Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wednesday ...

Today I am nearly spent. I don’t know if I can keep this up each and every day, writing about my life about the minutiae that fill the moments between posts. Yet I am drawn to the keyboard like a moth to hot light, so let it destroy me if it will, I will continue until I am completely spent.

As I write this I can hear His Holiness wailing at his poor mother in the other end of the apartment. He is so tired. We started the day early, with a subway ride to the Dom, then several walk-throughs of the Romisch-Germanisches Museum looking for “big” statues, a round-trip ride on the silly green railroad that runs from the Dom to the Chocolate Museum, then back home for lunch followed by NO NAP! I wasn’t going to tie him to his bed … so we went out again, ran some errands and ended up back at the playground we discovered yesterday.

I met some quite interesting people there today, mothers and fathers with children the same age as HH … One couple was particularly interesting, mainly because they were clearly having an affair, and a fresh one I think, given the deep touching that was going on. I’m sort of a prude in that regard – I don’t have a huge problem with the random sex thing – but I suggest getting a room, don’t do it in front of the kids.

We talked and watched the children play then retreated to one of the local cafés where we continued our conversations while the children ran through the café without appearing to annoy anyone. I am still the classic Manhattan father certain that at any moment a bandit will attempt to take HH from me, or that he will so disturb the serenity of the other café habitués that we will be asked to leave by the management. So I ended up chasing him around the café and probably causing much more of a disturbance than his slight rugrat presence ever could.

Today’s conversation was much like others I’ve had recently. People stare at me with an odd look when I tell them I’m from New York City … they politely inquire about the circumstances of my move while behind their eyes I can hear them wondering loudly WHY DID YOU EVER LEAVE NY FOR GERMANY?? I wonder if I should just say I had some trouble with the law and let them stew on that for a while … rather than go into the whole “quality of life / red state-blue state America is at war with itself” rationale. The thing that really bothers me about their question is that they display such contempt for their own country. I am beginning to wonder if there is in fact something horrible lurking in the shadows, some legion of wandering exhibitionists or junkies, waiting to spring out onto the sidewalks and insult my senses once the weather warms up. Or maybe it’s something much more subtle that I just haven’t the cultural sensitivity skills yet to pick up – that’s what scares me.

7 Comments:

Blogger Cathy said...

I experience that same kind of contempt reaction from my German relatives. I've yet to figure it out completely.
I've also been to the Romanische Germanische (sp.?) museum. It was amazing. At the time (1988 I believe it was), there was a huge Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery. My memories of Koln are fond ones.

2:38 AM  
Blogger christina said...

Well...it's not the exhibitionists or junkies that they're worried about, although you'll see plenty of those (mostly junkies) once spring arrives, but there IS something more subtle out there that you only 'get' once you've learned the language and immersed yourself in the culture. That can take several years. I've spoken to a lot of Germans who are just plain fed up with the way things are going around here - unemployment, poor school system, stagnant population, lack of entrepreneurial (sp?) spirit etc. Things are just not moving ahead and many Germans are clamouring to get out and start over. The immigration boards are full of people enquiring about moving to another country. Most of them can't, but in 2004 150,000 Germans left for greener pastures. In 2003 it was around 127,000.

A couple of articles I've come across lately:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/germany_emigrants_dc

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1442439,00.html

Cologne IS a lovely city though, you're lucky there. I've visited once with my husband before we had children and would like to do so again.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Christina ... I read the articles you sent - thank you - they are very depressing. I knew things were bad here but not that bad - yikes! Feel a little like the last rat to board a sinking ship as the others are scurrying over the side.

But then, it was much that way when I moved to New York in 1978 ... the Bronx was burning, the Son of Sam had finally been found but his shadow lurked, millions had abandoned the city for the burbs and all that great real estate in upper manhattan and much of brooklyn was occupied by junkies and prostitutes. There were more porn parlors than you could shake a stick at and crime was the new growth industry ... I think I'll fit in just fine here in Darkland ...

6:29 AM  
Blogger delicious:days said...

Richard, where to begin? You bring up a valid point that is easily worthy of a lenghtier discussion, but I'll try to keep it crisp. Being born and raised in Germany I somewhat comprehend why [not all, but] a lot of people behave the way they do and the impression they leave on others. Sure they are fed up with the system and a lot of things that aren't going their way. Well then, change it! I think "change" isn't exactly a much known vocabulary here - people work for decades for the same employer, build a house that can sustain hundreds of years and eat what they are used to. Never change a running system and if it does reuqire change, then complain. Having traveled quite a bit and lived abroad for roughly 4 years, what has come more and more apparent and annoying is a certain lack of enthusiasm related to making things better within your immidaite realm of possibilities. We should loosen up a bit, not only adopt trends and fashion from other countries but also a bit of a "anthing goes" & "why not?" attitude.

On another note, who are those 150,000 Germans leaving the ship? Sure I've heard of the issue of doctors leaving the country en masse for better salaries elsewhere, but the rest? The link to the article Christina provided addresses it, but it'd be interesting to see how many of the 150K return after 6 months or bit later, eventually. I've also been asked why I ever returned back to Germany and apart from personal reasons, I usually come back with a question before I answer. Asking semi-jokingly WHY should I have stayed? Some of the answers and views I have gotten put their original outcry into proper perspective...

Sorry this got a little wordy - and I still feel it's somewhat taken out of context - but had to get this of my chest. ;)

On a final note, quality-of-life-wise Germany is definitely a great great place to be, throw in the mix good friends and it's a place to stay.

PS: Let me know when you happen to pay Munich a visit...

11:48 AM  
Blogger christina said...

Richard - didn't mean to depress you at all! I'm just a born pessimist. :-) But I think it's important to know the truth about a place and why people are thinking and saying the things you are hearing so you can put them into context.

Germany is not really open to change and when things do change it's veeeery slowly. A lot of talk, a lot of complaining, but very little action.

That's not to say that Germany isn't the place for YOU. Maybe it is. If it offers you a better quality of life than you had before, they you've made the right decision for yourself and your family, I think.

Living here can make you a bit bitter, apathetic and cynical at times if you let it. My husband says I've lost much of the 'joie de vivre' I used to have when I first moved here, and he misses that, considering that was one of the reasons he married me. ;-)

1:41 PM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I loved living in Europe. I have found many reasons why I enjoy living there compared to US or Canada. I've only lived in France and Switzerland but on the German border so I can't totally compare, but I still would give anything to have that chance to leave, but I certainly won't go back to the US.

I like the fresh bread, less fast food, more open minds, easier ways to travel, cheaper vacations, a world awareness, multilingual people..

There are a few things to think about. I think the opportunities are endless when you really think about it. But you need to be happy where you are living. Switzerland is experiencing growth and since you are EU, maybe it's a thought to go there. I think once you know the language, moving to another country is even easier.

I'd give anything to live in Switzerland, but maybe some day that dream will come true again.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Sarah Mackenzie said...

Yes. I can totally identify with that. All the time people ask us "How did you end up in Montcaret?" I wonder myself, actually. Life is strange.

8:41 PM  

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