To the normal American, Germany is associated with beer, bratwurst, and Oktoberfest. All of this is true, but as an American, I gained a different experience by actually living in Germany. For 3 years, I lived in Bonn and Berlin, Germany, and my experience there was anything but the normal touristy visit that some embark on. I first lived in Bonn, Germany, in sixth and seventh grade. I lived with my mom, dad, and brother in a large house near a big park called the Rheinauer Park that was directly on the Rhine River. From my window, I could see over the large bushes that surrounded our house, right onto the park in its entirety. My brother and I attended the Bonn International School, which went from 6th to 12th grades. I had fun during those years, for the school system was pretty lax, and we had off-campus lunches. I spent most of my time sitting by the river with my friends, if the weather permitted. On the weekends, either my parents would whisk me off to some undisclosed location in the middle of the German countryside to look at medieval castles, or I would be at the American Cafe, eating a hamburger and a milkshake, discussing boys with my girlfriends. Looking back on it, both places were pure heaven. Freedom was something that I experienced in the small town of Bonn. The Embassy was small, so was the school, and so was everything else. The downtown city of Bonn was not much compared to other big cities in Germany, such as Dusseldorf or Munich. The one attraction that caught my eye was that Bonn was Beethoven's birthplace. Other than that, it was a simple rural town.
Berlin was another city altogether. The Embassy made the capital move from Bonn to Berlin right after my 7th grade year. As you can imagine, I was not very pleased with leaving my friends, as no Foreign Service officer's kid ever is. But I went along with everything, and I arrived in an enormous city, much like that of Washington, D.C. The lights and bustling activity was like any big city. The only place of peace in the city was by the Berlin Wall. I had never seen so many candles and flowers in my life, apart from Strawberry Fields in New York City. Notes had been written to the deceased on the last fragments of the wall and people stood and said prayers. It was an amazing sight, for I had never seen anything like that. But once you stepped away from the isle of calm, the busy streets were once again present. I lived in a small suburban area called Zehlendorf, just outside of the downtown area of Berlin. There was no international school for me to attend there, so I went to the Berlin British School, about 30 minutes away, for my 8th grade year. A word of warning: If you are planning to go back to the States right after going to a British school, you will encounter adjustment problems. I endured a year at that school, only to find myself in an American High School the next year. The one thing that I miss very much about Berlin was the combination of city life and countryside at the same time. Thirty minutes outside of Berlin was Potsdam, where my school was. There were many more green fields and parks, almost getting into farmlands and crop fields. Thirty minutes into the city, you would find big department stores, the Hard Rock Cafe, and English movie theaters.
The overseas life seems like a burden to some younger kids. I remember I wasn't too happy about it when I was small. But once you get back to the States, everything comes into perspective. I have many friends who have never been out of the country, and some don't even know where some of the places I've been are on the map. This doesn't make them dumb; it only makes them not as privileged as us Foreign Service "brats." I will always have the fond memories of Germany and keeping in touch with people still there. Those were some of the best years of my life, and I will never forget them.