Taking stock and finding balance: a lifelong journey

Right now I’m in my lovely office eating strawberries and yogurt. My window is cracked open and I can smell the neighbor’s wood-burning stove going. I am feeling pretty spoiled at the moment. I ran down to the bakers this morning, about 200 feet down the road. We don’t usually go there, because it’s a bit pricey, but I wanted to surprise the hubby with fresh bread. On the way I passed a stand, selling cherries at rock bottom prices from their backyard and I couldn’t resist.

I get teased by a certain somebody that I will miss the excitement of a city, and moving around, but I don’t know if he maybe underestimates my love of nature.It is absolutely wonderful living somewhere where people are more connected to the land and seasons. You can get plenty of fresh produce in the city, but you can’t go to your neighborhood, throw-your-money-in-a-box fruit and veg stand, and happen to meet her coming over with a freshly picked packet of cherries. They also sell eggs, from their chickens, fed with the very grain they grow in their field. Now we are not out in the country. A 15 minute train ride gets me in the middle of a university city. It’s not a heaving metropolis, but still a city.I guess I should have known what was in store for me though when I moved onto “village street”. ūüėČ

Anyway it’s nice to have these small things. As per usual, everything in my life worth having requires more patience. More patience for myself and others and the world, while trying to create good habits and strike a good balance. I think it’s this way for everybody, (especially women), but if I had to choose between constant struggle, or one large tragedy, It’d be an easy choice: the former.

Life isn’t easy. The last time it felt was 2005, when I came here for study abroad¬†with enough money and naivete to enjoy the moment. I think everyone deserves that at least once, but some people spend their whole lives naively ignoring reality and creating problems their loved ones have to solve, and other people never have a carefree moment in their whole life. That is injustice to me. So I try to remember that when I catch myself thinking, that for all my hard work and efforts, I really deserve to not have to wait so long for every single step and always scraping by with money.

It’s all about give and take and finding balance. That’s why honestly I really don’t think adding kids into the mix will be any tougher on me overall. I’m not being naive about the physical exhaustion and never having enough time. Apparently a new study shows that after moms have kids they never go back to the level of pre-kids time stress, EVER, while men do. And obviously, it changes your outlook, but overall my whole life has been adjusting to new circumstances and trying to juggle as many commitments as possible. without going insane. I do not shy away from pursuing things I want, just because it’s hard. In many respects having kids will probably be easier on me than many other things I’ve attempted/achieved.

Moving forward with my career and studies is a huge struggle for me right now. Promised job offers fell through, there is still no end to no income in sight, or at least it’s all swirling around very haphazardly. What I’d really like, is still uncertain, and what I’d like to avoid is a sure thing. I wanted to have everything resolved by now. If I am lucky, in a month or so, I’ll have submitted my first scholarship application and will at least be invited for an interview. I feel positive about it overall, since it is clear I’d be a good fit, but will have to have the interview in German and I have a horrible track record of getting nervous in these situations. I’ll probably ask my friend to practice with me.

It’s actually something strange and cool about Germany. So here’s the deal, Germany has really strange citizenship laws first off because for nearly its entire existence the only way you could take on German citizenship was by blood (side note to Downtown Abbey fans, unless there is a clause I am not aware of, like you could just buy your way into it, there’s no way Lady Edith’s boyfriend could become German, unless he had German forefathers). So they’ve been slowly relaxing these laws, but very slowly. It was only after I had been here for a year that those in the Turkish community who had been here for three generations could become German at all. Just recently Germany has generously provided that they may even be dual citizens instead of making them choose one or the other at 18. But we Americans, who don’t have German parents are put in the same category as refugees. There is no dual citizenship for us, and without citizenship I can only vote on local elections, like for mayor. I know I can vote for councils and things like that, but I’m not actually sure where exactly they draw the line.

Anyway so even though I can’t really be invested in Germany’s political system, I can still apply for politically funded scholarships. ¬†I actually think this is pretty cool. So that’s what I am applying for and it is a strange thing, to pick a political affiliation after all these years of living here, but the one I found believes in Europe and the worth of educating migrants and since that is what my research is about I am actually really excited to send off this application.

We’ll just see. So I am being patient. I need to do this right, so I don’t send off something too hasty and full of grammatical German and political errors. I need to write a research proposal, which means getting my very distracted advisor to meet with me (took her 3 months to send me a list of literature to get started) and hammer out my research ideas, and I need to make sure I do the right reading. If this works, it would double our income, give me a 300 Euro a month book budget, I’d get paid maternity leave, as well as an extra monetary boost once any children are born. I think anyone can see that I would be stupid not to at least try. I mean my grades are good enough and I am highly highly interested in politics and the development of a more equal society. But it’s a risk. There are others, but you can’t send the same application out, so I’m taking them one at a time. ¬†Chances are about 33%

So there you go.

Some well-meaning peers here, after hearing my struggles with suddenly not having an income were like, “oh go apply to other doctoral programs”. And I’m like, “excuse me, do you understand the concept of being married?” I can’t just go wherever I get accepted first. It took me 2 1/2 years to get the person who claimed he wanted this long distance to end asap, out here. And actually the only reason he did was because I forced his hand and gave my notice in the dorms. I can’t just uproot our lives 4 months after he got here. I¬†want to be married, I want to enjoy spending time with my husband and finally making memories in what’s been my home for 3 years now, together. If I want that, I can’t have other things. So strange to have to explain that to people. If you don’t want to be alone, you can’t be selfish. But then again, most people don’t understand me anyway. I mean I try to be honest with people, but if they don’t care to find out where I’ve been and how I’ve got there, then there’s just really no way our friendship will go beyond the surface. But I can’t just bore 24 years olds with a summary of my last ten+ years. That’s what my husband is for, hahahaha.

And that’s enough. I am strange. I have friends that get that, put up with me, love me. I never see them, but I trust in what we’ve shared the last decade of my life. I try to invest in my relationship, especially as right now, shift work is a killer, one week early, one week night and the next week late. So even though it means getting less work done, I still make sure I make dinner and free up the weekends to reconnect.

But cleaning the house happens only on the weekends, friends I see once a month, working out is nearly impossible, except for bike rides to the train station. My priority is my marriage, scholarship applications and working on my Greek, and these are all things that will not give me any quick results. So I am constantly figuring out what to drop and how to come close to “having it all”.

Now here’s where living abroad, and specifically Germany is nice. Not everything here is a rat race. We went out a few weeks ago to a restaurant, I can’t even remember where, but it was so cosy and adorable and I remember sighing and saying “I wish my parents could feel what it’s like to go out to eat and sit around for hours somewhere without a waiter breathing down your neck.” My husband realized to his surprise that it’d never occurred to him that almost every time we ate in America, it was rushed. Then we tried to remember if we had lounged in a restaurant like that with them, but could only think of one time in a bakery. Oh it’s so luxurious to go out to eat with no pressure. Or go to cafe and people watch for hours. Or meander through a market. Sit on your balcony when the sun is shining. Everything here is more relaxed that way. Doctors don’t forbid stressed out pregnant women from drinking half a glass of wine, or a shandy. Vacation time is sacred. Dads can take 3 months++ off for maternity leave, and some choose to spend it lounging in the summer on the beach somewhere. You can ride your bike around town if you are sick of waiting in traffic.

Finally for me, personally and as a woman, who will be told for the rest of my life, by complete strangers what I ‘ought to be doing’ it is nice to be an expat, and know that most people don’t get how my life really is. It’s like what I talked about last time I guess. If my friends have something to suggest, or an opinion about how they do things, I’ll take it into consideration. Otherwise it’s just noise and judgments from busy-bodies who don’t get it. I won’t go crazy trying to meet society’s expectations of what it means to be a career women and/or mother, when I belong to many societies and none at the same time.

So I’ll continue on. Maybe I make it harder on myself with my ambition and wanting to achieve various things, but I have a relaxed pace of life and beautiful neighborhood to do it in, a husband that supports me and the knowledge that I may not always be right about the best way to do things, but the people who barely know me, are not allowed to become the voices in my head, filling me with self-doubt.

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Moving and settling in! There you have it!

My thoughts are just not giving me a rest this week, probably everything will still all come out a jumble as I sit down to write this.

I’m fluctuating as one does, between the two extremes of all the exciting¬†possibilities¬†and all the hard unfamiliar work. I mean why move at all except for the chance to move one’s life in another direction than the course it was previously taken.

As soon as you arrive all the opportunities for you to do “everything right this time” jump out and leave you with a giddy feeling of having the world on a string. Despite your logic arguing with you, that just are there is and never will be a utopian society, so too, will¬†you never become a perfect person, (fallen nature of man, anyone?) it is still a hard pull to resist. It must be like that “honeymoon” phase of relationships, or even friendships:everything is viewed as being unique and cool and without flaws.

Now currently I am keeping my expectations very low, because those are the things which tend to disappoint you deeply later. But not too low so I have nothing to look forward to, or so that I can’t envision my own success. Yes these are some crafty mental gymnastics. But when you move beyond everything you’ve gotten used to, it can be a wild roller coaster of ups and downs and somehow you’ve got to reign in these fluctuations as best you can.

When you get too down and frustrated by the fact that nothing happens the way they did things in your old place, you start to become very defeatist and self-critical. Then you start making sweeping generalizations about your new place and the people that fill it. That is why I no longer hang out with Americans/English speakers/other new groups of foreign newbies here in Germany; I am well and done with rehashing everything that “the Germans do” because it’s no longer new and interesting.

(Ha ok it’s still interesting cause I’m rather fond of these people, who very generously let me live in their country, study at their university*FOR FREE* and patiently explain to me all the answers to my questions, and also their rather endearing obsession with self-criticism and national soul-searching.)

I suppose I really don’t need to spell out the fact that I am as cynical and pessimistic as it gets, which recently has meant only that despite what I know deep in my heart, it is sometimes very easy to convince my brain that my bf will just get used to me not being there and just one day prefer it to my compulsive worrying ways. Luckily my bf pays no mind to my flipping out about how our relationship will never survive this. Thank God.

You can laugh at me it’s ok. When I’m not busy worrying myself, it’s usually what I’m doing. On the other hand, this dark side is what allows me to appreciate the little moments as they come. I’m not really expecting anything particularly big and beautiful to happen in my life. But I’m not bitter, I’m just realistic, I think. Is it really realistic to think that every being “deserves” from some universal mandate to live a life without tragedy or suffering and have a fairy tale come true?

*Tangent* Honestly if I were to die tomorrow, statistically speaking as a young woman being born in modern times, I have already been given more chances and had better health than almost every female in all of history. Who’s to say I deserve more somehow? That’s the aspect of American exceptionalism and naive egoism that I like the least about my country, us “special” 90’s children & our national religion of self-esteem.

My favorite lesson the kids taught me was when I complimented them on something, as a sort of natural American’s response to a child’s effort, and they called me out for lying to them about their crap work. They had known they’d done a bad job and they expected me to know that too, otherwise I was an idiot and not a very good teacher. Directly afterwards, I was like, “damn, America you rubbed off on me again, just when I stopped expecting it!”

We are good though, the bf and me. He came, he stocked me up on my sparkling water, he left and I cried and cried and then went to work, got stressed out and cried some more. Gosh darn you love, you have totally transformed hard-core rachie into a complete softie! Whatevs,¬†I let all the stress out and cried because my life in Nuremberg is over and finally being away from it¬†crystallizes¬†the things about it that made it special. All of the cities I’ve moved away from seem so perfect in my idealized memories.

And that’s the beauty of moving isn’t it? Before you go, you have hopes and dreams and excitement about all the new things your old town couldn’t offer you and then once you get there, you realize all the things from your old town, that your really quite liked and maybe took for granted that you will have to say goodbye to, possibly forever.

Ach ach ach. German has two beautiful one-word concepts (of course they do!): Heimweh & Fernweh. The first is homesickness, but the second is when you are homesick to be away from your home. And what do I feel now but both. Home is where my family is, and where my bf is, and where my students are. But none of these are the homes I have. At every single point in time since the age of 16, I have not “been” somewhere without simultaneously wanting to “be” somewhere else (small exception Crete, more later). To say that I recognize these two concepts very well, would be an understatement.

And who are my friends, but those who, if not having the same moving experience, at least can understand my feelings of being out-of-place. But here with all these new people, who do they see, “just” an American, or a native speaker of the “most important” language for their future success. And since as I mentioned, I don’t really need to discuss in-depth all the things about living in Germany that they have yet to discover, nor am I prepared to use my valuable and rare expertise¬†for free when I spent the last 3 years getting good money for it, even if that means people might not become my “friends”. (On a side note, who would agree with me, that the day you really become an adult is when you learn how to say no to people’s demands and not care if it makes them think less of you?) ¬†

And some Germans really go crazy for Americans, to the point where I am¬†embarrassed¬†for them and when they make no comment I am so relieved, that I would sincerely like to hug them my thanks. Nevermind that at university in a program that’s dual English everyone kowtows to native speakers and bemoans their non-native skills. Such a waste of time! We all make mistakes and I make a lot of mistakes when I know better in German. But you know, uni classes in general are so full of people looking to stroke their ego by praising themselves through over-correcting others, it makes it a very competitive environment, which makes getting to know people even harder. For instance, because of my German skills, I already seem to belong to the “German gang”, but not being known as the most open, throw-caution-to-the-wind sort of people, I might be in for a long haul that yields nothing. Whereas I could also waste lots of time now, going out with every international/nice new “friend”, but that still might leave me with nothing at the end of the year. *SIGH* It isn’t easy meeting lots of new people and deciding who you can trust.

So where does that leave me friend-wise? I don’t know yet. But as true friendship develops slowly and my experience and age puts me in an odd position where I don’t automatically have a lot in common with 24 year-olds who have only ever known university, I’m not exactly in a rush to force anything that’s not meant to be. ¬† Being friendly and open and accepting invitations when my work is done and I have the money for it will have to be enough for now.

I¬†can see that I approach many things much differently, both from my fellow German students and my fellow native English speaking students. Honestly it’s a good thing; I’ve learned so many valuable lessons working as hard as I did. I’ve outgrown much of my old procrastination habits, I’m no longer afraid of speaking in front of a group, whatever the language, I’m motivated and on top of my finances and I have only a billion ideas that I’d like to research.

Oh yes, have I painted a clear enough picture of why my first few weeks at university have been mentally and emotionally demanding?

Moving is not easy. I miss having the kiddos everyday. I miss our genuine interactions and I miss the trust we built up. I miss their laughter and their easygoing uncomplicated little Wesen! I even miss the seniors and the polite German they spoke with their dialect. Speaking English or German with people my age confuses me sometimes.

But on the other hand, the more I discover about Freiburg, the more I like things here. Like going to a new tram stop and discovering that the little stream turns into a big dam here. Or that there is a quite little secluded forest lake, or looking out the tram in the mornings and floating through a sea of golden leaves.

The bf and I spent a few hours tonight already talking about our possible options of residency for the future. I don’t know how it happened but somehow I became open to the idea of returning for maybe a few years to do some work at an American University after my doctorate And because, well there are just too many people there I still love, and if I continue being so isolated all my relationships there will suffer. It’s a funny new realization. I also convinced him to not rule out Crete, so one point for me!

And that’s enough I think. Much love to all of you reading this!

Defending the Greeks

Why am I always the one defending the Greeks?!?!

Last Wednesday I nearly got in verbal sparring match with my old German senior, who is convinced that Alexis Tsipras from the Syriza party is a hard-line communist.

No my friend, that would the KKE who have said, that if they get the majority in parliament, there would never be any more elections! Yes, Tsipras is radically left, but I was personally surprised that my senior was more concerned about him, than the fact that the neo-nazis (Golden Dawn) had gotten seats in parliament this election!

Here’s a quote from the NYT.

On the spectrum, Syriza falls between the Greek Communist Party, which never broke with Moscow during the cold war and rejects the euro and the European Union, and the Socialist Party, known as Pasok, which is seen as more of a patronage network than an ideology. Syriza is an umbrella of leftist parties ranging from softer-line communists to Marxists to social democrats. The ‚Äúradical‚ÄĚ in its Greek name translates more accurately as ‚Äúnontraditional.‚ÄĚ

But that’s fine. Greek politics are¬†mind-boggling complicated. But what I tried to explain to him, was that if you have politicians who are also the wealthy members of society and practice an advanced form of nepotism, where they appoint friends and family into office just so they can qualify for the sweet retirement package and if you consider that the position of Prime Minister is practically handed down to the children of the major political families, as in the case of¬†Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were both prime ministers, well, it’s easy to see how corrupt the politics in Greece are.

At any rate I was flabbergasted because, at this point look, I understand, Germany doesn’t want to be hated for giving Greece money. And sure you could argue that they still owe Greece money from the war, but as the US also still owes France money from the Revolutionary War, (or is it vice versa?) what does that really mean anymore. What’s more morally wrong is the history of the rest of Europe’s financially predatory money lending to Greece in every time of crisis, from the Greek War for Independence, til rebuilding after the war.

As I said it’s long and complicated and I’m currently re-reading “A Concise History of Greece” by Richard Clogg¬†so that I can really understand the politics.

I think Europe has done massively wrong by Greece in terms of finances and continues to do so. Good. Most people won’t agree with me. Even people in Greece like to tell me and honestly believe, that it’s a bunch of Jews in NYC trying to steal the “money” from their country. Great whatever guys, blame the Jews. Yeah these bonds are garbage and they came from Goldman Sachs. But they weren’t the ones buying homes sold at an artificially listed price because the real value with inflation would have meant higher taxes. Not to mention that they were even built upon land that was burnt by arsonist. It goes on and on.

Back to my German senior, my point was only that you cannot shake your finger at Greece for corruption and then when the people finally vote these decrepit parties out of power, stamp your feet and say “we don’t like that either”. You’re not the boss of Greece. And if you fail to understand that the Greek are supremely proud of their country and don’t want help from the “nazis” who marched through it, still in living memory, then I just can’t help you.

It’d be great if they sent tax people from Europe to Greece, but that isn’t going to happen if the effort is spearheaded by the Germans. It’s unfortunate, but true: a little bit of this conflict is made worse, by the part of Germany’s history, that they’d very much like to have behind them now. What Europe needs is a better way of organizing responsibility for the Euro, i.e. European tax collection agencies, that is truly multi-national. With all the¬†bureaucracy of Europe, it’s hard to say, go on give us some more, but I think it’s clear now that Germany isn’t effective, trying to take on this responsibility alone.

Merkel btw the way is becoming more and more ridiculous. She just suggested creating a referendum for the Greeks about whether they wanted to stay in the Euro zone. Wait a second Frau Merkel, didn’t Papandreou suggest something similar before you flipped out at him for his cheek? Have you read any of the opinion polls coming from Greece? No one wants to leave! But you can’t raise taxes, fire people, cut salaries by half, and demand full taxes from normal citizens for the first time in who knows how long, all at the same time! Greece didn’t demand to be in the Euro zone, they were invited! There would be the same reaction in Germany. You are kidding yourself. Not to mention everyone here is taking simplistic moral arguments, instead of bothering to learn further details about the crisis. How dare the Greeks stand up for themselves! How dare they decide not to let people starve because of a banking crisis! The nerve of people not to fall in line and do precisely what Germany dictates! How dare Hollande suggest growth instead of austerity!

Here’s the latest news about the changing opinion of our dear¬†chancellor.

Don’t believe everything you read in American newspapers. I’m confronted by so much schadenfreude when I read the drivel that is printed there. We’d just love it if the Euro failed, huh? Then it would just prove that the dollar is the best and “socialism” is worthless. Puh-lease.

Excuse me for my rant, but I’m tired of people not really understanding what’s going on and calling all Greeks lazy good for nothings. Did anyone catch the Bild list of top ten European countries who work the most? Germany didn’t make it, but Greece did.

Everyone needs to take a bit of responsibility here and do a little less finger-pointing.

Btw if I have children and the US continues to tax based on citizenship, there’s a good chance they will be only Greek citizens, so I suppose it’s only fair I start defending them now! Haha.

Here’s a brilliant Youtube video. It’s not perfect, but it makes a good argument.

Uni Application Update

I’ve worked my butt off this week getting my application ready. It is by no means finished but it is more than halfway done.

My German resume looks nice, with the appropriate photo to accompany it. I feel that this is perhaps, hmm ridiculous if not superficial and perhaps at times could be a tad racist. But if they want a photo they’ll get a photo.

What I am most pleased and satisfied with though is my personal statement. I’m writing this and my resume in German to make an overall stronger impression, that I’m not just another English native speaker in Europe that uses English as a crutch to make her life easier.

Honestly I hate writing in German. Maybe it’s just cause I’m not very good at it. Or maybe it’s cause my senior year was spent writing a senior research paper in German, while I was experiencing hefty amounts of reverse culture shock and depression.

Actually I think I hate it more because I literally have to check every single noun, to make sure that the article is correct. I dearly wish I could go back to my 13 year-old-self, learning German for the first time and say, hey, guess what these stupid articles that you are ignoring, are actually the most important thing about this language. Oh well, bought a book specifically for that issue, and it seems to have helped.

However with the course I did and the writings I submitted, I saw my German writing again from a new perspective. Like any foreign speaker it’s sometimes a tiny bit off the mark, which is why it’s good for serious learners of a language to rely on commonly used collocations/double check everything in a dictionary. This is what I learned from my kids. Your language skills may be fine, but if you stop being so lazy and take that extra step, they can be excellent. That’s always the common denominator separating good from excellent: more care and a tiny bit more effort.

Any rate, my letter is kicking butt. It might be the first thing I’ve written at a C2 level in German completely on my own. I’m actually finding the words in my brain, double checking them and being astounded that they are actually the word I was looking for. I spent the WHOLE day on it Wednesday (11am to 2 am) and was pleasantly surprised to have a first draft I was really satisfied with.

This letter¬†really needs to be good too, cause I’ve also got an 2,500 word essay to write and my lack of recent academic study in the field is a bit troubling. Well I can deal with that soon enough. On Tuesday I’ll be in Freiburg and meeting the woman who I hope is as nice in person as she is per email. Perhaps she has a suggestion.

Thank God for a break right now. I think I needed all of Tuesday to confront my fear that I’d write something so crappy, that an application would be useless. Tonight I’m taking the train to see some friends in Basel. I’m super excited it’s my first time in Switzerland. the bf is a bit bummed. Work is crazy and he can’t get the day-off he was supposed to. It’s also a shame cause we’ve been talking about visiting Switzerland together, even discussed moving there one day, but oh well. He hates train rides anyway, and I love them so there’s no one to rain on my parade tonight.

I’ll catch up with friends, learn about the university and then head back to finish a second draft with things I’ve learned from the visit. Then it’s holy week, so I’ve promised the bf’s mom yesterday that I’d help her with cookies and treats and Sat with the cooking. Got to take care of spring cleaning and promised the sister-in-law a coffee together. It’s nice feeling part of a family here. I didn’t think I really wanted it, but I’ve got no complaints.

The bf reminded me yesterday why I love him. I was looking at my Greek stuff (I write 10 sentences everyday to improve my spelling etc.) and I mentioned that my last day was back in March and now I’ll have a whole ton to make-up. But he just said,¬†you’re on vacation. You get these 2 weeks off. You can make-up the rest of March when school¬†starts. Then laughed at me as I was stumped and had to agree with his logic and decided to play with my Greek computer program for a few hours instead,¬†because I am nerd like that.

I was looking at all the silly things on my pc from when I was single and I’m so glad I’m not dealing with that nonsense. I also feel so lucky to be with someone who gets me, makes fun of my weird behavior but encourages me. Life is good. And now it’s time to finish packing for my little trip.

Senior Blues

I’ve got a holiday on Tuesday and a break from all my senior morning classes this week too. Hooray! I’ve vowed never to work a job 6 days a week again. I hated it in London and though I never intended to coming to Germany, I still got stuck in it again. My long holidays altogether don’t really make up for it either, the way they used to when I was a child, they’re¬†usually dominated by some project or another that I never manage while working.

At any rate I have a month-long break from my senior classes so that I can take an intensive German course. My seniors are a bit irked, but it’s really the only benefit I get anymore from having extra self-employed classes. They have no idea how constant my other job is; I think I can safely generalize that they all believe I have weekends off. Well we’re not there to discuss me and they don’t listen that well to me in general, so I guess I don’t feel compelled to explain matters further. If my weekends don’t concern them, than neither do my scheduling reasons.

I like my seniors, but sometimes I feel like they are just as selfish and egoistic as my own peers in their 20s and this is strange and somehow uncomfortable for me. I’m much more at ease around Greek oldies who accept their age and have a sense of purpose and contentment with their families. I’ve already decided if I make to my 60s A) I certainly won’t be wasting that time complaining, even if everything hurts, and B) if I’m more alone than I want to be, I’ll spend my time in prayer and volunteering or move somewhere where I can help: to give back but also because everyone needs people to look after and a way to feel needed.

I like that they are still people, with a sense of pride in their appearance, but honestly I resent that they want me to essentially lie or ignore the fact that they are old and will die. My group of beginners wanted to call themselves middle-aged. I tried to say hmm, I guess they are no rules, but generally people would say between 40-60 years old. Once you retire you aren’t middle-aged.

What is going on here!? I mean really!! I do work for the senior center after all.

They want me to feel sorry for them, but I don’t, any more than I do for all of humanity chained to death. This is everyone’s fate. It’s shocking how many people have such inflated egos they hope to be the exception.

Oh I’m being harsh I know, but it’s weird when you gradually realize you’re sitting in front of a group of people lying to themselves very well, and you are expected to join in, or at least not crush the facade they’ve been carefully sculpting. That for me is akin to lying anyway. I don’t want to crush their delicate egos or push it in their faces, but it’s ridiculous how I have to tiptoe around it, cause they’re all hypersensitive. I’ve made them mad, by saying, oh when I was a child, and I meant it and it was a fact and a valid story, but apparently I was calling them old. SIGH.

Relatively speaking I won’t die so long after them anyway. What’s decades compared to centuries? Perhaps all our excessive antibiotics use will make a perfect situation for the next worldwide epidemic, perhaps we in my generation will come to envy their illness free life. Excuse me for looking at the big picture, but I am a student of history. It’s not exactly a steady march of progress, you have great thinkers who bring about change, followed by depraved characters who drag countries back into the mud. Not everything new is better and not everything old should be discarded.

It’d be better I suppose if these older Germans had decided to have more than one child. Most of them are lucky if their children live within a short drive of them and are even luckier if they have one grandchild to distract them. And what’s even more ridiculous is that those without grandkids are visibly jealous of those with. Even when they try to disguise it with scorn. Ach Germany what are you doing to yourself? You’ve got lots of healthy old people with nothing to occupy their time except delaying the inevitable.

It’s such an uncomfortable situation for me. I try to be understanding and listen and have a large deaf ear to their irrational demands and complaints. ¬†There’s no chance I will ever forget them and we’ve shared a lot of interesting moments. I try to make them laugh or smile once a week, if nothing else. However,¬†I welcome every break I get, cause deep down they are truly lonely, depressed, and discontent and it weighs down very heavily on me. I want to solve their problems, but I am busy carving out a life for myself in a foreign land and when class is over, I have places to be.

As I tell the bf at least once a month, promise me we let each other waste our lives complaining and become unbearable to those around us.

What a difference my little Greek children are. They even have the audacity to believe that there might be hope for them in Greece eventually!

Such a weird contrast.

Anyway I want to talk about the cute things my kids have done recently, but it’ll have to wait til later this week.

Beautiful Fall

I love fall in Germany. It’s gorgeous out and warm, no actually it’s hot, hotter even than it was this summer.

What’s even better is that this Monday, I have a day off. So since the weather will hold out til then, we’re heading to a small little village here to look at this historical old cottages/museum and also to go to a thermal baths.

Looks pretty nice, huh. It’s actually a salt water pool they made with the hot springs. I’m so excited. I know it’s a¬†pastime¬†for old people, but I love hot springs!

Anyway here are some snaps of things that have made me happy recently.

the bf, in between his car parked in backwards and the sign forbidding him from doing so. He has no shame.

Proof of the bf dancing

This is blurry, but I don't care. Here we have proof of the bf dancing.

This sign was outside the main square's crepe shop. You can get a bottle of champagne here with 4 glasses. Or even better, if a gooey nuttella-banana crepe is just what you crave when you are wearing an expensive white gown, come here for breakfast and get a glass of champagne free! WOW.

She is 70, in love, rocking leather leggings and she doesn't care what her parents think about it!

Fall in my park, on my way home. I certainly have a nice commute.

Beautiful architecture around where I live.

Lovely. So much nicer than identical square houses.

Yay for fall.

The trees don't look so yellow here, but trust me yellow leaves are everywhere.

Hot water bottle ueber-cute! This must be a European thing, I never had a hot water bottle growing up. We had a bag of rice we microwaved. Anyway, this is cuter and in a sort of traditional Alp theme that's getting more and more popular in Germany.

Luggage tag!! It says "good luck" somehow appropriate in this day and age.

got the Greece painting from Mama nicely framed. I didn't know it'd turn out so nice.

This one will go up in my classroom for the kiddies to enjoy.

Fall flowers! My grocery store has the best flower arrangements.

Go poinsettia go! Currently conducting an experiment to see if I can get it to bloom red again in time for Xmas. This has been the easiest plant ever by the way. It grows like crazy and in September I took a whole branch off cause it was crowding itself and it's still happy.

My fantasy collection finally comes home. I've gotten rid of all my other books and dumped a whole bunch of college books at home this summer, but my dragon books are here to stay. Thank you.

Our sheep Sieggi has a new home. He had some separation anxiety in the plane, but don't worry Becky, we are looking after him.

So I’m off to enjoy the sun while it lasts.

Things I’m looking forward to this year

With one week already down, I’m beginning on week two. This year will be packed to the max and sooner than I can believe it, I’ll be unpacking my summer clothes again.

Speaking of which, I’m currently unpacking my fall/winter/10-months-out-of-the-year wardrobe. I wore none of my summer dresses really. In fact I think I barely bothered shaving this summer. It was hot for 3 weeks in June. In Greece I whipped out my tried-and-true skirts and tops, because I gained weight and didn’t want to buy clothes in a bigger size. In America I wore jeans and t-shirts almost exclusively and disappointed a few people who wanted a taste of Europe.

So while at home I shipped a bunch of stuff over, mostly my favorite novels and my collection of knives from my cutco days. It was fantastic unpacking everything and feeling like I finally had most of the stuff I wanted in one place and not stored away til who knows when, but now I feel like I have too much stuff. I took a break from going through my clothes cause I just want to throw half of it out.

This is probably not good, cause atm my body is in a post-America tailspin and resisting any excess calories so I’m not sure where my weight will end up and maybe all this old junk will look fantastic on me after-all, esp if I manage to find an aquatic fitness course on the weekend (My health insurance offers course for free! How much do I love Germany!!)

Anyway this post is about things this year that I am looking forward to, so let’s start there:

  • taking an aqua fitness course for FREE
  • Also yoga if I can fit it in too, why not?? it’s FREE
  • getting my schedule finalized, the new proficiency class, and other new classes/students that I’ll enjoy getting to know
  • my new intensive German course, cause the kids make fun of me, and it’s true, I haven’t been challenged in German for awhile
  • How my German senior courses are much easier than last year.
  • ¬†the Altstadtfest (Old City Festival) here. It’s so CUTE and all the restaurants have tents and there’s Federweisser¬†which is really young white wine sort of half fermented, sweet and refreshing! It’s like a big beer garden atmosphere, but you don’t have to drink beer.
  • The falling leaves and the crisp weather, with just a bit less rain and a bit more sun than normal.
  • This TV show¬†It’s about lonely German farmers looking for wives. The bf and I love it, not in the least because the biting German commentary, the hilarious regional accents, which occasionally require subtitles, and the messed up expectations there are about relationships and life in the country. It’s a bit of a contrived “reality” show. Maybe we should be embarrassed, but we get to cuddle up Monday evenings and watch the awkwardness turn into a love story.
  • All my rich fall colored-clothes I got in the US, esp my super comfy new teaching pants. Finally pants that aren’t jeans that look formal, but are more comfy than jeans. Hurrah!
  • Riding a bike for as long as I can, then my yearly 6 month public transportation pass when the weather gets unbearable, which is worth the money for simply making it easier to get out of my house and into the city doing things.
  • My new wellies (galoshes). The bf thought they were ridiculous and thinks I’ll never wear them, but I’m willing to make style sacrifices this winter to keep my feet warm and dry and to fight off colds for as long as possible. Besides I’ll just bring a change of ballet slippers.
  • My Entla is coming to visit me with her husband. I’m so excited!! Together again in Germany and at the Christmas market time at that!!
  • Also the bestie is visiting in Nov. sans bf, which is a shame but it’s a relief to have the next date to look forward to. It also means I don’t have to rush over to England for the next holiday.
  • Hopefully I’ll have another visit, and if not, at least another reunion over Christmas time.
  • Getting a check-up. Yes I’m looking forward to it! Last year I was constantly getting sick. And I need a new eye-check up for new contacts/lenses.
  • Figuring out where I’ll be next September and what I’ll be doing.
  • Also the new niece that’s arriving sometime in October. Yay!
  • I can’t quite decide for sure if I want to risk another Greek course, but I’ll go to the first lesson and if it doesn’t work, I’ll cancel it.

So that’s my list for now. Off to improve my German articles!

Another long, drawn-out cultural rant brought on by my students

Some days it seems like all I do is constantly defend one nationality from another. With my Greek kids I try to tell them that the Germans aren’t all cold and cruel and racist. With my German seniors I have to say that Greeks aren’t at all out to steal Germany’s money. Etc, etc, etc…

I don’t know why I do it. Maybe it’s some weird American hang-up of mine to try and promote multiculturalism¬†whereever I go. And I guess after all those school and college years spent listening to white people telling me it’s the bee’s knees, I’ve turned into a little melting pot evangelist.

Maybe it’s cause I’m slightly possessive and protective of my classes. They are my responsibility after all, plus I don’t like something that I’ve seen the vulnerable side of being attacked in any way.

(Oh man just had to do a quick preposition check just now. My poor brain is awash in a sea of languages and doesn’t know what sounds right anymore. Is it vulnerable side to or of? ¬†HA!)

Thursday, wow. I jumped right in with my seniors this week. They were grumbling and negative, but I care about them and teaching them a second year requires less prep work. On Wednesday we had a smaller class than normal and we had a rambling discussion about European politics, the housing market, the Euro vs. the DMark, humidity, September 11th, Germany’s former territory in Poland and then the War: the one and only that matters here.

I can’t describe it in a paragraph. I need pages and pages to tell you about the depth of my feelings when it comes to WWII and Germany. They don’t want to bring it up, they are tired of being told they’re Nazis. They were children during the war for the most part, and they are tired of being told they knew, and they are tired of having to pretend the trauma of their childhood doesn’t count for anything, because they weren’t Jews. And if we were in Berlin, many of them would hide a rape or two at the hands of the Russian soldiers.

I watched Inglourious Basterds¬†and I expected to like it. But I hated it. It was like some glorified WWII video game; like you could just prance into a situation and it would be crystal clear, without a doubt what’s right of wrong. I turned it off after Diane Kruger shot the Nazi dad. I love Tarantino. I just wish he had chosen any other topic. It could never be a lighthearted flick for me. As if history is that simple; as if everything is so black and white. As if no one suffered anything but those deserving it. As if American soldiers didn’t go AWOL like cowards after they found a new European mistress. As if many good ol’ country boys didn’t go back home leaving bastard children to grow up without fathers. As if America didn’t follow the same old tired politics of only taking action when there’s enough popular movement not to rule out a re-election.

And we did good things in the war and we certainly sped up the process from the previous drawn-out hellhole that was WWI and brave men died far away from home.

But simple? No. Good vs. Bad? No. All Germans were Nazis? No.

And I ask myself why I get so worked up. I ask myself why I get so annoyed when I hear Americans talking about the war like it was yesterday. I ask myself why it’s so important that they see Germany is so much more than Nazis and Hitler.

But I’m convinced that this matters. I’m convinced that blurring the humanity of the Germans is dangerous. I’m worried that we’ve been able to glorify war to a dangerous level by always having them on foreign soil and leaving the mess for someone else to deal with. Why are all these men coming back from Iraq and not getting the¬†psychological¬†help they need? And then they go out shooting civilians and we ask why. And Vietnam vets? How did they fare?

I didn’t say anything like that to my seniors. Oh, I behave myself very well! My bf doesn’t always believe it, but as much as I can talk when you get me going, as a teacher my job is to guide the conversation, not dominate it. I only said the bit about how the American who come here for WWII have their eyes closed to everything else Germany has to offer.

The relief in their eyes, after I said that, after it was clear that I wasn’t looking at them with judging eyes I think I will always treasure. Pain is pain. It doesn’t equal holocaust atrocities. But I think the Germans have been working a long time on how to be honest and come to terms with their past. I love that about them. We will forget, us Americans, the real story first, because we won’t need to remember the little bits about taking a train to strangers to escape the bombs or eating chocolate from an American GI. We’ll forget the little details because we don’t to constantly ask ourselves what happened, who did what, what can we do now?

Later on my advanced class had to consider what would happen to society if we all lived to be 100. Needless to say, before I knew it, the class dissolved into German bashing and how German seniors citizens suck and are selfish. Of course Greek grandparents are better.

SIGH

This is my life people. I try to put them all in each other’s shoes. I can’t help it. I am a frickin bleeding heart. I poked holes in their arguments. I called the out for being selfish too. I asked them to imagine being old and lonely with no close family nearby. I considered the serious arguments they offered me and asked them¬†why, why, why?

I know one reason why the last class passed proficiency. I taught them critical thinking. That’s my thing. Cause they absolutely need that in the Speaking and Writing part. You can’t be wishy-washy with such complicated topics.

My advanced kids were happy to come in today, they gave me big smiles and I was a bit taken aback. I want it to be a safe place, where they can state they opinion as long as they have the ability to provide some logical justification when it’s too out there. They ought to question what they hear and check what people tell them. Luckily I can cut through their b.s. With the seniors, out of respect I ignore a lot of crazy statements.

I can already see these year coming to a close and I will once again have done practically nothing in terms of my personal language studies because I will have given all my energy and effort, love and patience to the kids and seniors.

Please forgive this moment of ego. I’ve worked really hard at this and I know I’m a good teacher. Not perfect, competent. Coming soon I’ll have another class to prepare for the proficiency test and I’m so excited.

There’s more that could be said. But I’ll leave you with some classroom pics. Maybe sometime I can take some individual pics of the stories students have written that I have on my door and post them here too.

I made this little photo collage of scenes from the Rocky Mountain National Park that I took when I went hiking back with my family in August. It's a little blurrier here than I thought. I kept glancing at it all day today and it brought my mood up in an instant. The girls from the last class gathered round it at the end to look at my boyfriend and inform me he's Greek looking.

I constantly refer to my map of US states. We either talk about the size of things or I try to point out where things are located and that the US is very, very big. Now I've got a new addition of which state names come from Indian languages, because there's always some smart aleck who hopes asking my why it's called Mississippi will distract me from the lesson.

Here's my somewhat messy desk, with my new photo addition. I was too exhausted to deal with all of today's vocab and put stickers on their little notebooks, so all this is waiting for me tomorrow!