(Swings Don't) Fall in Freiburg

Lauren Franklin
November 24, 2015

Halloween weekend came and went quickly, because I spent it with a friend in Freiburg. Friday morning, I flew into the small city and met my friend, who studies (and blogs) there through another IES Abroad program. She is just the sweetest thing, and you should check out her bright photos on here. Her name's Layne Garrelts.

Moving on: she rushed over to meet me on her tattered blue bike, in all its red-checkered-seat-and-wire-basket glory. One of her friends from the program kindly let me borrow her bike for the weekend, so the two of us zipped around, getting lost and finding our way in circles. The first night is one of my most treasured memories– maybe of all time. Layne took me to the open market in the center of town, and we picked squash, eggs, cheese, brussels sprouts, a little cilantro, and some sausage for a weekend of feasting. I could hardly believe how cheap all this food was. I believe it came out to 12 Euros. We dropped everything off at her apartment, where I met her flat mates, all from different walks of life and all willing to meet me with earnest smiles. (It continuously amazes me how the Germans and Austrians I encounter greet me. It's so different from home, where hugs and often gargantuan compliments are exchanged upon introductions. I am beginning to appreciate the fact that I have very little understanding of whether someone likes me here in Europe, where a crooked smile can be indicative of the most friendly of greetings.) We soon took off in the direction of the multicolored tree clusters lining the far rims of the city, and we walked for a long time. Neither of us was sure which way we were headed, but we knew we were looking for some sort of awning to sprawl out on with our books and cucumber Brie sandwiches, until the sun went down. We saw two roads diverge in a patch of yellow wood, and we went left. Just past there, we gave up our search for an awning, because a stout shed with an enticingly low roof invited us up. We balanced on the roof’s ridge and listened to the whimsy of Andrew Bird's voice, while eating our simple sandwiches, chatting about relationships and “home vs. here” and school, and watching the sun leave us discreetly behind the glow of the colored trees. This memory is stained on my skin. I never scrub too hard in the shower now, for fear of removing it. 

You might think, "This all sounds very pretty, little girl, but what was Freiburg really like?" In that case, I'd only be left with words to reply: Oh, so you want to know what it’s like to have your face painted by the happiest hippie on what would've been Halloween night? It's like waking up with red painted ears and having them stared at in a church where you don’t understand the words, and really wanting everyone to see your inappropriately painted ears, so you can tell them about how fun it was to cut your friend's hair in that same wild and hospitable Forestry major hippie’s bathroom. It's like eating foreign food with your fingers and then waiting by a tree in the dark to enter a party you and your friend weren’t invited to. It's sort of like dancing at that funny electric party and having a dumb boy grab your arm to pull you closer, and then having your friend pull you back to safety. It's the shock of cold that follows when the kitchen's too full of smoke and bodies to hold you, so you leave. And the walk back cracks with the fire that's to your left and rounded with warmer bodies who invite. That’s what it sounds like. It sounds like crackling laughter. It's like waking up to your last day there and building a house for the birds. It's like laughing while you swing in the hippie's tree, where that birdhouse will live. It’s like still swinging in that tree when you're told that it might break any second, because Freiburg has given you no reason to worry about a broken swing when trees are the sturdiness that make homes. And it also sounds like if you ever study in Vienna, you might want to come to Freiburg, too. 

[Just to make sure things are clear, in light of all my weak poetry: My friend Layne and I were invited over to her one of her IES Abroad classmate's flat for a dinner, where we painted each other's faces (and ears) after eating. I met all of her classmate's flatmates, and they were sincerely the most inclusive people I've encountered. One of them was Niko, a student at the local university who is fondly described as a "hippie," and who is every bit aware and happy about that label. He's the one who painted my face, and we all laughed when he got started on my ears. Layne and I ended up spending a lot of time with Niko, and he was the one who invited us over to make wooden birdhouses at the end of the weekend. We also forced ourselves to go into a party being put on by some of the unversity students, despite not knowing anyone there. We danced a little and then left quickly, when it got too crowded. We laughed so much. On my last night, I swung on the wooden swing that is attached to the tree outside Layne's classmate's flat, and Niko called down from the porch, "You know that broke last time..." I really didn't worry, because the beauty surrounding me in people and fall colors made me much less fearful.] 

(The start of our walk in the woods)

(Our rooftop perch in the woods)

(I'm including this one of our friend Niko painting my face, because it makes me laugh.

Layne and I had just gotten done painting his in a nature-y theme, to his liking.)

(Flying back to Wien)

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Lauren Franklin

<p>Hello, hello! I&#39;m Lauren Franklin, and I&#39;m a junior at the University of San Diego. I&#39;m an English major with a minor in psychology, and I&#39;m trying to squeeze in as many theology and art classes as I possibly can. I would love to be the sort of student who&#39;s constantly found in the library studying away, but that&#39;s not always the case here: What bring me the most joy are grand stories, fresh produce, the green rolling outdoors, and creating and learning with friends who want to venture out together.</p>

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