The possibility of social isolation for the indefinite future has caused many of my favorite activities to have upcoming uncertainty. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and little motivation to be productive for approaching experiences leave me extremely reminiscent of past adventures.
HEADED TO EUROPE
In January, I had the privilege to partake in a school trip to Belgium, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. The majority of the two week journey was spent in Belgium, although we took day trips to other nearby countries. Our entire group was around 25 people, though a lot of our exploration was completed in small groups. We ran around the cities trying new foods (and eating way too much chocolate), visiting historic sites, and touring universities.
DECENT FRENCH. NO GERMAN. NO DUTCH.
During this trip, I had my first encounter with a language barrier. While we were in France, or French-speaking Belgium, I was determined to communicate completely in French. For the most part, this was successful. I have taken a few French classes, so I am capable of holding my own in everyday situations. However, I did have a slight hesitation that led to a comical misunderstanding. I did most of my shopping for family in France – bowties for my brothers, a bracelet for my mom…and then I saw a baby store. A very close family friend has a baby, who was six months old at this point, so I went in to get her something. I found quite a few adorable items, but settled on a little dress. I headed to the register and started chatting with the cashier, in French of course. She asked if it was a gift, and I looked at her confused. After She asked again and I told her yes but that there was no need to wrap it, because it was going straight into my suitcase. She asked me a few more times, but I insisted that she didn’t wrap it. The cashier thought this was strange, and asked if I was the one with a baby. I told her again that it was a gift, but I don’t think she believed me.
When we went to Dutch-speaking Belgium or Germany, we were far less prepared. To be fair, most of the younger population in Europe can speak English, so we weren’t completely in the dark. Fortunately, the elderly women in the German bakery we visited were able to follow our pointing and charades. At the end of the day, the difference in language didn’t matter, because each person we encountered brought our small group joy, and most of the time some kind of sweet treat.
EVERYDAY WAS PERFECT
Each day of our trip was packed with exciting adventure, that still feels surreal, but I am so glad I took the time to appreciate the opportunities I had while I was there. I remember walking in the freezing cold, and sweating because I was wearing about 6 layers, and thinking “wow…it doesn’t get much better than this”. Some days didn’t go as planned, but how could I complain? This was my second time in Europe, and I was still shocked by the beauty of each city. Not many high school students get to tour NATO headquarters, enter the church that houses Charlemagne’s remains, or walk around Europe with their friends. Looking back on that trip now, the memories are more meaningful, since we don’t know when international travel will be simple and safe again.