Posts Tagged With: germany

Homesick?

I don’t remember the last time I felt at home or if I ever even felt like that at some point. Moving around from one place to another has made me think a bit more about which one of these places can I call mine, and so far have reached no conclusion. What makes us call a place “home”? The easy answer would be the place where you were born, where you grew up or where your family and friends are. So what if you feel you have nothing in common with that place but memories?…

When I get homesick, I usually associate the word “home” with just moments that I enjoy remembering…but that’s not a good enough definition of “home”, because I have beautiful memories from every place I’ve ever seen. And I’m right back where I started. How does one figure out where they belong?

I love Romania. It’s my country and even though I don’t feel connected to it, I can at least call it “my”. That’s where my family and friends are and that fact alone makes it special, but it will never be my home. I can’t call “home” a country in which I have to watch my back (literally) when I get out of my own house so I won’t get bitten by the dozens of stray dogs. I can’t call “home” a country in which 99 out of 100 people you see on the street put on a sad face when they woke up and never took it off. I can’t call “home” a country in which corruption will never cease to exist because of the mentality of the people; a mentality that I shamefully admit sharing at certain times, even though I try very hard not to. Last time I visited, I felt like an alien – don’t know if that was because I’ve changed or because the country changed, or both. I had an eerie feeling nevertheless, and even ignoring that, I don’t dream of ever calling it my home again.

I love England, too. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to go to a university in another country, let alone a British one, let alone one that is so good and that certainly can’t be compared to the ones I would have had access to in Romania. I feel I know how things work and that everything is easy to figure out. People are friendly and I do like hearing “love” at every corner, even if it’s just an empty word. No one is in rush, no one is ever rude to you and, let’s face it, their accent is adorable. But no matter how much I love it, it’s not where I would like to settle, not in a country where every time I wake up the sky is grey and the national sport is getting wasted.

I love Germany. These 2 months I’ve spent here have been wonderful and full of events, full of interesting people and interesting journeys. Bearing in mind that my time here will be a short one, I’ve really tried to enjoy it, maybe not at its fullest, but certainly more than I did in England.  However, it will never be my home.

I believe many people don’t ever find their home because they are simply too afraid to take risks and just follow their moment of clarity, how alcoholics would put it.  You have to be brave enough not to ignore your instincts and completely change your path… because of a feeling, a wish, a person, a dream, a song or a memory. But what if in the end you still don’t end up home?  Then maybe your home can be you… Maybe one does not need to settle down in only one place, maybe we can carry a small piece of all the places we’ve visited, all the people we’ve met, all the lovers we had, all the things we’ve experienced..and just build a home, like a puzzle, in our mind.

We grab a Pan Am Clipper to Caracas, scoot on over to Rio for some fun in the sun,

slide off the map. We could go dancing, and have a lot of laughs, any time we want.

Want to take that ride with me? Train__in_color_by_Parawan

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Zehn kleine Jägermeister or… how I came to actually enjoy the German language a bit, after almost 14 years

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been (trying) to learn German. I think I was 6 or 7 when I first learned how to count. From that point forward, there have been countless hours of how to construct sentences with “weil”, “dass” and so on. Yes, I know the verb goes at the end, but that’s proven to be so incredibly useless to me now.
We’ve been taught the same grammar rules year after year and not once were we given the opportunity to just SPEAK. That’s how, after all this time, I’m finally in Germany and I still ask people “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” for anything that requires more than “ein Bier, bitte” and “danke”.
We’ve learned about “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, about the dreadful concentration camps, about the Berlin wall, about ostalgie, about everything… but it was always a story told without making us feel any connection to their present.
It’s been a month since I first arrived here, and so far what I’ve been doing is trying to get to know as many Brazilian people as I can, to improve my Portuguese and also because.. Let’s face it, they’re a load of fun. Recently, I’ve also met a very interesting German guy. During one of our fruitful talks about cans of tuna and other philosophical matters, he started singing a very popular (apparently) and old German song. We saw that as an opportunity for me to experience a genuine part of German culture, so we listened to many old (and not so old) hits that, for some weird reason, actually made me wish I’d understand what they were so joyfully singing about. It’s not like I haven’t listened to German music before, but it was nice having someone trying to explain what those songs meant to them as a nation and what childhood memories they bring, and frankly, this would be the first time I’ve felt close to anything that can be called “German”.
The first step toward this (still) fragile connection, though, must be the night in which Borussia played against Real and managed to qualify for the CL final. Just hearing the pronunciation of “R” in Borussia made my night. Well, that, and the overwhelming joy that flooded the streets of Dortmund just moments after it ended. It’s not like anyone was actually watching the game.
Germany, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Traveling tips and Day 0 in Dortmund :)

I wanted to wait a bit before posting tips on how to efficiently pack, and it’s proven to be quite useful, as now I can also share what happened at check-in and security.

It’s quite hard to fit most of your life in only 30kg, but so far I think I packed all the essentials I’ll need for 4 months.  I’m not going to make a list of everything I packed, because I am sure no 2 people pack the same stuff, but I will try to give some tips.

  1. Don’t try to fit your entire wardrobe in one bag! From experience, you’ll end up using only half of those clothes, and that would be a waste of space. Try and remember which of those you wore in the last week, 2 weeks, etc. Anything that’s been there and you haven’t worn in over a month, you can easily live without.  The exceptions will be, of course, summer or winter clothes (depending on the current season).

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  1. Check the weather! The best thing you could do is pack layers – so that you’re safe in either weather scenario.
  2. Don’t pack all your shoes – try to have only one pair of boots (if it’s cold), one pair of sneakers,  one or 2 of warm weather shoes, heels (I opted out, though) and some flip-flops.
  3. The best way to fit your clothes inside a suitcase is to roll ‘em up. You’ll end up saving loads of space, and when you unpack they’ll be wrinkle-free 🙂
  4. When it comes to toiletries, if you have any big shampoo or shower gel bottles and you don’t want to give them up, just buy some small 100ml recipients and fill some up, it will definitely save space. Also, remember you can buy stuff once you get there, so only pack the things you know you won’t find at your destination or some that will be quite expensive to buy again.
  5. 2 towels should be enough – you can pack those on top of everything you’ve put in the big suitcase, as they sort of hold everything together.
  6. Remember to pack a pillow cover, if, like me, you don’t fancy sleeping on one that’s been used before.
  7. Make a checklist with all the can’t-travel-without objects, like passport, train/plane tickets, money, cards, phone and chargers, etc. Once you pack those, you can relax knowing that if you forget something else at home, you’ll probably still be able to live and travel w/o.
  8. It’s probably a good idea to pack some photos of your loved ones – white painted dorm walls tend to look depressing w/o something on them, innit? Pack some blue-tack for this, also.
    *If you live in the UK, remember to google “free photo prints” and you’ll usually find websites like photobox, truprint,etc. that offer ~50 free photo prints and you’ll only have to pay 1 or 2 quid for delivery.  

It was all fine and dandy for me until I decided to pack my lovely electric grill that I thought I couldn’t live without, and a really heavy espresso jar.  Up until that moment, my suitcases were ok weight-wise, meaning the big one was around 23kg and the one I’d keep as a hand luggage was around 8. After I packed those last 2 items, though, my carry-on was weighing  nearly 11kg (3kg on top of the limit) and everything inside was really crammed. I decided to leave it like that and think of a way I could avoid paying fees at the airport.

Now, what I usually do is I leave my hand-luggage with the person that’s dropping me off at the airport or with the one I’m traveling with, until I go to the check in desk and drop off my checked luggage. This time, seeing that I was traveling alone, I had to find a way of hiding my hand luggage.  I was flying with Lufthansa, and I know they usually don’t weigh your hand luggage, but I just wanted to be on the safe side. So what I did was go on Couchsurfing and did a search on locals in Manchester. I came across a really nice guy that looked quite trustworthy and told him about my little problem, and he agreed on meeting me at the airport and taking care of my luggage for a couple of minutes, while I checked in.  We had a really nice talk when he arrived and I was, once again, impressed of how a total stranger would  waste his time helping others, just for the sake of doing a good deed. I found out he was a musician and was heading off to Paris in a couple of weeks to play his music. And if you’re reading this, I truly wish you the best of times on your trip!

Moving on, I got to Security. I passed through and was waiting for my luggage on the other side. I see it go down the other lane and I immediately realize I forgot to take out my liquid bag. A nice lady asks me if that’s my bag and if I could open it, and takes out the liquid bag, puts in on top of my luggage and sends it through X-rays again.  It should’ve come out the right lane this time, but oooh, snap. It’s on the wrong lane again. Another lady opens my suitcase again and starts taking out EVERY little thing I had inside and check it. At that moment I was going mental thinking I would never be able to organize everything again. She took her time, about 20mins or so, put my bag through X-rays again and this time it was alright. What she told me is that, apparently, my things were too crammed and they couldn’t see very well through X-rays what was inside. Piece of advice, keep it light if you don’t want to spend another half an hour at security rearranging your stuff and realizing they won’t fit in the suitcase again unless you sit on it.

From here on out, it was finally time to relax. If you ever fly of Manchester Airport, be sure to look for the smoking area, it’s absolutely lovely. It’s nowhere near as fancy as the ones in Germany, it doesn’t even have the usual glass walls. But it’s like you’re on a NY rooftop, it has that special vibe.

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The flight itself was alright. Again, if you’re flying with Lufthansa, try ordering a beer, they’ll give you Warsteiner, which is absolutely delicious.  The wine, on the other hand, it’s really dry, so keep that in mind.

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Once I landed on Dusseldorf Int. , it was quite easy figuring out where the train stop was. To go to Dortmund University, you have to take a Sky train to the airport train station and then the S1 which will take you straight to the university. There are ticket machines before and after the Skytrain, and you’ll have to take a Single ticket to Dortmund (it doesn’t specify the station), which will cost around 12,50 euros.  The journey itself takes about 1hour and 10 minutes. Once I got the University, I got picked up by Steffi, the Erasmus coordinator who handles students from Leeds. She took me to my dorm and gave me the keys to my room – rants about that you’ll find in the next post 🙂

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