Friday, December 23, 2011

Operation Rivers of Light

(This Pre-Christmas Post replaces the Monday post for December 26. Back to the normal Monday schedule on January 2, 2012)

As you may already know (oh, come on, I'm sure you know), we have very large, illegal, guerrilla leftist movements in Colombia. We have tried to combat and defeat them for over 60 years, and we are slowly winning the war against them.. but we still have a long way to go.

Before I go on, please allow me a little of your time to get on my soapbox and explain a couple of things. Listen, dude, we (Colombians) are not against leftist movements, like people (such as Chávez and his dictatorial regime, for instance) want to make you believe. We welcome the left, because we are well aware that without a left there can be no right, but rather meaningless unilateralism. Our nation was founded in 1810 based on leftist ideals. We, all of us, all of us Colombians, used to be leftist rebels who stood up against the Spanish monarchy. And we won. We understand and celebrate the importance of the left.

What we don't understand, what we don't accept and what we most certainly DO NOT celebrate is that the so-called "left" (the guerrilla movements you might be familiar with via CNN or the BBC) use illegal actions to gain money. They are no longer looking for political power, they no longer have political ideals. Those ideals died in the 1980s with the birth and growth of drug trafficking. There are no more philosophical leftist pillars on which the current guerrilla can stand. It is just greed and lust and ignorance.

A few so-called "leaders" (and I use the term VERY loosely) have forced thousands of Colombian peasants, farmers, women and children, to join their ranks with the promise of money. And in a country where so much poverty reigns, it is easy to understand why they joined - also, they were given no choice. The options were either to join or to die a painful death.

That is why we, Colombians living on the legal side of the story (both rightists and leftists, conservatives and liberals, catholics and atheists), are asking that the Guerrilleros come home, to leave the guerrilla movement and join us on the civilian side.

The 2011 Operation Rivers of Light was carried out this week. I invite you to watch the video, with Spanish audio and English subtitles:


My President, Juan Manual Santos, and his family participated in the event three days before Christmas, sending out their own personal messages, with the hope that the Guerrilleros will receive the message and be touched enough to come home. After all, there is no better place to be on Christmas than at home.



I invite you to join me, to join all Colombians, in asking that Guerrilleros demobilize. I invite you to write (tweet, blog, whatever) using the hashtag #GuerrilleroDesmovilicese (Spanish for "Guerrilla Combatant, leave the illegal guerrilla forces").


My very close and dear friend, Mafe Barbosa, sending away her message...

Monday, December 19, 2011

I don't know if it's God, but it's a lousy coincidence anyway...

I'm not the God-fearing person I'm supposed to be. And I'm alright with that. Having gone to university in the US Bible Belt, though, I had my fair share of people trying to "save" me, which I appreciated. I mean, you have to really care about a person to want to save them from going to hell, right? I was lucky (blessed?) to have all those people around me, and am still lucky (blessed?) to have them put up with me and my agnostic ways after 10 years.

The thing is, I don't believe in blaming nor accrediting God with everything. If something good happens (something over which you had some kind of control, like a good job offer or a raise or that your self-made dinner tasted delicious), then why should you claim that God did that? I mean, God surely gave you the talent to be the best you could be, and He (She?) even "blessed" you with strength and courage and whatnot. But there are certain things that YOU do for yourself. No one does them for you. At the same time, if something lousy happens (something over which you had some kind of control, like not getting a job, or getting fired, or having your self-made dinner burn in the oven), then why should you blame God for that? It's not His (Her?) fault that someone got better grades in college than you did, or that you were caught surfing porn during office hours, of that you did not pay attention to the oven because you were cyber-stalking some ex. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Some things are just coincidences (like my meeting people from Barranquilla in Kiel), and some things are just you working hard for them (like my being accepted in the Masters program). For the other things, those that neither money nor MasterCard can buy, I have no explanation. But that is not my point.

My point is, my Aunt (my Uncle's wife) died last Monday. A week ago today. She was not ill, she was not old (mid-50s), she was not a bad person. She was the opposite of bad: she was an awesome mother, an incredible artist, a leader in her church, a role-model for her family. She is (was?) the type of person who should live forever.

But God wanted her Angel back in heaven, said one of her sisters.

Well, God, I think you're a little bit selfish if that is why she died. I mean, did you really, really need her before Christmas? Seriously, dude. Not cool.

But God is lucky, because I don't believe that is why she died.

God is punishing her youngest daughter, because she is an atheist, said one of my aunts to my grandmother. That side of the family is very, very religious. God-fearing people, alright. The Bible Belt equivalent, but in my country. And my cousin, 23 years old, is a declared atheist (I tend to think she's just confusing terms and she really is agnostic, but that is not my point), and thus God decided to punish her by killing her mother. By killing her mother right before Christmas.

Well, God, I think you're a little bit selfish, because she (my Aunt) had 3 other children, a husband, 7 younger siblings, a mother, and a huge group of friends who loved her, and all of whom believe in You. So why kill her to teach one puny little human a lesson, while at the same time punishing so many? Seriously, dude. Not cool.

But God is lucky, because I don't believe that is why she died.

My Aunt died due to medical negligence. She went in for a routine cholecystectomy, just like I did last year, and the doctor accidentally ruptured her intestine. Notice that I said accidentally. The guy made a mistake. He may have saved many lives before and after on that very day, but he made a terrible, fatal mistake on my Aunt. And she died because of it. The guy is more than likely a good doctor, a good doctor who, like many working for the State in my country, earn too little and work too much. He just made a mistake and my Aunt died.

God is more than likely sad. God is probably saying to the Doctor, Dude, I gave you all the skills and talent and wisdom to know when to say no and when to open your eyes and double-check, but you, exercising your FREE WILL, chose to close her up and send her to the recovery room... 


One might even go as far as to question why she needed that cholecystectomy. Why did God "give" that to her? Why did she seem to recover for a couple of days and then die? Well, $#!+ happens, that's why. I have no other explanation for that. But I need no further explanation as to why she died. It just happened. It's too pragmatic, I know, but what can I do about it?


It was sad. It was terrible. It was sudden. It was shocking. It was many things, but it was not punishment. I don't believe in that God. I don't think that omnipotent, all-punishing God exists. I believe in something superior, in something grand and marvelous, something capable of giving life. I believe in something who placed a whole lot of wonderful characteristics in one woman and made her my Aunt. I believe that I am a better person for having known her. And I thank life and the universe for the coincidence or conspiracy of having placed her in my life.

I do appreciate that my family back at home feels "in peace" because it was God's decision to take her away. I think everyone is entitled to deal with pain any way they want (that is why I write this Blog in English and not in Spanish). Good for them. I'm glad that they can thank and blame one poor Guy or Gal for everything that happens: weather, traffic, problems and blessings.

I don't think it was God, but I don't know. I'm a simple agnostic mortal who knows nothing. But it was a lousy coincidence that my Aunt had to die right before Christmas. To whom do I write my letter of complaint?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Surprise!

Honey hates birthdays. At least so he claims. Last year, I "forced" him to have an awesome birthday party - and he had a blast! We all did. We all had loads of fun. We began at 8 p.m., and 6 a.m. we were still singing. Actually the singing began only at 4 a.m., but that is beyond the point. The point is we had fun. And the best part was (for Honey, at least, who was paying the bill) we payed a little over 100 Euros for more than 30 guests in a private room at an awesome bar. So, seriously - wow.

But this year Honey really didn't want to to do anything. He said that he did not feel like inviting both friends and acquaintances to drink at his expense, but that he did not know how to not invite the acquaintances; he said it was too complicated, and too expensive, and that he didn't have any ideas for a venue, and and and, but but but. After trying to convince him for a couple of days (that was waaaay back in early November), I came to a realization: You know, I told myself, the fact that you like birthdays does not mean that everybody else has to love birthdays as well. Why don't you let Honey celebrate his birthday however the heck he wishes to celebrate it?! And so I told Honey that we would do whatever he wanted to do.

And since he wanted to do nothing, we agreed that nothing would be done.

Except that sometime in late November he said that we had actually thought about it and that he agreed with me: he wanted a party. But he didn't know where, and he didn't know who to invite, and he didn't want to spend too much money (or any at all), and he didn't and didn't and didn't - only negatives. He even mentioned that it would have been awesome if I had planned a surprise party for him, so that he would not worry about anything or anyone and just enjoy his birthday.

I got upset and told him to stop sending me mixed signals: either you hate your birthday and you don't want anything, or you simply don't enjoy planning events but do enjoy your birthday. It's one or the other. But you can't claim to hate your birthday and expect people to still celebrate it for you! Also, I said, I have no time to plan anything. It's two weeks to your birthday, I'm sure everyone is already scheduled for something else, I said.

But I told him not to worry, that his birthday present would make up for his momentary sadness. I had purchased it already, and I knew he would love it. I had found the perfect present: something that he really wanted, but something that didn't cost too much - because, like every other man, he enjoys spending his money on me, but hates it when I spend my money on him. I like this mentality... And my gift met all the criteria.

Finally, the birthdate arrived. We had gone to bed early on Friday so at 8 a.m. on Saturday we were wide awake. When he got up to go to the bathroom, I ran to the closet, where I had hidden his present, and ran back to the bedroom to wait for him. He came out and I sang, Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Honey, happy birthday to you! and proceeded to present him with his present.

He looked at the box - smaller than he was expecting, but still seemed heavy. He opened it and -

- was vastly disappointed. It was a "beauty kit for men" from Nivea, including shaving creme, aftershave and bath and shower gel. But dark blue, so very manly.

I told him his reaction was unfair, for he had told me that if my gift to him was too expensive, he would force me to send it back. And I stayed within a very reasonable budget, so I didn't understand his reaction. He said I was right, apologized, and very politely pretended to enjoy his gift.

A couple of hours later I made him breakfast, a very special birthday breakfast. While I cooked he showered. I laid out brand new clothes for him, which we had bought earlier last week. New shirt, new pants, new boxer shorts, new belt. We sat down to eat -

- and the doorbell rang.

We weren't expecting anyone, but it is not terribly unusual for the doorbell to ring on someone's birthday. So he went to open the door, only no one was there...

... no one, but something.


He could not believe his eyes. Was this a joke? It clearly is a box which claims to contain a TV, but, but, really?!

Yes, really.


I had spoken (early November) with very close friends of ours, and had arranged for this 51" plasma Samsung 3D TV to arrive at their house so that Honey would not notice. They brought it over, helped us set it up, and had some cake and juice.

Honey asked if they wanted to come by in the evening for a beer or something, and they said that only for a few minutes, because they had another appointment previously scheduled. But that was ok, Honey figured. They could come by for a beer or two, and then we could both watch 3D movies all evening together and so spend his birthday.

It was all agreed. We went out to a romantic lunch and came back in time to meet with our friends. We were watching TV while waiting for them and the doorbell rang.

As scheduled for over two weeks, all his friends walked into the apartment! SURPRISE!

Aw, Honey! Of course I had something planned for you! Of course I was not going to let your birthday go unnoticed! Of course I was not going to honor your I-hate-my-birthday wishes! Of course I was going to surprise you!

And I did. And we had a blast.







Honey, it's not that I ignore your wishes... it's that I know you well enough to know which ones are the ones you really wish for, and which ones are those you want me to ignore.

Happy birthday, Honey!

BTW, you can take a guess as to whether or not 
the TV was returned due to exceeding the expected budget... 

To view more pictures, go to this youtube link

Monday, December 5, 2011

If it's not rain, it must be snow!

I am somewhat of a world citizen. I have lived in four continents, I have learned new languages and new cultures; I have seen and done things that most people would only dream of doing. I have ridden exotic animals, I have prayed in thousand-year-old churches and temples, I have had water (or, let's be honest, Coca-Cola) in 80 cities, I have gotten wet with rain in 15 countries, I have gone swimming in three different seas... You might say that I have seen and done so much, that I am difficult to amaze.

But you'd be wrong.

I am amazed by snow.

You need to understand why, though: as much as I have traveled, and as old as I am (I have been informed that my new hair cut makes me look my real age...), I still grew up and spent more than half of my life in Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where the average temperature is 35ºC and the daily weather report shows a bright, shiny, beautiful sun. We have rain, of course; but somehow the sun manages to shine through the dark, grey clouds. I remember, one time, ages ago -my gosh, I could not have been older than 10- it started raining really, really hard. And the raindrops, well, they looked funny. And they fell funny, and made a real loud noise. I went towards the window and saw "ice cubes" falling from the sky. It was an amazing phenomenon - so amazing, that I sometimes wonder if that is a real or made-up memory that I have.

I don't know.

But it is precisely because of that warmth in my life that snow baffles me. It is the only reason why I stand the cold. And it is very, VERY cold. But it's white. And oh-so-lovely! I know the shoes get all messed up, the bottom part of jeans and pants is always wet, it's difficult to walk and dangerous to drive. And the crazy Germans keep living like nothing is happening - school goes on, university goes on, work goes on. It should be a National Holiday every day snow falls! But I realize that, in Germany, that would be highly deterrent to the schedules, since snowfalls here are not only hard (and serious) but also last for months.

I promised my friends and family (those living in The New World, you know, the real Western World) that I would not write about the snow every winter. I promised I would not be another cute little latina fascinated by the white cotton-candy balls falling from the sky. I promised I would not have the same sort of blog every December.

I lied.

We had some sort of hail yesterday, but it was enough to make the grass in the gardens and the rooftops white. So I named it snow. For me, winter AND CHRISTMAS have now officially begun, because it is now white. And yes, I will go out and make snow angels as soon as there is enough snow to sink into. And yes, I will take plenty of pictures and send them to The Snow Flake Queen, and yes I will more than likely begin complaining in February, and yes, and I will be just another cute little latina fascinated by the white cotton-candy balls falling from the sky.

First "snow" for 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dear Santa, send me a maid!

Dear Santa,

I hate being a housewife. I do. I really, really do. And I realize how unorthodox it is to begin a "Dear Santa" letter with a statement of hatred, but I just need for you to understand how important my first world problems are, and thus help me by sending me a maid for Christmas.

If you're going to send THIS maid,
make sure you let me know so that I can send Honey
 far, far away from home during her working hours!

Santa, I hate being a housewife. I love Honey, though he has not yet made me his wife, so maybe I am not technically a housewife - perhaps next year I will ask for a big rock on my ring finger. But look, Santa, look at how pressing this maid issue is: I need a maid more than I need to be legally married!

Santa, God blessed -and simultaneously cursed- me with great attention to detail. Which means that a task (like washing dishes or folding laundry) that would take the average housewife 15 to 20 minutes, takes me 30 to 40 minutes. Because it has to be done just right, it has to be perfect. And since I don't always have the time to invest in mundane tasks (I mean, who needs clean panties anyway?!) because I have to study for my beloved Masters, then I leave the task for later. Or for tomorrow. Or for the day after tomorrow. Or until I have gone commando for two days straight and realize that I really, really need to do laundry.

Santa, my kitchen is dirty and my bathroom has a particular pee-stench that I have been unable to remove. And by "unable to" I of course mean "unwilling to". EW! I don't want to get down on my hands and knees and scrub. I don't want to get my unmanicured hands dirty with detergents and stuff. I don't want to have the smell of latex gloves to avoid the stench of disinfectant.

Santa, I WANT A MAID! And you see, because I am so magnanimous, I am even willing to accept the maid with the bill. I mean, I will pay for his/her services. And I will pay well! I will stop eating Berliners, I will down-size Honey's side of the Christmas Wish List (my Christmas Wish List includes necessary items, such as a black coat and furry shoes. I mean, who can live without those two items?!), and I will pay for the maid.

Santa, I need a maid. Pretty please. That is all that I ask of you this year. I need a maid. I want a maid. This simple little wish will not only help the German economy (I will be incrementing the job market), but it will also help end my first world problems. Which is funny, because I only have this first world problem because I am a third world person, where maids are part of the family.

Santa, a maid. Please.

With love,

--Nat


PS: World Peace and an End to Hunger would be cool, too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ich bin ein Berliner

There are so many things wrong with that phrase. The first one being, I am not a jelly-filled doughnut, although I do eat so many of them so often, I might as well be. Also, I am more than three hours away from Berlin, so if I were to be some sort of German I would be a Kieler, not a Berliner. And no, "Kieler" is not funny, and no, it does not sound like "Killer". Long and short vowels are there for a reason. In addition to the previously stated, I would never say "Ick", like the famous person said it, nor would I say "Ish", like the foreigners say it. I would use a perfect "Ich", thus actually reinforcing my point:

I am a German. I found this out as I was trying to make a point in two different classes last week.

In the first class, American 20th Century Short Fiction, I was supporting my claim that there is a European-settler-vs-Indigenous-People trend in Hemingway's "Indian Camp". I mentioned how the doctor, Nick's father, Nick and Uncle George all "cross over" to the Indian camp and go take care of an Indian woman giving birth. Upon hearing her screams, the doctor, Nick's dad, tells Nick that he need not hear them, for her screams are not important. And here is what I said: "It is a very clear reference to you people coming over to my land, to my continent, and taking command of my people."

Because I am totally indigenous, right?

In the second class, Remember The Alamo, I claimed that although Santa Anna was well known for his pleasure and desire of war and dominion, we could not ignore the fact that the Americans had come over and pushed "my people" to the other side of the border, thus wanting to take control of a land that had originally belonged to "us".

Because I am totally mexican, right?

At some point in between the two classes the issue got mixed (because of race, the train of thought is easy to follow) with black people and slaves and all that stuff. To which I appropriately mentioned, that "my people" had been mistreated by The White Man for centuries.

Because I am totally black, right?

My teacher includes me when counting the Germans, she (actually, they both do) include me in the collective "we". "We" symbolizing Germans, Europeans, The White Man in general. And they do so because I am white. Very white. As white (whiter?) as the Germans that are around me in both of my classes. I am educated following the western educational system, which is different from that which one would expect of an indian, a mexican or a black person back in late 19th - early 20th century America.

But more than that, beyond the preconceptions that Europeans might have of "my people" (whoever "my people" are), I follow all the preconceptions "my people" have of Germans: I am on time, always, if possible early. I am prepared, always, if possible even further than expected. I am serious, always, if possible with some wit here or there. I wish I could say I was also tall and green-eyed and blond - I am working on the blond thing.

I am a German. I dislike what the Germans dislike and like what the Germans like (except for the Rotkohl thingy...). I think like a German. I try to act like a German. I include myself in the German collective "we". I hang out with Germans. I spend time with Germans. I try to talk like the Germans do (that might take a while longer than expected...).

I am a German. Ich bin ein Berliner.

Monday, November 14, 2011

27 cm / 10 in

On my way back home one day last week, my mom told me a very sad story: a friend of hers from highschool, one of her very best friends, was going to go through her second chemotherapy session on that very moment - breast cancer. Terrible news, and scary, too, because it could have been my mom. Or me. So I informed Honey that I would not be going home for lunch, and changed my plans and my schedule - something that the very German me does not do easily. I decided I would help her. Instead of going home, I went to the hairdresser and cut 27 cm (a little over 10 in) of hair.

That was my hair. I had let it grow out for a little over a year.

I cut off 27 cm! That's a little over 10 inches in American.

A friend of mine had recently told me about Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that helps people with hair-situations due to chemo. I looked into a similar possibility in Germany and upon finding none, decided I would mail my hair to the LOL people.

I was going to make an anonymous, selfless doantion. I was counting my blessings in how many people I know that DON'T have cancer. Sadly, my counting was interrupted by my mom's friend. I will make my donation on her behalf. I have no idea if she'll actually get my hair, or who will eventually get my hair, or if my hair will be viable (though I did follow all the instructions). I don't know if she will live. I don't know if this "matters" or helps at all.

But it's the only thing I can do from over here. I have no money to donate, I don't run in marathons, I have no time to be there holding her hand (geographical time, I mean), and I want to do something more than just send a sympathetic email and a couple of nice BBMs. I want to do something. And not just for her - I want to do something. I want to actively participate in this fight against cancer. No more cancer, for anyone. Not even for Hugo Chavez, no, not even for evil people like him. I want to do my share in showing God and the World that I think cancer sucks!

I still don't know if that helps. I still don't know if that meant anything. I don't know.

But I do know that I would very much appreciate it if some random person somewhere in the world cut off 27 cm of her hair to help out my mom. Or me.

So I did.

I now look blonder, fatter and older. But that's ok. It will grow back. And when it does, I'll cut it and donate it again.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

German train of thought

A few days ago, we were in class discussing issues of culture and cultural studies (just as a side note, I am so German now, that I can't help but automatically type Kultur - großgeschrieben und alles!). You need to understand that I find myself in Germany, surrounded by 12 other Germans (girls in this case, plus the male teacher), and of course the most obvious examples in trying to define and explain culture come from German culture. And wouldn't you know it: Even the Germans consider their punctuality a German characteristic of their German culture! I like German honesty. I mean, I would never describe me and my people as "unpunctual", although we most definitely are.

So there we were, talking about how the Germans are punctual and how that defines them because the Germans are punctual and punctuality is important and that important characteristic defines them and their culture because punctuality is a trait that shapes a cultural habit which in turn also makes for culture and blah blah blah - I mean, seriously: I. GET. IT. The Germans are obsessed with time. I like that about these people. But seriously - must we really repeat the reiterated redundancy? (Did you like my alliteration? It was almost onomatopoeic...) And as the Germans were going on and on about the freaking punctuality crap, I spaced out thinking about how unnecessary it was to go on and on about the freaking punctuality crap, when I suddenly heard,

"Ja, Massenmörder."


And I was like -

Dude, WTF? How did we switch from punctuality to - wait - 


And then I realized I was no longer thinking in my inside voice in my head. I sat up and kinda shrieked,

"Wait - what? Massenmörder, that means mass murderers, right? How in the world did we switch from being punctual to being mass murderers?"

Yup. There you have it. The switch had been made and it was in the appropriate context with appropriate flow and it made sense and was (though at the end deemed unreasonable) reasonable. Because the Germans can switch from punctuality to mass murderers like that (insert finger-snapping action and sound).

That is German train-of-though for ya.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm Average

I think there is nothing worse in life than being average. That is actually my biggest fear - well, right alongside the crocodiles under my bed finally eating my toes, and the guy sitting in the corner of the living room walking towards me. There are (thank god) no monsters in my closet.

No, but seriously: I am terrified of being average! I think it is terrible to get lost in the masses. Especially now that the masses have reached 7 BILLION (and according to the BBC World Citizen Counter I am number four billion six hundred ninety-seven million six hundred and one thousand eight hundred twenty). I mean, we have got to find a way to stand out. But then again, if all us, if all seven billion of us try to stand out, we will, ironically, not. So I guess some, the majority, would have to actively NOT stand out in order for a few of us to do something *special* that will differentiate us (whether positively or negatively is up to each of us) from the rest. It's not easy. And that's why the challenge interests me... and the possible outcome terrifies me.

Maybe that's why I so enjoy moving to different continents - oh, yeah. When I move away from home, I don't just go to an apartment in another neighborhood, oh no. I change continents. I try to go as far as I can possibly afford. So my first move was from Barranquilla to Augusta. Then I went to the farthest possible place, Lampang. And then to Bogotá. And then to Madrid. And I find myself now in Kiel.

It's a great conversation starter, you know? And it makes for a great initial differentiator.

...except when my interlocutors are also globetrotters.

So then I dig deeper into myself and think, Hm, what makes me *special-er* than them? And I reply to myself, I can fluently speak two languages and am very well advanced on my third one. I pat myself on the back thinking I'm pretty awesome, you know.

...except when I realize that my interlocutors are all multi-lingual globetrotters.

I know I'm special, I just have to really concentrate on finding that one detail that makes me special. And I find it: After successfully completing two bachelor degrees (magna cum laude, ahem), I am now pursuing a Masters degree. I kind of inflate my chest and feel like doing a victory dance.

...except when I realize that my interlocutors are all multi-lingual globetrotters pursuing MA and PhD degrees.

There has got to be something, I know I have something that makes me different from these people. Something that makes me stand out, something that makes people remember me. It's not so much a matter of them liking me as it is a matter of them knowing who I am. And remembering it. So I look for more detailed things; like, ok, we are all multi-lingual here. But my Spanish is by far the best.

...except when I realize that my interlocutors include two other Colombians, a Mexican, a Guatemalan two Argentinians and a Spaniard.

Ok, then, my English is by far the best.

...except when I realize that my interlocutors include an American.

Oh, but my southern accent is the best.

...except when I realize that my American interlocutor is from Nashville, TN.

(And that I really can't do a southern accent.)

My German. My German as a foreign language is the best - in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, right? I mean, not only is my German really, really good, but also my progress is something awe-inspiring.

...except when I realize that most of my interlocutors speak far better than I do, and have apparently had the same learning period.

Maybe, I think, I shall be noticed because my German is by far the worst?

...except when I realize that some of my interlocutors are from the Middle and Far East and have serious problems with western pronunciations.

I am average. I am ordinary. I am normal. I am one of the lot.

I am not the prettiest nor the ugliest. I am not the fattest nor the skinniest. I am not the tallest nor the shortest.

I am average. I am ordinary. I am normal. I am one of the lot.

And I have no idea how to not be.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why must it all be sexual?

When learning a new language, we all make mistakes. That's normal. Native speakers are generally patient and kind. Generally. The thing is... there is only so much I (as a foreign national, trying my best to learn their language) can get away with.

Take Thailand, for instance. Thai is a damn hard language to learn: they have 46 graphemes (symbols, so to speak) that with 10 "accent marks" represent more than 100 possible sounds. In my mother tongue, Spanish, we attach one (1) phoneme (sound) to every grapheme. It's super simple. It's easy. English is not quite as easy, what with short and long vowels and all, but it's easier than Thai. I could get away with my Thai because the people noted I was trying real hard. Also, I made it my mission to learn only a few phrases to help me survive - but to learn then perfectly. My mission was to pronounce them so well that, if with eyes covered, even the Thais couldn't tell my nationality.

My plan worked. My numbers were awesome. My "how much does it cost?" and my "No way, man, too expensive!" were both colloquial, current, and cool.

Until I asked for bananas...

You see, in Thailand, the word for bananas is very, very, very similar to the word for penis. The way I remember it, banana sounds /kloo-EH/ and penis sounds /KLUH-eh/. Or something like that. And when I said it, even today, when I say it, the difference is perfectly clear. I am clearly saying banana banana banana. There is no reason why I would say "penis" in public. Still, there was an awkward moment when I kept asking a man how much he would charge me for his penis...

Or the time that, when trying to teach my Thai senior students how to properly pronounce the /th/, I stuck my tongue out, grabbed it, showed it to them... and was later accused of masturbating in front of my students, because the tongue is a sexual organ in Thailand.

I seriously wonder how I was not fired nor deported.

Now, you'd think that these pronunciation issues happen only with weird Asian languages. Wrong. Look at what happened to me in Germany.

So there I was, talking to my German father at the dinning table. He was telling me all about a trip he was planning on making to some island somewhere to see some awesome bird gathering that only happens once a year. Or something like that. I am not yet skilled enough to understand every word he says, so I must try to get it by context and main words. Anyway. Island. Birds. Awesome.

Try to follow me here: the German word for bird is Vogel. The plural form (that is, more than one bird) is Vögel. So far so good, right? The German language uses the prefix ge- for many things, such as gegooglet (meaning, googled), gepostet (meaning, posted)... So, in trying to be witty and cute and all-knowing, I said to him, "Ah, dann wirst du gevögelt!", meaning something along the lines of, "Ah, then you'll be filled with birds!"

Only gevögelt does not have anything to do with birds.

After chuckling for a little bit, he explained that word actually described that which men and women do with the lights off. Or on. But in a very, very nasty way.

And thus I return to my original question: Why must it all be sexual?!

PS: I'm still blushing...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

If you have nothing nice to eat -

Today's post is an exception to the normal Monday-publishing schedule because it is part of Blog Action Day 2011.

I've always been complicated when it comes to food. People who know me only now (now that I am mature and grand and magnanimous) may *think* I am complicated - but I am the loveliest dinner guest, now that I've grown up. And I have my father to thank (I don't thank my father for many things, so you know this must be important). I believe in the "tough love" theory of upbringing. I believe in it because it works. It's not nice, it's not pretty, and it hurts a little - but it works.

I had issues with food all along. I used to eat nothing but chicken. The story goes that we went to the beach one day to eat fish - what else would one eat at the beach? When the waiter offered all the varieties of fish available, I asked about the chicken. He gave me a weird look, but my mother was quick to interrupt: "Yes, please, she will have the chicken-fish." And so it was settled.

One time, I guess I must have been about 7 or 8 years old, my parents, my little sister and I went to spend the weekend out of town. We had a nice apartment in a city on the coast, right on the beach, beautiful view, an hour away from our home. When we arrived, the neighbors were having a huge dinner party and kindly invited us - although we were not in their plans nor on their list. The hostess, who was very fond of me, in trying to be extra special, gave me a double serving. When I received my plate, although I was (and still am) a very, very polite young lady, I said, "Ew, that's, like, green soup-", I dipped my spoon in the soup and I could see millions of veggies and dead animals swimming inside it, "-and with vegetables? Uh, no, thank you very much. I am not hungry."

My father was so embarrassed, had it not been illegal to kill me, he would have (the host was a criminal lawyer... it was seriously a bad idea). He apologized on my behalf and whispered in my ear, "That was your last meal. You will learn what it's like to feel hunger."

You have to know something about my father: when he says something, he goes through with it. And although he might realize sometime down the road that he was, in fact, wrong, or exaggerating, or just plan mistaken, he will still go through with it. His damn pride.

It will be ok, I thought. I wasn't hungry anyway - I mean, who would be hungry after seeing that disgusting green porridge, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book? And I was sure that my mom would save me the next day. Morning came and there was no breakfast for me. Oh, whatever, I thought. I was still not hungry. Lunchtime, and no food for me. Now I was starting to feel it. But being my father's daughter, I kept it all inside me and didn't flinch. In noting my strength, my father decided to take us kids to a candy store to buy all we could hold in our hands. He never ever did that. My dad is all about saving money, not spending it. Guess which child came out with nothing in her hands - but also, guess which child did not shed a tear.

Dinner time came by and my mom sneaked a piece of bread and coke in my room. My father found out - I can still hear him screaming. The next morning, friends of my father's came to visit, and the wife sneaked me a sandwich. I was such a brat - I opened the sandwich and found tomato and lettuce. Although I was starving, I said, "Oh, no thank you, I don't eat vegetables." She was appalled. Offended. Surprised. In awe. Lunch again, and seeing as I was a little pale, my father accepted that my mother sneak me a normal veggie-less sandwich, which I devoured. At dinner, I was no longer able to stay awake, I was so weak. Seeing me, my father approached me and asked me if I would like something to eat. My eyes grew wide open and I almost smiled. He said, "You will be able to eat if you eat every single bit I put on your plate now." I agreed.

He came back with a huge plate: spaghetti with a lame Bolognese sauce, white rice, plantains, and a shish-kabob thingy. I guess he knew me well enough and loved me enough not to serve me a salad. I ate every single bite. I ate everything - but I have to admit that the whole time I was thinking, "Ew! Who eats spaghetti and white rice?!"

I was spoiled. I still am. I wish I could say that I have never ever again rejected a meal. I have. 20 years have gone by and I still say, "No thank you" when I don't like what is being served. I am, however, not as impolite as to say, "Ew!" I think it, though.

I don't think my father changed me. I am who I am, and I eat what I eat. But he did educate me. He gave me his own personal version of, If you have nothing nice to eat, don't eat nothing at all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I can't complain anymore

I got good news today. News so good, that I almost forgot that my heart is broken because the owner of the cat took away my cat. News so good that a friend of mine thought I was pregnant - no, not pregnant. Let's hope for a ring before we hope for anything further, yes?

So the good news - ready? I finally have the official, signed, sealed and delivered documents that make me a Masters student at the Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel. YAY! I get to begin my masters! Finally! Just in case you're wondering, it's called "English and American Literature, Cultures and Media." And it will be amazing.

But don't worry - not that you are worrying. I still have to continue with my German course. Some crazy thing about "When in Rome..." Only, for me it is more of a "When in Germany..." thing.

And so, because it was my huge dream and all, I ain't allowed to complain no mo'.

When it's too cold outside and I must be off to study, you may tweet me saying, "Suck it up, bee-otch, you can't complain, you wanted this!"

When I have too much to read and write, you may facebook-inbox me saying, "Whatever, dude, quit your whining and getter-done, you fought real hard for this!"

When I complain that the classes are too light or too boring, or that my classmates are too young or too stupid, send me a BBM and tell me, "Oh, bless your heart... but that was your dream!"

When I snooze way too many times because I cannot get myself to leave the bed at ungodly early hours in the morning, email me saying, "Nuh-uh! Get up, lazy-bones, you choose this all by yourself!"

So you need to do this for me, ok? Because, well, I will complain. I will tweet about it. I will update my facebook status about it. I will BBM my contacts about. I will email about it. And of course I will blog about it. And when I do so, you need to remind me of THIS post. Because the time will come when it will be too cold in Germany - and it won't even be winter. The time will come when I have too much to read, but I also have an apartment to take care of, and god forbid I don't take care of Honey... I will surely have one (I will be blessed if it is only one) classmate whom I will hate, or a class that I will dislike. I will have to leave un-showered to class more often than not... and surely that day will be cold, dark and rainy, or even snowy.

But I want this, I want this masters. You have no idea (or maybe you do?) how much I've struggled for this. It is my dream. It was my decision.

And that is why I can't complain anymore!

Monday, October 3, 2011

About a cat -

I really enjoy being at home. I have no problem at all staying home all day - I actually rather enjoy it. Especially when it is cold and gray and rainy outside (which in northern Germany could very well be every single day). But a few days ago, I have to admit it was actually pretty beautiful outside. So beautiful, in fact, that I made it a point to find an excuse to leave the house (because I clearly need an excuse to leave the house, right?). And so, I left.

But I only made it to the door. As soon as I opened the door to my apartment, a cute little tiny baby cat ran inside. My first reaction was, "OMG! I have a wild animal in my home. I should call the Animal Control Center so that they may handle this ferocious creature!" The poor ferocious creature was running all around like crazy, looking for something that he couldn't find. He ran into the living room, he ran into the bedroom, he ran into the kitchen - he ran everywhere, except outside.

This is the ferocious creature that invaded my home. Can you hear him roar?
The ferocious creature was stuck in the evil bathtub for about 10 minutes.

All I could do was stand there, looking at him. Surprised. Scared. I asked him (in Spanish), "What's up, lil' dude?" He looked me in the eye and said, "Meow". Not much of a talker, I noticed. I was afraid to hold him, because animals are dangerous and dirty. Right? And cats are particularly dirty, what with their Toxoplasma gondii and stuff. I know, because I translated the dossier for the reagent that tests for Toxo. But, whatever. The poor cat was running around like crazy, and he was dirty and surely hungry. So I fed him. I fed him the only thing I could think of: Milk. (Lesson No. 1: Do NOT feed a cat milk. Unless you enjoy cleaning kitty-poopy in the wee hours of the morn.) He drank his milk and meowed further.

Ferocious beast devouring milk.

At that moment, I realized that he was only a baby beast and so I figured I could hold him. He was so happy to be held. Furry little hair-ball. I was sure he belonged to someone - I mean, such a cute little monster had to belong to someone. But, to whom? I rang the doorbell in every single one of my neightbors' apartments, but no one answered. (The Germans have this crazy thing called "Work" that they go to during the day - pfft!).

And so I came to the most reasonable decision: The kitty was to stay with me, at least until Honey was home. That was not at all a problem. The problem was that the kitty wanted to eat. But what? What do kitties eat? And, was he really a kitten, or only a small cat? Because I've heard they need to be fed accordingly. But what? I tried carrots and an onion.  (Lesson No. 2A: Cats don't eat vegetables.) I tried  Corn Flakes and Müsli. (Lesson No. 2B: Cats don't like Kellogs thingies.) I tried bread. (Lesson No. 2C: Cats like bread.) 

The beast eating little pieces of bread.
After feeding him, I had no clue what I should do next. I mean, what does one do with a cat? Should I play with him? Should I let him be? Should I take him out for a walk? (Lesson No. 3: Answers for the above questions --> Yes, Yes, NO!

The kitty enjoyed playing a little...
...then he enjoyed sleeping A LOT.

Clueless, I sad down on the floor. The cat immediately climbed on me. Crazy thing, that cat was. I asked him something else (also in Spanish) and he ignored me; then I asked him in German, and he meowed. (Lesson No. 4: Cats speak the country's language.




My German mother suggested that I create some kind of kitty toilet. And then it hit me: OMG! I can't leave this monster alone! He'll poop in places I will never know of! And so I began to follow the kitty around (I was so grateful that my apartment is so tiny...), which was just an awesome Tag game for him. He won. But I exercised a little. Win-Win.

The temporary kitty-toilet. BTW, it didn't work...

Although we were having a lot of fun together, I could not help but think that this cat belonged to someone. And this someone was more than likely really sad, because his ferocious creature was lost. Still -- I was in love. He was my little bit of heaven.


When Honey came home, we made a decision: If in one week no one claimed the cat, it would belong to me (he said "us", but whatever). He bought cat food and kitty litter; I posted some FOUND posters; and then there was nothing else to do but wait... and play!





Unfortunately, the owner of the cat called early the next morning. He lives two floors below me. He opened his door only for a second and the cat stormed out. He was late for work, so he couldn't run and search for the cat. He could only hope that a wonderful, magnanimous, awesome person (like me) found it and took care of it. He sounded really sad on the phone. And when he came over, the stupid cat recognized him at once.

So, yeah. That is my story about a car. When I gave the cat back, I felt like a little bit of me heart was breaking apart. I felt like there was a hole being dug in my soul. But, oh, well. I guess all I can do it be thankful, that for one day, one day at least, I had a cat. 


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Culture Thingy

I'm one of the most jealous women I know. But (I like to think) I also have some class, so I'm not one to make a scene. I'm the type of jealous person who will disappear. Move to a new continent, perhaps. *hint hint* Also, I'm no longer a big party girl... two things which don't go very well with my party-loving-beer-drinking-salsa-dancing-flirty-boyfriend. Lately, though, in order for us both to  be happy, I have decided that, for me, the party is over when I want it to be over; and, for him, the party is over when he wants it to be over. That means that, in party days, I come home at 10 PM and relax and enjoy me-time (which lately means blog-writing-time), and Honey comes home sometime in this lifetime and falls dead asleep.

It's a very German lifestyle, and I'm not sure I like it very much. But I sure do appreciate having a little me-time, and not having to endure situations I don't want to endure. He comes home every night, mostly unharmed (I have to ask his permission to explain that), and we're both happy. (Sort of.)

I guess I'm growing up, right? Learning to trust and accept and all. Right?

Wrong.

There are many things about the German culture that I do appreciate. Like the fact that both subjects in a couple help out with the house up-keep, very much unlike my latino-macho culture, where a guy anywhere near cleaning utensils is immediately emasculated. But, at the same time, I dislike that the Germans do everything 50-50 style, like paying for rent and utilities and anything else together, half and half, much unlike my latino macho-culture, where his money is our money and my money is my money. I like that the Germans have plenty of friends and enjoy social life and have many extracurricular activities - so many, in fact, that you'd think the extracurricular activity is actually their job, and everything else, all the fun stuff they do, is their actual life. How do they have so much money all the time? But I do dislike that the Germans do things on their own. That is, one subject in the relationship goes out with his/her clique, and the other does the same with his/her group. (Do you like how I'm trying to keep this totally PC?) I hate that. And Honey strongly dislikes it, too. We enjoy each other's company, and we want to have fun together. A relationship doesn't work if I am nagging all the time because he came home late or didn't put the dirty dishes in the sink, or didn't bother to wash the darn dishes. I hate nagging. Everyone hates nagging. And so we try to have some fun together, as well.

That does not work out very well with our German friends, you know? They like the occasional double-date thing, but more often than not, they want a Guys' Night Out, without girls. Or at least without girlfriends. And forgive me if I sound a little old-fashioned, but I don't want any other girls around my guy, German or otherwise. To be perfectly honest, that last part was just my normal-girl-imagination kicking in. A German Guys' Night Out does mean only Guys. That's weird about the Germans - they don't lie. If their going to a strip club, they say it. I guess I gotta give them points for honesty...

We're settling in. We're doing our best. We're Colombian, but we live in Germany. We try to bring the best from both cultures into our lives and make it work for us.

Tonight, for instance, we have a private party. And next week, I have a girls' night out. We're thinking about going salsa dancing after some cocktails and appetizers. Honey said he'd show up later... which I think will be the best closing for my fun Mädelsabend. It might be time for our German friends to start getting used to our Culture Thingy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

If you want something done...

I know I shouldn't write when I'm bitter - especially when I'm bitter now, today, as I write this, and who knows when you'll read this. And then you'll think, "OMG, what a bitter person!" and that day, the day you read this, might be my most charming day. And you'll have completely missed it.

So just trust me on this one: I'm super charming.

But right now - right now, I'm kind of glad I am 8,765 km away from the people who I kinda want to hurt for being such careless, self-centered, selfish, mean, evil, stupid people.

*Whew* I feel better already.

We're all heard the phrase before, If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. I know it exists in English, Spanish, German, and some sort of version in Thai (which I, of course, can no longer pronounce). I bet you have it in your mother tongue as well (that might be interesting: write a comment on how YOU say it!). And we (or I; yes, I. I will take responsibility for myself and my silly actions) tend to just ignore it. I ignore it because it's one of those sayings, one of those sayings with everlasting and undying wisdom, but so clichéd that it is easily dismissible.

But it's true. And you know why it's true? Because no one will do something for you with as much love, care and attention as you would do it for yourself. Because only you care. Because it will benefit (or hurt) you. Because it matters to you. Because it's yours.

So let me tell you what happened... kinda. Because I want no hard feelings, so I will change places, names and events to protect STUPID PEOPLE's identities.

Someone needed something, and I was, apparently, the only one who could get that something for that someone. Actually, I was the only one who cared enough about that something, along with that someone, so that I would do it, and I would do it well. The thing is, I'm in Germany. The "something" was in the USA and the "someone" was in Colombia.

Oh, shoot. I'm doing a terrible job at changing places... Anyway.

You see, logistically, the situation was complex. But not impossible. Not impossible for me, because I cared. Because it mattered to me. Because it was important to me. So I bought the something, paid for it myself (that was before my Swiss Bank Account situation...) and asked for it to be delivered to people of my entire trust.


Those people are now the most untrustworthy people in the universe. Those people are just mean and evil and bad and irresponsible. And liars!


That was back in July this year. Because I trusted the US mailing system, and because I trusted the people, and because I knew they would fly to Colombia and give the something to the someone with no trouble, I relaxed and forgot all about it. That was entirely my fault. I will take all the blame. I am an idiot.


Today I remembered, so I sent a message to one of The People who were supposed to deliver the something to the someone. He said, "What?" And I was like, Oh, crap... And then I refreshed his memory and he said, "Oh, crap." Ha ha. Can you tell we're related? He said he did remember receiving it, but that he had no idea what that was, and that he had mailed it to his brother, in Ecuador. (Such an international something, don't you think?) I emailed his brother and he said, "What?" And I was like, Oh, crap... When I explained, he (the brother) said he had never seen nor received such a thing. I email one of The People again, and he said, "Oh, crap..." And I was like, Oh, crap... He said he'd lost it. I then asked, "Could it possibly be anywhere in your office or in your house?" He said yes, and told me to contact his other half, the other one of The People. I did. Can you guess what she said? She said, "What?" and I was like, Oh, crap... and then she proceeded to say that the something had actually never arrived.


So, which is it? Did you lose it or did you ship it to the wrong address or did it never arrive? I mean, pick   a story and stick to it. Right?


Dude, you might be thinking this "something" is either extremely big (a big huge marble statue as an anniversary gift to my parents) or extremely illegal and dangerous (an explosive device of some sort) or somehow immoral (a vibrator) or somehow embarrassing (my dirty underwear). But no. It was a manual. A plain, simple, boring, poorly translated manual that cost me $20 and that is now lost.

Lost because I didn't oversee the whole process myself. Lost because I trusted The People. Lost because when you don't do something yourself, it doesn't get done.

So now the Someone thinks I'm terribly irresponsible, is disappointed in me, and I have all the blame to bear. Which I do, I do deserve all the blame. But then again - why would Someone give such a simple task to a person living in another continent? I think Someone should share some of the blame with me.

In any case, let my disaster be a lesson for you. If you want something done, you really just gotta do it yourself.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What it will be like

Since I turned 23 for the fifth time, I have come to think a lot about what it will be like. What it will all be like. In the future, tomorrow even. What will it be like when I finally turn my real age (which, fyi, I have decided will be next year in Barranquilla. Stay tuned to learn what that "real age" is!), what will it be like when I turn 30 or 40 or 50... if I ever turn 30 or 40 or 50.

So far, I've come up with this:

I will be a tea-person. Not an Earl Grey sort of person, not a Darjeeling sort of person, never ever a Cinnamon spice type of person. But a tea-person nonetheless: peppermint, apple, cherry, wild fruits, but maybe not a mango-tea sort of person. I will be a tea-person, having one for every occasion, before I sleep, when I awake, when I face writer's-block (which is more often than I am willing to publicly admit), when I am stressed (which, thanks to my new life, is, like, never), and when I need to lose weight - which, if a woman is truly honest, will admit that it is every single say of her life. I will be a naked-tea-person, drinking my tea "naked", that is, no lemon, no milk, no sugar. Depending on the company, I may or may not be clothed. I will be a funny-tea-mug-person, and I will refuse to drink tea in old, grandma, expensive, embedded with gold, kinda cups. I want funny, cute or crazy mugs. And they shall be big. And I will be a hot-tea-person. Not sure if I will ever get into the whole Nestea deal or not...

I will be healthy. I mean, I will not be obese, but I will never, ever be skinny. I will always stay within my allowed BMI or whatever, and I will try my very best to not buy clothes that are too big or too loose, because then I will become "comfortable" and I will not be the healthy person I claim I will be. I will be healthy, because it seems as though I am unable to lose weight. And since I am OK with where I am today, I think this is what it will be like.

I will be a Ph.D.-holder. I will be. I promise. And although in my younger years (even today), I have sworn that when I get my Doctor Title I will tattoo it to my forehead to let everyone know what the proper way to address me is (Frau Professor Doctor Natalya Delgado Chegwin, fyi), I think I will have reached a point in my life when it will no longer be necessary to have that long, exclusive title. I think that by the time I get there, I will be happy to have people call me Nat. Or Nattie. Never, ever Nata.

I will be pleased with my life, and with myself. But I will continue to dye my hair. I will be a red-head, a blonde, a very dark brunette... I will be crazy with my hair because it will grow again - until it doesn't anymore. And then I will have learned my lesson. I wonder if I will then be a wig person. But as far as hair goes, I think I really don't have to worry about what it will be like. I know what it will be like. And one day, when I wake up and stare at myself in the bathroom mirror (which is made for Germans, so even if I am standing on my tippy-toes, I can only see my forehead!) I will have the same reaction I had yesterday:

"Oh, crap. I have a gray hair."

Oh, crap. Yup. That is what it will be like.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Secret Swiss Bank Account

I've been privileged, I can openly admit that. I have been free and independent and, yes, even a little crazy and wild at times. But I have been free and independent and crazy and wild because I've always known that I have a "pillow" to fall upon, should I ever need such a thing. Let's say, for the sake of simplicity, that I have a secret Swiss bank account. This is not a bottomless bank account that I access at any time; this is, rather, my safety net. I have only used it twice. Well, three times, really. The most recent time was earlier this year when I had an insurance "situation". This situation shall be another post... In any case, it was good to know that my secret Swiss bank account was there, ready to help at any moment, ready to be used. Since it's in Switzerland I pay no taxes, regardless of where I live or regardless of how much I withdraw. It is set up in such a way that it requires no deposits to be kept active, only a sporadic online check to make sure the account is alright, and for the bank to know that I have not died or anything. I have always known that if something terribly wrong happens, if my life is just completely gone to waste, if I one day find myself sitting on a sidewalk with my two suitcases and my passport with nowhere to go, this secret Swiss bank account was there to save me. This secret Swiss bank account was not meant to be used as a "cash card" - the withdrawals, although simple, fast and effective, require much paperwork and signatures and proves that I am me, the bank account holder, and that I do in fact need this money. Should I need a new coat, the secret Swiss bank account was not available. But when I needed help in paying for my colicistectomy, the very manager of the bank called to make sure I was ok and needed no extra help. And he called free of charge.

I've been privileged, and I admit it. It is easy to be free and independent and wild and crazy when you know you have such a wonderful safety net.

As of today, my secret Swiss bank account is closed. Whatever money I saved disappeared. The Swiss are weird like that. All my interests are gone. I spoke to the bank manager and he said, "Sorry," and hung up with no further explained. This time, the call was charged to my non-secret and tiny German account.

OMG.

As of today, I am poor. As of today, I have nothing. I think I have almost 10 Euros in my wallet, most of it in coins. I have a little money in my German checking account, but that covers only my insurance for the next 3 months and some "basic" needs.

As of today, I no longer have a safety net. I can no longer be free and independent and wild and crazy. I mean, no, yes, I am free and independent, but I can no longer be wild and crazy - because that just spells recklessness. And when you are poor, you don't get to be reckless.

OMG.

If something goes wrong in my life, I am alone. And don't roll your eyes at me, mother. I don't mean alone as in "I'll die alone". I mean financially alone. I have what I have, and nothing more. Yes, I have friends and I have a family and I have love and I have food in the fridge (because Honey is awesome) and I have clothes to wear (thanks to my mom I have a SUPER awesome winter jacket), I have certain luxuries (a MacBook Pro, an iPhone and a BB). I have many things, I have many people, but I have no financial security. I am, in fact, poor. And that freaks me out.

The bank manager kind of hinted that I was the one who chose to close the account; but I don't recall saying, "I wish to close my account, please." Not at all. I recall my account being closed. Certain actions of mine may have led to this situation, of my secret Swiss bank account closing, I mean. But I don't quite get it. And, well, because it was a secret account, I can't just file a complain, you know what I mean?

I am afraid. I really am. I have never thought of myself as a material girl. I have never defined myself based on the amount of money I have or don't have. I have never actually thought about "the future", financially speaking, because I have always known that was covered. That was the one thing in my life that was stable and good and clear and set. And now it isn't.

OMG.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Schedule


I have been told that my erratic publishing schedule (that is, my inexistent publishing schedule) makes it hard for my readers to keep up with the blog. Sometimes I publish all too often and readers fall behind; sometimes I have too long a break and readers forget to come back and check if something new has been posted.

So, in order to strengthen the loyalty of my current readers, and with the aim to gain the loyalty of new readers, I shall establish a publishing schedule: Every Monday, a new post will be published. I wished I could also state a time, but I don't want to make promises I know I won't be able to keep. But Monday, Monday I can commit to.

Yeah. That's all. Stay tuned for Monday's blog. I think it will be awesome.

*I hope*

Monday, August 22, 2011

True Story

It was in that moment when she realized that she had to make a decision. Right then and there. There was no time for stalling or doubting or waiting. A decision had to be made, and she was the only one who could make it. It had to be her decision, because it would change her life forever. Yes, it would of course also affect the lives of the many people who surrounded her, of the many people who surrounded her because they loved her - because they love her. Yes, their lives would also be affected by her decision; but they would not be woken up in the middle of the night with the question, "Did I make the right decision?" circling in their heads. Their lives would too be affected, yes, but with time they would forget, the pain would go away, the anger would fade, the incomprehension would wither. But not for her - no, most definitely not for her. This decision, the one that she was facing in this very moment, would transform her in ways she had not even become to fathom. This decision would shape her. A small part of her would die, yes, because she would have to give something up whatever way she leaned. To decide, said once a wise old man, is to renounce. The moment she made her decision she would be using her freewill to consciously renounce to something else. There was a bittersweet irony in this renunciation, however, because regardless of what choice she made, she would still be renouncing to herself.

Yes, in order to make her decision, she had to give up a part of who she was, she had to let it go, she had to succumb to what others wanted and expected of her. But that was also what she wanted. She wanted to please and be pleased, she wanted to love and be loved, she wanted to accept and be accepted. But life is unfair, thus both could she not have. And she knew that. And because she knew that, she was willing go give a part of herself up, she was willing to let go of who she was to become that which she was expected to become in order to achieve a little, just a tiny little bit of harmony.

But that was not the decision she had to make - that decision she had already made. The decision to give up a part of herself was made the moment she realized that she had to make a bigger, more important, more intricate decision, the decision that startled her right in that moment. Which part of me do I give up?, she asked, half rhetorically, half hoping, wishing, that someone would give her an answer. None came.

Which part of her should she give up? Her past? Or her future? Which part of her should she give up? Who she was? Or who she is? Which part of her should she give up? What she became? Or what became of her? What part of her should she give up? That which she loves? Or that which is loved by her? Is that not the same anyway? Is it not all the same? The past makes up the future, does it not? Who you were makes up who you are, does it not? What you become is what became of you, is it not? That which you love is also that which is loved by you, only differently phrased, with a varying emphasis, with an ambiguous direct and indirect object, with an exchangeable accusative and dative subject. It is all the same. But still, it is not. And one of it has to be let go so that the other may continue to be.

Yes, a decision has to be made. But how to make it?

And as she was there, standing in the long line, people behind her anxious to move on, she held her ticket on her left hand and her passport on her right hand, and she dared to ask, with no tears running down her face, yet one more question:

"Why?"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Have my cake and eat it too

I don't know why I used that phrase - I hate it, and I'm not sure I quite get it. But I'll give it a try.

Why must we (or is it only me?) have the need to have our cake and eat it too? Why can't we just let the cake be, knowing that the cake is ours. Why must we eat it?

To not make the analogy more complex than it needs to be, why do I want to get married?!

I live with a wonderful guy who loves me, who cooks deliciously, and who pays for all my expenses while in a foreign country (that last bit of information is sadly important, right?). Yes, we live in sin. But for all intents and purposes, we're married. Minus the document from the Holy Church. We do what married couples do: we sleep together (fully clothed, of course, just in case my parents are reading this!), we eat together, we go out together, we don't see other people, we don't behave ourselves inappropriately with other people; we go shopping together, sometimes I even manage to dress in the same colors as he (without him noticing, of course. When he notices, like every normal man, he freaks out!); we brush our teeth together, we cook together (when he cooks; when I cook, he's either not home or playing in his PS3, like any other normal man...); we argue, we quarrel, we sometimes don't talk to each other. We're normal. I think.

Still, I want to get married. When we were just going out, I was convinced that all I needed to be happy, was for him to call me his girlfriend in front of his family. He did this sooner than I expected. After that, I was convinced that all I needed to be happy, was for him to stay with me in my apartment once in a while. He did this later than sooner. After that, I was convinced that all I needed to be happy, was for us to move in together. Now we live together. And guess what? I'm not "happy".

I say "happy" because of course I'm happy. I love this man! And he loves me too. And we have a great life together. He likes being together with a writer and eternal student, and he supports me to the end. What else can a girl ask for?

A girl can ask for a ring. Because now I am convinced that, all I need to be happy, is for him to propose.

Funny, right?

Funny, because all I want is a document. A piece of paper issued by an institution in which I don't particularly believe, stating that we are committed to each other. Legally, I don't need it. Morally, I don't need it. Ethically, I don't need it. I want it. I want it. And that's the problem. I just can't let good enough be good enough. I have to have my cake and it eat too.

Why?

I currently know more happily divorced people than I know happily married people. Not to say I don't know happily married couples - I do. But I know a heck of a lot more unhappily married couples, or happily divorced people. I don't want to be a divorcée. I want to stay with one man for my whole life. And I want to have kids. And I want my kids to grow up with their father, like I did.

So, if anybody out there has a secret cure for ring-anxiety and can send it my way, I'd really appreciate it. Not like I'm in a hurry or anything, since Honey has announced that he has NO PLANS of getting married anytime soon. And the only thing that scares me more than being a Bridezilla, is being a Bridezilla with a guy who has not asked me to be his bride! AGH!

Who knows. In the meantime, I will just lay back and enjoy the wonders of living in sin. Living in sin, yes, but with a guy who loves me, and whom I love. Love can't be that much of a sin, right?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fear of heights, you ask?

When a conversation begins with, "Do you have a fear of heights?", you should already know that whatever comes next is not going to be good. Unless you have the opposite, some kind of acrophilia. Neither are my case. My answer was, "I have fear in general, but not specifically of heights..." --and I should have left it there, but I proceeded to ask, "Why?"


I was then invited on a climbing trip to a Kletternpark, or Hochseilgarten. Of course I said yes, because I was sure Honey would say no; it was to be on a weekday, and Honey works. In my mind, it was a perfect plan. Only that Honey took the day off and, before I realized what the heck was happening, a couple of days later a young, handsome man was asking my name while attaching my harness, my rope and my carabiners.


"You do speak German, right?", he asked, because I was not answering any of his questions (which were, "How are you?" and "What's your name?").


I nodded and looked away again. I looked at what I would be facing the moment he was done dressing me.




Crazy German idea of fun... But all the Germans were so excited, and I was not about to be the scardy-cat Colombian. No siree! I put on a huge smile and pretended to be brave. On level 1.


They have 8 levels, 8 being the hardest. I began with level 1, and did ok. Being that it was my first time EVER climbing and jumping around in the air (always less than a meter over ground), I was screaming in fear.




Level 2 was better, although scarier. This time I was all the time at least 2 meters above ground.


Level 3 should have been my last one, but the group wanted to climb one more, and I was not about to sit down and wait for them all bored and lonely... so I went to do number 4. Unfortunately, there was a long line - but 5 was alone. All alone. Waiting for me. Calling my name. Enticing me. Evil 5.


So we went ahead, two Germans (Meria and Mareke) and me. Meria went ahead first, she is so brave. When she thought she had gotten to the platform, she looked down and said, "Woo-hoo, I made it!" But we burst her bubble: "You still have a long way to go! Look up!" Dude - she still had an eternity to climb. But she did it. Tall Germans.





Then it as my turn. As I was on the second step, Mareke said, "I don't think I'll join you up there - it looks too scary.| Pfff!! Puh-lease! I told her to not be chicken.


 She was a chicken.


In retrospective, I should have been, too.


So I climbed.


The Number 5 course has the most obstacles, that is, it is the longest. Ish. So there comes a moment when it is not so much fear of dying that paralyzes you, but rather total exhaustion. Muscles you had no idea you had ache - and your body weighs a thousand million kilos. Damn German chocolate...


Everything was ok until I got to this obstacle:




This is the point where I am no longer scared but rather tired. And I am so tired, that I let the two KIDS behind me go ahead. The first one, a boy about 10 years old, runs by. Like that--swoosh. Like he had no idea that one can die in these kinds of things! Then a girl, about 10 - she was very polite and asked if I didn't want to go first (chicken!!), she said she could wait. I told her I just needed a few minutes...


Then my turn came, and I did the first thing EVERYONE tells you NOT to do: I looked down.


Look, the only way you know you have a fear of heights is when you look down and feel a very specific fear that paralyzes you as you stand there, facing a possible imminent death 17 meters below you (which of course I will SWEAR was more like 170 meters) and  hanging only by a lame, tiny, totally unsafe rope and carabiners (which, of course, are totally safe).

Yes, I should have said. Yes, I do have a fear of high heights.

I began to cry. At first, only cute little tears. But also, I have recently discovered I suffer from hysterical laughter - so I started to laugh hysterically. I call down to Mareke and ask her to bring a coach-person-thingy to come save me. She runs. From a million meters under, a man yells something unintelligible. Then Mareke replies on my behalf, "Her name is Natalya." He says that there are two choices and proceeds to explain them - for the life of me, I have no clue what he said. When it looked like he was finished, I yelled, "Do any of those options include you coming up here?" He said no... so I let out a huge cry, which of course sounded like laughter, so he laughed. He was kind enough to say he'd climb right away...

So there I am, a gazillion kilometers above ground, hugging a tree, and I realize how ridiculous I look. So now I am not only crying due to fear, but also due to shame. And my muscles hurt, so I am also crying due to pain. That was the only time I was happy to be so far away from civilization. No one really saw me crying. 

A thousand hours later, the guy finally comes to my rescue. Martin. He goes over the two options again, and now I understand them:

1) He will lower me with a safety rope blah blah blah - I stopped listening because my fear of heights kicked in. And I cried.

2) He will climb this and the remaining obstacles with me and blah blah blah - I stopped listening because my fear of heights and my embarrassment kicked in. And I cried more.

But then there was a new option:

3) He will stay on the platform and talk me through this obstacle so that I may go ahead and blah blah blah - I stopped listening because my fear of heights and my embarrassment and my pain kicked in. And I let out a sorrowful yelp.

I think I scared him a little. 

And then this was my reasoning:

Option 1 will not work because I will die in the lowering process. No. Option 2 will not work because - look again at what I had to do:



I had to walk through these wood thingies. And I thought, when I get on the first one, it will swing. Swinging means falling, and falling means death. If the both of us get on the wooden thingy, it will swing more and we will die faster. Yeah - no.

And Option 3 was not going to work because, OMG, I was in so much pain, the idea of having to continue was just excruciating. Might I mention that I was not even half way through at this point, but I was at the highest point of the whole climbing park thingy.

But then I also realized that I had to get a grip on myself because people were waiting to experience the super fun of having near-death experiences!

So I said, I can do it. And I started to cry again. And I continued to be paralyzed. So much for action words.

I said again, I can do it. I looked down. Started crying again. Continued to be paralyzed. Hated myself a little.

I said again, I can do it. 

Martin, by the way, was super cool and super sweet and not at all patronizing. The best coach-person there. 

With this last "I can do it", my foot climbed on the swing and, as expected, the thingy swinged and my whole body was brought onto the swing. This was, of course, melodiously accompanied by my shrieks, which I am sure could be heard in China. Once I was safely on the wooden thingy, still screaming, Martin congratulated me, and I began to cry hysterically, my tears making the people 17 meters below me wet, I promise. And my hysterical cries made me laugh hysterically, and poor Martin didn't know what to do, so he laughed uncomfortably. Honey, 17 meters below me, was being the most supportive boyfriend in the world, telling me he was so proud and he loved me so much. Mareke was also encouraging me. Even Hendrik and evil Nicole (this was all HER idea!!!) were cheering me on.

So there I am, like the lady in the picture above - hanging on to dear life. Laughing and crying. 

And completely paralyzed.

I could not move. I could not go on. I could only laugh and cry. 17 meters above ground, laughing and crying hysterically. 

What a sight.

Somehow I was able to regain movement and slowly, but surely, began my way through the Level 5 hanging obstacle course.

It was scary. It was terrifying. It was a horrible experience. I am afraid of heights. I was in pain for 3 days afterwards. I don't understand how people consider this fun. 

So, Nicole, when are we going again?