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Monday, August 17, 2015

My week in Germany

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I spent a great week in Germany last month. I was so happy to spend some time with my friends. 

On Friday, Lisa and I went to lunch with another friend of mine. After lunch, we went to David's workplace and his Italian coworker fixed my spoke (thanks!). It had been loose for a couple weeks and I thought I had to replace it, I am so glad he could fix it in a few minutes! 
As soon as David was done with work, we got on the train to go visit Lisa's parents. There was a family party going on and I am so happy I was invited because I always enjoy my time there. It was nice to spend some time with Lisa's mom and meet her grandparents.

On Saturday and Sunday we ate a lot of good food (thanks Simone!) and we visited Lisa's dad. Lisa, David and I went around town and practiced some wheelchair skills: I rolled down some stairs, then there was a curb that we wanted to get on, but I thought it was too high for me to go up. David and Lisa did it and they kept telling me I had to try, so I did. Sometimes they annoy me when they keep saying I should do something that I think is too hard, but then I realise they just do it because they love me and they want me to get better at it and become more independent. When I tried, my wheelie was not high enough and I fell on my elbow, but at least I was on the curb! I was getting up when a couple walked by and wanted to help. It is something I can do on my own, so we all politely declined. At that point, the man insisted and started getting mad at my friends for not letting him help. I think he even insulted them. When the couple finally walked away, we kept rolling. 

Walking people, I think it is fine that you ask me if I need help if you see me struggling, but please do not offer your help whenever you see me around town. If there is anything I need, I will ask. And, most importantly, if I say I don't need help, please do not try to help in any way and don't keep staring. Also, please never touch me or my chair without permission: I know you are trying to help, but I might want to do that on my own or you might actually do something wrong, especially if you are not sure how to help.

On Monday, Lisa and I decided to go to Berlin. We booked two beds in a hostel and we decided to travel by train. The intercity was expensive, so we woke up early to take the first of six regional trains to get to Berlin (Lisa can travel for free and bring another person on regional trains). When we got to the station, we found out our first train had about 30 minutes delay, which meant we would miss all our trains. We explained the situation to the guy at the info point and he was so nice that he made sure we got on the intercity (yay!). Four hours, a puddle of puke and two bottles of Spezi later, we were in Berlin! We left our bags in the hostel and went to eat a currywurst: Berlin believes they invented it, but I think Bochum did, and I find the one in Bochum better (even though that one wasn't bad). Lisa got new gloves and challenged me with a few curbs and a soft ice cream (it melts in a few seconds!). One of the reasons why we went to Berlin was to have dinner at an Italian restaurant. Lisa thinks they make the best pizza in Germany, and as far as I know she is right. The food was very good (my pizza was even better than some I have had here in Italy, just the prosciutto could have been better) and even the waiters were Italian. I just didn't like the fact that we had to roll through the trash to get in. As soon as we got out of the restaurant, it started raining, so we went straight to the hostel. 

On Tuesday, we got our bags and checked out. Before lunch, we went for a roll in the park. I was very tired and Lisa always wanted me to go faster, so I was not in my best mood, until this happened.
We were on one side of the park, and there were two paths to get to the other side: one of them was long and even, the other one was shorter but very steep, and it had a few lines of cobblestones. I took the steep one, and I am so glad I did. As I was working my way up the hill, my bag and jacket fell off of my lap, and I had to stop to pick them up. If you have ever used a wheelchair, you know it gets a lot harder when you have to go up a steep hill with no run-up. There was a guy standing there, and he asked me if I needed help. I could have used some help, but I took that as a challenge, I had chosen the hard path for a reason and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. As I was trying to go up that hill, the guy started discussing with Lisa. She told him I am an adult and I can make my own decisions, and he replied that I don't look like one or something like that. He said I could fall, as if adults didn't fall. If I fall, I will get back up. Lisa told me to try it backwards, and it worked. When I finally got up the hill, I was happy. She told me she was proud: that was a reminder that she only acts like that because she cares, and that I should believe in myself and try new stuff everyday, because if I don't try I won't learn. I think that was the most important moment of the week.
After that, we had lunch and we went back to the railway station to catch the first of six trains. I was a bit worried because we only had five minutes to change two of the trains. We climbed on and off the trains as fast as we could, got to the elevators and people were yelling "Keep calm!": we didn't have time to keep calm, but we managed to get to all of our trains in time. About seven hours later, we were in Dortmund. We had dinner with David (he made pesto!) and went to sleep.

Wednesday was my last day in Germany. Lisa brought me to David's workplace to say goodbye, then we went to my University in Bochum, were we had lunch with two of my friends. After lunch I had to get my bags and say goodbye to Lisa. I took the train with one of the girls and got to the airport. 

I hate leaving Germany. In Italy, people often ask me about the Germans. We have this stereotype that Germans are cold, detached people. I don't think it is true. It could be that I have been extremely lucky, but almost every German I have met was very kind. When I am in Germany, I am surrounded by people that make me feel at home. 

When the plane landed in Milan, it had at least 20 minutes delay. I got off the plane and everyone around me was speaking Italian.
When I lived in Germany, Italian was the language of my thoughts, Skype calls and a few italian friends. That instantly came back when I got to the airport in Düsseldorf and I could feel my brain "changing the setting" as I got off the plane in Milan. Coming back to Italy in March, after six months in Germany, it took me at least a couple weeks to get used to the fact that everyone around me was speaking Italian.
My parents and a friend of mine were waiting for me in Milan and, after spending some time with him, I was ready to go back "home" and plan my next trip.

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