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End of the Beginning

June 30th, 2011 No comments

I just returned from my last day of work as an English teacher for Planeo in Hannover. It’s been a week of goodbyes, and now the reality that my time here is coming to an end has really begun to hit home. I’ll never teach an English lesson for E.ON employees again. I’ll never even go into those buildings again. After nearly three years of going and coming, it hardly feels real that I’ll never go there again.

E.ON Energie Mühlenberg, where I did most of my teaching.

The goodbyes began last Friday with my last trip to Helmstedt and my last lesson with the chatty secretaries who were the students I had the longest, and they were definitely the most sad to see me go. On the way back I stopped in Braunschweig to pay a second visit to my Grandfather’s cousin Elisabeth, which also ended with a farewell although we’ve only met twice.

Monday I said goodbye to two classes, the second of which was full of a bunch of guys I really loved teaching, both because of their sense of humor and the fact that they loved hearing me go on at length about American politics. I gave them one final rant, this time about the Obama budget talks and how I now think he has no chance of winning re-election.

Tuesday I had only one lesson, this one with two guys, one of them was Holger—the guy I went to the Coppelius show with many months ago—but our goodbye wasn’t too official as we’re now friends on Facebook and I’m sure we’ll stay in touch.

My last Wednesday lesson was last week but nobody showed up, so I didn’t need to say any goodbyes there.

And today I had my last three lessons back-to-back. The first was the lesson with Mandy, my most beautiful student whom I’ve contemplated asking out many times but never did because I always got vibes of a complete lack-of-interest in me from her. I’d contemplated saying something like, “Now that you’re not my student anymore, it wouldn’t be awkward for me to ask you out. How would you like a boyfriend for two weeks?” I wouldn’t have actually done that but I was spared the annoyance of having chickened-out by finally confirming after all this time that she does in fact have a boyfriend. She’s never directly mentioned him before but when I asked her about her plans for the summer and she said she wanted to go somewhere with her “friend” I asked “your boyfriend?” and she said yes. So now I can feel just fine about never having pursued anything there.

Then it was my last lesson with one of my favorite students, Katja, with whom I spent most of the time talking about politics and making jokes. My sense of humor always seemed to appeal to her so I always enjoyed those lessons. I’m definitely sad about never seeing her again.

And finally, my last lesson was cut mercifully short as the two women who take part had a meeting to go to only a half-hour later. They brought me down to the cafeteria and treated me to a drink as we exchanged farewells and best-wishes.

The last person I bid farewell to was the very nice receptionist at the E.ON building, whom I told it was my last day and I’d be off to Japan now, and of course the first thing she brought up was Fukushima. But she and the other receptionist wished me a very fond farewell and then I left the building, taking a deep breath of the fresh jobless air.

E.ON Energy from Waste in Helmstedt 2nd E.ON Building in Mühlenberg

This is the beginning of the end of my time in Germany, but the end of the beginning of my English teaching career. It’s been a fantastic experience, one I think was a great way to start out doing this. It’s going to be extremely different in Japan, but I’ve grown enough both as a teacher and a person to feel ready for it now.

All that remains is to get my affairs in order, enjoy the hell out of these last two weeks, and then head back to the U.S.A. for a month before finally going to Japan. I’ll be in three countries in the next two months. Another one of my life’s major turning points is under way.

Planeo Christmas Party III

December 4th, 2010 No comments

Last night was my third and most-likely final Christmas Party with Planeo. I can’t be sure it was the last (I didn’t even expect I’d make it to two) but this time I really think it was. Unlike the first two parties, Amanda wasn’t there so it was far less fun for me—but just like the first two parties, Petra was there so there was some emotional significance.

Petra is one of the oldest women I’ve ever considered drop-dead fucking beautiful. She’s around 40, married and has kids, but her figure is still completely perfect (like…straight out of a model magazine perfect) and her face is utterly gorgeous. I was completely smitten by her at the party two years ago and while I didn’t speak to her much I let Amanda and Alan—then still with us—know about my desire. Then I didn’t see her again until last years’ party when she was all dressed up as part of the ridiculous crime-dinner thing we were doing and I also didn’t speak to her then but got drunk enough to let Tom—the only other American working for Planeo at the time—know about my desire.

So when I woke up yesterday morning I figured there was about a two-thirds chance that this would be one the of extremely rare days of my life in which I’d have a Petra sighting. I’ve been around for almost ten thousand days and will probably be around for tens of thousands more, but only three of those will ever have been days in which I see Petra. The rarity of the encounter is what makes it special to me. It’s not that I idolize her or think there’s no one more beautiful in the world (there are plenty) but she has a special place in my heart because she only comes around once a year and it’s always in a circumstance in which alcohol increases my emotional vulnerability.

I’ve recently been trying to overcome this emotional vulnerability, which I’ve characterized as a demon that turns me into a scared pussy whenever I’m around women I find attractive and which set up all of the right mental barriers so as to prevent me from speaking to them. I have no intentions towards Petra and never did and never will (I’d never in a million years try to fuck up somebody’s marriage) but I figured that if she was going to be around I’d have to at least try and speak to her in order to continue the forward-momentum I’ve been establishing since I first beat the demon several weeks ago.

The Christmas Party was in two stages. Everyone was going to meet outside a restaurant in a town called Devese on the outskirts of Hannover and then go out into the (now snow-covered) fields for a traditional German game called Boβeln involving two teams each trying to throw a ball a further distance than the other. If one team can’t get their ball past that of the other team, the other team gets a point and the losing side is supposed to drink. (Incidentally, this is what most Germans play when they go on a Grünkohlwanderung, so the one I went on last week was actually somewhat atypical.)

I had to take two busses to get there and the first one got stuck in traffic and I missed the second one, so I arrived late because I had to walk the last few kilometers of the journey. But Frank—the boss of Planeo who is generous enough to pay for these Christmas parties—told me how to find them and they weren’t too far along when I got there.

Naturally, I was hoping Petra wouldn’t be there so I wouldn’t have to deal with the demon tonight, but I spotted her right away from her hair, which is as black as a goddamn black hole and contrasts so well with her pale face, a face far too smooth for a 40-year-old mother of multiple children and which looks like a cross between two of the four major Love Interests of my life. She looked even better than I remembered her looking from last year, although the bottom half of her face was covered by a scarf so I couldn’t admire the whole thing.

It was a much smaller group of people than I expected, but it turned out that only half of the total number of people coming to the party had opted to participate the in the Boβeln game beforehand. Aside from Frank and Petra, also in attendance were the two secretaries who are both really friendly and helpful, a couple of other teachers whom I only see at meetings and/or Christmas parties, and Ron the other American who won major points with me when I first met him by revealing himself to be a huge Roger Waters fan.

So we proceeded with the game and I found myself on the team throwing the red ball, which was far superior to the team throwing the green ball (partially thanks to my strong-young-man arm). We scored about seven points and the green team only scored one (which I’m pretty sure was given to them deliberately as an act of mercy) but there was no forced drinking when one team lost a point. Frank was pulling a sled filled with mugs and Glühwein, and while a few of us drank some of that it was only at our own leisure and not related to the game at all. So technically we weren’t doing it right, and I was a little disappointed to see so few people drinking. This was a Christmas party, damn it.

As for Petra, she was one of the non-drinkers and that was just one of the many little things that made me hesitant about actually trying to speak to her. Another thing was her height—she’s slightly taller than me so I was looking up a little whenever I looked at her, and that’s just naturally intimidating. I already feel like she’s above me in terms of aesthetic beauty and that’s only augmented by the fact that she is quite literally above me in terms of height. Coupled with the age-factor, it brought about a feeling in me like I was a kid again having to tilt my head up while in the presence of a teacher or older relative. As such it felt like I’d never be able to speak to her in a smooth and confident manner.

But perhaps the biggest factor was that while most of us were switching between English and German she was only speaking German, and I wasn’t sure if it’s because she doesn’t speak English (Planeo teaches languages other than English) or simply doesn’t like to speak English. Plus, while her face and body looked vibrant and youthful her voice betrayed her true age. It was deep and mature and like her height, rather intimidating.

As an aside, I think I’m just going to have to stick to girls who are younger and shorter than me. I prefer younger, shorter women anyway so this isn’t a problem, but I hadn’t considered that it might actually be harder to bring myself to talk to women who actually don’t fit that preference.

So the game finished just as the last remaining brightness in the sky faded away and we all were walking back to the restaurant. I found myself trudging a few meters behind Frank and Petra who were engaged in conversation. There hadn’t been any kind of natural opening to talk to Petra yet and there wasn’t really one now, but I was already beginning to feel the inevitability of my failure to complete the night’s self-imposed task of talking to her. I felt that gnawing sensation in my stomach reminding me of what a loser I am and how fucking pathetic it is that I can’t even say two words to a beautiful woman because she’s too beautiful.

You have to understand that this is not an unpleasant feeling. It’s actually one of the most comfortable emotional states I ever experience. Because it used to be what I experienced every single day, it’s as familiar to me as an old best friend who still visits often. If it is a demon, it’s a friendly one. One that says, “Don’t worry about it. Just stay here and talk to me and we’ll ride it out together just like old times. Tonight we can go home and listen to sad music and remember all the other girls we weren’t confident enough to be with. We can think about death and what a fantastic relief it will be, taking solace in its inevitability.”

So I was already half-way down the downward spiral when we reached the restaurant. Frank handed me the box of Glühwein mugs and asked me to take it inside, and I followed Petra up the stairs and into the restaurant, the two of us being the first ones in.

If I was going to speak to her, now was the time. This was the only natural opening and depending on where we all ended up sitting at the dinner table it could easily be the last. But what to say?

“Hi, I’m Kyle. I’m from America”? No, that wouldn’t work. We’ve already been introduced even though it was two years ago and we haven’t spoken since. “How long have you been working for Planeo”? Okay, but that’s really lame. That’s the question I ask my students whenever we first meet: “How long have you been working for E.ON?”

Jeez, I have nothing in common with this woman at all. I’m a 26-year-old American who’s not only been single his whole life but is still a virgin, and she’s a 40-year-old German lady with a husband and children. Other than our employer, what the fuck kind of common ground could there possibly be with which to initiate a dialog?

We both have families from Germany…would that work? “So, where was your grandmother born? Germany? Wow, mine too!” No, that’s stupid.

We both breathe oxygen. “So, how about those trees, huh? They sure know how to convert carbon dioxide into the gas necessary for survival, don’t they?” No.

We both are residents of the Milky Way. “So, what do you think of our upcoming collision with the Andromeda galaxy in five billion years? That ought to be exciting.”

Other than that…nothing. Other than basic chemical composition and location in the universe, we have nothing in common at all.

And so the moment passes in the blink of an eye as the rest of the crowd comes in and I find myself no longer alone next to her. That had only been three seconds, which would have been enough for a normal person but I needed at least five seconds to come up with something.

Luckily for me, Tom was there when we got in which meant I’d get to talk to him this evening. When we all took our seats around the big table my first instinct was to try and sit across from Petra to give myself another opportunity, but Tom sat all the way at the end of the table and I decided that I’d rather sit by him and be comfortable than across from Petra and be radically nervous all night. This was a party. I might as well try to enjoy myself.

It was a Christmas party, but clearly not an American Christmas party. Aren’t people supposed to drink large quantities of alcohol at Christmas parties? When the waitress went around and took drink orders, half the people (Petra included) ordered non-alcoholic beverages. Lame. What the hell is the point of a Christmas party if it’s not to get drunk with your co-workers? And if we were all drinking there’d be a much higher likelihood of some kind of exchange-of-words with Petra. After all, I’ve only been able to bring myself to overcome the demon before when I’ve had some kind of buzz going.

But at least all of these thoughts quieted down once the meal commenced. Most of the people had Grühnkohl but because they cooked it in the juice from the pork and sausages you’re supposed to eat with it, I opted for the vegetarian meal of noodles and vegetable sauce instead (which was actually quite good). After the meal I chatted with Tom about politics and we explained to the Germans around us why Barack Obama is so pathetically weak and how Sarah Palin could realistically be the next president. As most Germans are still under the impression that Barack Obama is the greatest-guy-ever, this fascinated them to hear. As Tom admitted, there are few things American expatriates enjoy more than bashing our former country to outsiders.

After the meal I stepped out for a cigarette with a few people including Frank and Sue, who had organized last years’ crime-dinner and whom I’d told it was a stupid idea before discovering that the idea was hers. I’m not sure how much she still holds that against me because she’s a very friendly person on the surface and I can’t tell what she’s really feeling. But ironically I’d been thinking that I actually enjoyed the crime-dinner more than this. I was feeling awkward and out-of-place either way, but at least last year I had a lot of fun making snide sarcastic comments to Amanda and Tom the whole night.

Petra walked by on her way the bathroom while we were smoking. No opportunity there. If only she were a smoker as well. But she apparently has no vices whatsoever. (Unless you count eating the pork—the one solitary thing I could hold against her).

Back at the table, Ron joined Tom and I and the conversation shifted to Pink Floyd. Ron is a Roger Waters fan but Tom (who is himself an experimental musician) is a Syd Barrett fan who prefers the early Floyd stuff. It was agreed that I was the biggest fan out of all of them because I appreciate their whole career. We asked the Germans if they also liked Pink Floyd, and much to their credit they all did, although most admitted that they haven’t listened to them since their youth. Tom says he has 16 CDs worth of Pink Floyd bootlegs that he could copy for me and I say I was absolutely interested.

All this kept me nice and distracted from Petra’s presence way down the table. Throughout the evening I’d glance at her and do my whole “appreciation without desire” thing but it really wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t torturing myself over not having spoken to her. I was disappointed in myself but I knew it was all in my head. She’s married. She has kids. There was no reason to speak to her other than to score points against my imaginary demon. So the demon was to come out ahead tonight. You win some, you lose some.

Tom was leaving early because his girlfriend was having a visitor from China back at their apartment, and I wanted to get the hell out of there myself so I said I’d go with him. As he got up to go, however, I thought I might just try and ride it out and see where the night went. But Petra got up to leave at the exact same time, which reduced my reasons for being there to zero.

I got up to say thank you and goodbye to Frank, and Petra walked by me on her way out and said “tschüss” to which I replied “tschüss” and then she was gone. I had to smile internally at that. So we did speak to each other in the end…in the most superficial way possible. I suppose it’s appropriate that the last thing I’ll ever say to her—the only word we exchanged the whole time—was “bye”.

And so Tom and I began our journey back to our respective locations, sharing our frustrations about the downfall of America along the way. I bid him goodbye just one bus-stop before my own, then got in just shortly after 8:00 p.m. It honestly felt more like 2 a.m.

Even though I attempted to distract myself from my emotions by watching a couple episodes of Dexter, I was still feeling extremely low. I checked my e-mail later in the night and found a significant one from Corey who seemed to be feeling just as low as I was. So for the first time in many months I gave him a call and we ended up talking for almost an hour and had a really enjoyable conversation. He’s going through his own bullshit with women, and at one point expressed to me how he wished it could just be easy.

I said that we wouldn’t want it if it were easy. We had to make it a challenge or we wouldn’t appreciate it if we got it. If beautiful women just threw themselves at all us the time, we wouldn’t want them. He pointed out how fucked up that is and how it just goes to show that the human race is almost certainly doomed to extinction if this is the way our brains work. We both had a good laugh over the idea that even several hundred thousand years ago there must have been a caveman with the same thought, not wanting the woman he had but instead wanting the woman that the other caveman had and thinking of his species: “Yeah, this probably isn’t gonna work out.”

That’s our common ancestor.

Anyway, that’s the latest in my ongoing saga of the demon. It won the day yesterday and I’m feeling the negative emotional consequences of it. Today the sun is out, reflecting beautifully off the snow-covered rooftops and I just wish it would fucking go away. Not today, Mr. Sun. I obviously have to go outside and appreciate it a little bit, and there are going to be all these happy families out and about, parents pulling their cute little kids on sleighs everywhere I go. I probably wouldn’t even want a family if I didn’t feel like I’ll probably never be able to have one.

Yeah, this human race thing probably isn’t gonna work out, is it?

Weltmeisterschaft

June 24th, 2010 No comments

Yesterday evening was noteworthy enough to jot down what happened, both for the sake of my memory and for the few readers out there who still come to the blog to find out what I’ve been up to.

Every few months, Susanne from Planeo organizes a little get-together of the Planeo employees and teachers. Last night I went and had dinner and a couple of beers with them, more out of a sense of obligation than an actual desire to socialize. Amanda and Tom weren’t there, and those are the only two other Planeo people I genuinely enjoy hanging out with (possibly because they act closer to my age than even I do). Still, it was nice to have some socialization in any case. Overall it was enjoyable, and sitting outside in the lovely weather didn’t hurt either. But half the people went home after only an hour, and before I knew it, it was just me and Susanne. I figured sticking it out with her and chatting might make up for having said that her idea for the Christmas Party was so terrible right in front of her face without knowing that it had been her idea.

We parted ways at about 8:30, just as Germany’s third World Cup game began. Naturally, they were showing it at the restaurant (as they were in all public places across the entire country) but our table didn’t have a good view and there was nowhere left to go that had a good view.

But I knew that they had public viewings of Germany’s games at the Waterloo Biergarten, which is practically across the street from my apartment. So I walked over there and found the place so packed that people were standing outside in the parking lot and watching from there. The weather was nice and I had nothing else in mind to do (I’d thought the Planeo dinner was going to last much longer and that we were going to watch the game together) so I stood around and watched along with everyone else. The first half was pretty boring, and by the time half-time rolled around I really had to pee and wanted another beer. I walked back to my apartment and took care of business, then walked back with two beers in my back-pack for the second half.

I was actually starting to get into it by the time Germany scored what was to be the only goal of the game, and found myself letting out a cheer as all of the Germans around me went absolutely crazy. Cheering. Car horns honking. Vuvuzelas blowing. All of it.

I got so caught up that I gave Oliver a call and yelled “Gooooooooooooooooal!” because I figured there was a 99.9% chance he was watching the game as well, and I was right. We said a few things back and forth but I could hardly hear him, and then he said he had to go because he wanted to follow the game.

Several minutes later I got a call from Amanda, whom I’d left a message with earlier to yell at her for not going to the Planeo dinner even though she told me she would. She said she was at the Waterloo Biergarten and asked me where I was. “I’m at the Waterloo Biergarten,” I said, and she told me to come in and find her. I tried, but as expected they weren’t letting anyone else in. I called Amanda and told her, hoping she’d come outside and watch the game with me from there, but I guess she had a good place and didn’t feel like leaving.

I watched the rest of the game, confirming for the hundredth time that soccer is pretty boring, but I was glad to have watched it because Germans are so fucking crazy about their soccer team that I just wouldn’t feel right having been in Germany during a World Cup tournament and not having watched a game. Naturally, when the final buzzer rang there was pandemonium. Horns and vuvuzelas like you wouldn’t believe. A guy with a microphone and tape recorder started going up to people and asking them what they thought of the game, for what purpose I have no idea. It’s not like anyone said anything interesting. “Es war gut” is pretty much the only thing I heard people say. They were obviously ecstatic that Germany won but probably also a little disappointed that they didn’t score more goals.

I called Amanda, hoping to at least catch her and say hi on the way out, but for some reason she didn’t answer. It’s possible it was just too loud to hear, but I can’t help but feel a little slighted that she still hasn’t called me back. I waited for about ten minutes hoping to spot her but I never did, and then I walked back home.

During my walk back at half-time the city was a ghost-town, but after the game cars were all over the streets, honking and honking away. Indeed the noise didn’t die down until at least an hour after the game and even two hours later when I was trying to go to sleep I’d hear the occasional horn blowing or drunken Germans singing and cheering outside.

This Sunday Germany will play England and I’ll probably go out and watch it again. Soccer may be boring but watching the German team play in the World Cup with a bunch of other Germans is definitely a worthwhile experience.

Although considering how difficult it is to go to sleep on a day in which Germany wins a World Cup game I must confess that I kind of hope they lose on Sunday. But don’t tell anyone I said that.

Dull Winter

January 10th, 2010 No comments

It’s been a pleasantly uneventful week so I haven’t felt compelled to write anything about it down, though there are a few things worth mentioning.

First of all, when I got home from Ichenheim last weekend, after finishing that journal entry and then settling down for a nice peaceful evening of music and Star Trek, it suddenly dawned on me: I hadn’t thought about Aimee at all for the entire day. Even throughout the 5-hour train journey when my mind had been wandering all over the place and back and forth through time, not once did Aimee and her new husband pop into my head. And this was only three days after finding out about the marriage. Clearly whatever effect it had had on me had completely worn off already. It’s quite clear that in spite of the intense emotional connections buried within me regarding her, for all practical purposes I am completely over her. The fact that she’s married, while it was an unbelievably strong emotional shock the moment I learned of it, doesn’t bother me at all. Over this past week, I’ve sailed through most days without thinking about it at all. I only remind myself of it now to record it in the journal.

Secondly, I had tossed around the idea of checking out an online dating website when I got back to Hannover just to see what would happen and to potentially bring something more meaningful and emotional into my life. I still haven’t abandoned the idea, but every time I’m sitting at home deciding what I’d like to do, the thought of trying out online dating gets quickly tossed away after barely a moment of consideration. I just have so little desire for a girlfriend, absolutely no motivation whatsoever to even look for one, that I can’t bring myself to even take a moment to see what kinds of dating sites that I might even be able to use. I know that if I do try and enter the dating scene, that will become the central focus of my life (as I’ve got pretty much nothing else going on right now) and I’m so damned content without focusing on it that I just don’t want to try it yet.

Plus, it’s not completely true that I have nothing going on. The major focus of this year is relocating to Asia, and I have mustered the motivation to begin the process of finding a job in Japan. It being winter I’m still very unmotivated in all regards, and having gotten sick with a cold on Monday which has lasted through today I was even less motivated, but on Tuesday I mustered up an hour’s worth of time to check out a website with all the information you need to know if you want to teach English in Japan. It was a very helpful site and it gave me a very good sense that in spite of the difficult job market these days it’s still quite possible for me to get hired by a language school there. The site referred me to another ESL job-search website where I created an online resume and put it out there. So far no solicitations from Japanese companies, though I did already get two random offers, probably from men who send these offers to every teacher on the site. One job was to move to Nigeria and teach the man’s wife and four young children English while living in the second half of his duplex-house, which paid $5000 per month. For a split second I considered how crazy it would be to suddenly tell my parents that I’m moving to Nigeria, but the guy wanted someone right away and besides, I don’t want to be some kind of live-in English teacher who is pretty much always on the job. The other offer was similar but much more tempting—an Australian guy who has two young kids who don’t speak English and whose mother passed away is moving to England and wants a teacher to live with them and teach the kids English for £4,500 a month. That’s HUGE money and I’d be able to live in England which would also be awesome. I would totally consider it, even having to practically always be on the job, but I’m sure he’s looking for an older woman to do the job and not a sketchy young guy like me. Even if he were to consider me I’m sure he’d Google me first and find plenty of reasons why I’m not the right person for that job. Anyway, I’m focused on Asia, so unless something really amazing comes along I won’t divert from that goal.

On Friday I woke up to find that Alan had signed in to Facebook for the first time since I sent him a friend request way back in June of last year when he left Hannover, and I was surprised at how good it was to hear from him. Of all the random people that Facebook allows me to keep in touch with, I consider him to be one of the most valuable. After all, he spent over 10 years doing what I intend to do for the next 10 years, and even spent 4 of those years in Japan in particular. Plus he’s just a really nice guy that I enjoyed talking to quite a bit. He hasn’t responded yet to my response, but hopefully he can give me a little help and guidance as I move towards the big relocation.

Finally, yesterday we had a terribly long 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. teacher-seminar at Planeo in which a few of the teachers gave the rest of the teachers lessons on topics for teaching. I was happy to have the benefit of the training although I would have greatly preferred splitting it into two 4-hour sessions instead of sacrificing an entire Saturday as well as forcing an early bed-time Friday night. Natalja began with a three-hour lesson on how to introduce texts with a proper lead-in activity, which gave me some useful ideas but not much that wasn’t already fairly obvious. Amanda then gave a brief lesson on different ways to work with listening activities, which was also good for some useful ideas but not too much. We then all went out to lunch at a pizza place and came back, the rest of the lesson led by Sue who had organized the whole thing and used her time to teach us how to play the games (board games and card games) that are lying around the Planeo office. I suppose that was valuable too, although anyone could have figured the games out themselves without doing demonstrations. Still, it was worthwhile and it wasn’t as painful as I expected. The other English teachers are a pleasant enough bunch, and it was very relaxed and informal with plenty of laughter and joking around.

At lunch I found myself sitting by Amanda, Shauna, and Penni, and I asked them about doing taxes in Germany as a freelancer. I still haven’t got a straight answer on how much is supposed to be tax-free (it may just be €8,000 and not €15,000 and I may not be eligible to get anything back that they’ve taken from me) and not one of the three of them were able to tell me with any certainty what I needed to do. The only conclusion was that I should probably find a tax consultant. When I asked if any of them knew an English-speaking tax consultant, none of them did, but Penni said she knew somebody who knew somebody who has lived in Germany for awhile and doesn’t speak a word of English so she might have an English-speaking tax consultant and she’d find out for me if she could. If that fails, Amanda offered to go with me to a tax consultant to serve as a translator.

Regarding Penni, it’s impossible to remain angry at her anymore for usurping my Thursday classes. She may not be the type of person I would choose to spend my free time with, but she is really nice and outgoing. She’s the kind of person who gets along really easily with everyone and who can carry on a conversation without the slightest bit of effort spent trying to think of what to say or how to respond to others. It’s easy to see how my students would have felt more comfortable with her than with someone as cerebral as me, and while it was still a bullshit move on the part of Andreas to toss me overboard like that, it’s not her fault. He and Lara specifically asked to continue with her, so at that point there was nothing she or Planeo could do about it. As easy and satisfying as it is to resent her, it just doesn’t make any sense to do so. Besides, I no longer have to go all the way to Helmstedt on Thursdays, and thanks to Shauna’s classes (which she gave no indication that she’ll be returning to any time soon) I’m still earning enough to pay the bills and save up gradually anyway.

So that’s where things stand now. I don’t expect anything big to happen for quite awhile, and I don’t seem to have any intention of trying to make anything big happen either. I’m quite happy to have a nice, long, dull, uneventful winter.

Broken Computer Adventures

December 19th, 2009 No comments

On Thursday afternoon, my computer suddenly and without warning decided to get itself massively fucked up. It was just a routine System Restart, which I do several times a day, but suddenly it wouldn’t boot up. Some file was missing or corrupt. This was a massive blow to my ability to…well…live. Almost everything I do at home short of sleeping, cooking, and using the bathroom involves my computer. Without it I’m not only cut-off from the world of information normally at my fingertips, but I can’t even read documents, write documents, or watch any of my downloaded entertainment.

A damaged computer in my life nowadays is even more debilitating than a damaged car used to be when I lived in the states. So when the computer goes down, fixing it becomes the primary focus. That evening I went out to an internet cafe to figure out what I needed to do, and found that I wouldn’t be able to do anyting without a Windows XP CD like the kind that originally comes with the PC. But I don’t have such a CD. I called my Dad to find out if he had one and to make a long story short he’s shipping one out by FedEx which should arrive on Monday.

But I can’t fucking wait until Monday, so first thing Friday morning I called Planeo to find out if they had any XP CDs I could use. It turns out they did, and because my only class of the day was cancelled that gave me plenty of time to try and take care of the problem.

It also just happened to be the day of the years’ first snowfall, which was actually quite a happy coincidence because of the all the running around outside I’d be doing throughout the day. I got the full snow experience, starting with my walk to Planeo.

I tried their CD, and it seemed to be working until I was prompted for a password that I didn’t have. An online chat with a Dell agent told me that without the password, the only solution was to reformat that hard drive, thus losing all my data. The only way to save the data would be to take it to a specialist.

The secretaries at Planeo helped me find a nearby place called PC Homeservice and I called around noon to ask if I could take my PC in as soon as possible. The soonest possible time was 15:00, so I waited around at Planeo and used their internet until about 14:30, then made the fifteen minute walk to the place through the now heavily falling snow.

When I got there, there was no one inside. The sign on the door said they were closed from 12:00 to 15:00, so I waited 20 minutes out in the freezing cold until 15:05 but nobody came, so I called the number again and the guy didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Whoever I’d made the 15:00 appointment with must have forgot or not told anyone or something. Now he said he was on the way.

I should have asked him how long he though it would be, but I just assumed he couldn’t be far so I waited some more. It was nice being out in the snow anyway, at least at first. But after awhile I had to start walking up and down the block to keep warm and soon enough even that wasn’t enough. The snowfall was no longer enjoyable because I was freezing my ass off.

At 15:30 I called again and the guy said it was taking awhile because of the snow, and it might be another half-hour. So I walked back to Planeo where Michaela made me a tea to warm me up and contacted the guy telling him to call the office when he was ready for me. It was 16:25 when he called, and it was now getting dark. Back into the snow and I finally got to this place, hoping that fixing it or at least backing up the data wouldn’t take too long.

But the guy said he didn’t have enough time to fix it today and I should leave it there overnight. Okay, well fuck. Fine.

I then had to decide how to enjoy my night without a computer. I’d planned to buy a cheap DVD player but would it really be worth it for just one night? With it I’d be guaranteed to have a fun night and something to occupy me over the next days if somehow the guy is unable to fix it, but it would cost me money that I can’t really afford to be throwing away right now. On the other hand, if I didn’t buy it the weekend would be guaranteed to pretty much suck.

I went to the store in the center of town where I know they sell DVD players, fought my way through the Christmas-shopping crowds, and found that the cheapest DVD player available was for €35. I’d had €30 in my mind as my limit. Decision time. I paced around the store for awhile trying to decide but I couldn’t. I went back and picked up the box and examined it, still not sure I wanted it. I brought it to the check-out counter and stood in line, still trying to decide. I paid for it and left the store, still indecisive.

But now I had the thing, so the next thing to do was rent some German DVDs, seeing as how the regional-code issue would prevent me from watching any of the American DVDs I brought with me to Germany. I’d checked the internet at Planeo, and according to Google the closest place was in the mall, so I had to enter the awful Friday-evening-Christmas-shopper-packed mall and find the place. But it turned out the place only sold video games—they didn’t rent DVDs at all. But the dude at the counter, who luckily spoke great English, gave me some bad directions to the nearest Videothek, which was apparently in the Hauptbahnhof. I couldn’t find it, but I decided to give up anyway and just watch Das Boot, which I borrowed from Oliver a long time ago and just haven’t yet been in the mood to watch. Tonight would be the night.

I’m so bored writing this that I won’t even bother describing the events of the night. All I’ll say is that the DVD player turned out to be a fantastic purchase. To my unbelievably pleasant surprise, it not only played German DVDs, but files from DVD-Rs, which means I can use it to watch any of the TV shows I have saved to discs, which is a hell of a lot of entertainment. And not only THAT, but it actually plays American DVDs! No regional code bullshit at all. So even if the computer isn’t fixed, I’ve got plenty of entertainment options.

Anyway, I unfortunately got too drunk and tired too quickly to finish Das Boot, which was really good but I couldn’t stop myself from dozing off. So that will have to be finished tonight. So at least I’ll have something to look forward to even if the computer isn’t fixed. Speaking of which, it’s almost noon so it should be fixed by now. I gave him my number and told him to call me when it was done, but he hasn’t. I guess I’ll try calling him now.

Huh. Well, he says it’s done. Whether that means it’s fixed or if the data is stored, I’ll find out soon. Time to go.

…and now I’m back at my apartment, finishing up this entry on a keyboard on which the z and the y are in their proper places. When I picked up the computer from the guy, a different guy from last night, he seemed to have a strange attitude towards me. I don’t know if that’s just how he is, or if he perhaps took some time to peruse my files and found all my pervy pictures. Not that I really care, I’ve got nothing illegal on there. Highly questionable, yes. But not illegal.

Anyway, I took a nice scenic walk back home because it’s such a beautiful fucking day with the sun now shining on the freshly fallen snow, and I passed by the Maschsee to find that its surface is frozen, something I didn’t even see last year because I didn’t go there at all during Winter, so that was cool. Ironically, as I walked there my I-pod suddenly crapped out and wouldn’t start again. Just as one thing is fixed, another thing breaks. Perfect.

But it was probably just the coldness and moisture fucking with the circuitry because it appears to be working now. When I turned the computer on it didn’t work right away either, and I was starting to think I might have to go and demand my money back, but it was probably just the moisture. After having some time to heat up a bit, it’s now back to normal. I don’t know how they did it, but everything is exactly as it was before. Not one file out of place. It was the best outcome I could have hoped for. And now that I’ve had to go without it for a couple of days, I have a greatly renewed appreciation for how sweet it is to have this thing.

And now that it’s working again, I’m going to leave it here while I go back out for another nice walk in the snow.

A Day In The Life: Christmas Party ’09

December 5th, 2009 No comments

For awhile now I’ve been meaning to do a stylistic experiment with this journal. One major element of my existing style is to occasionally include a stream-of-consciousness narration of my actual thoughts as I experienced the events I’m describing. I’ve been meaning to try writing about an entire day of my life like that, and yesterday was the perfect day to do it. I just finished it, and it was a lot of fun to write although it took forever and ended up being even longer than some of my travel stories.

So for those of you who actually have enough time and patience to read this beast of an entry, I’d like your feedback on the style. I’d of course like to hear as much of your reaction to as much of it as possible (perhaps in an e-mail rather than the comments), but that would take you forever so at a minimum I’d just like to know if you found it to be an enjoyable read. This is the closest I’ve ever come to a true play-by-play account of my actual thoughts over an extended period of time. All in all, I think that of everything I’ve ever written, this is the closest I’ve come to capturing what it is truly like to be me for day.

———-

Well, I’m awake already. It’s only 6:15, which means I have a good 45 minutes to just lie here under my warm cozy blanket before getting up to face the long day. I’ll have to go to Helmstedt for a potential 3 hours of classes, and tonight to the Planeo Christmas Party, which I’ve been thoroughly not-looking-forward-to for over a week now.

I agreed to go to the party before I even knew what the theme would be. Last year it was go-kart racing and a nice Greek dinner, at which I had a very good time. I got to know Alan and Amanda better and got to meet a few new colleagues. The only bad part was pining over Petra, one of Planeo’s German teachers, a strikingly beautiful woman who is inaccessible to me not because she’s too young but because she’s too old—probably in her mid-30s—with a husband and children. I haven’t seen her since then, but there’s a good chance I’ll see her tonight.

But I’m really not looking forward to this because of the theme they decided on. Someone, I don’t know who, suggested they do a “crime dinner”. There’s a place called Café K in Linden which hosts big dinner parties and has everyone role-play as different characters in a mystery story involving someone at the top of our fake law firm being murdered and each of us having to figure out who did it. Just yesterday I received the information and the part I was to play—all in German of course—and before going to this party I’d have to actually do homework to translate this bullshit and find out what the story was and who I was supposed to be, just in case my character was important and not knowing the information would ruin the whole thing for everyone else. Once I’d discovered that this was the deal I immediately began trying to come up with excuses not to go, but I knew Amanda and Tom would also be going and they also hated the idea so at least I’d have people to talk to. Besides, there’s always a chance I might have fun, and it’s guaranteed to be more interesting than what I normally do on Friday nights. At least I’ll have something worth writing about.

What’s that? My alarm. I must have fallen back asleep only five minutes ago. Well, I went to bed early enough to get a full 8 hours so I feel perfectly refreshed and awake now. Time to take a shower, eat breakfast while reading online about how much Barack Obama sucks, then go to the train station for my weekly commute to Helmstedt.

I really like my little commute. The hour-long train-ride to and from Helmstedt is a lot more enjoyable than actually teaching while I’m there, and I often spend more time riding the train than I do actually teaching. Walking through the station in the morning to get to the platform to take me to work makes me feel like a serious person, someone who has somewhere to be and a job to do there. Like an adult, basically.

Ah, the train ride. I got the perfect seat—right side of the train, facing forwards, with a full window-view of the slightly-more-aesthetic scenery to the south. The only problem is that I’m surrounded by a big group of people all chatting together and telling jokes and laughing. But once the train begins moving and I start my music I can drown them out. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning—music in your ears and the feeling of constant motion. It’s the closest thing I still have to driving, one of my favorite things to do in the U.S. The music this morning is a playlist I tossed together after waking up, a mixture of mellow classic rock including Dire Straits, The Alan Parsons Project, a splash of Christopher Cross, the kind of stuff my dad likes. Good sailboat music.

Damn, we’re already pulling into Helmstedt. I wish my commute were an hour longer and my classes an hour shorter. Well, time to walk through the rain to get to the E.ON building, say hello to the secretary there in charge of the English lessons and take a seat in the big conference room where I’d be conducting my lessons of one or two people each.

I’m not sure the first group will come. These secretaries cancelled all of their November lessons because two were on vacation and one was too busy. I got no e-mail saying they’d be back today, but I came anyway because I’d like to get paid for the no-show if they don’t come. And if they don’t come I can just spend the hour—as this class is only one hour—reading the book I found and borrowed from the library in the Planeo office. They mostly have language textbooks but I noticed a copy of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and nabbed it because I need something to read. It’s a damn good book and I’m really enjoying it, but I only read it when I’m in a situation where time must be killed and there’s no internet around, like doing the laundry yesterday. Once I finish this book I’ll have nothing else to read again. English books of any kind other than political biographies are hard to come by in Germany.

Oh, but I hear the secretaries approaching anyway. I guess I’ll have to teach. Oh look, Heike brought food! Home-baked Christmas cookies and chocolate treats, as well as some oranges just to have something healthy. And what’s this? Christina, back from her vacation in Jamaica, has a flash-drive with pictures! Well, let’s just plug this into the computer, get the projector going, and have a slideshow of your Jamaican vacation instead of a real English lesson!

Wow, that hour went by fast! Sure, we still have five minutes left but I don’t have any activity that takes only five minutes, so we’ll have to end early. So all we did was have you describe your pictures while I corrected your mistakes and provided the missing vocabulary. You say you found it very helpful? Fantastic. And next week you’ll tell the other Heike to bring pictures from her vacation to Australia? Sounds good to me.

Oh, but here comes the next lesson. The dreaded one with the boring beginners. Maybe like last week they won’t show up. Not that it matters today. Normally I want to get home as soon as possible to finish my activities as soon as possible so I can have as much afternoon time as possible to chill-out. But I’m going to a party with my boss and colleagues tonight so I can’t get too relaxed and I therefore don’t care how long this takes.

But it’s only Sabine today. Apparently Siegfried won’t be coming for the rest of the year. And since the third student, Jörg, practically never comes, it will probably just be Sabine for the rest of the year. Okay, it sucks because she’s absolutely the worst student I’ve ever had in terms of learning ability, but it’s good because when only one student shows up I only teach for one hour. So let’s just get through this painful hour with a review of some old vocabulary that she’s completely forgotten, some easy grammar which will take her a really long time to finish, and a simple easy text that will take her such a long time to get through that…oh, look at the time! I guess we’ll have to finish the text next week.

Back through the clouds and rain—quite pleasant actually—to the train platform. The regional train to Braunschweig. A beautiful young lady on the platform that I’ll casually look at a few times while waiting for the inter-city train back to Hannover. Here it comes, and it looks like another perfect seat is available, this time on the left side of the train. Oh, the beautiful girl from the platform is sitting right in front of me and one seat over so the side of her face is in plain view. I guess my attention will be divided between the scenery outside and that lovely little section of her head where her hair meets her neck for the next half-hour. Occasionally she’ll turn her head and I’ll get a good look at her eyes. I wonder if she notices me looking at her. No worries, we’re already back in Hannover and she’s not getting off. She must not live here anyway. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t try and talk to her.

From the Hauptbahnhof to the bank ATM to check my account balance—it’s extremely low, as expected—and across the street from there to the Pennymarkt where I pick up a bunch of junk to stuff in my face and a six pack of good old Franziskaner Naturtrüb hefeweizen. I don’t feel like walking all the way back to my flat so I’ll take the tram. This tram is taking forever. The sign said it was coming in 1 minute, but it’s been saying that for at least 3 minutes. Must be a hold-up at the Hauptbahnhof. Oh, here it comes, and damn it’s crowded. Oh look, I’m standing next to an incredibly cute girl. I guess I’ll try not to look at her, or at least to not be too obvious about looking at her. At least it’s only two stops, and then I can be off.

After getting back home I’ve still got some hours to kill before dinner. So first thing’s first. Time to open those German e-mails, copy and paste into a translation program and try to make sense of this whole goddamn murder mystery story. All right, so the boss of the company, someone named “A. Big Scam” was found murdered in a Santa costume. At the annual Christmas dinner for the law firm, “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” we’re all going to be characters with various relationships to the dead guy and we all have separate cards with information telling us what secrets we know, and I assume in the case of the murderer, the fact that you’re the murderer. We have to spend the night asking the other characters what they know, exchanging information and trying to piece together all the clues to discover who the murderer is. This is the worst fucking idea for a party I’ve ever heard.

Okay, time to translate the information about my character, Frank Took. You know, let me write some of this shit down on an index card because I’m sure as hell not going to memorize it. Let’s see, I’m a divorce lawyer with Lie, Cheat, and Steal. I recently made lots and lots of money by representing Mr. Steal’s ex-wife, Enid A. Drink in a divorce settlement that ended very much in her favor. With the death of Mr. Scam, I’m second in-line to be made a partner at the firm after another guy named Ben De Toy. My fucking god this is stupid. I mean, I’m getting dumber just reading this shit. Okay, apparently I know some secrets that I can use to get more information from other people. Apparently I know that Constance Cheat, the wife of partner Igotta Cheat (apparently everyone has a clever name but me) was having an affair with another one of the partners, Will Lie. Well mercy me. How scandalous.

Okay, I think I put enough on the card to muddle through. Hopefully most of the people there will be just as unenthusiastic about this charade as I am.

Now I’ll spend the next few hours going through the first section of my latest book in the STAR Universe in preparation to finally write more of it after nearly a year of neglect. A couple of weeks ago my muse suddenly returned and the entire rest of the plot of the book fell into place. Now if I can just get myself to start writing again I might actually be able to finish this one, and hopefully it’ll be better than anything I’ve written so far. It certainly has potential. Ah, but there are so many flaws with what I’ve already written—I’ll probably have to completely rewrite this anyway if I ever want it published.

Well, it’s the time I normally eat dinner and I’m hungry. And fuck knows how long into this party it’ll be before the food is actually served, so I might as well have dinner. We’ll just toss half a frozen pizza in the oven and watch a podcast of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. His show has been uncharacteristically good this past week with regard to the Afghanistan decision, but tonight it’s back to the same old bullshit making fun of republicans with stupid funny voices that don’t sound anything like whomever he’s trying to imitate. And he wonders why people don’t take him seriously as a journalist. Well, that was crap. Not one thing about Afghanistan at all. Eight minutes about Tiger fucking Woods, but nothing about Afghanistan. What the fuck, Keith? I keep watching because you often do have really good analysis and commentary, but sometimes it’s like you’re deliberately trying to prove your critics right.

Anyway, I’ll save the far more intelligent and serious Rachel Maddow podcast for tomorrow. Now I’ve got 20 more minutes to kill. Perhaps I’ll watch the Christmas party episode of “The Office”. Excellent. That’s quality sit-com writing. Good shit.

All right, it’s 6:40. Better finish this beer and get going. We’re supposed to dress up to fit our roles, but A) I don’t have a suit or anything that could really make me look at all like a divorce lawyer, and B) fuck that. I’m going in my standard Kyle-uniform of khakis and a T-shirt.

It’s a twenty minute walk straight into Linden. There are a lot of people out on the streets at this time of evening on a Friday. I’m normally drinking alone in my flat, but now I’m among the normal people, just a regular person going to a social event to socialize with other people. Personally, I’d rather be drinking alone in my flat. But hey, you force yourself to the social events to give yourself an excuse to isolate yourself the next night. “I hung out with people yesterday,” I can say. No need to go anywhere or call anyone or do anything today.

I’m not exactly sure where this place is but if I keep following the Number 9 tram tracks I should spot it. It shouldn’t be much further than the Lindener Marktplatz. I’ll just cross the street here…holy shit that van looked like it was going to hit me! It just did a 180˚ turn at this intersection and came within a foot of me! Whatever, keep walking. What the fuck, now it’s flashing its lights? Who the fuck is this asshole?

Oh, it’s my boss Frank. Better take off my I-pod and accept the ride he’s offering me. Too bad. I was just getting to the best part of “Telegraph Road”.

He introduces me to his surprisingly cute wife in the passenger’s seat. I greet her with a “nice to meet you” and wonder why she hadn’t been at last years’ Christmas party. Come to think of it I didn’t even know he was married.

“What role are you playing?” he asked me. “I’m Frank Took,” I replied, “Who are you?” He’s one of the partners, Will Lie. According to my index card, he’s the one with whom Constance Cheat had an affair, but I wouldn’t make that pointless connection until later.

He finds the café all right—just a block down the road, but there’s no parking space so he drives all the way back to the Lindener Marktplatz where he’d picked me up, and we walk to the café together. Thanks for the ride. As we walk he tosses on a ridiculous wig of flamboyantly disheveled white hair. He looks more like a mad scientist than a lawyer. He asks me if I think my German is good enough, and I honestly reply no, and that it took me more than an hour to get through all that material they sent me. His wife gives a friendly laugh.

We walk into the café and while there’s already a decent crowd there it doesn’t look like Amanda and Tom are among them. Damn, I’ll have to mingle with other people for awhile. I should have drunk more than one beer before coming.

A tall, dorky-looking, probably-gay German guy greets me and asks me who I’m playing, then hands me the name-tag for Frank Took, divorce lawyer. He tells me in German that he’s the inspector. So this guy would be running the show this evening. And he looked pretty damned serious about his role. How wunderbar.

Okay, let’s just dive right in, shall we? Hi Robert…I mean…um…what does your name-tag say, “Igotta Cheat”, it’s nice to see you. Yes, hello to you too. Who are you? Oh shit, it’s Sue, the head-teacher, the one whose lesson I visited last month and who came to visit mine a couple of weeks ago. She’s “Barbie-Dahl Scam”, the widow of the dead guy, and she’s dressed the part so well I didn’t even recognize her. Oh hey, Natalja…I mean…um, Mr. Steal, the guy (guy?) whom according to my index card I sucked dry in the divorce settlement with Enid A. Drink. So she yells at me for that. I apologize. I was just doing my job…

Oh I fucking hate this already. Rarely is something just as bad as you expect it to be. Usually social events wind up being more fun than I anticipate, but not this. This just blows.

Everyone is drinking glasses of Sekt, and someone hands me a glass. Thank you. Not a moment too soon. Can I get a couple of shots with that? Man, I haven’t even hung up my jacket yet. I’ll go walk to the entrance and do that. Someone is coming through the door behind me. I turn around. There she is. Petra. In the flesh. Dressed up like a rich slut. I’m the first person to see her. “Hello,” is all I say. She smiles and walks past me. My first impression after all this time? She looks older than I remember. Maybe I won’t be pining over her this time like I did last year.

Or maybe I will. Time to go back to that nice comfy little corner I was standing in (not really a corner, but against the wall between two tables), sip on my Sekt, hide behind my paranoid eyes and just hope not too many people start coming up to me and interrogating me in German. I’ll talk to Sue for awhile. As dressed up as she is, she seems willing enough to be out of character and talk like a normal human being. Oh, but what’s this? She’s made a flow-chart of all the characters and how they’re related to one another. Let’s see…who is Petra playing? “Marsha Mellow”. Of course, there she is on the chart, and there I am. And there are no lines connecting us in any way. Too bad. If our characters had some kind of connection that would have been an actual excuse to talk to her, even if it was over some silly pretend bullshit.

Michaela, one of the Planeo secretaries, comes by as I’m standing by myself and whispers into my ear, “Isn’t there anything going on at the cinemas tonight?” I give her a wide smile and nod of agreement. Good, at least I’m not the only one here who thinks this is really dumb. Where the fuck are Amanda and Tom?

Petra is standing right in front of me. She turns around and glances at my name-tag, reads that I’m a divorce lawyer and laughs with the other people she’s talking to. Um…how about returning my “hello” from before? Maybe introducing yourself to me—even just your pretend self—instead of just glancing at my chest and then turning away? Oh whatever. I could introduce myself if I wanted. But no. Remember, Kyle, she has a husband and children. But goddamn is she gorgeous for an older woman.

Where the fuck are…oh thank god! Amanda and Tom are here! Finally, some fellow cynical assholes with whom to make snide derogatory wise-ass remarks about the theme of the party! They enter and say hello. Their characters appear equally as unimportant as mine. For which I am very grateful. If I had been important things would have really been bad.

I say hello to Amanda and Tom and chat for a second but then they go to say hello to everyone else, leaving me once again standing alone in my corner and hoping nobody talks to me. Oh, someone is talking to me. A German girl is talking to me in German. She’s plump and short, obviously taking her role quite seriously as she’s drawn a mustache on her face with magic marker. I use the most heavily-accented German I can muster to tell her my German sucks. She tells me her English sucks. Too bad for her I guess. If I didn’t know any better I’d think she was attracted to me. Why is it always the ones I find so unattractive? But how mean of me. She seemed nice enough—just a little too outgoing for my taste.

Anyway, Amanda and Tom are back. She’s brought me another glass of Sekt. “I’m on the path to drunkenness” she says. The only way to make this fun, she says, is to get completely wasted. Her logic is impeccable.

What’s going on now? They want to get started but we’re waiting for someone. Get started? You mean it hasn’t started yet? I thought we were already doing it! But we can’t get started until Enid A. Drink arrives. Yes, I know that name. According to my index card, she’s the client I won lots of money for. Oh, but here she is. And it’s Penni! The teacher who stole my Thursday classes. Oh, irony.

Well, now we can begin. Everyone enter the lobby and listen to the guy playing Ben De Toy give the opening speech from a wooden platform. The guy obviously works for the café and knows his part well, much like the inspector. He looks like a German, carnivorous version of Moby. He proceeds to give a long long speech in German. He regrets to inform us all that Mr. A. Big Scam has been found murdered, etc. I tune out very quickly. I shoot a look back at Tom and Amanda. Tom just laughs, as if to say “my thoughts exactly”.

A million minutes of incomprehensible German later, fat-Moby finishes his speech and we’re all instructed to start interrogating each other. A German woman comes right up to me and starts questioning me in German. “Oh, mein Deutsch is wunderbar” I say, thus letting her know my German is terrible, but she doesn’t speak English so she continues in German and I do my best to politely play along and answer all of her questions without referring to my index card. I do all right, and she moves on. God, how many more times is this going to happen?

What’s this? Oh, it’s the inspector himself! He wants to ask me a few questions. I tell him in English that I don’t speak German. Well, that’s just fine because he speaks some English!

“I had to learn English to become an inspector,” he says.

“Yes, and I had to take English lessons to become a divorce lawyer,” I say. “And I took so many English lessons that I forgot how to speak German.”

“Yes, that is a danger,” he says, then proceeds to question me about my relationship to Mr. Scam. There are a few questions I feel I’m probably supposed to know the answer to but I don’t. I just give him all the information I remember, feeling like I’m being quizzed on whether or not I did my homework. Apparently I’m next in line to be partner if anything happens to Ben De Toy, a.k.a. fat-Moby. (Gee, I wonder if he’s going to be pretend-murdered some time this evening) so I did benefit from Mr. Scam’s death but I didn’t kill him. If there’s any other way I can help with your investigation, let me know.

He thanks me and walks away. I turn back to Tom and Amanda who ask me what just happened. “I was just raped,” I said, and they said it was probably worse.

“This is really the worst thing human beings have ever done to one another,” Tom said. “I mean, the Third Reich was bad, but this is worse.”

“Yeah,” I play along. “I mean, say what you will about Hitler, but he never made anyone do this.”

Tom and Amanda break into laughter and a person standing near us asks what’s so funny. Tom repeats my joke but that person doesn’t seem to think it’s all that amusing. So we just keep to ourselves and try to keep the hyperbolic complaints about the party to a lower volume.

Penni comes up to me now in full-fledged Enid A. Drink character. Apparently she’s into voodoo and asks me to stick some pins into her husband’s voodoo doll crotch to celebrate our victory in the divorce settlement. “Haven’t we done enough damage?” I say. But she insists on at least giving me a big hug to thank me for all that money she got thanks to me. How nice. Do you also want to thank me for all that money you got from my Thursday classes thanks to me?

After a short while, it’s time for Ben De Toy to get fake-shot and die. It’s quite a lame performance actually, even for the standards of this place. The sound of a crack and fat-Moby goes down clutching the not-wound in his bald head and then passes out on the floor in a pool of not-blood. As the inspector and someone else drag him away, he smiles and laughs, eyes wide open.

When it’s finally time for some food to be served, Amanda brings us to a table in the back of the room. I of course take a seat that allows me to face Petra, but Tom says that Amanda is supposed to sit next to him or something. So I reluctantly give up the seat but Amanda sits across from him anyway, and Sue takes the seat across from me.

But we can’t just eat, because first the inspector has to walk around the room with a microphone speaking incomprehensible German and ask questions of some of the characters so we can play our part in front of everyone. And lucky me, I’m the first to be questioned!

In English, he asks me about my relationship with Scam and De Toy. “I um..didn’t know them very well…I think.”

“But you are now next in line to be partner?” he asks.

“Yes, so I guess I’m glad they’re dead…but I’m not…it’s very sad…” I fake cry for a few cheap laughs. Goddamn my improv experience. I don’t want to play along but when I’m there in the spotlight I can’t resist.

“Yes, yes, if you have to cry it’s okay,” says the inspector. “So it’s lucky for you they are dead?”

“Yes, it is, I guess,” I conclude, then he thanks me. But I grab the microphone one last second and say, “But I didn’t kill them.” There. That ought to do it. Now no one can accuse me of not playing along with this ridiculousness.

Once the inspector has talked for a million minutes, the soup is finally served, and Amanda, Tom, and I continue to bash the idea for the party.

“Uh oh,” says Sue. “I think I may be at the wrong table.” Amanda and Tom don’t seem to notice. I try to explain that we just think it’s a bad idea for a party. Why can’t we just hang out and drink and talk to each other as the actual people we are, rather than play these ridiculous roles and interrogate each other? Who came up with this idea, anyway?

Oh shit. “Shit,” I say as I can tell by the look on Sue’s face who it was who came up with the idea. “It was you, wasn’t it?” Fuck. “Oh man. I’m sorry. It’s just…well…”

But she defends herself by saying that this wasn’t at all what she had in mind. She suggested a “crime dinner” because she heard this place in Linden had them and she’d done one before but it wasn’t the same thing. People didn’t have characters and stuff, it was more of a performance that everyone else passively watched. “Well, that sounds like it could be fun…” I say to try and save face, but the damage is done. For all I know, Sue will now secretly hate me for the rest of her life. But I suppose it’s okay as long as it’s secret. And I can’t honestly say I feel too bad about the fact that the person who came up with the awful idea knows that some of us find it awful.

Amanda orders four shots of Tequila, apparently still quite serious about her quest to get drunk. Sue says she doesn’t like Tequila, so Amanda suggests vodka, which we all agree on. We take our shots, finish our soup, and go outside for a smoke. Sue hasn’t brought any cigarettes because she “doesn’t smoke” so I give her one of mine. I “don’t smoke” either, but I buy a pack when I go to a party and I know there will be social smoking. A few other people gather outside to smoke as well, and as mercy would have it none of them insist on bringing their characters with them.

Except the inspector, of course, who brings us back inside because it’s time for more bullshit in the dining room. We all have to take our seats because the inspector has found the murder weapon—a plastic water-pistol—and he’s got to go around with his mike again and get everyone up there to play their part. He calls on Amanda who answers the questions in German so I don’t know what she said, but I don’t think she played her part correctly because he dismissed her very quickly. Tom, on the other hand, performs quite well. He’s supposed to be some kind of singer who came up with a slogan for the law firm and now he has to sing it in front of everyone. Right on the spot, he comes up with the lyrics and sings them in the style of an old lounge-singer:

Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Their favorite color is teal
Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Their favorite drug is…vicodin

Well, I think it’s funny but I guess not everyone else does. They clap anyway. Now it’s time for Marsha Mellow to get up and do some explaining. Nice, I can stare at Petra for awhile. Damn, she’s hot. And beautiful. Her face is like…so goddamn gorgeous. I have no idea what she’s saying but I don’t give a shit. For all I know she’s confessing to being the killer.

So that takes a million more minutes and now it’s finally time to eat. I’m so glad I ate beforehand. But the food is actually really fucking delicious and I can’t finish all of it. Amanda orders four more vodka shots but Sue declines. I order a hefeweizen because I’m tired of the Sekt we’ve been drinking so far. The beer is fucking delicious too.

Okay, meal’s over. I’m pretty buzzed. Let’s go out for another smoke. Hey, it’s Robert/Igotta Cheat. You know your wife cheated on you with Frank/Will Lie? There she is now. It’s Michaela/Constance Cheat. I can’t believe you cheated on your husband. What? I’m not supposed to tell him? He just told me he already knows. Anyway, in all seriousness, Michaela, you sent me an e-mail yesterday about my residence permit expiring? Yeah, can you help me get that taken care of sometime next week? Great, thanks.

Back inside. Sitting alone at my table, sipping on my beer. Staring at Petra across the room. Yeah, she’s every bit as beautiful as I remember. And her resemblance to Aimee is even clearer to me now, especially when she smiles. Hey Andy, would you lean the fuck forward, you’re blocking my view. That’s better. Ah. Yeah, like a 35-year-old Aimee, with a little bit of Sara tossed in. Just perfect.

Tom sits down next to me, and I’m buzzed enough to say, “I’m so fucking in love with that woman,” and explain how I was stricken by her last year but hadn’t seen her since.

“She is hot,” he says. “You should talk to her.”

Hah. Right. “She’s married and has kids,” I say.

“So?” he says. “She’s probably bored out of her mind.”

Yeah, perhaps. Well, I’m done with this conversation. I’ll just keep looking at her. There’s no fucking way I’ll try and talk to her. I mean, for one, even though I may no longer have the capacity to feel emotions I’m still kind of a pussy when it comes to women I find beautiful. And two, she’s fucking married and has kids. If I actually got anywhere with her I’d be doing something I find personally detestable. And three, she’s fucking married and has kids. Not only has her vagina had dick in it thousands and thousands of times, but at least two people have been through there! I’m not sure I want to get near that.

But in all seriousness, I feel glad that I’m even capable of being this attracted to such an older woman. They’re always too young—never too old. By my shallow perception, female beauty seems to reach its peak in the teenage years and begins to fade as early as their 20s. In most cases it’s gone by age 30. The fact that this woman, who must have been even more unbelievably heart-wrenchingly beautiful as a girl, has maintained that level of beauty even into her thirties and through motherhood…I suppose that in a way it gives me hope. There are some people in this world whom I could find beautiful and not have to feel ashamed of it.

Another guy is sitting near me now trying to gather information. I vaguely remember talking to him at last years’ Christmas party but I don’t remember him being French. He makes a few snide comments about Americans and I pretend to get really offended. “Fucking French motherfucker,” I say to Tom when he walks away. “How dare he bad-mouth my country! I ought to beat the crap out of him.”

Shauna comes by in her role as Mary Lovely and interrogates me for awhile about my motive in becoming partner. Yeah, I’m glad they’re dead, I say to her, but according to the paper I got, I didn’t kill them. Unless I did and the paper didn’t say. Maybe the killer isn’t supposed to know who the killer is. She thought that was an interesting idea.

It’s time to vote on who we think did it, what we think the motive was, who we think has the best costume, and who we think gave the best performance. Maybe I should say Marsha Mellow did it, and for the motive put, “Because the hottest woman is always the killer.” But I have to put my own character’s name on the paper and he might read that shit out loud. So I’ll just say I think Andy’s character did it because he was acting the most suspicious, and write “Geld?” (money) for the motive. I put down Sue for best costume and Penni for best performance.

Tom has slipped away now. Amanda is sitting across from me in a drunken stupor, apparently having had far more Sekt than I realized, and perhaps a few extra shots I wasn’t aware of. I’m babbling about Petra and beauty and all that shit I’ve been thinking about, knowing Amanda isn’t listening. She occasionally looks up at me and I keep talking to her. “It’s like talking to a goddamned cat,” I say. “They can be looking right at you and you know there’s some kind of consciousness going on but they don’t comprehend what you’re saying at all and you know they’re going to forget in a few minutes anyway.” So it’s really nice to be able to vent about my bullshit sexual frustrations to her like that.

Well, the votes have been tabulated and it’s finally time to reveal who done it. It turns out everyone was wrong. It was Shauna, a.k.a. Mary Lovely, who had just been sitting here interrogating me a few minutes ago. She apparently played the game very well and cast suspicion away from herself so nobody guessed it was her and she therefore won a little plastic trophy. The best costume winner went to somebody I didn’t think deserved it and she got a little plastic trophy too. And the best actor award (a plastic trophy shaped like an Oscar) went to the French guy who apparently wasn’t really French and whom I guess didn’t really hate America.

Well, thank God that’s over. Looks like Petra is going home. She’s saying goodbye to Frank. I think I’ll just blatantly stare directly at her because I’ve been doing that for quite awhile anyway and no one seems to have noticed so why quit now? And there she goes out the door and out of my life forever. Unless for some reason I’m still living in Hannover next December, I’ll never see her again. Fine by me.

Now what to do about Amanda? She’s clearly in a bad state—about as drunk as I was last Friday at the “Jesus Loves Vodka” party. Sue says we should take her home and I agree to help. She brings the car around as the Planeo secretaries Michaela and Susanne come and try to revive her from her stupor without much success.

Okay, Amanda, it’s time to get up and go. No sign of consciousness behind those eyes. No sense that she’s even capable of standing on her own. So I’ll take her by one arm and you take the other and we’ll carry her into the lobby. “Is this your coat?” No response, but she takes it. “Is this your bag? Are these your keys?” I guess they are.

Okay, let’s go now. “No,” now she speaks. “I don’t want to go I want to stay here for awhile.” Well, we really have to go. Come on, let’s just go outside, okay?

Crazy. We manage to get her inside and stumble over to Sue’s SUV. Somehow, we get her in the passenger seat and Susanne and I get in the back. We wave goodbye to Frank and the others still at the party and Sue drives away.

Amanda starts to protest in German. “Nein, ich will nicht…ich will nicht…” I don’t want to I don’t want to. She fumbles around for the door handle. “Lass mich raus.” Let me out. “Lass mich fuckin’ raus.” No Amanda, we can’t let you out. We’re in a moving vehicle. But we’ll be home soon.

We’re stopped at a traffic light now and she gets the door open. Susanne laughs and pulls the door closed. Lass mich fucking raus.

Nein, wir können dass nicht. Aber wir sind bald zu Hause. Nur ein paar minuten. Ein paar minuten. “Don’t worry Amanda, you’re almost home.” She looks in my eyes and for the first time seems to comprehend me. Apparently it’s better to use English.

She no longer tries to abandon the moving vehicle as we drive to her flat. We get her out of the car and bring her to the door of her apartment. “Okay, go home,” she tells us. “Get the fuck out of here.”

“We’re not going anywhere until we get you upstairs and into bed.” Indeed she hardly seems capable of climbing up the stairs on her own but she continues to protest. We insist on helping her, however, and we get the door open and follow closely behind her as she stumbles up the stairs, ready to catch her if she falls backwards.

Into her apartment, she walks straight to the couch and starts to turn the computer on. “Okay, you guys go now.” No, not yet.

I find a cup and pour some water for her. “Drink some water, it’s very good,” I say, but somehow it comes out as, “Water drinking very good.”

She chuckles and starts to drink. “Water drinking very good. Water drinking very good.”

Where’s her bag? I gave her bag to her when we got out of the car but now I don’t see it. Shit, there goes Sue to go look for it.

“You lost my bag?” says Amanda. “You lost my fucking bag? Fuck you!”

I go out to look for it too but it’s nowhere between the building and Sue’s car. Sue is searching her car but I tell her it couldn’t possibly be in there and it’s probably back in the flat. I go back upstairs and look around for a second, then spot the bag and hand it to Amanda. Sue returns and I apologize for being an idiot but she says she just needs the exercise. Yeah, she probably secretly hates me after I bad-mouthed her crappy party idea.

We get Amanda to lay down, Susanne covers her in a blanket, and she passes out. But we can’t be sure she’s really passed out so we wait outside her building for another few minutes, listening for signs of life. When it’s clear she must have genuinely passed out, we leave and get back in Sue’s car. Well, that was a fun little experience. A lot more fun than the crime-dinner anyway. I’ve never tended to a drunk person like that. I’m usually the super-drunk one being tended to.

Sue drops Susanne off at the nearest tram station and I offer to get out there as well, but because I live right around the corner she offers to take me the rest of the way. I tell her I’m usually just as drunk as the drunkest person at the party. She says she thought I was heading in that direction too, but to her surprise I seem to have sobered up. I certainly feel sober. Nothing like a much drunker person to make you feel sober.

“You can drop me off right here in front of the Pfannkuchen Haus” I tell her, and she does. We wish each other a good night and she drives off as I go back to my apartment.

Hey, it’s only quarter to one. Seeing as how I’m so fucking sober, how about drinking one last beer and listening to some music just as I’d do on a normal Friday? So I do that, and enjoy that more than the crime-dinner as well. Seriously, what an awful party. Even with unlimited free alcohol it sucked. So much sitting there listening to the inspector go on and on like that. Not having a real conversation with any of my colleagues but instead talking about this bullshit pretend-murder. I mean, I expected it to suck but I also kind of expected it to not be as bad as I expected. But it was.

Still, it was an interesting evening. And now I’ve got Petra’s lovely face burned in my mind from all that staring. What’s this? As the music is playing I almost feel like I’m feeling some kind of emotion here…wait, no…it’s gone now.

Okay, music’s over. Now I’m quite ready to pass out. I’ll just chug a few glasses of water, put some music on at low volume, and crawl back under the covers. Right back where I started when this extremely long day began.

A Few Things

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

I learned a few interesting things today, and had a minor change in my financial situation. The first thing I learned was cultural, from one of my students in my first lesson of the day. I was asking about what everybody did over the weekend, and she said she went to two birthday parties. In asking follow-up questions I learned that one of the parties she’d gone to was for a guy’s 30th birthday, and because he was unmarried it meant he had to clean the floor. I didn’t understand what she meant, so another woman clarified that it’s a German tradition that if a man turns 30 and still is unmarried, he’s supposed to sweep the ground in front of the city hall until he gets kissed by a virgin (which nowadays, she added, only come in the form of very young children).

At least I’ll be out of here by the time I turn 30, at which age I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be married (although of course I wouldn’t mind getting kissed by a young virgin girl). An unmarried woman who turns 30, incidentally, just has to clean the door. But if a man turns 40 and is unmarried, he has to ride backwards on a donkey, and as far as I know, no virgins are involved. As for unmarried 40-year-old women, they don’t have to do anything. I suppose they just feel that being an unmarried woman at 40 is punishment enough.

Anyway, after that lesson I was supposed to be visited by Susanne, the new educational coordinator for Planeo, to sit in on my next lesson and give me some pointers afterwards. But nobody showed up to that lesson, so I just ended up talking to her one-on-one the whole time. I was able to glean some useful additional tidbits about teaching, which was good, but we also talked about the classes I lost. I learned that Penni, apparently, felt really bad about taking those classes from me but the students were quite explicit so she felt she had no choice. So now I suppose I don’t hate her as much. But more interestingly, I learned that Andreas (whom Susanne only knew as “the guy from personnel”) was the key player in requesting the new teacher. So that officially confirms it—he totally stabbed me in the back. And what a surprise too, because he always seemed to like what I did, wanting only conversation and discussion in the lessons and never asking for grammar or more academic sort of instruction. And it’s not like I never offered that group other kinds of things—I asked them repeatedly if they liked the kinds of materials I was bringing and they always said yes. I had some great discussions with that group and over time I really came to like Andreas. But now I will officially hate him forever.

Not that he completely ruined me financially, however. Yes, his insistence on another teacher was ultimately what led to the loss of 33% of my income, but today I picked up another permanent lesson, which helps to mitigate the damage somewhat. It’s another Monday group, one I’ve subbed for numerous times and who more often than not don’t even show up. I love groups that never show up (it’s free money) but the problem is that when they do show up, they’re horrible. There are four people in the group, but mostly it’s two young women who never talk and never seem to like or even appreciate anything I ever do. And apparently the regular teacher had the same problem with them which is why she offered to unload them onto me. So the downside is I have to deal with them now on a permanent basis, but the upside is I get an extra €168 per month.

I did some calculations today and found that even without those Thursday groups, with all of the permanent lessons I have now I’m still making enough to get by. I can pay double the rent for the next several months as I will have to, pay the utilities and all the other random bills, buy €100 worth of groceries a week, and still have a little bit of money leftover. And that’s just with my regular classes. Any substitutions I get are just bonus money. Then, beginning in March, I’ll go back to paying just €230 in rent per month, at which point I’ll really start to save money, potentially up to €500 per month. Which means if I want to have, say, €3000 saved up in order to move to Japan, I could potentially have that by July. Things are not quite as bleak as I thought they were. I’ll be completely fine even if I never get any additional lessons from Planeo or any other language school for the rest of my time in Germany. (Of course I could still potentially lose more lessons, in which case I’d really be in trouble.)

But speaking of additional lessons, Amanda gave one of her students my phone number because his daughter was looking for someone to proof-read something for a university class of hers and she wanted a native English speaker to do it. Amanda figured since I’m a writer and I need money, she’d do me a solid and give that number out. The girl just called me and we spoke about the deal. I had decided beforehand to charge €1 per page, so that’s the number I gave her, but she said it’s only going to be 15 pages. So that’s not much at all, but neither is 15 pages of proof-reading. But the way I figure, she’ll probably have more English papers in the future and I could become a regular resource for her if she wants. Plus, she can tell her friends about the native English-speaker who charges just €1 per page, and I could potentially have all sorts of additional business.

But she also wants to meet me at a coffee shop to discuss it once she’s e-mailed it to me and I’ve had time to look it over, so I could charge her for that as well. Unless, of course, she’s beautiful and single, at which case just meeting her will be reward enough. She sounded cute, but her being German makes the odds of her actually being attractive about one in two hundred. Not to mention the fact I just mentioned in my very last entry that I’m super-extra not looking for a girlfriend right now, but it’s still fun to think that in a couple of weeks I’ll be meeting a German college girl for coffee.

So that’s where things stand currently. I’m pretty much over the Thursday classes thing, and comfortable with my new path in life—to just sit back and slowly wait for money to accumulate, at which point it’s off to Asia. Even without getting any additional work, I’ll be advancing towards that goal, slowly but surely. Luckily, I’m in no big hurry to get there.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , , , ,

Paradigm Shift

October 31st, 2009 No comments

Things returned to normal this past week, but my life is by no means the same as it was before the big vacation. As I slipped back into my regular habits, I realized just how different things are now from the way they were before Krissi came. I’d even go so far as to say that my life has officially entered a new paradigm.

For the better part of this year, I was half-expecting Krissi to come and to travel around with her for a couple of months. I was never completely sure it would happen right up until it actually did, but my actions and whole day-to-day outlook on things was always tempered by the possibility of this potential awesome future experience. I got this cheaper apartment (which I would probably have done anyway but the Krissi thing was undoubtedly a huge part of the incentive), I lobbied for a lot more work over the summer, I pinched pennies for the sake of having as much money in the travel fund as I could, even going so far as to let my landlord’s mistake go uncorrected and thus not pay rent for the months leading up to the vacation. Basically, the entire year revolved around this two-month period of time, beyond which I couldn’t care less. Traveling around with Krissi, in my mind, would be the experience of a lifetime and if I went bankrupt or died afterwards, who cares?

But now that’s in the past. It was an awesome experience (though naturally it didn’t live up to my ridiculously high expectations—as I expected it wouldn’t) but now it’s over and I don’t have that to look forward to anymore. It must be something similar to when a couple gets married, spending the better part of a year planning the wedding and honeymoon and looking constantly forward to the date, and then when it’s over there’s nothing to look forward to anymore and all that’s left is “what’s next?”

And that’s where I’m at in my life right now. What’s next? And the answer is simple: move on. I’ve spent more time in Germany than I expected to already, and thanks to my travels with Krissi I now feel like I’ve gotten the most of it and I don’t need to stick around anymore. So it’s time to turn my sights to the next destination in my life, which is Asia. That is the current end toward which I shall be working. Before, it was the traveling with Krissi. Now, it’s moving to Japan or another Asian country.

Of course, this won’t happen overnight. I still have this financial bullshit to worry about, though I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to work that out soon enough. Yesterday evening, there was a Planeo teacher meeting, and before the meeting I asked Frank if he could pay me a bit early for November’s work, which will therefore allow me to survive through December without having to go into debt. Hopefully by January I’ll have some additional work with another language school. I began the application process at two other Hannover language schools on Tuesday, and heard back from the Carl Duisberg center the following day, saying that they had nothing available right now but would keep me on file if anything came up. So we’ll see how that goes.

Incidentally, I met Penni, the woman who stole my Thursday classes from me, at the teacher meeting. She’s a very large middle-aged woman who reminds me of a lot of teachers I had throughout my school years. No surprise—she’s been a teacher for decades, and all kinds of teaching. It’s no wonder the classes she took found her more helpful than me. Still, I couldn’t help but resent her, as I always will simply because of the circumstances and not because of her personally, though I probably wouldn’t like her even if that shit hadn’t happened just because she reminds me so much of teachers I’ve hated.

Anyway, the financial crap will hopefully sort itself out soon and then all I’ve got to do is sit tight, save my money, and wait until I’ve got a nice cushion of capital with which to relocate. Once I feel comfortable enough with the size of my bank account, I’ll start applying for jobs in Asia and hopefully be there by the summer or early fall.

That’s a long way off, but not so long that it won’t affect my actions and day-to-day outlook on things. For instance, it’s not like I’ve been looking for a girlfriend at all while I’ve been living here, but I’ve certainly entertained the idea numerous times. Then on Wednesday, while I was jogging, I spotted that girl again, the one I attempted to ask out by the Maschsee and she just roller-bladed on by. I gave her a big smile as she passed, and I made sure to see if she smiled back and she did. Immediately I began thinking about what to do the next time I see her—perhaps wave and say hi, perhaps even turn around and run beside her and attempt to officially meet her—but I stopped myself because A) I’m finally alone again and I like it so why try and change that? and B) I’m going to Asia soon enough so I might as well just not even try. It’s the same mind-set I’ve gotten into every time I’ve been living somewhere and the End has been in sight, from leaving Frankfurt to before moving to Santa Barbara to before moving back to New Jersey and finally before coming to Hannover. I never really try to get a girlfriend, but when I know that I’m going to be leaving a place in the near future I don’t even entertain the possibility. It’s even more pointless than usual.

So that’s the new stage my life has entered. I’ve got a new end in sight and as much time as I need in order to get there. I’m ready to leave Hannover already, but I do like my life here and I like the Western comforts, so over the next several months I will make sure to appreciate them while I can. But I’ll definitely be glad to leave them behind and go live in a country where just about everything is unfamiliar. Then my life will really be in a new paradigm.

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: , , ,

Swift Kick in the Balls

October 13th, 2009 No comments

Two minutes ago I checked my e-mail to find a notice from Astrid, the second-in-command to Frank in terms of Planeo administration, informing me that some of my students from Thursdays in Helmstead had asked for another teacher while I was gone. Lara, the lawyer, apparently found her substitute more helpful, which doesn’t surprise me, but also some of the students from my North Carolina group, my favorite class. It wasn’t Andreas because she said she had yet to hear from him, so at least I know he didn’t betray me, but I can’t believe Christine would have turned on me like that either. Monika, I know, was never as into my teaching style as the others, so it’s no surprise there, but Suzanne was never around so I doubt she would have had much of an opinion. Still, it sucks to have been tossed away by my students like that.

What’s worse, as a result they’ve taken all of my Thursday lessons from me, including the apprentices, a class I also really enjoyed and whom I believe (or would at least like to believe) enjoyed being taught by me because I made the class as fun as possible. They, I’m sure, didn’t ask for a different teacher, and I’m downright positive some of them are going to be a little pissed off about it, but in order to save on travel costs for their teachers, they’re just giving all those lessons to the woman Penni who did those substitutions. I don’t know who that is, but she must be pretty good if the other students decided they’d rather have her as their permanent teacher.

This also really fucks me up financially, especially considering I just got the ball rolling on correcting my rent payments to my landlord. I called his office yesterday and he returned the call this morning but we couldn’t figure out what the problem with the payments was and he’s going to call me back this afternoon once he has his banking information in front of him. I got the impression that it’s no big deal to him and I don’t see any reason he won’t go along with my plan of paying him double the rent for the next five months in order to get squared up with him. Thursday was responsible for about 36% of my monthly income.

So suddenly my expenses go up while my income goes drastically down. It’s like I’m practically back where I was a year ago when I was still struggling to get enough work to survive. All because I went on vacation.

I’ll be going in to the Planeo office tomorrow to discuss this with Astrid, who wrote that she has to wait and see if they can give me any other lessons in replacement. If they can. It doesn’t sound good.

All of a sudden I’m once again teetering on a goddamned financial brink, unsure of whether I’ll even be able to stay in Germany any longer or if I’ll have to give up, go back to New Jersey, and search for another job. The only consolation is knowing that now I do have a year of experience, that I’ve got references at Planeo who I’m sure will put in a good word for me, so it will be easier to find a job than it was before. And considering that Myson was able to get a job in Korea with no experience whatsoever, and that Alan actually began his career in Japan, I’m sure I’m not going to be completely fucked no matter what. Still, I wasn’t quite ready to leave Germany yet, and if I leave now it’ll be under a cloud of debt to my landlord which will put me in just as bankrupt a situation as I was when I left Santa Barbara.

This fucking sucks.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,