Monday, August 15, 2011

Chris in Europe!

I can’t believe I let it go this long. I’ve been meaning to document the journey with Chris ever since it happened in December. 

Chris was the only one of my American friends who was able to make a trip over to Europe while I lived there, and I’m so grateful to have had that experience! We decided to see Berlin, Prague, London and Edinburgh together.

I got myself to London on the day after Christmas (which, around those parts is known as ‘Boxing Day’) despite the copious amounts of snow covering Leipzig and the fact that the Straßenbahn (streetcar) wasn’t running and I got lost trying to walk to the train station, at the last moment admitting defeat and hailing a cab.

After walking about in London and enjoying the change in atmosphere (I left Germany covered in 2 feet of snow and landed in London to 45ºF temps) I headed to Heathrow Airport to pick Chris up. After the requisite excitement of welcoming a friend at the airport, we promptly realized Chris had left his brand new iPad behind on the plane.

Despite much hassle and due to some splendid serendipity, Chris managed to locate the iPad (thanks, fancy tracking apps on the iPhone!) and we took the Overground from Willesden to retrieve it from the police station in a sleepy little Borough called Watford Junction, where we found a fish ‘n’ chips and a pub that was showing a game of football.

London with Chris was great. We had loads of fun, visited museums (Natural History, Imperial War)

A bit of the Berlin Wall in London, Imperial War Museum.

and took in all the lovely sights (Westminster, Trafalgar Square, the South Bank of the Thames); 

Tower Bridge, London

Tower of London

Parliament, London

Trafalgar Square, London

Tchotchkes and souvenirs on Westminster Bridge, with a view of the London Eye.

but I feel like Chris’s best moments by far where when we visited the film museum and Chris came face to face with Dr. Who’s Tardis and the Doctor’s mortal enemies, the Daleks. 

Doctor Who fandom in full effect!

When we walked in to the room that housed the Dr. Who props, a look of joy spread across Chris face. Then there was the photo we snapped in the “Death Star”, with me as Darth Vader and Chris as Luke Skywalker. I even got to brandish a realistic looking light saber. Chris was like a kid in a candy store. We also found time to eat a deeeeelicious Indian meal 

and of course, make a day of it in Camden Town.

Unfortunately Chris became quite ill in our last days in London, and instead of coming along with me to experience Hogmanay (the New Year celebration) in Edinburg, he stayed behind at our hostess Kate’s flat to rest and attempt to bolster his immune system. He ended up having a pretty epic New Years celebration in London, from what he told me, but it was still a bummer to have to split up.

Our next adventure together was Berlin, which quickly became, like mine, one of Chris’s favorite cities. Berlin can be really easy to love, if you’re a certain type of person, which Chris and I both must be. After a day there I went back to Leipzig because I had classes, but Chris stayed on there until the night before we were meant to travel to Prague. He told me about a graffiti tour of Berlin he took that was offered by the hostel he stayed in. It sounded amazing and I'm still jealous that I didn't get to take it!

At the end of my school week we reconvened in Leipzig. Early Friday morning we departed Leipzig by train, heading to Prague. We arrived there around noon. and after a series of missteps in the train station

Main station in Praha (German for Prague)

(shady currency exchange, a thieving ticket machine,) we headed to the hostel we'd booked on the internet. When we got there after climbing many, many steep cobblestoned hills while lugging our heavy bags, we quickly realized, upon descending into a smoke-filled dungeon of a check-in/common room, bearing sunken, tattered chairs and a very potent cigarette reek, that we might not have the most pleasant stay there. It definitely seemed like the kind of place that a tourist might get their organs sliced out and put on the black market. A quick peep at the bedrooms upstairs (and furthermore, the bathrooms! Eugh!) and we were hightailing it out.

Chris used the recovered iPad to find us a hostel; we wound up at a place called the Czech Inn. That hostel was, especially by contrast: gorgeous, modern, clean, spacious and wonderful in every way-  especially in that it wasn’t much more expensive than organ harvesting nightmare we’d just escaped from! The dorms were bright and open, with pretty hard wood floors, the beds sported crisp, clean white linens, the bathrooms were well-lit and sparkling, minimalist with cool, sleek granite implements, and there was a bar downstairs that served a lovely continental breakfast in the morning and delicious Czech beer in the evening for only 20 Krone, which, if I’m not mistaken, is equal to about a euro.

Prague itself was, in my opinion, a bit overwhelming and intimidating. I was taken aback that I couldn’t make out ANYTHING in the Czech language. It is an unsettling feeling not to be able to read street signs or even just advertisements on the streetcar. We didn’t meet any Czech people, aside from the staff of both hostels, so I can’t really speak to the friendliness of the locals. We did make the acquaintance of a Canadian girl and some Australian boys, who we went out into the city with on our first night. I honestly don’t remember much except for shots that had been lit on fire, which are almost never a very good idea.

Prague itself, especially Old Town, was pretty breathtaking. 

Chris and I ascended the Tower and got a wonderful view of the city.

We saw Old Town, including the castle and the gorgeous cathedral nestled within it’s walls, from this high vantage point, and then we ascended the hills to visit the Castle on foot. Obviously we couldn't resist taking numerous jumping shots.

Another point of interest in Prague, The Charles Bridge, was as beautiful as it’s reputation boasts. There are loads of sculptures along it’s perimeter with Biblical themes, many of their hands, feet, or other brass bits rubbed to a shining, glinting gold from the Catholic pilgrims that come to touch and pray at the religious icons.

We then saw the Lennon Wall which, just a few steps past the grandeur of the Charles Bridge, is a rainbow-colored wall of graffiti; a place where locals had gathered in the oppressive days of communism for peaceful protest.

After Prague I headed back to Leipzig and soon we were both off on our separate ways, me to Buffalo for my cousin’s wedding and Chris back home to Seattle.

In all it was an epic adventure (practically Bill and Ted-worthy) and I’m really super glad Chris came to Europe to share it with me!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I have yet to come to grips with leaving Leipzig.

Although my brain knows I’ve only paid rent until July, that the semester at University is over and the stay in London is like a stepping-stone to a flight back to New York, my stubborn little heart refuses to acknowledge it. My heart still believes I’ll be headed back to my familiar, cozy, tidy little room in Connewitz after a reckless jaunt in England, that all of my friends will once again be surrounding me and filling my life with joy and that Leipzig, the city I’ve come to love, will be right outside my door (just as it should be;) not to mention Berlin and the rest of Europe. It’s just utterly outside the scope of possibility that my reality could have been altered so much in a single day.

I’m honestly not sure I’ve made the right decision in leaving Leipzig this early in exchange for a week in London. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Kate and I can’t wait to see her and spend time with her in one of my favorite cities in the world, but still a nagging doubt is tugging at me, telling me I should instead have been spending these last days in Leipzig. I could be lazing on the beach with Rosy and Natasha, dancing in the Ilses with Elli or eating lunch together at the Uni, biking to hidden party spots late at night with the whole gang, lying in the park on a Sunday afternoon with Miriam, stopping by Magdeburg to hug my Schwesterlein and Mutti, just making the most out of every last second I possibly could… however, it’s simply too late now. I’m on a plane, after a bit of a hassle at the border solved with a grin and an “I didn’t know any better!” type of look, flying over mainland Europe, on my way to foggy London town, and there’s no turning back now.

Friday, July 15, 2011

me, auf deutsch

i had the pleasure of speaking this morning with someone who either couldn't or flat out refused to speak english with me, for a good few hours. it was pretty awesome. but now looking back on it, some elements are floating to the surface concerning how i comport myself while using the german language.

first off- i'm not very verbal. this is obviously due to a lack of confidence in using the language casually and, probably more than i'd like to admit, due to a lack of vocabulary. so i say very little. i answer questions, often haltingly, often requesting that the question be repeated. sometimes i ask questions but definitely less frequently than i would if i were having a conversation in english.

i have to listen very, very actively. i have to try to hear, comprehend and analyse each word as it's said, then synthesize the words and rearrange them to fit my english-thinking schema. all in a matter of seconds. then, also in a matter of seconds, i have to form a response, using words the way i THINK they're supposed to be used (i'm often wrong) and at the same time i have to attempt the proper pronunciation of these words as well. i have to try to speak at a seemingly normal pace, which is nothing close to the pace of my english conversations.

most importantly, i have to try really hard. i have a hard enough time in english getting my point across or expressing myself. in another language it's basically torture. and it's really hard to be funny. at least, intentionally.

but all this is part of the process i'm sure. despite the fact my formal education in german might well be over, i don't think i'll ever stop learning (trying to learn) german. i find the language itself too fascinating to give up, and i have too many amazing friends of the german persuasion that i'll always want to keep in my life who will motivate me to want to communicate better with them in their own language.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Es fühle mich kein Zufall, dass genauso wenn ich mein Schwesterlein am Hauptbahnhof verlassen, kommt 'ne starkes Gewitter. Genauso wie ich in mein Herz gefühlt.
Heute sagte ich die erste von viele anstrengende „Aufwiedersehens," dass ich sage müssen. Ich hatte an mein Schwesterchen Annika „Tchusschen" sagen.
Die ist der Grund ich in Deutschland bin. Wegen die lerne ich deutsch. Wegen die liebe ich Deutschland.
Hier ist es wie eine kleine Familie, hier ist es wie mein echtes Leben.
Ich fühle ein schweres Gewicht an meinem Brust jetzt. Es fühlt wirklich wie etwas schwer an mein Schlüsselbein sitzen. Es tut mir weh.
Kein Tranen kam. Ich weiß nicht warum, aber es gibt ehrlich keine. Vielleicht ist es wie sie gesagt hatte; „Ich bin nicht außer dem Welt." Naja, stimmt. Aber trotzdem tut es weh.

It doesn't feel like a coincidence that just as I left my little sister at the train station, a strong storm came. Exactly how I felt in my heart.
Today I said the first of many difficult "goodbyes" that I must say. I had to say "bye bye" to my little sister Annika.
She's the reason I'm in Germany. Because of her I'm learning German. Because of her I love Germany.
It's like a little family here... it's like my real life here.
Now I feel a heavy weight on my chest. It really feels like something heavy is sitting on my collarbone. It hurts.
No tears came. I don't know why, but there really were none. Maybe it's like she said; "I'm not gone from the world." Well yeah, true. But it hurts anyway.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The fact that I’m leaving Leipzig in two weeks definitely hit me hard this morning while riding the tram to the school where I’m student teaching. As much as I’ve been trying to deny that fact, to ignore and avoid the inevitable, it’s happening soon and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m about to leave the place I’ve happily called home for the past 11 months, for good, with the possibility of never, ever coming back. While the likelihood of never, ever coming back (at least to Germany) is low, the possibility is there. Not to mention what this means for my life- I go home and graduate from college, which means no more casually jaunting about Europe, unattached, unencumbered, living only for my whims, without really giving a second thought to the future beyond what I’ll be doing at the weekend.

For the first time, I felt A REAL CRY coming on; not just the prickly feeling in my tear ducts, or that pesky lump in my throat; no, a real honest and true cry. Being that I’m sat on public transportation, surrounded by pre-teens on their way to school, I choked it back. However, at that moment I knew a virtual flood was coming. I don’t know how I’m going to handle this. As much as I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends in Buffalo, Leipzig has become my home, and the people here are as important to me as those there. Not to mention having to leave my sister-from-a-German-mister, Annika, in Magdeburg. That’s a whole other sob story.

Not only am I sinking into depression because of my imminent leaving date, and I hate to sound whiny in my last days here, but it’s felt as though I’ve been living in a strange, German speaking city in England for the past two weeks… by which I mean I haven’t seen the sun in a fortnight. We’ve been besieged by near constant drizzle, if not full on rain. The dreary days certainly don’t contribute to a cheerful mood. If the sun was out and the temperatures were high, as I’ve been used to in Germany up until this point, at least I could be happily lounging on the beach, which always helps to erase unpleasantness from my mind. Instead I’m stuck lying about in my bedroom watching internet TV (which isn’t quite so bad since I’ve found a friend to share that with,) or biking places in the rain and exacerbating my wretched summer cold.

The other thing that’s making my last days here slightly less enjoyable is that University marches on. I thought for sure I’d be done by now, maybe with the relaxed expectation that I attend my classes once in a while or something, but no; I have 3 presentations and a 10 page paper due and my attendance is expected at every class up until practically the day I leave. So I can look forward to a stressful two weeks before my impending departure. Why the hell didn’t I push my leaving date back to August? I don’t want to go so soon. While spending a week in England is sure to be glorious, I still would rather have another week in Germany. I’m not even sure I can afford a week in London, especially if I want to spend a couple of days in New York before returning to Buffalo. I have to be really vigilant about spending here in Germany these last two weeks.

There’s so much to think about in a practical sense as well; I have to figure out a way to get my luggage to England (it’s going to be far to heavy to send on Ryan Air) which means mailing it to Kate’s, not to mention the packing itself which will of course be a bear, and then there’re train/Mitfahgelegenheit arrangements to Berlin to make, and UGH, it’s just too damn much! 

Monday, June 27, 2011


Seems as though I should have learned long ago that spending 4 days and 3 nights completely outdoors in chilly, rainy weather wearing short-shorts and tank tops is not conducive to remaining healthy.

However, in my 28 years I seem not to have learned that lesson. After dancing around like a maniac in Wellies to some of my favorite bands for the entire weekend of Hurricane Festival, getting very little sleep throughout and then going to Berlin to do it all over again last Tuesday for Feté de la Musique, I came back to Leipzig with a full blown cold. It seemed to evaporate by Thursday, but when we decided to take a long midnight bike ride  in the cold and rain to a rave in an unknown location it came back with a vengeance.

Luckily I have wonderful friends who were willing to take care of me and bring me tea and juice this weekend while my head was full of snot. Thanks guys!