I spent the weekend in Heidelberg with my two life-long girlfriends who flew in from Spain and Greece, where they are teaching English. It was so fun to spend time with them in my old hood :p
So I started singing in a choir a few weeks ago. Then one day at rehearsal they said, “Hey, we have an extra spot for this competition thingy. Who wants it?” I didn’t have anything to do that weekend, so I said ‘I do!’ Well, two days later I was sitting in a chair getting professional hair and make-up and rehearsing for my German TV debut! We competed in the semi-finals of the ‘Best Choir in the West’ competition on public TV haha. It was really fun. There was catering and a green room and a tour bus. The high life. We got out unfortunately but I was just along for the ride. It only took me three months to get on TV in this country– a sign that I’m a true star? Perhaps… ;p Then again, I’ve never made it on American television. Maybe that is my next goal!
The Christmas markets are here! This is easily one of my favorite times in Germany. They make the cold, dark weather more bearable– dare I say fun, even. I walked around a few different markets yesterday with my fellow students, sipping Glühwein (hot mauled wine) and eating no small amount of unhealthy treats. Below are a few photos. Hope your Christmas celebrations are off to a great start!I love the little old grannies in the right corner. They always dress so classy here. Inspiration.A beautiful tree in front of Lamberti church. These wreathes hanging from shop archways are probably my favorite decorations in town. Germany does it right, folks.So many adorable trinkets, so little money! What’s a girl to do? ;pThe main street in town. How gorgeous?!This stuff is addictive, let me tell you. I will be sad when Christmas is over…might have to look up a recipe so I can drink it in January! Also, why am I the only one wearing gloves?!!!!Please note I am wearing two pairs of pants and two hats…yes, I am a wuss when it comes to cold.I always find myself wearing all black in winter. How very European of me.
My hands turned red approximately one second after this photo was taken and never really recovered.Love this row of colorful houses. Can I have the middle one, please?Glove hand problems. I need to get some of those digital gloves that you can touch your phone screen with!Home again, warming up.
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?
Many waffles were consumed.
Thanks to Melinda for the pretty photos 🙂
October. It’s here.
Part of me welcomes October with open arms, but another part of me is very nervous to begin this new season.
I feel like a school girl on her first day, all nerves and jitters and freshly pressed clothes. I even bought a new backpack! Ha. Is 23 is still young enough for a hair bow?
I am nervous to meet so many new people at once. It’s tough on this introvert. But I am also so excited to be surrounded by people my own age and in my same stage of life for the first time in over a year. It feels good to reference something pop-culture-y and be understood right away. Or to hang with my female roommates in the kitchen for hours after a meal.
There is something so intoxicating about Fall. The leaves, the air, the scarves. I just bought a new scarf yesterday and I haven’t taken it off since. I am a bundle of emotions right now, but at least 99.9% of them are positive.
Welcome, October. Let’s do this.
Spain really reminded me of California and made me excited to see my Golden Coast in a few short weeks 🙂
Spending a bit of time in the south of Spain with my brother and a few friends. My high school Spanish is a bit rusty but I am trying! I loved visiting the Mesquite Cathedral here in Córdoba and seeing the intersection of Christian, Muslim and Jewish architecture in the city. So cool!
Amsterdam is so hip. Honestly, I almost didn’t feel hip enough to be there!! It is such an artsy, whimsical city filled with friendly, cool people. I am a fan. The only downside is that I contracted Strep Throat while there! Lame. At least I could suffer in a beautiful place 🙂