthday even harder. To top it off, our morning Skype session was cancelled because he was ill. As I lay in bed the day before, I worried that my most significant birthday so far was one I would be wishing to be over quickly.
I needn’t have worried though. I got up bright and early on Tuesday 13th November to make sure I was ready to Skype my parents ohne my brother so that I could open my presents with them. Said presents had been delivered to me when people came to visit and had been teasing me for the best part of two weeks. It was 6am for them and they were in their pajamas. Just the way it should be on a birthday morning. In the end, they Skyped me from Matthew’s room so that we could wish each other a ‘Happy Birthday’ and have a moment of quiet celebration together in an otherwise hectic day. I insisted that they sing me ‘Happy Birthday’ as I was worried that noone else would. They happily obliged. Before I had even finished my sentence I think! I received some lovely presents including some beautiful jewellery, a Cath Kidston photo frame and a beautiful jacket which will henceforth be referred to as my ‘Birthday Jacket’. No connection to ‘birthday suit’ there, I must add. I received more cards than I think I ever have before and they now decorate my room beautifully. I have been thoroughly spoilt.
I put on my Birthday Jacket and headed to school for my 8.25 lesson. Yes, school doesn’t start any later just because it’s your birthday. I happened to be in the toilet, washing my hands mind you, when my phone started to ring. I know it was my birthday, but I wasn’t expected any calls. Certainly not at 8.10 in the morning.
“Oh, it’s you!!”
It was Ramsey . I hadn’t expected to get to speak to him on my birthday. He was in the middle of a really hard acquaint and was not going to be given the chance to make a call. I expected only a text on my birthday. He never ceases to amaze me though, that boy, and I went into my class with a good feeling that crisp November morning.
Whilst I kept quiet about it being my birthday, Ramona couldn’t.
“It is a very special day today…“
My first class sung me ‘Happy Birthday’ in three languages. I had to stand at the front for all three renditions, desperately trying to find an appropriate place to direct my embarrassed smile whilst still seeming grateful. It was awfully cringeworthy, of course, but the truth is that I loved it. With two of us, our birthday has always been a massive deal at home. Everyone comes round, no matter what day it is and we can do whatever we like for the day. When you’re in a different country and you’re on your own, it doesn’t quite work in the same way. I thought it would get forgotten. Boy, was I wrong!
“Emma, today, you must come to my office for the break…” –> This post seems to have an abundance of ellipses but it was my birthday and there really was that much suspense and mystery. I promise.
So, we go into her office. Inside, there were green napkins all over the table and different types of food. Everybody in the office, and some people from others, had brought something for the ‘birthday breakfast’. There was bread and cheese and meats and a beautiful tuna salad that Ramona made. Not only that, but we all had a glass of Sekt (Yes, it was 9.10 in the morning, but it was my 21st birthday so who cares ) and there was even a cake with candles. I was sung ‘happy birthday’ for the 5th time that day and it wasn’t even 9.30. I, rather disappointingly, didn’t blow out all the candles in one go so I was given another turn. That wasn’t staged at all. .
I felt special and a girl should on her birthday. They had even clubbed together and bought me a beautiful travel guide for Thüringen. It is full of pictures and really is a lovely book. I look forward to showing everyone back home where I have spent my year. Elvi got my a lovely posy of flowers too and it really is wonderful to have fresh flowers in my room.
I then had a double lesson with Elvi. First, I was asked to mark a load of essays and was told that I could do it in my office if I wanted. This was not the most interesting task, of course, but to be honest, it was nice to have a moment of quiet after such a busy morning. I corrected them and went through the main mistakes with the class. Then I left school for the day, happy and excited, and met some friends for lunch.
Amy, Jodie and I went to a lovely little restaurant which I had been to for lunch while my parents were still here. If you sit at the table in the corner, it feels like you are hanging over the brook. It’s lovely. Before that though, we went shopping. Armed with gifted euros and the knowledge that certain purchases can only be justified when it’s your birthday, we headed to Kraemerbruecke in search of it’s beautiful pottery. I bought two candle stick holders, a vase for a small bunch of flowers and a tiny vase for a single flower. They really will be lovely souvenirs of my time here. When I had met the girls, I had been given a pile of presents (I told you I was spoilt). I didn’t want to open them in the middle of the street so walked around these shops with them in hand, unopened. Whilst I wasn’t offered a discount in any of the shops we went to, it was nice to get kind wishes from strangers on my birthday. Here in Germany, they congratulate you for it being your birthday, as if you have achieved something great and wonderful. It’s nice.
After lunch, we bought candles for our candle holders and Amy and I headed back home. I was met there by Gabija and Malvina who gave me a present and card from them and Amy. It is a stand which has well wishes for each day. I just need to turn it over every morning. It’s really nice and in German too so every so often, there is a new word for me to learn which is also nice. There was also some chocolate from Gabija’s home country which was delicious and may have been eaten all in one go. I’m admitting to nothing!
Shortly afterwards, Charis arrived all the way from Naumberg which was so nice. We went out for dinner at a nice restaurant on Domplatz and talked for so long our food got cold. Unfortunately, our time together was short as I was going to choir but it was so nice to see her and it was lovely that she made such an effort for me. William met us there, flowers for me in hand, and we headed to choir together. As we were short for time, the glass of wine he had ordered had to be drunk pretty quickly and hence, went straight to his head. This made for an absolutely hilarious journey to choir and that may actually be the highlight of my whole birthday! The funny looks from people on the tram (Germans are not afraid to stare!) only made it better.
Choir was rather special too. The choirmaster came up to me as soon as we arrived and excitedly offered me his congratulations. This is the most eccentric I’ve ever seen him and trust me, that’s saying something. It was my turn to get a rose last week and I was the only one too. I gracefully chose my song and they joyfully sung it to me. It was really nice and whilst I, once again, didn’t know where to look, I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face. Choir finished early as there were refreshments scheduled, for my birthday, of course. No, not really. But it was nice to have something a bit social on my birthday evening.
I went to bed on my birthday surrounded by cards, flowers and pottery and I couldn’t have been much happier without being home with the boy and the family. I couldn’t have wished for a nicer birthday.
That wasn’t the end to the celebrations though! On Wednesday evening, William took me to the most amazing Spanish tapas restaurant. After saying that we wanted white wine, we got to choose from 3 wines which we got to try. We then told them our allergies and how hungry we were. I was brought the best gluten free bread I have ever tasted. It was clearly made in house and was just out the oven. It tasted like normal bread and was wonderful. I was satisfied before the food even started coming up! And come up it did. From then, we were steadily brought food for over an hour. Everything tasted utterly divine and I ate more food than I would have needed in about 3 days. I couldn’t help myself. Afterwards, we shared a very luxurious and creamy dessert (although I couldn’t manage much) before heading out into the fog to go home. The fog had descended and we could barely see 3 metres in front of us. The Dom was masked in mist but I was happy and satisfied. It was the best meal I’ve had since I’ve arrived and wonderful company too.
Thursday night was yet another dinner out when Ramona and Elvi took me to a beautiful restaurant on top of Zitadelle Petersberg. It is right at the top of the city and if it wasn’t for the fog, we would have been able to see for miles. I had salmon which was just beautifully cooked and then a very generously portioned chocolate mousse for dessert. It was so nice that I couldn’t help but eat it all but I certainly didn’t feel great afterwards! Sometimes, it’s worth it though isn’t it.
Saturday was the final leg of celebrations for the week. Amy and I went to Jodie’s and made the chocolate cake from my childhood that has been at almost every birthday I can remember. Unfortunately, despite all my wonderful preparations, (gluten-free flour, baking powder and bicarb), I had forgotten one key thing. My weighing scales. We proceeded to just guess however we could and hope for the best. I knew what the texture of the mix should be like and we just added bits of this and that until it looked right. Well, I must say, I was rather impressed with the result considering and I ate about 4 slices instead of having dinner. Who cares, it was my birthday . Afterwards, we headed to the Nachtflohmarkt at Messe. That’s night flea market to you English folk. Whilst most of what we saw was tat, it was nice to see all the vintage items and chat to sellers about their wares. I did find some cool things too and finally have a book of card games which says how to play Skat. The Skat section is about 35 pages so I’ve got some way to go yet, but I’ll get there .
All in all, I had a really lovely birthday. I am so grateful to everyone who made it special too. I was a very lucky girl and I feel blessed to still be surrounded by all the cards and presents and 21 confetti (well done Rams ). It all made me realise that I’m really not alone on this year abroad. Sometimes, I feel a lot further away from home than others. The truth is though, that home really is just a phone call or a plane ride away. Plus, I’m starting to realise that I have a sort of home here too. I’m even considering extending my placement in school until the end of term. Right now though, I’m just looking forward to Christmas. Essex, get ready!