There’s Probably a German Word For This

I like to think this trip started eight years ago.  That puts the ending so far off in the future it’s impossible to imagine.  Maybe one day Laith or Owen will come to Freiburg to study, or Felix, who had just been born when we were here four years ago, could come to stay with us.  When you open your home to a guest, or stay in the home of a family who welcomes you in, these people’s lives become a part of yours. The day I arrived here my host had just found out his father would need major surgery.  A few nights later we were at his parents house for dinner.  His father and mother showed me around the garden they had spent their lives building,  a landscape they had modeled after the Alhambra in Spain, which they had visited early on their marriage.  They had brought trees and flowers from all over the world to a hillside at the end of a valley in the Black Forest where their grandparents had been farmers.  Above their house they flew the flag of the European Union.  The world does not need to be a divided place.  On Sunday, I visited Manuel.  His son, Felix, wanted to show me his bedroom.  Being four, Felix speaks much better German than I, but we had a conversation about his toys in which I felt like I was pretty much holding my own.  My host’s father’s surgery went well on Monday.  He’s recovering well, much to everyone’s relief.  My bags are packed, and I would prefer to think of myself not so much as leaving as moving on to the next stage of this trip.  It started eight years ago with a conversation in the hallway when one of my colleagues mentioned that two teachers from Germany who were guests at our school might enjoy visiting different people’s homes for dinner, and I thought to myself, “I don’t know if my family and I will ever have the chance to visit Europe, but at least we have a chance to have Europe visit us.” What it’s come to now is that I feel like I have neighbors on two continents.

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