Friday, July 20, 2012


I once went on a hiking trip in a town about an hour outside of Munich called Garmisch.  It was absolutely beautiful, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.


So beautiful.  On a side note, I have now traveled back to the Land of the Free, but the reflections from my time in Germany are still coming.  The adventure really never ends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Farm WOD

In the spirit of the Crossfit Games, here is a summary of my WOD's for the past six weeks:

AMRAP from 7:30am to 12:00pm each day

1 rep of Waking up at the Crack of Dawn
5 reps of Watering the Goats and Chickens
20 reps of Painting the Stairs (If you don't get enough paint on you - repeat)
15 reps of Digging Giant Holes
35 reps of Moving 40# Stones
20 reps of Moving the Same Stones to a Different Place
15 reps of Planting Seeds
20 reps of Cleaning Concrete Off of Stones
20 reps of Cleaning Out the Chicken Pen
100 reps of Ceaning Out the Goat Stall
60 reps of Weeding the Garden
45 reps of Trimming Hedges
30 reps of Cutting Down Trees
1 rep of Passing Out until Dinner

And with that, I think I'm ready for the games myself.

Some Chickens That I Used to Know

On this farm, there are chickens.  Most of my experience with chicken, thus far, comes in the form of, well, the fried type.  Never have I been near a live chicken and for good reason.

I learned within the first few days that I’m terrified of birds.  I’ve never really had to deal with any that were alive, so that inexperience turns into fear as I plop food down in their bowl and they crowd around me. 

We have chickens of all ages here, but the feisty ones are right in the middle – similar to humans, I suppose.  Hannah and I have learned that it’s all really about timing when you’re feeding them.  It’s very important to bang on the door or to have the other person hold the food bowl at the other end of the cage so that one person can go in without letting them all out.  This we learned through experience.  I once opened the door and two of them hopped right out of the cage.  Cool, we had to chase them around the goat pen and catch them – with our hands.  Terrifying.

The root of the fear is this: I just don’t know what the appropriate form of punishment is if one of them pecks me.  With a dog, bop it on the nose; with a chicken…ring it’s neck?  No.  There’s nothing.  I feel defenseless, and so I’m scared. 

 Since the discovery of my fear, Hannah has been pushing me to spend more time with them, which I do begrudgingly.  I’m getting better though I would not say that the fear is conquered. 

Chickens are scary.  They are unpredictable and there is very little you can do about it if they choose to peck you – aside from running out of the pen, which is always an option.  That sounds a bit like life.  You never know when it’s going to peck you, and there simply isn’t a form to retaliate against it when it does, so sometimes you go and nurse your wounds, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have to get back in there and feed it again tomorrow.  You can always choose to run out of the pen, but you’re going to have to go back in eventually, and the chickens are still going to be there, squawking at you more loudly than before. 

Being on this farm has been really good for me.  Dealing with these chickens has shown me how to deal with life, and I have learned to appreciate the experience despite the agony with which I hear, “Kirby, can you go check on the chickens again?”     

Really?  Again.  Y así es la vida.

Shortly after writing this blog, I had my first contact with chicken mites - tiny little critters that get on your skin and crawl around and drive you absolutely nuts.  Simply another reason to stay away from chickens.  Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Staying in a Hostel

Before I start this blog, I want to introduce “my friend” who is with me here.  She insists on me using her name rather than continuing to hide her identity.  This is Hannah.  She’s been one of my best friends ever since I can remember, and she’s primarily to blame for me being in Germany right now.  I’m encouraging her to do a guest blog for me, but as of yet, she isn’t up to the challenge. 

That being said, last weekend, I had to stay in a hostel. 

I say had to, but that isn’t entirely true.  I had other options, but I came on this trip to be independent, so despite the fact that I was somewhat of a nervous wreck about it, I took the plunge and booked a hostel.

At dinner on Thursday, we had several guests, one of which was an American girl – who happened to live in Tennessee, as well…small world – who told us about a nice hostel in Munich.  Hannah and I had been discussing this as my option for the weekend, but I couldn’t get a booking, so I had to search for a new hostel on my own.  Most of them were booked, so I found one with somewhat lower ratings, but I gave it a shot.

I left the farm on Friday and was dropped off at the infamous Pfaffenhausen station – infamous because we have never actually made it there despite it being our destination every Sunday thus far.  I arrived in Munich and headed to my stop.  I knew that I couldn’t check in for a couple of hours, so I took my time wandering around the area to get my bearings.  Eventually, I checked in and put my luggage in the “luggage room” – read: room where everyone freely puts their stuff, not securely by any means – and headed out.  After walking around a bit, I made my way up to my room.  Having no roommates as of yet, I took the opportunity to have a nap only to be awoken by house keeping, gladly, I might add, since the room was kind of a mess. 

Later, I continued my nap and awoke to find two new faces in the room of six beds.  I had already made plans for the night, so I headed out to meet two of my friends.  When I arrived at the hostel early the next morning, all the beds were full – or so I thought – so I knew was in for some introductions when I woke up.  Later in the evening and finally having met everyone, I was comfortable staying there.  I had my own locker where I could keep my valuables, and I felt safe in the room despite not knowing the five other people with whom I was sharing it. 

After sleeping for quite some time and spending some much-needed alone time at the river, I headed back to the hostel.  Two of the roommates were in the room when I arrived, and they asked me to join them for dinner.  A man from India who was living in France, a woman from the U.K. who had been traveling Europe for 2 months, and I headed out to dinner.  I could only laugh at the funny situation – and at the sound of my mother’s worried voice in the back of my head.  We ended the night quite calmly on the roof of the hostel just chatting, joined by two of our other roommates. 

Overall, my first hostel experience was a good one.  While it wasn’t what I expected, I learned a few things that I think will help me the next time around:

1.  Everyone is nervous.  Hostel life isn’t exactly natural, so someone has to break down the barriers and start the initial conversations.  While it is a bit intimidating, cool people stay at hostels, and you will only meet them if you talk to them.

2.  Cleanliness is not next to godliness.  Let’s be real, the hostel wasn’t the cleanest place I’d ever been, but it also wasn’t the dirtiest.  Did I know how many people had slept on the sheets before me?  No, but I was paying a very small amount of money to stay two nights, and I survived.  When traveling, it’s best not to be too picky.

3.  People are very different.  Every time someone travels, it gives the opportunity to get outside of the normal comfort zone.  Is it sometimes uncomfortable?  Yes, but it’s in these uncomfortable times that you learn about yourself and about others and how to accept them.  My discussions this weekend ranged from the importance of graduation parties to drug use in Europe.  While I couldn’t always contribute much to the discussion, I was happy to listen to another point of view and to develop community with people that I may never have spoken to otherwise.

When I was sitting on that roof with four of my five roommates, I felt like I belonged to something.  While we didn’t make up a secret handshake and I’ll probably never see any of them again, there was a feeling of community there that I haven’t experienced here yet.  It was something organic and freeing, something that my trip had been missing. 

So, I’m glad that I did it.  I’m glad that I’ve stayed in a hostel.  Initially, I was - ok I’ll say it - I was scared.  But, now that it’s over, it’s something that I learned from and really enjoyed, and it’s likely something that I’ll do again – sorry, Mom. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Introspection Numero Uno: On Parenting

Don’t get ahead of me.  I’m not, nor am I soon to be, a parent. 

As a child though, I definitely think that I have an interesting perspective on parenting, and, as mentioned before, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the impact my parents have made on me.  Hearing my friend’s own stories and listening to my responses to her questions has only made me realize more how much I’m like my parents.  That’s a scary thing to admit.

As a child (teenager), you spend your days thinking how much better of a parent you could be than the ones that you have.  You dream of the ways that you will be different and list the multitude of ways in which you are ‘unlike’ your own. 

When you become a ‘young adult,’ you tend to stop all that.  New freedoms allow you to be the person that you really are.  As I’ve begun to really discover that person, I hear myself speak sometimes and look around for my parents.  When I realize that they aren’t there, I begrudgingly come to the conclusion that I’m just like them. 

As I told my friend about my family, I recognized a lot of things that I’m proud of – naturally accompanied by some things that I’m not.  It’s the positive aspects that I’ve gained, however, that are my focus.  Here we go:

1.  Perseverance – My parents have had to deal with a lot.  While I won’t publish the details of every scenario, I have come to recognize just how true this is over the past week.  Not once have I seen my parents give up nor have they allowed me to do so.  When I was young, Mom thought that I was destined to become some famous public speaker.  As a result, she put me in just about every speech competition she could find.  I would write out my speech, we would go over it together, and then she would make me stand in the living room in front of her and read it.  While it was expected that I would practice it once or twice, I always dreaded the end and hearing those words come out of her mouth: “Do it again.”  The example seems trivial when writing, but I learned to persevere through that terrible speech about Tigers, not because my mom genuinely wanted to hear it again but because it made me better.  I got trophies out of the deal, and I finally appreciate it: the ability to get through something not so fun to achieve something better.        

2.  Resilience – My parents roll with the punches.  From being laid off, to facing trying family circumstances, to listening to my crazy ideas about life, my parents go with the flow.  Thankfully, I have inherited this ability, and it really has contributed to my current state of being.  I can remember being a child and stressing out about every detail of life.  As I recently wrote, my parents always let me know that “Things always work out.”  I’m thankful that I got this from them. 

3.  Selflessness – I’ve watched my parents give up everything for me.  From working overtime to simply going without, my parents have sacrificed from the very beginning so that I can have whatever it is that I want.  Not once in my life have I felt that I lacked anything, and its because of their selfless nature.  In my relationships, I have noticed that I go all out for those whom I love.  Few times have a denied a friend in need my time or money.  This quality is not mine, however, it came straight out of my parents.

4.  Comedy – All of my friends at college are Facebook friends with my mom.  Why, you ask?  Because they find her hysterical.  As her child, I tend not to, but they tell me that she’s hilarious.  My dad has this ‘something’ that attracts people to him.  I’ve seen this quality travel straight down the line from my grandmother – who knew every person in town and comforted them through grieving – to my father and, finally, to me.  Everyone says it, but we really should have a T.V. show.  Although a lot of the humor is unintentional and is usually lost on most people, it makes for entertaining gatherings.  For example, my sister recently announced that she is having a baby.  She did this using cookies that said, “I’m pregnant” that she gave to family members for Mother’s Day.  Upon opening my mom’s cookie and reading the statement, she responded, “I’m not pregnant!”  Exhibit A.        

5.  Joy – My parents are happy people.  Having dealt with a lot of difficult circumstances, my parents radiate joy.  People tend to love them, and it’s because their very presence is able to cheer them up.  I hope that throughout my life, this is one of the qualities that I hold on to.  Being joyful is hard sometimes, but somehow they manage to do it daily.  I like to think that I’m this way too. 

It’s when you remove yourself that you really appreciate what you have.  Today, I appreciate my parents.  More than they will ever know.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Farm Livin'

Last night (June 3), we arrived at the farm.  Having bought train tickets and been given specific directions about which trains to take, we headed out with our heavy bags.  Did I mention the rain?  Hannah and I arrived to our first stop and got out.  Confusing signage led to us watching our train leave the station in front of our eyes.  Because it was Sunday and things in Germany are a little different then, the trains were later and not running as usual.  We waited, got some paprika chips – only after the real chips I wanted were listed in the machine for SIXTY EURO - , and then finally made it to the next station where we realized that we had an hour until the next train.  Our host family was supposed to pick us up, so we were probably an hour late.  We were sitting in the station, and a lady walked up and said our names!  It happened to be our host mom who came to pick us up when she noticed that we were so late. 

She took us to the farm, and we got settled in.  We were instructed to wake at 7am for breakfast with work to begin at 7:30.  This is summer, yeah?  I rarely wake before 9am at school.  Farm livin’.  My general duties consist of watering the animals, shoveling goat crap, feeding the ponies, collecting grass for the goats, and then – throughout the week it has been different – some combination of moving giant piles of rocks and digging giant holes.  It’s really tough work, but as my friend and I have discovered, tough work brings about loads of self-examination.  Some beneficial, and some downright terrifying. 

Aside from tough days of work, there really is a lot of time for resting, most of which we fill with reading or exploring the countryside.  Being able to see the Alps from the road really does make just walking worthwhile.  Again, this provides time for introspection. 

Another note, my (female) friend and I share a room.  As in, I can touch her bed when I’m laying in mine.  Needless to say, we are learning a lot about each other but even more about ourselves.  More to come on that as I continue digging.

Finally, let’s talk food.  We have been taught since Day 1 here about this, apparently, well-known fungal substance known as kefir.  We drink kefir shakes and eat kefir dumplings.  I assume that it’s in everything we eat.  As a result, our digestive systems are in tip-top shape – take that as you will.  The family eats a predominately vegetarian diet, definitely new to me, but I think I’m getting used to it.  I still tend to ask, if only for comedic value, “Where’s the beef?”  It’s not here.  It won’t be.  I miss it.

So this is my life for the next five weeks.  It’s interesting.  I’m learning.  I’m growing. 

And that’s exactly what I wanted.   

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Things Will Always Work Out

I’ve been saying for a long time that traveling has forced me to be able to deal with hardship in a much better manner.  My first day in Germany was a test of that statement. 

Let me reiterate my goal for this trip.  My goal is to not have a goal.  I wanted a trip that was open and free, and according to the first day, that’s exactly what I got.

I arrived at the airport promptly two hours before my flight.  I had checked in prior to arrival, as any good traveler does, and I assumed that all was well in the world.  I then overheard the kind lady at the desk tell another traveler that flights to Newark had been delayed.  Stepping up to the counter, I knew my fate as she repeated the same words to me.  Two hours.  The exact amount of time until my connecting flight to Germany.  I would miss it. 

Immediately, I messaged my German friend, who had been scheduled to pick me up, that I wouldn’t make it and proceeded through security.  Due to the time difference and the lack of direct communication, reaching my friend proved difficult.  When I got to Newark, I finally was able to talk with him, and we set a very flexible plan into motion. 

Aside from the mass of angry Americans screaming at the United Airlines staff for their apparent inability to conduct good business, my flights were painless.  I made it to Germany and followed the directions of my friend, which included hopping on a train with which I was not familiar and which I could not understand.  I made it safely to the stop and put my things in a locker (note that the lockers in the station lock once and for 5 Euro, a lesson I learned the hard way).  I was instructed to wait at the station for period of 5 or so hours, so I took the liberty of my all-day train ticket to nap a little as I became familiar with the train system. 

I searched far and wide for wireless Internet and finally found it and was able to talk to my friend.  He alerted me that he would be later than he thought and that I should board an unfamiliar bus to meet a German friend whom I didn’t know.  Blindly following him, I headed out on that journey.  Luckily, things again worked out.  He and his girlfriend fed me dinner and then allowed me to take a much-needed nap. 

I awoke to find my German friend in the living room and we headed home after a long day.  Naturally, my mother and I had many discussions prior to my departure, and one of them has, in many ways, become my traveling theme.  “Things will always work out,” is a mantra that I repeated to myself as I ambled through Munich on my first day.  It’s something that I’ll never forget.  Things will always work out…they must.  It may not always be easy.  You may feel lost in a city of 2.5 million people, surrounded by a foreign tongue and advertisements that mean nothing, but eventually, a German who knows your name will find you at a bus stop and take you in for glorified spaghetti. 

At least, that’s been my experience thus far.