Things I Am Loving Right Now

I’m back in flyover country for a couple weeks, missing Germany and planning my next steps. Thinking too much about that gives me a gut-wrenching stomachache and usually brings me to tears, so let’s focus on the latest good things I’ve been obsessing over.

1)  The Royal Bay-bay Hoopla. Yes, I know, we (or, you know, the actual soldiers) fought the Revolution so we wouldn’t have to care about this. I also know that I put up with a lot of news about sports about which I could not care less, so if I can scroll past a bunch of stories about March Madness and not roll my eyes when the almost-Cinderella story that was Florida Gulf Coast University was discussed, you can nod and smile when HRH the Nameless Prince of Cambridge is mentioned.

2) Sewing with my mama. Chasing that domesticity badge, one skirt at a time.

3) This essay that my friend wrote. Especially the line:  “And the thing about moving to new places, a lot, alone is that you don’t want to do this forever, and you know that, but you trust that one day you won’t. That you’ll find a job or fall in love or something that will make you stop chasing opportunities wherever they may take you.” I’ve read this no fewer than four times, and it rings so, so true.

4) Free bathrooms, unlimited refills, and air conditioning. America, the beautiful.

5) Orange is the New Black. This show has been my new social life. Season 2 can’t land fast enough, and I fully plan on using up an entire weekend when it does.

That’s all, folks.

 

The Collected Essays of 2012-13

It’s Always Fair Weather When You’re an FC Bayern Fan

You Make Me Feel, Like I’m the Only Girl in the ‘Burbs: Hating the Munich Housing Market

KultFabrik and Other Bad Decisions I Don’t Regret

On (Nearly) Committing Election Fraud in Northern Germany

I’m Not Hitting On You, I Just Like Talking to People: An Open Letter to Irish Boys on Buses

Schellingstraße: A Love Story

Train Travel is Cheap and Other Lies People Tell You About Living in Europe

Give Me Antibiotics or Give Me Death: Adventures in Homeopathic Medicine

How To Fail At Everything Despite Really Trying: Thoughts on Research and Academia

Okay, Fine, I’ll Learn HTML: On Making Myself Employable

Your Face Won’t Get Worse If You Don’t Pick at It and Other Unsolicited Advice I’ve Received on the SBahn

I Like Life After College

In many ways, graduation was a disaster. Walking across the stage through a tornado warning on May 22, 2011 to retrieve my empty diploma holder was ridiculously anti-climactic, the speaker was horrendous, and every picture from that day features the bags under my eyes left over from senior finals week.

But when I think about graduation, I don’t think about those things. Instead, I remember walking away from my seat and across the track through a tunnel of faculty members, and I remember thinking that this wasn’t so much a finale as it was the most genuine send-off Luther could have given us. I think about saying thank you to my professors, taking pictures with my friends and the bell, and I think about sitting in my car crying at the stop sign in front of Koren after I checked out of my room. Driving away from campus felt so surreal–what now?

I loved Luther, and leaving was terrifying. But now, two years later, I wouldn’t go back for anything. Instead, I am thankful every day for four years in the Oneota Valley that made me question much of what I knew, introduced me to failure, made me work harder than ever before, and where I started to learn about who I wanted to be.

My iFauxne Tells the Whole Story

Since my iPhone doesn’t get service in Germany (big fan of that unlocking fee, AT&T, love you long time!), I started to refer to it as my iFauxne, which–conveniently!–sounds exactly the same when you say it out loud.

If you look at the pictures on my camera from the time I’ve lived in Germany, you would gather that I really like big buildings, my friends, and food. All of this is true. But if you look at the photos on my iFauxne, a different picture emerges, one I find highly entertaining.

Because I spend a stupid amount of time on the train, I have a lot of time to read my old text messages and look at the pictures on my iFauxne. Since old texts tend to send me spiraling down a “why did I ever leave my friends and why am I such an idiot about boys” rabbit hole, I usually choose to spend the time between the Hauptbahnhof and Lochhausen looking at my pictures.

If I was to ever lose my phone, and some savvy stranger broke through the passcode, this is what I imagine they would gather about my life.

1) “Wow, this girl has a really promising future as a banana artist!”

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You are right, stranger. I call this one “Workaholic Penguin”.

2) “This girl really likes Salzburg, Austria.”

No, stranger. I just forgot my real camera that day. And, yes, the hills WERE alive.

No, stranger. I just forgot my real camera that day. And, yes, the hills WERE alive.

3) “Can’t she ever remember anything? Half of these pictures are screenshots of emails with directions in them.”

Touche, stranger.

Touche, stranger.

4) “I hope she bought that really hard-hitting issue of Der Speigel.”

Unfortunately, this timeless image will have to be enough.

Unfortunately, this timeless image will have to be enough.

5) “She has really great taste in art.”

Check. It.

Check. It.

6) “Wow, I hope she wasn’t IN that porta-potty.”

Spoiler alert! I was not.

Spoiler alert! I was not.

7) “What an immature sense of humor, strange girl.”

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Tee-hee-hee

8) “That must be her. Future domestic goddess, right there.”

Why, yes, that is me. And I would like a career someday, thank you for asking.

Why, yes, that is me. And I would like a career someday, thank you for asking.

9) “Her dog is adorable. I want him to be my dog.”

Well that's just TOO BAD.

Well that’s just TOO BAD.

10) And lastly, “This girl spends a lot of time on the S-Bahn.”

And you are, again, right. Sigh.

And you are, again, right. Sigh.

Far Away

Today started off pretty normally–my alarm went off, I hit snooze for an hour a couple of times, jumped in the shower, choked down some coffee, and hopped on my bike and headed off to work. I’m excited for this week, and I prepared lists in my head as I pedaled towards the city center of work to do, train tickets to book, documents to print, and groceries to buy.

Southern Germany is (finally) looking pretty green these days, and the sun came out as I passed Nymphenburg, and I thought back to how green Ireland was a few weeks ago, and how happy I am that spring seems here to stay.

You can’t tell from this picture, but I was surrounded by a (rather aggressive) bike tour when JJ snapped this.

As I was nearing Königsplatz, I started to pass media trucks and camera crews assembling equipment, and the bike lane was blocked off by brown-shirted police officers. German police are a rather intimidating bunch, and I tend to overestimate how many German traffic laws I actually obey on a daily basis (whoops), so I followed the lead of a couple other bikers and went into the street, where the crowds and police presence started to thicken, and then I saw all of the signs, and heard voices over megaphones exclaiming auf Deutsch in all possible ways: “We are here today against racism! We are here today in memory of those murdered!” And then I remembered that this trial is starting today.

This is a big deal in Germany, and rightly so–an underground neo-Nazi terror group allegedly went undetected for nearly a decade while German law enforcement attributed murders of and other crimes to the Turkish mafia. The trial is focusing on the only surviving member of the right-wing group–a 38 year old woman who is described across the media in terms such as having an air of “girlish innocence” and who appears as if she “couldn’t hurt a fly.” What is more, everything I’ve read about the trial suggests that she won’t testify at what is expected to be a two-year (at least) long process.

Obviously, this case is about much more than this one woman’s actions. I take much issue with how she is being portrayed in the press, focusing on her appearance, the fact that she took her two accomplices as “lovers” (ew, that word) and the apparent disbelief of many that a woman (a woman!) could be capable of the type of evil with which she is charged. Furthermore, this is a high-profile case involving right-wing extremism, which will always be a tough topic for Germany, and will never not inspire questions about how far Germany really has come in terms of race relations, etc. in the years since the war.

After I pedaled past the crowds and realized that the trial is taking place a few short blocks from where I work, a memory of talking about these so-called Döner murders (for the Turkish kebab, a number of the victims were small business owners who sold these) in high school German class surfaced, and the ensuing discussion about right-wing thought in Germany today. Frankly, it’s terrifying, and this morning was easily the most removed from Germany I’ve ever felt. It’s easy to do this in a foreign country–I’m an American, so Germany’s problems aren’t mine, right?

This is strange, because when the US has been shaken by terror and natural disasters this year, I’ve felt disconnected from America as well. My Twitter feed filled with news of the shooting at Newtown late on a Friday, and I didn’t know the magnitude of the situation until I woke up the next morning. When the bombs went off on Boylston street, I fired off an email to my sister to make sure she was okay, and then I reacted as a runner–I felt like someone had attacked my friends. Neither of these events made me be like, “Ugh, America, gross. Look at what’s going on there. Glad I left.” and neither did they inspire me to don a flag shirt and seek out fellow expats (even though, I mean, most of my friends are expats) to discuss what had happened. I mean, these are America’s problems, and I’m far away, right?

In Hamburg, where three friends and I relayed the Hamburg Marathon a week after Boston.

This is terrible, escapist response to these events. Until now, I’ve chalked my disconnect up to distance–if you recall, I nearly forgot about 9/11, too, which I’m not proud of. Yet, I’m down the street from this trial, I have read about and seen firsthand prejudice–and worse–directed towards immigrants in Germany, and I’ve (subconsciously, apparently) been aware of this trial for quite some time. It’s painful to admit that there is a shadier side to the places  I live and the people with who I interact every day, but it’s not enough to remove myself from the news, to read as much as I can but refuse to acknowledge my part in these societies. It remains to be seen how the trial will unfold, but it will forever remind me that work done to promote tolerance at the very least, and acceptance and understanding as the ultimate goal, will always be worthwhile.

 

Alles, Alles Gute

Happy, happy birthday to the one and only Tammy Barclay, who shares her birthday with the day President Lincoln was shot and also the day the Titanic started its descent to the bottom of the ocean.

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I know she wishes I lived a little closer to home, but what I hope she realizes is that the fact that I’ve gone so far is, actually, the greatest testament to her.

To Berlin and Beyond

One of the overarching themes of my time in Germany has been that while I love this country, it’s not mine, and it wouldn’t even really be so if I somehow perfected my German, made #projectgermanhusband a reality and ditched my American passport. I’m an American, for better or for worse, and last week in Berlin, I got to celebrate the best of both worlds with some of the best people.

Berlin is a fascinating city for a multitude of reasons, and every time I visit I am told that “it’s so rare to see Berlin covered in snow, you’re so lucky!”

This is my response:

2009. Note the snow.

2010. I swear it snowed the next day.

2013. Seriously?

2013. Seriously?

The official reason for going to Berlin was to participate in Fulbright’s yearly seminar, which meant that we were put up in a hotel smack dab in the middle of Berlin and told to eat, drink, be merry (never forgetting to network!), and to explore the city. This was all fine and dandy and I love pomp and circumstance as much as the next person, but the events of the week were so firmly secondary to the people who were there with me, which I think is actually the point of this whole thing.

One one of the afternoons, I bundled up (joining the chorus of calling bullshit on spring) and took off running across Alexanderplatz to the Museum Island, down Unter den Linden and up to the Brandenburg Gate. This route doesn’t cover much mileage (kilometer-age?), but this little section of the city is where most of my memories of Berlin take place, and they are what I focused on while I was dodging construction and gawking at buildings I haven’t seen for a couple of years.

Said hallo to my best friend  the fifteenth-century Totentanz no less than three times last week, and I'm not the least bit ashamed.

Said hallo to my best friend the fifteenth-century Totentanz no less than three times last week, and I’m not the least bit ashamed.

I thought about the tours of Berlin I did with my college study abroad groups, and thought about what each of my friends from those times are doing, wondered if they are happy, and realized once again how I was shaped by those experiences with those people. While my American friends were central to my earlier studies in Germany, I never expected that the Americans I met this year would become so important to me, and I am better for it.

Last week, I found myself at a döner shop in the wee hours of the morning after a night in da club, as Emily would say, which was the last official event of the conference, and where the beginnings of “see-you-soons” were exchanged among my American friends who are scattered around Germany this year. We all met through our language program in Marburg, and have reunited throughout the year for beer festivals and fancy dances and random layovers in each others cities, and always parted with the assurance that “I’ll see you in Berlin!”

Now that Berlin is over (the conference, not the city), I’m not sure when I’ll see most of those crazy kids again, but I know that they inspire me every single day to be a better version of myself, because they are a special brand of wonderfully intelligent, unpretentious, and hilarious, which is actually a pretty hard combination to find. As I’ve come back to whatever semblance of a life I have here in Munich this week, I’ve again started to look ahead to what next year will hold. I don’t know what that is, but I know it won’t involve any institutions of higher learning and it likely won’t involve any career path involving the work I’ve done this year or even in years past, but that’s okay.

I came into this year expecting that the work I would do would be the most important part of my time in Munich, that it would somehow magically (and by magically, I mean as a result of hard work and refusing to give up) lead directly to the type of life I had always wanted in following years. Thanks to my American friends, I’ve learned that what is most important to me is to surround myself with people like them, who are equally as passionate about discussing matters of national identity and the future of the EU as they are about an open bar, and as likely to catch an obscure pop culture reference as to debate the intricacies of institutional sexism. Every time this group assembled, I left with a feeling that Jill so aptly captured in that döner shop last week, that “that’s how I want to remember this group, like it’s the end a movie and all of the friends are back together and they’re dancing, and you just know they’re going to be happy.”

I don’t know quite where I’m going, but I know who I want to be when I get there, and for that, I thank my Fulbright friends.