When in Doubt, Eat

Wow! I have taken a looooong hiatus from my blog writing. A month in a half in internet time is like five years! You all thought I was dead!

…WELL, I WAS. I decided to spend my afterlife on the internet too. I mean, what else am I supposed to do? Frolic with the angels?

(Side note: This was the first time I’ve ever written frolic and it feels weird. Shouldn’t there be a K? Anyway.)

During the last month in a half, my computer broke (by ghosts, I’m not kidding this time!), and I moved from one tiny room in a popular part of town to one giant apartment in a less desirable part. Also during this time I created and nurtured a blossoming bouncing baby facebook group called:

Hamburg Food Enthusiasts: English

It’s important to note that it says ENGLISH, because even though I’ve lived here for over four months, my German vocabulary has only expanded to about 30 nonsensical words. Hooray! Burgermeister!

Within a week of starting this group, it grew with such determination I thought for sure that I was going to spontaneously combust. YES, I know my blog handle HAM IN HAMBURG implies that I’m a dramatic, normally socialized person who loves to be the center of attention. Well, the truth is I have a love-hate relationship with people that I battle with internally on a daily basis! SO! Love ya!

As it stands, this mutant I’ve created has over 230 people in it, and we go on bi-weekly journeys across Hamburg to try new and interesting cuisine. 10-20 people show up at any given time, and I have to…like reserve stuff, and entertain!

 

It’s been crazy! And I’ve met some wonderful, lovely people in the process.

(Note: Some of these people aren’t solely from the food group, but it felt important anyway to note how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know them anyway)

And the FOOD, the whole point of this process, has been mildly disappointing to amazing.

In some ways, this group has helped me connect with this city on a spiritual level (and by that I just mean being well-fed) and gain some friendships I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to create. Thanks, internet!

Of course, there are some cons having to be the leader of a very active group. I’ve had to kick out a couple of people (one was a dude that was hitting on women, the other was a woman who called me a dictator! Cool!) and also orchestrating events is this crazy long process with a lot of hoops to jump through. I’ve also had to pretend that I knew a lot more about food than I do (I feel there is a long distance between “enjoying eating anything and everything” and an official “foodie” and I’m trying to breach that gap as we speak).

But it has been worth it. This group gives me the illusion that I’m popular which obviously has been my goal since the beginning of my life, it helps me orient myself in the city, and make connections/build friendships in a place that I knew very little people.

There is also nothing like being forced to go outside when you want nothing else but to stay at home in your pajamas eating oreos because you have literally 20 people counting on you to be there. ūüėÄ

In conclusion, I give this 4 out of 5 stars. Will try again. Sweet and salty with a tangy aftertaste.

Sarah the Burgermeister

P.S. In case you happen to be in Hamburg, the places we tried are: San Khao Thai Food, Paulines (brunch) La Quesadilla, and Ashoka Indian Food. ALSO JUST IN CASE THE INTERNET POLICE COME: The pictures are all taken from my food group and I politely asked if I can use their faces in my very, very popular blog that I assume only my mother reads. Guten Tag!

When in Doubt, Eat

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hamburg

The weather in Hamburg is seemingly unpredictable. Each morning I wake up, stare out of the window, check my phone, as if there is any comprehension in understanding what 80 degrees with thunderstorms mean. My friend sends me a link to an English news site; a tornado warning. How do you dress for tornado weather?

I check the time. I give myself ample amounts of time for the Hochbahn, a subway system that is meticulously on time throughout Hamburg. During rush hour, every train comes at exactly four minutes apart from each other, with only a few seconds of leniency. If you’re not there right when the Hochbahn arrives, you miss it. Some how people know when it’s coming, an every-4-minute schedule memorized, but I give myself¬†plenty of wiggle room. My morning routine is not down to the minute (yet.)

I step on the train. If I get on at 7:52, there is a huge crowd of people. Standing room only. You are forced against someone else (And oh, deodorant is often only a suggestion here), or huddling in the corner away from making eye contact. At 7:56 there is no one. A deserted landscape of dark red or dark blue fabric patterns.

hochbahn (hamburg.de)

Alas, I made it to the earlier train. People everywhere. Some are tired, they are closing their eyes while placing their heads on the window. Some are alert. They are staring intensely at each person for 3-5 seconds. Sizing them up, taking them in. Oh, the staring. When first arriving here, the staring was a slap to the face. What is wrong with me? Why won’t they smile when I smile? My American¬†habits of smiling while staring gets immediately put to bed. After two months, I have started staring back. People watching has become an Olympic sport!

I make it to the English school I’m teaching at¬†30 minutes early. This is common. Lesson planning is a never ending process. If you planned your lessons the night before, you must make copies. If you didn’t plan anything, you better hurry up. A grammar lesson is first thing.

In Hamburg, if you’re aiming to be an English teacher, unless you’re fluent in German, you’re teaching adults. Adults want full integration. I am put in a room with 3-7 adults. Most are older than me, and come from all over Europe and beyond. 2/3rds are of German descent, and 1/3rd encompasses people usually from¬†other countries near by. Turkey. Russia. Bolvaria. A beautiful kaleidoscope of accents and pronunciations.

A Russian woman with puffed up lips and a bedazzled dress robustly says, “YOU GO TO THE MOVIES?”, interviewing her partner. A 50-something German man with a round pot belly and half moon glasses at the end of his nose replies, “Yes, I’m going to see an action film starring Arnold Shwarzenneger.”

It’s nearing afternoon. I have a company class outside of Hamburg city proper, maybe 30 minutes if I’m lucky, 50 minutes if I’m not. Again, I need to give myself ample time to not get lost. I also need to eat something, desperately. The sliced lunch meats I grew accustomed to in the states taste different here and I can’t stomach them. I’m often at Dat Backhus, a chain bakery with assorted sandwiches and unknown desserts, which I partake in more often than not.

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“Spreken zie English?”

Over and over I ask. Do you speak English? 82% of the time it’s a yes, particularly with the younger crowd, but less common with the older crowd. This time it’s a no. I enthusiastically point at a fresh looking mozzarella sandwich with sliced tomatoes. I then smile and nod at a white chocolate chip cookie. They love white chocolate here. Coffee (or Kaffee) is the same word, and is much needed. Standing in front of a crowd of students, presenting yourself and your persona over and over again is exhausting.

The company class has 2 out of 5 people absent. One is at a meeting, another is on holiday. British English is more common here, and I find myself saying “holiday” instead of vacation and “colleague” instead of co-worker more and more often. I give them a spiel about Donald Trump.

“The number one question people ask me is:¬†why do Americans like Donald Trump?”

Which is true. Germans are seemingly fascinated with a character such as Trump. Because they are B2 level (not beginners, not fluent, yet) I hand them a fairly engaging article about the reasoning behind why certain groups of people support the Republican candidate. They seem interested, and a discussion ensues.

It’s already late afternoon. My phone is running low on data (Monthly, pre-paid plans can do that to you, especially if you’re continuously lost.), and I have to try and find the bus that will take me back to the subway. Confusion sets in, and I just start walking towards the general direction of the Hochbahn station. It’s a mile in a half away. The app that tells you what bus to take but does not tell you how to get to said bus. Thank God for comfortable clogs I bought before leaving for Germany. Comfort of standing on your feet all day out trumps fashion.

I get home and the sun is thinking about calling it a night. She’s looking at me through hazy clouds, squinting¬†and rubbing her eyes. I feel the same. She pulls the covers over her head and a sudden downpour showers the streets. I forgot my umbrella.

When I finally get to my apartment (or is it flat?), my roommate, a 50-something glamourous woman is home, chatting with someone in German on the phone. It’s only 6:30, but I’m slipping into my pajamas, and disappointed I didn’t pick up something for dinner too. The European championships are on (soccer, or is it football?), and she is squealing at the TV. Germany is known for their exceptional soccer team.

She is a friendly woman, though perturbed that a late-20s girl isn’t out drinking with her friends, discovering the night life, or doing something more proactive than watching another series on Netflix. She seemingly, at 25+years my senior, has infinite more energy than I do. Walking around in her underwear, animatedly chatting on the phone, curlers in her hair. She and I have had many conversations in her underwear now,¬†and my American sensibilities have been constantly questioned.

Though I have lived alone for 7 years or so, it is seemingly impossible to get your own flat once you first move to Germany. The paperwork is neverending, and I found myself using an American Idiom more than once.

“What came first: the chicken or the egg?”

One cannot get a job without two letters of intent from prospective companies, that you have to meet in person. One cannot get a flat without a residence permit that can easily take 2-3 months to get. One cannot get a bank account without a place to live. Everything hinges on something else, and often I find myself asking, how did I get here? Where am I going? Will this ever end?

And then, gradually, it does.

The paperwork gets sorted. The clouds start to part. And the sun starts to set over Hamburg in an egg yolk yellow hue.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I have to plan on how to teach Present Perfect Continuous.

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hamburg

Some People are Graceful and Others are Not

Growing up, I used to read National Geographic like it was a message from God. These were undiscovered worlds at my fingertips in Technicolor glossy pages. Once in a while, there would be a picture of the photographer or journalist, wearing khaki shorts or some such nonsense, and usually over looking the horizon. These people were adventurers. They were stony eyed and wild haired and had a look of determination that few people really can encapsulate.

(all images from natgeo)

Anyway, my point is, I’m not one of those people.

It took me two weeks to get over the fatigue of flying here. That’s two weeks of sleeping, slogging around, befuddlement, and an overwhelming feeling of not quite sure if I was dreaming or if this was reality. I was glad I remembered wearing pants during this time. I really had no idea where I was or what I was doing.

Once that was done? I got sick. Luckily, not FLU sick, but scratchy throat, eyes, sneezing, coughing, blah blah blah. Naturally, I had to go to a government office and wait six hours in a crowd of people as every hole in my face was leaking. Gross! Sorry!

And after that? Yesterday, I tripped and sprained my ankle. To add insult to injury, my face INSTANTANIOUSLY produced two giant red cold sores. Because, why not? I mean, this city only has approximately one trillion staircases and I only have to teach in front of a bunch of adults merely feet away from my face! WHY NOT.

So, no, some people are not meant to do some rough-terrain-snake-eating-majestic-looking adventuring. Some of us aren’t meant to be constantly photogenic, or always have something profound up their sleeves.

Some people have an¬†incredibly¬†hard time functioning in a place that is actually just a bizarro version of the city she just came from. We all can’t be graceful, alright? Please just love me anyway.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Today is my one month anniversary! I made it one month! (barely!) to celebrate, people threw me a giant festival.

AWH SHUCKS GUYS YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE IT’S NOT THAT BIG OF DEAL.

Just kidding, this was the Hamburg Port Birthday festival! 827 years young! They had giant boats, crazy fried foods and a surprisingly large amount of healthy foods, a cigarette stand…

Lazy robots, magical robots!!!…

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Some sort of bizarre dance troupe in spandex (the best part of this was that all of the people were just staring at them blankly and not moving as they were dancing their little hearts out)

And me enjoying a nonalcoholic beverage.

IN OTHER, OTHER NEWS:

I have finally moved out of my Airbnb into another temporary living situation in a new neighborhood. I have only slept here one night, but so far the grocery store a block from my house has fresh squeezed orange juice (YOU WATCH IT GET SQUEEZED IN A MACHINE) so I really can’t complain yet.

Much love, I promise I’ll be more optimistic next time!

Sarah

 

Some People are Graceful and Others are Not

Ents, Obedient Dogs, and Dads with Strollers

Hello my beautiful spring time friends!

I was going to write a long,¬†whiny tale about getting my work permit, but ALAS, it hasn’t happened yet. I’m quickly learning that I need to not make the assumption that I’ll know what I’ll talk about next week because who knows what will happen in five minutes in this unchartered, highly populated¬†territory.

So, this week I’m going to dive into more acute observations about our German brethren.

When I was at the subway stop (yes, I’ve somewhat mastered the subway system, which is such an achievement on its own I can’t even begin to describe the elation I feel in my heart. Here’s a picture below for your overwhelming enjoyment.)

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AMERICAN GENES?

ANYWAYZ, when one is at the subway stop, you get to people watch like never before. Remember, people openly and unabashedly stare directly at you here, so you get to do the same. It’s a little startling at how quickly I became accustomed to being creepy! Over time, I’ve started thinking creepy things like, “Oh, she has an American mouth.”

I would have never had guessed that someone could have an American mouth, but there it is. Even though people are REALLY white here, it’s a German white, a European white if you will, and there’s a difference. Who knew!

MAJESTIC TALL PEOPLE

Another interesting note, and it’s actually wonderfully poetic, is that people are tall here. I am a¬†5’8″ chubby gal¬†respectively, and I was always taller than most of my female friends, and frankly taller than half of my OKcupid dates. Here, I’m on the short end of the spectrum. For the most part, everyone is 5’8″ and above, and probably average around 6 feet tall. Long and lean. The majority of people here in Hamburg, at least under the age of 50, have bodies of athletes and models. INTIMIDATING.

But the BEST¬†part… is that every so often, you see someone a foot taller than the rest. When everyone else is 6 feet, there is a 7 foot tall person (men and women)¬†parting their way through the crowd. They walk differently. They move slower. Their heads are slightly elongated. I asked my interesting and captivating Airbnb host, and she mentioned that Germans have deep roots¬†from the old growth forests here. That some of them have tree-blood. I’m no scientist, but it checks out!

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I want to believe.

GERMAN DOGS

Okay, so, I have a long history with dogs. Who can forget the time one bit me on my left buttock when I was 8? Or when dad would bring home these mangy mutts from the golf course? And, rain or shine, dogs from anyone and everyone in America would jump up on me like a moth to the flame.

BUT IN GERMANY? SIMPLY NOT SO.

First of all, dogs 9 times out of 10 aren’t on leashes. They walk ahead of their owners with equal parts confidence and obedience written all over their faces. Like their owners, they STARE, but they do not even THINK about getting in my space. These are the most polite, well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. In fact, here’s a picture of a dog on a leash because of the sheer novelty of it.

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This brings me to my second observation about these dogs… a lot of them are DIFFERENT looking. I obviously have heard of German Shepards…but there are these wire-haired dogs of all different kinds here. Scrappy, well-behaved, diligent creatures! It’s baffling!

I want to pet a dog already but the dogs don’t want to be pet!

BABIES

Babies are abundant here. Maybe it’s because it’s spring, maybe it’s because people love walking here. I couldn’t say. The thing I could say is that I have seen tons of dads with strollers. Here’s a creepy picture I took of not one, but TWO dads with strollers walking down the street.

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It’s nice to see! I also heard that people get approximately three years of maternity leave here? THINK ABOUT THAT, AMERICA.

Also, people leave babies everywhere. Trying to get your pants tailored? Leave your baby outside. Want a quick beer before heading off? Leave your baby outside. We are not in Kansas anymore.

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Anyways, here’s an abundance of photos that I could not get around to writing about. Things from swan boats, strange squirrels, my bread baby and more.

Maybe next time I’ll have my work permit! Haaaaa!

Sarah

Ents, Obedient Dogs, and Dads with Strollers

The seventh circle of hell looks like an airport

Hello, dear friends!

I was going to write a harrowing tale about my adventures in getting to Hamburg, but I’ve decided to be the bigger person and move beyond it.

Just kidding. Here we go!

Have you ever been to the Los Angeles Airport (LAX?) This was my first time in probably ten years and let me tell you: It’s not worth it. Just unpack your bags and stay home.

Look at how optimistic I was. I was so young then , 6 days ago.

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The Luggage:

My luggage limit was supposed to be 70 pounds for this particular venture and it was 72 pounds, naturally. Because I packed it so tightly (as one does when you’re packing your life in a bag), when I opened it to remove items from one bag to another, it was a pi√Īata. Underwear was flying, I was sweating (that “casual airplane”¬†jacket is wool. What was I thinking?) and I was less than thrilled having to pay 185.00 anyway because of the weird ticket I bought. No one wins!

Then, the lady hands me my luggage receipt and I put it in my pocket, assuming everything was squared away.

No, no, friends it wasn’t. Stay tuned!

The Line:

There’s not much to say about flying internationally at LAX except you have to wait in this weird, hot, Disneyland line that wraps around several corners. I was going to take a picture of the entire thing, but people were staring at me and my sweat, so I took a picture on the DL.

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I timed it, the line took an hour in a half to get through. Ew.

The Plane Ride to London:

I think it’s cruel and unusual punishment to make the economy class walk through business class to their seats. We walked through these comfortable looking nooks, with their own large screens and fancy remote controls. They were already being served drinks. Their hair looked perfect (not related, but still noteworthy). They were just “Better” and everyone walking to the dark, claustrophobic back of the plane knew it.

We were served the usual “plane” food, but I am not going to complain about that. I’m going to complain about the turbulence. Oh LORD, the turbulence. The icky plane food sloshing around my stomach as I tried to watch literally anything on mini, short circuiting TV made me extremely nauseous. Eventually, desperate to focus on something, I grabbed my baggage receipt.

“London to Prague” it said.

What.

LONDON TO PRAGUE

What.

I thought my nausea was deceiving me. Was I having a nightmare? I’m going to Hamburg, yet my luggage wants to go to Prague? WHY, LUGGAGE, WHY.¬†I went to the back of the plane to talk to a fight attendant. She said I need to immediately talk to a ticketing agent when I get off the plane so they can divert my bag. My life, my 70 pound bag filled with my life, was hopping to another country without me.

When the loudspeaker said “ten minutes until landing, fasten your seatbelts” I started sweating again. This time the sweat worsened into something else. I unbuckled and ran to the bathroom.

“Go back to your seat, ma’am”, the flight attendant said.

“I can’t,” I said, from the bathroom. Throwing up all over the place. My clammy hand grasped the tiny handle for dear life.

“Then you better hold on.” She said.

And that was the first, and hopefully only time I spend in an airplane bathroom when they were landing. Certainly is a candidate for the top ten worst experiences of my life.

Is there a happy ending?

Yes. My luggage miraculously made it to Hamburg. The lady just gave me some dudes ticket by mistake.

Alyssa found me and fed me and mercifully put a soft filter on her phone to show me safe and less sickly looking in Hamburg.

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Until next time.

Nauseously yours,

Sarah

The seventh circle of hell looks like an airport

BON VOYAGE AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE

I think there’s several levels of exhaustion at work here. One level is just never sleeping quite enough (the energy of leaving, plus all of this damn sunshine causes me to wake up far too early. Thanks, Southern California.), another level is continuously saying goodbye to friends and family members with the weak hope that they’d come visit me in Germany. And the final level is material exhaustion.

HOW DO YOU PACK YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN A BAG?

HOW DO YOU DRESS PROFESSIONALLY?

HOW MANY BOOKS ABOUT ENGLISH GRAMMAR SHOULD I STUDY WITH ON THE PLANE SO IT LOOKS LIKE I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING?

These questions are haunting me any chance I get.

Regardless, I’m happy. This feels so right it’s almost alarming.

Over this past week I’ve collected a series of pictures that accurately describe my feelings of excitement, resoluteness, love, bittersweetness,¬†fake-it-till-you-make-it bravery, and a dash of fear. Enjoy!

In regards to saying goodbye to my friends and family:

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In regards to my never-ending fatigue and stress eating:

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Jessica Warrick (artist of mermaid)

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In regards to this weird feeling of just not giving a rats ass anymore and just GOING FOR IT, YO:

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Pep talks to myself that it’s okay to be overweight, different, have a large personality and be exuberant. Being meek doesn’t suit me anymore. There’s enough room for me:

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Dreamy thoughts about the fantasies of Hamburg:

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Christian Schloe (artist)

I was about to show an image of my overflowing suitcase as the final picture, but it isn’t pretty, and I will have to reevaluate a few million items. Instead I found this lovely bag. Let’s just pretend I’m this dainty and whimsical instead, shall we?

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Travel bag for ladies,¬†1900 ‚Äď 1930. Exhibition 2015. Museum for communication, Berlin

GUYS THE NEXT TIME YOU HEAR FROM ME I’LL BE IN GERMANY. DID YOU GET THE MEMO? I’M MOVING TO GERMANY. THE AIRBNBs ARE NON-REFUNDABLE.

Much love,

Sarah

 

BON VOYAGE AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE

Road Trip to My Mothers House To Drop Off My Junk

Wow. Wow, wow, wow.

So, when you get older, you notice slight changes in your appearance.

When you’re a teenager/early 20s, you look pretty good in most lightning, slouchy pants and hair in a “whatever” bun is acceptable, and make up can be sparse. Youth hides other imperfections, cuz frankly you’re just a kid trying to figure it out. You experiment, sure, but you mostly come out unscathed and youthful as ever.

But MAN. When you’re 29 and trying to drive 12 hour days to get to Southern California from Seattle, mirrors are a reflection of your worst self. Sure I may have had my life packed up in my car, but DUDES, the BAGGAGE under my eyes was unreal. I saw layers. Multiple miniature rolls of tiredness cascading down my eyes. Darkness in the creases. Weird tiny pimples from sitting-in-the-car grease and exposure-to-the-sun, and who can forget over-eating-too-many-hot-Cheetos-to-keep-awake?

Anyway, as the sign says in California somewhere that I unsafely took a picture of says:

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Usually my road trips are filled with pleasurable pit stops and Oreo Mcflurries. But, alas, this was a business road trip filled with business things. I bought a book on tape talking about getting rid of fear while living a creative life (yes, I know, shut up), I woke up with the sun and drank coffee out of a tiny paper cup. I even put a little eyeliner on to distract myself from the rippling dark waves that have made their ways to under my eyes.

On a side note, my mother surprised me at the Sacramento airport and helped me drive the rest of the way home. Thanks, mom! You’re my biggest fan!

The strangest part of all of this is¬†extreme RELENTLESS certainty that¬†I’m making the right decision about moving to Hamburg. Driving out of Seattle, I said my goodbyes with¬†such directness¬†and grace that is extremely rare for a person of my anxious past.

So much is my resoluteness, this really awesome email exchange with my landlord only ruffled my feathers for a couple of minutes.

“SARAH YOU LEFT THE APARTMENT A MESS.¬†I just spent 4 hours cleaning it. You really should call me.”

NAH DUDE I’M GOOD.

Anyway, after a brief exchange, he’s giving me half of my deposit back. Keep in mind, I lived in a 280 square foot shoebox. How much damage could I have possibly done to warrant a 4 hour cleaning spree? Plus, if he already cleaned it, he’s just wants me to call so he can yell at me further? I’m already a hot mess, “TOM” I think we can call it good. Hugs and Kisses!!!!XOXOOXOO

One time, when he didn’t think anyone was looking, I watched him text furiously to someone in his car. I think he does this whole “you’re not getting your full deposit back” on the regular.

No matter, friends. I’m going to Germany. DID YOU GET THE MEMO YET?

Today I spent the day at the¬†UCR¬†botanical gardens with my family. Here’s a series of pictures to warm all of our hearts.

After two days of sleeping and sunshine, and wearing shorts for the first time in probably a year, I think I’m on the upswing, finally.

Auf Wiedersehen (I had to google translate this even after 3 weeks of Duolingo practice on my phone, sigh.)

Sarah

NEXT WEEK: BON VOYAGE PARTY AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE

 

 

Road Trip to My Mothers House To Drop Off My Junk