Finality

I’ve been putting this off for a while now. Exactly why, I can’t tell you. I left Germany only a few days after I left Berlin, so I guess you could say there are a lot of reasons. The most obvious one being, I didn’t have anything else to write about. I had a lovely last few days with Sabine, saw my friends a lot, and just was finally actually… Ecstatic about being in Germany, but that’s all something you’ve heard about before. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s the fact I wanted to be able to sum up all I thought about the experience. It’s because I was too lazy to write anything. It’s because I wanted to have fun for the few days I had of break before I went back to UMW. There’s a lot of reasons, and I don’t think any single one of them explains my reluctance to write this. But taken together, as well as an overabundance of other reasons I can’t even explain consciously, this made me so unwilling to really sit down, and write something. But, I’ll try.

Germany. The land of beer and pretzels, at least, that’s what everyone called it on my Facebook when they were talking to me during the semester abroad. It’s an interesting country, filled to the brim with idiosyncrasies that both fascinate you, and frustrate you to the utmost extent. To closing all stores on Sunday, to the undeniably well run public transportation systems, to a million other things that I find both absolutely abhorrent, and lovable when compared to how things are run in the US, Germany is unique. I will give it that.

I think that I had a rough start. And I’ve been down this road a million times on this blog, but it’s true. I was in a really bad place when I first came here, and it made it difficult to make friends and really find how to orient myself to Germany. I became disillusioned with my ability to master the German language, I felt alienated from even my American compatriots, and unable to leave my room when I knew I should.

But that’s not all of it, and it’s not even close to the most of it. I eventually got out of my rut, and made the best of my situation. Out of everything, and I hope this doesn’t offend any potential Germans that read this, I loved the food the most. The MEAT, is absolutely mindblowing. See, you can make a burger only a few ways. The Germans have somehow perfected the art of cooking sausages and pork a million different, unique, and delicious ways, that makes every culinary adventure a delight. I saw Berlin, one of the most incredibly experiences of my life, and spent it with a wonderful girl, and feel as though even though I don’t “believe” in travel for self-enlightenment, that I had an experience that affected me on a fundamental level. And I made friends that I probably won’t ever talk to much again, that were different than most of the people I’m used to talking to at UMW.

The point being, summing up my experiences abroad is more than difficult. There are conflicting timelines, and emotions. If the beginning of the semester was like the end, it would have been an experience I would have enjoyed more. That being said, the beginning was so heart wrenching, that it’s hard to reconcile it with how great it was in the end. I’m divided.

And I guess that in the end, I never loved being in Germany just because I was there. That much will always be true. I went because I wanted to learn German, and that’s what a young, sophisticated, culturally relevant human of the 21st century is supposed to do: re-examine their own life’s conditions by comparing and contrasting the unique facts of a different culture. So I did. I think that in the end, I hated what I found for so long, because I went for the wrong reasons.

I still believe travel is a fool’s paradise. I’ve said that a million times, and I’ll definitely say it again. But as Hemingway said in “A Moveable Feast”:

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.

And that’s the heart of it, at least I think. I never felt a real connection to anyone, because that’s the nature of relationships you meet when abroad. They’re single-serving friends, for a few months, before you never see them again. Travel may be beneficial to those eager to see the world, but I never had the inclination. And I never felt close enough to anyone to really branch out and experience Germany until the end, and the experiences I had at the end were honestly quite delightful. I had Kloesse, for Christ’s sake, and ate raw meat, and went on incredibly unsafe carnival rides, and saw Berlin, and looked out upon Erfurt under the lights of the city and stars for hours with Sabine, because it was what I wanted to do. And that is because I was with someone I cared about, and felt comfortable experiencing things with.

But I don’t think those experiences are necessary for growth. Any action, advancements, or even setbacks, all lead to changing who we are, for better or for worse. So when you think about the United States, a country that has an overabundance of different cultures within a singular State, I don’t think “travel” in the laymen’s sense is what’s needed for growth. I agree travel changes you, as it definitely will. It forces you to adapt to a set of circumstances outside of your comfort zone, and makes you the better, or worse for it. But you don’t need to leave your own continent to do so.

I digress. This is becoming more of a polemic about the metaphysical necessity of travel than anything else. I think the point I was trying to make by defining that fact is that I don’t regret going to Germany. But I’m not so sure I would go again if I knew how it was going to be before I left. And that’s the heart of it. There’s a distinct tension between the disappointment of the beginning, and the wonderment of the end, and I don’t know if there’s a real right answer about it.

I can’t tell you what I’ve learned. I’m too close to the situation. It’s weird, you always look back at your life when you’re older, and you can always identify what you learned from certain important experiences, even though you don’t truly realize how they shape you when you’re going through it. I can’t tell you right now how this changed me, but it definitely did, and I’m pretty confident it was for the better, even if it wasn’t a walk in the park. So, the end of my Thueringen Travels is rather ambiguous. And I think that’s acceptable, if anything.

So I’ll end with this: travel, if you want to. But do not get caught up in the romanticized notion of travel as a necessity. At the risk of sounding cliche, trite, and all too Emersonian, all life is a voyage, if you treat it like the adventure it truly is.

Berlin

Well, I found myself in BERLIN this past weekend. That was… different. Now, when you picture Berlin, think of it as you would imagine New York City, only with less filth and squalor, and the ability to move about without hitting someone, as well as more World War II memorials and exhibits than the entire rest of the world combined.

That being said, it was pretty cool.

Sabine and I got in Friday afternoon. We stayed at her sister’s place with her boyfriend, and once we dropped our stuff off, we went about adventuring. The first night, we saw that TV Tower. My GOD, that thing is huge. And I remember we learned in German once that they make a display at the top of the tower during Christmas. My God, I would die from fear just at the idea of being up a thousand feet in the damn air, let alone having the whole, “Let’s construct a modern marvel, that’s a testament to German will,” thing on my mind as well.

We walked about the city, and went to this international beer festival for a while, too. Now, maybe I’ve just never been to a beer festival, but if my experience was anything like the norm, then 80% of the crowd was populated by high functioning alcoholics. Sabine and I were sitting on a curb at one point, and this man came up to us and said “HEY. What are you doing? You’re supposed to be moving!” When we replied just sitting, he said, “OH. Okay. Where you from?” We answered his question, to which he said, “Oh yes, I from Norway, the capital of Sweden.” We honestly couldn’t tell if he was making a joke, insulting us, or just too drunk to actually know that Sweden and Norway are different countries. And with that, he disappeared, into the night. It was different, to say the least.

The next day was actually pretty amazing, though. Sabine’s sister and her boyfriend accompanied us to see the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the capital building, and the still standing parts of the Berlin Wall. The Brandenburg gate was a bit of a mind f***. I mean, how does something like that even come into existence? And then the carvings between the columns and atop the actual gate. That was pretty fun. We ended the night at the German-American festival. It was laced with carnival rides, that I’m almost sure would have failed almost every standard of safety regulations that they’d need to pass if they were in the US. But Jesus, I’ve never been so terrified, excited, and happy at the same time as when you’re spinning in a cart that’s connected and spinning to a different part of the ride, as you’re made perpendicular to the ground.

So, yeah. Berlin was nice. Berlin was fun. Berlin was different. We’re going to Weimar on Wednesday, I believe. Gotta visit Goethe and Schiller’s house, of course.

Procrastination

I’ve been rather unable to write of my exploits of late.  I feel like that’s a good thing, though.  You know?  I used to use this blog as some sort of cathartic vacuum, that I was allowed to yell into and vent all of my frustrations concerning the world, and my own dissatisfaction with how I interact with it.  I don’t anymore, though.

I always reference my happiness.  Or, I guess referencing earlier, my lack thereof.  Why does my happiness matter?  Well, it doesn’t.  But the point being, no one writes a story about being perfectly happy.  Something always comes up.  Shit always hits the fan.  The best laid plans are torn asunder.  And so on, and so forth.

But not anymore.  I am going to write now, because I want to.  I kept on putting this off, because I thought I had to have some sort of witty, idiosyncratic, and clever take on German society.  It was either that, or wallow in self pity.  And because both were out of reach, I put this off.  But I’m done.

I’m going to Berlin this coming weekend.  And I plan on taking it all in.  I don’t even know where I’m supposed to go, but I know I will.  Sabine will no doubt have some sort of suggestions.

I wrote too often, and I wrote too much when I first got here.  For whatever reasons, that’s true.  But as things started to get better, I stopped.  And I DO have an experiential learning requirement to fulfill.  So I’ll try to write a good few more times before I leave.  I know I have a few weeks to make up for.

I can’t help but look outside at the surrounding buildings and think, “Why the fuck was I so pissed at how adorable all of the buildings are?”

Raw Meat

Last night, I ate literal raw meat.  It wasn’t cooked a second, and it was slathered about a piece of bread as though it was jelly or peanut butter.  But, and here’s the kicker: IT WAS DELICIOUS.

So I recently started cooking food on my own about a year and a half ago.  Like, not Mac ‘N Cheese or Ramen, but pork, or spagehtti, or cheeseburgers.  I’m AWFUL at it, but one of the things I can say I can cook well, is a good hamburger.  Well, my mom’s a pharmacist.  As such, ever since I started learning how to cook, she’s always been insane about the potential risk of E. Coli and infection that you can get from undercooked meat.  I prefer my steaks and burgers on the rarer side, so her reticence is understandable.

But last night, I ate raw meat.  RAW MEAT.  What?  I’m confused, how did that even become a thing?  I was talking to Sabine, and evidently it’s a VERY popular German meal, and I definitely get why.  They add onions, and have a specific sort of spice relegated to the art of eating raw meat.  And it’s delicious!  It really is!  Maybe some people add more condiments to this delicious death wish.  I dunno, I’d heard about it before yesterday, but I was more amazed at the fact that the fear of death wasn’t enough to stop them from eating raw meat, than notice what sort of condiments that they add to this delicatessen of death.

The World Cup final is in like, 45 minutes.  It’s raining.  I always like it when it’s raining.  Germans seem almost entirely adverse to air conditioning, so the rain always welcomes clouds and winds, which make it a lot colder.  That’s always welcome, especially since it’s summer.  I probably won’t watch it.  I need a night off.  I’ve been really busy lately, believe it or not.

Remember the whole 7-1 Germany vs. Brazil victory?  Yeah.  So do I.  I was there.  Even *I* was going crazy, and I’m not even from this country.  Additionally, it was my mentor’s birthday on Monday, so I had to make a guest appearance for a while.  On Thursday, one of our Korean friends was leaving for Korea early.  Don’t know how that’s going to work out in terms of the whole “finishing the semester” thing, but it was fun.

But I ate raw meat.  And…  I’ve watched more of the World Cup than I ever have of any sports contests, be it the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the NCAA championship bracket.  And I walk everywhere.  And I live in an apartment without air conditioning.  And I’m dating a German.  And I use pizza.de when I’m too lazy to go out and get food.  And I recycle in an UNNECESSARILY complicated fashion, in which there are four bins designated to the different kinds of recycling.  And I buy 1 Euro Bratwurst at Domplatz Nord when money’s tight, and I’ve been eating far too much Schnitzel from Edeka.

I guess there’s no real point that’s meant to be understood as a conclusion here.  Just that I’ve overcome this initial reluctance to actually try to experience what this country, if not just THIS CITY, has to offer.  And that’s cool.

I may be a bit late, but hey.  Better late than never, right?

 

Soccer… And Stuff

It gets to dark here, so late.  It’s 10:26 now, and I still feel as though there are the last fading remnants of the light’s last rays showering the landscape.  It’s really quite beautiful.  Things are going well.  And HEY, the US beat GHANA.  And WHOA, Germany TIED GHANA.  I’m no Soccer expert, yes, I said Soccer, but it’s rather suspicious that GHANA tied Germany, yet LOST to the US.  Let’s just hope we beat Portugal…

That’s actually something I want to talk about.  Europe’s infatuation with Soccer.  Now, before I begin, let me get one thing straight: I don’t enjoy watching ANY sports at all.  Period.  SAVE one instance: US college Basketball, and that’s ONLY when Kansas University is playing in the PLAYOFFS, and that’s because both of my parents went to college there.

But with Soccer…  I mean, shit…  It’s just like…  Oh God, that guy just kicked the ball to another guy.  And…  Then that guy get’s it, which is so interesting.  And then he dribbled with it for a tad, and then maybe he’ll kick the ball.  Oh wait, he did.  I guess that’s worthy of a round of applause?  I just don’t get it.  Soccer, of all sports, makes BARELY more sense to me than baseball.  At least I like Soccer more than fucking baseball…

Jesus, everyone here is freaking out about the world cup.  I watched the Germany vs. Ghana game yesterday at a bar, and whenever Germany scored/got scored on, everybody FREAKED THE FUCK OUT.  It’s just like…  Shit, it’s just a game.  I’m not pretending us Americans are better than that nonsense.  I mean, people RIOT when the Lakers win the fucking NBA championship.  But still, it’s ridiculous.

To set that aside, I’m drinking tea, now.  I started drinking tea, because I’ve had the Black Death for the past week and a half.  You know, that disease that decimated about 1/2 of the entire middle ages population?  Yeah, that’s the one I have.  I’ve been throwing up a lot, my head is killing me, and my throat feels as though someone is CONSTANTLY choking me.  It’s awful.  So tea seemed like the obvious solution.  And it has been nice!  Thanks for the insight into the name, “Salbei” by the way, Professor Rotter.  I feel like I should have looked that name up and figured it out myself…

I’m actually almost done with my time here.  School’s over in 5 weeks, I’m leaving in 6.  I’m not going to lie, I’m not going to be sad when I leave.  But I won’t be happy, either.  I feel like all of my posts thus far have been misleading, in that I won’t be happy, either.  I never hated Germany.  It wasn’t their fault.  It was my own nature’s fault.  And it was Sami’s fault.  But I don’t regret coming.  I really don’t.  I’ve become a lot closer with my friends here, moreso than I thought I ever would.  And Sabine has shown me a lot more of the city that makes me appreciate being here a lot more than I thought I could.  I still think that “Travel is a fool’s paradise,” and I’ll think that until I die.  But I also think that travel is fun and meaningful when you have people to do it with, and that’s what I’ve finally found.  And I’ve finally reached a comfort level worthy of that.  And so…  I’m happy.  It’s been 4 fucking months, but I’m there.  And that’s an accomplishment.

Professor Rotter, how does it feel to read a post by me that is actually happy?

Girls

I met a girl last night.  Yeah, I did.  Her name is Sabine.  Isn’t that  a fucking German ass name?  If not German, at least European.  She’s very pretty.  She’s not beautiful, but she has a beautiful personality, and that counts.  I’m really happy I met her.

Let’s ignore for a second, that love is a lie, and that love at first sight doesn’t exist.  Because as a philosophy major, I’m predisposed to inform you all that if love truly existed, the divorce rate wouldn’t be 50%.  Like, if you REALLY think about it, that means that if you get married, either you or your wife is getting divorced…  That’s not exactly comforting, is it?  And the same thing goes for girls that want boys, and homosexuals.  I’ll NEVER understand homophobia.  It’s like…  How is that a thing to hate about someone?  Like, let’s break it down, if a DUDE is gay, that literally just means that you’re more able and likely to find girls to seduce and make love to.  AND that, in turn, means less guys will be trying to seduce women that you want to seduce.  That’s just helping you out, dude.  You ought to high five every gay dude you meet.  And I’m sorry for reducing homosexuality to such crude terms, but I just don’t get it.  I’m a Libertarian.  SO many things people think, I find idiotic, but I’ll die for their right to think it,.  But you’d be hard pressed to tell me there’s ANYTHING I understand less than homophobia.  But that aside, Sabine is not about love.  It’s about…  It’s about someone making you feel worthy.  It’s about…  Believing you’re worth it, because someone else seems to as well.

I was the happiest I’ve been in my life for a long while now.  You want to know why?  You know those moments, when you first meet a person you’re sexually attracted to, and you lock eyes by accident, only you don’t look away, and they don’t look away, and you just become overwhelmed with the entirety of their being?  You just keep staring even though you know you should have looked away seconds ago, but you can’t get over how pretty she looks?  She keeps staring at you, and you don’t know why someone so gorgeous would ever find you attractive?  And you don’t know what to do with yourself because you can’t believe that someone that sexy would actually find you interesting?  Because that’s what I experienced last night.  And in all likelihood, Sabine and I won’t work out.  But that’s fine.  Because she’s given me my own purpose.  And as Camus is too fond of saying, we all have to make our own purpose.

I know I’ve been sad a lot lately.  But all that it takes to be happy is one thing.  One moment that changes your entire outlook on life.  And even if it’s not a singularity of moments, I’m thinking, I’m planning, I’m HOPING that Sabine is what change will be.

I’m under no illusions that we’re getting married.  I mean, shit, I’m leaving in a bit more than 2 months.  But she’s cool.  She’s fun.  She’s attractive.  She seems to be into me.  I mean shit, she gave me her phone number.  We have a date for Wednesday.  At least I won’t be so alone.  Because the first time I’ve felt connected to another being on this planet since I’ve been in Germany was with her.  And it felt amazing, and I don’t plan on letting that go without a fight.  And isn’t that what we’re all looking for?  Someone that validates you, and makes you wade through the sea of shit that we call life?

She’s German, by the way.  She’s 25, too!  She’s 4 years older than me.  I feel that’s so strange.  She’s robbing the fucking cradle by dating me.  She’s studying linguistics.  I HATE linguistics, I remember the worst class I’ve taken in college was “Introduction to Phonology” with Professor Fallon, but she makes it seem interesting.  She’s studying Japanese.  That’s cool, isn’t it?  It’s like how I’m studying German.  Only, I’m far more confident she’ll become fluent in Japanese than I am that I will become fluent in German.  I gotta be honest, I have a thing for German girls.  I don’t know why everyone hates on the German language.  I mean, *I* do, because I’m studying it, and the language makes no God damn sense, but still.  I mean…  Separable verbs?  Whose awful idea was that?  I feel the language itself is a lot more beautiful than people give it credit for.  It really is.

But that’s the thing I’ve learned.  Life is hard.  It really is.  It’s painful, and awful, and amazing, and delightful, and abysmal, and detrimental, but at the end of the day, the only time you enjoy yourself and find happiness is when you stop trying to.  Everyone I’ve talked to since Bob died said that I need to “occupy my time” and do “x, y, and z” so I can convince myself I’m not sad.  But that’s not what you need to do.  What you need to do, is let go.  And THAT, that my friends, is the hard part.  Really letting go.  Because the second you let go, and just let life happen, is the second you end up at a bar with 8 girls and no guys, all vying for your attention.  THAT, is when you hang out with your best friends from 3:30 PM until 3:30 AM the next day, and then walk home with the cool, interesting girl you just met.  That, is when you let go of all of your hate, anger, and sadness.  You try to be happy again, not because it’s a choice, but because time heals all wounds.

I remember when I was in high school, I did MUN, which stands for Model United Nations.  And my school was actually really amazing at it.  We’re like, 4th in the nation overall, private AND public schools.  And my freshman year, my first conference, I was with a girl named Devika, who bless her soul, just wanted to win.  She was a Senior.  And she was doing all that you should, talking during moderated caucuses, and creating coalitions during unmoderated ones.  Using our speaker’s list time amazingly.  And then one moment, she went outside to work on our coalitions resolution with Finland.  I REMEMBER it was Finland, because I was terrified.  I was terrified of having to work on my own, and talk, and be whoever I was supposed to be.  And so she left.  And then some country went and yielded their time to us.  And as they were yielding, I got up, and left.  I left the conference room, and pretended to go to the bathroom, so I wouldn’t have to talk.  Everyone KNEW when I came back that I had purposely evaded the damn thing, but that seemed preferable to actually talking.  And I was so ashamed.  I mean, who is so afraid of just speaking English, that they stand up and go to the bathroom?  And do you know what Devika said?  She came back, and wrote me a note, since that was the primary mode of communication in MUN, that said, “In time, this too shall pass.”  In time…  This too shall pass.  And that’s so true.  Being unhappy isn’t a static thing.  It’s a passing feeling.  And that’s why, hate to make it so DARK all of a sudden, I know I’ll never kill myself.  Because life is so wonderful, and full of amazing things.  Like food, and friends, and Sabine.  Sabine may be a metaphor but still.

“In time, this too, shall pass.”

And it will be gradual.  But, at least you’re making progress.  And for every inch you take, it’ll hurt a million times more if you don’t.  But it was for the best.  And I’m glad that for the first time in a LONG while, I was able to write a happy post, Professor Rotter.  You have no idea what your support means.

And it’s all because of one, beautiful, amazing, wonderful girl.  Love’s great, isn’t it?

In Bruges

medieval

I’m so tired of the damn architecture here.  Everything looks like it’s a half-assed preservation of what it looked like in the God damn middle ages.  Why?  To preserve “culture” or whatever?  What does that even mean?

I just watched a movie called, “In Bruges” since it’s a Sunday night and I have class at 8 AM tomorrow, so I really can’t do anything tonight, and I was so pissed off at just what Bruges looks like.  No doubt, if sight seeing is your cup of tea, you’ll love it, but it isn’t for me.  No doubt, there is a thing such as landmarks that need to be protected and preserved for for future generations.  But I’m tired of walking about this damn city and it looking like a bunch of woodland elves are about to come out of their weird ass forest hubble and make me some shoes.  It’s depressing.

It’s these buildings that all look the same, but they change the color scheme to make it stand out from the rest of the city.  But I can tell you, on my 4 1/2 hour train ride from Frankfurt to Erfurt, all I saw was the same building, built with about 28359235 different colors.  It’s ridiculous.

I don’t know why it annoys me.  Granted, there are places in the US that like to preserve that silly “colonial” style that everyone seems to have such a hard on for, like Williamsburg, but that’s a major minority of the States.  You have suburbs.  You have cities.  You have…  Idiosyncrasies wherever you go.  I just feel like here, Europe is so caught up on being the cultural epicenter of the world for so long, that they have to memorialize everything in order to make themselves appear more grand than they are.

“It’s a fucking fairy tale city.”  That’s what they say all of the time in “In Bruges.”  Yet the main character hates it.  And I would hate it, too.  I’m starting to realize that maybe study abroad wasn’t for me.  And yeah, I’ve had a lot of shit going on in my life.  I’ve had financial instability back home that doesn’t allow me to truly experience Europe, I’ve had a girlfriend I wanted to marry dump me, I’ve had a good friend die.  But I feel like they’re more symptoms of the problem than the cause of it.  The cause is here.

It’s all about who you’re with abroad.  If you make friends, and you have a good time with them, you’ll be happy.  But I have friends, and I like them, and I’m still not happy.  That’s not to say I’m miserable.  I’m telling you right now, I was miserable about 2 weeks ago.  But I’m not anymore.  I’m just…  So content.  And I’m tired of being content.  I want to be happy.  I want that amazing adventure that all of my friends tell me about when they come back from Scotland, or Spain, or France.  I haven’t gotten that.  And I don’t know if that’s MY fault, or the fact that I really am not the kind of guy that was made to love being abroad.

I’ve been trying to study abroad for 3 years, since the end of my senior year of high school.  And I’m past the point of “culture shock” where I am depressed because I’m not home where I’m comfortable.  I think it’s time that maybe I realize that I just made a mistake.

Intolerance

So yeah, my titles for these posts aren’t exactly clever.  They’re more an oversimplification about what I’m writing about.  But what I’m writing about isn’t intolerance in itself, it’s more how I’ve come to see German homophobia and jingoist tendencies.  And I’m really surprised.

Growing up in the US, Europe is described to you as this new-age, bastion of tolerance and socialized glory.  They accept everyone, regardless of sex, creed, or sexual orientation.  I get the feeling that we’re meant to feel inferior because so many Americans are such prejudiced pricks, but everyone in Europe is some sort of new-age Messiah, espousing beliefs that somehow transcend the American conception of what it’s okay to be, or not to be.

I’m going to start with how Germans REALLY DO NOT like Turkish people.  I’m not going to name any names, even though the possibility of anyone actually meeting anyone I’m talking about is close to none, but still.  One of my German friends here accompanied me once to a Donner shop, and we were served by this rather cold, seemingly Turkish, man.  I say seemingly, because evidently there is an overabundance of Turkish immigrants in Germany (HEY, WHICH I KNEW BEFORE I CAME HERE BECAUSE OF GERMAN 201.  I’M SO WELL VERSED IN THE WAYS OF THE WORLD THANKS TO HERR ROTTER), and because he was dark skinned, and worked at a Donner shop, shops which are predominantly owned and operated by Turkish immigrants and/or people of Turkish blood in Germany.

So we sit down and all of a sudden my friend says, “Damn Turkish people…”  To which I was astounded.  I mean, I didn’t like the waiter since he was kind of a dick, but the thought to dislike him because of the fact he’s Turkish is just…  Well, it’s ridiculous.  And so since it was one of the first times I hung out with him/her, I politely laughed, and said, “Haha, what?  What’s the problem with Turkish people?”  To which my friend explained to me that evidently Turkish people are lazy, and “stealing German jobs” and are so proud of their own culture, that they even refuse to learn German, or even try to acclimate to German culture.  I was so surprised, not just because this was a German, a citizen of the EUROPEAN UNION, talking to me about racism against Turkish people, but more so because it was literally as though I was talking to a racist back home about Mexican immigrants in the States.  Jingoism…  It takes me back to my AP US days learn about the “Know Nothing” party of the US.

But my friend hasn’t been the only German I’ve met here that seems to feel that way.  So yeah, evidently racism against Turkish people is a fairly accepted belief in Germany, something that I just did NOT expect at all.

But that’s not it.  Homophobia is running amok here.  I was at an Irish Pub last night called Dubliner with some friends of mine, and there was some sort of singing contest, I think, The Eurovision Song Contest, or whatever, and everyone FLIPPED A SHIT because a tranvestite/transexual (I can’t really remember exactly what this person was, just that they identified with some sort of sexuality that was outside of Gender Norms) won the contest.

Everyone was so taken aback…  They didn’t know what to do.  That, plus the fact the guy was Austrian, didn’t really please my German friends all too terribly much.  Yeah, I feel like the way Germans feel about Austria is the way Americans feel about Canada.  It’s just like…  To quote my favorite “How I Met Your Mother” character, Barney Stinson, “Why do we even let them be a country?”

But I digress.  We weren’t WATCHING the contest, and undoubtedly, the guy must have had a wonderful voice.  But the fact remains, everyone just arbitrarily was OUTRAGED all because someone that didn’t necessarily identify as the gender he/she was born to, won some stupid song singing contest.  I mean, Jesus, the fact it’s a horrible thing to hate someone just because of their sexual identity aside, it was A GLORIFIED KARAOKE NIGHT, for Christ’s sake.  All they were focusing on was one completely irrelevant about this person’s appearance, that is entirely aside from what the contest was about: singing.  The guy sang like a God damn angel, and he/she deserved the recognition for it.

I dunno, I’m just really surprised.  I grew up in New Jersey, but my family is from Kansas.  And whenever I tell people that, I feel like they always feel like I should be some hick, country bumpkin, Tea Party nutjob.  But I’m not.  I grew up in a really progressive area of New Jersey, where I can honestly say racism, sexism, and homophobia was only existent in small pockets.  So being here in Germany, in EUROPE, the place I’ve always been told oozes culture and tolerance, and finding so much intolerance, really blows my mind.

A gay friend of mine back home in One Note is dating a French guy, and when his boyfriend told me that him and my friend would get their ass kicked for holding hands in the heart of Paris, the city of love, I didn’t believe him.  But now, maybe I do.

My Apartment

I didn’t realize how beautiful the view outside of my window was until my ex pointed it out.  I’m looking at it right now, as I’m typing this, and it really is breathtaking.  I’ll put it this way: the Germans take the fucking environment pretty damn seriously.  Here on campus, I’m surrounded by beautiful trees, with a multiplicity of colors, absolutely engorging the entirety of the campus.  And it’s easy to just ignore it as you’re going to class, or running around campus, or getting to the tram to go to some bar, but it really is beautiful.

I live in Plauener Weg 8, apartment 555d.  If someone wants to kill/rape me THAT BADLY that they’re willing to scour the internet for some college students Experiential Learning blog, then I’ll take that chance.  I gotta be honest, the place is a shit hole.  There are 4 people that technically live in this apartment, and there is no common area.  You get a big room, and nothing else.  And that is the sole saving grace: the apartment is pretty impressively big.  But it’s like a Soviet era relic.  I mean, the connecting hallway is about 2 feet wide, the kitchen is absolutely, hilariously pathetic, and if you may use your imagination, since my descriptive skills are not their best now, essentially a 3 x 3 square foot cage in which no matter what you end up doing, you end up colliding with the shower’s boundaries.  But more than that, the blinds for the room literally are useless.  Now, I’m a bit of a night owl.  I stay up late, and I sleep late.  But fuck, with these damn blinds, the first ray of sunshine of the entire damn day manages to wake me up, even if I just had gotten to sleep only a few minutes before.  That, plus I have to walk down and up 5 flights of stairs every time I have to take out my roommates trash, which is a thing here by the way, is a major inconvenience.

The point not being, I’m too cool to take out the trash, the point being, I take care of my stuff.  When I use the shower, I clean up after myself.  When I use the toilet, it’ll be spotless when I leave.  When I cook, I clean up after myself, and use my OWN cleaning ingredients and make sure that my roommates don’t have to clean up after me.  But evidently, self-responsibility isn’t a thing here.  No, 1 out of every 4 weeks, I have to literally act as maid to my damn roommates, because they’re too lazy to clean up after themselves.  And I’m not pretending as though I’m some sort of neurotic cleaner, because I’m not.  You should see my room.  It’s completely covered in dirty clothes, empty bottles, trash bags, class papers, and anything else you could imagine.  But that’s MY business.  Not theirs.  I’ll take care of the common area, not my room, because *I* don’t technically live in the common area, but no one sees my damn room.  So how is it fair that I have to metaphorically play the role of Batman’s butler Alfred once a month, just because my roommates are too lazy to take care of themselves?  It’s ridiculous…  Oh, and one closing comment: WHO HAS A 6 STORY BUILDING, YET DOESN’T HAVE A GOD DAMN ELEVATOR?  I’m tired of being winded every time I want to get back to my damn apartment…  The DDR was no doubt not exactly a fun place to live…

But I’m off topic.  My apartment has a wonderful overview of the surrounding area, and it’s rather calming.  As I’ve said, the Germans are rather fond of trees and being eco-friendly, so whenever I look outside my window I’m absolutely enamored by the overabundance of colors I see in the leaves of the surrounding environment.  That, plus the fact my apartment overlooks a quaint, old mansion, makes it delightful.  I get to watch as lots of people pass by my apartment, 5 stories below.  I wonder constantly what they could be doing with themselves, what they’re thinking about, where they plan on going.  It’s interesting because I feel like it’s a very secure form of people watching.  I just get to make hyptotheses about who they are, and what they’re doing, and gives me some primitive form of entertainment.

But I think the biggest part of my apartment that I find so amazing, is that it’s making me appreciate nature.  And Jesus, I’m aware, that sounds so cliche, but I recently took a class on American Romanticism, and Emerson literally changed my damn life.  I’m not ever going to be the guy that seems to think that I want to give up all of my earthly possessions and go out and live on my own in nature.  But then again, neither would Emerson.  My point being, is that Emerson once said that no matter who you are, we all seem to find some sort of tranquility and peace by being outside.  And I think that’s true.  He talks about how whenever you leave a building, or go on a walk, or just spend time outside, your mind is oddly cleared.  And that’s what my room REALLY means to me.  To Emerson, nature was a thinly veiled facade that represented the ultimate reality of… reality, which was God’s true nature.  We see it, through nature, and by adhering to  the ideology of Subjective Idealism, and we then see through the illusion of our reality and become one with God.  Now, I’m not that radical to suppose that’s all true, but he got one damn thing right: whenever I open my window and take a look out on the surrounding area, even if I don’t feel completely calm, I feel a whole lot better.

Emerson also said, “Travel is a fool’s paradise.”  Self-Reliance.  Check it out.  It’ll change your life.

Cigarettes

So, evidently smoking is a thing here.  Like, I’ve been to New York City, the veritable asshole of America, and the amount of people that smoke there pales in comparison to the amount of people that smoke here.

The way I see it, is you know kids in the States steal booze and drink exceedingly because that’s the thing to do?  THAT is how it is here.  People just do it.  They get cigarettes anyway they can, and smoke them.  It’s so interesting.

I was talking to my mentor, Marius, about how evidently Germany is divided into two camps: kids born about 20 years ago, and kids born later.  The kids born before 20 years ago smoke like chimneys, and the kids born after that were indoctrinated by schools and such to think that smoking is some sort of, “sin,” and that they ought to be ashamed of it.

Marius was a smoker for 13 years.  That’s really interesting to me, since he’s only 24, and he quit about a few months ago.  I respect people that have the tenacity to quit smoking.  I obviously agree that smoking is absolutely abysmal for your health, and that if you do it long enough, you’ll die, but the fact is, it’s addictive.  Marius beat the damn system, if you can call it that.  He overcame his own addiction to smoking, and doesn’t do it anymore.  That’s top notch, if you ask me.

I’m not going to stand here and pretend I’m above all of this.  I’m 21 years old.  Even in New Jersey, where the smoking age is 19 (which, by the way, is stupid as Hell.  OH YOU’RE REALLY MAKING A DIFFERENCE, MAKING THE SMOKING AGE A YEAR OLDER THAN THE REST OF THE GOD DAMN US.  It’s stupid that when I turn 18 I can’t drink, but evidently I’m old enough to be shipped off a die for some drafted war I don’t even believe in), I have smoked a few cigarettes in my day.  My brother’s a chain smoker.  I love him to death, but it’s one of the things that I think he should stop doing.  But I’m not going to pretend that his decisions didn’t influence mine.

I smoke here.  Like, a lot.  I don’t know if it’s the stress of being here, or the absence of doing much, but I smoke more than a God damn coal mine.  I never used to do that.  It used to be that I would smoke when I’m drunk.  A good, social, slightly intoxicated cigarette is one of the best pleasures that life has to offer, in my humble opinion.

But here, it’s so easy.  I’m not saying it’s more available, because it’s not.  But it’s easier.  You don’t feel as ostracized, or as much of an outcast, because everyone is doing it, and I mean EVERYONE.  I can’t even walk down the street without seeing a couple smoking each other’s cigarettes.

I guess what I’m saying is that cigarettes, for all of their awful, harmful, nonsense, serve a function.  They somehow trick your body into not being so stressed all of the time.  They trick your body into releasing hormones that tell you, “HEY, NOTHING’S GOING ON, EVERYONE’S OKAY, CHILL THE FUCK OUT, NO BIG DEAL,”  and your body believes it.  Your mind believes it.  Your heart believes it.  I think that’s why I started smoking here.

Now, I’ll tell you right now, I’m not making this into a habit.  I’ve been tempted by my brother for the past 6 years to smoke, and even when I smoked a few a day with him, I always quit.  I will quit.  If there’s one thing I’m proud of about myself, it’s my will power.  If there’s something I want to do, I WILL do it.  So smoking will not be a problem for me.  I will get over this.  But fuck, it sure as Hell is a nice reprieve.  As anyone that’s read my past few posts will know, things haven’t been exactly easy here.  So a nice Marlboro every now and again kind of soothes my frustration.

Evidently alcoholism runs in my family.  I plan on beating both addictions.  You mark my words.