Right in the middle of Austria resides a wonderful miss named Monika. She is quite tall for her age. She’s chatty and brave. She wanders the world with her arms crossed behind her, face pointed higher. One might think she’s a nobleman’s daughter. And every so often, when the sun soothes to fall, or when the winter’s dim light springs up from its stall, the maiden returns to the city to answer her call. This fair girl, despite her youthful descriptors, is truly no “girl” at all. In fact, she is a seasoned German professor.
Monika did the lofty deed of getting me to begin learning the German language. For the first three weeks of my being in Vienna, she stood at the chalk board patiently, every single weekday. I am sure she corrected my class’ mispronunciations of the German word “die” at least 78 times in those weeks. With her spritely humor, she would threaten, “You say ‘die’ (the American pronunciation of the word) one more time, and I’ll make YOU ‘die.’” (She was very playful; please don’t be alarmed.) All of us students were enamored with her by the end of our German Intensive term, when she had to leave us to go back to her family. Upon her departure, she offered an invitation for us to come visit her and stay the night in her hometown, close to Hallstatt. My roommate and I looked at each other and smirked.
A couple months later, we were on a train, bounding her way. Of course, there were travel complications the weekend we decided to go, so our train journey ended early. We were switched to a bus, and we ended up getting off at the wrong stop. In short, we ended up on a bench, in the cold, in the dark, wondering where we were supposed to go. Monika, without any hesitation-but not without some poking fun, drove nearly an hour out of her way to come pick us up and bring us back to her cozy home. What a woman. Her quaint little abode is settled right next to a stream. There’s a garden with a pond to its side. Her house is a yummy pastel color, and when we stayed there, woven baskets overflowing with apples filled her entryway. It is the sort of place that cries out to weary travelers. Once inside, she showed my roommate and I to our little room upstairs, where we threw down our backpacks. She served us dinner with her patient husband, who we made our best efforts to speak with in our very spotty German. Then, for hours into that dark night, Monika, my roommate, Monika’s slinky cat, and I laughed at her dining table. She brought tea, and we chatted about education and literature and dumpster divers and the funniest postcard I’ve ever seen.
The morning came quickly, and the three of us rose early to go on a tour of the salt mine in Altaussee. There’s a long slide in the mine, and for some ridiculous reason, I was nervous to go down it. The picture on the front of the brochure for the mine makes it looks like the people sliding down are under the pressure of an incredible amount of G-force, and I hate roller coasters. Monika looked at me, scoffed with a smile, and said, “Just get on the back of me. We’ll go down together.” We slid down together, and now I can say without out a doubt that Monika is the most youthful soul I’ve ever met. The night before, my roommate was the one who had to ask Monika if we could go up to bed. Monika had seemed ready to pull an all-nighter. Before we left her to make our way into Hallstatt, Monika somehow slipped in that she rides her bike to and from the grocery store most days. This is about a 2-mile journey for her, round trip. I do not want to make any guesses at the age of my professor, but I will say that I know for certain she is not the 16-year-old she seems to be. Whatever her age, Monika’s heart is that of a wise child. I know this, because she invited me into her life, and I got to come along for a short ride.
(Monika in the salt mine)
(The view from one of our drives)
(Monika at the breakfast table. She woke up early to set up a beautiful spread for us.)
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<p>Hello, hello! I'm Lauren Franklin, and I'm a junior at the University of San Diego. I'm an English major with a minor in psychology, and I'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's constantly found in the library studying away, but that'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>