German Rank

By the time I arrived in Germany for my summer of German language courses as a precursor to my Fall/Winter study abroad semester, I had done the whole foreign language study and foreign language immersion thing a couple of times already – I knew what I was getting into and how I wanted to go about it.

True fluency was my goal, and I knew how to manage that.

The day I arrived, however, my German was absurdly limited and rather laughable…. I could hardly ask questions, let alone understand the answers (more on that some other time).

And so, by the time I was visiting with the others in my program’s group (they had also arrived that day), and had met the head of my program, everyone had been socially established in terms of their levels of German ability.

One girl was ‘the head’ of the group, so to speak, another was ‘the absolute beginner’, and the other few were sprinkled in between them… I openly declared my poor abilities that had been used throughout the day, only somewhat successfully, and expressed concern of not placing high enough to receive credit for the German courses back at my college (you had to be at least in the second level for the courses to count, and I was worried that I might be ending up in the beginner, first level, based in the day’s events).

In other words, I was ranked ever so slightly above the absolute beginner girl, and just barely below the girl who’d studied for a few semesters already (two years, I think, actually).

However, I wasted no time in immersing myself with the German-speaking head of our program, and got help from her immediately for the things I knew I would need and want to say starting the next day, when I would be interacting with all the people at the school and taking a placement test and starting classes… again, I had done the foreign language thing before, and I was knowledgeable about how to function on minimal vocabulary and grammar – I could make anything work, so long as I had a certain set of vocabulary ahead of time.

And so, to my delight the next morning, what I had prepared myself to be able to share with others about my absurd travels getting to that small town in Germany, ended up being the essay question on the placement test!

Therefore, to my pleasure and total surprise, I was placed in none of the beginner level courses, but in the first of two intermediate courses!

Since I had arrived late the day before (again with the telling another time), I had missed the regular times for the placement tests, and everyone who had taken them then was already in the first day of classes while I took my own placement test (along with a few other people who weren’t in my program, but who were also studying at the language school that month).

Therefore, when I walked into my intermediate level class – this was after multiple verifications that they were sure they were putting me into the correct class – and I found ‘the head’ of our group sitting at one of the tables, there was a brief moment of shock for the both of us, as I blew apart the ranking of our whole group by jumping rank so obscenely (I use obscene, because it rather was obscene, in a sense).

She was not happy, to say the least.

Two weeks later, when I already matched and, in some areas, had surpassed her German capabilities, I had voluntarily removed myself from the ranking altogether.

Rather than be a part of the group so much, I had become ‘the outside associated’, someone who isn’t truly a part of the group, but who comes to visit and gets along well with everyone whenever she does.

I never spoke English after that first day, not once… and that was enough to set me away from the group hierarchy.

(Okay, I did speak English once… this British guy seemed like he was about to cry one day, while begging me to speak English, because he so desperately wanted to hear how I sounded in English, since he had known me for weeks but had heard none…, but that was genuinely the only time I did it while there.)*

And it was wonderful.

In the second month, we had a similar situation happen with the new group arriving and joining our ranks… everyone was re-ranked, with me still as an outside associate for the first round of people, but ranked in a real place by the new folks (just above ‘the head’ from the first month)…

For that month, I was ranked below a new ‘head’… however, a month or so later, when we had all moved to Vienna, Austria, I was fully removed from the ranking system by all the new people, too… I had real friends who were native German-speakers, and certain parts of my German were better than anyone else (not all parts, though, because five years does teach one a lot, so the new ‘head’ definitely had some knowledge on German that I never really intended to have)… and I still used no English.

However, I eventually started throwing in the occasional bit of English just so they wouldn’t hate me so much – speaking only German had kind of pushed me way off the ranks… almost no association at all anymore…, but I got rather pushed back out by some when they discovered my many friendships with non-foreigners….

So, yeah… essentially, I ended up a distanced associate, and that actually was really great for me… I was there to learn German and learn German-speaking culture, not American anything (which was mostly all that my group had to offer), so I did just that: I learned German and German-speaking culture by being a part of it.

And it was awesome.

And I still found the hierarchy of our group to be hilarious, especially when I blew a hole in parts of it again and again. ūüėõ

That was rather fun, actually.

I wonder how I would have felt had I been a regular member of the hierarchy, and not the super-gifted member that I was… hmm…

Post-a-day 2019

*Something tells me that I might have used the occasional translation with the outright beginner girl for the first few weeks while she got her bearings, but we kept that rather hush-hush and between ourselves, so no one really heard or knew about my occasional English words to her.

Words worth more than gold

After a discussion over the phone with a college student calling to ask for my monetary donation to the study abroad scholarships at her school, – which I exchanged for encouragement to the girl and for sharing with her various specialties related to where she would be studying abroad this coming spring semester (for which she continuously thanked me delightedly, and which she declared was a million times better for her life than a monetary donation to the fund would have been, anyway) – I wrote a sort of poem.

You see, she recommended I write it, because what I was sharing with her, she said, sounded like poetry.

So, find in the following photo the first draft of the poem we discussed today, which I said I would write for my weblog tonight, and which I tapped out on a typewriter(!!!) this afternoon.

Post-a-day 2018

A letter from my past self

The following is the transcription of a letter I found this week. ¬†(Yes, it was in one of the boxes of papers and folders and such.) ¬†I wish I had found it months ago, when I’d first returned from Japan. ¬†However, it still did me loads of good when I read it the other day. ¬†While I missed out on some bits it mentions, I actually did a really good job of fulfilling most of the tasks prescribed in it… a version of them, anyway.

Anyway, it is a letter I wrote to myself when I was still on my college campus, about to leave to study abroad in Germany and Austria. ¬†As per standards of our school’s study abroad program, we all had to write our future selves a letter, which would be mailed to us upon our return from our study abroad programs. ¬†I fully acknowledge that mine is full of grammatical errors, but that was part of why I was going abroad anyway – to improve my language skills. ¬†Also, the whole letter is written in cursive, because I do that. ¬†The third sentence actually caused me to tear up, and the fourth had me crying. ¬†It’s amazing how right I was, and I really didn’t know that I ever would be in the current situation in which I find myself.


10. April 2012

Hannah Leigh, chèrie,

Ich weiss nicht, was muss ich dir sagen. ¬†Ich kenne dich nicht, weil du so viel gechanged hast. ¬†Welcome home – may it still feel that way to you. ¬†You are forever welcome here, so remember that – you might need it some day. ¬†Okay, here’s what I want you to do:

1) Go record it.  Get on your computer, write up any questions
you would love for others to ask, & then record yourself
answering them.  Then you can do what you want with
it all, but you will have that satisfaction, that completeness,
wholeness of having shared what you needed, desired, wanted
to share.

2) Talk to people.  Make a quick list of what specifically you already
have wanted to share with whom.  Call each person & set up when
& where you will share what you have to share.  Share with them.

3) Talk to Opa.  No matter where he is, go visit him & talk with
him completely in German.

4) Find someone local with whom you can be open, close, & frank, & speak
only German (or completely German) together with ease.

5) Remember that it’s all right not to “know” who you are. ¬†Knowing
makes no difference, anyway, so no good reason to bother with it.
Look yourself in the mirror & see all that has passed, & be open to
all that will come.

6) You are woman & you create the universe with your being.  Your
power is endless, & it is selfless love that feels it.  Love your
mother & your Mother.  Love your self wholly, & your next
step will become available and visible to you.

7) Be at peace.  Even if it was &/or is hard, it is all relative.
Take it for the beneficial experience that it is, & enjoy every
bit you have gotten & will get from it all.

8) Now & every time you see that it just might possibly help,
take a deep breath & close your eyes, letting your thoughts
run around & then calm naturally as you breathe deeply.

I love you & I wish you all the best.  I am here with you always, though I will now be transformed from the time I wrote this letter.  My understanding & my love have only increased & expanded, I promise.  You are wonderful.  You are beautiful.  You are mine.

I love you.  Love me, too.
‚̧ Peace ¬† ¬† ¬† Hannah Leigh


P.S. Pretend I pressed a flower in here to give you a wholesome smile & kiss. ¬†ūüôā oxox


Post-a-day 2018


It wasn’t until I had lived in France for a few months that I found out about the secret bags of pastries.

You see, normally, I would have one to three pastries a week. ¬†That was all that I could afford reasonably, really. ¬†And fresh pastries in France are kind of the bomb dot com. ¬†Period. ¬†Sometimes, during the morning break in class, my classmates and I would walk to the bakery the next street over, and all have a pastry and coffee together. ¬†It was fun and always delicious. ¬†And, compared to the US, the prices were fabulous. ¬†However, there was still a limit – we couldn’t really do it every day on our college student budgets.

But, my life was somewhat transformed when one of the girls in my program told me how she always got her pastries. ¬†D- found a way to try them all on a budget. ¬†She said, ‘Yeah, you just look for these bags up on top of the counter, in a basket, and they’re filled with whatever didn’t sell yesterday. ¬†So, it’s different every day.’

After several days, if not even a couple weeks, of psyching myself up, I finally went to the bakery she’d mentioned, to find these secret bags. ¬†And there they were, crammed full of various pastries, and they were only a few euros. ¬†I think it was that very first time that, even though I¬†totally knew what the bag up on top of the pastry case was, I asked casually to the pastry chef what it was. ¬†He explained it all to me, and how they didn’t want to waste anything, so they bagged it up and sold it cheap the next morning. ¬†I semi-feigned surprise at what he told me, but I was also genuinely surprised that D- had been right and it¬†really was a¬†real thing. ¬†For the price of one or two fresh pastries, I could get a whole bag of ones made only yesterday, and of all different types. ¬†No, if you grow up on fresh French pastries, they aren’t nearly too delicious. ¬†However, we didn’t grow up on fresh French pastries – we delighted in even the day-old pastries like it was some of the best stuff we’d ever eaten. ¬†(And it totally was.)

Plus, if someone had given me a bag of pastries anyway, I probably wouldn’t have eaten them all at once. ¬†It would have taken me most of the day to get through them comfortably, and I’d probably even save something for breakfast the next day. ¬†So, for a huge fraction of the price, we got to do just that.

Usually, I’d share a bag with others, so we all got to try the different pastries. ¬†But I got my own a few times, for sure.

So anyway, if you go to France for vacation or whatever, ask the bakeries in the morning if they have bags of yesterday’s leftovers. ¬†I think there’s even a specific term for it, but my brain is not producing it right now, if there is one… I totally used it, whatever it was, though, word or phrase or whatever… I¬†loved trying out all the different pastries. ¬†However, despite trying so many different pastries, I still almost exclusively get a¬†chocolatine (pain au chocolat¬†everywhere but the southwest), a¬†croissant, and/or a¬†baguette (though those guys aren’t pastries, they are still one of my favorite foods ever). ¬†But whatever. ¬†I got to test out all the stuff and see that I enjoyed it all, as well as discover that I really just love the simple stuff best. ¬†(It’s like a clich√© about life or something, but it’s just how I feel about French pastries.)

Post-a-day 2018


The impossible and a new look at time

Last night, as I was thinking on how the impossible had happened for me that day, and then hula classes I’d just asked two friends about helping me do, I got onto wondering about new beginnings and fresh starts. ¬†I started to think about the idea of treating today as the beginning of my time in Japan. ¬†Like how I’ve visited other countries, and then gone¬†there later for several months to study, I can see Japan in that same sort of timeframe.

Yes, I came and did a semester in Japan before. ¬†And, now, I’m back in Japan, but just for a semester. ¬†In six months and a week, I’ll be finished, my semester over. ¬†I only just arrived, and so have to get going with the things I want to do and see, and the relationships I’d like to build. ¬†But, since I’ve been to Japan before (when I studied (read “worked”) here the last time), it should be easy to settle into place, and to start picking up the language again.

Sure, I remember that there were things that were really rough when I was here before, and I suspect things will be hard again. ¬†However, it is only a single semester, and I’ll be so busy doing this and that (to make sure I get it all in, since I definitely didn’t last time), it’ll zoom by me quite quickly. ¬†(So, I’d better get started, eh?)

Huh… I’m actually quite excited about my brief visit to Japan this semester.

Who’d’a thunk?

Who says we have to relate to time as directly sequential?

I thank my most recent audiobook for this beautiful thought idea –¬†The Time Traveler’s Wife.


P.S. ¬†I actually wrote this last night, as I just didn’t want to forget it for today’s post. ¬†ūüėõ

Post-a-day 2017

Songs for Friends and Self

First off,

ūüėÄ ¬† Merry Christmas! ¬† ūüėÄ

Via the natural flow of thoughts in my head, I found myself singing a song that a friend and I wrote (to the tune of another song) as a goodbye present to another friend of ours a few years back.  This other friend was heading to the US for a semester abroad, and so we set up a sort of going away surprise in which everyone could participate.

It was Sylvia’s idea, the song. ¬†She picked one of Gunnar’s favorite songs, and decided to write new words to it. ¬†About an hour-ish before we were supposed to head out to meet up with other friends to practice the song, she had gotten only a few sentences into it, and so I ended up¬†taking over and putting the bulk of it together.

We threw a thumbs up on it, and rushed off to rehearse with other friends. ¬†At rehearsal, we changed a word or two to make things easier for folks, and organized our plan of action to get out the lyrics to everyone after Mass that evening (the going away party was taking place right after the young-ish adults Mass where we all went together). ¬†The song ended up going beautifully and being a total hit – it was just as we’d hoped, and all was well as we sent our good friend on his way.

Now, I completely meant the words when I wrote them for our friend Gunnar. ¬†However, a few weeks later, as I, myself, was leaving the country to go back to the US, the song suddenly sounded like something I had actually written for myself. ¬†To this day, the song gets stuck in my head (although I have no recording of it, and have not since that month looked at the lyrics), and it, somehow, is always comforting – I miss living in Vienna terribly, but this song somehow makes everything okay how it is right now. ¬†I guess God’s just good at making things work out that way. ¬†ūüôā ¬†I have this dual feeling that 1) if I move back to Vienna, I’ll never want to leave again, and 2) if I even visit Vienna, I’ll be utterly disappointed with how it compares to having lived there before and loving it so much then. ¬†I think that, no matter what, I have to go back, though. ¬†I’ll try a visit first – maybe next year for Christmas – and see how that goes, huh? ¬†Sounds good to me. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Anyway…

Enjoy. ¬† ¬† ¬† (To the tune of “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling)

P.S.  BeFree is the name of the Mass we all attended, and which had brought most of us together as friends in Vienna

6. Jan 2013


So lately, been wondering
Who will be there to take your place.
When you’re gone, we’ll need one
To play that music filled with grace.
If it really is God’s will,
Then we guess that you can go.
Just remember us back here
While you’re off in USA

If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien.
But God sends you elsewhere,
So take care, have fun, and BeFree!


Hopefully, you’ll find out
The way to make it back someday.
Until then, God bless you
And help you all throughout your days.
If it really is God’s will,
Then, Columbia, here he is!
And we hope that, while you’re out there,
The Lord’s grace still flows from you.


If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien.
But God sends you elsewhere,
So take care, have fun, and BeFree!


God give Gunnar your blessing.
Give him helping hands and friends.
Give him everything he needs!


If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien.
But God sends you elsewhere,
So take care, have fun, and BeFree


You’re leaving.  We’ll miss you,
but all our lives will still go on.
In your heart, in your mind,
May God be with you all the time.
If it really is God’s will,
Then we guess that you can go.
Just remember us back here
While you’re off in USA


If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien
But God sends you elsewhere
So take care, have fun, and BeFree

If we could, then we would
Keep you  with us here in Wien
But God sends you elsewhere
So take care, have fun, and BeeeeFreeeeee

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