Some birthdays seem surreal. Am I really another year older? Where did the time go? But this one did not; it seemed inevitable, almost like a relief. I've had to remind myself for several weeks that I was only twenty-two. I view my twenty-third year with excitement and deep belief that this year good things are going to happen to me, and I will be successful in my endeavors. Had I gone to a Chinese restaurant, my fortune cookie would have said "Great luck will meet preparation. Lucky numbers: 2014, 867-5309, 3.14."
Anyway, as good as the food was, the company was even better. I insisted that we attempt to speak in German, and so we talked Germlish for a while (a combination of German and English...German Mexican food is called Ger-mex) before eventually ending up in English.
I treated myself to an Apfelstrudel, which the waitress brought out with a candle and said, "Happy Birthday Rachel" with an excellent accent. (Now I know why the other girls took so long in the bathroom...) The girls pulled out a couple of gifts for me: a shirt I tried on when we went shopping a week earlier, and a letter Burcin wrote me. The paper was beautiful, with red, blue, yellow, and shining gold Turkish/Persian designs.
The gist of the poem was time (Zaman). Time slips through our fingers, and we can be waiting and waiting for something, but then suddenly it is gone. Time can heal and it can also bring pain when something ends--but it is just time. Be you in that moment and you will be fine.
She said my time here--our time together--is limited, and it is. I can't believe it is halfway over. Some of the Erasmus students have already gone home. Soon it will be me leaving.
That night as I ate Spätzle and tried speaking German, my time here was sweeter than normal. I felt how I was going to miss it. As my time here passes it becomes more precious; every gesture, every connection is made sweeter and more painful. I will leave these people soon. I wish I could put them in my pocket and take them with me, pack them in a box and move them with me forever.
I sometimes forget how little time I have here. I let the small details that give life color slip by unnoticed: the way the grass is forever green; the blonde hair braided smoothly against women's heads; the brown Kalb and Hänchen that rotates in front of red-hot coils, all beneath a low gray sky. The red and orange ivy clinging to the houses in Margarethenhöhe is gone. The only time I will ever see that in my life is possibly gone, but I looked up last night and saw delicate white flowers blooming on a tree. I might not ever see that ivy again, but I also might not see those flowers again, so I need to to soak it all in.
Fall and winter are gone here, but spring is coming. I hear the birds singing and see the daffodils (and feel the allergies). I bought some pink tulips today (they are way cheaper than the ones in America), and they brighten the whole room. I could be sad that fall is gone (I'm never sad to see winter gone. December, you have always been a problem child), but spring is wonderful. It's just like Burcin said about looking back, just be who you are now--where and when you are.
The next five months will be over before I know it, but I can do and see so much in five months. I can try every type of bread the bakery sells, make all the German food I can (looking at you Knödle), travel everywhere I can, and say every sentence auf Deutsch ich kann. I don't get a second chance at these experiences, just as I don't get a second chance to be 23.
In my birthday card Mom wrote "Man is that he might have joy. Life is meant to be lived, and you, my dear, are living it." Thoreau wrote that we must "suck the marrow out of life." Well, I intend to keep the bone in the meat, make Grillhaxe over Spätzle, suck the marrow out, and then use the bones to make a stock, because I sure as hell am not getting any younger!