I’m pretty spectacularly terrible at this blog thing, aren’t I? I’m gonna have some extra time in the next few weeks, so hopefully I can put a dent in this thing. In the meantime, A little picture of how the last two weeks have been 🙂
Sometimes I wish I believed in God. Or fate. Or destiny. It must be nice to feel like you’re part of some kind of plan, like there’s a method to the madness. It’s not that I’m having some huge existential crisis or anything, I’ve just been feeling… off. You know that sliding closet door that’s constantly coming dislodged from its track? That’s my life. So close and yet… I dunno. It’s not the end of the world or anything, I’m still happy enough. It’s just annoying. The last few years I’ve kind of just been floating through, waiting for something to happen. Then something happens and it’s all wrong. Well, not all wrong. Actually mostly right. But the one glaring flaw… It’s always something, I suppose.
On a separate note, I promise to do my best to be better about keeping up on this. And maybe even writing about Germany instead of just being vague and mopey.
I spent today catching up on yesterday’s news from back home. This meant to a large extent watching footage and interviews regarding the explosions at the Boston Marathon. Throughout, I found myself musing along with various experts and analysts as to the nature of the attack. I fount the fact that I was formulating an opinion as to whether it could have been an act of international terrorism or some singular crazy person with a grudge against the government absolutely infuriating. I should not have a frame of reference for crimes of this nature. I should not know that the towns of Columbine and Newtown exist. Oklahoma City should not be on my radar. The only feelings New York City should instill in me are my love of Broadway and my loathing of the Yankees. Boston should make me think of Harvard, baked beans, and thick east coast accents.
I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing these images. The running, the smoke, the bloodied and terrified faces. I’m tired of the pain and sadness that comes with stories like this. It’s incredibly taxing, and it seems as if every time I feel like its wearing off, a new wound is opened. I’m tired of going through my day-to-day routine with pangs of guilt that the mundane tasks I’m going about are things that thousands of people will never get to do again. I’m tired of worrying that I don’t feel bad or affected enough because these places are not my hometown and these people are not people I know personally.
I have nothing introspective or thoughtful to add to the national conversation. Boston isn’t my home town, but America is home and it hurts to see people at home in so much unjust and uncalled-for pain. On days like this I can feel acutely every mile of distance between me and those I love. I can’t hold you closer with my arms tonight, so my heart will have to do.
It’s kind of late, and I my brain feels like Jell-o, but I thought you all might be interested to know that spring came to Leipzig today around 5 or 6pm. How do I know, you ask? It’s still kind of cold and that’s an awfully specific time frame. Well, yes it is. But I have a sort of seasons-sense if you will. I keep this magic power in my sinuses. Literally over the course of about an hour I felt everything from the neck up shut down today. This naturally irritated me, thereby reminding me of the German phrase “die Nase voll haben” which means to be sick of something, but literally “to have your nose full”. The idiom is painfully accurate in both respects today. Seriously, my nose is full of weather.
der Ohrwurm- a song that gets stuck in your head, something catchy; lit. “ear worm”
If I wake up with that Will.i.am and Britney Spears song stuck in my head one more time, I’m going to go postal. Seriously, I hate that song with a livid, furious passion, and yet at least twice a week I catch Britney’s awful fake British accent doing laps around my brain. In this case, the term Ohrwurm is acutely appropriate. With every “oh-ee-oh” I can feel that infuriating pile of waste burrowing into my head like one of the creatures from Tremors. I’m not sure how much more I can take before the only way to make it stop will be running into traffic.
This isn’t always the case with songs that get stuck in my head. In fact it’s pretty rare for the song in my head to be one I really don’t like. This is probably due in large part to the fact that I enjoy most of the music I hear. I’d say more often what I experience is less a worm digging its way into the center of my brain than it is…. well, I actually don’t have a good analogy for what it feels like, but it’s definitely more pleasant than the image that the term “ear worm” evokes. There are things much better suited to this title.
I like to talk. A lot. No, seriously, I talk a lot. But the voice in my mind puts me to shame. That voice (let’s call it Reggie for simplicity’s sake) has an opinion on EVERYTHING. Reggie’s favorite topic is me. Everything I say, everything I do, everything I think. How others (probably) see me, how I see myself. And the positive opinions are far too few and in between for it to be healthy. But unlike Reggie’s comments about how cute that puppy was or the deliciousness of this currywurst or how cute I would look in that dress, the negative stuff sticks. Well, not sticks. Digs. Burrows. Chews it’s way into the memory center of my brain and every time I’m on the verge of forgetting, takes another bite just to remind me. See where I’m going with this?
Over the last year or so, I’ve slowly come to the realization that if I let those things keep digging, my brain will be so full of holes that at some point that it will cease to function. So I’m working on replacing them one by one with something less destructive. The anti-earworm? (So it’s not a perfect metaphor, sue me.) I found this little blog on Psychology Today that talked about self-affirmations so I’m working on compiling a list of my own that I can wallpaper my room with and recite every time a negative thought threatens to become an Ohrwurm.
So what do you think? What are your ear worms? How do you deal with them? What is the opposite of an Ohrwurm? I ramble shamelessly about my thoughts here, and any of you reading this are absolutely welcome and encouraged to do the same 🙂
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Monday was a state holiday here, so I didn’t have lessons and it’s kind of messed with my internal schedule. I liked the couple of extra days to relax, but I’m glad to be back in my routine. On Saturday, I went wandering around the center of town. I strolled through the little Easter market they set up in the square and ended up at my favorite bookstore for a coffee and some reading. I had already started my day with three cups of tea, and well one thing inevitably led to another….
I open the door to the little entryway for the toilets and dig into my pockets. ten, ten, two, fifty, two euro… uh oh. These toilets only take twenty cent coins. Quick decision time. I could either go back to the coffee shop and ask for the proper change like the sign says, or…. Left, no one. Right, no one. I quickly slip into the open toilet, barricade the door with my backpack and push against it with my foot for added protection. I take care of business with a speed that would embarrass the Flash, and I’m out just before the old man who’s just appeared in the entryway presses on the door handle. Victory. Life in Germany means an endless battle against what my American brain perceives as the great injustice of pay toilets. Seriously, I don’t get it. They aren’t any cleaner than American public toilets, so I really don’t understand what it is that I’m paying for exactly. Anytime I can manage to sneak in without contributing my twenty or fifty cents, I puff out my chest a little and can’t keep from grinning smugly. No one else notices, but I know. I know.
This is just one of the many differences I’ll never quite get used to. Like buying beer in a McDonald’s or a Burger King. I’m sorry Germans, but that is never not going to be weird. Also, I could live here a thousand years and I will still blush when I see a naked person on a billboard or on the beach. I mean, I’m a modern girl so it’s whatever, but there’s still little voice in the back of my mind that gasps oh dear! every time. Some other peculiarities I can’t seem to get over…
The drinking age. Eighteen for hard liquor, sixteen for everything else. Logically it makes more sense, and I like it much more than the American drinking age of twenty-one. But when I see groups of teenagers on the streets on the weekends with beers in their hands my reaction is still fairly American. I mean, sixteen-year-olds are annoying enough sober… (If you’re reading this Taylor, you don’t count. You’re related to me, which makes you cool by default :p)
Lines. The German word for a line is schlange, which is also their word for snake. This, of course, is the Germans greatest joke because, and I cannot stress this enough, GERMANS DO NOT KNOW HOW TO FORM A PROPER LINE. Seriously. They don’t exist here. Like unicorns and pie.
Crossing the street. Someday someone is going to have to explain to me why a driver will stop and wait patiently in the middle of the road to allow me to jaywalk, but when I cross the street at a crosswalk, with the green man, they act like I’ve just murdered their grandmother.
And last but not least, I will always pay for ketchup packets and drink refills with pocket change and indignation.
Wishing everyone a happy Easter holiday from snowy Leipzig!!!
es läuft- It’s going well, lit. “it runs”
First, I need to add that this post’s title was provided by my friend Jann, who was nice enough to give me the idiom in his own dialect, and it would be a shame not to share it, so here: et löpt. Maybe it’s just me, but it makes me think of bunnies 🙂 Also, I’m not sure if its worth it to put pronunciations on these, feel free to let me know if you’re interested! With housekeeping out of the way, on to the main course:
You might not think so if you read my last couple of posts, but things are going pretty well here. Really well, actually. Compared to how they started, down right fantastic. Of course, they aren’t perfect, but when are things ever? And besides, I’m doing my best to be a glass half-full type more often. Now that things are starting to settle down, I can finally take time to appreciate things. So, to steal a line from Julie Andrews, these are a few of my favorite things…
Football. The day after my little episode regarding trainer drinks night, I went to a football match with a friend. (For future reference, when I say football match I mean soccer. If I say football game, I mean american football.) It was the third one I’ve been to here, and even though they seemed to forget that you’re also supposed to play in the second half, our team won. Going to the matches is awesome. Not only am I starting to get the rules (offsides is kind of a bitch, but I get the concept lol), but I find that I really enjoy it. It’s much faster paced than American football and worlds more interesting. My dad is going to kill me if he ever reads this. The league system is infinitely more complicated than the American system, but I also prefer it. I may have found a third sport I can appreciate. The company’s not bad either 🙂
Long tram rides. This seems counter-intuitive, but there’s nothing like 30 minutes on a bus or tram (not too crowded, of course) and my music or a good book. I have this bizarre love of public transportation that I can’t really explain. It’s just a thing.
Terrible German crime shows. Or any terrible German TV, really. Films and music, too. This should surprise no one, of course. It’s an endless source of sarcasm at my expense, but I loooooove Til Schweiger (Americans will know him as Hugo Stiglitz in Inglourious Basterds). Fun fact, he’s not the action star I assumed he would be. Most of his films can be titled Watch Til Schweiger whine for 90 minutes: co-starring an equally whiny female lead and/or one of his children. I can’t help it though, I eat that shit up. And apparently he got his start on this crime series, Tatort. I don’t know if people are being sarcastic or not when they say I should watch it, but I do. It’s hilariously over-the-top acting, like a German CSI: Miami. I even found a German version of Cops on late night TV sometimes. It’s gold, Jerry, gold!
My students. My students are the best. Two of my adult students surprised me with an Easter present today. A DVD of Skyfall because I said it’s the only one I haven’t seen. I don’t think they knew how much I love Bond films, or how much I really take it to heart when I get compliments or trinkets from students. And lets be clear, Skyfall on DVD is no small trinket. I also got an amazing birthday present last November from a pair of students, as well as a birthday present from another class I was teaching. Compared to the size of my social circle back home, I’m relatively alone here still, and what I’m sure they consider to be small gestures mean the world to me. Everyone loves feeling appreciated.
Rooftops. And not like sitting on them or anything cool like that. Oh no, in a shining example of my ultra- nerdiness (or über-nerdiness, rather) I have become absolutely fascinated with the rooftops in this city. They come in all manner of unique shapes and sizes and colors… and the coffee shop I like to go to is on the second floor (third for the Americans) and from the windows you can look right out onto the roof of the church Bach used to direct the choir at. It has all these twists and turns and towers, it’s great.
Coffee shops. Ugh, coffee how did I ever live without you? Remember that time where I hated coffee for the first 23 years of my life? I refer to it as the dark ages. And there are tons of places around here where you can get good coffee for reasonable prices, sink down into a leather chair, and get lost in a book or magazine for hours. And coffee shops are the only place I ever get any journaling done. I even keep a journal on me for any brilliant blog post ideas so I won’t forget them (it’s pretty empty… for now). Sometimes I put my headphones in so I don’t look like a creeper and just eavesdrop on conversations. I love listening to people talk about mundane things. The lives of human beings are a truly peculiar and fascinating thing. And did I mention the coffee? Because the coffee.
So there, wasn’t much of a “theme” to this post today, I’m just in a good mood today and felt like expanding on it. Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂
But it’s not alright now…You need to understand
There’s nothing strange out this
You need to know your friends
Clumsy, Our Lady Peace
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the current state of affairs in my life and how I got to this place. My life was pretty much unchanged for almost a quarter century and then I basically put the last two years in a blender and hit “puree”. A friend of mine (who, it needs to be said, is an AMAZING person) is going through a similar situation right now. I won’t get into much detail, as I’m not in the business of airing people’s information without express permission, but basically she moved half a world away from her home and is in that rough beginning period where it feels like everything is going wrong. I told her the beginning is always the worst and she thanked me for letting her know that she isn’t alone. So I thought I might take the time to go into some more detail on the subject, both for her and for myself, as well as anyone else who might get something they need out of this story.
I left on October 13, 2011 with high hopes, and for the first month they were more or less met. I had imagined being a bit closer with my classmates, but as we’ve seen, I’m a bit of a headcase when it comes to IRL social interaction. But I was in class, I was learning, Prague was an amazing place to explore. But things made a complete 180 in a matter of weeks, and suddenly the awesome experiences became the exception rather than the rule. The first time I hit the bottom was the week after class ended. I was on week two of job hunting and it was starting to look pretty bad. I had arranged a possible trip to stay with my friend in france if I could no longer afford the hostel in prague, and I set myself a deadline at the end of november to either find a job or go home. The weekend of my birthday, My friends in France came to visit. That day, I also landed a job in a city on the other side of the country. It was a fantastic night for a number of reasons (I said awesome became the exception, not non-existent) I started thinking maybe things were turning around. Then my friends left and one by one so did my classmates, until I was alone in a city where I didn’t know a single person. looking for a place to live was proving to be a major hurdle and paired with having to pay daily to live in a crappy little hostel room when I wasn’t making any money, I was thrown back into depression. I didn’t leave my hostel room for two days. I slept for 10 hours a night. I finally found a place and packed up my bags, determined that this was the beginning of my turnaround. Uh-huh.
Let me preface the next section of this by stating that I love the people I met in Brno. They are all people I consider dear friends, and circumstances are not their fault. But there were circumstances. The situation was less than ideal. I shared basically a dorm room in a tiny apartment with another girl, and while she’s a lovely person, I think we can both agree that having our own space would have been worlds better. My job was, well, a job. The people were great, but I was new to teaching and I often felt like I was thrown into ocean after one swimming lesson with no life jacket. I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing and there wasn’t really any solid plan I could rely on. All of this, added to living in a new town where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language (and my previously mentioned social anxiety) meant that it was an incredibly stressful time for me. I did manage to make a few friends and they helped to break up the downs with some amazing ups, but it was almost immediately clear to me that this was not going to be a permanent place for me. I began looking for work in germany.
I found a job in Leipzig around May or June. I was told I would need work with more than one school as a freelancer, but after a few weeks of being told to contact people again when I got to Leipzig, I decided to go for it. I found an apartment fairly quickly and booked my train. The last day of July. Things were going to be different, this was going to work. Everything would be better.
Notice a pattern?
Germany was amazing….. for about five minutes. Actually, to be fair, Germany never stopped being amazing, it was the circumstances. Germany was and is everything I dreamed about growing up and more, which is part of the reason the next few months were so bad. I had plenty of work in August, but that died off pretty quickly with the onset of the Christmas season. And they couldn’t pay me until I had my visa, which was a horror story all its own. And it was quickly becoming evident that my roommates and I weren’t going to mesh. Even now I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and say I was partially to blame, but they were pretty terrible and if I can’t say that here, where can I, really? It got to a point where I was working but I wasn’t getting any income and for about a month or two I honestly wasn’t sure where my next meal was going to come from. And in the middle of this my roommates decided to tell me it wasn’t working out and that they thought I should find a new place. I was thinking the same thing too kind of, but not that moment. And they literally gave me 2 weeks to look (at the beginning of the semester in a college town) before they told me they found someone and she wanted to move in in 2 more weeks. The day they told me I still didn’t have a new place. I must have gone to 15 apartments and every time I’d get an email a couple days later saying they picked someone else. It felt like Germany was rejecting me like a bad organ transplant. And again, I didn’t know anyone. A few people back home expressed there condolences that things weren’t working out like I’d hoped. Their hearts were all in the right place, but I don’t think anyone has ever really understood my fascination with Germany and German language, history, culture. Going home from the Czech Republic would be a bummer because things didn’t work, but leaving Germany….. the thought still cuts me to the core. I have been that low one other time in my life, and it was a contributing factor to me leaving the country in the first place. Even writing about it now brings up fears and stresses (my sense-memory can be uncannily vibrant sometimes). Those first 2-3 months were an immensely dark time…
But then things started to change. First I met Marianne and Jann (and we’ll overlook for the time being the fact that she left me for Ohio of all places! :p ). A couple days after I met her was the day my roommates decided to give me the boot, so when we met again and she asked “How’s it going?” she got a flood of stuff. Then I finally found a place, but it wouldnt be ready until two weeks or so after I had to be out of my old room. Without asking any questions and barely knowing me, Marianne and Jann took me in and adopted me while I was homeless. They were amazing. Still are. Seriously, I truly don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words what they did for me. Making a true friend when up to that point you had been literally alone and half a world away from home…. I can never repay them, and they’ll never know the difference they made in my life. I moved into my new place and my roommates are great. I got the letter on Christmas eve that my visa was ready and I had an appointment to pick it up. I wrote my first invoice in January. I got a contract with another school. Jobs are finally slowly picking up. Someday soon all this snow will fuck off and the weather will warm up. I’m not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning and that’s something.
As I’ve been writing this I’ve had twitter open in a separate tab and occasionally I’ll switch to it and look at what my friend wrote, “you have no idea how much better it makes me feel to hear that from you thank you so much rachel”. What she doesn’t realize is hearing that from her makes me feel so incredibly good. Not in any self-serving way though, like “of course you feel better, I’m awesome!” It’s just hearing about her struggles brings up so much darkness from the last two years. And it’s not like it had far to travel, most of this stuff is really recent, and some of it is ongoing. I have a good idea of how it feels in the moment. I think back to last October and how low I was and how much it would have helped to know things were supposed to be difficult starting out and that it wasn’t just me.
Travelling across the globe, far away from everything you know and love, is possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I tested my resolve and more than once brought me to the edge of, well, the edge. If someone had told me it would be okay, I probably would have punched them in the face (good thing the people who did say it had the internet and an ocean to separate us). I know some other people who are going through major changes in their lives right now as well, and I wish I could do something to smooth the path before them, but I can’t. All I can do is tell them that things are going to suck. A lot. But they will get better. It will take longer than you want, for sure. And they won’t go straight back to great. But okay is something. You will be okay. And you are not obligated to go it alone. It’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve started coming to terms with all of the mess thats gone on, especially in those first months here in Leipzig. And hearing that my shit can be of some use to some one else…. Thank you.
This wasn’t at all what I planned on writing about when I woke up this morning, but it is well past my bedtime so hopefully I can carve out some time to write some more.
der Angsthase: fraidy or scaredy cat, from Angst(fear) and Hase (rabbit)
Once a month, one of the schools I work for has a get together somewhere in the city, “trainer drinks night”. I have yet to attend one, partially because of all of the problems when I first moved (another story for another day) and partially because for a couple of months one of the bosses got really sick and everyone was so busy trying to collectively fill his shoes that we didn’t have time for one. But a few weeks ago I got the email that it was set for March 23. I figured I should probably go to one now that I can kind of afford it, so I wrote it in big black letters on my whiteboard and made sure not to schedule anything that would conflict. I even underlined it and added not one, but three exclamation points. I spent the last three days planning how I would spend my Saturday so that I could get there in plenty of time. There was no way I was missing this. Right?
If by right you mean “yeah right”, then yes. I spent all day today waffling back and forth. It’s too cold to go anywhere tonight. But I really should go, I haven’t been to any of the others. But it’s going to be weird and uncomfortable because I’m not good at socializing. But they’re going to think I don’t like them if I never go to one. But I can’t help it that I’m not that kind of person. But they’re really nice…. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. This was followed by endlessly dealing with myself. Look, I’ll search the address on google maps and if it’s too far from home, I won’t go. If it is close, I’ll go, but I don’t have to stay for long. I’ll think of an excuse to get out of there. If it gets too cold, I’ll just say I was sick and couldn’t handle the weather…. Turns out the chosen bar this month is only 2 tram stops and a 3-5 minute walk from my house. The email said “around 8” so I waited until 8:30 to leave to ensure that I wouldn’t be the first one there. I made my 3 floor descent (4 for you Americans) and jogged across the street to catch the number 9 coming my way…
Why did I bother getting on that tram?
during the walk from the tram to the bar, I kept my eyes peeled for colleagues. No one. I forgot the name of the street to turn onto. Maybe this is the wrong one? Nope, there’s the sign for the place (my exact thought was actually more along the line of “no such luck”). A quick glance along the cross streets, still no one I recognize. This is going to be so weird, I’m glad I’m so close to home. There’s the sign, but where’s the door? Around the corner. Ugh, this is so much effort for a stupid work social. But I’m here, going back now would be stupid. That music is really loud. I walked in and heard the woman at the entrance give the man in front of me a price. Nope, I am not paying money to stress myself out for an hour and a half and then leave. In one swift move I was in and out the door. Seriously, there are Olympic figure skaters who would be jealous of the speed and grace with which I turned and left that place. This was followed by a walk back to the tram filled with fears of bumping into a coworker and getting dragged back there. I never did see anyone.
The tram ride and trek up the stairs back to my door were uncomfortable. I consider insults an artform, and I’ve had some brilliant moments in my life. But nothing can compare to the material I reserve for myself. And the thing is, I don’t know why I was beating myself up anyway. I didn’t even want to go in the first place. It’s not that I don’t like my coworkers, they’re all great people. But they’re all really close, to the point that it feels almost like the cliques that made middle school incredibly painful for me. I’m not even sure where I would fit in at a table with these people. Who I would talk to, what I could say. They’re all really vibrant, strong personalities, and I know they don’t mean to, but sometimes people like that drown out introverts like me without realizing it.
I still feel weird using the word introvert. My whole life everyone always told me what a social butterfly I was, or how loud, or how I could talk without ceasing. I just assumed I was an extrovert because everyone else said so. And to the people who know me really well, I am that obnoxiously boisterous person. They probably wouldn’t recognize me if we met on the street today. Making friends here has been a monumental task. Even things as simple as interacting with supermarket cashiers or bank tellers is enough for me to completely shut down. I know a lot of people that I run into think I’m just having trouble because my German isn’t that good, but what they don’t know is that I would likely be stammering like that in English as well. My German is actually pretty solid, and I understand most of what people say to me. It’s just talking to strangers absolutely terrifies me. Sometimes I wear my headphones without playing music because people are less likely to talk to you if you have them on. I forgot them today and this little oma started complaining about the cold to me. She managed to coax a bit of surface level prattle out of me about where I’m from and such (after explaining to her that, yes, I really do speak German). She was adorable, and I loved every minute, but at the same time in my head a voice was panicking “How do I get out of this without being mean? Where can I hide? I hope she doesn’t sit beside me on the tram. WHY DID I LEAVE MY HEADPHONES AT HOME???” It’s a constant source of stress, and I hate it.
But how do I fix it? Do I need to fix it? Finding out the way I’ve always categorized myself doesn’t compute with the way I actually think and behave has been a little tough to deal with. It feels like a problem, and problems need to be solved. I’ve been trying to push myself out into the world as a way to make my actions match my idea of self, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe the problem lies not with how I think and feel, but with how I perceive who I am. Or at least how I perceive who I should be.
I never did decide if going back home was the right thing to do or a sign of failure. But I suppose there will be time for that. I went home, and tomorrow is Sunday. punkt.