Home is where your heart is. It is where the warmth and tenderness of love that you get from the people who care about you can be found. It is where you can reexamine your identity and who you are, while at the same time, either reacknowledge who you are and where you came from or reinvent yourself in order to become better than you were. It is where family and friends meet to either catch-up on what is going on, reminisce about the past, help each other in the present when it is badly needed, and guide you to your future and what you want to make of yourself.
For me apart from what is mentioned above, home is where I have an opportunity to look at the past while dealing with the present so that I can look forward to the future and make sure that my daughter has a prosperous future, mainly because of the experiences her father has gathered to date. This can all be done just by reconnecting with people from the past and connecting with people I don’t know now but will befriend in the future. Home for me serves as the crossroads because of the uncertainties that will occur, but can be regulated based on personal actions to myself and others.
The reason for my 3-week hiatus from the Files and its sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles was because I indeed headed home for the holidays. Home for me was southern Minnesota in a small town located between Albert Lea and Sioux Falls with a population of just over 3,400 inhabitants. But before that, I had to get there, which was an odessy in itself, but looking back at my trip, it was well worth the money, time, and effort to do this. It started out with dealing with overcrowded trains that arrived an average of two hours late, to a plane trip that did not have a memorable landing because of the runways being slick and covered with snow, to plowing through drifts as high as my knees (and I’m 6 ft. 2 in. or 1.82 meters tall) with my rental sports utility vehicle, to all the maniacs who passed me while travelling on these trecherous roads, only to end up in the ditch, some kilometers later.
But despite all the trials and tribulations, I ended up travelling for five hours through the fields covered in a sea of white drifts to my destination, where my family and friends were awaiting me and I had an opportunity to feast on everything in its path, from my mother’s almond bars (Marzipankuchen in German) to the traditional feast on Christmas Eve consisting of chili con carne, oyster stew, and all kinds of wonderful goodies. This was accompanied with a night on the town in a snowstorm which made the streets of the town’s business district look like the color of greenish yellow, which was the result of the street lamps lighting up the sky like fireflies. While touring the residential areas, oohing and ahhing over the colorful Christmas lights lining along the roofs of the houses, presenting various colorful expressions to those passing by, there were reunions to go to, where friends brought their loved ones over from Europe to show off to their families and friends, and it was capped off with some music and booze, quatsching (talking nonsense) and bickering, pondering and debating until three in the morning, when our minds were wondering off, as if we were off to see King Ludwig II. of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the artwork where he emptied the entire treasury in order to complete it, when in all reality, we had to find our way back home in the cold and snow.
When there were no gatherings and reunions, there was the look of beauty as the result of the new fallen snow and the thirst for knowledge as I passed through each town and city that would result in me spending countless hours either with my camera or with a sheet of paper and a pen and collecting the impressions that were right before my eyes. Despite all the changes that have taken place in my hometown and the surrounding area, for the first time, I saw the beauty of the area that I once knew and grew up in, and it made me appreciate what I still have in my life and what I can do to ensure that the next generations, including my daughter will appreciate the nature and history of the region as I do, as many people have walked away from the places they grew up without appreciating what they gave them, only to find when the hardships hit them, they have no place to go and they end up like wandering nomads, walking through the cold white drifts of grainy snow, roaming from place to place until they either settle down or vanish forever. My trip home helped me look at Â my origins and what I can do to make the coming year be better than the last. After all, regardless if you had a really horrible year or if you had a successful one, it always gets better the next year, but only if you take a look at yourself and who you are. This can only be done when you head home at a special time like Christmas.
After seeing my family and enjoying their laughs, reuniting with friends- many of whom I had not seen in over 15 years- and rediscovering myself through my travels, it was time for me to return to my current home in Germany, where the students wait for my arrival in the classroom, where my friends over there await my arrival in Erfurt to share their Christmas memories in their hometowns, and people I met along the way will write to me asking for a date over a cup of coffee at one of the fancy cafÃ©s serving Italian ice cream and other pastries. But most importantly, my laptop has been waiting for its author to type out some columns like this one, as one of my New Year’s resolutions is to keep providing readers like you with high quality columns on topics dealing with travelling, sports, culture and foreign languages (esp. when comparing Germany and the US), and some impressions and food for thought that will get you to think about and/or discuss about things at the dinner table.
SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, WELCOME TO 2011!
NOTE: Some commentaries pertaining to my travels in Minnesota are in the works and will come when they are finished. This includes the tour of the German-named villages, where 12 of them will be profiled and compared to the German counterparts. They include the towns of Cologne, Hanover, Hamburg, New Germany, New Trier, New Ulm, Fulda, Bergen, Luxemburg, Geneva, New Munich and Flensburg. The facts about these towns will definitely take you by surprise. So stay tuned… Until next time….