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Life on a Trip

Last year, I went on a trip.

The trip consisted of:

- three weeks on the tiny island of Ikaria, and one week in Athens, with Argie Manolis' "Aging in Greece" program -- hot, strong coffee in small paper cups, furious gray waves and jagged cliffs, people who invited you into their homes and fed you cookies, the Parthenon, stray cats, stray dogs, and this feeling that you were at the center, you were where it all began;

- a month in Bray, a suburb of Dublin, through the English Language Teaching Assistant Program - here was a small duplex with a yellow kitchen and seven other students, three of whom were from UMM; the school was a boys' school, full of little gentlemen in ties and blue sweatshirts; my class was a class of ten-year-olds, solemn kids who'd come from India, China, the Philippines, Andorra, kids who knew that their teacher didn't know very much but humored her;

- a month in County Cork, in the west of Ireland, a little town called Macroom that had a castle full of stores and a medieval-feeling farmer's market; I was there through the Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms program, had called a number I'd found on the Internet and wound up here, with a woman and her four children and her otter and her goat and her chickens and her pigs and her husband; I swept the floor and made bread and moved wood and fed the pigs;

- then, finally, Munich, Germany, where I'd been intending to go all along; a semester at the country's biggest university, a Harry - Potter - esque cathedral of a school with domes and arches; stately pastel-colored buildings, thousands of bicycles, a massive green park at the heart of the city; rivers, beers, trips to the Alps --

It was all very fast and very slow, all at the same time. It wasn't all Europe and excitement; I spent moments waiting, too, waiting guiltily for the next thing, up in my yellow room in the old farmhouse in Ireland, waiting for friends to call, waiting to leave the school at the end of the day. But in retrospect, yes, it is a whirlwind -- a flurry of beautiful pictures.

When I left the country in December 2009, my plans were this: that I could have this one beautiful semester-plus of Living, and then it would be back to school; that I would return in September and graduate, like everyone else, in June; that then I would go to grad school, since at that point it seemed inevitable, and I would have all these stories to tell while I paid off the loan from the trip.

Instead, I am in Munich again, except now Munich is home.

I was out with a friend my first week in Germany, expecting nothing from the evening but a beer and more stories -- but then this young man came up to me, and the next day, expecting nothing, I found myself out on a date with him. And slowly, over the semester, I realized that not coming back was no longer an option -- that I was in love with him and with the city.

I left in August, and in October he was in Morris, laughing with my friends and going to Improv Club and being shocked by the cold wind (he used to live in Iran -- he says he is not made for the cold). And then, two days before he left, he and I sat down with my mother and we booked my ticket back together.

I graduated in December, got on that plane, and now I am here again, cycling through the English Gardens, wandering through Marienplatz. It's a more-disorienting trip: I have no plan except to find a job very quickly, as I must in order to stay in the country, but I'm sure everything will work out as it did last year. I miss Morris, but it's nice to be here -- in my future that is also my past -- and I'll keep you updated on what happens.


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