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Das Letzte Wochenende

July 10th, 2011 No comments

Klettern

In less than a week my life here will be over, I’ll be back in America and the entire 3-year-long experience will be nothing more than a memory (and nearly a thousand pages’ worth of journal entries). I’ve been going about my life as though diagnosed with a terminal illness, thinking “is this the last time I’ll ever…?” for just about everything I do. I knew that this past Friday night was officially my last Friday night in Germany, and now every single day is the last [x]day I’ll have here.

Thankfully, my last Friday and last Saturday were excellent, full of experiences perfectly appropriate to be among my last in Germany. On Friday afternoon, Lena picked me up and drove me to Celle where she, Oliver, and I spent the evening in the backyard, playing with the dog, making a bonfire, and, naturally, drinking lots of beer. It was the first time I’d hung out with both of them together in at least a month and it was a lovely time as usual, made a little more emotional by knowing it would be my last night there in Celle. We talked about lots of things, none of which are as important as the fact that we had nice conversations in the first place. I remember them asking me what I’ll miss most about Germany, and while they said “other than the people” the honest answer is that it will be the two of them.

I may never spend the night in Celle again (when I come back to visit they might have moved on by then), but I’ll at least see Oliver and Lena one more time each. Oliver will be taking me to the airport on Friday (we’ll be leaving Hannover on Thursday to get closer to Düsseldorf to be there in the morning of the flight) and Lena will come too unless she has to do something for her studies. If she can’t join us though, she said she’d meet me one afternoon in Hannover to say goodbye. I don’t even want to think about that right now.

On Saturday we had to get up relatively early (9:00) to get ready to go on a climbing-trip that Lena’s friend Simone had organized over a month before. Simone is the same woman who organized the two “Grünkohlwanderung”s I went on, but this time she wanted to try something different and set up a time-slot for us to go to one of these giant climbing things that look like oversized jungle-gyms. It’s where a lot of businesses send their employees to have these “team-building exercises” and that’s what our group of about 12 people would be doing in spite of the fact that we’re not a “team” of any kind and all that binds us together is that we all know Simone or someone who knows Simone.

Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to it all that much. When I got up at 9:00 after a night of many beers, I went out to walk Oliver’s dog (also very sad to think that was the last time I’d do that) and all I could think was how the last thing I felt like doing was climbing up a giant wall with a big group of people.

We drove into Hannover to pick up a couple of other girls who decided to join, and then another half-hour or so to the southwest of Hannover in a region called the “Deister” which in comparison to the extreme flatness Hannover could be called “mountainous” but really it’s just a lot of hills. It was a very nice area though, and we were hoping for good weather. The morning was nice and sunny but the clouds had rolled in by the time we got there and the forecast called for a chance of rain or even thunderstorms.

Some navigational difficulties made us the last to arrive, but when we got there I immediately recognized a few faces from the Grünkohlwanderungs. In addition to Simone were the lovely Inge and her boyfriend-recently-turned-husband Matthias, and four or five others whose faces I remember but whose names I’ve forgotten. There was going to be a BBQ at Simone’s place after the climbing, and I was looking forward to that more than the climbing itself, so my attitude at the very beginning was very much along the lines of “let’s just get this over with.”

Before we did any actual climbing, there was about an hour of team-building exercises. There was one girl who worked there named Sybille who was in charge of our group (there were a few other people there but no other big groups) and she led us to a big wooden log on the grass and told us to line up on it. She then instructed us to rearrange ourselves in alphabetical order by first name, but we couldn’t get off the log because the grass was water in the Amazon, infested with crocodiles and other nasty things that would eat you if you fell in.

Right to left: Ana, Inge, me, Lena, Matthias, Moni, Oliver, um...

We managed to rearrange ourselves without too much trouble, but as we did she kept moving a pair of ropes on the edge of the log closer to each other (the log was sinking, you see) so we had to squeeze in closer and closer to each other. I’m sure this is highly effective team-building psychology: forcing the people to stand in uncomfortably close proximity to one another must help to create synergy.

Next we had to cross the treacherous Amazon waters to a wooden platform several meters away using only plastic beer crates, but Sybille kept kicking the crates away from us if we used them and then let go. Inge was the first to step out on the crates, and she brought one back over to the log. I’d been standing next to her on the log so I stepped out onto the one she brought, but I lost my balance and “fell in the water”. Sybille didn’t see, and while I was perfectly willing to be “dead” and just watch the rest of the exercise from the side-lines, there was another girl there to assist and she told me to just get back on the crate and pretend it didn’t happen. Then Sybille decided to make things even more difficult and she tied a bandana around Simone’s legs and around mine. “Are you kidding me?” I thought, figuring there was no way I could possibly get across now, but Inge figured out that by keeping two crates right next to each other and both of us moving to one at the same time, she could slowly but surely get me to the platform before going back to help the others.

Getting there... Hmmm...

Eventually we all got to the platform, which was teetering on another wooden log, our objective being to shift our balance of weight so that the platform wouldn’t hit the ground on either side for fifteen seconds. We had a very difficult time with this until I suggested we all stand as close to the middle as possible, at which point we made it for about twelve seconds but apparently that was enough.

Then we had to get across the crates again to a patch of dirt which was also safe-ground, and there was a wall of ropes resembling a spider’s web. Our next task was to get everyone through the ropes without touching them or re-using any of the openings. The group just kind of stood there dumbfounded for a moment, not having any idea how this could be done, but I think I’ve done something like this before (I can’t for the life of me remember where—possibly a Boy Scout trip when I was young) but I seemed to intuitively know what to do. We first had to get a couple of people through the ropes at the bottom with them crawling on their hands and some of us lifting the rest of their bodies up from the back, at which point they could then help others by lifting them from the front. We did this quite successfully, but of course the last two people through had to be blind-folded to make it more interesting.

With that finished I was finally able to un-bind my legs, but now all of us except for Oliver had to be blind-folded and standing in a line with our hands on the person’s shoulders in front of us, and Oliver had to lead us from behind only by tapping on the person’s shoulders in front of him to signal which way we had to turn, and that person would tap the person in front of them and so on until the signal reached the front and the whole group turned accordingly. That was a rather annoying task, but we eventually got to where we were going: a solid wooden wall that we all had to get over.

Once again, I knew exactly what to do because I’d done this sort of thing before, either in Boy Scouts or for high school gym class. I asked someone else to help me lift a guy up by the legs so he could get over the wall, and then he could help raise everyone else up while we continued lifting them by the legs. We got over in an extremely short amount of time, the girl who was in charge seemed quite impressed, and then it was finally time for the last exercise which involved getting us all across a couple of tightropes arranged in the shape of a triangle. I’d done this before as well so I went first to show others what to do (you just hold the hands of a person on the other rope and the next people hold onto you and so on) and we again finished in a very short amount of time.

By then I was already enjoying myself more than I thought I’d be, and after a fifteen-minute break I was ready for the actual climbing. Sybille equipped us all with the proper gear, showed us how to put it on and checked that we had it right, then brought us over and gave a little run-down of the proper safety procedures. She knew I spoke English so she’d occasionally translate for me, but during that part Inge translated for me, revealing for the first time to me that her English is actually quite superb.

Sybille preparing Oliver. Strapping myself in. Do I really want to go up there?Inge's not so sure either. 

Everyone needs a partner for the climbing, so Oliver and I paired up. We first had to climb a fifteen-meter wall with little color-coded climbing-nubs arranged in three rows: yellow was easy, blue was moderate and red was difficult. With me spotting him from the ground, Oliver first attempted the red path but it proved too difficult (you have to actually lift yourself up by the fingertips) so he switched to the blue wall and went the rest of the way up that path. Oliver mentioned before we went that he’s a little afraid of heights, so I was quite impressed by him for making it up there, as well as everything he did at the top. Another girl spotted me while I climbed up the blue path, and while I’ve never climbed up one of these sorts of walls before it all came perfectly naturally. I used to love climbing trees and monkey-bars when I was a kid, and this whole apparatus was like a mega-sized monkey-bars for adults.

                      Inge on the easy path.    Oliver attempting the difficult path.

But on those jungle-gyms as a kid you’d play by using your imagination. Up on this beast you didn’t need your imagination. It was enough of an adrenaline rush to be up so high and walking across various sorts of obstacles. We all had ropes with hooks that we had to carefully attach to the wires that ran above every obstacle, so there was no danger of falling to your death but it was still a rather nerve-wracking experience.

There were enough obstacles so that our whole group could be up there at once and still not have to wait too often for others to finish, but watching others get across was almost as fun as getting across yourself. Describing what these obstacles were like would be tedious and pointless.

Oliver on the trickiest obstacle.  Simone walking on air. Flying high. Look mom, no hands!

The most nerve-wracking obstacle though was simply a gap of about one meter between one little platform and another. Sybille kept egging me on to do the most difficult challenges, and when I got to that one she insisted I jump across without relying on my safety ropes (which people could easily cheat by holding on to while making the jump). “Just imagine there’s a beautiful woman on the other side” she said. I had no choice but not to chicken-out, and I figured if these platforms were a meter apart but right on the ground I wouldn’t think twice about it. The only different between them being one meter above the ground and fifteen meters was psychological. I hopped across successfully, and even convinced Oliver to do the same.

We spent maybe an hour and a half up there altogether, and the weather was very weird the whole time. The sun shined for a few minutes, then the clouds came back, sometimes it started raining a little, then the sun would come out again, and on and on. It was actually quite cool for being up there, to have wind, sun, and a little rain all mixed together. Though there were thunderstorms happening in the distance, luckily none of them hit us directly.

The final thing to do was climb a post up to a platform 25 meters high and slide down a long rope to the bottom. Sybille was waiting for us up there to get us connected right and send us on our way. Leaping off that platform and just letting gravity take you down was quite a thrill, and I’m glad one of Lena’s friends was there with her camera to take pictures of the people sliding down. I ended up being the last one off, and then Sybille slid down after me.

View from the bottom.Lena on her way down. Oliver on his way down. Me on my way down.

We still had about an hour left by the time we were all on the ground, and we used it to give everyone a turn on this big swing-thing where your friends pull on a rope to lift you up, then the rope detaches when you’re at the top and sends you swinging back-and-forth. A big thrill for the first few seconds, and then surprisingly relaxing as you rock gently back and forth.

Eventually it was time to go, and all of us were clearly in great spirits after that experience. Oliver also remarked that it had been way more enjoyable than he expected. I certainly had a much better time than I thought I would, which looking back I think is rather silly. Of course it was going to be a great time—it’s just a bunch of frequent doses of adrenaline pumped you’re your brain over and over again. The thrill of conquering fear, of making it across the obstacle, of jumping off the super-tall platform, and so on. When it’s over, you feel like you can conquer anything.

The wind-up. The swinging.

The relaxing. Moo

Sybille told us when it was over that we were one of the best groups she’s had. And just as we were all thinking, “she probably says that to every group” she insisted that she really meant it with this group and then explained how we were different than most groups. I could imagine if most of the groups she does are business-teams, this loose collection of friends and acquaintances who were only there for a good time might have been better.

So after that great experience it was time to go to the BBQ at Simone’s which after a bit of a round-about trip to drop off the girls from Hannover at the train station and check out a nearby location from Oliver’s past, we got there and found everyone from the climbing-trip as well as a few others at Simone’s place. I’d expected to enjoy the BBQ more than the climbing, but I was so dehydrated and so sick of beer from the night before that I just started off drinking water and only had two beers the whole evening. As such I didn’t get as outgoing as I’m capable of and mostly talked only to Oliver and Lena. But being in a big group they were mostly talking to others, always in German, and I found my mind wandering quite often.

Real-life German BBQ!

During dinner I was sitting next to a couple of guys whom I eventually realized were gay once they started kissing each other in front of everyone. I thought that was fantastic—not so much for them but for the group. It’s my understanding that most Germans are pretty intolerant about that sort of thing, but here was a group of about fifteen Germans and the gay guys could be openly gay in front of everyone without anyone seeming to have a problem with it.

 Simone's man talking at length about watermelon.There are literally over ten pictures of this. Boyfriends :) Simone and Inge sipping schnapps.

At one point, one of the guys there got us all in a circle for a little game he invented (or stole from somebody else) to test our “social competence”. He handed us all a piece of paper with a number that had to be kept secret. When he called out our number we’d have to fall and the people standing next to us would have to catch us—typical trust-building exercise. He called 6 and Simone went down and I and the person to the other side of her had to catch her. Then he called 5 and Oliver went down. Then he called 8 and everyone else went down, because everyone else had the number 8. That was pretty clever and we all had a good laugh.

After that Oliver and Lena decided it was time to go. I said goodbye to a few people there including Simone, making sure to thank her for the great time. She said the next time we see each other will probably be the next Grünkohlwanderung, but alas it’s highly unlikely I’ll be around for any more of those.

Oliver and Lena were heading back to Celle but they didn’t want to drop me off at my flat because you need a special ticket to drive in the city of Hannover and they were worried about getting caught without one. We had to drive by the E.ON building in Mühlenberg so I said they could drop me off there and I’d take the same tram home that I used to take several times a week.

They pulled into the parking lot near the station and got out to wish me goodbye. I wasn’t sure if this was the last time I’d see Lena, but she assured me that if she can’t help take me to the airport this week she’ll definitely meet up with me before then. Still, we hugged each other tightly and even got a little teary. The real goodbye is going to be very difficult.

So I said goodbye and took the tram back from Mühlenberg to Waterloo station near my flat, which was weird because I’d thought the previous Thursday—my last day of work—would be the last time I’d see that E.ON building or ride that tram. But I knew last night that it really would be the last time I rode the tram in Hannover.

Not wanting to sink straight back into my couch after such a big day, I did a little cycling as twilight turned to night, and went to bed relatively early to recharge more of the energy I’ve been expending. Now it’s my last Sunday in Germany, and once I get this blog entry done I intend to enjoy it to the fullest.

I always try to live for the moment, but in these “final-stretch” periods of my life it becomes downright necessary to appreciate every last second to the fullest, and knowing the end is near makes it easier.

Celle-bration

April 23rd, 2011 No comments

The next blog entry I write will be an account of my journey to Rome, which I will take from tomorrow through Wednesday as part of my attempt to be able to say I was in all three WWII axis countries in the same year.

In all seriousness though, I’ve always wanted to go to Rome, I’ve always regretted not going during my exchange-student year in Frankfurt, and I knew if I left Europe again without getting there I’d be kicking myself for many years and possibly the rest of the my life. I’d considered going over the Easter holiday several months ago but decided against it, but on Monday when I realized that I’d have practically no lessons to teach for the entire weekend and all the way through to Wednesday, I figured a better opportunity would never present itself so I grabbed it. My flight leaves tomorrow, Easter Sunday, I’ve got a room at a hostel booked, and that’s about it. Everything else will pretty much be done by the seat-of-the-pants.

I wanted to write this blog post to announce that, as well as write a quick account of yesterday evening. Oliver invited me, Amanda, and Peggy to come to Celle and have a BBQ in his backyard. After the trip to the Hartz two weekends ago, I though it would be a long time before I’d get to spend time with Oliver, Lena, and Amanda all at the same time again, so this was a nice surprise.

The weather was as perfect as can be imagined, and we all had a wonderful time spending the afternoon sitting on a carpet we laid out in the yard, drinking beer after beer after beer, and chatting about nothing in particular. In the evening we grilled and ate together along with a couple of Oliver’s neighbors who spontaneously decided to join us, and at night we made a nice bonfire and sat around it. I’m going to miss nights like that.

When telling them about Rome, Lena said I should take lots of pictures and I reminded her that I don’t have a camera. It’s been my mind-set for years that I don’t need photos to document my life—I just write everything down. But I’ve recently begun to reconsider that resolve, especially because when I go to Japan I know lots of people are going to want to see pictures. Also from following Luke’s blog it’s clear how much pictures add to a written account of events.

Lena let me borrow her camera, so I’ll use the trip to Rome as a bit of a test-run to see if I can take some good pictures and include them in the blog post, so those who read this will have that to look forward to.

Six years ago, I went on my first solo travelling adventure in Europe when I spent two nights in Paris and two in London. Since then I’ve had quite a few other notable solo trips including two more to London, once to Frankfurt, and one time (sort of) to Berlin. Tomorrow will in all likelihood by my last solo travelling experience in Europe, and it couldn’t be more appropriate that it’s the last European city on my list of places I have to see before I die.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

Have Another?

July 4th, 2010 No comments

I think this is officially the longest I’ve gone on any fourth of July before realizing that it was the fourth of July. It hadn’t even occurred to me until just now.

Obviously, I haven’t been blogging much this weekend. That was all thanks to a sudden change of course that completely changed the nature of my weekend. It was supposed to be just another weekend of comfortable isolation, but on Saturday morning I went to meet Oliver for coffee at noon, and that turned into way more. He was just going to chat for an hour and then go pick up Lena and go back to Celle, but I was invited to join them.

Rather than coffee, he ordered a beer, and even though it was only 11:55 in the morning I figured one beer wouldn’t hurt. But when the beer was finished, Oliver said, “Have another?” and I figured one more wouldn’t hurt either. But by the time that one was finished, it was “Have another?” again and I was already buzzed enough to figure what the hell.

Instead of him leaving to pick up Lena, he called Lena to come pick us up. I was invited to go back to Celle to watch Germany’s World Cup match against Argentina with them. They wanted to go to a public viewing and probably would have stayed in Hannover but Oliver didn’t want to leave his dog alone for that long. So we stopped at my flat so I could bring what I needed for the night, and we drove to Celle.

After arriving in Celle, we dropped Oliver off to walk the dog while Lena and I want to the supermarket to pick up beer and food. When we got back we drove to a nearby restaurant (the one in Bostel) where we assumed there would be tons of people gathered to watch the game. We got there ten minutes before it started but there was only one other person there. Unlike Hannover, Bostel is pretty much the middle of nowhere so there was no place to go for a large public gathering. There might have been a big one in Celle but we didn’t want to drive around looking for one and miss the beginning of the game.

It was a good thing too, because Germany scored the first goal after only three minutes. We drank more beer and ate something while watching, and I explained how Paul the Octopus had correctly predicted Germany’s win in the last four games and was now predicting that they beat Argentina as well. I’m surprised at how few Germans know about Paul, but they all get a kick out of it when I tell them.

And Paul was right yet again, as Germany—much to everyone’s surprise—completely demolished Argentina 4-0. Argentina played really well but they just let too many go by them and could never seal the deal with a goal of their own. I think I enjoyed this game more than the other two, in spite of the lack of people. It was just us, the other guy, and two employees of the restaurant, but it was enough to not feel weird cheering and clapping at the goals. Unlike the other two games I watched, this was in nice comfortable surroundings with people I like.

When the game was over we went back to Oliver’s house and commenced with the typical Oliver’s house activities: drinking, smoking, and (due to Lena’s presence) deep political conversation. It was a really enjoyable evening, which before we knew it faded into night and Oliver and I were completely trashed. Lena went to bed much earlier than us while we stayed up and drank and smoked and played with the dog, eventually taking him out for and then going to sleep, but not before Oliver suggested we “have another” and call it a night.

I don’t know when we went to sleep but I woke up this morning with a pounding headache and waves of nausea. I suffered through the whole morning, even going to puke a few times but my stomach contained nothing but water so it wasn’t even disgusting. But my body definitely wasn’t too happy about having drank nearly without pause from noon all the way to late in the night. Still, it was very much worth it.

So between that and the three hours I spend talking with Corey on skype this weekend, I had much more socialization than normal. It was nice to live in the real world among real people for awhile, rather than the online world with bloggers, anonymous commenters, and tweeters. I’ll get back to that tomorrow.

Still Nothing Noteworthy

February 25th, 2010 No comments

It’s been awhile since I wrote a personal entry, mostly because there’s nothing going on, but because of a cancelled class today I have a couple of hours to kill so I might as well just write about what little has happened over the last couple of weeks.

The most personally significant thing remains my lessons with Tabea, which I recounted in two private entries last week [e-mail me if you’d like access to private entries] and which is still on my mind to some degree. On Sunday, when I went to Planeo to print out my stuff, Penni was there with the same idea. Apparently she goes in on Sundays to print things out as well, but usually later in the day so I don’t see her. I had to wait while she finished using the printer, which added about an extra hour and a half to the task, but when she was finished she struck up a conversation with me about this and that—classes, students, taxes, etc.—and she also mentioned that she’d left some materials in my mailbox last week when I had to substitute one of her classes. She saw I hadn’t used them, and also informed me that Tabea had left a present for me. I wouldn’t have even checked my mailbox otherwise, so I decided it was lucky for me she’d been there. Tabea had left a little packet of chocolates with a paper American flag tied to it and a little note in adorably poor English thanking me for letting her visit my lessons. Naturally, this made me all warm and fuzzy and now I’ve got this packet of chocolates from dear sweet Tabea sitting in my apartment to remind me of her whenever I look at it. I don’t think I’ll ever actually eat the damn things. I suppose I’ll just keep it around until I can no longer look at it without feeling ridiculous that I still have it around. Hopefully that’ll be soon. But all in all, I’m still glad I had that encounter as it really helped me clear things up as to where I stand on that front, even though the conclusions I came to were significantly depressing and I remain depressed by them.

Anyway, that aside, I’ve just been slacking all winter and barely having any social interaction at all outside of internet communication. I did go to Celle last Tuesday to visit Oliver, and that was nice. We cooked some dinner and watched some entertainment I brought with my laptop. Nothing remarkable, but quite pleasant. And this week I called Amanda to ask if she wanted to hang out sometime this week, and it looks like we’ll probably be going out for a couple of drinks tonight, possibly with Tom or another friend of hers that she might want to invite.

As for the two ongoing situations in my life—online dating and Japan—nothing has been happening with either thing yet, though I’m beginning to get serious about Japan and will hopefully really get to work on it this weekend. Corey and Loren are both out in Santa Barbara right now, and I suggested they help me pick a city to live in and when I go out there I can help them move there too, as they would both love to live in Japan as well. It would be great to have some friends there, as I know absolutely no one in Japan except for a girl Yuki I worked with at the Doubletree but who hasn’t returned either of my Facebook messages and I don’t think I can count on her help at all as much as I’d love to see her again. But right now the future is wide open. I will almost definitely move to Japan this year, and it’s a real possibility that Corey and Loren will come too and join me in the next chapter of my life. But that all depends on them.

Finally, the online dating this is a huge waste of money. It’s been well over a month now and absolutely nothing has come of it. I knew German girls were supposed to be difficult, but even the ones desperate enough to go online to look for a relationship don’t seem to be interested in me. All their profiles say they speak English, but apparently none of them want to. That’s always been a major problem with regard to German girls. Yes, they all learn English in school but very few of them get any good at it, and even those who do aren’t confident enough to want an English-speaking boyfriend…at least not one as unattractive as me. So I’ve pretty much given up, although I paid for three months of membership so I’ll still occasionally take a look at a profile but I haven’t sent anyone a message in over a week. Now that I’ve all but given up, I’ve raised my standards quite significantly and I’m no longer even bothering with the semi-decent-looking girls. They all ignore me anyway, so what’s the point?

That’s pretty much everything. As you can see, none of it was worth writing about.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Company, Final Week

October 22nd, 2009 No comments

Two and a half more days, three more nights. Then she’ll be gone, and I’ll have my sweet, sweet solitude once again.

One day in the future I’ll probably look back on this period of time and want to slap myself for not appreciating every minute of her company while she was here, but I just can’t help how I feel right now. I want to be alone—I haven’t been truly alone in two months—and she’s the one thing standing in the way.

Of course it’s not her in particular. If it were almost anybody else I’d probably have gone completely insane a long time ago. It’s a testament to how well we get along that I’ve made it this far without exploding (though I have come close several times and then pulled myself back with some lame excuse about “just fucking with her” that I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe anyway). What bothers me is just having someone around—someone who’s there all the time.

Still, there are specific things about her that annoy the shit out of me, and while I feel like a fucking bastard for mentioning anything about them I know they’re really not that bad and I want to write them down just to remind myself, when I do look back on this and hate myself for being such a bitch, that it wasn’t as wonderful as it might look in hindsight. I’ve already mentioned the snoring and she knows full well just how aggravating that is to me. But the other thing that really gets to me is how she always needs to have music going on in the background, but she’s so picky about music that I never know what the fuck to play. “Put on some tunes, eh?” she’ll say multiple times a day (just the word “tunes” makes me want to tear my hair out now), and when I tell her to put on whatever she wants she can’t decide because she’s apparently sick of everything on her I-pod. I can’t ever fucking figure out what to play because she hates way more shit than most people hate and even the stuff I thought she likes she’ll say that she’s sick of them or she never even really liked them that much in the first place. As for me, when I’m alone I just enjoy the silence most of the time, but she can’t handle that. When she’s gone I can’t wait to just sit in complete and utter silence for hours. I think I’m looking forward to that more than anything.

One good thing about this is that I’ve really looked forward to going to my lessons and I’ve enjoyed getting back into teaching a lot more than I thought I would. Just being able to get away from her for a few hours here and there has made it worthwhile. Of course, that was mitigated somewhat by getting sick on Sunday, a really nasty stomach bug that gave me horrible cramps and diarrhea, but the symptoms always seem to magically disappear when you’re actually in the midst of a lesson, thanks to that whole altered-state thing that happens while you’re teaching. But the sickness did give me an excuse to just lie in my bed and sleep while I was back here, rather than “go out and do something” as she always wants to do even though there’s nothing to do that we haven’t already done and most of what there is to do is just walking around which she insists it’s too cold to do (even though it’s not). So for a couple of days I’d just lie in bed and she’d go out to a store or whatever, giving me a few hours here and there of precious solitude and silence.

I was going to do this anyway, but I asked other teachers if I could sit in on any of their lessons to help me with some ideas to improve my teaching method. I could have waited until next week but I specifically wanted to do it this week, and I went on Wednesday to sit in on a very experienced teacher’s lesson, both as a way to get ideas for teaching and a way to avoid having to spend the whole day with my “what do you want to go do?” houseguest. Yes, I understand that you’re only in Germany for a few more days and you want to get the most out of it, but for one thing I’m broke as shit and for another there really is nothing to do except walk around, which you don’t want to do.

So the only thing we ended up doing all week was visiting Oliver in Celle on Tuesday night, which I enjoyed a lot except for the period of time when she kept asking him what kind of stuff there was to do in Hannover, but even he couldn’t think of anything we hadn’t already done. And tonight we might hang out with Amanda again, hopefully at Quiz Night.

As for the lesson which I sat in for, I was surprised at just how little I actually learned from the experience. This is the new big hot-shot teacher that Planeo just hired who is going teacher-to-teacher and sitting in on everybody’s lessons to give them pointers and facilitate discussion amongst all of us teachers to help us learn from each other, so I figured if I could learn from anybody it would be from her, but all I basically learned was that what I’ve already been doing has been pretty much standard anyway. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t valuable—just seeing what a teacher with 20-years’ experience is doing is inherently valuable—but the really good thing was that it gave me more confidence in what I’m already doing. I was starting to get the feeling that I was really half-assing it and I was in danger of losing even more classes because there was something “real” teachers do that I wasn’t doing, but it turns out I’m doing what everyone else does. There were definitely a few little tips and hints that I will put to good use, but for the most part it was just nice to see that the difference between what I do and what someone with 20 years of experience does is not actually all that large.

Anyway, I might make this a private entry because I do feel shitty about bitching about my friend in a public forum, even though it’s only stuff she’s already aware of, but I don’t know. This is really the core of the dilemma of posting a private, personal journal online. These are real thoughts and feelings, the kind of I would totally document without a second thought if I wasn’t sharing it with anyone, but the fact that I am and that she or some friends of hers could read it somewhere down the line just doesn’t sit well with me.

Luckily, I know for a fact that one person will read this long before anyone else, and he can tell me what he thinks. So what do you think?

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Rotten Luck

September 15th, 2009 No comments

I wrote on Friday morning, my first full day of vacation, that I had a really bad hangover. Well, it turns out that it wasn’t just a hangover—there was something more sinister involved which made me feel sick all day and even into the next. The next day, Saturday, Krissi and I went to Celle to spend a really nice evening with Oliver and Lena. After a few glasses of wine I didn’t notice the shitty feeling anymore and we had a great time, eating a delicious meal cooked by Oliver and sitting out in his backyard tending to a nice big bonfire. I slept on the couch accompanied by Oliver’s two new baby kittens and played with them in the morning before having a nice breakfast and heading home.

I felt shitty that day too, and yesterday as well. I figured I’m in one of those bullshit periods of mild illness that just makes me tired and spaced out all the time, and that the best way to handle it would be to just ignore it and do everything I was going to do anyway. That’s still the plan, basically. We’re heading to Hamburg today and I’m going to try and have a good time in spite of everything.

But last night while we were eating dinner I noticed it was painful to chew the food, and when I felt my neck I was surprised to find a rather sizable lump below my left jaw. If Krissi hadn’t been there I might have completely freaked out and thought about seeing a doctor, but she took a look at it and told me it was a lymph-node, a little bubble that quarantines an infection in order for the body to fight it off easier. She said she gets them all the time. I’ve never had one before, at least not that I’ve noticed, but that confirmed that I definitely have some kind of infection and it wasn’t just the alcohol consumption.

Of course when I woke up this morning the lump was even larger and it was even more painful to chew my food. I asked Krissi how long these things usually last, and she said anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Considering how large mine is, it’ll probably be a few weeks. Which means even if my body successfully fights off this infection I’ll still have to deal with the extreme annoyance of this fucking lymph-node problem, seriously mitigating the rest of the potential enjoyment I might get out of this long, long, long awaited vacation.

And of course it began on the exact first day of the vacation, and of course it’ll last for a minimum of half-way through the entire time and probably longer. So as you might imagine I’m quite pissed off. The trip to Hamburg is already half-ruined because I still feel shitty anyway and all I really feel like doing is lying in bed. But the tickets are non-transferable and there’s no other time for us to go anyway so I’ve just got to suck it up and go and try to enjoy myself.

Yeah, I’m a whiny little bitch sometimes. There are far worse problems I could be having right now. It’s just the timing really pisses me off and makes me think once again that there’s someone up there laughing at me.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Friday in Celle, Monday in Class

August 10th, 2009 No comments

I just got back from what I think might have been my favorite English lesson I’ve given so far. I had two classes this morning, and nobody showed up for the first (free money) and only one guy showed up for the second. I wasn’t sure what I’d prepared would be good for just a private lesson, but while I was explaining to him that I’d planned to talk about the health-care debate in America he seemed interested so I figured I’d just do it anyway.

I started by asking him what he already knew about American health-care reform, and apparently all he knew was that it was one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest campaign issues. He also talked about a friend of his from Connecticut, an American lady who was a big Bush supporter and extremely distrustful of anything that sounded like socialism. Apparently her daughter was in an accident and because she didn’t have health insurance the poor girl went days without treatment, thus causing some permanent problems even after they fixed her up. Plus, as he mentioned later on, this woman was a mortgage broker who hasn’t been able to make a single deal since April of 2007 because of the shitty Bush economy. Perfect example of an American fighting against her own interests.

In any case, I started by giving him all the background from what the system looks like now to what reforms are being debated and finally how town-hall meetings are now being ambushed by conservatives who’ve been duped into believing lies about the bill such as the fact that it’s a secret plot to kill the old and disabled. I then had him read through a brief article from the HuffPost which touched on all the major points in the debate as it currently stands and after that he discussed a few things with me about the German system and how very recently there was a push to strengthen their own public option which succeeded. I told him how one thing that amuses—or frustrates, rather—me the most about this debate is that all America wants to do is make their health care system more like the German system, and I don’t see German society falling apart at the seems but these conservatives seem to think it’s the end of the world.

I’d brought in my lap-top with a few clips queued up and ready to go, first just a simple news clip showing a scene from a particularly crazy town hall meeting just to give him some of the flavor of what’s going on, then a clip from one of last week’s Keith Olbermann shows in which he discusses with Jonathan Alter the tactics being used by the right and debunks some of the myths they’re perpetuating. We had a brief discussion after that, mostly talking about Alter’s point that in the current system we’re basically discriminating against the sick, then I showed my final clip, Rachel Maddow’s interview with the head of American for Prosperity Tim Philips which I mentioned in my latest political blog post. He found the whole thing as entertaining and interesting as I did and we followed that up with some discussion about rhetorical tactics and how the debate is won by moving away from the facts and appealing purely to people’s emotions. We went even a little bit overtime as the conversation moved just a bit deeper to society in general and how it’s all a big game in which the players are just competing to win, with very little interest given to what’s actually best for society.

When we were done he thanked me repeatedly for such an interesting lesson and even told me that if I wanted to do the same lesson again next week he wouldn’t mind at all.

So there you have it—best job in the world. I earned €42 for getting to talk about something I’m really interested in with a guy who knew nothing about it but found it equally interesting. I didn’t spend a single second on grammar and I think in the entire class I explained the meaning of about two words. It was the farthest thing from an English lesson I think I could possibly do while still speaking English. The best part is that this kind of thing is actually encouraged by Frank, who critiqued me last week after the lesson he observed that I wasn’t talking enough about cultural and political things in America. Part of learning English, he explained to me, was learning about the culture so that there is a deeper understanding when international business is done.

Unfortunately I can only do this kind of thing with advanced classes and classes in which I’ve got students who are interested in politics, which is only a select few. But of course it’s just great for me to have that opportunity to talk American politics, one of my biggest interests, as part of my job.

So that was this morning. The weekend was mostly uneventful. Yesterday while I was out for a jog I noticed that the leaves were already changing colors and falling from the trees. In the middle of fucking August. Apparently Germany didn’t get the memo that the earth’s climate is warming so it’s initiating the Autumn weather a couple months early. By the time Krissi gets here it might be snowing.

But the big thing I did this weekend was spend Friday night in Celle with Oliver. He picked me up from the train station at 6:05 and stopped at a video rental place, apparently anticipating that with just two people we wouldn’t be able to keep a conversation going all night long. I thought of renting “Beer Fest” because I’d love to get a German’s reaction to that film, but they didn’t carry it and for all I know it might be banned in this country due its extremely offensive depiction of Germans. I also suggested “The Mist” because Corey reminded me of his recommendation recently, but Oliver wasn’t interested. Finally, I suggested “The Prestige” which I remember being pretty excellent and he seemed interested too from the description, so we got that.

Back at his place we spent the evening drinking, smoking, and chatting. Normally I have to make an effort to keep a conversation going but once I get a few beers in me I can go on and on, so there weren’t many long silent periods. At one point we played some Frisbee in his backyard, which I suck at and my poor throws made him have to walk into thick bushes a little too many times, but it was fun nonetheless. And when the sun went down we started a huge bonfire in his backyard which was also quite awesome.

At one point his CD ended and he asked me to put on some music. I came prepared with my I-pod and the cord that connects it to stereos to queue up a couple of Hawkwind albums that I just downloaded recently and which I’ve been listening to non-stop all week. As I thought he might because I know his taste, he seemed just as impressed as I was with the relatively obscure space-rock band and asked me to send him an e-mail with the name of the band so he could look into them.

Having forgotten to eat anything until late at night, I helped him cook a delicious meal of tortellini with spinach and zucchini grown right from his garden. While the meal was cooking he asked that I put on some more music, something “mellow but not too mellow”. After scrolling up and down my music library I decided on Moby’s 18, which he also liked a lot.

When dinner was ready we put on the movie, ate up, then passed out about half-way through the film. I slept well enough but woke up at 8 in the morning with a really annoying headache (didn’t drink too much but I hadn’t eaten before which must have caused the hangover) and I spent the next three hours lying around or sitting outside just waiting for Oliver to wake up. When he finally did just after 11:00 I just continued to hang around while he did other things until 1:00 when we started getting ready to go to the train station where he would drop me off and pick up Lena.

So except for those three hours in the morning I had a really nice time and I’m looking forward to taking Krissi there and sitting around the bonfire talking to Oliver and Lena. I’m sure she’d get along excellently with both of them.

And that was really the only non-professional social interaction I’ve had since Frankfurt two weeks ago. Somehow it was enough.

Dinner in Bostel

July 7th, 2009 No comments

Nothing really worth mentioning happened during the week. I just had a lot of extra classes and a lot less free time. The classes I was substituting on Monday were Alan’s classes that Planeo had given to another teacher named Shauna, but she’s also on holiday so I got to take them for a few weeks. They were advanced students and the conversation was really interesting, so I figured there would be no harm in asking to take them over permanently, not really expecting a positive answer but apparently Shauna agreed to let me have them. Those are now officially my classes, which gives me a nice extra chunk of steadily flowing cash, all for getting up early Monday morning and having conversations with Germans.

Having had no social interaction all week due to Alan and Amanda’s absence, I called Oliver yesterday and asked him what he was up to. The original plan was to go swimming in a lake, but they ended up being too lazy and deciding not to go. Instead I was just invited to come to Celle after 7 p.m. and go out to eat at a restaurant.

I spent the day running around a lot. It was really hot yesterday so I went to the Baumarkt and bought a fan. I didn’t expect to buy one in Germany because it’s only hot here for two months out of the year and it seemed pointless, but I was sick of sweating to death so I went and bought one anyway. It was only €13 so I think it was well worth the investment, even if I only use it a few nights in the year. After installing the fan I took the bus over to the liquor store to stock up on beer, and on the way back the bus driver slammed the brakes really hard and an old lady fell and hit her head. She seemed completely fine to me, but the driver stopped the bus at the next stop, called an ambulance and the police, and—in typical German fashion—had her fill out a form indicating what happened. I thought she’d get off the bus when the ambulance came, but instead the paramedics boarded the bus and talked to her at her seat while everyone else watched as though it was some kind of live entertainment. The paramedics were still talking to her 20 minutes later when the next bus came around, and we all got off and boarded the next one.

When evening finally came around I hopped on a train to Celle and got picked up by Oliver at the station, then driven back to his place where Lena and another Irish friend of his called Dazz were waiting. Just like Jamie, Dazz was a really nice, easygoing guy, just all-around good company. Come to think of it I think I could say the same for every Irishman I’ve ever met. I’m sure there are plenty of complete fucking assholes in Ireland, but the only Irish people I’ve met have all been…‘brilliant’, to use one of their favourite words.

The restaurant was in a small village outside of Celle, and to get there we took a lovely walk down a road between a couple of open fields with the setting sun’s rays shining down through the clouds in the distance. Such a radical departure from the atmosphere here in the middle of Hannover was quite nice. The name of the town was Bostel, and I joked that we had to stay at the hostel. They told me there is no hostel in Bostel, so I said we had to open one. People will come from all over Europe to stay at the Bostel Hostel.

We ate dinner outside as evening turned to night, and drank a few beers and had some good conversation. I almost wish I was taking notes because the discussion was particularly interesting last night. At one point we were talking about national identity, as I mentioned the fact that as an American overseas you always have to answer for America’s actions. I said that while people hate Americans wherever you go, it wasn’t as bad in Germany. Lena and Oliver gave me a suspicious look at that comment because America isn’t exactly very popular in Germany, but I explained that I think there’s a bit less hostility because Germany too has a lot to be ashamed of (they didn’t argue with me about that). As for Dazz, he’s got the best of all nationalities. No matter where you go, everyone loves an Irishman, and you can get away with just about anything because everyone expects you to be a drunken fool. He’s even had encounters with foreign police who immediately stop giving him a hard time when he explains that he’s Irish.

I also got into a really good side conversation with Lena when I was talking about Obama and how I think the outcome of the health insurance debate will show what kind of president he really is. As I was lambasting private health insurance companies and the stranglehold of big corporations in general over the will of the people, Lena told me—quite cautiously—that she’s a member of the communist party. I thought that was…well, brilliant [great fucking word] and I talked to her about that for awhile. Apparently she goes to meetings every week and they all talk about how to change the foundations of society to a more just and equitable place for workers. I gave her the devil’s advocate treatment and asked her how she thought communism could actually work in the real world, as I believe it can only really work in small communities and not across entire nations. She said she believes it can work for a whole nation but only if the public is well-educated and informed about government so that the people will make the right decisions about how to govern each other. It sounds like a fantasy to me—I just don’t think the masses will ever be intelligent enough, but is a nice idea. One of the most interesting things she said is how everyone at the meetings is encouraged to criticise and debate one another, as one of their core principles is that no one person has it all right and the only way to come to the best answer for anything is to arrive at it through honest and open discussion. Indeed if that ideal could be spread across an entire society, communism might work. I just don’t think it can.

The walk back home was just as nice as the walk there, as the absence of light and colour was made up for by the absence of bugs and the presence of a lot more alcohol in the brain. Lena and I had talked earlier about jogging while drunk and how fun it was, and we did some of that while Oliver and Dazz took their time behind us.

Upon returning to Oliver’s place we sat outside and did more drinking. That part of the night is much hazier than the rest, but I know I was having a particularly deep philosophical conversation about the fundamental nature of the universe with Lena, who was struggling to express complicated ideas in English but doing very well. Like everyone else who hears it, she was impressed by my whole Brahman-Atman view of things, not saying she agreed or disagreed but definitely fascinated by the idea. She went to bed before the rest of us, and the three of us ended up talking about fuck-knows-what for the next hour or so. The conversation got more and more incoherent as the night grew older, and we finally all crashed at about 3:30.

This morning we got up at half past eight and had a little breakfast outside. It was Dazz’s last night in Germany (he was here for a week) before returning to Ireland, so they had to drive him to the train station anyway for him to catch a ride to the airport. When we got to the station, the next train to Hannover was leaving in just a few minutes, so I said goodbye to everyone and headed back home. All in all, it was a great time that can best be described by the word: brilliant.

BBQ in Celle

May 16th, 2009 No comments

I’ve been far more social than usual recently, and I’m not sure how much of that is due to the coming of warm weather and how much is just a coincidence.

The Bruges trip, like all travel adventures that involve other people, was just about non-stop socialisation. I had a few days this week where all I did was work, but I went out on Thursday night to the good old Pub Quiz and last night to Oliver’s place in Celle where he was having a nice little get-together involving alcohol and a grill. He had originally planned for it to be a big party, but the weather wasn’t so good and a few of his friends were sick anyway so he downgraded it to a small gathering that ended up including me, Lena, Alan, and one of his Irish friends, a really nice guy named Jamie.

After a particularly boring Friday at work yesterday, I came back to my flat, took a little nap, went jogging around the Maschsee, then got ready to head to the train station where I’d be meeting Alan and Lena on the platform for the train to Celle. I got there first, followed shortly afterwards by Lena, but Alan wasn’t there when the train arrived. I gave him a call to let him know the train was leaving, and Lena and I tried to hold the doors for him, but we were told to get inside and let the train leave. Alan came running up to the platform a few seconds after the train started rolling. A few seconds there cost us 45 minutes after arriving, as we waited with Oliver in the train station for Alan to arrive. But once we were all together, we got in Oliver’s car, stopped at the liquor store to buy some beer, then finally got to Oliver’s place were Jamie had just broke open a bottle of wine to begin the festivities.

Things move very slowly at Oliver’s place, so while I’d planned on taking an 11:08 train back to Hannover and thus getting a full night’s sleep before my 3-hour lesson with Mr. Bokeloh this morning, before we knew it it was 10:00 and we hadn’t even started dinner yet. But that only meant we had to crash at his place and take a cab to the train station early the next morning.

The evening itself was just about as pleasant as it could be. The beer was great, the food was delicious, and the conversation was funny and interesting. We sat out on Oliver’s patio the whole time, which thankfully is covered so when it started raining later on we didn’t have to go inside, and were instead able to just appreciate the sound of the pouring rain on the roof right above us, something you don’t get to hear very often in Hannover.

I don’t remember too much about what we talked about exactly, but there was a lot about travel experiences, drug experiences, and even a little bit about dream experiences. I’d mentioned my dreams from the previous night, which were some of the craziest I’ve had all year. One of them that I didn’t mention involved Jessi, and if I wasn’t all but over her already I would have considered it one of the best dreams of my life, as in it she was very much in love with me and at one point I just had her locked in my embrace, as she sat on my lap with her arms and legs around me while we made out quite passionately. It sure is fucking nice of my brain to treat me to an experience like that. But the one I had later on—the one I told them about—was far more bizarre. I was out at some dance club with Krissi and everyone was doing drugs. I found myself smoking LSD with a guy who seemed nice enough but who turned out to be completely evil—like, Satan seeking to extinguish all light in the universe evil—and he wanted to skin me alive just to try it. For some reason I was willing to go along with it as long as he only skinned my foot and the area around my shin. And while the knife going into the skin hurt a little, it was a mostly painless experience.

The only really noteworthy portion of conversation I can remember came towards the end of the night as we were just standing around the open grill which we were now using as a fire-pit and staring at the fire. The discussion had somehow come to cultural differences between North Americans and the rest of the world, and I asked Jamie the same question I asked my advanced students a couple of weeks ago about whether among friends everything is a competition. Jamie said that it’s true all over the world—that in groups of friends there’s always a dynamic of who’s the coolest, who has the most money, who has the hottest girlfriend and whatnot, but it seems to be more prevalent in America. So we settled on the hypothesis that while competitiveness is human nature and it’s to be found everywhere, it’s more actively encouraged in the U.S. than most anywhere else.

At about 1:30 in the morning we went inside and listened to a really kick-ass band from Jamie’s hometown in Ireland, absolutely blasting the music which apparently wasn’t a problem because both of Oliver’s neighbours are the kind of people who used to blast their own music all night long when they were younger and now they didn’t mind.

I slept surprisingly well yet again on Oliver’s couch, and got up at 8:00 to be ready for the cab that Oliver had arranged for 8:15. He actually got out of bed to come wish us goodbye.

This should be a very enjoyable week, as Thursday is a bank holiday and E.ON is giving its employees Friday off, so my two busiest days are gone. As for Tuesday, since Frau Suhr is on vacation, Frau Eggers can’t make it either, and I’m finished with Mr. Hennicke, I’ll only be having one class that day, and thus one class in the whole week. Then, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be going to Berlin with Alan and Amanda this weekend. The immediate past and the immediate future both look great!

Jesus Loves Guinness

January 24th, 2009 No comments

The feeling that I have a social life hasn’t been stronger since I got here. I spent the last two nights out with people, and as fun as both nights were I’m looking forward to spending another night in the sweet comfort of isolation. But the feeling that I actually have some friends out here is quite nice.

On Thursday night, in spite of my strong desire to stay in, I decided to go out to Quiz Night with Alan and Amanda again. On Tuesday, we’d used the name “Jesus Loves Vodka” as our team name and lost horribly. But we really like the name, so we used it again, only changing it to “Jesus Loves Guinness” which we felt would be slightly less sacrilegious to the Irish Catholic woman who runs the quiz. She was quite amused by our name, musing about the idea of Jesus drinking Guinness on the microphone for all to hear, but she did say that it was in fact a sin. But the name proved to be good luck, because we actually wound up winning the quiz (thanks to a lot of Obama questions at the beginning and many others that fell into my areas of knowledge), and she said that we must have had help from Jesus. It felt cool to finally win a quiz, but it also meant free drinks, which wasn’t ideal because I really hadn’t wanted to drink very much due to the necessary early rise on Friday morning.

But on the third Guinness, after I had a significant buzz going, I found myself opening up and spilling personal details more freely than I ever have before. I told them about my theory on human sexuality, and how I consider myself a man who is mostly inclined towards same-gender sex between two women. I even let them know that I have no strong desire to penetrate a woman and I’d rather just pleasure them orally, and Amanda assured me that there are plenty of straight girls who aren’t into penetration who would totally go for something like that. The trouble is of course that I might get slapped in the face a few times before finding one. Not that I even intend to try, but it’s fun to imagine.

The next morning was quite shitty, but not as bad as it could have been. I struggled through my two beginner classes in Helmstedt, then came home and plopped back onto my couch for a little nap, looking forward to another nice night of watching downloaded TV entertainment on my computer. But only twenty minutes into my nap, the phone rang and it was Oliver inviting me to come to Celle—a town about 25 minutes away by train—to spend the night at his place. I almost didn’t want to go because I still wasn’t feeling too great, but I knew I should go and that after a meal and a few beers I’d be feeling just fine.

So I just threw on a jacket and hopped a train to Celle, arriving at the station at around 4:30. We drove around for awhile because he meant to take us to a restaurant but we found it didn’t open until 6, so we just settled for a half-chicken from a stand outside the supermarket and went back to his place to chow down. He lives in the downstairs of a very old run-down house in a relatively secluded area wedged between a forest and some fields. It looked pretty shitty but felt nice and cozy, a feeling augmented very much by the wood-burning oven that he uses to heat the house. We had to venture outside to fetch more wood a couple of times, which was quite fun.

Throughout the course of the night, we basically just sat and talked. He played some great music, almost all of which I intend to download, and we split a six-pack followed by a couple of bottles of wine, from which I drank extremely slowly and cautiously because I hate to mix different types of alcohol. Our conversations were all over the place, beginning with just telling some stories about some of our most intense life experiences (which for both of us usually involved LSD), and sharing our personal histories. I told him about my father abandoning me and the high school depression stuff, and he told me about how he became a father at 19 years of age with a woman 6 years older than him, and he has two daughters. They lived together for about 5 years but that didn’t work out so he left, but he still sees his daughters, now 13 and 15, quite frequently. I couldn’t believe I was hanging out and drinking with a guy who has teenage daughters.

I also told him about my writing at one point, and he seemed quite interested in my pet universe and wants to read some of it. Apparently, he’s into that kind of thing. But talking about that stuff led to deeper issues, and our conversation got pretty philosophical at one point. He enjoys thinking on a deep level and considering things like humanity’s place in the universe, but he doesn’t very often so he found my ideas pretty interesting, which felt quite good.

At around midnight when we were hungry again I helped him cook up a really delicious chicken salad with mushrooms, onions, and apples, drenched in a delicious Indian sauce. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten (because of the apples) but it tasted fantastic.

And when it got really late he started asking me about women, so our last topic of conversation was me once again trying to explain why I’ve never had a girlfriend, an explanation that seems to change slightly with whomever I’m with. I didn’t go into the whole male-lesbian thing with him. I just told him about how I would always fall in love with girls I couldn’t have and didn’t pay attention to anyone else so I never got any practice at picking up women. He asked me if I believed it was just bad luck or that it was all because of me, and I said I knew it was all me which he said was important. I explained that while I sometimes get very lonely, most of the time it doesn’t bother me. Not having a girlfriend gives me the freedom to stick with my plan of travelling the world and moving to a new country every year or so.

But he also told me that German girls are probably the most difficult girls in the world—that he’s never had a problem finding a woman anywhere else in the world except Germany. Just more confirmation that it’s just not going to happen for me here. And that’s perfectly fine. As I said, being single preserves my freedom. But he did tell me that I’ll eventually find someone and that woman will be very lucky, but I gave him my standard response that some people in the world will never have sex or a relationship, and I might be one of those people. “Maybe next life then,” he said. Exactly.

We finally went to sleep at around 2 a.m. and although I thought I wasn’t sleeping well, I woke up nice and late and found that I actually did have a relatively good night’s sleep. Unlike this apartment, you don’t have the nearly constant street noise at his place, although there was a really annoying water pump that kept me up for a little while. But when it was silent, I just laid there appreciating the absolute silence of it, and getting back to sleep was never too difficult. Then this morning he drove me to the train station and I came home. My head is still a little light from the wine and beer, and my throat is still a little itchy from all of that smoking, but my soul feels quite right and I’m really glad I went last night. Not counting Ichenheim, that’s the first time I’ve slept outside my apartment since I came back to Germany, and I really enjoyed it. I was worried that he might not find my company too thrilling but we got along really well. His English wasn’t perfect so there were a few communication problems but it was mostly okay. I tried to speak a little German but he could tell I was struggling so he stuck to English as much as possible, and language wasn’t a big issue most of the time. At any rate, we were able to have some good conversation which is really the only thing that matters.

So now I’ll spend the rest of the weekend alone (barring any unforeseen invitations by Alan or Amanda to come hang out somewhere) and relax in the peace of mind that I am in fact making good on my resolve to be more social and focus more on other people rather than so heavily on myself.