NUENHEERSE, GERMANY —
Today I went to the small town of Neuenheerse to meet my host mother, Doris Dressel, and two sisters, Melanie and Tamara.
30 years ago, sometime in August, I packed a year's worth of clothes in 2 bags and said farewell to my parents.
It was the first time I saw my father cry, though we never talked about it.
I was met in the Paderborn train station in Germany a day later by host parents, Doris and Ernst Dressel.
I would stay at their house the next year and attend a 13th year of high school in the Goerdeler Gymnasium (their high school).
I spoke no German.
The first two weeks, I remember being frustrated and spent a lot of time walking alone. On a Sunday dinner together, the German I heard sounded like they were talking about "plastic spoons" and "harry Reasoner," the tv news anchor.
They werent; and now that I speak German I wish I knew what they actually said, but cannot.
For the first two weeks, there were moments - long moments - where I thought this is the worst thing I have ever done. I would have no friends, and it would be difficult all the days.
then I started to make friends. Melanie and Tamara for two. Olaf, who wore pink and had bright bleached hair and Kui, who poked fun at my big tall boots to get a laugh.
In these months I learned I could be dropped somewhere and start a new life - and make friends who I could hang with, talk to and talk long into the night. The things that were scary became every day after a time, and while not all were great, the moments kept on as if I had been accustomed to this. When it was not, I knew I could get through it.
I gained a new family, a second of what would become many homes as I traveled, and an open mind for what I could see, experience and understand and like the questions all of those things gave me anew.
I learned that the friends and family i had in the US? They stayed with me too.
Today, we took this photo. This is me (blonde in front)
host sisters (tamara in back), Markus (Tamara's husband), Deitz (theird kid).
Thirty years after I landed in Paderborn and said "Hello!"
If you don't want your kids to travel or live in another country as a student, don't have then talk to me because I'll convince them it's the greatest thing you can do.