To Last a Lifetime

Clarissa Grunwald
July 1, 2016

IES classes are over, although I’ll be taking my Humboldt classes for another month. This past week was a rush of exams, final projects, and research papers.

The transition from exam week to a calendar with a lot more blanks in it is always weird for me. Last week I was operating at Maximum Efficiency, or as close as I could manage to be in a universe where Facebook is still a thing. Now I’m down to a handful of short-term homework assignments and a room that, okay, really does need to be cleaned.

Basically, I don’t know what to do with myself.

It’s even weirder, because a lot of the friends I’ve made in this program are now getting ready to go home. The July 1st end-of-program date is here. An hour and a half ago, I said goodbye to a couple really cool people, and then walked home with three bags containing the contents of someone else’s fridge (it’s like 80% cheese).

It’s so weird. It’s so weird. I’m not even sad about it right now. I’m just verwirrt. Bewildered. Durcheinander. Maybe between two languages put together I’ll be able to convey my befuddlement at the passage of time. 

A lot of things are over. Two weeks ago, my orchestra ended it’s season with a pair of concerts. I don’t remember playing them. This isn’t unusual. My memory sort of shuts down during concerts. Too much to do to worry about storage, maybe.

I remember putting down my instrument at the end of the last song, standing to bow, glancing at the music in front of me and thinking, oh god did I play that? And the audience was clapping, and no one was giving me a weird look, so I came to the conclusion that yes, I probably had played that, but like, did it sound okay? Did I remember to do the right dynamics? Even in that one spot where I always play too loud but which I now can’t remember having played at all? What about—okay, and now we’re sitting down.

But it didn’t matter what I remembered, because I left the church Sunday evening feeling proud and slightly giddy. The weather was beautiful and I took the long route home. I’m chill with not remembering how things sounded, or whether we messed up the presto at the end of the first song or not, or whether I caught all the repeat signs, or whatever. But I do wonder how I’ll remember Berlin.

IES’s website promises memories that will last a lifetime. All the study abroad programs do. It’s practically legally required. But memories themselves make no promises. We know that memories are unreliable souvenirs. They distort. They fade. Sometimes they disappear.

And then on the other hand, today I practiced my German by lying to some security people. I would not have had enough confidence in my language skills to do that four months ago. 

Some things are more valuable than memories. 

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Clarissa Grunwald

<p>Writer, composer, musician. American student with a terrible sense of direction set loose on Germany. After years of telling people that I love to travel, this is my first time actually leaving the country.</p>

2016 Spring
Home University:
Franklin & Marshall College
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