Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some food for thought

At this stage in the program, I feel like I am floating. I have two academic weeks left, and a lot of work, but am finally settled and happy and enjoying life. Instead of stressing out about work (2 papers, an art project, and 4 exams...) I have instead chosen to prioritize in the order that makes me happy-- in which, sometimes, social life comes first. (That included going to an indoor water park last Sunday-- how cool is that??) I am happy with my decision because I like my friends here and who knows when I will see them again, and also because my grades here don't count back at Brandeis towards my GPA (Thaaank goodness.) I have, however, received really good grades despite the fact that everything is in German!! (On my midterms: 2 A's, 1 A-, and 1 B+. Not bad, right?)
My feelings about Germany and the German culture vary all the time. I can respect their ability to keep order and maintain little spheres of privacy, but I resent how uptight that makes them. I can respect their chicness but then that means all the clothes are expensive. I can respect the pride of the German language, but it makes it hard to not be talked down to as someone who is just learning it. Everything hangs in a balance, which is true everywhere, I suppose.
Within the last couple of weeks, I have become more immersed in the art culture, thanks to my two really cool classes (Modern Theater and Art and Architecture.) On Wednesday, my drama class saw a production of a play entitled "Mein Kampf" written by George Tabori. The play is a farce that creates a situation of "what was Hitler like in Vienna? Before he was Hitler? As a failed artist?" and it takes place in a hostel for the homeless where he encounters two men who sort of baby him and help him out-- he is painted as spastic, on edge, vulnerable, and weak. The audience has no choice but to laugh at him. Tabori, however, weaves in foreshadowing extremely skillfully, to create an REALLY EERIE feeling and sensation for the audience-- we, who know what is to come. In one sense, I believed that the show exhibited modernity; sort of a "look how far we've come, we can poke fun at one of the scariest people who ever lived" but it somehow balanced against the feeling of "how in the world can we make this horrible horrible person seem so trivial?" either way, it was extremely provocotive and well done. I would recommend it to anyone.
For Art and Architecture we went to an exhibit yesterday entitled 60 Jahre Deutschland (60 Years Germany) of works from 1945 until 2005. Apparently the exhibit, which was arranged in Cologne, is extremely West-Germany leaning, and a lot of East German artists aren't represented. Regardless, it was a really cool experience to come at an exhibit having already seen a few of the works and have learned about the artists beforehand. Thanks to my German History class, I was able to provide (in my mind) some context for the paintings. The paintings, and time periods, so much matched the mood of the time, that it was a really interesting experience. It ranged from artists who wanted to start new in the late 40s, and create something far far away from the war, to artists who would push the boundaries of the abstract, to artists that skillfully blended what we knew with the possibilities of other types of thought. All in all, it was a really interesting exhibit. There is definitely a severity to German art (and hey, all of German culture) that was captured in the art. Some of the pieces, I couldnt look away from. Some of them, I couldn't really understand. But the ones that were 'figurlich" enough for me to "get", I was mesmerized.
Another example of academics influencing real life-- I am writing a paper about "Jewish People In Germany Today" for my Multikulti class (I know, tiny topic, right???) and it is making me realize just how small and separated the Jewish population in Germany is. I have seen ONE kosher store in my 3 months here. I rarely ever see Hebrew or even a Jewish star (except for the jewish cemetaries, I suppose. We went to one on a field trip that was built in the 1800s, it is such a beautiful, calm and peaceful place. It is the one thing we've learned about Jewish people here that came BEFORE and had nothign to do with the Holocaust. It was a really different experience than I was expecting.) It really made me miss being around other Jewish people-- there is a personality that is attached to the religion and the lifestyle. I believe that I have always taken it for granted. I feel like I am sort of dampening that part of myself (unintentionally, of course) because I can't find counterparts in anyone here. Honestly, I didn't think I'd "notice" or " be bothered" that I was one of only 3 Jewish students on our program. (The other two students are both of German descent, so they have a connection to this country that is different from mine.) We did a passover seder, which was fun. It didn't feel not genuine, but it didn't feel fully realized either. I am excited to get back to being around Jewish people-- family and friends. I am pretty sure I've taken that aspect of my life far too much for granted.
While I am on the subject of what I miss-- I miss horseback riding more than I ever thought I would. I don't think I've gone more than 2 months away from horses since I was about 8 years old. I am going through extreme horse withdrawal-- I have taken to watching videos on Youtube of dressage masters doing their Grand Prix Tests and their Freestyles and just watching them in awe. (Recently, I met a girl on our program who rides at home and admitted to doing the same exact thing!!!! One day we might combine forces, watch some videos, and cry together hahah.) But this withdrawal has made me way more motivated for my return!! I am going to the gym in chicago daily and also horseback riding on whoever I can ride (If Wy is sold, great! I'll ride Savannah.) When I get back to Boston, I want to ride daily and work at the barn-- I will have a month to prepare for my show. I will be doing 4th level again, but a higher test (probably 4-2) on Pizzazz. My goal for summer 2010 is to do a PSG test with him. If I play my cards right and get an internship for the spring semester, my goal is to extend it the whole summer so I can continue to ride and compete with him before coming home.

That is all for now!
Your motivated, homesick, artistic friend Maia :-)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Entering and exiting the slump

I suppose its similar to the sophomore slump. But shorter and more intense, and (thank God) easier to end. It all began with my weekend (Last Wednesday, May 20th) that included being stood up, playing third wheel, and lots of mopey time. The week that followed wasnt much better: I couldn´t sleep more than 5 hours a night, and the night I finally did, my alarm NEVER went off and I slept through the ONLY class on this program that I am NOT allowed to miss. It was frustrating.
This weekend, however was much more successful. It was another long weekend (no class on Monday.) It included one night of clubbing, a couple of low key days, dinner with my host family and a former student of theirs, and lots of trashy tv. I bought a beautiful dress that is family appropriate (read: no cleavage) and it super summery and old fashioned. It is true what they say, that whole "retail therapy" concept. It is healing. This week is starting off well--the weather is shining and I have a lot of plans with new fun people to look forward too.

One little "this only happens in Germany" tidbit: my host mother has electric handheld pepper and salt grinder/server things. Not only are they super over the top, but when you start to grind salt or pepper onto a salad or a plate, a LIGHT turns on. There is a LIGHT at the end of these things! So nuts. Gotta love German technology.

A couple things I miss: my family, free water at restaurants, Potbellies Subs, grilled cheese sandwiches, my horse, going to the barn everyday, seeing familiar faces.

That`s all for now,