Friday, October 7, 2016

An early wake up call, familiar city, pages, and Berndt

Did you ever wonder what Augsburg looked like at 6:00 am? Me either. But I've seen it. (See picture below) Apparently they pack full schedules and get you up at the crack of dawn here on Concordia alumni tours. In fact, they were even so kind as to call everyone to make sure we were all up. What?!

I am also understanding why the price was on the higher side. I don't think I've ever stayed at such a nice hotel in all my life. Also when we are done touring and check in, our luggage is magically in our rooms. While we are at breakfast it magically gets on the bus. How crazy is that? This is like a grown up trip or something. 

We were on the bus by 8 and on our way for a quick stop in Bamberg where we strolled around this very old historic town. Beautiful really, and so old. I continue to think I was born in the wrong country. I am so comfortable here it's crazy. Anyway we toured the town and stopped for lunch where I had more apfelshorle and spätzle. Yum!!!!

We hopped back on the bus and went to Erfurt, which will serve as home base for the next several days. I've been to Erfurt many times and while I didn't like it the first time I was here, it has grown to be one of my favorite cities and one I am extremely comfortable in. Once here we had only a bit of free time before rushing off to a mini-recital by Dr. Wente. While the organ was not the type I'm used to playing here, I was so glad to be there and honored that he asked me to turn pages. It reminded me of my college days where I frequently turned pages for chapel and recitals. This was his first recital in Germany which was special. One of my reasons for going on this trip was that I wanted to be in Germany with him since as an undergrad I always wondered about Germany and German organs and what it might be like to go there like Kapelle did trips. I am so glad I came on this trip for so many reasons and even though it's a large group, it has thus far been a much, much more positive experience than the last trip. 

On the way to dinner, I ran into Berndt, a dear old friend from former times. My friends will understand the significance of this. :)

The hotel we are staying at is not my favorite and has odd bathrooms, but it's just a few days. I had given Mark W an earful about how I hoped this trip would have normal bathrooms. He assured me it would and he's done many of ties trips. I have him a bit of a hard time (joking, of course!!) about this and he commented that he thought of me as soon as he saw them. Ha!

We had a large buffet dinner together where I sat with one of my former CUC classmates, his sister, and her husband, which was nice, then back to the hotel. Mrs. Gard and I sat in the lobby and then Dr. Wente and Dr. Gard came too. Once the Gards went upstairs Dr. Wente and I visited a bit and again I just remembered the many conversations during my college days and am so thankful and blessed to have had him as my college organ teacher. I owe him so much! What an influence and blessing he has been in my life, both in college and in the years after. 

Tomorrow we don't leave the hotel until 10:00, which means I can sleep in a little. 

Germany, it is so good to be back. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Never Ending Day

I'm not sure if I should date this post as October 5 or 6 since it is both. Jet lag and time changes are funny business. 

I arrived at the airport with mixed emotions. I was thankful for my dear friend Stephanie who agreed to drive me to the airport. It was a pleasant chat the whole way there and she prayed with me before sending me off. 

Once at the airport I realized that  I would be the youngest by far, save one classmate and his sister and her husband. But, I was excited. While waiting for the group to arrive, I got confirmation on the organ in Berlin! Yay. Also, I received confirmation on the most important organ of this trip (secret for now!) before leaving to the airport. In short order the Gards, Mark W, Mark R, and Dr. Wente arrived. I hung out with the Gards and their friends and we chatted while waiting to go. Dr. Wente and I also chatted and I learned this is his first trip to Germany! I thought he'd been here before but he hasn't and it's kind of special that I get to go with on his first trip. He was hands down one of the most influential people in my life during my formative college years (personally and musically) and I continue to look up to him as a model of what serving the church looks like. 

It wasn't long until boarding the plane. I was grateful for paying the $49 to upgrade my seat and had lots of leg room. I sat next to a lovely couple (former principal and teacher) from Wisconsin also on the same group. Lutheran principals and teachers are special people. I just met these folks but they are the kind of people you automatically feel like you've known your whole life. The flight was thankfully smooth and uneventful and I got some amount of sleep. 

We climbed out the back of the plane and the chilly October air woke me up and it was quite windy. I literally bounded down the stairs, skipping the last three and just jumping down. At long last, my feet were back on German ground where they belong. I may or may not have gotten a little emotional. 

After this it was the usual customs, plane change, wait, etc, quick flight from Berlin go Munich, transfer by bus to Augsburg and tour officially began. 

Once in Augsburg, the Gards and their friends and I grabbed a quick lunch. I had the first of many apfelschorles!

Mrs. Gard and I walked the town and the at 3:00 we had a 2 hour guided city tour. We heard all about the Augsburg confession and my Lutheran pride came oozing out of me. I love Lutheran history. While on tour we stopped by the Dom (St. Ana) and I spotted a Cranach altar painting a mile away. The rest of the group toured around the rest of that church while I sat glued in front of the altar gawking. 

After this, it was dinner and devotions and by now it was 8pm. I lost track of how many hours this odd 2-day trip was, but I was ready for bed.  

I must add as a brief afterthought that my roommate is a lovely woman and we'll get along just fine. It saves $600 to have a roommate and meeting new people is part of the travel fun. This older woman rushed over and threw her arms around me in a grandmotherly way the moment we were introduced. We didn't chat much since we just went to bed but this rooming arrangement is just fine. (We hardly are in the hotel anyway.)

This tour is going to go way too fast. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Almost ready to go! Emotions swirling around like crazy. I'm sure I've forgotten something. If I did, I'll just buy it there.

Some observations:
  • It is not as easy to pack light when one travels in the fall. The necessity of bulkier clothing, shoes, and coats really cramps the whole "pack light" thing.
  • Germans speaking English is absolutely charming. It always brings a smile to my face. 
  • Germans writing e-mails in English is my favorite thing ever. I notice that my own language and wording is very different when I write to someone in Germany than when I write to Americans. I'm already transitioning back to being there. 
  • It is 2016. My phone was exploding yesterday with text messages. "Be careful!", people kept saying. "Be safe!", people insisted. I realize the world is changing. That is nothing new. Anything can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no guarantee anywhere that it will be 100% safe. Use common sense, be aware of surroundings, and for gracious sake, don't sit at home being afraid because that isn't LIVING. Worry not, I will be cautious and be smart, but I will NOT be afraid. Should something horrific happen, it will still be OK. Last I checked, I am still a baptized child of God. All the warnings and concern did serve as a reminder of how blessed I am having so many people who care. 
  • Traveling suits me. It changes my thought process, my stress level, and snaps me into major reflective mode. 
  • When I travel, I always remember the wise words of my organ professor prior to that long-ago first trip. He told me I would mark all my music pre and post European organs and that I'd never see the music the same again. He said the instruments are so deep that "you better have a good shrink waiting back home". He said I would learn more from those instruments than from any teacher. He said I would be one of the students that "get it". Well, I'm not sure if I "get it", since those instruments just show me how much I don't know, but I sure enjoy the opportunity to swirl around in the depths of that history and the months of processing I do upon return. 
I received confirmation just moments ago about the thing I am most looking forward to on this trip. I can finally relax. I'm still a little nervous about the 4 organs I'm hoping to play that likely won't work out this trip, but I'm not going to stress. The trip will be what it is supposed to be, and it's not like I won't ever be back. Besides, the most important part of my trip is set to go. I'm keeping that to myself for now, but suffice it to say that confirmation e-mail had me squealing like a kid on Christmas morning.

My next post will be in Germany, provided I don't get locked out of my account again.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Long overdue

I leave in 14 hours. I'm long overdue to be back. It's been 780 days since my feet were on German soil, which is the longest stretch I've gone since I first went as a naïve little baby graduate student. 

The last time I went with a group, it was not a great experience. I'm fairly confident this time will be different, but I'm a bit nervous.

I am hoping to play 4 instruments, but have yet to confirm any of them 100%. That makes me a lot nervous. OK, if we're being honest here, this makes me downright panicky.

I wish I was playing more, but the places we are going are all organ deserts. This makes me nervous. Terrified, really. I need to play and the urge has gotten so strong it consumes me from the inside out.

This is only a very, very quick trip. In fact, this is by far the shortest trip I've ever taken to Germany. Will I feel like it is just a tease and will leave me even more hungry for time there? This makes me nervous.

I'm not really going anywhere new this time, but excited for the opportunity to be there with some of the most influential people in my life. I knew when I signed up for this trip that I'd likely end up frustrated at times with the whole group travel thing, but I knew that I'd regret for the rest of my life not taking the opportunity to be in Germany with these people, so in the end, I signed up.

I am glad to be going. I need to be going. I hope to go again in July so I see this short trip as a way to tide me over until I can go and spend lots of time on lots of instruments and get the full experience.

There are always a lot of unknowns with travel, particularly when one goes overseas.  This trip is no different, but the unknowns are very different.

I'm excited and not all at the same time, but I'm long overdue for a dose of Germany.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to go back to the country I love so dearly, even if only for a few short days.