Live from Germany

The best gifts are those least expected. For those unaware, I was an exchange student to Germany in 1992, the first blind Rotary exchange student. Over the years, I’ve kept in contact with my host family and many former classmates in Germany. You can imagine my surprise when, for his 60TH birthday, my host father requested that in lieu of gifts, he would rather people donate money which would be used to purchase tickets for my family and I to come visit.

And so here I am, live as it were, in Hannover Germany. I’m outside writing this at the same house where I lived during my exchange year. As I write this, I can’t help but notice how technology has evolved over the past fifteen years. Back then, I could send Emails via a dialup online service which exchanged Email with the Internet three times per day. As my host father hated my disconnecting their telephone and running cables for my modem and laptop (I didn’t even have a built in modem back then), I would compose Emails offline. Then, when my host father would go jogging, or would otherwise be gone for more than 30 minutes, I’d quickly move into action: disconnecting the phone, connecting the laptop via its international voltage converter, connecting the modem, the speech synthesizer and would then send all my composed Email. I would then retrieve new mail, disconnect everything and magically have the room back the way it was before he got home — sometimes literally as he would walk through the door. Now he, like just about everyone these days has WIFI and using a laptop to Email is, well, just a common every day thing.

I flew home from the National Federation of the Blind convention this past Wednesday arriving in Portland at 11:30 PM. Jenn then picked me up and we drove through the night to arrive early Thursday morning in New York. A few hours later, we were at JFK waiting to check in. I don’t think it was until we were actually confirmed and checked in that I really realized that this trip, something I’d hoped to be able to do was really going to happen. Of course the more immediate challenge was finding a way to keep the kids occupied for the six or so hours before our flight. Fortunately, the airport provided at least part of the solution in those really cool movable walkways, you know, the escalator like things without stairs that transport you between one area and another. Having never experienced these, the kids were immediately mesmerized. I used to think there was only so many times one could ride on those walkways, but apparently such limits don’t apply to children.

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moving sidewalk (448 KB)

 

The flight was pretty uneventful and having already been awake for what seemed like forever, I don’t honestly remember much of it. The kids got to watch movies and thankfully, got to sleep. We arrived in Germany and were then taken to a train station where we met my host mother who accompanied us the rest of the way back to Hannover.

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Kids in front of train (423 KB)

 

Since arriving, we’ve been keeping very busy having gone swimming, having taken a boat ride around the central lake in Hannover and having attended a fair with a really giant ferris wheel.

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Kids and I in pool (551 KB)

 

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Markus jumps off highdive (464 KB)

 

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Kids and I on log ride (415 KB)

 

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Host mother and I on boat (492 KB)

 

Tomorrow, I’m planning to show the kids a near by castle and at some point, we’ll be visiting Berlin. I’ve also had the opportunity to see some of my extended host family and neighbors some of whom still live right where they had when I left. So far, this has been an incredible, all be it surreal experience. I’m posting this blog entry both to Posterous and Tumblr as I’m not sure which one will do a better job of posting. I’m also attaching images, I’m hoping someone will comment either via the blog directly or via Twitter on whether the images actually show up. Although this is a vacation of sorts, I’m still working — got to love the Internet. Please stay tuned, more updates, including some audio ones coming soon.

Steve

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