Phone Home…

A fresh new week of school seems to have brought a surprising amount of pep in my life! After settling down from my vacations with my sister to Berlin and München, I have had the great experience of starting back up with all of the classes, all of the reading and preparation, and fortunately all of the beautiful weather! Today when I left for my Family Business class, the weather was around -2°C (27ish°F), but by the time my class was over, I was able to take a nice stroll along the River Rhein and enjoy some unseasonably warm 10°C (50°F) weather. I’m still learning to adjust to the metric system, but even though ten degrees sounds fairly cold, I would never turn down how beautiful the weather has been! It’s sad to say, but in times like these, I kind of have to appreciate global warming… 🙂 (oops… did I say that?! Just kidding)

German classes also started back up today. In my class there are about 8 students, coming from places such as Norway, China, Hungary, and of course the US! The entire class was taught in German, save two or three simple explanations in English. Impressively enough, though, I was able to survive fairly well. I’m picking up a lot more of this language than I thought I would be. In the beginning I told a few people that learning to read Braille with my elbows would be easier, but with each stride the language becomes easier to digest and understand. For tomorrow’s lecture, I have several assignments for homework: one is to fill out a map with all of the different German states and label their capitals, another is to complete a worksheet concerning the geography and climates of Germany and its surrounding countries (all in German of course), and finally the last is to make a journal of everything I’ve done tonight. Tomorrow we will begin learning the past tense, so all of the verbs in the journal will help segue into the new chapter of studies. I must say, the language department at EBS is very unique, inasmuch as it finds very creative ways to help teach a quite difficult language.

Today I also managed to purchase a phone number for my Internet telephone. I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of my family and many of my close friends for very nominal charges. I was able to speak with several members of my church (which is also my work), who surprisingly enough are as anxious about my return as I am! The music minister posted a link on the website,, so that the members of Oak Park Baptist can stay informed as to what all is happening on the other side of the pond. I’m very happy to have spoken with everybody today, and hearing everybody’s voice really helped out on the homesickness.

Even though I do miss everybody a great deal at home, school, and at church, I cannot begin to describe how wonderful of an experience this has been so far. I can honestly say that this past month and a half has probably been the most exciting of my life. I cannot thank everyone enough for all of the support and encouragement that has placed me here! I also cannot fail to mention how appreciative I am to David and Betty Jones for their gracious contribution to the funding of this trip. Without them, I would not have been able to enjoy what all this wonderful country has to offer.

Despite the fact that Östrich-Winkel is quite the “thriving metropolis,” there have been a few nights with significant down time. And while I do enjoy reading and studying, sometimes it’s good to go out and try something new. Last night, I did just that. Several of the Tauschies were discussing a Salsa Dance class that was going on in town, and they invited me to come. At first, I thought it was the silliest thing ever — ME… DANCING?! But after second thought (and a little convincing from my friends), I headed off to Rüdesheim, a town just a few minutes outside of Oesterich-Winkel, for one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life. I had a blast with all of the other students, and since we were all beginners, there was practically no room for embarrassment. So while in a new country, I figure why not Carpe Diem and try something new? Who knows, when I get back I may be able to Salsa AND speak German. That, my friends, is going to be a marketable talent. I guess I’ll have to discuss that with the people in the Ulmer Career Center before I go ahead and post it in my resume…

It’s getting rather late now, and I must sign off to finish up some last minute work for my classes tomorrow. So until the next post, Tschüss!

Mark Ritter

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