Tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday, which means that it is officially the end of September (where has time gone?) and that I am another year older (again, where has time gone?).
Everyone told me that time would speed up once I got to college and, as any good eighteen-year-old would do, I scoffed. How does time speed up, anyway? Well, six years later I have yet to discover how the time warp works, but it is true. The time since my high school graduation has flown by.
On one hand, I look at all I have accomplished and I am amazed: I earned a college degree, lived abroad (twice), completed a year of national service and met a wonderful host of people who have greatly enriched my life. But, on the other hand, it doesn’t feel like that long ago that my eighteen-year-old self was saying goodbye to my best friends from high school as I got ready to head off to college for the first time.
Either way, it’s a beautiful, crazy, blessed life I have come to lead. And so, of course, I felt it necessary to celebrate by trying out a few new things this weekend…
|My birthday cake from Kristin!|
On Friday after work I hopped a train to Hamburg and met Kristin. Upon arriving at her host family’s apartment I discovered that she had baked me a chocolate birthday cake from scratch. Now, I would have been happy with any cake because it really is the thought that counts when you’re celebrating another year of life thousands of miles away from your family and friends, but this cake was extraordinary. I am rapidly discovering that Kristin is a truly fabulous baker (which, I promise, is not the only reason we’re friends) and I was more than happy to reap the chocolate and strawberry benefits.
After consuming enough cake to put an elephant in a coma we headed out to an area of Hamburg known as the Reeperbahn. In English we might call it a red light district. Now, I should preface this by saying two things: 1. The Reeperbahn is actually quite safe and has become something of a tourist attraction in Hamburg. 2. Prostitution is legal, and prominently displayed, here.
This combination made for a very interesting (please read bizarre) walk down a street lined with casinos, bars, strip clubs, sex stores, a copious amount of American fast-food restaurants and the occasional homeless person. I think there were just as many foreigners as there were Germans and at one point I even pretended not to speak English to a very drunk American man. In the red light district. In Germany. It was definitely a first. And while I am glad I saw the Reeperbahn in order to better understand it, I have no desire to go back and thus it will probably remain my first and only experience there J
Then, on Saturday morning Kristin and I took our first real excursion together, a day trip to Bremen. Bremen is about an hour from Hamburg and is famous for being featured in the Grimm’s fairy tale “The Bremen City Musicians.” It also has a beautiful old cathedral and a fabulous Altstadt (old city). I was in love almost from the moment we got off the train.
|Me with the Bremen City Musicians Statue|
Because it is more interesting that way (or maybe because we forgot), neither Kristin nor I brought a map, and so our day consisted of wandering down back alleyways and making accidental discoveries that seemed all the more beautiful because we didn’t know to look for them. From the tiny candy shop we stumbled upon to the beautiful St. Petri Dom (Cathedral) to the farmer’s market in the main square where I bought a pound of plums and ate them all, the day was a fantastic string of discoveries. I’m thinking of ditching maps any time I’m in a new city; you seem to see so much more that way.
After an amazing day in Bremen I headed back to Stade for a night of sleep that was all too short… because early Sunday morning I headed to a nearby airstrip with my host dad and the two oldest children for my very first flight in a small airplane. My host dad flies small planes as a hobby and since the weather has been so nice and he knows that I adore airplanes, he decided to take me and the kids on a short ride over Stade and Hamburg.
As we climbed into the four-seater aircraft that is light enough to be pushed into position by one person and shifts every time someone moves, I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous. It didn’t help when my host dad told me that this was one of the oldest planes in the hangar. We taxied toward the runway and a small little voice in my head just couldn’t help but sarcastically ask, “So, roller coasters aren’t enough anymore?”
But as soon as we were in the air I was enthralled. I should have known I would be. I took my first airplane ride at six months old and all of the flight attendants told my mother I was the best baby they had ever seen in-flight. My love affair with all things that fly (a gift from my dad and paternal grandpa, I am sure) hasn’t ceased in the ensuing 24 years.
Sitting in that tiny plane and feeling each bump, I fell in love with everything from wearing the headset and talking to each other through the microphones to being able to look out the window and see not only Stade, but the house where I live and even my balcony. Before we had landed I had added one more item to my already too-long bucket list: learn to fly.
And so, on the eve of my 24th birthday I look back on my weekend of firsts and I can’t help but realize that God is good, that my life is beautiful, that I am flying…