Jeff: September 14, 2006

Jeff RothenbachI must apologize for the delay since the last installment. Rolf and I went on vacation twice (Wine tasting in Napa for two, then camping on the Russian River with a group of friends in July and one week in Germany in August, and yes we had a good time, thank you for asking.).

During our camping trip, a friend made the comment that traveling with someone for a week is like living together for a year. After a couple of trips with my ex, I would be inclined to agree with that—along the lines of that joke about the guy who is diagnosed with cancer and only has six months to live.

Actually, traveling with Rolf was something like a test run for living together, although we didn’t think of it as a year-long cohabitation. We have spent weekends together, but our previous record was four nights (Would that be six months in gay years?). This vacation was eight nights—in a row, without going back to our respective apartments for a night alone. Yes, the thought was a little scary, but also exciting.

I did this same trip alone last year, so I enjoyed showing Rolf the places I visited, and being able to share the trip with him this time around. We spent some time at the winery where I am a member, and I was able to introduce him to a few new wines and restaurants.

In the second phase of the trip, we were camping with our outdoors club, and I was the organizer/leader of the trip. Rolf had never seen me in full “project control mode”, which took him a little getting used to.

For example: In Napa, we would roll out of bed around 9:00 or so and then throw ourselves together to have breakfast before the hotel stopped serving at 10:00. At the Russian River, I woke up around 6:30 (without an alarm clock, mind you) so I could be ready to start the day before the rest of the group woke up.

Once we got back to Southern California, we had three weeks to prepare for our next trip (ja, ich lerne deutsch). My passport had arrived at the beginning of July, but I needed a larger suitcase and light rain jacket. The larger suitcase would become even more important, as new restrictions for carry-on bags would be announced just two days before we left LA. Luckily, these restrictions would not exclude the MP3 player I bought the week before the trip (loaded with a variety of music and four instructional CDs).

Being in a foreign country for the first time was exciting. But at the same time, that little voice (the voice of control) in the back of my mind kept reminding me that we’re on his turf now. I would have to trust him completely for the next week. Although that can be a little scary, I have come to trust Rolf, and I didn’t get crazy about that.

I realized that part of my motivation to learn German was my desire to not be so dependent on someone for all of my basic needs. As long as I know how to ask where the bathroom is and order my own meals, I would be OK.

Of course, that fell apart the first time we went out to dinner. The waitress was asking everyone what they wanted to drink. Easy enough, right? When it was my turn I proudly said, “Ein Wasser, bitte. (water please)” Then she asked me something! I panicked. I couldn’t hear words. It was just water—what else does she need to know? At that point, Rolf stepped in and answered for me. When she walked away, I learned that in Europe, all water is bottled, and it is routine to tell them klein oder gross (small or large) when you order. If not, they will ask you.

As it turns out, most people in Germany also speak English. This came in handy at the hotel. We were having breakfast on the second day when the waitress approached me at the breakfast bar to ask what I wanted to drink. This time I would be ready. “Einen Kaffe, bitte. (coffee please)” I waited for the follow up question of “Would you like milk with that?” However the question didn’t seem to have the word “milk” in it. Uh oh. After a couple of seconds staring blankly at her while trying to process what just happened, she asked in English, “Where are you sitting?” Note to self: be sure you are at the table when you ask for your coffee.

OK, this has nothing to do with moving in together, but I thought they were amusing little stories. Back to the subject of moving in: During our trip to Germany, I got to see the house Rolf grew up in (and walked the path that he took to school), looked at family photo albums (he was an adorably cute child), met his family and several friends (including the ex-), and generally saw his world through his eyes. By the end of the week, I felt like we had lived together for about a year.
Now that we are back on American soil, the first order of business is finding an apartment to share. I am continuing my German studies (there is sure to be more travel to Germany, and I will not stop until I can get through an entire meal without someone bailing me out!). I don’t know what the next year will bring (although I know what the next month will bring, and it’s killing me to write this column like nothing else has happened…hint, hint) but I am looking forward to the adventures ahead.


This series of posts was first published in 2006 and 2007. Jeff and Rolf are now happily living together. For those of you who have missed it the first time around and for everyone who’d like to read it again, here is the full story line in an updated format.

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