Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Memories of Heidelberg on My Birthday

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Memories of Heidelberg 

 Written by: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez

Originally published at Reflections Beneath the Poetz Tree

Professional photography courtesy of  Uli Hillenbrand Photography

This is a picture of Heidelberg with the well known, iconic castle in the background. It's a beautiful, sunny day in this version of the place where I discovered how much I enjoy adventure and travel.  I arrived at the Frankfurt airport in Germany on my 18th birthday (many, many) years ago. It was December 1st, the year not important. We were met at the airport by a member of the U.S. Army Band who was tasked with transporting our large family to guest lodging at  Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg. Not knowing how much space a family of eight with baggage would require, the ginormous band bus had been sent with it's driver. 

It was cold and it had recently snowed.  We were all tired and hungry.  I had been gifted with what every teenage girl dreads on this type of long trip, and I just wanted to curl up in a ball wrapped in a warm blanket.  I needed some chocolate, a cola, and a bottle of Midol. Most of all, I wanted to sleep and forget about the plans I had left stateside. Happy freakin' birthday to me. Yet even with all those strange elements infringing on my impending life as a young adult, I believed that there was a plan for me there. 

It's often hard to believe so much time has passed.  When I allow myself to remember everything that has happened since that date, I feel incredibly proud of who I am and what I have accomplished. That's not easy for me to say.  But I want to give myself permission to make that comment.  I feel like I have worked hard to get to this point as a woman, as a writer, as a wife,  as a mom, and as a human being who has survived some remarkable shit!

I have never fully written about all of my European adventures.  So much happened during my time there that shaped who I am.  Some of those moments will be featured in a novel I am writing. For today, I've decided to share some of the things that inspired me as a young adult living in a foreign country.  Here's my "List of Ten" Hope you enjoy it!

Adorable Alpaca Christmas Ornament 
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My List of Ten Memories
Inspirations from Heidelberg,Germany 

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1.) I learned a new language and explored a new culture.

2.) My college experience was greatly different from what I had expected.  I took classes in the evenings and on weekends and was typically the youngest student.  I learned to appreciate the maturity of adult students who were serious about returning to school and held full time jobs. (Perfect tote for your commute to classes can be found here.)

3.) Learning different modes of transportation was liberating and increased both my confidence and my sense of independence. This was especially important since I did not have a car when I started working and attending classes at The University of Maryland - European Campus.  I quickly learned to read the schedules and coordinate arrivals/departures to make sure I arrived on time for work and for school. (Military Bus,German bus, train, strassenbahn, bike, and even walked when necessary.) Learning to dress for the cold weather was critical, especially given the need to wait for arrivals.

4.) I was fortunate to encounter professional women in the field of Early Childhood Development who encouraged my interests and were willing to be mentors. I would not have been as successful without their guidance and support of my studies.

5.) I met my first "serious" boyfriend while attending college.  Prior to college, I had very little dating experience.  I was always content and blessed to have great male friends throughout high school who considered me more of a little sister than anything else. Thank God, because I wouldn't have known how to handle anything more.

6.) Taking the Literature Course on James Michener was incredibly  challenging and I vowed never to pick up another one of those novels unless I needed it as a weight or door stop. But it was during that course that I met the professor who would coach me through one of the most difficult persuasive papers I've ever had to write. (That story is for another post.)

7.) I was fortunate to be able to live with my family on base for the first three years I lived in Germany.  My father was stationed in Schwetzingen with the Army Band and frequently traveled for their performances.  I worked full time with Army Child Development Services and begged to work as many hours as possible, even if it meant hopping a bus to go across town and put in hours at another child care center.  Those hours allowed me to pay for my own classes, so I graduated without any tuition debt. That was a gift!  I'm not sure I could have done that stateside.

8.) Mentors in Child Development supported my efforts to convert to a civilian paid position when it was time for my father to return stateside.  I moved into a tiny basement apt. in Oftersheim close to work. I had my first place at the age of twenty. My family relocated stateside shortly before my twenty-first birthday. That was a huge deal!  Looking back, I realize how hard that must have been for my parents.  My seventeen year old sister stayed with me to finish her quarter for high school and celebrated my birthday with me. We boarded a plane right before Christmas and spent the holidays with family.  She stayed and I returned.  It was hard to be without them.  When my sister was still in Germany, it didn't hit me so hard.  But it was better for her to get back to my parents,  because I think I was a pretty crappy substitute.  I know she needed to be fed more than microwave dinners and M&M's.  I'm just glad we at least had that time to survive together.

9.) I learned how to manage my own money and pay my own bills.  Overseas calls were expensive. I learned that the hard way. My first car was an old, German specs, yellow Volkswagon Passat. It drove like a tank. It was solid and unyielding.  Not a pretty car at all!  But it was mine. Paid $550 cash for it plus insurance. When that gave out on me, I bought a new Honda Civic Dx. I had to arrange to pick it up at Bremerhaven. The car dealer who sold it drove me and two other people (also picking up cars) in his convertible to meet a bus. That bus took us the rest of the way to Bremerhaven. That entire day was an adventure.

10.) Traveling was one of the best bonuses of my time overseas. I have a love for adventure, even though my sense of direction sucks. Somehow, I managed to navigate travel systems in no less than five languages. I'm not saying I'm fluent in all those languages, but I am comfortable enough with the basics. For someone who traveled before cell phones and GPS was readily available, I think I was pretty bad ass for attempting what I did. I loved every minute too! 

Corazon Reversible Alpaca Ruana 
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My birthday sparked a rush of memories and emotions for me as I recalled all the awesome, crazy, and sometimes scary things I made myself experience. The Heidelberg memories are some of the best because they helped define what I wanted out of life. Whenever I start to feel stressed by something I am currently dealing with, I can look back and say, "But look what you did when..."  There's a lot of material to serve as a resource and as an inspiration.

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Thanks for taking a few minutes to share this list with me.  I hope it will encourage you to start your own "List of Ten" as a way to get through whatever difficulties you might face.

Copyright 2020 World of Writer Mom

Wishing all of you a week of adventures,
solutions to your challenges,
answers to your prayers,
& resources to help you survive
all of your collaborative projects!

Kindest Wishes,
~ Mary


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Professional photography courtesy of  Uli Hillenbrand Photography

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