‘’What is a Jugendherberge?’’ was the question in Louise’s mind. All the exchange students took a bus from the plane to a Jugendherberge. Everyone filed out of the bus pulling their bags behind them. They were told to gather for a picture and wait for further introductions. Louise squatted down in the middle of the group giving her best smile. The girl next to her put her arms around Louise’s shoulder and the picture was taken.
After the pictures were taken an adult showed up at the top of the stairs leading into the Jugendherberge saying that there would be four girls to a room and one room with only two girls. So Louise needed to group herself with three others. She didn’t really know any others well, except for Milly and Ariel. Milly was quick to group herself with three other girls who were also short, overly happy and friendly with blond hair. Louise figured she would room with Ariel, who was hanging on to her for dear life. She didn’t want to be separated from Louise. Louise didn’t really care who she roomed with.
All of the sudden a spunky looking little girl yelled down to her from the top of the stairs, ‘’Hay, Louise will you room with us?’’ It was Sophy. Louise wondered who else would be in the room with her. ‘’Um, I’ve already got Ada and Helen.’’
Louise wasn’t sure who Helen and Ada were, but she figured it would be good to make friends with as many other girls as possible. Ada and Helen didn’t seem to be intimidating and also didn’t seem like the type of girls to cling to her for attention. So she said, ‘’Sure, I’m in.’’
‘’Great!’’ yelled Sophy. ‘’Then get up here so you can sign in and we can get our room.’’ Louise looked over at Ariel. She had an expression of shock and disappointment on her face. Louise felt bad to leave Ariel to find another group, but then again what the heck? You only live once and after spending a few days plus eight hours in a plane next to Ariel, Louise realized that she wanted to be around someone she can identify with a bit more. She was after all, four years older than Ariel and had experienced things that Ariel had probably not even read about yet much less experienced. And the group was to spend a whole month together. Louise decided that even if she didn’t talk about her past, she at least wanted to sleep in a room with girls her own age. She would still be friends with Ariel.
It turned out that Louise and Eric had little in common. It was no surprise, that neither Ariel, nor Louise roomed with her. She found a few other girls who were more exotic than she was with which to share a room. Louise stayed friends with Erica but didn’t hang out with her that month as much as she did with her roommates.
Louise grabbed her bags and lugged them to the top of the stairs where she wrote her name on a list next to Sophy, Ada and Helen name. The four were lead into the cafeteria with the other groups who sat waiting for further instruction. After all the exchange students gathered in the cafeteria the leaders of the group and the head of the Jugendherberge came in to welcome the group and give an introduction.
The Leaders told the group the purpose of staying a month in the Jugendherberge instead of going straight to a host-family. ‘’You are here to get to know each other so that you have others to communicate with this year when things get difficult. You will be able to hear how your fellow exchange students are dealing with similar problems and to remind you that you are not alone this year. You are all in this together. This month you will also be taking German language lessons and we have already split you up into groups according to your level of speaking and writing abilities. There will be four groups. You will find out later in which group you are to come. We will also be teaching a little about what to expect this year. We will cover everything from family gatherings to dividing your garbage.’’ That got a few laughs. Most of the students didn’t know what he meant by dividing garbage. It sounded gross.
He continued ‘’At the end of the month you will be giving a talent show for all of your fellow exchange students and us leaders. Some of the host families have also decided to pick you up here and they will be comeig to watch you preform. So take this seriously. You are also required to participate in a project this year, which we will also explain at a later time. Now I am going to give the floor over to our staff here at the Jugendherberge. They need to inform you on some rules. Then I’ll be back to give a final word or two.’’ The man speaking looked to be about 27. Louise thought he couldn’t be much older than that. He was tall, had tan skin, blond hair and such a cute German accent. Louise never thought of the German language as being cute, but his accent was cute. It might have had something to do with his crooked smile, white teeth and twinkle in his eye. The kind of twinkle that told you he enjoys life, every bit of it.
Another young man came to the front and held up a big huge feather pillow and a blanket of some sort. Then he proceeded to turn the blanket inside out reaching inside to grab the corners. He then grabbed the corners of the pillow and shook the covering down, pulling the rest of the cover all the way over the pillow. He did the same thing with a comforter and thin blanket covering before saying, ‘’ You have now been shown how to make your bed. We will not do it for you. We will collect your sheets on Wednesday and you must pick up your new ones at the front counter. I’ll be there to hand them out. You need to pick up your sheets before going into your rooms today. Where we are sitting now is the cafeteria. This is where breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served. You are not alone here at the Jugendherberge. There may be other guest, although not many because there are so many of you we only have a few rooms not occupied, so please be respectful if you see them at meal times or elsewhere in this building or on the grounds. Food is served in a buffet style, making you responsible for your own plates, cups and utensils. There will also be a bucket and rag nearby so one of you can wash the table after the meal. Um… any questions?’’ He looked around, but no one raised a hand or spoke. ‘’Oh, the rooms are upstairs. Everyone in the room gets one key. You can get it from me at the front desk after this meeting when you get your sheets. The boy’s rooms are downstairs and the girls are upstairs to the right. A few rules that need to be stated are Nr. 1. No drinking alcohol in the building. Nr. 2. No sex is allowed in the Jugendherberge.’’ That got a bunch of laughs.
Louise wondered why this would be a rule. Is it to protect the sheets or the leaders. Would the leaders get into trouble if one of the exchange students got pregnant under their supervision? Louise figured they didn’t want to clean dirty sheets. The real answer came sooner than Louise expected. The worker went back to the front desk to get sheets and room keys ready to hand out and the cute German came back up to the front for a final word. Louise had already forgotten his name.
‘’Ok, we’re almost finished here, then you can go unpack. But first… girls if you get pregnant, you will be sent home.’’
‘’What about the boys? Will they be sent home if they get someone pregnant?’’ Hollered one of the girls. Everyone started laughing, but waited for an answer that didn’t come. The cute German guy looked over at the other leaders (two girls and another guy). They all frowned at each other and shook their heads as if to say ‘’I really don’t know.’’ This reaction, or lack thereof, got lots of side commentary from the group. Louise heard people saying, ‘’that is so unfair’’ and ‘’boys never get in trouble, it’s always the girls fault’’ and ‘’The boys should be sent home too’’ and ‘’what about rape?’’ That got the attention of the leaders who promptly started in on the next subject.
One of the German girls stepped up to the front saying ‘’alright, there will be a plan for the day here in the cafeteria every day letting you know exactly what to expect each day. Some things never change such as meal times, but other activities will, so stay alert, and check the daily plan. If you don’t own a watch, you might want to buy one, here’s why. If you show up late for any of the meal times you will have to sing a song in front of the whole group. That being said, we will meet back here in one hour for a tour of the building and grounds. Tomorrow we will show you around town. You might want to know where you can go shopping, swimming, or get on the internet. And those of you in the advanced group will need to know where the university is located because that is where you will go for your German lessons. Ok. That is all for now. You may go collect your keys and sheets from the front desk, find your rooms and take a nap or a shower if you are quick. You can get towels at the front desk after you have put sheets on your bed.”
Louise let the others run out in front of her. She wasn’t worried about being the first. The other girls in her group ran to the front to get the keys. By the time Louise made it out of the cafeteria Sophy already had her key and was in the room unpacking. Louise had to sign that she had received a key and was able to walk into her room without being run over by overly excited Americans. Luckily, only Helen wanted a top bunk so Louise ended up being given the other one directly next to the window. Sophy took the bed under her and Ada took the bed under Helen. There was a sink and a mirror in the room so that the girls did not have to brush their teeth and hair in the community bathroom, but there was not a shower meaning all the girls would have to shower together.
Louise felt dirty after flying. She wanted nothing more than to have a hot shower so she put the sheets on the bed and helped her roommates do the same. They seemed to have more trouble with it than Louise did.
Then she went downstairs to the front desk to grab a towel and found that she was not the only one wanting a shower. She recognized Milly and one of her roommates also grabbing towels and flirting with the young man behind the desk. Louise realized that Milly’s roommate was the girl she had first seen in the Washington, D.C. hotel yelling ‘’Wooo! Woo!’’ Her name was Shepry. Louise wondered what drugs her parents were on when they gave her that name. Shepry, does it mean Shepard? Was she named after some almost famous 60’s singer? It didn’t really matter. What mattered is if there were enough showers for all the girls.
Louise went straight upstairs, grabbed her shampoo, conditioner and body wash and headed for the bathrooms. But what was this? Where were the dividers between each shower? There were none. Did this mean Louise, Milly and Shepry would be taking a community shower? Gross. How is that supposed to work? Louise just tried to focus on washing herself. She was wondering if the other girls would laugh at her body. Maybe they wouldn’t look. Maybe they were embarrassed too. She didn’t know. Milly wasn’t embarrassed she stripped down quickly and jumped under the shower head talking to Shepry and Louise. She didn’t turn and face the wall. She stared right at her while talking.
‘’That was an interesting introduction. Don’t you think so Louise? No sex in the Jugendherberge. How will they even know if we have sex?’’ Milly said shaking her head. ‘’And don’t get pregnant! Like any of us are that stupid. Ever heard of condoms?’’ She continued to talk while washing her hair.
Louise just laughed not really knowing what to say. Milly had absolutely no shame. She pulled out her raiser and started shaving her armpits, legs and well you know… That’s when Louise politely turned around pretending to wash her face under the running water. Louise had heard of girls shaving down there but didn’t know any girls who actually did. Maybe just a little around the edges to give it shape, but not all the way. Louise opened her eyes, she couldn’t wash her face forever. She opened her eyes to see Milly with one leg up on the wall getting every crevice. Well, she guessed that must just be what you have to do to get the job done. She would have never known.
Milly looked up asking, ‘’oh does this bother you?’’
‘’Uh, No… why?’’ Louise answered, trying to be cool.
Milly just shook her head and laughed. ‘’You just seem like you’ve never seen a girl shave her vagina?’’
Was she trying to cause trouble? Stay cool. These’s nothing abnormal about this. Right? ‘’Well, I haven’t, but it doesn’t weird me out or anything.’’ And honestly it didn’t.
All this time Shepry had been talking as if nothing was wrong. ‘’I’m so syked about this year, and this month. We are going to have a great time. Are we going to get together tonight like we did in D.C.?’’ She had almost finished washing. Louise noticed how long Shepry’s hair was when wet. She normally had it curled and styled making it a lot shorter.
Both Milly and Shepry had beautiful blond hair, were shorter and thinner than Louise. Well that was alright. Louise had a plan. She was going to continue jogging every morning like she did in D.C. She was sure to get in better shape that way.
Milly and Shepry discussed their plan for that night. Milly told Louise she is welcome to come with the two of them. ‘’Let me know when you make your final plans. I think I’ll see what the girls in the room are doing. I don’t want to leave them on the first night. But if they all want to go to sleep early, then I might come.’’ Louise replied.
Shepry looked weary, ‘’We shouldn’t get a big group together. We don’t want to get into trouble on the first night.’’
‘’So that was Shepry’s way of uninviting me.’’ Thought Louise. Oh well, she was tired anyway. She wanted to get up early and jog the next morning. She shouldn’t party all night.
Louise made it to the cafeteria on time and didn’t have to sing. Thank goodness. She found out that she was in the middle German class. That was where most of the others were. So she was excited about that. Classes started the very next day. After lunch the group would get to take a tour of the town.
After dinner the group got a tour of the building. Down stairs was a vending machine and a room with a few washing machines. It cost money to wash the clothes which were a bummer. Louise figured that was where most of her money would go. Luckily it was summer and burning hot, so that Louise hardly wore clothing making washing easy. She had also brought so many clothes that she only needed to wash once a week. There was a nice sitting area outside. It could be reached by walking through the lower level. The Jugendherberge was directly next to a little river. There was no river bank on that side rather a brick wall which could be sat on. It was too high to be able to put your feet in the water. There was a clear view to the other side where people of the town could rent a canoe or paddle boat.
That night Louise went to bed thinking about what the next day would bring. There was no way to know for sure. She set her alarm clock early so she would have time to jog, shower, fix her hair and get to breakfast on time. She was too tired to read her Bible that night, but remembered to not only brush but also floss her teeth. So far so good. She fell asleep thinking about her mother. What was she doing right now? Did she miss Louise already? Was she wondering if Louise landed ok? Was she worried? Louise decided to write her mother an e-mail as soon as possible. Didn’t the cute leader guy say he would show the group where they could get on the internet? What did he call it, an Internet Café? Yeah, that was it. That’s what she would do. And with that she fell asleep.
© Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany 2013, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.