Happy New Year!

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetHappy New Year! Two days in and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be a big one. My head spins when I think about all the things that happened in 2018- finishing my Fulbright, moving to Texas for the summer, meeting my boyfriend, moving to Muenster for grad school, making many new friends, etc. 

I read that January is a hard month for many people. It is dark and cold without holiday festivities. Plus, there’s the feeling that you can change things about your life with a fresh start to the year, but often those changes or goals go unmet early on.

This year I am keeping things simple. I want to knit a scarf, read a book a month, keep up with my homework more consistently, and a few other small things. I hope that I can continue to create healthy habits that will last throughout the year.

Have a happy start, friends!

Muenster, Texas

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetYesterday we took a quick detour to stop in Muenster, Texas, a small town in the middle of farm land that was settled by German immigrants from Muenster, Germany (where I study) in 1889. It was so fun to see German heritage in my home! Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Happy Thanksgiving

a-charlie-brown-thanksgiving.jpgAnother year, anther missed Thanksgiving. Oops! I always miss home terribly this time of year, and I can’t wait to celebrate full force in future years. I will be a forced to be recognized with as I try to make up for all my missed celebrating! Below are a few things I am thankful for:

  1. A family that loves and supports me
  2. A sweet boyfriend with a great reading voice and rockin’ mustache
  3. The opportunity to use my mind in the classroom and further my education
  4. The chance to experience German culture
  5. Coffee. Always.
  6. My health
  7. My bed that is always there for me with open arms
  8. Old and new friends
  9. Chocolate chip cookies
  10. The chance to experience life. Cheesy, but true. Very true.

Enough.

On Wednesday night, a gunman shot and killed 12 people at a line dancing bar in Thousand Oaks. I have been to this bar. One of the victims was a student from Pepperdine, my alma mater. It’s finally up close and personal. It was only a matter of time.

People have been saying, “I can’t believe it could happen here. I never though it would happen in a community like this.” But that’s the thing. It does. It will. It’s always someone else until it’s you. Your family. Your friends. Your life. No community is immune in this country, and we have to stop feeling like we are.

We need to stop sympathizing for ‘the others’ and start doing something NOW, because we could be next. And I don’t just say that to scare people, although it is scary. I say that because it’s the absolute truth. The cold, hard truth about our daily lives as Americans.

I’m tired of the cycle: outpouring of sympathy on social media, the president’s condolences, then sitting back and waiting for the next shooting in a week or two.

It’s not right. I don’t want more posts or more prayers. I want gun control. I don’t want to live in a country where I could be shot and killed at any second for no reason at all. Currently, I don’t live in a country where that happens. I remember someone saying to me before I left for Germany, “Are you sure it’s safe over there?” HA! It’s not safe in America, and it’s foolish to think otherwise.

Regardless of how you vote– we should all be pro human life. And we are losing human lives left and right. We lost 12 on Wednesday in Thousand Oaks, 90 per day, 35,000 per year to gun violence. This phenomenon won’t just go away. We can’t just wait it out. What’s it going to take to change? 100 lives lost in one setting? 200? 1,000? At what point does out government stand up and fight for its citizens? At what point do they say ENOUGH.

I am tired. I am disillusioned. I’ve heard every side of every pro-gun argument and I will never be convinced. I am in mourning for my university community. But most of all I am angry. And ready to do something.

Nationalism vs. Localism

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I am an American. Nothing has made me more aware of this fact than living and studying abroad in Germany for an extended period of time. I am growing increasingly aware of how much my nationality matters and, conversely, how little it matters in the big picture.

In my studies, we are currently focusing on the concept of nationalism– a buzz word if ever there was one in our current media. I get asked about Trump on a daily basis (in the grocery store, in line for the bathroom, in my own home), and the topic of nationalism is never far behind. Germans are hyper aware of the dangerous sides of nationalism because of, well, history. You’d be hard pressed to find a German flag waving from a front porch, or to hear the national anthem sung in a public place. So naturally, I have begun to ask myself the questions: is nationalism always bad? Can it be good? And how does this newly emerging term localism factor into the discussion?

I read a New York Times article from columnist David Brooks that shed some light on the subject. He says:

Though we’ve moved around a lot, my family has a clear home base. If you start at East 15th Street in Lower Manhattan and walk two miles south, you will have walked by where my great-grandfather had his butcher shop, where my maternal grandfather practiced law, where my father lived during high school, where I went to elementary school and where my youngest son now attends college. That’s five generations within two miles. I feel a magical attachment to that neighborhood. The blocks and street names enchant in my mind. And yet I have to say my strongest attachment is to the nation, to the United States. You could take New York out of my identity and I’d be sort of the same. If you took America out of my identity I’d be unrecognizable to myself. What does this national attachment feel like? It feels a bit like any other kind of love — a romantic love, or a love between friends. It is not one thing that you love but the confluence of a hundred things. Yes, it is the beauty of the Rockies, but it is not just the land. It is the Declaration of Independence, but not just the creed. It’s winning World War II and Silicon Valley, but it is not just the accomplishments. It is the craziness, the diversity, our particular brand of madness.

Like Brookes, I feel a fierce attachment to and pride in my American identity. And yet, I also notice how I often distance myself from America in conversations about certain topics while abroad– “No, I don’t agree with America, I’m not like that!”

Writer Taiye Selasi proposes another approach. She speaks to “multi-local” people, who feel at home in many places. “How can I come from a country?” she asks. “How can a human being come from a concept?…my experience is where I am from. Instead of where are you from, what if we asked, where are you a local?”

This concept makes sense to me on some levels as well. I feel a deep attachment to certain places in America: the California coast with her rugged cliffs and Red Wood trees, the corn fields of Iowa where we spent holidays driving tractor and combine, the hot planes of Texas where I ate BBQ and attempted to understand the rules of football. I have no deep attachment to all fifty of the United States. I’ve haven’t spent much time on the East Coast or in the North West or the South West. I have, however, had experiences all over Germany– in Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Hildesheim, Weinheim, Münster. And yet, to say I am a local of Germany above an American still feels odd and lacking in a major way. I can study here in Germany, but my American passport and the fact that German is not my mother tongue prevent me from gaining meaningful employment after graduation. Can I really be a local of a place that prevents me from participating in that crucial part of life we call career? Sure, I have dear friends here, but the fact that I did not grow up in the German school system excludes me from understanding so much of their common experience on an intrinsic level.

I’m not sure I could ever do away with the concept of nationality completely and replace it with localism or vice versa.

Perhaps the trick to strike a meaningful balance between the two. To validate overlapping experiences that create a richer identity than any single one could on its own. To rob someone of their American identity is to rob them of shared history, culture, and collective community. But to confine someone to the label of their country– to ignore their localized experiences completely– is equally dangerous. Nationalism has been one of the great sources of joy and stability in my life, and is what allows me to move comfortably though this wide world in many ways. But too much, or a tainted strain, can prove dangerous.

I am an American. I am a local of Germany. I am many, many things. We all are.

So I ask you: Where are you a national, and where are you a local? And what do your answers to those questions reveal about you?

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