The Trip


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    A few years ago, I had the chance of a lifetime to go to Germany and France with Brian, my boyfriend of six months. I was scared when he first mentioned the trip, because it made our relationship seem so serious. I was also afraid to go, because we’d be going to the French Alps to ski with two of his friends and his cousin. I had never been downhill skiing and didn’t really want to learn. But I did want to see Germany and France. Brian assured me that the trip all be "for me."

    I purchased some winter boots for the trip, and when I tried to break them in on a walk, I had an allergic reaction of itchy bumps around both ankles. To top it all off, the boots didn’t fit right either. I decided to bring my old, ratty hiking boots along as winter boots.

    Brian’s mom loaned me her brand new, periwinkle ski jacket for the trip so that I would look like a real snow bunny on the slopes.

    It was so exciting to leave for Munich on Christmas Eve. It was the best Christmas present I could ever imagine! Brian and I were nervous and excited when we got dropped off at the airport at about five in the morning. In the airport I went to get a cup of hot chocolate from the vending machine and didn’t think to share it with Brian, because I was so tired. This started a "tiff" between us for the first leg of the flight. We got over it quickly.

    Once in Heathrow, we had an eight-hour layover. I became so stressed out that I got hives all over my body. We slept for a few hours stretched out on benches in the airport.

    We arrived in Munich on Christmas Day and had Christmas goose with the family of Brian’s friend Richard. My piece of goose was so gristly and bony that I couldn’t get any meat off of it. I was too embarrassed to say anything, but Richard’s mom noticed me struggling and graciously gave me a new piece.

    There were also lit candles on the Christmas tree. Apparently, everyone did this in Germany and very few people’s homes burned down.

    Brian and I enjoyed talking long walks in the fluffy snow among the evergreens in Munich. Downtown Munich was the part of the whole trip that I loved the most.

    But what I remember most was the second week of our trip. We took a 10-hour car ride to France. We passed through Switzerland and Austria to get there. Austria looked like like a small child’s gingerbread land with the yellow and red painted cottages with little flower boxes attached. Switzerland was just a blur from the car window.

    Because I take medication for bipolar, it is necessary for me to drink a lot of water, eat enough salt to balance the medication in my system (which is also a salt) and consequently, use the bathroom frequently.

    Unfortunately, Brian’s friend Richard didn’t want to stop the car very many times. So I drank less water than I should have and didn’t have the opportunity to eat as much as I should or get enough salt into my system. I thought that if I just drank a lot of water when we got there I’d be fine.

    However, when we pulled in to the tiny apartment where we would be staying, I became very ill with a pounding heading and vomited all night long. It could have been the altitude, combined with getting toxic from medication.

    The next day I felt better. I took skiing lessons on the bunny hill from a French woman who kept calling me "Hezza." While going up the hill on a T-Bar, I waved at Brian, fell out of it and got tangled in it and dragged up the hill. The instructor scolded me and told me to pay attention to what I was doing and not to Brian. By the end of the day I got pretty good at heading down the bunny hill. But I never did it again.

    The rest of the week I stayed in the apartment. Brian insisted on staying with me at first, and we went walking in the ski town looking in the fancy candy shops with chocolate fountains and marzipan. Oddly, there were no coffeeshops in which to kill time in La Chamoniex. The little ski town was merely a place for tourists to spend their money.

    Finally, I asked to be alone while Brian and his friends went skiing. I didn’t want to hold him back. I became depressed because I was too intimidated by the Alps to ski and too averse to the cold. I also felt like I was being a wet blanket for the rest of the group.

    The shift in altitude and my being sick had an effect on my bipolar. I cycled through depression and mania while on the trip. In my lowest moment, when I was deeply depressed and walking alone through ski town while the others were skiing, I saw an old, peach-colored church on the hill. I went inside the church and prayed, asking for a miracle in my mind. I wanted to be in a good mood for everyone else. I thought it would take a miracle for me to feel better, stop bickering with Brian and have some fun.

    In the church, something shifted. I heard my spirit guides tell me that it would be okay and just to be happy. I went out of the church and felt completely different, like a miracle had occurred.

    The rest of the trip was a breeze. We spent New Year’s Eve in a five-star restaurant. Some of the entrees were the size of a postage stamp and, oddly, many of the courses contained alcohol. At midnight, we and all of the patrons had a huge food fight! We were all given party hats, balloons, streamers and plastic straws with foam balls to blow out at everyone else. One man, a bald guy, didn’t want to join in. His head was the target of many careening, foam balls. Eventually, he joined in.

    This two-week trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity. I had spiritual experience on the trip and was able to turn my negative feelings around through prayer. I was also able to learn more about the limits of my illness. What could be more meaningful than this?

    Next stop? Hopefully…China!

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