it's storming outside right now, and the bells are ringing at the church down the hill... there is a quiet sense of anticipation in the air. i am reminded of how little time i have left in stuttgart - a mere three weeks - and while i am excited beyond expression to get to go home for a while, my heart is breaking for all of the things that i will leave behind here.

my friends here - a motley crew of architects, ballet dancers, bankers, computer programmers, businesspeople, designers, writers, bouncers - mean more to me than my words could ever put to paper (or web page, letter, insert your preferred method of verbal expression here). when i first came here three years ago, i was honestly terrified about moving to a place where i knew two people, but didn't know the language, the city, or the customs/culture of the people here. i somehow had the great fortune to come across a few people who just brighten every day... people who, in an instant, will drop everything to stand by my side. let me tell you, had i not had my friends here, there is no way in hell i would have made it through this last year in one piece.

i will miss the bar i hang out at most days - oblomow... a kind of ratty-looking place where you can just be (as opposed to the abundance of overly-chic-see-and-be-seen locales around stuttgart). i will miss the presence of stairs all over the city... some tucked away between tall buildings, others sprawling in a picturesque landscape. i will miss the parks, and reading in the garden in front of the old castle in the center of the city. i will miss being able to walk through the city with a bottle of beer. i will miss the bells marking the passage of each day.

... i will miss my apartment and the soft light that filters through my window each morning along with the sounds of the dove that has nested in the ridiculously tall pine directly outside my window.

it's strange, though, the certainty i have that though i am leaving here, it will not be forever. there are places i have been to or lived in that i have no desire to see again. stuttgart is not one of those places... less so for the actual place (which is beautiful and wonderful in a kind of surprising way) than for the people i have met here (and treasure beyond all reason) and the experiences i have had here.

it seems that my last little bit of time here is simply slipping away from me... it makes me more resolved each day to really take advantage of what i still can. but for right now, i am completely content to sit in my room with a hot cup of coffee, listening to the rain and the bells and the birds, and reading a picture of dorian gray in the soft light of the afternoon.