Monthly Archives: April 2014

typisch Emily

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No, I don’t usually name things after myself and I actually didn’t this time either… One of my best friends this past semester, who also studied at FU-Best for the whole year would laugh a bit and comment by saying “typisch Emily” at the end of a story that he swears if anyone else told it, he wouldn’t believe it perhaps, but since it’s me, it must be true.
We all have our crazy stories and we all have our special ways of telling them… Mine are just silly I think for the most part. I personally feel that the end to my night is a “typisch Emily” type of story… My friend will have to be the real judge of this of course…

After a beautiful morning lake side reading, people watching and wading through the water at Krumme Lanke (pictures below), I went onto my last day babysitting in Berlin. After a ten hour day with the girls and now staying at a friends house my journey home already felt like an adventure. You see, I used to live a 15 minute walk from where I babysat. My friends apartment is a 45 minute ride with the s-bahn and bus away from where I was, more so tonight because of how late it was by the time I finished working, which really was not a problem. Now I’m tired though and bed is calling… So after a 25-30 minute ride on the S-Bahn the handy-dandy, ever-trustworthy BVG app is telling me to take the N40 bus to my final destination… The question that I had was “where the heck is the bus stop for the N40?” I followed the signs… I supposedly was at the right street intersection… I walked up and down all four of the intersecting streets and still saw no bus stop and time was really ticking now. Desperate to get home, which meant I had to find this bus stop, I yelled out (nicely) to a man cycling by, asking if he could help. He helped as he could with what turned out to be both of our broken German language abilities and by offering me the most complicated way to my friends apartment that must exist. He then asked me what time it was and when I answered “it’s 1:07” … All I could think was shit! … That’s when the bus is supposed to come… Refusing to take his suggested route because of course the American who has lived in Berlin for nine months knows Berlin streets better than the man biking everywhere (I’m really just stubborn and felt that right then my way no matter how unfeasible it was beginning to feel, had to be better than another) … I rechecked the BVG app and then scanned the streets in one last hopeless attempt for who knows what: a bus stop to magically appear or low and behold the bus I need! … There it was driving towards the intersection I was standing at, but where would it stop?
I had no time to wonder or think, only to not just “Deutsch dash” but legitimately sprint, trust me, It’s been a while since I’ve sprinted so fast. I sprinted after the bus for three and a half blocks, almost giving up along the way… I knew the driver had noticed the crazy lady aka me running alongside/after the bus, but I just had to make it! … But he wasn’t stopping, I wondered if he would … I was tired and determined though to make the bus and to not change my route for how to get to my friends apartment.
Tired me stopped sprinting for all of five seconds, simply slowing my pace really and noticed that the bus had also stopped! It stopped! (That bears repeating, natürlich) so with all the energy I had left I really sprinted this time, pushing myself through the home stretch.
While doing so, I began to laugh at the ridiculousness of all this and myself … 🙂 My persistence paid off though.
The bus driver didn’t know what to make exactly of my extreme Deutsch dashing and decided that the least he could do was wait about thirty seconds for me to “cross the finish line” (aka get on the bus). I walked onto it a bit out of breath, completely flustered and a bit overcome with unexpected emotion because really I’m going to miss this crazy city! The driver laughed a bit and said “I had to wait because you’re so nice, you wanted this bus so badly that you ran fast for it!” ( all in German of course but this way you get the point )
I sat down as two people clapped and I laughed, caught my breath and wondered why I’m so determined sometimes but decided that it’s worth it: I got a good story from it all AND made the bus! Now time for sleep… Guten nacht 🙂

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C’mon people I am tryinggg to live in the moment …

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C'mon people I am tryinggg to live in the moment ...

The question of this week has been, “What will you miss most about Berlin?” To this question I feel like my answer is always insufficient because really here is my complete answer… Berlin, I will miss everything about you!

I titled this post as is because here I am in Berlin trying to live in the moment as best possible during my last days here after nine amazing months and so many people keep asking me, “what will you miss?”. This is a very valid question, but it is also one that I was feeling like I did not want to think much about yet. I am aware that once back state-side all that I will miss about Berlin may hit me hard. Massachusetts, while also a wonderful place to be, just simply is not Berlin.

I am thankful that people have asked me this question though. At first I felt like it was taking away from my “living in the moment”, but then I realized that is was doing the opposite by simply allowing me a chance to reflect on all that has taken place while I have been here and all that I have fallen in love with about this city and its people.
Instead of taking me away from the moment, I think that the question posed has in fact allowed me the chance to step more into the moment. It has done so by reminding me how amazing Berlin is to me and as can be seen from the people here, to many others too!

… Above is a photo that I took at Mauerpark two Sundays ago now. On Sundays at the park, which is located right next to a stretch of the Berlin wall (Mauer) that is still standing,  artists spray paint the wall, others hula hoop, play basketball, picnic, sing, search for treasures at the flea market, kick it with friends and a beer or two, enjoy some good food and karaoke! Here in the photo I snapped you can see hundreds of people loving life as they listen to other people who are also loving life down on stage singing their hearts out! Whether great or not all the singers kill it on stage with their energy, enthusiasm and sheer happiness! Want to know one thing I will miss about Berlin?

Here it is… Sunday afternoons with friends at Mauer Park, a cold beer, good food, and fun music, what more could ya want? haha 

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My Surreal Life

Right now, my “international life” is feeling a bit surreal… turning perhaps for a moment into “my surreal life”.

I have now been living in Berlin since mid-August of last year. I flew over without a ticket home and the opportunities ahead seemed endless, they were and they still are… that has not changed. Now though, I have a ticket back to the United States for the 15th of May, which is, of course right around the corner! When my plane landed  in Hamburg, Germany last August, I won’t lie,  I cried tears of excited nervousness. I was overwhelming excited for all that was to come, was nervous because I did not know what all of that was, and the reality that I had just moved to a country where I did not know the language suddenly struck me as a a bit terrifying! … I had just taken on one huge adventure. Looking back, I would not have it any other way. My time abroad here in Berlin has been nothing short of incredible. The journey has not been a smooth, emotionless path, it has instead been full of ups and downs, challenges (aka moments for growth) and its share of twists and turns. It has been a wonderful adventure none the less. 

I used to be the type of person who made countdowns for everything: a new job start date, my birthday, a vacation, my time abroad etc., that is no longer something I do. By making countdowns I take away from my ability to live completely in the moment. When I  countdown time, I am half in the present moment and half at the end date of my countdown which is not as much fun as just 100% being in the moment. I have no doubt that I will miss Berlin, the people here, the culture, the language, the “blue laws” (aka having stores closed on Sundays), the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, tram and bus travels, the history, all that gives Berlin its unique flavor I will truly miss it all… Berlin will stay here though, and just because I am leaving Berlin, does not mean that Berlin is leaving me.

I know now when I am going home so I suppose I could make a countdown, but that just seems silly now. I am thrilled to know that soon I will be seeing my family and friends that have been state-side this whole time. I feel conflicted though because I also do not want my time to end here, hence “my surreal life” as I cannot seem to fully grasp the reality that my time here is in fact ending in the next few weeks. I have today though and then when tomorrow comes, I have that day and so forth and so on… so why count down when life does that for me anyways!? 

For all those who encouraged me to overcome my financial worries, my initial feelings of homesickness etc… Thank you!!! What began as excited nervousness for a place that was foreign has transitioned into excited sadness as I look forward to seeing those I love again in person but also feel the sting of not wanting to leave a place that I now call home. Instead of being sad though I am focusing on being grateful for my time abroad in Berlin, Germany where I have met some of the most amazing people, had some incredible never to be forgotten experiences and grown personally in many ways as life continued to move forward while I was here.

My Surreal Life…

“A dream is not something that you wake up from, but something that wakes you up.” – Charlie Hedges

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“Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines! Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, and discover.” -Mark Twain

“If I can dream, I can act and if I can act, I can become.” – Poh Yu Khing

— photo taken in Munich, Germany.

the American Academy presents…

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I have had the privilege to attend four programs that were offered at the American Academy in Berlin this semester. The American Academy is a prestigious academy in Berlin, Germany that brings in incredible speakers from all the world to present their thoughts, promote their books and bring great (international) discussion to the table. As stated on their website, “The American Academy in Berlin, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit center for advanced study, was founded in 1994 by Richard C. Holbrooke.” From the beginning, it has provided an important location for discussion between Germans and Americans to take place. I feel very lucky to have had the chance this entire semester to attend talks that were hosted at The American Academy. Diplomats, Journalists, Students, Authors, etc. have all been in attendance  at the talks that I have had the chance to go to. Their presence has added to the depth of discussion and increased my understanding of the global world that we all live in today. My eyes have been opened to both sides of the views on American National Security (German/European and American), and to the differences in living styles that the prestigious in society maintain throughout major cities in the world. I have also met two incredible authors, which helped to reignite my love for reading… I will write more about this later on. Each talk that I attended was unique to itself, but similar in that it was an absolutely incredible opportunity for me!

This semester I have heard:

Malcom Gladwell, speaking about his newest book: David and Goliath;

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Richard N. Haas, the President for the Council on Foreign Relations in the USA, speaking about the ways in which he believes that the United States of America should be Rethinking American National Security;

Dominique Nabokov, a world-renowned photographer, presenting her most recent photographs involving the living rooms of prestigious Berliners;

and lastly, this past Tuesday I heard: Andrew Agorski, an award-winning journalist and American correspondent during the Cold War, speaking about his newest book: Hitlerland

During the last talk that I attended on this past Tuesday evening, Andrew Agorski spoke about his new book: Hitlerland. Hitlerland is not a title that he invented, it was in fact a term that was used in the 1930’s by American journalists in their correspondences with those in Germany and back in the United States of America. Andrew Agorski created the cover design for his book to look like, you, as the reader are peering over the shoulder of a soldier or other person, in this way providing the reader with a different perspective as the book is read. The book, which I still need to purchase and read, discusses the personal tales of American correspondents at the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Hitlerland includes many personal accounts, journal entries, and photographs from the time period. It talks about how Berlin, was a huge magnet for many people at the that time, despite the underlying turmoil that was arising and growing in strength. Berlin was seen as the cultural center of the world then and evidence of this can be read in the book. It was stated that, “All railroad tracks from any European city end up in Berlin” during the 1920’s and 1930’s… and this was said despite all the chaos present. … The accounts that Andrew Agorski talked about were all new to me. I had not yet learned about American perspectives on the German reality during 20’s and 30’s from people that actually had eye-witness accounts to share. His book provides just that. Insight to the amazing culture and wild and lavish way of living that was present here, as well as thoughts and reflections about Hitler after correspondents met him are all present in the book. Andrew Agorski spoke about many fascinating realities and thoughts that people had upon meeting Hitler. Many thought that he could never be a threat to anyone, some saw that he was able to rally the people in a powerful way that ought to be viewed with caution. Regardless of what people thought, we all know what took place. Having the ability now to read the first hand accounts and reflect on the history is a great chance to have. The talk was one that left us all with many thoughts on our mind and questions to wrestle with in our heart. To close up the talk, Andrew Agorski asked us to think not about, “What we would have done” but to ask ourselves, “What would we have understood?” As he spoke about, even those closest to Hitler, even those seeing the situation from the outside-in, having come from the United States of America, still misread Hitler and the future situation that would unfold. … What would I have understood? That is a question that I am not sure that I can provide the answer to… can you?

After the talk, Andrew Agorski came out to speak with all of us. He answered our questions and shared stories from his time working as an American correspondent in the GDR and Russia during the Cold War. … to say the least, my experiences at the American Academy have been captivating, educational, thought-provoking and memorable.

To learn more about the Academy in Berlin, please click on the link below:
http://www.americanacademy.de/

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— “Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises. Sometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or writes something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you.”
― Mark Oliver Everett, Things The Grandchildren Should Know

In a snapshot this has been my time abroad…

From Berlin to Hamburg to Stuttgart to Lubeck to Luneburg to München…

 

Germany has proven to me to be incredibly beautiful. People keep asking me to describe my time abroad here and I have moments where I honestly do not know what to say because it is hard to describe a location that has impacted me so greatly. It is challenging for me to put my experience into words because it is mine and mine alone. Someone else here may have and probably did get something completely different out of their time here than I have and am getting. At first, I was nervous being here, living in my own apartment in a foreign country where a language that once sounded like nothing but gibberish to me was spoken. Now, of course, it is still German spoken, but I understand. Understanding the language and the layout of the city, understanding the culture and the ways of the people who live here has personalized my experience providing more depth to it than I ever could have imagined.

From Strasbourg to Paris, France

and from Copenhagen to Skagen, Denmark

and from Zurich to Geneva, Switzerland

and from crossing the border in München over to Österriech

From my life in America to my life here, I am blessed to live a life that is filled with beautiful moments. During my time here, I have had moments where I feel overcome with excited emotion and appreciation. Just over five years ago, I began my journey and “love-affair” with international travel. Just over five years ago… a time span that in some regards feels so far away while in others feels just like yesterday… I traveled to Germany for the first time and now I have been living here for months. … While face-timing my dad last night he said, “So Em, I have a serious question, How many countries have you been to now?” That was a question, that while not super serious, got me thinking… As of now I have traveled to, all the above listed locations with this being my sixth trip to Deutschland (and I already have a return ticket  booked for my beautiful cousin’s wedding in October of this year!) I have also traveled to Jamaica, Mexico and India… I really am so lucky! Every moment I appreciate, every moment I embrace. Many moments have felt filled with unpredictable and undescribable beauty from the far away locations to those had in my own backyard. Wherever I am, the time there can be and is a great adventure. Who knows what the next journies will be that I take!?… I am excited to see 🙂

— “Life is so …

Scatter Sunshine, Leave a Trail

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While the sun may not shine everyday, that does not mean that we cannot shine. If we scatter sunshine wherever we go, then even when the sun is hiding behind the clouds – the trail that was left from before can help to chase the gray clouds away.          I think this is a fascinating idea. Scatter Sunshine… Leave a Trail.. what exactly does a trail of sunshine look like?Perhaps it consists of happy thoughts, calm moments, laughter, memories… anything and everything beautiful…

I feel very lucky to have been living here in Berlin for the past eight and a half months.  Weather wise – the winter here was unusually mild and sunny. Already the humidity and warmth of the summer sun are filling up the Berlin air. Back home, in Massacusetts there was one of the worst winters in years, that seems to still be trying to keep the air and ground cold. While, I had no idea what the weather would be like before I came here, I am very happy that it was the way it was. Having the sunshine around has been wonderful. On days like today, where the sky is overcast and the weather feels sleepy the trail left from days before is motivating, energizing, and inspiring. Of course, cloudy days are needed I think as they help one appreciate the sunny days even more… As I write this, the sun is breaking through from under the cloud cover… 🙂