I feel so different.

After being in Atlanta for a day, I realize that something in me has changed.  And there’s no going back.  I can’t quite explain it.  I suppose I’ve matured, because I’ll never see the world the same again.  Being away from familiar faces for two months and having to start all over again with people I’ve never met before really made an impact on me.  I’ve never done anything like this before in my life.  I have to admit, at first it was really scary.  Everybody who knows me knows what a sociable person I am, so coming to a strange country all by myself was daunting.  Of course, it doesn’t help that I suffer from mild depression and anxiety.  I honestly wasn’t sure if I would make it that first week.  I know I had a lot of people worrying about me and praying for me.  When my dad left me at the security checkpoint in Atlanta, I thought I was going to have a panic attack right then and there.  What was I doing, flying thousands of miles away from my friends and family, the only people I knew?  I had known that flying to Germany was going to be difficult, but I really had no way of knowing how difficult; after all, I’d never done something like this before.  So when I was flying from Madrid to Berlin, my stomach was so tied up in knots I could barely eat.  It finally hit me – I was going to live in a strange country without any of my friends or family for almost two months.  I tried to calm myself down with the fact that everybody over in the States was supporting me and they wanted me to have a good time, and that two months really was not that much time and would be over before I knew it, and I should be thankful for the fact that I was finally going to Germany after having studied the German language for 8 years, but I couldn’t make the anxiety disappear.  It just kept escalating.

Even when H.A. and R.K. picked me up from the airport, my anxiety didn’t completely disappear.  After all, this was my first time meeting them, so I didn’t know them very well at all.  As soon as I saw them, however, I recognized them, although I didn’t know what they looked like.  But I could tell they were Christians who loved the Lord just by looking at their faces, and that definitely helped to calm me down.

As soon as they left and I was left alone in my new room, however, things started to get bad.  I know from past experience that I need to surround myself with people when I am depressed; otherwise it just gets worse.  But I didn’t really know anybody here who knew me, so I didn’t really know what to do.  I knew I needed to reach out to people, something I have learned throughout the years, but I just didn’t know how.  I couldn’t get my phone to work, I didn’t know computers didn’t need convertors so I couldn’t skype anybody because my battery was dead and I couldn’t charge it, and I didn’t know who to turn to here in Germany.  So I just prayed and waited.

It has been my experience in the past that sometimes all I can do it wait it out.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that I did nothing to help my situation but shut myself up in my room and cry.  I had prepared for a total meltdown; I knew this experience wasn’t going to be easy.  I always keep some Xanax with me for emergencies like this, although I am very reluctant to take it unless I really have to.  So I took some Xanax and tried to take it easy.  Anxiety is really a funny thing.  You’d think, when you rationally know that there is nothing to be anxious about, especially when you have the Lord Jesus, that your anxiety would just disappear.  But it doesn’t work that way.  It’s frustrating because it just doesn’t make any sense to me rationally.  I just can’t stop being depressed and anxious, no matter what the circumstances.  But I have learned ways to cope and lessen the intensity:

1) Surround myself with people who love me.  Normally, this isn’t very hard for me to do.  I’m a very likeable person, and I know it.  Sometimes I feel like I am being a burden when I ask people to help me, but I have learned that thinking that way is ridiculous.  These people love me and want the best for me, and I need to let them help me without feeling like I owe them.  That’s what friends are for.  This was a very important lesson for me to learn, because without it I couldn’t go on.  Yes, I can be needy.  But I shouldn’t be ashamed of it and I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

2) Let people know what’s going on.  If they don’t know what’s going on, how can they possibly help me?  I will freely tell people that I suffer from depression and anxiety.  For example, on the first day of class, I told my professor that I was very anxious and couldn’t eat, and I might be a little out of it for several days.  Because I told him this, he was very understanding and even helped me find a psychiatrist in Berlin.  Luckily, in today’s day and age anxiety and depression is more understood to be a chemical imbalance rather than a person’s inability to “suck it up”.  When I was first diagnosed with depression, I was ashamed of it.  I was only in 5th grade.  I only told my closest friends, and I never talked about how I felt.  Today, I have discovered that being open with people not only helps me to be understood by others, it helps others to understand what so many people have gone through and are going through on a daily basis.  Being open with others also gives me the opportunity for some of my friends to come to me and open up their own situation with me.  So actually, letting other people help me gives me the opportunity to help others.

3) Don’t think negatively!  The more I pity myself and dwell on my depressed feelings, the worse it gets.  As much as possible, I try to think positive thoughts.  For example, rather than thinking, “I’m so depressed.  I’ll never feel happy again,” I try to think, “Even though this is really hard, it has to end sometime.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.”  Hanging out with friends and doing normal things also helps me to think positively.  When I hang out with my friends, I ask them to just act normal and to make sure I don’t isolate myself in a corner, but to include me in their conversations and activities.  It’s really hard to think positively when I’m depressed.  But not only is it possible, it is absolutely necessary.  It just takes practice.

4) Follow a schedule.  Routine is an amazing healer.  It is the one thing that I can count on to stay the same, even when it seems my world has turned upside down.

As you all know from reading my earliest blog entries, that first week was really tough for me.  But, after I had spent some time getting used to being so far away from my friends and family in Atlanta and practicing the above points, miraculously my anxiety completely disappeared.  Honestly, I had expected it to partially stay.  I didn’t expect to be completely and fully content in Berlin.  I thought maybe I would spend my 8 weeks in Berlin with a slight depression and nagging anxiety looming in the back of my mind, but after that first week, it was like I was completely myself again.  I was so thankful.  A lot of people wonder why I’m so happy all the time.  The reason is not because my life is completely amazing, but because I am grateful for the opportunity to be happy.  I truly believe that happiness is a choice.  Just because someone is not diagnosed with depression doesn’t mean that person is happy.  We have to make a conscious decision to be happy.  And not only that, but I have found meaning in my life through my relationship with Jesus Christ and with the members of His Body, the church.

The rest of my time in Germany went by like a blur.  I had the most amazing time.  I loved all the little things about Berlin, from the U-Bahn to the sidewalks tot he thousands of Dunkin’ Doughnuts shops.  I loved the experience of living in such an historical city in Europe, a city I had heard so much about in school.  I loved getting close to my classmates and making lifelong friendships with them.  And I especially loved getting to know the brothers and sisters in the church in Berlin.  I loved singing, praying, reading and pray-reading in German.  I loved my home meeting.  I loved playing with the kids in my home meeting and talking to them in German.  There are so many things and people that I miss in Berlin.  Even though I was excited to come back home, I was also very sad to leave so many people I had come to love.  I think one of my classmates said it best on the last day of class: although he came to the Goethe Institute to improve his German, by the end of the course he realized that the greatest benefit of all was getting to know so many wonderful people.

I don’t know how many people read this blog, but I want to thank you all for your prayers and support.  I really couldn’t have done it without all of you.  I’m so thankful to have so many loving friends in my life; sometimes I can’t believe how much God has blessed me!  I love you all, and I can’t wait to see you all again.

Auf Wiedersehen,


Almost done!

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long!  I’ve been spending way too much time on Facebook… o.O

Well, things are going great.  I can’t believe it’s finally coming to an end.  Tomorrow is my last full day in Germany!  Today I took the first half of my exam, (this exam being my only grade for this course) and I think it went pretty well.  Well, for the most part.  I’m pretty sure I at least passed it.  The test that I took is basically a test that tests your knowledge of the German language.  At the Goethe Institute, there are 3 levels: A, B, and C (A1 being beginner and C2 being almost fluent).  The class I took was a C1 level class, but I am taking the B2 test.  So today, I took the written part, which is composed of reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and writing.  Tomorrow is the speaking part of the test.  I will have to inform my speaking partner about a short reading and listen to him or her tell me about his/her reading.  Then we have to mutually decide on a specific picture  from a selection of 3 pictures for whatever reason (like the cover of a certain magazine, etc.).  I’m not too worried about the speaking part, although of course I did prepare for it.  It shouldn’t take more than an hour, and then I’ll be free!!

I’m really going to miss Berlin.  Not only is it awesome to be able to speak German all the time, but I have made so many new friends.  My classmates, for example.  We became so close!  We did so many things together, like going out to eat, visiting Weihnachtsmarkts, celebrating my birthday, going to the movies, attending a baking course at a family farm, and having both thought provoking and hilarious conversations in class.  It was like having a mini Europe right in our classroom: so many countries were represented!  On our last day of class we had a great feast.  I brought juice and other people brought chocolate and cookies.  Our teacher even baked a cake for the occasion! And posted a picture of himself making it on Facebook. 😛

Well, it’s about time I got to bed.  Enjoy the pictures!



Today I made my very own loaf of bread in an old stone oven heated by wood!  For our class project, our class decided to take a bread baking course on a family farm.  It was really fun!  Afterwards, a few of us visited an old village.  But then it started to rain, so we got really wet.  I’m sorry, but right now I am very tired and just don’t have the energy to write down all the details.  But here’s the pictures!

Indian food, korean food, and sleet!

Hello all! I had a very exciting day today because it sleeted!  (It’s such a funny word when you think about it.  Sleet, sleet, sleet…The more you say it, the weirder it becomes!)  I was very excited to see something icy!  It’s probably the closest I’ll get to seeing snow over here.  It rarely snows in December in Berlin.  A fact that would have been nice to know before I got here… Oh well. 😛

Here’s a close-up of the sleet.  This is on a bean-bag chair outside a small shop.

On Saturday night, I went out with some of my classmates as a last-minute thing because I was bored staying home all day and we decided to go eat at a Russian restaurant.  When we finally got there, however, there wasn’t any room for 7 people.  So M (one of my classmates who knew the area) suggested we have some Indian food at a restaurant about 100 meters away.  So we did!  We had to wait a long time before our food was ready (and we didn’t get there until after 8:00, so I was pretty hungry, since I hadn’t eaten dinner yet), but when it came, it was totally worth the wait!  It was sooo delicious!  I can’t remember what exactly I ordered, but whatever it was, it sure was good.

We took some photos while we were waiting for the food… 🙂

Today after class a small group of us went to a Korean restaurant.  The food there was also very good, but not as yummy as the Indian food (in my opinion.) ;P

This was a very sweet rice drink.  I couldn’t finish it because it was just so sweet!

E practicing her chopstick skills.

On Sunday night we went to a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in Neukölln.  It wasn’t too impressive.

An old mail carriage!  That’s the sign for Deutsche Post on the door.  This was also at the Weihnachtsmarkt.

This one was (is?)  specifically used for weddings.

You could even buy a horseshoe for only two and a half Euros!  Of course, I didn’t buy one.


Things I am Thankful for…

Tonight I am grateful for many things.  I’m thankful for hot Chamomile tea with honey, because it tastes so yummy and is so very soothing on a cold day, especially when one is sick.  I’m grateful to have no feelings of anxiety, but rather contentedness with where I am and what I am doing.  Going through some trying times has a way of reminding you how precious it is to simply be content.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn bit by bit that I have control over my feelings and I don’t have to succumb to depression and anxiety.  I’m grateful for the presence of God enveloping me.  I don’t think I’ll ever know why God loves me the way He does…but I’m so grateful he does.  I’m also thankful for chocolate.  Not only because it’s delicious, but because it just makes me happy! 😉 I’m grateful also for this incredibly amazing experience, and for everyone who helped make this experience possible and incredibly amazing!  I’m thankful for my classmates, who all stayed today to listen to my story about London last summer even though it was time for our coffee break and who surprised me with a cake on my birthday.  I’m grateful for all the brothers and sisters in the church in Berlin who have prayed with me and for me while I have been here.  And I’m thankful for all those back home who love me and are praying for me and/or thinking of me.  I miss you all so much!  On the one hand, I want to stay here longer because there’s still so much I could do, but on the other hand I miss my family and friends back home dearly and I cannot wait to see them again.  I can’t believe I only have two weeks left!  I wouldn’t trade this experience for a million dollars.  (A million dollars would just be one huge headache, anyway!)  That’s another thing I’m grateful for- that I don’t have too much money or too little money.  The Lord really knows how to take care of me.

These past few days I’ve mainly stayed at home, trying to recover from my cold.  Although I haven’t really done anything exciting, just being here is exciting.  But now that I’ve spent about 5 hours just relaxing, it’s time to get working on that homework!  My test for the course is in two weeks–I better get ready! 🙂  No worries, though; I just want to do the best I can.

Ciao for now,

Sick Day

Today I woke up to a monstrous sinus headache and a very sore throat, plus I just felt achy all over.  So I decided not to go to class today.  Luckily I planned on getting sick so I took some Dayquil I had packed just for this occasion.  Haha! On the plus side, now I have time to write.

As promised, on Saturday I visited a museum.  I ended up spending 3 hours at the German Historical Museum, after which I was more than ready to leave.  Even though I was there for three hours, there was still so much more I could have explored!  It was all so fascinating!  I took a ton of pictures, so I won’t put them here on this post, but on a separate page.

After spending the entire morning in my room, I began to get some cabin fever, so I called up HA and together with RK we went  to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) at Alexander Platz.  Even though it’s a Christmas market, there was practically nothing there that was actually related to Christ.  It was really fun walking around and looking at all the different booths.  I bought a glass of hot chocolate that was really delicious, and I got to keep the glass.  (You can give it back and get your money back, but I wanted to keep it as a souvenir.)

You may think this is busy, but it gets really crazy at night!

The little figurines on top rotate in alternating directions.

There were tons of places selling winter wear.  Pretty smart business strategy, if you ask me.

Home baked German bread!

These gingerbread hearts are a must.  You can’t leave a Weihnachtsmarkt without one.

Even though I was sick, that hot chocolate sure tasted good. 🙂

These little houses are actually candle holders.  The smoke from the candle goes up from the chimney and the fire inside illuminates the house.

Aren’t they cute?

Well, even though it’s only eight o’clock, I am really tired, so I think I’ll get to bed.  I don’t want to miss class again tomorrow!

An Amazing 23rd Birthday

Hello everyone!  Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes!  I had a wonderful birthday today.  Last night I went over to a family’s home, hung out, did my homework, and then ate dinner.  Then I spent the night there, which was really fun.  I got up early and took the S-Bahn to school, and class resumed as normal until we broke for the Pause.  Normally we all go to the cafeteria, but today most everybody was staying in the classroom, which I thought was odd, but they all said they were just tired.  Then the remainder of my classmates walked in carrying a cake with 23 candles!  I was so surprised!

This was a really delicious cake!!

I was so surprised that one of my classmates bought me something.  We were together at Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus and I saw these mini globes, and I mentioned to her how cool it would be to have that for my desk.  And she got it for me!

Here I am explaining the story to my classmates.


Most of my classmates

After class, I went back home and slept for a few hours.  For some reason, I was very tired!  Then, I went over to R + N’s apartment to have Thanksgiving dinner, and H baked me a cake (which was also very delicious)!

By the time we got around to eating the cake, we were all pretty drowsy from all the food.  As you all know, when we get sleepy, we also tend to get pretty silly.  When I put the cake up next to me for R to take a picture, R said “Oh, you look like your cake!” because I was wearing a brown dress and my cake was also brown.  This caused me to burst into laughter and it took awhile for me to stop laughing.  I literally had to run to the bathroom because I thought I was going to wet my pants!  I think that’s the first time anyone’s ever told me I look like a cake. hehe!

Anyways, not too long after that, we all went home.  It was a lovely birthday and certainly one I’ll never forget.  Tomorrow I’m going to try to visit a museum, so hopefully you’ll get to see some pictures from that later!  It’s very late here, however, so I had better get to sleep.  Love you all!