After a yearlong tour in South Korea, I spent a month back home in Missouri before moving to Germany. After visiting with friends and family I hopped on the plane to head to Germany, landing at Ramstein Air Base on December 2, 2010. I found my luggage, made it through customs and found my sponsor. My sponsor was a future coworker there to pick me up and drive me the hour to Spangdahlem Air Base, where I would be living for the next two years. I remember being very tired from the long flight, but trying to hold conversation with my sponsor at the same time. As we drove to Spangdahlem, I noticed how bare Germany was. It reminded me of home; nothing but rolling grasslands and lots of trees. Only Germany was so green! I learned later that that’s all it does in Germany…rain, rain, rain. I was very curious to know where the autobahn was, so asked when were driving. “You’re on it,” my sponsor said. What?! I couldn’t believe that was it. I was thinking to myself, “This is it? What’s the big hype?” It looked like nothing more than an interstate in the United States. Until…VROOM!!! Cars were flying past us at such high speeds; it was insane. Later, when I finally received my German driver’s license I got to experience first hand driving on the crazy highway.
Anyway, my sponsor got me settled into lodging on the airbase. This is where I would stay until I found my own place to live outside of the airbase’s gates. I was very nervous and scared at first. It was a new place, I was uncomfortable and I didn’t know anyone. It didn’t help that it was pitch black by 3:30 PM every afternoon—talk about depressing. I was tired all the time too; jet lag really got to me this time. People at work were very helpful with showing me around and getting me settled. One coworker spent a lot of time helping me find a place to live after work. He lived in Germany for six years at the time and really knew his way around. He could even speak a little German. Let me tell you…hearing two Germans hold a conversation for the first time made my jaw hit the floor. It sounded awful! It was almost like they were hacking up loogies and yelling at each other.
After being in Germany for ten days, I moved into my little apartment in Dudeldorf, just five miles off base. I chose a very small apartment located above a small pub in a building built in the 1400s. Many guest of the pub were old men coming to get their daily bier (beer) and the latest gossip after work in the afternoons and sometimes throughout the day. The owner’s of the pub were an older couple that lived on the other half of the building. The husband was a disgruntled old man who didn’t know a lick of English. He would always yell at me in Deutsch when I parked my car in front of the pub to unload my groceries. I was obviously going to move it when I was done; I just didn’t want to have to carry my groceries all the way across the street and through the arch from my car. One day he came out, started yelling and I just yelled right back, “Eh! Old man river! Zip it or I’ll break your hip!” You know? The classic line from “Big Daddy?” Anyway, I couldn’t understand German and he couldn’t English, so I thought “screw it” my as well have some fun with it. His wife was a sweet lady named Matilda. She knew a little bit of English and could somewhat carry on a conversation with me. I used to sit on the steps with her right outside the pub. We would talk for a while while she smoked her cigarettes. She always wanted me to pick her up some ice cream from the base. She claims that American ice cream is way better than German ice cream. So, I would pick her up a tub and she’d repay me with a bier from the pub.
[^^My apartment is the top five windows on the white building to the left^^]
[If you were to take this road and turn left you would find the arch on the left]
[If you were to go right you find the arch on the right]
Dudeldorf is an old Roman village that used to be surrounded by a brick wall with two entrances (arches) and a mote. Some of the wall still surrounds the small village and the two arches remain. In World War II, General Patton and his Third Army drove their tanks through the small village of Dudeldorf. Their tanks were too wide to fit through the arches and left scratches in the stone. I walked through this arch every day from my car to my apartment. It’s crazy to run your fingers through the marks and imagine them passing through the village.
Overall, Dudeldorf reminds me of the village you see in the Walt Disney film “Beauty and the Beast.” The streets are made of cobblestone and the houses are brightly colored. The village is located down in a valley with green hills surrounding it. There are running trails everywhere around Dudeldorf as well. I used to do a lot of running there and I think I counted seven different routes I could take just to exit the village. There also three natural springs that enter Dudeldorf. Older women of the village would take their pales to the spring to fill them up to water their flowers. One old lady—who also knew zero English—always greeted me to say, “Hallo” (this means “hello” in German). She would ramble on and on with a smile even though she knew I couldn’t understand her. Matilda tried to translate one day and told me that the old woman said I was a very pretty and sweet young girl. I was touched. As my time went on in Germany I made several German friends and they taught me the saying, “Hatschi mein Schatzi Putz Näschen mein Häschen.” It is a German riddle you would say to someone—usually a small child or your significant other—when they sneeze. The direct translation to English makes no sense, but it means something a long the lines of, “Bless you my dear, wipe your nose my little bunny.” See? It makes no sense. I wanted to show the little old lady that I knew something in Deutsch, so I would say this riddle to her and she loved it so much. She would giggle with delight. From that day on I had to say it every time I saw her. She would even put her hands up and move them back and forth like an orchestra conductor.
Dudeldorf is really like a fairytale. The day I had to leave I became really sad. I stood in my empty little apartment and wondered if I would ever see it again, if I would ever come back to visit. After handing my keys over to the landlord I went downstairs to the pub to have one last bier. Below is a snapshot of my Facebook status from that day.
Sometime in April of 2011 when the weather started getting nice and warming up, I made a video of Dudeldorf with my iPhone to remember the beautiful place where I once lived. Click here to watch.