When initially putting pen to paper in an attempt to write my first post, I tried to recall what first brought me back to Germany
(I had previously studied abroad here for one year) and what that time was like. The overall picture was clear, but the nuances, adapting to new sights, scents and language were less vivid in my mind. To recapture this, I began skimming my old journals and the results of this effort are the snapshots captured below:
Reflecting on the move to Germany
From the traveling high to the daily grind on new soil
21 July 2009
Sometimes I need to pinch myself to register what’s truly going on. I don’t know if it is just because its so big or what exactly it is. I mean, I know I’ve been planning this trip for a while and preparing, but I feel like I might be on automatic pilot ever since I’ve been in Germany and dived right into dealing with problems, working, trying to be a tour guide. It just hasn’t set in. I have no clue what im doing Isn’t this supposed to be amazing? Why does it instead feel like the everyday grind of things to do? This should be amazing!
Season II. Fall
11 November 2009
The t-shirts and sandals are long since packed away and the trees are changing, dropping their leaves upon the soggy ground. Colors of yellow and orange stick to the bottom of my boots as I walk to work, skipping along carefully, so to not get my heels stuck in the cobblestone. It is Monday morning around 7:15am and I’m off to another company. I think I will hit four towns this week…
Trading a turkey-filled belly and family for Smoke-filled Hair and Garlic Pizza: deal or no deal?
My hair wreaks of smoke and my stomach is brimming with flammkuchen, an Elsassian thin crust pizza-like delight, but it was well worth it to catch up with a fellow Californian. Thanksgiving is approaching. It is fascinating how life-long traditions like Thanksgiving per default override any alternative plans, but then stepping out of that environment of tradition causes it to rapidly fade into another Thursday in the month of November. The pungent aromas of turkey, stuffing and gravy still waft through my mind, but the physical date of the celebration fades from it.
1 Dec 2009
…I still don’t think it’s hit me yet that I’m living in another country and the jury’s definitely still out on how I feel about that.
Season III. Cities of Images, Cities of Scents
Sometime in April
When telling people about my trip to Barcelona, I find it hard to describe it with words, so I often pull up pictures on my laptop, letting the vibrant colors speak for themselves. Paris, however, has been a different experience: it is better explained by words how your senses are fully engaged around every corner you turn. I truly haven’t encountered such a city where I’ve been so specifically directed by smell. La Rue Mouffetard – I could walk blind, knowing which shops I’m passing…there’s the shop with various jams, loose-leaf tea and dried fruits, rivaling the scents of fresh strawberries at the fruit market. Just beyond, the men are shouting out their best deals, there’s the Fromaggerie which initially wafts a creamy sweet but lingers like the aged and molding that it is. After escaping this unexplained oddity, there are the freshly brewed coffees and sugary sweets. I feel alive again, I open my eyes and stare at the layers of chocolate and caramelized goodness sprinkled with thoughts of gluttony. However, the two stores that really draw my attention are the fish shop and the wine tasting bar. I can’t help but wonder who moved in first. If it was the wine shop, I can only imagine the drawn faces of disappointment they had when the aroma of wet fish curled the fine nose hairs of their customers.
Thoughts after a “brief” three hours in the Louvre…
I couldn’t help but wonder about the evolution of culture. Who’s to say ours is the “most modern”? How much is “evolution of thought” and how much is a particular society’s perception of its world? What is most interesting to see is what exactly advanced in each culture due to a need, convenience or desire of knowledge about something in particular.
Discount airlines and pink toilet paper disappointment
28 April 2010
Dear Discount Airline,
Every time I fly with you, I’m reminded of why I shouldn’t. It’s like those damn chicken strips that I keep trying from time to time in hopes they will taste as good as my childhood memories of them. This time, dear Airline, you pulled me out of bed after two hours of sleep, sent me traipsing the Parisian streets, wondering “who the hell takes a bus at 4:30 am and do I want to be walking the streets with them?! Well, there were a few mini skirt “Miss Thang” transvestites and a hand full of glossy-eyed graveyard shifters nodding off like bobble dolls in their seats. And my miserable French, no that’s too advanced…my non-existent French barely got me on the bus. Beyond this, it was the usual discount airline tacticts – the airport is in fact miles and miles away from the city it claims to be in. It’s kind of like saying you’ve met Brad Pitt when you truly maybe only possibly saw the back of his head when he was ducking out of a Starbucks. Neither are close to the truth.
Season IV. Settling in, coming down from the race: A Fairy tale town and an old christmas tree
It’s peaceful outside and I love it. I do wish the sun would’ve made it through the clouds a little longer, but nonetheless, the clouds position themselves dark and dramatic against the brilliant countyside and foliage. I feel like I don’t do Tübingen justice by describing it as a “fairytale” or “traumhaft” because it would be like having a disney movie come to life and call it real – it’s written off as a rose-colored sunglasses experience when I’m only wearing a monacle. It has taken almost a year to enjoy it, but it’s nice to have time to cook, write, sleep-in, just let the mind go. Traumhaft, glitzernde, flammende Kerzen, nichts zu tun… kein “mussen” oder “sollen”…
Ein Weihnachtsbaum, a christmas tree, browned and forgotten, yet encrusted with memories, decorated with the kitsch of student style and budget, placed perfectly atop a crate of empty beer bottles filled with rain and winter runoff. This tree alone speaks for my new flat – it is most likely old, but was beautiful once, smelling of fresh paint as this tree once did of pine. It has been decorated with the kitsch but also good memories of six students under one roof.
15 August 2010
I set an alarm, but snoozed it twice this morning with my famous justification that the blankets are just too comfortable – probably doesn’t help when I pull them all around my face and under my chin. But it’s Sunday and that’s just how it’s supposed to be. I don’t need a clock at this time to know it’s about 8:00am. I hear murmurs in the kitchen about who’s going to the bakery. Good, this means I can still snooze until chair legs screech across the kitchen floor and the clanking of stacked plates…oh crap…and it begins. There’s no hope for sleep now. I give my cozy blanket a farewell glance and meander to the kitchen, preparing my mind to process and respond in full, coherent German sentences.
Later that day…
There’s something so fascinating about the sound of languages blending. I can’t describe it as beautiful, but it’s not ugly. It simply brings joy to my ears. Thanks to Skype, in the hallway I can hear a family getting updated on happenings in Portuguese, a cell phone conversation in German and myself writing in English: 3 mediums.3 languages.
The Next Chapter
13 February 2011
The last page left in this journal and how much has changed since page 1. I set out on a journey from Chico, California, not 100% sure if I was ready to leave it, not sure how long I’d be abroad or where exactly this road was going to take me. And here I am in a sub-letted room in the west part of Tuebingen with no furniture of my own, less than 100 euros in the bank, but a house full of not only roommates, but the beginning of solid friendships, memories of a great thanksgiving feast, raclette, cake surprises and many converstions over glasses of wine and coffee. The almost two years have involved multiple uprootings and moves across towns with mattresses on shoulders and bursting bags of pillows, but a trail of good friendship always with open doors for many return journeys to come. I hope I may never be able to count the cups of coffee I’ve drunk from sharing stories over the years because they are too many and too often.
The Journey Continues: My bags are unpacked. I’m ready to go.
This blog isn’t about entering into and maintaining the traveling adrenaline high. There are myriads of excellent travel blogs out there to inspire you on how to travel to a seemingly impossible number of countries in an even more absurd time frame. This blog is about unpacking that travel worn carry on bag with the one pair of jeans you’ve been wearing the last month and your faithful towel and expanding it into a livable space you call home. this is about when your travels abroad become your new home abroad. It is something like the epilogue to the lonely planet adventure. Stopping living like a nomad does not have to mean a boring life. In the book Immediate Fiction Jerry Cleaver imparts an essential formula to writers: a good plot= obstacle + conflict. When the couple marries, the kingdom is saved and the murder mystery is solved, the story ends. There is nothing left to tell. This is not the case here. When the traveling ends, there are anthologies worth of obstacle and conflict ahead – of course fun and laughs as well 🙂 So, when you unpack your suitcase, a new story is just getting started. And that my friend, is what I am here to tell you about.