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Goodbye, Hannover

July 14th, 2011 No comments

neues Rathaus Hannover

This will be my last journal entry from Hannover. In a few minutes, Lena will swing by to say goodbye to me, and at around 2:00 Oliver will come to help me put the finishing touches on my packing and throwing stuff away. When that’s done we’ll be driving to Dortmund where Oliver knows a guy who knows of a good place to camp, and we’ll either spend the night camping outside or in the apartment of Oliver’s friend. The next morning we’ll head from there to nearby Düsseldorf, from where my plane will take me back to America and the next chapter of my life.

I’ve spent the last few days living pretty much like I always have, spending lots of time in my box but heading out frequently for errands, jogging, or cycling. On Tuesday evening I went out for a little farewell dinner with Amanda, Tom (the guy from Atlanta), and Lena. We’d thought that would be the last time I’d see Lena but when we finished eating she said she didn’t want to say goodbye that night and would make sure to see me on Thursday. That goodbye will probably happen before I finish this entry [it did, and was very sad].

Once Lena and Tom had gone, Amanda kept buying us rounds of beer and we ended up staying there until extremely late at night, getting drunk to the point where I was loose-lipped enough to get into a discussion of my sexual issues, and she was insisting that we go to a sex-worker and get my virginity taken that night so it wouldn’t be such a big deal to me anymore. In a normal state of mind I wouldn’t even consider it, but it was kind of tempting at that level of drunkenness. Still, no amount of drunkenness would be enough to get me to throw my virginity away on a prostitute—sex with someone who’s only doing it for business has no appeal to me whatsoever, and since I’m perfectly content in my long-term virginity (except for a few highly unfortunate side-effects), that’s just not something I was willing to do.

But I had to give Amanda credit for at least trying to help me out, and coming closer than anyone else has. It was a bittersweet farewell when I hugged her goodbye and she rode her bike away, then I stumbled back towards my apartment just as the rain began to fall heavily. I waited in a doorway of a building for it to let up, dozed off for awhile, then got back up and headed home as the sun began to rise.

I had to suffer through the after-effects for most of yesterday, so unfortunately I didn’t squeeze as much appreciation out of Hannover on my last full day here than I would have liked, but the weather was terrible anyway so all I did was go for one last bike ride in the morning.

But after the sun had gone down last night, the power went off in the whole city. One of the things I always found interesting about Germany was that in all the years I’ve spent here (almost 4 if you include my exchange-student year) was that I’d never experienced a single power-blackout. I’m not sure if this one was weather-related or simply the result of an overloaded grid due to the fact that those nuclear reactors aren’t running anymore (that would make my E.ON students very happy) but the fact that the very first blackout I’ve experienced in Germany came on my very last night in Hannover was a bit of a noteworthy coincidence. Of course I went outside and walked around to get a feel for it, heading through the train station (my last time there) and to the Raschplatz on the other side, which is the first place I had to go when I first arrived in Hannover about three years ago. That feels simultaneously like yesterday and a million years ago.

And this morning I went for one final jog down along the river and for a brief time next to the Maschsee, fully aware the whole time that I wouldn’t be seeing any of these lovely, familiar areas again for quite some time. I can hardly believe that my life here is over.

I’ll leave reflecting on my time here as a whole for another day, as right now I’m focused on the logistical nightmare of getting me and all my stuff back across the ocean. For now I’ll just leave you with some pictures of Hannover I took recently, most from the top of the Rathaus and a few from just walking or cycling around.

It’s been a joy, Hannover. Bis zum nächsten Mal!

From the top of the Rathaus. Towards my street.

Marktkirche Maschteich

Maschsee AWD Arena

Aegidientorplatz Stadthalle

 Eilenriede Deutsche Bahn

Hiroshima Gedenkhain This is in one of Hannover's loveliest parks.

My favorite spot in the Eilenriede. Moments made for living in the moment.

Maschsee at sunset. As far north along the river as you can go by bike.

My street. Auf wiedersehen.

Company

August 25th, 2009 No comments

Everything that could have possibly gone wrong yesterday didn’t. The only snafu in the entire ordeal of Krissi’s arrival was that her train got delayed 40 minutes coming in. Having waited several months for this to happen, an additional 40 minutes was hardly a big deal. But at about 12:30 her train rolled in to the station and I was there to meet her on the platform for our much-awaited reunion.

From the station we took the 15-minute walk back to my place for her to put her stuff down, take a shower, and have a quick bite to eat. By the time we stepped out after about an hour, she’d already been the person to spend the longest time visiting me at my place, with the possible exception of Alan helping me install the blinds, but as I was only half-way moved in at that point it doesn’t count.

We then proceeded to do exactly what I’d had in mind for what to do on her first day here. We headed over to the Rathaus and up to the dome at the top to check out the spectacular aerial view of Hannover. This time, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so the city looked particularly beautiful glistening in the sunlight. I’d been worried that because the weather was so perfect last week it couldn’t possibly continue into this week, but it ended up being one of the nicest days of the summer so far.

After leaving the tower I brought her back around the Rathaus and through the nice little park they’ve got there, then across the street to the Maschsee where we stood on the edge for awhile looking at the giant catfish and swans. Krissi grabbed a coffee at the nearby beverage stand and we took a bench for a few moments while she drank it, until a couple of bees who seemed to be craving a sugarless black coffee for some inexplicable reason (perhaps they were caffeine-fiends) wouldn’t leave her alone, and we had to get up and walk on.

We walked halfway around the lake until we reached a nice little secluded corner where we could sit on the edge of a circular stone structure and look out at the rest of the lake. At that point it was 4:00, which means it’s socially acceptable to start drinking. (They have a phrase, “Kein bier vor vier” which means “No beer before four”.) I busted out a couple of the beers I’d brought along with my back-pack, we said “prost” and began drinking. After a while sitting there in that nice spot we got up and walked the rest of the way down the path until reaching the area at the top of the lake and ordering a couple of Hefeweizens from the beer stand there.

Once that was finished we both really needed to pee, and since there were no public restrooms around we just took the 15-minute walk back to my place and relieved ourselves there. Afterwards I suggested we go out to eat, and I took her to the Café Konrad where Mark and his girlfriend had taken Alan and I on his last day. I hadn’t eaten there then but the food looked excellent so I’d had it in my mind to go back there with Krissi. It was the first time I’ve eaten out in a restaurant since Bostel last month. The food was quite delicious and the evening weather couldn’t have been more perfect and comfortable.

After that we headed over to the Dublin Inn where we continued to sit outside and drink beer, until we decided to go in and pay and then take a walk around. But at that point, now that the sun had finally set completely, the pub was starting to fill in and a Karaoke thing was going on in the back room. We remained out front waiting to pay, but before we could a British guy came up to us to initiate a little chat. He was apparently with a group of roadies for Coldplay who are touring Europe now and have a show this week in Hannover. The guy was obviously more interested in her, and when he asked us if we were together I didn’t bother lying and said that we weren’t. He asked us why not and said we should be and that kind of thing, which I guess was his weird way of flirting with her. All this was strong evidence to support my hypothesis that it’s going to be much much easier for me to meet people at bars when I’m traveling with a woman than it would be if I were alone.

We were ready to leave but he insisted on buying us both a drink, so we politely accepted and had one last beer, although he disappeared into the Karaoke room as we drank it. When we finished we left and took a nice little walk through night-time Hannover, something I almost never do and haven’t done since the late Winter when it still got dark very early.

When we got back to my place I put on some music and for some reason we opened up a couple of more very unnecessary beers. I woke up this morning with about as bad of a hangover as I ever get, which isn’t all that bad but still annoying, and now I’m writing this entry before I leave for class in an hour.

All in all I’d have to say it was quite an ideal day. Going over all that we actually talked about would take way too long and be rather pointless, but while we spent a lot of time telling personal stories I also spoke at length about politics and teaching English and whatnot. It felt great to have someone to talk to who was actually interested, even in the minute little details of my English lessons. It’s a bit more satisfying than writing online journal entries that nobody responds to.

And now it just feels weird to be here, in the same old apartment, ready to go about my same old Tuesday routine (though luckily Frau Suhr cancelled so I only have one lesson to go to today) but now with somebody else to accompany me. I’m not sure the full extent of how different life will be over the next couple of months has hit me yet, but we’ll see. I have no reason to doubt that it’ll be a really nice time.

Frankfurt Postponed

June 26th, 2009 No comments

On Wednesday I had two lessons that I normally have on Tuesday. The first was with Frau Suhr, who was happy to spend the entire lesson talking about Iran. I got clarification from her that when she had said that she believed the uprising was caused by Western influence, she didn’t mean covert work on the part of the CIA or anything, but simply the fact that the protesters have been encouraged by Western media, which I suppose is true. My next lesson was with Frau Eggers, which went perfectly fine but she told me she was a little bit sick, which may have set something off in my brain because later on that day I started to feel sick myself.

But immediately after that lesson I headed back to the Planeo office to pick up some money for my monthly train ticket to Helmstedt, and I ran into Amanda who was there finishing up her last lesson before the big vacation. So I got to say my goodbyes to her, although it wasn’t nearly the same as it was with Alan whom I’ll probably never see again. Amanda will be returning to Hannover about the same time Kris will be arriving. Dammit, I just can’t write Kris. To me, Kris is a totally different kid I knew in high school. Sorry, but for the purposes of this journal it’s just going to have to remain Krissi.

On my way back home from the office I always pass right in front of the big Rathaus, a place I’ve been meaning to go inside and check out for…about as long as I’ve been here I guess. I was in no big hurry and it was a really nice day, so I figured it would be as good a time as any to pop in and head up to the observation deck for an aerial view of Hannover. When you walk into the lobby, there are four different models of the town of Hannover—one from when it was still just the Old City in the 17th century, another from 1939, another from 1945 when everything was bombed out and destroyed, and finally one from the present day. That in itself was cool enough, but the real reason I went in was for the observation deck.

I had to pay €2.50 to go up but that was a relatively decent price for that kind of thing (it’s €10 to get up to the highest point in Berlin), then I took the elevator to the top floor and had to wait for awhile to take the next elevator which went all the way up the central shaft to the top of the tower, as they only let 5 people go at a time. It was sunny when I went inside the building but in the short time it took me to get to the top, the sky had filled with clouds. Of course, the view was still pretty spectacular, and it was really weird to see all of these places I’m already so familiar with from way up high. You could see the entire Maschsee from one side, and even a bit of the Georgengarten from the other. And of course all of the church steeples and big buildings that I’ve seen thousands of time from the street look completely different from up there. All in all the main impression I got was that Hannover is much smaller than I’d pictured. I barely had to turn my head to look from the church near my apartment to the Hauptbahnhof, which is about a 15-minute walk. At any rate, it was really cool and I’m glad I finally did that.

But on the way home I started to feel a little phlegm in the back of my throat and for the rest of the night I felt progressively shittier, worried that I’d caught whatever Frau Eggers had and that I’d be sick over the weekend, which would really suck because I was supposed to go to Frankfurt this weekend.

After forcing myself to get a good night’s sleep I woke up the next morning still feeling shitty. I knew I’d have to make a decision about my Frankfurt trip based on whether I thought I was getting worse or if it was just going to go away the next day. During my first lesson in Helmstedt I asked the students about the Deutsche Bahn’s policy of changing the day of your ticket, and learned that you usually can but it costs €15.

Incidentally, I spent the rest of that lesson talking about Iran as well. Andreas said he’s normally not interested in what’s going on in the Middle East but he’s been paying attention to this. He brought up the Neda video, whom Christine, the other person there, had also seen, though neither of them remembered her name. I basically said to them everything I’ve been saying on my blog, and they seem to feel the same way about it as I do—that things there will probably be very bad for a long time but the whole new media aspect of is an encouraging sign of changing times.

Before beginning my lesson with the apprentices I always have at least 45 minutes of free time, which I used to answer an e-mail from Krissi who expressed her doubts and second thoughts about coming. So it’s not completely certain that she’ll go through with it, but I gave her reassurances and I think that when all is said and done she won’t forego the opportunity to come out here and travel. But just because she’s got a ticket doesn’t mean there’s any guarantee.

I found out from my students that since most of them were going on vacation it was decided to cancel all lessons with them for the month of July. That pissed me off because that’s a lot of money I won’t be making, but later that day I realised I could partially remedy the problem. Since I’m substituting for Robert 3 out of the 4 weeks in July and the original plan was to combine one of his courses on Thursday with one of mine, we might just be able to split those courses up and I’ll teach his when I would normally be teaching the apprentices. This morning I asked one of the Planeo secretaries if that was possible and she thought it was a great idea—perhaps because it also means more money for Planeo.

I had another pub quiz for the apprentices this week and they enjoyed it as usual. I included a bunch of Iran questions, and was pleasantly surprised to see that even the German youth who normally don’t know or care about politics have been following the story. They all knew the names of Ahmedenijad, Mousavi, and Khamenei (though none of them could spell them correctly) and while only a few weeks ago one of the quiz questions had been “What is the capital of Iran?” and none of them knew, this time they all got it right. Just for good measure I asked them about the name of the prison Obama is trying to close, and got confirmation that even German youth who don’t follow politics know about Guantanamo (though one group quite amusingly spelled it Quantana Mo).

One of the weirdest things about teaching is that your mind enters a heightened state of alertness, so you’re not really paying much attention to yourself and how your body is feeling. So I didn’t feel sick at all during the lesson, but on the train ride home I began to feel quite shitty again. I’d sent Claudia from Frankfurt an e-mail before my lesson telling her I was considering not coming, and when I returned to my apartment I found she had replied telling me I shouldn’t travel if I wasn’t feeling well and the next best time for me to come would be the 24th of July. So I figured I’d play it safe, and I went back to the Hauptbahnhof and coughed up €15 to change my ticket.

Of course, that night I started to feel much better, and this morning while I definitely don’t feel perfectly healthy I’m certainly far from anything I’d describe as genuinely sick. I probably could have gone to Frankfurt this weekend and been just fine, but I’m actually not too upset about it. I could really use this weekend to myself anyway to get a bunch of things done, including seriously figuring out my financial situation and putting together a real concrete game-plan for how to make it through the summer with enough money to travel in the Fall. Plus, the weather appears to be kind of shitty anyway so perhaps it’ll be better to take a chance on a different weekend.

If “neutral” is a mood, that’s the mood I’m in right now. Yesterday I was really pissed about the horrible timing of getting sick when I’d been looking forward to going back to Frankfurt for so long. But now I’m glad I’ve got all this extra time to do other things.

A Walk With My Brain

August 31st, 2008 No comments

[Originally written in a private journal. Back-posted in 2011]

Today was another extremely beautiful day, so I knew I couldn’t let myself just sit around the apartment again. On my walk home yesterday I noticed a really cool-looking building nearby, and resolved to go check it out today. It turns out this was the actual Rathaus that the book I’d read had spoken of, and that “Rathaus” really does mean “City Hall”. This was just another, far better-looking one.

It was only a fifteen-minute walk to get there, and I noticed that you could go inside and apparently go up to the dome at the top where there must be a pretty spectacular view of the city. I decided to walk around the building first, and found that there is indeed a very lovely area with a pond and trails all around. Much nicer than the Stadthalle.

Right across the street I noticed a pretty substantial body of water, definitely not natural because it was almost perfectly rectangular, but I had also read about this, the “Maschsee” as a great place to go jogging. So I decided to walk all the way around it.

I was feeling pretty good when I began my journey. This was definitely going to take some time, so all I had to do was walk around the lake and I could go home feeling that I had “seized the day”. But as I walked, I very quickly began to notice something very disturbing. Not only were there tons of people all around, but apparently this is where all the hot girls hang out. There were dozens and dozens of them, all out there on the edge of the lake or on the grass, in their bikinis and sunbathing, either with their friends or their boyfriends. I couldn’t walk ten feet without seeing one.

But I kept walking on, still in good spirits. There were definitely a substantial number of joggers, so I know I can head back there to jog without feeling weird. A lot of bikers. A lot of old couples. A lot of hot young girls. Don’t think about that. Just keep walking. Keep appreciating that you’re living in Germany and this unique and beautiful place is just a twenty-minute walk from your apartment.

At one point I was startled to hear the sound of the English language being spoken behind me in very thick accents. A man and a woman, neither of whom were from any English-speaking country, just walking along and talking about work in English. I wanted to turn around and say hello, just for the hell of it, and I kept waiting to hear something in the conversation that I could respond to, but it was all business-talk. They were walking pretty fast though, so just as they were about to pass me I forced myself to turn around and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help but understand you.” They smiled. “It’s just very strange to hear people speaking English, and neither of you seem to be native speakers. Are you practicing English for business?”

Well, they were very nice about being interrupted, and explained that he was German and she was French, so they had to use English to communicate because it was the only language they could both speak. They asked about me, I said I was from America and had come here to teach English. Then they walked on, the woman said, “Nice day” and I said, “Yeah, you too,” and that was that. Spontaneous human contact. No biggie, but I was glad that I had done it.

Anyway, I continued walking and reached the top of the lake, where there was a little man-made beach at the end with a bunch of sunbathers and girls in bikinis, so I didn’t spend much time checking it out. You had to pay to get in, and I didn’t even want to LOOK at it much less GO there. As I walked past it towards the trail that crosses to the other side, a really beautiful girl on a bike rode in and stopped at an ice-cream stand. For some reason she stood out in my mind. Just this beautiful girl all alone riding her bike to the Maschsee. About my age but maybe slightly older, a perfect body, long wavy black hair, and very distinct and beautiful facial features not typical of most Germans. I just walked on by.

As I was heading along the trail along the bottom of the lake (or the top, whatever it was), I was looking for a good place to sit and admire the view and take it all in and appreciate my surroundings and whatnot. Most of the benches and spots along the edge of the lake I had seen so far were already occupied, at least all the good ones. But I found what was definitely the best spot on the whole lake, under some beautiful trees and looking straight out across the entire body of water. There were four benches when I spotted them, and only two were taken. But just as I was getting there, a young couple took one of them, then a couple of bikers passed me and took the other. So I just stood there behind all the benches, hoping maybe someone would leave, but they didn’t. I tried admiring the beauty just standing there, but all I could think about was how if I had just gotten there seconds sooner…

So I started walking again, and that beautiful girl on the bike rode by me. She looked even more beautiful the second time, and this time her presence managed to bother me.

On the corner before the trail started going back up (or down), there was another really nice spot, but two really hot girls were already there. It was a pretty big area and there was definitely enough room for me, but I just figured the girls would probably be miffed if I just came up and sat there. They had found the spot first, so I should just let them have it. Maybe next time I’d find it open.

A bit further down, I spotted the bike-girl sitting on one end of a bench. There was definitely enough room for me to sit down, but I was still thinking about how it would be rude to take a spot that someone else had gotten to. But there she was, this very same extremely beautiful girl whom I’d already seen twice and who was now very much a part of my consciousness, just sitting there waiting for me to come and sit beside her. But my legs were in motion. I had about 3 seconds to decide whether or not to go for it, and since this just wasn’t nearly enough time to psychologically prepare myself, I walked on by. Immediately I began to regret it. What if that had been my chance? What if, had I asked her if I could sit there, we would have started talking and I would have found the love of my life? I mean, how often does the opportunity to go up and sit next to a really beautiful, apparently single girl, come along?

I should turn around. I should just go back to the bench and sit down while I still can. I should….oh fuck. There she goes.

And indeed she had already gotten back on her bike and was now riding away out of my life forever.

So that pretty much ruined everything. Tried as I might, my brain just wouldn’t let it go. I found I could no longer appreciate anything. I did eventually find a bench and I sat down and tried to “take it all in” and everything but I just felt shitty—physically, mentally, emotionally. To top it off, a minute after I sat down, some other woman (middle-aged and heavy-set) sat down at the other end of the bench, thus proving that apparently it is perfectly acceptable to take a seat on a bench that only one other person is sitting on. I could have done it without being imposing at all.

But, I thought to myself as I got up and walked on, I look and feel like shit. I haven’t trimmed my beard in over a week because the German electrical outlets and their super-high voltage killed my beard-trimmer and I haven’t bought a new one yet. Plus I had just thrown on a shirt this morning that didn’t match with my pants so I looked like a fool. She would have just laughed at me. Had I sat down, I would have just sat there staring at the water, trying to think of an excuse to turn and talk to her, but she would have got up before I would have done so and rode away. Then I would have felt even worse. True as they were, these thoughts were not much consolation.

The rest of the walk sucked. This side of the lake was much nicer than the other side had been, a lot less people and a lot more green, but I couldn’t appreciate it. I just kept looking around hoping that girl had stopped at another bench. Occasionally another really hot girl would come along and pass me by.

Finally I completed my circuit around the lake. It had taken about an hour and a half to get all the way around, and my legs were fucking tired. Now I crossed the street back to the park at the Rathaus, and tried to admire its loveliness but my brain was just being a total bitch so I didn’t stop at any one spot for long. I also knew that it would be pointless to go inside and up to the dome and admire the view, as I couldn’t admire anything anymore. I stood looking at the Rathaus across the pond, and in my entire field of view, with all those trees and water the building itself, all my mind was focussing on was the hot girl sitting on the steps of the building.

I realised I just had to get back to my apartment, smoke a cigarette to help hasten along my intensely, intensely desired death, and unload all of this crap into my journal.

I took a wrong turn on my way back of course, but shortly after I noticed things didn’t quite look right I pulled out the map I had taken with me just in case, not at all wanting to wander around the city again, and got back on track. And I made it back, smoked that cigarette, and now here I am and I’m getting it out of my system.

The biggest consolation was looking in the mirror and confirming that I do indeed look like shit, that had I tried to come on to that girl she would have almost undoubtedly repelled my advance anyway, and then I would have felt much much worse. But at least then I could have felt good about having tried. I can’t deny that there had been that opportunity, and in having only 3 seconds to decide between having balls or a pussy, I made the pussy-decision. I am totally fucking hopeless.

The next time I go back there I will be looking at every bench, just hoping to see some other beautiful girl sitting by herself, and then I will be very much prepared to sit down and try to talk. Of course I know that if I’m mentally prepared for it, the opportunity most certainly won’t come about. Fucking hopeless.

Anyway, it could have been a really nice day. I went out and took a lovely walk through a beautiful area, surrounded by trees and water and beautiful buildings and everything. But my fucking brain wouldn’t stop bitching, and the whole experience just ended up sucking big-time.

Why am I even alive? What good am I for anybody? The only people who love me are A) my parents, to whom I am currently nothing more than a drain on their bank account, B) my grandparents, to whom I am nothing but a constant disappointment, C) the rest of my family who I almost never see so they don’t count, and D) my friends who I am only in touch with through e-mail so I’m not doing much for them either. I am certainly not doing any woman any good by providing her with my incalculable tons of stored up Love, nor am I doing any good for a child whom I could also give my Love as well as clothe and feed and teach about the world. I am a completely useless, worthless individual. Just sucking up more of the planet’s oxygen, spewing out more carbon-dioxide to hasten global warming, draining the world’s water and energy ten times faster than two-thirds of the world’s population, and imposing my miserable and depressing presence upon all who know me.

Meanwhile, good and wonderful people, or at least people who are loved and needed by other people, are dying every day. And I just keep on living. Oh Death, what the fuck is wrong with you? I’m right here!!! What the fuck are you waiting for!!?!?!?