Monday, November 8, 2010

Why I Study German.

A view of Eichstätt, the city I lived in for my foreign exchange in Summer '08.

I'm not entirely sure when I actually made the decision to learn German. It had to have been some time in the eighth grade when it was time to forecast for high school.

My grandma's old next door neighbor and best friend was a German lady named Anneliese Chavez. Anneliese was married to a Hispanic man, named Tomas, whom she had met in England post WWII. But the story of Anneliese goes back much further than that.

Anneliese was born in the mid 1920's in a small town in Germany called Weiβenfels. She came from a very large family with a father handicapped from Polio. As a teenager, Anneliese was preparing to become an Olympic swimmer when she found that she had lung problems and was sent to live in the mountains where the air was thinner to strengthen her lungs. Around age 18, she married her first husband and they had two children, both boys. Soon after, WWII struck Europe. During a bomb raid, Anneliese and her mother were running away with the two boys. Unfortunately, a piece of shrapnel hit her youngest son and he passed away.

Her husband was in the army when he contracted TB. He was sent home for Anneliese to take care of him. One day, Soviet soldiers came to their home and told her husband to get out of bed. Anneliese pleaded them to leave him alone because he was sick. Instead of leaving, they hit her in the head with a gun and shot her husband. Their neighbor had heard the commotion and ran over after the soldiers had left and took their son, thinking that both parents had died.

However, Anneliese was not dead. She was taken to the Soviet barracks as a prisoner. While there, a doctor realized that she was not supposed to be there and helped her escape. She fled to England where she became a seamstress. Her stories from this job include the time that they had to alter the coronation cape for Queen Elizabeth II. They could not try it on the soon to be queen, so they fitted it to Anneliese because she was roughly the same size as Elizabeth. (Anneliese still finds this very insulting because she thought the Queen was fat.) After a few years she met Tomas. They got married and then moved to America together.

I didn't meet Anneliese until I was in the sixth grade because she was living in Texas while I was growing up. But when Tomas passed away, she moved back to Oregon to help my grandma take care of my great-grandma. I quickly became very fond of Anneliese, even though her German boldness offended many people. I would sit and talk to her and listen to all of her stories. She taught me to knit and always let me help her with her word searches and cross-word puzzles. She had essentially become a second grandmother to me.

Jump back/forward to forecasting for high school. As I sat in the cafeteria of my middle school trying to plan the beginning of the next four years of my life, I came to the language class options. I don't remember even thinking about it, I immediately marked the box to take first year German. It was a defining moment in my life.

I studied German all four years in high school and even went on a foreign exchange trip to Bavaria for three weeks. I continued German when I got to college. And now here I am, roughly six years later, planning on a semester abroad in Berlin and completing the paperwork to become a German Studies double major with Statistics. I am very happy with my choice to continue with this beautiful language. And I owe it all to one dear lady. My German "grandma" Anneliese Chavez.

I don't have any digital copies of pictures of Anneliese.

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