After 19 years of life, I’ve decided that I seek out stressful situations. The busier I am, the happier I am. If I have free time, I don’t really know what to do with myself. In high school, that meant multiple varsity/club sports. In college, last semester that meant 21 hours. I like the mental challenge of being busy and working under pressure, even though I may break down every once in a while. But this trip is a whole new level. Sleep isn’t really something I do, but neither is daily half marathons. The combination of the two have pushed me in ways I never imagined. It has tried my patience, moved me out of my comfort zones, and is making me a better person (also there are definitely a few blisters involved).
So then we get to the night train. Luckily, my mom and I have traveled all over the world together. We have definitely run through our fair share of airports and subway stations trying to make flights and trains. But the night train in Berlin was a whole new level of stress. Until the other day, I had never sprinted across a platform with a 50 pound bag and a couple of backpacks, been pushed up stairs into a train with the doors closing, or fallen into a dog pile as the beeping doors come to a close, suitcases and students spewed around half laughing, half crying and completely out of breath. Struggle #1. The Germans were not amused to say the least. But we made it. We stayed on this train for about an hour and a half, then we got off and moved to a platform for the next one. The train was delayed, so we broke up into groups and went to get food and water. Most of us made it back to the platform with 15 minutes till the train was supposed to arrive, but the train came in early. We had 6 people somewhere in the train station who had no idea that the train was here. Dr. P ran to find all of them, but only came back with 4 of the boys, the girls were still not to be found. As we all move to throw everyone’s baggage on board, I hear Dr. P say, “I’m not making this night train,” – he was going to wait for the girls and I guess catch a train in the morning. All of a sudden, the girls come flying up the stairs, around the corner, and somehow make it on the train, all suitcases and people accounted for. We had been seconds away from getting broken up. Struggle #2.
It probably took nearly an hour for all of us to get the luggage organized and put away. While this was happening, a few of us climbed on to the top bunk and were staying out of the way, waiting for people to settle down. Meanwhile, it smelled like feet up there, was so hot that all of us were sweating, and then I sat straight up into the corner of the light fixture. There definitely was a little blood and a big bump the next day. Struggle #3. Once we all settled in, we fit 16 people into one train car and started talking. We talked about life, relationships, school, family, really all of the above. As the night wore on, we lost more and more people to their beds, and ended up with six other girls and I in the girls train car. Our conversations just got deeper and deeper until none of us could keep our eyes open. At this point, it was about 3:30 and we decided to call it a night. Not wanting to wake up my car (I was in a misfit car with a couple of regular German citizens), the girls and I decided I would just stay in their car. I slept with one of the other girls on the bottom cot-like thing for the next couple of hours. Talk about a bonding moment, those beds are hardly made for one person, much less two, but we made it work! Snuggle #1. In the morning, we were woken by the train attendants, but I was invisible backed against the bottom wall, so I missed out on the whole breakfast thing. All in all though, it was a bonding experience. I have never come so close to missing multiple trains, being thrown into one over some suitcases, or walking off bruised and a little bloody, but it was totally worth the memories.
The first two days in Munich were exhilarating, but also exhausting. There was so much to see and do, a whole new city to navigate, and a new team to get to know. Since being here, we have paddle boated in the Olympic Park, gone to the BMW factory/museum, explored the beautiful Residenz, and people watched in the most beautiful park. On the second night there, I found myself up till 3 am talking in one of the girls rooms about life, our fears, what motivates us, etc. As the night progressed, we all dosed off, and again not wanting to wake my roommates, I ended up crashing there. Snuggle #2. On day three, we woke up early and headed out to Fussen to look at two castles. We explored, hiked, observed, learned, and sprinted. Why sprint? Well, we almost missed a bus this time. We had spent so long hiking, taking pictures, and laughing, that we didn’t allow ourselves enough time to get down the mountain, back to our bus that would take us to our train. Struggle #4. We were about half way down when someone yelled “RUN!”. I have never seen 16 people hustle down a mountain so fast in everyday clothes. We luckily caught the bus as it was getting ready to leave, and made it on to our train. We were exhausted by this point, and I think almost every single one of us fell asleep on someone’s shoulder during the two hour ride home. Snuggle #3.
So why struggles and snuggles? I think that every one of our struggles led us to better know and understand each other, how we react under stress, how we handle situations, and then how we move on from there. All of these struggles and stressful situations led to all of the cuddles that came as a result. Personally, there are few things that stress me out more than being late. I am usually 5-15 minutes early to everything, and even arriving on time will stress me out most of the time. So, these struggles were real. While we made every bus and train eventually and have some hysterical memories to go with them, I think I lost a couple of years in the process. The coupled with exhaustion as we take in all of the new places and information, has allowed us as a group to really get to know one another without the usual barriers up. This group of 17 other amazing individuals has somehow made all of the struggles absolutely worth it, and the following snuggles even better!