Like an undercover agent I plotted my escape day and night, engaging all means of subterfuge as I strove to escape the watchful eye of my host-mother and the ever-present ‘evil’ twin sister; trips to buy unneeded toiletries providing precious access to a dimly lit telephone booth- desperate telephone calls to friends of friends of friends who happened to be somewhere within Germany; the bribing of my host sister so I could frequent the internet café without my host mother finding out; e-mails to my father imploring him to investigate my visa alternatives (constantly confounded by his interactions with the Australian office of the exchange company who assured him such instability was common with exchange students and that it would be in my best interest to remain with the same family); an on and on it went.
Perhaps this period could be regarded as a fire that forged a sheltered seventeen-year-old into someone shrewder, more sagacious and street wise, somewhat better prepared to deal with the ‘unreal’ world; but at the time any thoughts of the positive personal growth I may have been experiencing seemed as absurd my host-mother’s predisposition to scream at anything that wasn’t alight in her mouth and delivering a constant stream of nicotine to her brain.
After 43 days I was finally able to escape.
A most kind hearted lady who had lived in Australia some years earlier and who was acquainted with my high school German teacher, took it upon herself to rescue me from the torture I was enduring. An e-mail correspondence eventually resulted in her finding a family in Frankfurt who was willing to host me for an extended amount of time. And so I found myself gliding out of Hannover Railway Station, listening to the CD’s I had brought with me from the other side of the world, the familiar lyrics providing a reassuring constant for yet another leap into the unknown. My relief at having escaped Hannover was indeed short lived as my mind began to race over the possibilities and probabilities that lay before me in Frankfurt. Years later, when regular meditation taught me to broaden my heart, I had the realisation that my first host-family had had good intentions for me despite their seeming imperfections, but at that moment in time it felt like I had just awoken from an all too real nightmare.