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Saturday, September 5, 2009

GERMANY - Post #1

GERMANY - DEPARTURE...and DAY ONE

For those of you who may not remember why Matt and I just packed up our things, sent Syd off to her Grandparents and headed to Germany for 10 days...here is a quick recap;

The Shawnee, Kansas & Erfurt, Germany Fire Departments work together as part of a Sister City Exchange Program. The program was established in the mid-90's, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the reunification of East & West Germany. The thought that an American City would be the Sister City of a former East German City, was initially laughed at. But over time with much effort, the program was initiated and has been a wonderful success ever since! Funding through our local German Club provides airfare every two years for 3 Shawnee Firefighters to fly to Erfurt and experience daily life with an Erfurt Fire Fighter Family. This year, Matt, Mike Beatty, and Mike Owens were selected to attend...and if spouses pay for their own airfare, they can attend too! So without hesitation Mary Pat Owens and I jumped on board! Words & pictures will never truly express what an experience this was for all of us. But we hope to share what we can with you over the next several posts.

The Departure for Erfurt Germany took place on Sunday August 23, 2009; Kansas City International Airport at 1:30pm Central Time; Terminal B; Northwest Airlines ---> en-route to Detroit, Michigan where we would quickly turn around and board our flight on to Frankfurt; only to be picked up and driven 2 Hours to Erfurt, our final destination! We arrived in Germany on Monday morning at 7:15am...and waited awhile at the airport....wondering if they had actually forgotten we were coming! But eventually our friends Sven & Peter appeared through the crowed with big Hallos, and that is where our story begins...


"Put on your seat belts! These guys drive like MANIACS!" - We guess that when you live in a country with an Autobahn that has no speed limit, you get used to driving as fast as your car can possibly go. So imagine if you will, the 5 of us buckled in to a huge 9 seated passenger van; heads and bodies pressed into the seats from the force of the speed; white knuckles holding on for dear life, as we worked our way out of Frankfurt to Erfurt. -- Only a slight exaggeration of the truth...we did learn VERY quickly that these guys drive fast and break hard whether they were on the autobahn or within the city limits!!! We all got a kick out of the cars that would zip by at whose knows how fast in the right lane. GENERAL Autobahn Rules - If you are a truck driver, you are not allowed to drive in any lane but the far right, unless you are passing, and you can only drive in the far left lane if you are passing. There for you stay in the middle lanes so as not to get creamed by the extremely fast cars on the left, or to rear-end what they consider the slow cars on the right!

Upon our arrival to Germany, we were dropped off with our host families, where we spent the afternoon resting and preparing for our Welcome Dinner that night. Throughout the course of the week we realized that just by chance, we were all placed with the perfect families! Each one was a perfect match with our own personalities, likes and dislikes which made our stay much more personal, and memorable!


Matt and I were placed with Sven & Jeannine Kazek and their 10 year old son Tim.


Mike Beatty was placed with Ronald Granert & his girlfriend Cindy; Ronald is divorced, and the father of 2 children Tim (10) & Marie (6).

Mary Pat & Mike Owens were paired up with Andreas, his wife Sandra and their two young children Rebecca (6) and Paul (2).

Each of these families took us into their homes and let us invade their everyday routine for over a week! We cannot thank them enough for all that they provided, and the time that it took away from other things to assist us throughout the week! We all agreed that our experience in Erfurt would not be the same if we were put up in some random hotel. By working with each other to communicate and break the barriers that stood in our way that first day, made this experience much more personal. They all became an extended part of our own families through this trip...the only thing standing in our way is the distance between our cities!

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