A resolution
I have a really hard time answering questions like, "What have you been up to?" "Do you like it over there? Why/why not?" "Are you having fun?" etc, etc. I understand going on a vacation and coming home to tell everyone exactly what you did: the sights you saw, people you met, food you ate. For me, though, studying abroad (and now that I think about it, going away to college entirely) is a lot more difficult to summarize because it's not a vacation, it's just day to day life. I've talked about this to a few of my friends I made last semester... it's hard to tell people "well, today I went to the grocery store and it rained a lot. I stepped in so many puddles, my shoes and socks were soaked through and then I had to carry home two heavy bags all the way from the store and when I got home I realized that there wasn't room in the fridge and somebody else JUST bought milk, so now we have too much and oh man I forgot the bread" and you get the idea. Life doesn't always lend itself so nicely to being retold. Granted, I have gone on many wonderful trips and I've seen so many things and I do have lots of great stories... it's just hard to recap them.
So, it's my goal (resolution, if you will) to now and then post little anecdotes from my traveling. I've realized it really isn't about knowing EXACTLY everything I've done, but just being able to take a little look.

So, for today, I'll share the story of my arrival in Leipzig, Germany.

Early on in the semester, a large group of us decided that we would all go to Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in November. After just a little bit of searching, we were able to find fairly cheap flights from Cork -> Berlin and so we purchased them. There were seven of us all together, and we all had different goals and destinations in mind, so we broke down into small groups. Kelsey, Joanne and I decided to see a little more of Germany than just Berlin and selected Leipzig with little reasoning aside from the cheap hostel we'd found. It turned out that there were a lot of things in Leipzig to see and do, so off we went!
All seven of us flew into Berlin together and after finding our hub (we all agreed to meet up at the same hostel (The Eastener) when we came back to the city) and grabbing a quick bite, we went our separate ways. The three of us bound for Leipzig made our way to the main train station where we were treated with the presence of a Starbucks and a large quantity of pigeons.

Anecdote: train stations in Europe are weird. Most of the ones I've been in are enormous structures with several floors and every store you could imagine, so we had a lot to keep us busy while we waited for our train to Leipzig.

Anywho, we eventually got on the train and grabbed seats next to an old lady, who quickly adopted us even though she couldn't speak English and none of us had any German beyond "bier" and "danke." So, our Leipzig grandma gave us candy and offered to buy us hot chocolate, which we politely declined, and we made wild hand gesture conversation for a bit. It turned out that she was going to visit her grand daughter who did "tourism" in Leipzig.
We arrived to the city without any hassle and after several confusing explanations from less-than-helpful train station employees, we found our way to the light rail which would take us to our hostel.
This is where the story really gets fun. We had found the place on hostelworld.com, which is usually reliable and provides pictures, ratings, directions, etc. The info we had read about the Leipzig Guesthouse was that the owner was a real nice guy who left chocolates on your pillows and that you rooms had cable TV and all of this for 9 euro a night! What a bargain! After a long day of travel, we were quite tuckered out and looking forward to resting our heads on the chocolate laden pillows. When the lightrail train pulled up to our stop, we were hesitant to get off - we'd pulled into a heavily grafittied, under construction SUPER sketchy looking neck of the woods. Even better, when we got to the hostel, we found the door locked and all of the lights off. Luckily the owner had been gracious enough to leave us with his phone number. Being the silly American that I am, it took me a while to include all the proper zeros and country prefixes necessary to connect with Daniel (the owner) and by the time I finally got through to him, I was more than a little frustrated. The following is a rough transcript of our conversation:
Me: Hello, I booked a room in your hostel for tonight... can you let us in?
Daniel: Where are you?
Me: We're at the door...
D: Are you at the hostel?
Me: Yes, look... we're right out front
D: Do you have a car?
Me: No?
D: Did you take the tram here?
Me: Yes. Look, I don't see why this is important... can we come in?
D: PLEASE TRY TO UNDERSTAND. I will put you in a private apartment tonight. Stay where you are.
Me: What do you mean a private apartment???
D: Just listen very carefully. You will stay in a prepaid private apartment. Stay where you are, I will send a taxi.

End call.

I'm a big fan of horror films. I love being scared but with the assurance that it's all fake, nothing bad can happen to me - it's just a bunch of actors and special effects tricks. However, I've seen enough scary movies to know that being told to wait on a dark corner in a foreign city, surrounded by amateur graffiti, for a taxi that is taking you to an unknown "private apartment" is generally NOT a good start to things. I relayed the phone call to Kelsey and Joanne, who had only heard my half of things and the rise of panic and confusion in my voice. We waited in front of the hostel for about five minutes until a taxi pulled up, the driver, we were relieved to see, was a woman and she helped us put our bags in the trunk. Sitting inside the car, I tried to make small talk - and sense of the situation - but the lady didn't respond to anything I asked her. I was feeling pretty freaked out by this point, certain that we were being driven to some torture site and that we would die at the hands of a stoic, frighetening German frau.

Obviously, though, I didn't die - neither did Kelsey or Joanne, for that matter. The taxi driver pulled the car into the parking lot of a 4 star hotel where posters on the front door advertised a convention for Irish ex-pats in Germany. We found this very odd. The concierge was angry on our behalf when the taxi driver explained to him what exactly had happened (I would have liked a similar explanation...) and he began to yell, "THIS IS NOT NORMAL! THIS SHOULDN'T BE HAPPENING. IT IS NOT NORMAL AND IT SHOULD BE NORMAL!" By this point, the three of us were travel-weary, confused and more than a little uneasy and his fit made us chuckle a bit at the absurdity of the entire evening, which only caused him to say "YOU SHOULDN'T FIND THIS FUNNY. I DON'T THINK IT'S FUNNY AND YOU SHOULDN'T EITHER!!" We zipped our lips.

In the end, it turned out that Daniel hadn't enough reservations in the hostel to justify opening it for us, so he put us up in the 4 star hotel for a night before having us check in the next day. I wish I could understand the logic behind that, but hey, I'm not complaining too much - I had a nice bubble bath and slept in an enormous, incredibly comfortable bed.