The alarm clock went off and Louise got out of bed. One of the girls asked what the heck she was doing up this early. She just said, ‘’nothing, go back to sleep.’’ She got dressed quietly and headed out of the door. She hadn’t even taken a tour of the town yet, so she wasn’t sure where to go.
Was it even safe to go running alone this early in a foreign town? Would she get into trouble for leaving the building without permission? Well, there was only one way to find out. Louise decided not to let these worries keep her away from her goal. She went downstairs and found no adults and simply walked out of the building. She hated jogging anyway, so figured she wouldn’t be gone that long. Hopefully with time this sense of fatigue after only a few minutes would fade. Dancing was so much more fun making it ten times easier than jogging.
Louise tried a few times to jog with her sister. They started out junior high jogging around the block. Kelly progressed to two, then three, then four times around the block. Louise never made it past one. Kelly went on to run high school and college track. Louise gave up jogging and stuck with dancing. Ever so often, Kelly would talk Louise into jogging with her, promising to go extra slow and not too far, but it was always too far and too fast for Louise. Kelly would encourage her not to give up saying, ‘’It will get better, I promise. Don’t give up! You’re doing great.’’
Louise could almost hear her sister now. She would be so proud of her. She began jogging down the road toward what looked like the main street. There were wide sidewalks on each side of the street. She turned left jogging over a bridge that crossed the little river behind the Jugendherberge. She turned around to see if she could spot her window and sure enough, there it was, directly above a balcony. She hadn’t noticed the balcony yesterday. It must be directly next to the cafeteria. She would have to look into that. She kept jogging, but didn’t feel comfortable going too far away from the Jugendherberge. Plus, she had been jogging downhill and already felt tired. How was she supposed to make it back without walking part of the way? That’s when she decided to turn around. She told herself not to be discouraged, everyone has to start somewhere, right? So what, if she was only gone a half hour, at least she tried.
Back at the Jugendherberge most of the girls were up, taking showers and getting ready. Oh, Louise would have to hurry not to be late. She felt like falling back into bed and at the same time was excited to find out what would happen on this first day. She knew German lessons would begin after breakfast and a tour of the town after lunch. She couldn’t wait for the tour. It would make jogging a little easier not having to worry about getting lost.
As she came into her room the other girls mobbed her with questions. ‘’Where were you?’’ asked Ada. ‘’What were you doing?’’ asked Helen. ‘’I guess that was your alarm clock beeping at the crack of dawn!’’ remarked Sophy.
She answered politely. ‘’I was jogging around town. I didn’t go very far. Sorry if I woke you earlier than you wanted.’’
A few days later Helen asked if she could jog with Louise. ‘’Sure’’ she replied. The two ran all over town, winding up and down back roads that looked too small for a car to drive on. There was no sidewalk on these roads and they were not paved with asphalt rather cobblestone. Louise felt a sense of belonging, of peace with herself and the world. There was something magical about jogging next to buildings that were hundreds of years old, on uneven cobblestone. Pansies hung at each window, red, gold and purple. Terracotta pots stood in each entry, filled with herbs for the kitchen (rosemary, thyme, and chives) lined with bright orange marigold. Color and wonder at every turn.
They ran through an outdoor market being set up in the oldest part of the town, each stand placed carefully around a water fountain. The girls ran past the market uphill on a small path until they came upon what seemed to be at the highest point in town. The road came to an end and there was no turning left or right. Buildings blocked their path and in front of them was a tall black metal gate that came to a point at the top. It must have been an entrance to private property. Louise and Helen felt great. They breathed in the fresh morning air for a few moments before heading back to the Jugendherberge.
The two got lost on the way back, leaving only a few minutes to shower when they finally arrived. Louise was not about to go in front of the other exchange students sweaty and she knew, that even if she rushed through a shower, she wouldn’t make it on time. Helen must have been thinking the same thing because she too opted to shower and be late.
The girls entered the Cafeteria, hoping not to be seen, but to no avail. They were called out to sing a song in front of everyone. Luckily they hadn’t been the first to have to sing. Just the day before some of the boys came in late and sang happy birthday, even though no one was celebrating. The girls decided to sing, ‘’Lean on me.’’ This got the whole group going and by the end of the song everyone was singing along. Being late wasn’t so bad after all.
© 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.