The year was 1986, I was required to take 2 years of a foreign language and I had a choice between German and Spanish. I did not want to learn Spanish at all, so I thought I'd try German. The day I walked into that classroom was the day that something shifted for me. I met the teacher, a native German (Kaethe Gildersleeve then) and I was fascinated. I really enjoyed learning the language, and became determined to visit the country one day to see how everyone lives.
I tried to become an exchange student to anywhere in Germany, however, in those days the only exchange program I knew about required a direct trade and some money. Unfortunately, I was just not able to make it work to participate. Also, back then we didn't have the internet and easy exchange of information like we do now - I only knew of one program. Today there are hundreds upon hundreds of these programs. I was disappointed, but I didn't have enough knowledge about other possibilities to try other avenues at the time.
In college I took another semester of German and again looked for something that I might be able to participate in, anything that would get me to this country I wondered so much about. For some reason, I just was so fascinated by this country, culture, people and language. I couldn't explain this pull this drive to be in the country and experience it, yet I knew it was something I had to do. I thought about what it was like to live in East Berlin and see the wall separating the city. I wondered how West Berliner's felt about the wall. I wondered how this country survives the winters and the political leaders they have had in the past; what they felt passionate about; what was important and how they lived.
Life took me onto several winding paths, guided down the way by school, family, marriage, etc for about 25 some odd years, and then I was nearing my 40th birthday. I told myself then that I really needed to make this bucket list dream item come true, and I have finally done it five years later.
Tomorrow I leave to go visit this country that I have been fascinated with for so many years. I'll be joined by my daughter and brother for the first two weeks of the trip, then I'll be exploring on my own - visiting some friends that will show me around and satisfy my curiosity about this huge and interesting country to me.