A Revival

It’s been almost exactly five years since I started this blog. It’s been four since I wrote the last post. I’ve realized that even though I don’t live in Germany by myself anymore, I still have a lot of thoughts and ideas and opinions that I’d like to get out there.

My intention is no longer for this to be a travel blog, although in some sense that’s what it’s destined to be for the next year or so as I embark on a new adventure which is graduate school in Copenhagen, Denmark. Instead, I want to make this a blog about people and their ideas (and my ideas about their ideas) anywhere and everywhere. As much as we’d all like to believe that the only interesting things to think about are the exotic things that are far away from home, I’m becoming convinced that some of the most interesting things to think about and talk about and question are the things that we (who is ‘we’ anyway?) do every day and take for granted.

So this is not longer¬†a travel blog about my life, it’s a life blog about my travels.

Time Goes by

I thought for a while that I was going to get through this entire year wwithout getting sick. But here I am, the third weekend of March, and I’m I can’t seem to rid myself of this cold. While being sick is never particularly pleasant, this particular time is more annoying than usual because of the circumstances surrounding my illness. Namely that ‘m leaving Germany in three months and spending any of that time being sick is NOT what I wanted to do.

IThis weekend, I was supposed to be with my jazz band in Neubrandenburg at a jazz workshop where bands from all over Northern Germany as well as a couple from other countries get together fro three days and play a ton of music. Two hour rehearsals followed by thirty to sixty minute long breaks for lunch or coffee (recall my admiration for the German tradition of four o’clock coffee). i’m trying not to dwell on the fact that I’m lying in my bed instead of playing in a concert right now, but it’s, well, to put it in German √§rgerlich.

Instead of dwelling on twhat I’m missing, I’ll look at what’s coming up in the next few weeks of my life. Next weekend is a concert for Blasorchester (my oompapa march band) which I’m very excited about, not only because there hasn’t been one since Christmas, but because I am playing a duet. Andrew and I were asked by the director if we would be so kind as to play something just the two of us to draw attention to the fact that we are the two American exchange students and that we are playing with them. We eagerly accepted this offer. Thanks to my dear grandfather who (like Andrew) plays trombone, we found a duet. Only problem was that the music had piano accompaniment and sounded weird when just the two of us played. Solution? Jazz band director offers to write the piano part out for a french horn, tuba, and trumpet, so we can have friends who are also in the band play with us and make it into a quintet (a really cool sounding quintet, if I do say so myself).
Speaking of Blasorchester, I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned this at some point before, but I LOVE that band. Everyone has been so welcoming to Andrew and me, I feel like a special guest the whole time. I’ve been given a mug, a jacket, and a calendar. These are things the band normally sells. But because I’m me (or something) I get them all for free. That’s really just the tangible part of why I like it so much, though. Everyone who is in the band has been so nice, as well. About half the people in the band are kids between age thirteen and fifteen who go to the school right across the way, and the rest are adults. For the majority of the time I spend my time with the kids. From the first time I started playing, I felt like I was meant to be a part of the band. It’s weird how you get feelings like that sometimes, but I’m just HAPPY when I’m there for some reason. Difficult to describe exactly, but I think I’ve expressed my happiness with the situation. When I think about what I’m going to miss when I’m back home, Blasorchester is definitely in the top three things. It makes me sad to think I’m only going to have practice there every Thursday for a couple more months.

Anyway, back on topic. The weekend after next is still a bit up in the air (Denmark? Concert? Go to eat Mexican food? Other?) There have been a bunch of suggestions, and I’m still in the process of planning, but SOMETHING will definitely be happening. Then comes Easter. Friday and Monday are both holidays. Friday is some sort of traditional Bad Kleinen thing-not sure exactly what, but it sounds like food and socializing to me. Jan and Krystin are also going to come up from Hannover on Sunday. And the Easter Bunny will clearly be around (speaking of the Easter Bunny, he is NOT pink or yellow in Germany. When I suggested he might be at work, I got strange looks and the question “have you ever seen a pink rabbit?”).

The weekend after Easter I am going to go to Hamburg on my own to see my host grandparents. I’m not completely sure what we are going to do while I am there but ballet or opera or symphony will be included. I’m so excited to do something posh like that again. It’s been a long time since I have.

Afterwards I have a couple weekends free (at least for the moment, I’m sure they’ll get filled up as well), and then Sophia (my sister comes) and then, well, it’s June and I’ll be going back home already. Spring is a fast season, unfortunately. Next time I come up to breathe it will already be the middle/end of April and the year will be almost over.

The moral of this post is: getting sick is really annoying. Try not to do it, especially when you’re having a good time (with your job as well) because it just messes everything up.

Love,
Katherine

Germany is not France

I think it was about a year into the two years I was in France that it occurred to me that despite my admiration for the French and ability to appreciate their food, I would never be truly French. Why? Because I’m an American. The French (like Americans) convinced that their way of living is correct. There are specific rules that one must adhere to because that’s just the way it is. There are a lot cultural things that are so deeply integrated into every French person that they are taken as truths rather than as opinions the entire country happens to share. Not fitting into these cultural norms is cause for a certain amount of finger wagging from the french and a feeling of guiltiness for not knowing that too much ice in your water is bad for your digestion. For an American such as myself, that can lead to a feeling of constant self-consciousness and worry that I’m not doing something right (I suspect my time in France has something to do with my perfectionism).

And now I’m in Germany. About a month ago I realized that the reason that I am not German (and never will be) is exactly the opposite from the reason I am not French. Rather than adhering to rule after rule, my impression here has been that children are encouraged to cultivate their own identity and to make decisions for themselves from a much younger age than either in the United States or in France. Rather than, like the French, TELLING children in school that they WILL do this or WILL NOT do that, the Germans ASK their children what they want to do and encourage them to try different things. The idea behind this whole method, as far as I can tell is to let kids make mistakes and see what and what doesn’t work for themselves (as opposed to the French who are told what works and what doesn’t). Thus the internships integrated into the school system, thus the option to go to school through eighth, tenth, or twelfth grade, thus the large number of young Germans who go abroad for a year even during high school. It’s not about the way ONE does things, but about the way each INDIVIDUAL chooses to live his or her life.

I think growing up like that would have been difficult for me. I think a mix between the two extremes of French and German (more or less what I think I got) is best-try out a bit, but get input about what has and has not worked in the past. That said, having the opportunity to live in Germany this year has been a good chance to let myself try out things I never have tried out before and to allow myself to say “This is what I think” rather than “This is what I’ve been told, and as I agree with the general principal, I’m going to go with it”. I’ve been able to develop myself as an individual but still have the background that I had from growing up in the family I grew up in.

Talking about all of this in such general terms feels a little weird for me because it makes me feel like I’m overgeneralizing. I know in the back of my head that a lot of the impressions I have about the United States and France and Germany are based on where exactly I was/am located and the people I am with. But on the other hand, there are certain things that are indeed cultural, and while with all cultural things there are exceptions, the feeling that one should keep to the rule is there no matter what.