noun. – a person who is fond of German culture, German people and Germany in general, exhibiting as it were German nationalism in spite of not being an ethnic German or a German citizen. [source: Wikipedia]
Ten years ago, I was tremendously blessed with an opportunity to immerse myself in the German culture by way of a full scholarship in the field of Regional Investment Promotions. Our group was composed of participants from a few Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. For our program, I was one of only 5 Filipinos who successfully passed the rigorous screening process that year, which included a couple of panel interviews by both Filipino and German officials. I must’ve impressed them with my knowledge of the Beatles’ two “Germanized” songs — “Sie Liebt Dich” and “Komm Gib’ Mir Deine Hand” (see, it pays to be a huge Beatles fan!). Before our scheduled trip, we took a 2-month crash course on the German language at the Goethe-Institut Manila, at the end of which I received a “sehr gut” (very good/excellent) mark on my certificate. So I thought I was ready, but upon reaching Deutschland (pronounced /doytch-land/) and being picked up at the airport by a German native, everything we learned in the crash course seemed to have vanished just like that. We could not understand a thing. We arrived in Germany during the summer of 2001 — the temperature was 16 degrees on our first day. *Brrrr*
The first three months (June-August 2001) of our stay were spent living at the Carl Duisberg Centrum in Saarbrücken, an idyllic city that lies near the border with France and is the capital of the state of Saarland. It was so easy to fall in love with the place, especially since we lived conveniently in the very same building where our German language classes were held. The next two months (September-October 2001) were spent in the town of Radolfzell in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Five months were spent in the dynamic German capital, Berlin, which has become my most favorite city in the world. I absolutely loved how it’s a curious mix of ancient and modern, glamour and terror. Almost every corner of Berlin inspires awe and amazement. I was alone and lonely during the Christmas of 2001, but the city comforted me despite the biting cold. Our group has also been so fortunate to have witnessed the historical currency transition from the Deutsche Mark to the Euro at the start of 2002.
My practicum was held in the Bavarian capital, Munich, where I worked at the Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft, Verkehr und Technologie for 3 months. And finally, our last month in Germany was spent shuttling between Düsseldorf and Cologne for our Management Training.
Aside from those places we lived in, we also visited a lot of other towns and cities in and out of Germany during our 14-month stay. Aachen, Dresden, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Konstanz, Trier (the oldest city in Germany), Koblenz, Friedrichshafen, Oberammergau, Füssen and Hannover are just among those cities that I can remember. It was such a magical time — it felt as though I was in a fairy-tale world. All the beautiful castles, the enchanting forests and breathtaking views are now tucked away in a very special corner of my memory. Sometimes I think about Germany and feel like crying. I miss everything about it — the sights, the food, the language, the trains and the climate. I miss Germany so much. I look at my old photos and I imagine the whiff of fresh, cool air against my cheeks. My stay in Germany was the best thing that ever happened to me before I settled down. I will never forget.