You would think by now my packing skills would be unparalleled with as many times had I've had to pack up my life, whether it be for a trip or a move. You would think that, but you would be sooooo wrong. Sassy and I discussed this pathetic fact as our hungover, slow-moving brains tried to plan and pack for our upcoming two and a half weeks of travel. To our credit, we'd shared over twenty bottles of mulled wine and a bottle of rum with some of her friends the night before and to say that it was fighting back would be an understatement. But then again, this is not the first time either of us has packed or traveled under the influence, so I'm not sure that's a very good defense. Though I guess using alcohol as a defense was already kind of detracting from my argument.. whatever. Our packing methods are very different - she throws everything in a bag with some sort of "organizational system" understood by none but herself until she decides she's over it and throws in everything and the kitchen sink while I carefully (in my very OCD-esque way) roll every item of clothing so that I can fit way more than I could ever possibly need for any given set of travel dates and then add too much and have to start all over again. We are neither quick, nor efficient. But we get the job done. That can probably be said for any facet of our lives, tbh. In addition to her own belongings, Sassy had to bring all the gifts she'd bought her family from Adidas (she works for them bc she's amazing and brilliant and better than me), so she resembled a sherpa on our walk to the subway station, but like, a really cute sherpa, so it's okay.
One hangover-curing doener and two obscenely full train rides of people trying to get home for Christmas later, and we were in Straubing. For those of you who don't know, it's a relatively small and completely precious town about an hour outside of Munich that holds more memories for me than I can even begin to articulate. Saskia's twin brother Lukas picked us up from the train station and (rather reluctantly) drove us to the store to grab groceries and pantyhose - pantyhose bc she's about to be in Finland and I'm about to be in the Netherlands and the Italian Alps and we're both going to freakin' freeze so we're trying to layer up in every possible way - while we all talked and caught up bc I haven't seen him in over two years and the two of them are very close. Sassy took the lead at the store bc she knew where things were and how to get them done while Lukas has only ever grocery shopped alone once in his life (and from the sounds of it didn't handle it very well) and I'm not from around here so my knowledge of the store's layout was questionable at best, so we followed her around while pushing the cart like lost puppies and eventually we were on our way back to the house. As a side note: German neighborhoods are not like ours in America, and by that I mean they're not all cookie-cutter floor plans with one or two factors distinguishing them from those surrounding them. Back home, for example, the only real difference between our 2,500 sq ft stucco house and the ones on either side of it is that my mom has an eye for color and our color scheme looks cooler than theirs. The Schauhuber's house, however, looks nothing like the homes adjacent to it - it is predominately made of wood with blue trim and tons of windows. The layout is open as can be and it is the essence of "cozy", but more importantly, it feels a lot like home. I've known Sassy's family for almost 7 years and that house was my first real taste of Germany. I've learned more about the German language and culture while being in that house than I ever could have anywhere else. Moreover, I've gotten to know the people in it, and I'm a better person for it.
We had a very chill night and the twins and I made everyone tacos - partly bc apparently there's a rule where I must make tacos everywhere I go in Europe, partly bc I wanted to show the Schau's my appreciation for having me over the holiday, and partly bc her entire family was sick as all get out and didn't need to be doing anything but resting. The poor things were in rough shape when we arrived and it was all Sassy and I could do to wash our hands extra and push fluids out of fear for getting sick - I don't know if you know this but being sick while traveling is pretty much the worst thing ever and my immune system is not my friend so do us both a favor and cross your fingers for me. I'm hoping we both made it out alright but I guess we'll find out - Sassy kept yelling at me to put socks on so if I do end up getting sick *knock on keyboard* then I certainly won't be getting any pity from her. We had debated going out but one glance at each other told us all we needed to know - it was a movies in our pajamas kind of night. We found some chocolate in the kitchen (which we later learned was part of my Christmas present - oops) and ran upstairs to enjoy the cinematic genius that is Finding Dory. And by we, I mean Lukas and I, bc Sassy is physically incapable of making it through a movie without passing out. Finding Dory was followed by The Prestige, another quality movie which we enjoyed immensely despite Saskia's aggressive snoring. I kept asking her if she was cold or uncomfortable so I could give her a blanket while we watched the movie BC IM A NICE FRIEND, and SOMEHOW her responses were still not only sassy as hell, but also in perfect English. I went to bed simultaneously impressed and offended.
The next day (yesterday) was the 24th, which is when they actually celebrate Christmas in Germany - they really celebrate from the 24th to the 26th bc Germans know how to enjoy a holiday - and had a traditional German breakfast, AKA bread (gluten free, thanks Mama Schau!) with cheese and lunch meat. We made coffee and had chats while trying to convince Johanna to let us help cook - to no avail, by the way, the woman is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen, even when sick. Eventually Sassy's extended family arrived and we enjoyed a delicious assortment of fondue and salads which I ate until I felt a serious need to unzip my jeans (but didn't, bc I'm classy like that, plus I didn't want Sassy's grandma to judge me). Luckily I was able to find room for dessert - and by that I mean there was no room but I made it work bc mama didn't raise a quitter - before everyone dispersed and left the twins and their cousin and I to a game of Parcheesi. I would like it to be known that I won the first game and Lukas got second. This is important knowledge, bc I can tell you with 100% honesty that in the next round when Mama Schau took their cousin Lisa's spot in the game, Lukas and I got our asses handed to us. Repeatedly. I'm not gonna lie, it got a little heated, but no relationships were ruined in the playing of this VERY important game. It was at this point that they opted to go to bed and I went to the living room to facetime with the fam back home bc I can't go more than a few days without seeing their lovely faces, even though they mostly just make fun of me the whole time we talk, or in my baby sister's case burp into the screen and ask if I can smell it. Believe it or not, she's single. Unbelievable, I know.
This morning, Sassy and I absolutely did not wake up when we planned to. The idea was to go for a hike - some of us were more excited about it than others - but considering we woke up around noon, it decidedly did not happen. I have no excuse except to say that usually I start moving when Sassy does and she absolutely did not move so ya know, monkey see monkey do and all that. Mama Schau's answer to my question of what I could do to help was "sit down and enjoy my coffee" so I did as I was told and took a moment to appreciate the incredible people that I consider an extension of my family; people who invited me for Christmas without a second thought when they found out I'd be in Europe for the holidays. Sassy's mom, my German mama, who has taken care of me since the moment I met her as if I was one of her own, her dad, with whom I share a love of the outdoors that we can finally talk about bc my German is finally at a level to communicate my thoughts, her brother Philip who is quiet but kind, her sister Caro who always checks to make sure that I'm happy and enjoying myself, her twin brother Lukas, who can make conversations about everything from VPN scramblers to cat sniffing exponentially more fun than they should be, and then Sassy herself, who in the last seven years has become one of my favorite people in the entire world. She doesn't put up with my bullshit and she challenges me to be a better person every day. I couldn't ask for more from this family who has taken me in as one of their own and it's all I can do to attempt to make them understand the gratitude I feel towards them. Sassy and I do this really cute thing where sometimes I feel this overwhelming appreciation for her and I go hug her and she tells me to get the hell away from her, it's adorable.
Getting away from my undying and completely unrequited love for Sassy, the menu for today was duck, dumplings (gluten free for me bc Mama Schau loves me), carrots, potatoes, and steamed red cabbage. It. Was. Delicious. I'm actually pretty sure I'm gaining back all the weight I've lost considering I'm effectively supporting the entire Milka chocolate company with my consumption of their Kuhflecken bars alone and Mama Schau's cooking is absolutely ridiculous, so I think I may have to clasically condition myself to stay the hell away from the chocolate and limit my visits to the Schauhuber house so I don't have the option to devour everything in sight.
But for now, my flight into Amsterdam is making its descent and I have two wonderful dutch boys waiting for me at the airport - I'll be staying in a small village outside the city called Notter, which is where Joel and Leon both live, and I couldn't be more excited. Although they did say something about being pulled behind a car on a sled, which to me means that my life actually may end here in the Netherlands, in which case you'll have to find something else to do with all the spare time you'll gain when you don't have these brilliantly witty blog posts to read. Cross your fingers, ya'll, maybe I'll make it through.
Until next time, boys and girls!
PS. The twins smell their cats. They think it's a thing. It is most certainly not a thing, Saskia googled.
PPS. Being away from my family at Christmas time has been hard, but I can't imagine a better group of people to have spent my first Christmas away from home with. I feel so incredibly lucky to have so many amazing people in my life all over the world, and even luckier that they seem to think I'm not half bad.
PPPS. I wasn't kiding about the cat smelling thing. They're really weird.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)