Leaving for the German Hoop Convention – A Travelogue after the fact

August 2, 2015 Caroleeena German Hoop ConventionhoopdanceHoopingtravelogueUncategorized


Europe was amazing. The German Hoop Convention was amazing. The whole experience was amazing.

I have been trying to start this blog for a week. How to summarize something so life-changing in words, especially when I know I haven’t even begun to process all of the experience? I definitely feel changed by it.

How to even come at this? Bit by bit I guess.

Getting ready to travel to Europe … to teach … for a person with anxiety and esteem issues… Phew! I could not have gotten through it if it weren’t for my friend Lauren who helped arrange flights and buses and stuff I am horrible at, and Ina Hoopina who invited me to Germany and who created a space where I felt safe and protected. In fact, I felt that way all the way through Europe, even when things were going wrong. I am so grateful for that I can’t tell you. I am also grateful for the words of encouragement from people who donated or wanted to while Soolah Hoop was raising money to help me. So many people helped me in so many ways. I promise I experienced wonder in every possible way throughout this journey. (I have to laugh at this sweet, funny friend I made in Amsterdam who shared with me his advice for how to “be” in Paris … and it included not walking around, looking up, with your mouth hanging open…which of course I do all the time. I tried to be cooler about it based on Willem’s advice though.)

Okay, back to the beginning.

My trip got off to a bit of a rough start and I missed some of the time I was going to spend in Germany. There was a weird weather phenomenon called a derecho in Philadelphia where my flight connected that caused cancellations which, in turn, caused me to miss my connecting flight to Amsterdam. I had cushioned in six hours between my flight and my connecting flight to make sure I made it but I still didn’t make it because of that damned derecho. I think derecho will be my new swearword, Derecho! When I finally landed in Philly, I ran as fast as I could to try to make the Amsterdam flight and the plane was still there when I got there but they had just closed the door and would not let me board. The plane were at the gate another 10 minutes. The next flight wasn’t for 24 hours. They would not let me board. Man… For me that was my free day exploring Germany. It was deeply disappointing but I am proud of myself for maintaining some equanimity. I tried a few other ways of getting there but it didn’t work out because everyone else who’d missed flights was doing that too. I was stuck in Philly.

(Don’t know what a derecho is? I didn’t either. It is a wide spread, long-lived windstorm associated with fast moving storms that can cause hurricane force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains and flash floods. I can sure see planes not wanting to fly in that.)

Missing that plane meant I also missed my train to Germany and had to buy another train ticket. I had purchased it ahead of time to make sure I got one and I tried and tried to change it on their website but technology issues were not allowing it. That train ticket was almost a hundred dollars, plus I had to spend 50 to get some sleep at a hotel. All told, missing that plane cost me @ $150, which was a large chunk of what I’d taken to live on. On top of that, I arrived in Amsterdam to find that my credit card doesn’t work in Europe. Did y’all know that all credit cards are supposed to be migrated over to new cards with a chip inside them by October? I sure didn’t. This means not only do we consumers need new cards but all businesses need new card readers and if they don’t get them, the banks will hold the business responsible for any fraudulent charges. I don’t know a single American who knew about this but apparently Europe is already using these cards with chips. Not having that card meant not having access to emergency cash and travel money. I just had what I had on me. (Luckily I don’t have expensive tastes. I love to do things that are free.)

I did finally make it to Amsterdam a day later and managed to get a new ticket and on a train to Hannover within a half hour. I was smelly and tired and I had stupidly not put a change of clothes or my toothbrush in my backpack.They were in my checked bag which, through the airport debacle, I had become separated from. This was one of my most fearful moments. What if my bag is not there when I get there? Man I was hoping my bag would be there when I got there and thankfully it was. I could have hugged it. I should have at least grabbed my toothbrush right then but I was in such a hurry to try to explain that I had not been able to resolve changing my ticket on that Deutcheban train  website, http://www.bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml, and I was going to have to explain to someone who may or may not speak English. THAT was super scary. I breathed slowly, deeply, and consciously through that whole waiting line. It helped.

I finally made it to the front of the line and a handsome blond man looked at my ticket and told me it was for yesterday and they could not honor it and not only would I have to buy a new ticket but there were not any that arrived before 7:30 p.m. (the convention starts at 7:00!) … well there was one but it was full. It was leaving in 25 minutes but if I could get on it, I could get there with a couple of hours to freshen up before the convention. I had to buy that ticket. Almost $100! Damn. $100 more. Then he said, “I can put you on the one that is full and you can sit down but if the person who has a ticket for your seat comes you will have to get off.” Now, looking back, I realize what he meant was “up” but I went “oh my god my only chance to get there in  time is a train where they could put me off at any station along the way and I have to wait for another train and I have no idea how to do that!!!” This is funny because I thought that for the entire train ride. I couldn’t rest because at each stop I thought I might be put off because a bunch of people got on. It’s funny now and I feel silly about it but at the time it was pretty stressful. I was trying not to picture myself standing on a platform somewhere waving goodbye to my train like I had my plane.

That train ride…

I figured I’d just sleep on the train, then when I got to Hannover, I’d have a few hours to shower, change, and get ready for the convention. Hahahaha!!! Plans… Lao Tzu once wrote, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” I was totally intent on arriving. Well, not totally. On the first part of that train ride I spent much of my time as I had on the flight — trying to recreate my music library and the playlist for my class on my phone. I had tried to remove extra stuff from my phone so I’d have plenty of room for pictures and somehow I lost not only my music and my playlists but my player, which I could not find to re-download so it meant I had to learn a new player too. I should never have tried to take stuff off my phone. My borrowed camera fell through so I just thought….”I’ll use my phone. I need more room on it…” Anyway, so I was intent on arriving AND recreating a good playlist for the German Hoop Convention so my class would rock!

Things went smoothly for a little while on this train and each stop got more rural and the view was pretty and filled with gorgeous cows and windmills and pastures and trees and pretty little cities with pretty little train stations and a bunch of people never got on. Just the opposite in fact. Then our train came to the Amsterdam/Germany border where they changed conductors and a German conductor took over for the driver from Amsterdam. Only there was no German conductor. Apparently there is a work slow down among German train workers and they were being deliberately late. Germans. Who are never late.

So there we sat, not moving, waiting…

This train had no air conditioning. It had windows that kept the space sufficiently cool when the train was moving but the train was not moving. For about two hours, the train was not moving.It was sitting there cooking in the full sun like a metal bicycle seat. I was already sweaty and gross and that two hours made things so much worse. I should have grabbed clothes and a tooth brush during that stop but that was the one part where I just went to sleep. Now I was not knowing if I was going to arrive by the start of the convention at all and so I just decided to offer it up, check out and sleep while I waited it out.

I arrived in Hannover a hot mess! I then exited the beautiful train station and promptly got lost, hauling two pieces of rolling luggage across cobblestone roads, which is harder to do than you might think.  It was so hard not to look around at all the interesting things happening just outside the station — amazing performers singing and dancing, clowns selling balloons, all over this big square on Ernst August Platz, a massive street with lots of other streets coming in from all directions — both for cars and just for bicycles. It was fun to just walk through this place! It was like a festival on a Friday afternoon. I don’t know if every Friday afternoon is like that but it sure looked fun. Of course I got lost.

I finally arrived at the hostel thanks to the help of several kind people and as soon as I walked in, they said, “Ah Caroleeena! They’re waiting for you at the convention. I’ll call you a cab right now.” They stashed my suitcase behind the desk, handed me a beverage that I thought was an juice drink but was actually some kind of sparkly, fruity, wine-like beer, and put me in a cab. That drink was kind of yucky but I downed it quickly in the cab because I was sweating to death and in long pants and traveling clothes AND I had lost my water bottle on the plane! And guess what? Another lost opportunity to grab my toothbrush. I was on my way to the convention in the very warm clothes for airplane temperatures that I had been sweating in for over 24 hours in European temperatures much hotter than the weather channel told me to expect and with dirty teeth. Way to make an impression Caroleeena! I made it with ten minutes to spare. Ten minutes.

Ina was so sweet! She greeted me and introduced me to Martin and made sure I grabbed a plate of food and got me the welcome packet and checked in…all in 10 minutes. It was a wonder.

I finally had a moment to breathe in the play yard of this school that housed one of the big  gymnasiums they were using. It was filled with hoopers I know and hoopers I didn’t know hooping. It was a little intimidating to walk into by myself, like walking into a party by yourself where you’re not really sure you’ll know anyone. I took a big breath and did it, quickly finding a corner in back where I could hear the music and settle back into my body with a little hooping.

Ina Hoopina and her husband Martin had done an incredible job of organizing the German Hoop Convention. Everything about it. It was very impressive. They also created a warm welcome that felt like a hug. I am in love with Ina and Martin now. They are sweet and kind and fun and smart and creative and all the things I like. They are landscape architects! They build and plant amazing gardens. You should see the pictures. Here is a link to Martin’s website with pictures: http://hofmann-leyhe.de/6.html

The convention started with a warm-up exercise by Zach and Marria of Ninja Hoops. It was a circus version of patty-cake designed to warm up our bodies while helping us meet each other. I was terrible at it but I laughed the whole time. Sorry partners! And thanks for your patience.

Then the classes started. Luckily I wasn’t teaching until Saturday and Sunday. Thank god! I took Ninja Hoops class and it was awesome and filled with epiphanies but I didn’t make it too far into it. It was a lot of jumps and lifting up your leg very high and I had brought a hoop too big for that. I was also exhausted and still feeling tight from all that traveling and a little weird from that weird beer. I hadn’t had a chance to stretch at all after that all night plane flight scrunched up and then that long hot train ride so I decided to stretch and observe and I had a nice long chat with a lovely woman doing the same. I must remember her name because I fell in love with her. She goes to India and buys beautiful clothes and comes back and sells them. Many are made from pieces from old saris so they are brilliant colors. The kind of stuff I love. I have a picture of her so I will figure out her name.

I am embarrassed by my lack of facility with names. It takes me a while with everyone. I am a kinesthetic learner. I remember people not by face or name but by what we did together. If I can place people that way, I remember them and what we did but I have trouble not just with names but with faces so it takes me repeatedly embarrassing myself to put names and faces with shared experiences and facebook profiles.

This is her if anyone can help. What a great smile:


(NOTE: This is Joyce Hampton! Thank you Erika Lawal!)

There is a cat in my face right now. Comfort. She is purring away and head butting. I missed these guys. They missed me too but I can tell they were all happy here with C.C. They all love her and I am grateful to her.

After the Friday night classes, we did an led flash mob in downtown Hannover. It was scheduled for 10:30 at night, which seemed a little late to me … until I realized that it is light until 10:30 at night there! That was awesome!!! It had just gotten dark and the sky was still a brilliant, clear, indigo blue. I am a night person which means I don’t get enough sunlight. It would be wonderful to live in a place that stayed light so late! I loved it.

That is when I started to wake up!

The led flash mob was so fun. That’s where I really got my dance on and shook off my crazy journey. I mean, I danced my ass off! I did not have a dry hair on my head. I danced and danced and danced to every song.

For some reason the dj’s music didn’t work out and so we danced to the music of this puppeteer who was busking in this very happening little square. There were probably at least 60 led hoops being brandished by brilliantly bedazzled bright beautiful beings. It was quite a sight. That’s when I realized how many amazing hoopers were attending this convention. Holy crap! It was a little intimidating! The dances, and the variety of flavors of dance, were intoxicating.

I don’t think the puppeteer knew what to make of it all but he kept playing music, changing song after song, a lot of it disco and old Motown — stuff I love. Again, I danced my ass off. I didn’t have an led hoop so I didn’t feel as “observed” and I was able to carve out a space farther from the group and really dance. It was so fun. It was the turning point in my trip.

Swimming Pool and PolanerOnce that wrapped up, I was ready for a beer. I had been traveling a long time and then had this cathartic dance and I could hardly wait to drink a German beer. No one was up for going out though so I went out alone. I went to this little bar, looking a sweaty mess and with my face all red and honestly, still kinda of breathing hard, and just ordered “bier” from the bartender, a handsome brunette man who spoke no English. I don’t even know what kind of beer it was. I just know it was delicious. The bartender, seeing my completely disheveled self, made me another drink too as a present. It was called a Swimming Pool and it was beautiful. Blue with white creamy stuff on top. It really did look like a swimming pool in moonlight. You should have seen the pretty garnish — a little beach umbrella made out of jellied candies. I should have taken a picture. (I did take one. I was trying to be surreptitious and not look like a tourist. In retrospect, who was I kidding? I walked in a sweaty mess with a hula hoop speaking English. Still…) No idea what was in it but it was refreshing and the gesture was sweet and heartwarming. (<–This is a picture of it but after the Swimming Pool was all mixed up and I had eaten half of the pretty garnish.)

Shower in GermanyWhen I headed back to the hostel, where I had not even been to my room yet, I ran into Martin and Ina and Sven and Tasha, who were co-organizers of GHC, and some of the volunteers and guess what? They were going out for a beer. They invited me to come and I ended up getting to have another beer and getting to connect with all them for a minute. Most of them were German speakers and it was interesting to try to follow conversations. Some things I could pick up and some things were probably just ridiculous stories I was making up based on facial expressions and people’s reactions. It was humbling and interesting.

After that I took my stuff up to my room and finally met my roommates at the hostel. I got to room with Lucia Lu Lu, a German hoopdancer who is really into dance like me, and Caitlyn Hoffer, known in the hoop world as IsoPuppy. Yay! And that shower, once I figured out how to work it (what are those handles near the toilet even for? I never did figure out), that shower was one of the best, most welcome showers I have ever had in my life! And I got to brush my teeth!

I drifted off like a baby beneath a big open window in cool cotton sheets while looking up at the blue night sky…

German Hoop Convention

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