"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kassel: Life things, confusing things, awesome things

Dear Kassel Diary,

Why have you been so empty?

I haven't been empty!  I've been chock-fucking-full of long working days, bus rides, lesson planning, and paperwork.  Silly girl.

Yeah, it's been pretty much like that.  Still walking and talking, and working, but there has been precious little to blog about I'm afraid.  There have been no wedding supras, no happy hours at Betsy's, no hostel shenanigans to rage against, and not even one awkward scarf/skirt experience outside a mosque.

This is the truth that I learned in Istanbul.  It's the weird, challenging, hard and downright pain-in-the-ass experiences that make it truly worthwhile to live abroad.  (And I don't mean hard and challenging as in dealing with health insurance asshattery, which I happen to have had more than my fair share of recently.)  Had some wine and conversation with a friend last night, and she agreed that her best overseas memories were the "wait, whaaat?" moments.  I'm not going to pretend that I haven't been comparing the new girlfriend to the first girlfriend, because of course I have.  Georgia's on my mind, and I will probably always miss the time that I had there.  But -- you can't go back again!  Forward, only!  Hau ruck.

My newest girlfriend Kassel is pretty effing demanding, but we have managed to get out a little.  Noteworthy recent events have included:

I turned 34.  After quite a long and full workday, my excellent friend Will let me know that he had remembered my request that buffalo wings happen on my birthday!  Jocylene came by with a bottle of creatively-wrapped wine, and the three of us swung off to the Halloween Party House so Will could make buffalo magic happen.  Of course I forgot my camera, but it ended up being a very awesome, low-key and relaxing evening full of good friends and delicious fattening American food.

I had my 33rd birthday in Rome, and my 32nd in Poti, Georgia.  Ever since Ash Wednesday, 2011, my life has turned into one hell of a ride.  Next year will be a biggie -- halfway to 40.  My stomach just turned over.  But I wonder where I'll be, and what crazy nutty adventures I will have gotten myself into this time around.

Last Saturday, I went out with my friend Will and we caught my boss's band!  Yep, you read that right.  It was a very cool evening and I got to meet a couple new teachers.  Good times.

They are building the Christmas Market!  It's been slowly going up for about two weeks now, and has completely taken over Konigsplatz and Freidrichplatz.  There are lights and giant Christmas trees and signs for bratwurst and gluhwein everywhere!  I cannot even tell you how excited this makes me.  The market is supposed to open on Monday, and I can't wait to take my first wander with a cup of hot spiced wine in hand.  I've been pretty good recently about curbing my spending, but when it comes to this, all bets are off!!  ALL THE CHRISTMAS THINGS.  My excuse will be that people need Christmas presents.  Of course they do!

Is this seriously all that's been going on?  Yikes.  Other than going out to the boss's show, last Saturday was a No Pants Day, and it's kind of looking like this one will be too.  It sucks, but the fact is that my motivation to do stuff is severely hamstrung by the fact that my weekdays are so freaking exhausting.  I just want to sleep until it's afternoon and luxuriate in fuzzy pants with an elastic waist!  I might venture out for a pizza since apparently Bugsy's doesn't deliver to Kassel.  I'll probably be wearing aforementioned fuzzy pants for this miniature adventure though.  German pizza, btw, is far superior to Turkish pizza and obviously light years above Georgia's hot dog and mayonnaise-covered abominations, but they still seem awfully confused about what a pizza should actually look and taste like, for a country that is pretty damn close to Italy.  Oh well.  Someday I will make my way back to Napoli.

This may be one of the lamest posts I've ever done, so I'll amuse you with my growing list of Things That Confuse Me About Germany.

1)  Seat-Hogging.  Germans hate for you to sit next to them on buses or trams.  Even if people are standing, many people will keep their bag on the seat next to them, and act surprised if you ask them to move it.  As someone coming from Eastern Europe, where a seat on public transit was more precious than gold, this drives me crazy.

2)  Streetlights so dim they're almost completely useless.

3)  Recycling gymnastics.  For a forward-thinking country that is really excited about recycling, damn if they do not make this whole situation freaking difficult to follow.  I have a friend who's been here for three years, and he still does not know all the ins and outs of How to Recycle in Germany.  Whatever happened to just having a freaking recycling bin next to the trash bin, people?

4)  Nose-blowing.  A German will clear his sinuses with gusto, anywhere, anytime.  Table in a crowded restaurant?  In a shared elevator?  Standing in a stuffed tram?  In class?  Take a deep breath and send that rumbling honk up to meet the angels, baby.

5)  Not turning on lights during the day, even if outside it is so dark and grey that it's practically the middle of the night.

6)  Germans seem to take off sick really frequently.  And they stay sick (out) for a while.  I mean, I guess it's good that they don't want to spread germs, but I don't get paid if I don't work, so I hope they're not horrified when I show up to teach with a 101 fever.  That should be an interesting class.  At least I know I don't have to hold back when it's time to blow my nose.

7)  "Hallo!" and "Tchus!"  Germans have this really big thing about hellos and goodbyes.  Share an elevator with a total stranger?  You better the hell be sure to greet them and say farewell on your way out.  Pass someone (another stranger) in the hall on the way to your next class?  "Hallo!"  Pick up your bags from the grocery register?  That transaction isn't over until "Tchus!"  Leaving the coffeeshop?  Make sure you say goodbye to your barista on the way out the door.  Also, in America, "thank you" can sometimes be interchanged for "goodbye" in these situations.  Not so here.  Danke is danke, and tchus is tchus.  Let's not confuse things.

8)  Jaywalking makes you an outright rebel, even if there are no cars in sight.

And before my favorite trolls burst a blood vessel in their haste to tell me that I should go home and never leave the house again because I have the stunning audacity to think some things are weird in a new country, here are some things I really like about Germany so far.

1)  I actually really like the hello and goodbye thing.  It takes some getting used to, but it's a fairly perfect illustration of Germans' friendliness and directness.

2)  Buses and trams that are usually not filled to bursting and on time.

3)  Schnitzel.  'Nuff said.

4)  How clean everything is.  It is a very welcome change from Eastern Europe.

5)  Another example of friendliness and directness, people are always doing little things to help you.  Whether it's a dude standing in an open tram door to make sure it doesn't shut as you're sprinting towards it, or an old lady explaining through charades that the proper way to put your bottles on the grocery belt is to lay them down so they don't tip over.  (Everyone does this, I had just never noticed.)  More than once, I'll be having a Language Challenge Moment, and someone will volunteer to translate for me.  It's really awesome, sort of a community-taking-care-of-itself feeling.

6)  Also, speaking of things being on time, Germans have punctuality down to a science.

7)  One of my favorite things about being here is that it seems that people are just more comfortable in their own skin.  After the social conservativeness of many places I've lived recently (definitely including DC), it's just freaking awesome to see an older lady rocking the facial piercings and spiked, blue-streaked hair.  There are a lot of body types here as well; Germans seem a lot more liberated than Americans when it comes to concepts of beauty.

8)  Food choices.  Holy crap, do I really live in a not-US city that actually has restaurants that serve food from different parts of the world???  There is a Thai restaurant and two Japanese noodle shops within walking distance of my apartment.  After Turkish Food All the Time, and Georgian Food All the Time, this is wonderful.  On my last trip to the grocery store, I actually saw (and bought) a jar of tikka masala sauce.  Amazing!!

9)  And of course, the Christmas Market!

So this is my German life, as it stands.  Not too shabby, I suppose.  I really need to learn how to not lesson plan so much.  Right now though, it is definitely time for some salty German pizza.  Peace out everyone.

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