My host was a family of 4 people, the parents, Ann and Johan and then two little boys. 🙂 They lived in a small town named Bissendorf, among the corn fields. Yes, there you go, corns again. 🙂
They were lovely people. They previously lived in the UK for half a year. Ann taught English in a elementary school, where there were many immigrant kids. I even went with her to her class. I was the guest and the kids were asking me questions. I even taught them some Chinese. That day was a Muslim holiday, so the Muslim kids were not there, those who came were from Eastern Europe or the Balkans, or were Syrian Christians. They were curious kids.
You see, this was almost at the end of my journey, I was approaching 30. YES! The first digit was going to change! Of course, according to my mom, I was already ‘almost 35’. In Chinese tradition, we count the age of a person from the time of conception instead of birth. So, if you are now officially 18 years old, according to the Chinese tradition, you are 19, or to be precise, 18 years + 10 months of your mom’s pregnancy. To make me even older, my mom counts ages using the birth YEAR, instead of birth DAY. I was born in June, but according to my mom, I immediately turn one year older after the New Year’s Eve…… Moreover, according to my mom, if I am 32, then I am ‘almost 35’.
I really don’t care about age anymore. However, as a biologist, I have to be objective and I do feel changes in me with time passing, my back started to crack every time I try to do some simple sports, which did not happen 3 years ago. Just now I am coughing non-stop and my hearing is failing. I think the end of my life is coming, nearer and nearer……
Just kidding. 😀
But seriously, in Ann’s place I had a glimpse at the family life, with a partner, a house and kids. Two years ago I still felt really far away from all this and I was totally fine alone for the whole life. Two years later I felt different. I could use a stable residence, I would like to find a girl and settle down and have some kids even.
What? You want to get married with me? WOWO! That’s fast! OK, here is my number…
Just kidding. 😀
OK, no more kidding. Really really seriously, I spent a good time at Ann and Johan’s place. I explored Osnabruck a bit. It was a small town, with a population of about 157 000. I choose to visit it because it was the place where the Thirty Years War, the most devastating war in Europe before WWI ended. They signed the Peace of Westphalia here in the city hall of Osnabruck. It was also the birthplace of Erich Remarque, the author of the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, probably the most famous novel about WWI. It was adapted into a movie, which won the Oscar Prize for Best Pictures. They made an exhibition in the house where he lived and most importantly, it was FREE ENTRY!
Since Bissendorf was still a bit far away from Osnabruck, I had to hitchhike back to Bissendorf. I met this rough driver in a gas station. His had a very strong accent in his German. It sounded like Russian but he told me he was German.
I: How come you have a different accent?
He: My parents and I grew up in Kazakhstan of Soviet Union, but our ancestors are from Germany. We were the Germans in Russia. Stalin did not like us, so he moved us to Kazakhstan, far far from Germany.
I had heard of them, the German immigrants who moved to Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Ostsiedlung and lived for hundreds of years in the East. After end of the Cold War, many of them started to move back to Germany.
You see, he was a hearty and frank person and we soon started discussing his marriage issues.
He: I know my wife is cheating on me with this guy. I found out. I installed this spy app on her phone. Now every time she calls anybody, or messages anybody, I know. Now let’s listen to what she was talking.
He turned on an app on his phone and then we heard the voice of a woman talking and laughing with some guy. They were speaking Russian so I did not understand a word.
I looked at him. He was angry, defiant and ferocious.
He: Sometimes I think I should just grab an ax and end all this.
I: But if she does not love you anymore, it does not make much sense to kill them.
He: I know. I won’t kill them. I just think.
Since we were so much into his marriage crisis, I missed my turn and he drove back.
I gave him a hug and waved him goodbye. Good luck to him!
Ann was going to ride horse the next day. I rode horse once when I was in New Zealand. This lovely couple picked me up when I was hitchhiking on a rainy day and they hosted me. In their farmlet there were horses. I rode one of them, well, a bit. 🙂
The next day was a sunny Saturday. I went for horse riding with Ann. Afterwards, I took a walk through the corn fields. Farmers there even made mazes out of the corn fields and people could go to play. Nearby their house, there was a water castle (Wasserschloss in German). With its reflection in the water, it was touchingly beautiful under the blue sky and golden sunshine.
In the afternoon, I started hitchhiking to the Netherlands. I had a friend, Sieb, who helped me a couple of times during my travels and he was living not far from the German border. I was planning to visit him.
It was crazy. We first met during the International Couchsurfing Gathering in Krakow in 2012. We met in a night club and only talked for less than 5 minutes, then we added each other on Facebook. We had been keeping in contact ever since. Twice when I had problems with my bank cards, he lent money to me. Yes, just meeting for 5 minutes was worth so much a trust. I would say, this degree of trust, for the wrong people, even if you have known them for 10 years, it will not happen, but for the right people, even if you have just met them for 10 minutes, it will happen. I was now going to visit him this time and pay back him the money face to face.
I started from a gas station near the highway.
Weekends were known to be difficult for hitchhiking and it was. It rained 3 times and I asked about 100 vehicles, still no one was heading for the Netherlands.
I was frustrated and the whole place looked gloomy, although there was still sunshine and lush trees.
I eventually found a grandpa who took me to the Dutch border. He was a chatty cool grandpa. He hitchhiked all the way from Sweden to Spain in his 20s.
He: Nowadays, people don’t do it anymore! What a pity! It is such a fun way to travel and meet people! We were hitchhiking barefooted, two guys, with long hair and terrible clothes, but people would stop! Even on the highway at that time, you could easily hitchhike! People back then were so kind, although they were much poorer than nowadays. I remember I had people stuffing my backpack with food, water and even money along the way. Spain and Italy, they were the easiest to hitchhike at that time!
I: Nowadays they are the most difficult to hitchhike, especially Spain.
Almost all the elderly travelers told me how great it was to hitchhike in the 60s-80s. My hitchhiker friends had similar stories. Not just in Europe, in most western developed countries there was such a change. When they were poorer in the 60s to 80s, people were surprisingly kinder. You do not need to have much wealth to help people. In fact, the more wealthy are less likely to help in many cases.
When I arrived at the Dutch border, it was almost dusk. I found a small pickup truck at Henglo and the driver took me. The driver was telling me the amazing possibility his children were having compared to him.
He: When I was young, going to East Germany was unthinkable! Now? My daughter was doing a half-year exchange in Hungary. My kids mingle with Russians, Hungarians, French and even Brazilians! In my time, I never left my country! Isn’t that amazing?
Yes, it is indeed amazing. We are the first generation that can be said to be ‘real global citizens’, not just one, or two of us, but a whole generation of us. That will have far reaching effect. I really hope this type of healthy globalization will promote peace of the world.
When I actually arrived in Amersfoort and Sieb came to pick me up, it was already 10 PM. He had a band and was just performing at a party. We went the birthday party of his friend. There I met a bunch of his friends and his brothers. Once crossing the border, I immediately felt how cool the Dutch were! It was in a small small town named Biddinghuizen, among the onion fields and huge wind turbines, and yet, everybody I met there could switch from Dutch to English without any problem, like English was their second mother tongue. Everybody traveled and knew much about foreign countries outside EU. They were neither nationalistic nor Islamophobia, not as stiff as the Germans, also not as reckless as the Spaniards. They were properly crazy.
It felt so good to be back in the open-minded Netherlands.
To be continued