I made it into Germany without any problems. The flight on LTU was delayed an hour out of Orlando, and somewhere along the line an additional hour was lost, bringing me to the Düsseldorf Flughafen two hours later than anticipated. But if a late flight is the worst thing that happened—great. The potential downside: Yunir's girlfriend, who had never met me before, was waiting for me at the train station in Bochum. The airport at Düsseldorf was easy to navigate, and I found the train station just a few minutes after picking up my bags.
I wish that I had learned more German before arriving; I might have understood the machines that dispensed train tickets. The good news: I found the train that went to Bochum. The bad news: I had purchased a ticket for an entirely different train. But the controller spoke good English, sold me the proper ticket—at a total loss of the other ticket, but better to lose a few euros than to not reach my destination—and all was well... assuming Rosa had waited. She had, even though she had an exam later in the afternoon. We left the train station, taking the 310 local train to Brucknerstraße, just a few blocks from the flat that she shares with Yunir (Yunir, unfortunately, is not in Germany, but is in the US doing something with the Mars Gravity Biosatellite—I'll have to investigate more).
I hate—hate—that I know so little German, or any other language. One reason is that I would like to go to a restaurant and feel comfortable ordering food, talking to the waittress. But a newer, more substantial reason, came from meeting Rosa. She's also from Uzbekistan. Her first language is Russian, though she also learned English in school. Since she's been here at university, German has replaced English as her second language, but this doesn't mean that her English was bad. In fact, it was really good—slow, but perfectly understood. There I was, feeling small because she was apologizing for poor English that was quite good... I decided that I was going to learn to converse in another language on this trip—French, Spanish, Hindi, whatever. I want to feel out of place speaking with someone else's first language instead of asking them to speak in mine. If I ever achieve the same quality in one of these languages as Rosa had in English, I'll be happy.
One problem remains: I need a visa. I misunderstood the visa regulations. I thought that I would need a visa if I wanted to stay only in France for 90 days, but the 90 days includes "Schengen" countries (according to the State Department, Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden). Nominally, my entire stay in Germany, France, and Spain is approximately 105 days. I'll look up more info later, but if someone has information about getting a visa, I'd appreciate if you left a comment.
(And I successfully called the US via Skype for the first time—good news for the rest of the trip ahead)
Full picture: Rainbow over Florida
Full picture: A view down the street from Yunir's fourth floor flat in Bochum.