When I was packing in preparation for these four months, I double checked various travel blogs to ensure I was bringing everything I needed for my trip. Deodorant, vitamins, notebooks, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and any document I may ever need while abroad. Although I felt massively prepared, I really didn’t know what to expect upon arrival in Mannheim. Stepping into my first German grocery store is when I received my answers. Confusing labels. Jumbled words. Crowded aisles. Paprika flavored everything.
Quickly assessing my situation, I was instantly bombarded with hundreds of questions that I wanted to ask. Why are there clothes being sold in the middle of a grocery store? Why is the milk not being refrigerated?? If I can’t read the labels, do the calories still count??? I timidly stepped further into the great unknown, and decided to jump head first into my confusion.
Seeing the first familiar item on a shelf, I quickly snagged an entire roll of bread. Why? I panicked. Nonetheless, armed with a loaf in my hand, I started to move along when I noticed a bread slicer next to all of the pastries. I was faced with an important decision: was sliced bread so important that I would risk slicing my hand in half? Decidedly, I placed the bread into the machine. After fidgeting around and pressing a couple of buttons, the contraption anticlimactically didn’t budge. Defeated and choosing the safety of my fingers over a modern-day luxury, I moved on.
As soon as I turned around I was immediately face to face with yet another machine I had never seen before. Because there was a line filled with several strangers, I patiently observed as people placed plastic bottles through a hole in the side of the machine. I slowly began to realize that this was a recycling machine. The more water bottles you placed into the invention, the more money you received for your contribution to keeping the earth clean. Vowing to return with the stack of plastic bottles piling up in my room, I kept moving along throughout the rest of the store.
After passing through the colorful candy aisle filled with sugary European treats, making my way past the paprika flavored salted snacks, and finally arriving at the cash register, I was blown away by the efficiency that these workers were scanning products at. Whipping through all of the items at their registers, they were flying through customers left and right, I could barely keep up! After purchasing all of my items and victoriously leaving the store with a loaf of bread, a stick of butter, carrots, and roasted peanuts (the food pyramid of a college student) I walked out feeling like a million dollars – that is until I had to tear pieces of bread, one by one, from my massive loaf of bread.