Tuesday, December 31, 2013

You're gonna hear me roar (here's to 2014)

When Katy Perry's single "Roar" came out several months ago, I honestly was not a fan of the song and actually found it quite annoying.  I still find the song kind of annoying, but the lyrics fit my mentality for 2014.

"I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
scared to rock the boat and make a mess.
So I sat quietly, agreed politely.
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything."



2013 was basically a year of me being that person described in the song.  I lacked any agency in my decisions and in my life and was forgetting about my own happiness.  A number of events, the main one being what I alluded to in my last post, have provided me with a wake up call and my goal for this new year is to be a stronger individual, focusing on my own goals and dreams and aspirations and just being a good friend, but also staying aware of my own mental and emotional well-being.  I went from being completely numb the first half of the year to being an emotional crying train-wreck the second half of the year and both of those versions of me were terrible.

During these last few weeks at home I've been so surrounded by love and warmth from family and my oldest friends and have realized how much I have to be thankful for, and that because I'm blessed in so many ways, I owe it to the people in my life who have helped me grow to be the best version of myself and be happy and appreciate all the wonderful things in my life, even if sometimes it's wicked hard to be away from Boston and even from Virginia.  I've got a wonderful group of friends in my new home in Nashville though, and so many things coming up to work towards like a brand new semester and the Nashville marathon at the end of April.  This year is about me refocusing my priorities and just being the best version of myself.

So, to 2013 I say good riddance, but I guess thank you for the learning experiences.  And here's to a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

On Dignity

My Jesuit education at BC taught me the power of empathy, especially when it comes to the human condition and dignity.  I took several courses about human rights for my Faith, Peace, and Justice minor, which focused on the inherent worth of every human being and the undeniable fact that, although we are all different, we are really all the same, and that most humans are after the same things--love, friendship, community, and belonging.  I found all of these during my time at BC, and for that, I can never be more thankful, especially during this holiday season.  A little over a year ago when I was facing a lot of sadness and confusion during my year in Germany, I wrote a blog post about not being "over" BC--and those sentiments are still true.  I've found a wonderful community and group of friends in Nashville and I'm growing to love the city, but my heart still pines for Boston and the general feeling that the BC community gave me every day, a feeling that I never really noticed until I left. 

After I graduated BC, I went right to Germany and many of you know how sad I was over there, so I never really got a chance to put my Jesuit education to the test; to really see if everything I had learned and been introduced to would stick with me outside of BC's beautiful campus.  These last few months though, I have proven to myself that my Jesuit education has absolutely made me a better, stronger, and more empathetic person, truly concerned with the well-being of those close to me, and much less selfish than when I began undergrad, and for that I am thankful.

A large number of my friends know what I was dealing with the last few months, and how the situation of someone I knew was tearing me apart.  I was upset every day, crying more than I ever have in my life (if you're close to me, you know that I rarely cry, except at certain movies and sentimental commercials), wondering about life, questioning my already shaky faith, wondering how on earth bad things could happen to good people, and I turned myself inside out so that I was really only thinking of this other person and how I could act to be supportive and loving and accepting--all things BC taught me how to do.

Since arriving home for the holidays though, I have discovered that I was part of a complete fabrication and was being completely lied to and deceived.  I won't go into details, some of you already know what happened, but this isn't a story to be divulged on my public blog.  Since these recent discoveries, I've gone through a number of different emotions, but none of them has been hate and not really anger either.  My feelings about one person's situation merely switched to another person in the situation, but were never directed towards myself.

It's been a few days now since the truth was revealed, and I'm slowly getting over it, but the feeling I am most overwhelmed with is embarrassment and humiliation, which leads me to the title of this post-- on dignity.  We discussed the concept of dignity to death in so many of my courses, and I understood it, but I understand the concept on such a deeper level after this experience.  Those who have listened to me speak about what happened wonder how I'm not angry or pissed off and aren't understanding why I feel so humiliated, but it all goes back to the idea of human dignity.  Someone made a complete fool of me and a mockery of my life and everything I value and hold dear, and to discover this so far down the road is honestly not just heart-breaking, but humiliating.  It's bad enough to know that someone could lie to such an extent and fabricate such a story, but to realize that someone had such little respect for me that I could be pulled into all of this--opening up my heart and life, not knowing at all that it was a lie.  Someone literally took away my dignity and sense of self-worth, and that is what is the hardest for me to get over right now.  Also realizing that I will never get an apology.  Others in the situation will, but the way it works out makes me the one that has to be stepped on if things are to be fixed on the other side of it all, but it is hard to reconcile that I'll never get full closure in any of this, and that's what makes me question all my views on the world and on human nature,

I'm treating this all as a learning experience--I now know that it's okay to stand up for myself, but I can also look back at all of this and be thankful that my BC education has made me the best version of myself.  Even though I have not been the best version of myself for a couple months now, and have been jeopardizing some of my strongest relationships, I have learned that I am indeed capable of loving very selflessly, and that's an important thing to realize.  Time heals all wounds, and this will soon be something that happened that I look back on without anger or resentment, and hopefully without embarrassment once the time comes.  I will continue to wish the best for people, no matter how they have hurt me in my own life, because seeking to hurt people reflects a lack of love in someone's life.  Ugly stuff happened to me but I don't seek to hurt anyone, and I think that reflects the immense love and support I feel from so many people in my life, and during this holiday season, for that, I can never be thankful enough.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Der Sommer ist endlich angekommen

"Summer has finally arrived"

This was one of the headlines on the news channels while I was at the gym yesterday-- a headline squished between Obama's visit to Berlin this week and the major flooding that southern Germany is still dealing with, but it was this headline that stuck with me.  I didn't think northwestern Germany was capable of dealing with such high temperatures, but it somehow managed.  Yesterday and today it remained in the high 90s with high humidity.  As stated on my Facebook post, I don't think my body has actually felt such heat in nearly a year, but I loved it.  Yesterday I left for work around 8:30 wearing only a short sleeved shirt and capris-- I don't think I've ever left without a cardigan or jacket.  I went to the gym in around noon and afterwards, my friend Laura suggested going to the Kanal (canal) to sunbathe and swim (I live next the Aasee which is the big lake in the city where many people run, bike, walk, and just hang out, but if you want to swim, you head over to the eastern outskirts of the city to the Kanal, where you can swim--just gotta watch out for the massive transport ferries passing through!)

Laura and I headed down around 3:30 and Katie met up with us a bit later.  When we got there, we quickly stripped to bikinis and laid on our towels, but after about ten minutes the heat and sun were so unbearable that we had no choice but to jump into the water-- the freezing temperature was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat, which was no longer oppressive once we got back out after our swim.  The rest of Münster had the same idea as us and people were packed like sardines along the narrow banks of the Kanal, escaping the heat by frequent dips into the water. 

Every so often we would see a pair or a group of Germans walk up to the bridge that goes over the Kanal, climb onto the railings, and jump off, plunging feet first into the water.  Laura is quite daring and said she wanted to jump and I agreed to try it with her.  We walked up to the top of the bridge, and it actually wasn't that high- maybe ten meters (tall enough for a massive transport vessel to sail under), but we then realized that the hardest part was actually climbing over the railing as to allow yourself to jump off.

I stood as Laura straddled the railing and ended up on the other side, and continued to watch as she jumped down into the water.  She climbed back up and urged me to do it, and I told her I would if she did it again with me.  Despite having bungee jumped twice in my life-- first, off the harbor bridge in Auckland, New Zealand in January 2010, and second, off a gondola over a lake in Interlaken, Switzerland in July 2011 (about 150 meters)...despite these two jumps though, I actually have a pretty big fear of heights.  Both times I bungee jumped, the instructors had to persuade me to jump and I remained at the platform longer than anyone else.  Sometimes when I'm on a high platform or building looking down, I start to feel nauseous and try to think how on earth I managed the courage to bungee jump twice.  For any who have heard my story about that, even if you're not afraid of heights, you're literally putting your faith in another power and accepting the fact that once you jump, you might never experience anything again after that exhilaration-- but to feel something so incredible might be worth it.

Well, ten meters should be nothing, right?  Wrong.

Laura scrambled over the railing again, and I attempted about three times, each time being too scared to hoist myself all the way over, fearing that I would plunge to my death off the bridge, but finally managed to set myself on the other side.  I thought that was the hard part, but with no ledge to stand over, I couldn't figure out the best way to jump.  A German guy came up next to us, and within ten seconds, had climbed over and done an elegant back-flip off the railing, and when we came back up five minutes later, I was still standing on that ledge, as hundreds of bikers and cars had passed me, driving over the bridge.  He climbed over and stood, striking up a conversation with me and Laura, and in my anxiety, I couldn't process speaking German, and then he started speaking English to us.

"Oh!  You speak English!"
"Of course..!"

Ohhhhh, zee Germans and their love of English.

Anyways, he told me we would all jump together, and after counting to three about ten times, he informed me that we really had to jump because the police would come fine us if we stood up there too long-- at this point there was only one way down, as it would be way too humiliating to climb back over the ledge and walk back down to the banks, especially since every German under the bridge had now been staring at me for the last ten minutes-- leave it to the American to create the spectacle, huh?!

Finally, we counted to three and we jumped off (of course the German elegantly carrying out a back-flip again).  I let out a shriek and after an instant of exhilarating free-fall, I landed in the water, smacking my thigh on the surface, and it's still bruised a day later- ouch!  But the point is, I DID IT.  Once I was up there, I knew I would end up jumping, I just needed time (which only makes it worse, I know)



Honestly though, it was the most alive I've felt probably this entire year in Germany .  I sent my mother a picture that Katie had snapped and she chided me for being an idiot, but I don't regret it at all.  Just as I didn't regret bungee jumping either time, and I guess why I continue to test myself in situations that are most fearful for me-- aka, heights.  I'm not saying you have to go get involved in extreme sports or put your life in danger, but to test your limits and to test your fears I think is good for the spirit and the heart and the mind-- it makes you feel alive and makes you remember that you're living and that there is so much to experience in this life.

I've been so numb since I got to Germany, and the endless winter didn't help it, but finally feeling the rays of the sun and the heat seep into my skin and feeling myself free-fall was such an incredible experience after feeling nothing for so long.

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning feeling quite ill-- just a headache and a really sore throat that had started a few days ago.  I figured that perhaps I had been spending a bit too much time at the gym and decided to take it easy again.  I left for school just before 10:00 and was already sweating when I arrived.  This being Germany, there's no AC (absolutely no need for it), so after teaching just once lesson, I was feeling faint and again, sweating like a pig.  Went through one more class and came home and relaxed, and then had to bike a few miles to go do tutoring.  Again, after my arrival and after getting back-- soaked in sweat; it was another day in the 90s.  I relaxed some more in bed, just watching some TV and whatnot, and around 8:30 I started getting a little restless. 

We had just had a massive thunderstorm which thankfully dropped the temperature down to the low 70s, and around 9:15 I decided to go for a bike ride.  Although Germans love going for walks and just chilling in biergartens and out on the grass, they are also always on the move, and I realized that in all my time here, I've never just gone on a leisurely bike ride.  When I was in Heidelberg, we went on quite a few bike rides out away from the city, through the miles and miles of farm fields and discovered little towns spotted around the area,  The weather here is unfortunately not good enough to really do that. 

But since it had cooled down so much, I decided what better time than now.  Hopped on my bike and rode about six miles-- around the whole Promenade and then around the Aasee.  I've biked these areas before and have run the paths maybe 100 times, but I've never just been on them to enjoy them.  The Promenade circles the downtown area of Münster and is about three miles in circumference.  It was beautiful in the fall when the leaves were changing and quite romantically beautiful in winter when the trees were bare and covered in white snow, but now, the trees are in full bloom and so incredibly luscious-- although it was light outside, the paths were quite dark because the foliage is so thick that it's almost like walking through a forest.  It was absolutely beautiful and it was so nice and pleasant to have no destination or nowhere to be, but rather just enjoying the beauty.  I then biked around the Aasee, and the sun was just beginning to set and the water of the lake was so calm that it was eerily beautiful.  Because of the storm just a couple hours ago, there weren't too many people out on the banks and fields, which made it that much prettier. 

Although quite less exhilirating than jumping off a bridge, this ride was also a great feeling.  The slightly humid but cool breeze on my bare shoulders and arms and legs was just so pleasant after the oppressive heat of the last couple days.  Münster really is a beautiful city, and although I haven't really come to love it, I do appreciate being places here.  I've just frequently found it boring.  It's great to raise a family and it's great to study because it's so safe and there are so many restaurants and bars and soooooo much green space, but there's just not a lot to do, and with only a limited friend group this whole year and now most of them gone, it's quite uneventful and dull.  But I guess that's just for me personally, after spending the majority of my life in Washington, DC and Boston-- two major American cities that always have a ton going on, between sports, arts, and nightlife. 

Another reason I was so enthused to take this late bike ride today is because today is June 19th and either tomorrow, the 20th, or the next day, the 21st, is the longest day of the year (it's actually quite a depressing thought, that in the next few days, the days will only be getting shorter...)  Now, I never realized just how much farther north Europe is than America, and if you want to really see the difference, take a look at a world map.  I remember being in such shock when I was in Heidelberg for the summer months that it got dark so late, and I'm even farther north this year, so the difference is even starker. 

It is now 10:50pm and it just now got completely dark.  The sun will begin to rise before 4:00am.  If you haven't spent time this far north during the summer months, it's really something you should do because it's pretty incredible to experience days with just five hours of darkness.  (It is equally just as terrible to experience days with six-seven hours of daylight during the winter months....but hey, it's gotta balance!)  It's so easy to lose track of time and the freedom to do whatever for the majority of the day without worrying about it being dark is pretty amazing.  That'll actually be a big shock going home in a week and a half because down in Virginia, it'll be getting dark around 8pm!

As I was biking though, I was passing groups of Germans hanging out on the grassy areas, either along the Promenade or the Aasee, and passing biergartens and outdoor seating of restaurants hearing the laughter of friends resonating through the cool air, and I realized that it really is time to go.  There is so much about the German culture that I absolutely love and am going to be so sad to leave and it will take a long time for me to get over not having anymore back in America, but I've also realized that as much as I love the German culture, it's just not my culture.  There is still so much, that although I now understand better, I just don't agree with or still drives me crazy, and that's when I realize that I am an American through and through, but just because I'm an American doesn't mean that I need to be isolated from the world and naive and clueless about the world beyond our expansive borders.  I will always factor in my international experiences when figuring out what I want from my life, and will no doubt continue to travel.  I will be sad to leave and it might take a while to deal with reverse culture shock, but at the root of it all, I am sincerely excited to go home again.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dirty Little Secret

In two weeks from tomorrow, I'll be back home in Virginia, and I'm feeling a lot of mixed emotions.  Nearly all the assistants in Münster left a couple weeks ago and the Americans in the area are now beginning to trickle out.  We all got together last night at Bradon's in Essen as kind of a farewell bash because it was the last time that we would all be together in a big group.  So, on the one hand I'm actually kind of bored and am just kind of counting down the days until it's time to go home and see my friends and family whom I've missed so much...but on the other hand, I see my kids in class and some of my co-workers with whom I've formed good relationships and we all know that we only have a limited time left, and that's really sad and I'm starting to get emotional about that.  And of course, as I did when I was abroad, I'm starting to make lists of all the things I'm excited about, but also the things I'm really going to miss.  When I returned home from abroad, there was a possibility that I would be returning to Germany really soon, and sure enough I was awarded the Fulbright, and just a year after I returned home, I set off for Germany again.  This time though, I'm returning home to start a two-year Masters program and will most likely begin teaching after that, so Germany is not in my near future at all, and that fact makes it all that more final.

Since we had a late night in Essen last night (I should really say early morning haha) I didn't get out of bed until almost three and I haven't even left the apartment today.  I've just been starting to pack up things, like a big box of winter stuff to mail home, and going through stacks and stacks of papers and brochures I have, deciding what stays and what goes.

In one word- purging.

Oh yes, the infamous purging.  And after thinking about it a bit more, I realized that this whole month is about purging in so many ways.  I've been living in Germany nearly a year now, and I must pack up my life into a few suitcases to move back to America, and that requires lots of purging of papers and clothes and everything that I've amassed throughout all my travels and activities this year.  I'm by no means a hoarder, but I'm definitely not a good purger.  I get very attached to all of my things and find it very hard to get rid of anything- but I'm doing pretty well so far.

This attachment doesn't just stop at material things though, I grow very attached to people and social connections.  Just a little while ago, I went through the contacts on my phone, which had gotten to be over 200, and deleted about 70 numbers of people whom I know I'll never talk to again, and people in Germany whose number I would never ever need again (plus these numbers won't even work when I'm back in the States).  When I graduated from BC last May, I spent a solid hour on Facebook and deleted about 400 "friends" and I've started going through and doing that again-- people I may have met once or people I haven't talked to in years, and that's definitely tough for me.  I'm a very social person and I always like seeing what old acquaintances are up to and there's no denying the way that Facebook helps our social lives-- sometimes I'll post things and people will respond, people whom I didn't even remember I was friends with, and it was something really useful.  I'm trying to look at this purge in a different light, and think of it more as a purging of people I just really don't need to know about anymore.  It sometimes blows my mind, when I meet someone randomly and we exchange numbers and then continue contact for a while via phone or Facebook and then if I never see them again, I just get annoyed.  But twenty years ago--hell, even ten years ago, social media and texting weren't dominant so perhaps you'd meet someone, and okay, that was it!  Seriously. Mind-blowing.

Also, since most of my friends are now gone, I'm using that to my advantage to not spend money so I can at least take a bit of money home at the end of the month and since I've already paid for my gym membership for the month, I figure that what better way to not spend extra money or consume extra calories then spending most of my time at the gym!?  And there's more purging for you- purging excess pounds just in time for bikini season ;)  I actually have grown to really like my gym after the last six months and I'm going to be sad to leave it!  I finally know some of the people there and recognize the other regulars and know who will be there when I go on what days and certain times.  Just like a regular ;)

Seriously, I've already winked too many times in this post.  Please see my last post about winking.  It's becoming a problem.

I'm sure you saw the title of this post though, and thought I was going to reveal some juicy gossip.  Sorry, folks.  I know I'm not one to keep any kind of secret, but even I'm not bold enough to release my "dirty little secrets" into cyberspace.   The song of that name by All-American Rejects came on shuffle earlier while I was puuurging, and I listened to the lyrics and decided that part of this purging is purging such dirty little secrets and getting over things I've done or things that have happened that make me upset with myself or with society or certain people.  I'm starting the next chapter in my life in just a couple months when I move to Nashville to start my Masters at Vandy-- new subject matter, new university, new city, new friends, new region of the country-- so many new things to look forward to, and I don't want to spend any more time lamenting and being emo about things that have or haven't happened in the last year-- so I'm trying to purge myself of those negative thoughts!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why I'll Never Be German

Here it is- the home stretch.  We're now into mid-June and I've got 18 days left over here in dear old Germany.  I've lived in this country now for nearly a year and a half (nonconsecutive) and with two and a half weeks left I just now realized why I'll never fit in with the Germans.

You ready?

I can't wink.

Yep.  That's the sole reason why.  Haha kidding.  It's not the sole reason, but it is a pretty big reason.  For those of you who have lived abroad, particularly in Europe, or who communicate frequently with Europeans, you'll notice that they really abuse the emoticons, most notably, the winky face.

;)

See, in American texting and chatting culture, those two characters, the semicolon and the end parentheses are quite daring to send.  You usually send them if you're trying to flirt or be suggestive, or if you're making a joke or implying something suggestive to one of your friends.  I've been told by Germans themselves that this connotation does not exist at all behind the infamous winky face.  It's basically an equivalent for the :) face.  These two are also interchangeable with the tongue face :P

I look at my texting and chatting conversation history with Germans and emoticons are used multiple times in one message.  That's how I knew I had really adapted to the culture- for so long I refused to use these stupid smileys unless they were really deserved, and now I abuse them like the rest of Germans.  When I get home and start texting regularly again with Americans, people are going to think I'm crazy or just forward every single day.




Regardless, the winky face emoticon is easy enough to type... a real wink, though- now that's a different story.  Again, if you wink at someone in America, it's usually seen as some kind of flirtation-- not with Germans.  I don't really see them associating the two together.  Sometimes when I'm at school, I'll see a teacher in the hallway and I give a smile and they give a wink; today, Karim and I were at spinning class and it was a particularly tough class today and we looked at each other and I gave a face of exhaustion and he winked; and then when I was leaving the gym, the gorgeous guy that works at the gym (I should say one of the gorgeous guys because they're all insanely attractive) said to take care and shot me a wink.  Now, here's a time I wish a wink would mean a little more! Hahahahaha.

And this is the sad story of why I will never be German.  I can't wink.  I can't do most normal things that people can do with their faces.  I can't wink with either eye, I can't roll my tongue, and you know, there's my infamous squinty differently sized eyes.  Next to the Germans and their perfect symmetrical faces, well....it would just never work! ;)

(Perfect example of abusing the winky face that I now do right there above...)




 Germans and Europeans... take note of the above GIFs.  Americans have a lot of anxiety over such faces and then you guys go and throw that anxiety in the trash! :P (what could I mean by the tongue face?  I don't even know.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Walking On Sunshine....Finally!

Once in what seems like a blue moon these days, I write a happy post- and here it is!

Many of you know that after weeks of phone woes, I FINALLY have a new working phone!  I ordered a used 3GS off Amazon which came about a week later- I rushed to the phone store before it closed and when the guys put the SIM card in it, it said it was unrecognizable and told me to go to the Apple reseller store across the street.  So there I went and the guy tried fiddling with it, looking quite puzzled, until he finally told me there had to be a problem with the phone because it wouldn't even connect to wifi.  Extremely frustrated, I returned home in a sour mood.  Got back on Amazon and requested all the details to return it and calmed myself down and ordered another one.  This one came from within Germany, so only took two days and again, I opened the box, inserted the SIM card that I had already paid for into the phone, so very hopeful.  Well, the phone worked... but when I hooked it up to my iTunes and saw flashing messages before me informing me that the software didn't support basically any apps, I realized I had been a complete idiot and in my fury overlooked the fact that I had ordered a 3G and not 3GS.  Feeling so dumb, I packed it up again and tried yet again- decided to suck it up and just get a used 4 which was quite a bit more expensive, but at least I absolutely knew it would support everything.  During a break at work today I went to the post office and sent off the two phones and hopefully there will be no issues with getting the refunds on them, and I came home to my 4- held my breath and crossed my fingers as I inserted the SIM and connected it to my iTunes and boom! SUCCESS! FINALLY! Everything works, the phone doesn't look like it's ever been used, and I am happy again.  I realize I sound like such a pathetic dud openly admitting on my blog that I became happy because I have a working iPhone again, but it was seriously wicked hard the last nearly three weeks not being able to get in touch with my friends easily, and just get cheered up with snap chats and being able to share my experiences by instagramming and my thoughts by tweeting.  I admit, I'm one of those people that's attached to my phone, but it just really helps me a lot in Germany, when I am so often just hanging out by myself and not constantly surrounded by people as I normally am at home.

Another reason I'm walking on sunshine though is that the sun seems to be here to stay!  While the rest of the country is dealing with the worst floods in recent history, northwestern Germany has had a streak of sunshine and it seems to be here to stay, at least for the week, which is a record if I've seen one in the last ten months!  I opened the weather app for Münster and there is sun predicted EVERY SINGLE DAMN DAY.  I'm serious- I've never seen that.  Even this morning, I got up and left for school around 7:20 and it was gray and cold- I was even wearing my Northface fleece, but when I left school at 2:00 it was 70 degrees with a blue sky.  Rae left this afternoon to go back to England, and while she was packing up her final stuff, I sat out on her balcony just staring at the blue sky, literally in awe and shock and bewilderment at a sky a color that has been so foreign to me.  Luckily, the goodbye with Rae wasn't bad since I'll be seeing her in one month minus one day when she comes to America for two weeks!  After she got on the bus, I headed to the bike shop to pick up my bike- I was trying to pump up the front tire the other day and ended up deflating the whole tire and broke off the little part you need to put air in it... with only three and a half weeks left, I was tempted to just leave it but when I'm getting up for the first lesson at work, those ten extra minutes I can sleep in are worth it, I decided this morning when my alarm went off at 6:50 instead of 7:00.  I needed a whole new front tire, but luckily that only cost 15 Euro and that's the only time I've had to pay for anything regarding the bike since I bought it in September, and now when I ride it, I don't feel like it's going to fall apart underneath me, which is a plus :)

And, yet another happy announcement- NICK IS COMING TO VISIT!!!!!!!!!  He's flying standby so I've no idea when he'll actually be here but I assume it will be sometime on Thursday and we're going to have NSLF Münster and then go up to Hamburg to stay with Paul!  I haven't seen Nick since Commencement Day last year and this will be one of the happiest moments ever.... except when I see how tan he is after living in Hawaii all year and how pale I am after living in Germany all year... damn.  But yes- so unbelievably excited and his visit honestly couldn't have come at a better time.

On another note, I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I created an OKCupid profile.  I actually know quite a few people, both at home and over here that have made one because it's free, so I said, eh, why not?  And actually, the couple Mollie and I stayed with when we went to Paris had met on OKCupid...but maybe they're the exception ;) Ha.  Anyways, my plan was to create it and be able to think about the questions and whatnot and then activate it when I got back home... but I couldn't figure out how to make it private, so that didn't work so I had to literally write on there that I live in Germany.  And what's worse, is that it currently says I'm in Virginia... but I'll only be there for just over one month before I move to Nashville.  So... yeah.  And then I'll be in grad school anyways and I'll be meeting new people anyways.  I just wanted to see what the hype was about- and honestly I don't see it.  I guess that kind of service and outlet is really good for people who have weird jobs and can't meet people easily or just aren't good at meeting people, but I'm really really good at meeting people, so honestly, this whole online thing kind of makes me a little uncomfortable.  I was thinking though that as hard as it's gonna be to adjust back to American life and culture after I've not just gotten used to German culture, but really become a part of it (I saw myself standing practically next to someone in line at the grocery store today, instead of miles behind them as we would do in America and I thought to myself, uh oh... can't do this when I'm back...), anyways I realized that it's going to be kind of cool to go back and meet new people, because I've got this thing to talk about that's just really cool and really different!  Like- I lived in another country for the last year, teaching in a school.  Even when I went and visited Vandy and I met people and they asked the normal questions, I was like "Umm...I live in Germany right now, just popped back over here for a week..." and the reactions I got from that were always full of interest.  So, point is, I'm going to be kind of awkward when I get back since Germans are pretty quirky, but I'll also have this whole closet of amazing and different and notable and even depressing and disheartening experiences to share with new people I meet, and that's already one thing to look forward to about going back- being able to share all of that! (Sorry--the way that the OKCupid thing applies to that last thought is that I didn't really realize that I would be "interesting" when I got back to America until people started messaging me things about Germany and such.)

So that's about it for now.  I'm wicked tired since I got up so early and now it's nearly midnight and THE SUN MUST'VE JUST DRAINED ALL MY ENERGY.  AND I LOVE IT.  :D


Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Waiting for the Sun" (Still...)


When I went up to Hamburg last month for Paul’s birthday, he made guacamole both nights and we feasted on the delicious green mush.  Afterwards, I was inspired to make my own guacamole, especially the weekend of Cinco de Mayo.  Well, lo and behold the German supermarket industry, I couldn’t find avocados in three different grocery stores.  I gave up finally, but was always on the lookout for the green monsters.  I popped into Netto just now because I had absolutely no food and was pretty hungry and there they were- three avocados!  I snatched up two and made my way home.  Cut and peeled one, and decided the second wasn’t yet ripe…well, the first one wasn’t yet ripe either since I could barely mash it even after trying to melt it a bit in the microwave.
So here I am now, sitting in my room nomming on crunchy guacamole and trying to tally the list of fails that have happened in the past week.  (Also, my internet has been blacking out all day so I wasn’t able to look up if unripe avocados are poisonous or anything… so if they are, well that will be the final fail of the week, and I guess of my life. Lol.)
Before last Friday night, things were actually going great- Rae and I had a blast at Frühlingsfest in Stuttgart—we actually ended up at gay night which was the biggest party I’ve ever seen, and then had a nostalgia tour meeting up with Katherine and Sarah in Heidelberg and going to Eckstein.  Rae and I did some quality shopping time in Dortmund on Monday and on Thursday, I headed back to Dortmund to see 77 Bombay Street, a Swiss folk-rock band, in concert with Becca, which was a ton of fun…but after all that, the fails started.
Me and Rae and Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest


Sarah, me, and Katherine reunited in HD!
77 Bombay Street in Dortmund

I guess I’ll rewind back to a week ago- last Friday night when the biggest fail of them all happened.  If you haven’t heard from me personally then you probably don’t know because unlike the first time, I didn’t broadcast it.  After having my second new iPhone 5 for three months, it got stolen once again in Germany.  I wish I were kidding.  Unlike last time though, when I was fairly drunk in Cologne celebrating Karneval and had it out and on the table and someone swiped it when I wasn’t looking, in this scenario, I was basically completely victimized.  A group of us went out to Eule, a small nightclub right in the city center.  I didn’t really want to go out because I had been feeling pretty depressed all week (a combination of PMS and the fact that exactly one year ago I had been celebrating the happiest week of my life with my best friends at BC right before we crossed the threshold to become alumni) plus I had to be up at seven the next morning to catch a train to Lübeck.  Almost all the other assistants in Münster are leaving next week though, because their contracts end this month, whereas the American contract ends at the end of June, so I thought that it would be good to go.  It ended up being a lot of fun- we got to the club and were all dancing and having a good time, except for this German guy that kept following our group around.  He was pretty annoying but we just kept avoiding him.  Anyways, about an hour later, I was standing at the bar with Rae and the stupid guy came back and came right up to me and like ran into me, and about two minutes later I did my “every five minutes Sabrina checks to make sure she has her phone because no way is she going to let it get stolen again” check and of course, it was gone, and then I realized that the guy had bumped my side right where my purse was hanging.  I grabbed Jon and we searched the club but couldn’t find him anywhere.  I went up to security and told them about it, and there was another girl there whose phone had also just been stolen and she was describing the same guy.
So there it is.  Two iPhone 5’s gone in four mounths.  One in Cologne and one in Münster.  But seriously- Münster of all places?!  And this guy was like a German student around our age- definitely not expected at all.  At this point, I almost wish I had just been an idiot and lost it myself so I could at least blame myself and know who to be upset with.  In this case though, it was completely out of my control—okay yes, I could’ve not gone out, but what, am I supposed to just be a recluse and stay in my room until I go back to America so that my things don’t get stolen?  I guess this last year has just been a series of events in which I just feel really helpless.  Events at the very end of the summer left me feeling helpless and confused, and then I had to move to Germany and I remember during my first few weeks here and again, just feeling so helpless and literally like I was stuck here for the next ten months and not even being able to fathom the concept.  When the winter and darkness hit and didn’t end, I again was helpless to the forces of mother nature, and then when my phone got stolen the first time, I felt helpless in the fact that I was now stuck in dark and cold Germany with no contact to anyone back home (yes, I realize I have my computer but the wifi in my apartment is wicked bad and my computer is now five years old and approaching its last days).  Thankfully, I went home for a week in February and was rejuvenated with some energy going into March for travels to Munich, Paris, Berlin, and Montpellier. 
Things started looking up again as spring began to make itself known, but again, I was helpless to my allergies, never knowing when they were going to attack.  And now we reach the latest fail- the weather.  Germany is facing a Siberian Spring, as my favorite pub labeled it in a Facebook post today.  Today the high reached 11 degrees, which is about 52 Fahrenheit, and it’s been pouring rain all day.  The high this weekend is not even supposed to hit above 50, and grey skies have plagued the country for almost two weeks now.  I think the last time I actually saw more than a tiny sliver of blue sky was two weeks ago when I was in Heidelberg.  The grey skies here though, are unlike grey skies I’ve ever seen before, although nine months here, they really have become my norm.  Usually, it’s grey for maybe a day, or if there are clouds, they’re covering up a blue sky whereas here, the sky is blanketed in grey to the point where you can’t even see clouds, and when there are clouds, they are hard to distinguish because they are grey clouds covering up a grey sky.
So once again, I feel myself helpless to the forces of the weather.  I find myself not wanting to do anything but sleep or just sit on my computer finding warmth underneath my covers.  Going to school for just one lesson today seemed like the hardest thing in the world and I didn’t even feel better after I went to the gym.
I mentioned that on Saturday morning I had to catch a train to Lübeck- Becca and I went up to northern Germany for two nights and stayed with Corbin, another Fulbrighter.  I think that visit was exactly what I needed- it was hard traveling without my phone, but I had Becca and Corbin—we explored the beautiful city of Lübeck, ate marzipan, helped Corbin with cooking amazing meals, and had really great conversation which again got me wicked excited to start grad school in August and to be academically stimulated and challenged after a year a complete dearth of such things. 
Lübeck is a city with a feel similar to Münster and Heidelberg, but it’s the “Hansa Stadt” meaning that up until the 20th century, it was an independent city, retaining much power because of its access to the sea.  During WWII, the city only got bombed once, as a test actually, so nearly the entirety of the city is centuries and centuries old, and as we walked along the narrow streets, I really felt like I was in the Europe that people think of when they think of France and Spain and Italy—a Europe that you don’t get a lot in Germany because so much of the country has been rebuilt. 
The famous Lübeck gate

Most famous marzipan in the world!

Corbin and Becca- exploring Gänge

Viking village...or the Shire??
 On Monday, Becca and I headed to Kiel, but stopped in Plön on the way, a small city next to huge lake.  It was fairly warm that day, but completely foggy and grey, so it was actually difficult to differentiate between the lake and the sky—a cool effect, I guess?  We then arrived in Kiel, and despite being on the coast in Schleswig-Holstein, we ate at a traditional Bavarian restaurant.  Our train wasn’t until 6:30pm the next day (Monday and Tuesday were religious holidays in our state) so we had planned to take a one hour boat ride through the Kiel canal up to the beach of the Ostsee (Baltic Sea), but yet again another fail- we awoke to grey skies and pouring rain which only got worse as the day went on.  Unfortauntely, 95% of Kiel was destroyed in the war, so there is actually nothing to do or see there (even Germans will admit to this fact), but Kiel’s attraction for tourists is its access to the Ostsee, but we couldn’t do that.  So Becca and I had to spend the day finding ways to bide our time and stay out of the rain.  We did get a nice lunch at the Kieler Brauerei, which was quite nice, and I bought a shirt at the mall that says “WAITING FOR THE SUN.”  I had seen it on a mannequin on Sunday in Lübeck and decided I had to have it because it basically defines this year for me.  Maybe if the back said something like, “AND LOOKING FOR MY PHONES.” 

Plön

Kieler Hafen

This is a "lunch" in Germany
Overall though, I liked northern Germany more than I expected, but I think that’s because it wasn’t the winter, when the sun shines there for maybe six hours a day.  I do wish it hadn’t have rained though or we had at least seen a tiny bit of sun so I could’ve put my toes in the sand and in the Ostsee just once.  It looks like there’s no reprieve from this cold streak until the end of next week, but I’m really trying not to let it get me down, it’s hard though.  I ordered a used iPhone 3GS off of Amazon and it was shipped yesterday so I’m hoping it gets here before Sunday, and then I’ve got to hash out even more money to set up a new number for the third time, and then I can once again be connected to everyone.  As I said, unlike the first time this happened and I was just completely depressed and literally counting down the hours until I got on the plane back to Washington, I’m less depressed this time and just more annoyed and exhausted and that key word again, feeling helpless.