During the first few weeks of my internship I stayed loyal to a more familiar pattern of activity, one that remained faithful to my daily routine at CNU; I adopted a similar exercise and sleep regimen, while substituting a seven-hour workday in lieu of 17 credit hours of classes. After recovering from the initial jet-lag, life at AFRICOM didn’t feel much different than life at college.
However, it didn’t take more than a few weeks before the exercise-work-sleep routine became unbearably monotonous, and I soon felt the need to do something more befitting of a summer abroad in a foreign land. Lucky for me, there are about 15 other AFRICOM interns besides myself – many of whom have lived in Germany for the majority of their lives – so there’s never a shortage of recommendations about exciting weekend getaways.
Two weeks ago, myself and a cadre of fellow interns impulsively booked a train ticket to the nearby town of Kornwestheim to attend the annual color festival. (A wonderful fact I’ve learned since living in Germany is that there is never less than a dozen different festivals occurring on any given weekend within just a few hours train-ride, each of which is guaranteed to be worthy of at least a day-long excursion). According to the pamphlets I had seen online, the festival appeared to be a hybrid between a typical outdoor concert and a parade, with the prime event involving every member of the crowd throwing powdered paint balls at one another at the conclusion of every hour. (The festival ran from 10:00am to 10:00pm). As it turned out, the festival was exactly that: part concert, part parade, and a paintball balloon war every hour.
While I only attended the latter half of this particular festival, I was struck by the diversity of not only the activities – which ranged from countless body painting booths and tattoo shops to the largest bouncy castle and slip and slide I’ve ever seen – but also the people. There were just as many six year olds on the bouncy castle as there were teenagers getting tattoos and twenty somethings taking shots at the 40-seater outdoor bar.
Interestingly, I later discovered that the festival was actually a westernized version of a religious event known as a Holi festival, which is a traditional Indian celebration involving the dowsing of participants with multi-colored dyes. Needless to say, the Holi festival was an experience that I will never forget, and it remains one of my most fond memories of my time in Germany. (And the great news is that there are more weekends to go and other festivals to explore!)