is it not amazing, the difference one tiny, supposedly insignificant, detail can make?
last year i dreaded going to school on a tuesday and a wednesday, a fact i’m only realising now something has shifted. i dreaded getting up before the sun, too early to stomach breakfast.
and i dreaded having to stand before that class of confused, disinterested teenagers (save a few) at eight in the morning with only the view of a snowy city street via the large left hand windows sustaining me.
i dreaded the disdainful tone of their voices and their contempt for me, this girl not so much older but with so much more authority, that informed every sentence i had to force out of them.
and now i don’t have to go anymore.
i can ride my bicycle in the morning light, fresh air dancing through my lungs, an hour later instead. breakfast eaten and hair brushed. to continue to teach my class of entirely enthusiastic twelve year olds with bright eyes and sweetness to nourish a nation.
and instead of the disparaging seventeen-year-olds? a class a year younger, and four hours later, who are so excited about having a real. live. english. person. in their lesson that they hung around after class to ask questions and tell me where to find the best english tea in regensburg.
and what a difference it makes. of course, if i’d had to keep on toiling away with that difficult class, i would have. and i’d still have been happy. i’d still have loved regensburg and i’d still have counted my blessings. but somehow, with the new timetable, i love everything that little bit more. especially school. the teachers are less busy now, test papers have been marked and the immediate future – they say – looks rosy and uncluttered. and all this has combined to make school lovely again. i am overwhelmed by the kindness of certain colleagues who seem endlessly interested in the little island (britain, that is, not my danube island…evidently, i can’t resist a good island) i know as home, who always wish to know how it is i am occupying myself and what on earth my plans for the future are. their generosity of spirit is, again, so heart-wrenching it makes me want to cry.
and regensburg is beautiful. the river is furious and fast-flowing, spilling over onto the banks of the islands and oh! i could sit and watch that waterway for ever, imagining its journey from the damp woods of baden-wuerttemburg to the gleaming domes, the glittering galleries, of vienna to the unknown beyond. the weather is cold but bright and i can see the two spires of the sankt peter’s dom over the rooftops from my classroom. i can sit on my back doorstep with a mug of tea in the morning and breathe in the cold air. my first few days back here have reminded me of how many things i have to be grateful for. of course, i genuinely miss the company of those i love in england. but i shouldn’t complain. not when i have the river and a best friend here who believes in gemuetlichkeit and night-time strolls. and rudi and christl, with so much joy and wisdom and homemade ice cream it makes my heart sing. and classes full of happy pupils. and freshly baked bread in my kitchen and an invitation to the theatre and a trip to the mountains this weekend.
i know it sounds frivolous. even shallow. a river i love and a pot of tea? what’s that for happiness? but these things are the symbols, rather than the point. ‘the point’ has been embodied every day of my life for me by my wonderful parents and my vivacious sister and my wise, happy grandparents and the aunts and uncles and cousins i love so much. and in the more recent past, by my circle of dancing, all-loving, hilarious friends in london. love and trust and friendship and adventure and kindness. these things are what matter. the danube and dinner parties and bicycle rides across bridges are what i write about because they are the tangible representation of the things that are so abstract and so impossible to convey within the limits of language, and because, of course, they do make me happy.
and i really am thankful, for it all.