Transpiration Communication

This blog has been neglected, and that’s okay. The great thing about these forms of writing is that one can pick up right where she left off.

Over the past few months, many things have transpired. V. and I are preparing for our wedding in the Catskill Mountains in October, a matter alluded to in my New Year’s post. I traveled back to the US in March, and to Slovenia with my aunt in April over both of our birthdays. I was accepted to a Yoga Teacher Training program at Kripalu with a very helpful stipend. I depart from Germany just in time to arrive for the course start in July and I will not return here until I am a married woman.

Bled, Slovenia — April 2012

Life in Germany is comfortable. We have a nice group of friends who we see regularly, while frequently meeting new people. Our German speaking and comprehension improve slowly. Since February, I have facilitated a group of German women learning English, and I realize this is an activity I enjoy and hope to do more in the future. I graduated from my first German course and moved on, skipping a level and now fighting (in a motivating way) to catch up.

I continued writing beyond my last use of this medium, attempting to post articles on a professional development social work website and increasing my private writing output. For a while now though, I have felt lacking in my writing and without a real desire to record words. I tend to think of writers’ block as some lame copout; if one really sits, she should be able to get some words out (I’m doing it now, aren’t I?). However, I think my problems emerge more from a greater purpose and determining where I should put my focus in terms of the blueprint of my career and life. I also struggle with a lack of confidence and feel that I’m not an authority to be writing on many matters; for example, I’m not working in the SW field currently, so why do I think any contribution of mine would be valuable? (I know this is not true intellectually, but it is an emotional and raw thing). I’ve been battling some anxiety in the past few months, and restricting myself to a solitary desk to pump out redundant thoughts wasn’t striking me as particularly helpful either.

The sun has come out here in Germany and, like every recent spring, I feel like a plant reaching, achingly, towards it, and it is helping me to release these darker things that have gripped me. The change my being is undergoing is almost shocking, although I should know this about myself by now. (The leaves change with each season, after all.) I’ve resumed my weekly Aalbäumle hikes and have upped my physical activity in general as I prepare for my upcoming coursework. I am trying to accept and find a balance between being a person who thrives when working with and for others and an independent writing type, all while living in a place that, while generally comfortable, is still not easy to navigate.

I hope you are all doing well out there.

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At Home in Germany

For the past two weeks I have been traveling. During some of the more difficult moments in India, I longed for home. When I imagined it, I did not picture Germany, but either my family’s home on Long Island or my apartment in Albany.

Once I realized this tendency, I reflected on it throughout the trip. A sense of home has been important to me for a long time. In a college course called Contemplation in the American Landscape, I remember specifically confronting this issue while reading Wisdom Sits in Places and At Home on the Earth. As I became more interested in subjects like environmentalism and politics and in authors like Derrick Jensen, I found myself wondering about this even more. As a wanderer and American of European ancestry, the concept of home can be confusing.

I can pinpoint some moments where I felt at home and the connection and comfort that it generates. During my frequent walks through Caumsett State Park near the place I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island. When I returned to the Vassar College quad and library a year after graduation. At the Taste of New Paltz festival staring at the Shawangunks after moving back to the Hudson Valley. Sitting on a rock aside the Trinity River after a day of farming in Hoopa, California. In a hammock reading social work textbooks in V’s backyard in Albany. This exhibits the shifting nature of my sense of home, but it also highlights the importance of ritual and order in my life. In all of those instances, I was in the presence of the familiar, often in places related to nature or meaningful work. In those trying moments in India (the discomfort of which I can most commonly attribute to the general disorganization), my calmness-seeking mind did not immediately linger on German-made memories.

As soon as the airplane began its descent, the green landscape of Germany beckoned me. Even when the farmland gave way to the airport tarmac, its cleanliness and structure soothed me. I had told V that I would not feel at home until we stepped into our apartment, but I was wrong. When my feet hit the jetway, I told him so. Germany is home right now, and I’m happy about that.

While Thanksgiving is not celebrated here, V. and I initially planned to host a holiday dinner for our new friends. Upon making our India travel arrangements, we realized that this would be impossible and that we would simply skip the holiday this year. Always a person reflecting on my blessings, I was sad to miss the opportunity to really sit with gratitude in the way I attempt to each Thanksgiving. I feel compelled now to list the things I am grateful for about my life here in Germany, things that I have been reminded of in the short twenty-four hours since I returned.

I am filled with gratitude for…

– clean, winter brisk air and ice blue sky
– my daily walks through the apple orchard
– a city that is pedestrian friendly
– the space and time to practice yoga
– safe food that can be consumed raw
– warm showers equipped with doors
– a comfortable couch on which I can lay with V
– silence

To the Hofbrauhaus!

After a night at our local tavern that included us providing Deutsch counting lessons, punks with head tattoos of highly contested content, and stolen marijuana accusations that led to near physical assaults, V, Joan, and I had to wake up early to catch our train to Munich. Joan is a friend from my time in Albany, a woman whose passion for food and hiking matches my own, but whose capacity for dancing and libations far exceeds most anyone. She had been visiting Germany and Switzerland for several weeks and decided to spend her last days visiting Aalen and joining us for a weekend trip to the closest tourist city. Ideally, this is the start of semi-regular adventuring for V and me.

The first leg of the journey was unremarkable. My travel companions attempted naps in the cabin, despite the stale heat and continual door slamming. When we transferred, we wound up on a train with a large number of soccer match attendees en route. The young, sunglassed boys behind us amused themselves by practicing English and offering us beers from an older man’s crate of bottles (he was happy to share with fellow sports fans). It was approximately eleven in the morning, and both V and J succumbed to the pressures. Despite drinking relatively little the night before, I was reluctant to begin drinking so early, knowing that München would inevitably lead to a few pints. Instead, I enjoyed trying out some Deutsch from our invaluable and hilarious Lonely Planet phrasebook. I asked, Was für ein Sternzeichen bist du? Unfortunately, I have yet to memorize the Deutsch answers.

Are there lockers at every major train station in Europe? How I love them. Our hotel about twenty minutes from downtown, we simply shoved our goods into one €3 locker and began our walking tour of the city unburdened.

Aalen’s high temperature has been averaging about 60 Fahrenheit; Munich easily hit 82 that Saturday, making for a sweaty, but pleasing day on our feet. The best building of the day was the Neues Rathaus, even with missing the Glockenspiel performance. While my knowledge of history and architecture leaves something to be desired, I was overwhelmed in its presence. How many years and people does it take to craft such a structure? The creativity of the included carved figures and designs is remarkable. Honestly, I could have sat at the Marienplatz all day, scanning the building for new discoveries. Some other notable sites were the Englischer Garten and the surfers on the “perma wave” (aka water tube surge), the Viktualienmarkt and the fountains where people drink from the spouts and cool their beers in the pools, and numerous bachelor and bachelorette parties in traditional Bavarian clothing of cleavage baring dresses and lederhosen. Lunch and dinner consisted of typical German fare, with Abendessen being at the infamous Hofbrauhaus. What a pain in the ass it is to find a seat there, but it was worth the rowdy atmosphere and head-sized pretzel. In the evening, a wandering soul (born in Mexico, name of French origin, lives in Barcelona, travels extensively) invited us out with his friend. We wound up at a tight, dimly lit, wooden-everything bar with odd paintings suggestive of Bayerisch men’s extraordinary sexual prowess. V and I could not even fit a drink in us, so instead we laughed while watching through tired eyes groups of Germans dancing and singing to what I imagine is their equivalent of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

Sunday’s weather was radically different. Storming. Cold. We picked up pastries for our subway ride to the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. My dorkiness and sentimentalism rears its head again; I easily could have stayed all day analyzing the crafts and I was moved by the knowledge that this whole, gigantic museum carried artifacts of people who have lived on this land for a far greater duration than us Americans of immigrant heritage can comprehend. Still thinking of all the meat from the day before, we opted for an Indian food lunch that was fantastic and nourishing. Indian is a cuisine that I could eat everyday and while much of my own cooking is inspired by its flavor profile, I desperately miss V’s mom’s specialties; every trip home to New Jersey meant a bounty of homemade, freezer-ready dishes bound to be warmed up over the coming weeks. The rain held long enough to visit the Hofgarten and Odeonsplatz (stunning in grandeur) before a quick trip to the Stadtmuseum and their Typisch München exhibit. It was nice to see paintings of the sites we had visited, but time warped one hundred fifty years or further into the past, with little figures depicted in radically different clothes, riding horses and picking market fish out of fountains. What must it have been like to live in the countryside and venture to a city like Munich for the first time?

In the end, this all felt much longer than 29 hours.

(I’ve included my first gallery in a post! Click the thumbnails below to see larger versions of my photos.)