Saturday, January 13, 2007

Change ...

It’s been a year since I left New York and settled here in Cologne. A lot has happened in that year, some of it practical and tangible some of it invisible and it’s the invisible changes that I’ve been thinking about lately.

During my first months here everything was fresh and strange and therefore even the commonplace events of daily life were interesting. Not unlike a new relationship, there is a honeymoon phase when your new lover or location can do no wrong. Of course there are also situations where a new relationship falls apart completely once you learn what your new mate does with his dirty clothes at night or how abysmal a cook s/he is or any of a number of more critical day-to-day habits or character traits that grate to the point of breaking.

I’m happy to say my first year in Cologne was almost entirely positive. There were the odd run-ins with grumpy Germans who chastised me for not learning the language fast enough. But now, after sitting attending language school for endless hours and after class for more hours with tutors and developing a fairly constant headache that I attribute directly to the power surge in my brain caused by all these new and really large German words, I realize how ridiculously difficult the language actually is and I don’t care if someone gives me grief for not speaking it well enough. I will continue my classes, my ongoing struggle with late-in-life language acquisition and I’ll do it at my own pace – thank you very much.

With the New Year celebrations behind me, I’ve started to emerge from my honeymoon with Cologne and it is becoming more difficult to discern my feelings about this new world, perhaps because it is no longer a new world, it has become my world. My feelings are more complex and at the same time hidden from me, the experiences of each day are less dramatic, routines have begun to develop. There is no longer that sharp relief that comes from comparing each new experience with those you recently left behind. I’ve begun to take different routes to and from common destinations and find myself standing at the street corner long after the light has changed watching people, looking up at the sky, searching for I don’t know what, meaning perhaps or something recognizable or maybe, for something new.

10 Comments:

Blogger Cathy said...

Is this why we always find the grass to be greener on the other side: because we are constantly in motion; trying to find something better. Insisting that there must be more and that we must have something worse than someone or somewhere else? I don't know. But I know this feeling that you describe.
I hope you overcome it and can live happily with the knowledge that where you are is mute; it's who you're with that matters most.

2:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... looking up at the sky, searching for I don’t know what, meaning perhaps or something recognizable or maybe, for something new."

I know those pre-reflective states of mind well, when something strives to arise from the sub-consciousness, gathering data from your memory, to finally coalesce into a unique complex of a personal vision.

These visions needs some kind of outward trigger to unfold. There is nothing wrong with it. You get a bit absent-minded, but if you welcome the experience you can learn to handle it.

BTW, didn't you encounter some practitioners of yoga? Yogis know where it comes from and can advise meditations to handle it correctly.

If you're not the meditative kind you can use tarot cards, sabian symbols or whatever you feel comfortable with.

Anon German

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cathy is right. It is who you are with that matters most. Concentrate on making the best of things with your family. Remember that self-esteem comes from within, never from without.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Thanks all for the observations and thoughts ... One good outcome of the blues - and I think that's what I got - is that I wrote two pretty good tunes ...

Best to all of you ...

7:54 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

safe travels.

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like how you are taking different routes, open to searching, even if things may not seem meaningful ...

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Hi, I hope you do not mind if I give you a few tips about learning a new language. I am an American who has been living here in Germany for the past 16 years come February. At first I found a really good vocabulary book which contain 5000 common words and used flash cards to learn them 100 at a time. It was easier than I thought. They were every day common words which were also easy to use to practice pronunciation. I spent every free moment I had practicing and pointing out every day objects and saying them in German. I then started using words which expressed common ideas and feelings and started concentrating on listening for them in conversations around me. I went to the local library and borrowed tapes and Cd's of German actors who read German poetry and short stories. Just listen to them and listen for the nouns and verbs. Get use to hearing German on your terms. I then started using 2 and 3 word sentences so that I could express myself. The idea was to get people around me to listen to me and to stop talking in English to me - even if they had to speak in two or 3 word sentences.

Once you have a decent vocabulary memorized. I highly recommend a language course with the Goethe Institute. (http://www.goethe.de/enindex.htm) They offer inland courses in two months or longer blocks - choose a small countryside town instead of a large city campus. The idea is to emerge yourself in the language and be surrounded by the German language for 24 hours a day. It is costly and you need to take time off from your life, but it's worth it in many ways. First I met and lived with others like me who wanted to learn German. They were from all over the world and I am still in touch with quite a few of them. Some are even still here in Germany. Quite a few could not speak English and we were force to use German as a common language not to mention all the partying going on. Second in the town where I lived the townspeople knew who we were and made sure that we spoke in German even approaching us to engage us in conversation. After I completed a two month course I was able to achieve an official German State certification for Intermediate German. All this with my first eight months in Germany. I then continued with private lessons to apply for a certificate in Advance German ( I needed it to transfer to a German University.)

Now as the stay, I have been here in Germany for 16 years. I still can't speak German and my English has gone to hell. Take care.

Ian

7:59 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Ian ... You can't speak German after all that? Yikes! I think I'll stick with my VHS courses and a little help from my three-year-old ... although I like the idea of the flash cards - I may use that one.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

That was a joke. The real bad news is that I think i am getting crazy in my " old age". I'm not only talking to myself, I speak to myself in German. ;-)

Whatever you do have fun learning the language. Use your son and your friends. Another method that work for me was to use the hands on method. My girlfriend used "incentives" to help me improve my language skills. Those rewards sometimes made for long nights and sometimes the punishments were a lot of fun too. I am still trying to think of a way how I can incorporate that methodology into a business.

Tschuss und Gruße aus Leipzig!

Ian

9:31 PM  
Blogger Richard the Lion Heart said...

Hi, I like the way you write about you child and this reminds me of my girls when they were smaller. I,m also planning to learn German, so the comments were interesting for me. My girlfriend is German, also from Cologne! Shes planning to move to live with me here in Sweden first, but I am sure we will also live in Germany one day too, so I had better start soon. I had to learn Swedish when I moved here, and I managed that, so there is some hope for me! Looking forward to following more on your interesting blog.

11:38 PM  

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