When moving to Germany in 1996, I was offered a place to share in the small village of Freidberg, not far from Frankfurt. When I would tell someone where I was staying they assumed I was just another idiot American and really meant to say Freiburg. After some weeks I was offered another place where I could be on my own in Frankfurt. This was appealing since I would be in a busy city with more things to do and with easy access to catching a train. At that time I traveled by train most weekends to teach a workshop.
It could not be called an apartment. It was a room on the top of a six-story building with no elevator, no bathroom, and no kitchen. I loved it. Just down the hall, there was a toilet so the essential was covered. It was centrally located and no one else lived on this top floor. For a shower, I joined the local fitness club about one block away. As for eating, I was in the heart of the main pedestrian street in Frankfurt, the Zeil, with dozens of places to eat within a few minutes’ walk. My favorite was the cafeteria which meant I only had to point at the food I wanted and did not need to speak German.
The room was so small, the end of the bed went under the shelves that held my clothes. There was no window but the door to the balcony had a glass insert allowing light to stream into the room. Below the balcony was a large courtyard with three huge powerful smelling magnolia trees. Surprisingly the room was very quiet given it was only one block from the Zeil and all its commerce, street musicians and thousands of people. I had a great view of the construction of the new Commerzbank, the soon to be tallest building in Germany. (see photo – netting kept pigeons off the balcony which was nearly as big as the room.) It was perhaps the tiniest penthouse apartment ever with one bed, one small table, one small chair, and a phone.
I loved my time living in Frankfurt. There were events, exhibitions, flea markets, and all sorts of other activities to enjoy and learn more about my new home country. From this home I could walk most everyplace I needed to go and could easily catch a train to take me to the main station or the airport. I learned most of the train times and could get anyplace in town faster than someone could drive. My record for getting to the airport from my room was 12 minutes.
When signing up as a member at the local fitness club, as I was about to leave, I offered to teach a demonstration class in Kundalini Yoga if they are interested. The salesman says, wait a minute, and gets the manager. I explain what I am offering and he says wait a minute and gets the aerobics coordinator. I explain what I am offering and she says this is exactly what they are looking for and wants me to begin teaching right away. She then asks how much money I want. I explain that I am offering this as a demonstration and do not need money.
She says, wrong, we will give you 50 DM (about 25€) and free membership. So I get the shower, the sauna, Stairmaster, plus money for teaching a class. She puts up an article about me from the New Mexican newspaper with color photos, along with a big flyer announcing the new Sunday class. People have begun talking about the class and the poster after being up less than a day. The demo class had over forty people show up.
The next day a friend and I are discussing the water in Frankfurt and that it is not very healthy. Buying bottled water gets expensive but is necessary. With my work schedule, I went for a few days without finding a convenient place to purchase water. That night I go to the fitness club and ask to buy a bottle of the water they serve there. This woman working there says that since I am teaching a class at the club, that makes me an employee and as such I get all the water and juice I want at no charge. I love getting gifts and do know I deserve them all and many more.
Life continues to amaze me and offer a variety of gifts. Many of those gifts I can easily accept, some are more like opportunities to learn. Most people call these problems or challenges. I do my best to be grateful for all gifts.