Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Blower's Daughter

The harbour on a beautiful day.
The university started a week late because a strong wind arose and blew parts of the roof away. It was tragically funny because I had been very excited about starting the Master's degree, and yet my inner student also had to rejoice in not having any classes.

Instead I wandered to the Ostseebad, a beach a few kilometres from my apartment, and was confronted with the damage the wind had done. At the university it was shocking not only to see the destruction but also to realise that the building, which is only 10 years old, was shoddily built and that instead of parts of the roof falling on cars in the parking lot nearby they could've landed on one of the students or lecturers. But luckily no one was hurt, insurance claims must have been filed and now the main building is being repaired/renovated.

The Ostseebad also has a park and quite a few of the trees had been felled by the wind. I only took a few photographs because the sun had set and the inner voice that tells me darkness=danger forced me to return to the safety of my room.

I went again a few days later, this time before sunset (light=safe). Haha, it wouldn't have been so safe if one of the trees had fallen on me.

Oh no Cinderella, the sun is setting. Time to go home. 

This ability to walk around alone at all times is strange to me. The cold hand of fear refuses to let go and there always remains a subconscious scanning of my environment, checking for suspicious characters. Maybe that is another reason I am missing the sun and its warmth so very much: darkness means danger and an autumn where the sky is mostly covered by heavy clouds, obscuring a sun which only rises from 8-16 o'clock, well, hides not only the light but also its security.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Knife Party

When my sister started school, I was very jealous. She is three years older than I am and it was my greatest pleasure to go with my mom to fetch her at school and carry her bag. She also did acrobatics and was part of the girl scouts. So many things for a little sister to be jealous of.

By the time I started school we were in a different country and I had no friends in Grade 1. The other children asked me once why I wasn't black if I came from Africa. There were also no extracurricular classes at school. My mom took us to a wonderful art class where someone drove a Porsche and one scaring summer my sister and I took part in a sailing course for children. It was terrifying.

I never did standard girly things like acrobatics or ballet, but I also never minded very much. Who needs girly things if you know how not to drown (after sailing lessons we moved again and eventually learnt how to swim properly, which is now my favourite sport)?! Instead, I'd like to see the performance below live:  

Javier Pérez - EN PUNTAS (extracts) from Javier Pérez on Vimeo.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The city

I know my city. Not every nook and cranny, but enough to be confident without a map. I knew my city, because it is no longer mine. Now I live in a city where you don't need a car to get around because it is so small that the longest I could walk to any point is 45 minutes. Or I could just take the bus. On the one hand I hated driving, hated being confined in a box, hated being a sitting duck at a robot, waiting to be smash-and-grabbed. But it also means no more singing loudly to *NSYNC while cruising around my hood for the neighbourhood patrol, no more leaving when I want to out of fear for missing the bus. This car thing, it is a two-way street. 

Luckily, my friend could borrow her mom's car for a road trip to Denmark a few weeks ago. There was no real border. One moment we were still in Germany, and the next we were in Denmark, on our way to Aarhus. 

We had no real plan for what we wanted to do there, with the only thing on our list being the Aros art museum. We arrived in Aarhus and parked the car near the harbour. Because we had no Danish money we drew some at an ATM, bought coffee and a three-chocolate-hot-chocolate to get small change and then discovered that the parking machine also accepted cards. However, when we had inserted the card into the machine it very cleverly tried to tell us something, in Danish. My friend and I both just looked at the screen, rummaging through every language we knew to somehow deduce what it wanted. Luckily a friendly Danish lady helped us out: "You need to take your card now". Ah, ok.

We ate our packed lunches in the car, looking at the bleak weather, and explored the city in the rain. Basically we just went to a church, the art museum and our hostel.  

This would be the church.

Aros from a distance.
Everyone said we would need a lot of time at Aros, but after doing the very cool colour wheel first the rest was a bit of a disappointment. There was an exhibition by the king and queen of Denmark, with his poems and her collages and other art works. The Danish people seemed to really enjoy this, but I found it very strange. If they had not been royalty I doubt their work would have been exhibited.

The 180° thing didn't work out too well. 

Ron Mueck, Boy. 
In the basement of the museum they also have an area entitled 9 spaces, with nine different rooms containing various installations that are more tactile than work that is normally exhibited at a distance. The one room contained what looked like an elevator shaft of mirrors and then the viewer would also be infinitely reflected. Another room emphasized all five senses and you could touch everything, even a furry wall like the one in Get Him to the Greek

After our visit to the museum we wandered back to our hostel through the rain. Somehow we were both exhausted. It was also quite funny finding out that when the hostel said online to 'bring own bedding' it only meant duvet covers and a towel, not blankets and cushions and the kitchen sink (as we had brought). Later we strolled to the beach and then walked back to the city centre through a large park, again in the rain.

Oooh, the Baltic Sea. 

Aros by night. You might notice I quite dig the colour wheel. 
The next day we just ate breakfast and started driving again. Our plan was to head to the western shore, look at some of the little villages and then head back east to Flensburg. Somehow the GPS system assumed we were heading to one place and we assumed it was taking us to another, so we ended up next to a field in the middle of nowhere with the GPS telling us: "You have arrived at your destination". As my friend said at the beginning of the trip, it isn't a road trip without a u-turn. So we trusted the GPS again and were on our way. I really enjoyed driving through the countryside, singing along to The Beatles and not really knowing where we were.

Hahaha. 'Farten'. Fart. Laughing like a child.
This was in one of the sea side towns we drove through on our way back to Flensburg. 

Ah, the North Sea. 
We ambled around two towns whose names I can't recall, were drenched slightly by the rain at the North Sea, had more sandwiches which we took along from the hostel's breakfast buffet in the car and after stopping for a warm coffee in Köping we returned to Flensburg. 

A watch shop. 
The only moment we saw the sun the entire weekend was an hour before we crossed back into Germany. 
Flensburg harbour at night. 
I know it was only a very short road trip, but besides spending time with my friend I thoroughly enjoyed Denmark. Everyone looked so stylish and I appreciated the packaging in the supermarkets. In Germany it seems like no thought is given to the design of the packaging and of the stores in general. It is just piling as much produce as possible into the space, which after years of being spoilt by Woolworths is quite a change.

Come springtime I'll buy myself a bike and explore Denkmark some more :)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Slow it down

I feel like I am constantly in some existential crisis here. It hits me at random moments: I'll see myself in the mirror and suddenly the mind/body split seems almost tangible. It is as though I am standing outside of myself and seeing flesh that is not mine. Physically I might be here, now, but there seems to be no intrinsic connection to my brain that makes me feel at ease here.

I get over this level of asking existential-Angst-fueled questions pretty quickly, but then I'll get lost in language. Language has always belonged to me, somehow. I am used to hearing entire conversations I cannot understand happening all around me. The ladies at the tills, the people queuing with me, the actors in shows like Muvhango or Stokvel, they are all conversing outside of my language skill set. But it has never felt strange, it is usual to have to switch often, riding various intercepting language tracks in a short space of time. Here, it is German. Just German.

I was under the impression that the university would be offering at least half of the core subjects in English, but now only one subject (Literature) is actually not in German. Add to that the fact that any other communication here (be it with friends, roommates or some governmental organisation that wants my money) happens in German as well and you'll understand that I get slightly overwhelmed at times. Salvation then comes in tiny little increments made possible by modern technology - whatsapping with friends or Skyping with my mom. I don't want to make the mistake of living in another country and permanently wanting to Skype with those back home, because then having left would be rather pointless. But it is immeasurably reassuring to be drinking tea in my room and listening to my mom talk about unimportant everyday occurrences. Hearing about what goes on in the lives of others helps with forgetting that I haven't found my sea legs here, yet.

The third wave of existential crisis is much less in my mind. Instead, it is solidly tied to my bank balance. I was not excessively naive when I applied for Bafög (a type of governmental student loan system where you have minimal interest and only have to partially pay back the money you received), but apparently here every time you fart there is a stack of paperwork to fill out so everything takes forever. Not knowing if I'll receive any money or if I do how high the amount will be is also quite frustrating.

Time to see if I'll sink or swim in these strange waters.