My first trip abroad was a wonderful experience, and very enlightening. I decided I would take my six-month-old son and spend summer 1991 in the town of Manheim, West Germany with my brother, his wife and their son. The journey was difficult. There was a snafu with the airline, but I made a friend on the plane, a German fellow who was flying home to surprise his parents.
Once on the ground in Luxembourg, we needed to take a train to Manheim in Germany. I remember the day well. It had rained and everything was the lushest green I had ever seen. The rolling hills, spotted here and there with cattle were beautiful. My new friend, Reiner, told me about his life in Germany and the things he loved about America. Because I had so many things to carry, we worked out a deal. I would pay his train fare if he would help me get my son to my destination. He agreed and we were fast friends.
When I arrived at my destination, I have Reiner a big hug and thanked him for his help, wishing him the best in life. I was amazed at how clean the area was. There was no garbage on the street and for that matter, I don’t think there was any dirt either. I learned later from my sister-in-law that in Germany they can always tell where the Americans live because it is always dirty. In her apartment complex, each unit was assigned a week each month they were responsible to sweep and mop the hallways and steps of their building, and sweep the street outside for any debris. And so it went. We didn’t just clean though.
One afternoon we went to a park where giant nylon nets made a spider web climbing apparatus for kids. It rose so far from the ground! There were trampolines that were in the ground so if the children fell, they would not be injured as badly. What really stuck with me after all these years is while sitting in the park, watching the kids, I rested in the grass surrounded by beautiful flower arrangements. Suddenly, out of those flowers I heard some rustling around and right next to me appeared the most beautiful peacock! I enjoyed that month so much and came to appreciate the culture of another country.