(Jason conducted research in Germany during the summer of 2004 and he returned to Europe in 2005 for more Great Idea Adventures)
Dear Mr. Masingill and the Ramsey Family,
I hope that this email finds you and the Ramsey Family well. I am writing from a slightly dreary Northern Germany Sunday afternoon but enjoying this Lord’s day to the fullest. I attended high Mass this morning, probably understood about 20% of it, but hoped God would give me the best parts. There is a lot of faith involved in living in a foreign country with minimal language skills. I say that, but my German is improving steadily every day. It is much work though.
I came to Germany nearly four weeks ago. I spent the first five days with my brother at his house in the small town of Obernberg south of Frankfurt. I mostly rested and recovered from both jet lag and the end of the semester (I came to Germany only five days after my last exam, it was a very busy time). I had a wonderful time with my brother and his German wife during this time. For easy reverence, their names are Derek and Christin (pronounced Christine). Anyway, they then drove me to my new home of Münster, Germany. It is a distance of about 3 and 1/2 hours by car and 5 by train (something of a colossal distance to most Germans but it doesn’t seem too bad to my American sense of distance).
I spent one and a half weeks working in Münster before I took a week off to visit Italy. My mother and her husband were there for the wedding of his son. I had a very good time in Tuscany and saw many great things (including Michelangelo’s David in Florence and the Leaning Tower in Pisa). Despite the greatness of the cities, I found the Tuscan countryside to be the highlight of the trip. The wedding was held in the same villa in which most of the family was staying in the middle of Tuscany. It was beautiful and peaceful and such a treat.
I returned to Germany at the end of a great week in Italy and then returned to work. I love my job here working in the lab of Dr. Armido Studer at the University of Münster. My coworkers are very nice as well as Dr. Studer. It has only been one week today since I returned to Münster after my Italian trip. German life is good and the people are very friendly. This is becoming a very great experience and I am glad that I can share a little bit of it with you via email.
I have sent an email to Josh Moore but have not received a reply. I believe that I will try calling him. It would be wonderful to meet up with another member of the Ramsey family while here in Germany. I am not so sure of how much traveling I will be doing during the rest of my time here in Germany. I am somewhat limited to weekends. I know that I will spend some time in Garmish, Germany around July 18 (my brother’s as well as my birthdays are two day apart and we would like to spend some time in the German alps on holiday). I would love to get to Vienna though to see the great city and to visit with John Harris. I still need to get his contact information from Ms. Duvall; if you happen to speak with her before I do, could you have her forward that to me?
Thank you again for everything. I think about next summer and my Ramsey trip with rising delight nearly every day. It is great that I will be able to spend this summer living in Europe and next summer traveling through Europe. Please pass this email on to members of the Ramsey family if you feel it is appropriate. I send you all my best.
Mit freundlich Grüße aus Münster,
Dear Mr. Masingill,
I trust that you are well and that you are enjoying a lovely Tuscaloosa July. I would also imagine that preparations are already being made for the fall semester. It is amazing how fast a summer can fly by. I am thoroughly enjoying my stay in Europe and am sure that this experience will be a fond source of memories for the future. I am, however, also looking forward to my return to the Capstone and the completion of my undergraduate education.
I have learned a great deal while working in Münster, in Chemistry, German, and about the rest of the world. That might sound somewhat cliché but I think it is true. This is the first time that I have lived completely on my own and had to depend fully on my self. I very much appreciate the situation faced by foreigners in the States that have difficulty with the language and understanding the customs. I am glad to say that I have nearly made it through the trip and am still alive. I have tried to seize every possibility that presented itself and hopefully I will be fully satisfied on later evaluation of this experience.
I had originally planned the project that I would work on in the lab while still in Tuscaloosa. However, I was given the opportunity to try my hand at a slightly different project when I arrived in Münster. It was a high-risk but high-rewards project in that this group had never tried something like it before; therefore, it could work and be immediately publishable or it could die hard. Well luckily I have been working on other smaller projects on the side because the main one died hard. That is not to say that it isn’t a good result–now my boss knows that this chemistry will not work and there is no longer a need to try it out. That is research. Through this project, though, and some of the other things that I have been doing in the lab, I have been able to learn many new techniques, work in a different field of chemistry that I had previously, and expand my options in Chemistry for the future. Therefore, the chemistry side of my summer stay has been a success.
While not being able to travel extensively this summer due to my work obligations, I have been able to see a little bit of Europe. I already told you and the Ramsey Family of my trip to Italy. That is a very memorable part of this summer.
I spent my fourth of July weekend in Northern Germany, near the North Sea in the city of Bremen. I was greatly impressed with the landscape of Northern Germany, not very well known to most Americans, which is made up of dykes and canals crisscrossing large fields shadowed by windmills. The people are very sea faring. I stayed with my brother’s parents-in-law in their very old thatched roof house that was built in 1789. That was an experience that was only topped by the fact that all of the surrounding houses were of the same period. There is a little European life lesson: being old doesn’t mean bad. Bremen is a lovely city set off from the North Sea and connected by a large river. That weekend concluded with a motortour through the Lüneberge Heide towards Hannover. The Heide is the German word for the flower Heather. There were fields and fields of the stuff and the entire region is named for it. It was quite lovely.
I spent the weekend and beginning part of the week surrounding my birthday in German Alps in the cities of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. That is an amazing place. It is set at about 3000 feet with the 9000 foot Zugspitze (the tallest peak in Germany) towering over the valley. Because the valley is quite low elevation, the temperature was lovely. I spent the morning of my birthday paragliding from the Alpsitze (a slightly smaller mountain). It was a wonderful experience to fly over Garmisch; paragliding is something that I have always wanted to do and I can think of no better place to do it. We stayed the last two nights of the trip at the Eibsee-a crystal-clear, alpine lake at the base of the Zugspitze. The water was the ideal temperature for swimming in that you had to keep moving to stay warm. I cannot remember ever swimming in a nicer lake with such a panorama. That was a trip to remember and I fully recommend the Garmisch area to any traveler in need of some fun in the sun.
I spent last Saturday in the Netherlands in the small town of Enschede. Again, that was lovely and surprising. I am only about one hour by train from the Niederlander border and it makes a nice trip to cross over. It is amazing how short the distances are into a different world. The language is an obvious difference but also architectural styles and customs change tremendously with short distances. I went with a friend from work to the big open-air market that is held every Saturday in Enschede. That was a treat and delight. I am still enjoying very fresh Dutch cheese from that adventure.
I have one other big trip planned. I have some friends that live in Cambridge, England that have invited me for a weekend. I have managed to arrange the completion of my work in Münster and the start of this trip to coincide. I will move out of Münster and go immediately the next day to the airport for a three day trip around Cambridge and London. I hope to see Oxford and Cambridge on this trip. This experience will be very fresh on my mind when I return to the States because I will fly from London to Frankfurt on Monday and then return to the States on Wednesday. I am looking forward to telling you and the Ramsey family more about it at the lake party.
One of my regrets for this trip is that I wasn’t able to plan things well enough to be able to visit some of the members of the Ramsey family that are currently living in Europe. That gives me all the more reason to look forward to my traveling Ramsey trip next summer.
Thank you again Mr. Masingill and the Ramsey family for all of your support. I feel that this summer has very much primed me for the Ramsey tour next year. I wish you and the Family all the best.