letting the days go by.

17 January 2008


So you know how there's always a herd of bite-sized children in their tiny mini parkas parading around the Dark Side of Hamilton? And how they go sledding on that slope right beside Keehn? And when they climb to the top, which is all of 8 feet from the bottom, they shout in complete honest glory, "WE MADE IT!!!" and then they sled away in Victory with a Capital V?

I do that everyday here in Schwaebs. Because, let's face it, in addition to a bad leg from the car wreck of 2005 (which suprisingly hasn't been aching as much as I expected) and my history of inhaling carcinogens, I'm not in the best of shape. Fingers crossed, this half-year hiatus from Diner food and Super Pies will aid my quest to be Topfit, though the Nutella and Hefeweizen consumption may completely counter my epic walks up mountains. Point being - I take epic walks up mountains. Despite what you may think, I've never been one to go marauding around the Glen (I can count the times I've breached those woods) and in Tulsa there's absolutely nowhere to go by foot - but I sure love a good walk around.

Conveniently, in German, there's a verb for that: spazieren-gehen. Every morning, all through class I watch the sky out the window, hoping it will be blue by the time lunch is over, and then I take off into the hills - my own pace, my own two feet in my ugly Chucks, nothing but my own traumatized lungs to stop me. On Tuesday, I asked my roommate Stefania (who is Italian and Chilean and ten years older than me but we still stay up too late giggling and gossiping and it's great) what happened if you went up the mountain behind the dormitories. She said she didn't know, but if I wasn't back by nightfall she'd alert the authorities. I said thanks and off I went.

You Hamilton kids know nothing of hills. Hamilton's hill is a bump on the horizon compared to the behemoths I trekked up that day. But still - I did make it to the top, and not only was there a park (with swings!) and benches (with old people!), there were panoramas galore. Eventually I saw another mountain topped with a field - some random bald patch in the middle of forest - and I thought, man, I bet it'd be nice to go stand in the middle of that.

So I did. I probably shaved a few years off my life in the process, but there's nothing comparable to the feeling of seeing a sudden treeless spot through the woods, of breaking from the denseness into nothingness, pure, Midwestern nothingness - flat and field and nothing but you and the sky. I found Nebraska in Germany.

Today, with hardly an inkling of where I was actually going, I dragged myself up another hill and found a ruin - with dungeons and walls and turrets and I don't know, but it was pretty awesome to go running around alone and look out over the valley and feel like a mountain goat adventurer. Which I did. And then I walked home and ate brie and honey on some bread and realized I've got five and a half more months of this. Unglaublich.

If you've been reading, I apologize if these posts are getting long or dull or whatever - and if not, thanks for keeping up. I'd say 'see you soon' but - well. You know. K TCHUSS.

13 January 2008

hangovers, parades, and trains.

Weekend wrap-up: OH WORD?

Schwaebisch Hall isn't very big, so the Goethe-Institut likes to provide fun for us. On Mondays we have Stammtisch, where we march down to a nearby bar and get adequately schwasted, on Wednesdays there are film screenings, and on Fridays, it's GOETHE PARTY TIME. Goethe Party is a hilarious exercise in international awkwardness - and the beer is cheaper. So, this past Friday, we had a little too much fun - had a beer with a fine Italian dinner, and another when we saw I Am Legend AUF DEUTSCH (zombies are zombies, though, regardless of what language they're screaming in), and then three more when we finally got to the Goethe Party. 2.5 liters of beer is too much for a tyke like me, and I was pretty sure I'd died come Saturday morning. At Hamilton, you stumble into Commons for as much coffee and awful pizza as you can stomach, or you load up for Minar, but here - that was my first real bout of homesickness, brought on by a hangover from hell.

It was completely worth it, though - at the party, Bosco, the resident dreadlocked African, is dancing with Reira, the 19 year old Japanese boy, and the nation of Brazil was out in full force. "IN BRAZIL--" shouts Bernardo into my ear, "WE DANCE TO THE FLOOR. YOU. DANCE. NOW." And so we danced like Brazilians and it was hysterical and my legs are still aching, two days later. After the party, the other two American girls and I went off to an alleyway to set off some drugstore fireworks and finish a bottle of Strawberry Wine, and the photos speak for themselves. Far too hammered to be playing with fire, but I was also invincible at that point, and when the bottle was empty, we pitched it into the construction site. Unfortunately, it did not smash. Even more ridiculous, as we're walking to the Josenturm to retrieve the fireworks, some man leans out from his third-story window, asks us where we're from in English, I start shouting back in German, he says "Come up and have a drink!" and we decline, politely, but then his Frau pokes her head out and the following dialogue takes place:

Frau: Girls?
Us: JA?!
Frau: Go away.

So I wake up on Saturday in pain and queasy, but I manage to rally myself in time for the trip to Stuttgart in the afternoon - again, totally worth it. We saw the ballet and it was incredible, wandered through an art museum, and spent most of our time looking at ducks. I love ducks. In my next life, I would like to be a duck. We made friends with a swan, too. I am rapidly regressing into childhood, and it couldn't be better.

Then, today, to add nonsense to more nonsense, we went to the Carnival in the next town over. 20,000 Germans in costumes that bordered on the physically impossible - giant wooden masks, elaborate face-paint, marching bands and innumerable brigades of marching girls high-stepping in tri-cornered hats. Even better, they shouted HALLO at us, and as HALLO is my favorite German phrase of all time (as in, "Hallo church," "Hallo breakfast," "Hallo ducks"), I was beside myself with little kid glee. And then they threw candy at us.

Just now, we tried to plan out our holiday for the week-long break we have between January and February's classes, and the stress of trying to find cheap UK flights plus feasible hostels plus translating Euros to dollars to pounds made us finally decide fuck it, we're going to Berlin. And Poland. And the Baltic Shore. And that's still pretty awesome, but I was definitely more agitated than I'd been since Hamilton. And, of course, it felt familiar, it felt normal to be that stressed - to have to plan the WHCL meeting and check the IMF email and write a paper and go to work at the Writing Center and I should be working on a story but I have to do my laundry and there's these books I need to read and - you get the point. I suffocate myself at school.

That is why I love trains. We usually fall asleep on them, and we always sequester ourselves into our iPods, but I just stare out the window at the German countryside - giant windmills, hills and fields, occasional castles and little red-roofed towns - and just dream the ride away. Watching the ducks paddle around the river has the same effect - they're not going anywhere. They don't care about next week or even the next day, or at least, they don't seem to. They just paddle around, happy to be paddling around, and maybe somebody throws some bread at them. And riding the train is so simple - just the mere act of going, regardless of where.

So it's a new goal this semester, along with seeing Scandinavia and not dropping my camera off a mountain or into a river - be more like a duck. If I can do that, that's all I have to do.