My high school class is having its 35th year reunion in August 2011! I received a phonecall form someone I did not remember with a funny accent( I am recognizing the 'Canadian' way of speaking). I expressed delight and am committed to going, but I did not tell the caller that I never graduated with my class. During my last year of high school, my father had taken a sabbatical in Bonn, Germany and then Brussels, Belgium. I spent the summer in Japan and then studied Japanese at the University of Bonn, where my father was teaching and researching. I lived with my younger sister Karen and my parents in a town outside of Bonn called Oelinghofen. Our apartment was the renovated top floor of a barn. I went to university with my father several times a week, and as a family we traveled around the Rhine, looking at castles and wine tasting. One week we coasted down the Mosel and ate and drank wine. We visited Cologne and Nuremburg and visited my grandmother in northern Italy. My sister and I brought correspondence school courses with us, but avoided working on our exercises as much as possible. Ultimately I returned to Canada to take summer school courses with the other high school dropouts to get into the University of Alberta.
During the second half of the sabbatical, we lived in Brussels. By then, I had given up on my school work and visited museum after museum, seeing every tapestry in the country and lots of Heronymous Bosch. We traveled to Holland and France and explored the big cities in Beligum; Louvain, Ghent and Bruges. My father would pile us into the car each weekend and choose a destination and go.
The year was incredible. My older sister studied in Innsbruck, which was on the road to Sterzing, in northern Italy, where my grandmother lived. We drove back and forth from Bonn to Sterzing and from Brussels too. My father's family lived near Stuttgart, where we regularly went shopping for clothes. My parents bought a new BMW in Germany and both enjoyed the freedom of the autobahn,which had no speed limits!!!!!
It was cold and damp, and I remember siting in the front seat of the new car and monitoring the heating system. I had lived in Canada for years and had never felt colder than I did in Bonn and Belgium that year. Coffee shops were a regular destination. Cheese cake in every variety was my mother's favourite. I loved a cookie called 'Spitzbuben' and that was always my choice. In Brussels the waffles we bought on the main square, or the 'Grand Place' were unique, and had sugar swirling around the inside of the waffle. We ate mussels everywhere, in all sorts of styles. Belgian pastries and chocolates were wonderful and a regular part of my diet.
I learned German by taking Japanese and finding a German boyfriend. In Brussels we watched alot of television and learned French. I had never taken French in school, but I became fluent during our stay in Beligium. There was a very frightening television series called 'La Poupee Sanglante' (the bloody doll) which my sister and I waiting anxiously for each week.
The year was so different form our usual lives, and offered such a different way of life. I found myslef enjoying going to the grocery store, just to look at all the food items, which were entirely different from the kinds of foods we had in our stores in Canada. I learned to cook, and fed my parents and family regularly.
It was an amazing year. I imagine our year in Ecuador will bring many unique experiences and will change our lives entirely. We will never return to this life of ours we have now.