normalcy

This past month, upon my departure from Germany and arrival back in the US, has been about returning to normalcy.

It’s kind of funny – when I left Germany it was certainly in the midst of Autumn and definitely on its way to Winter, as evidenced by the reclaiming of the fashion known by my friends as “how many layers is she wearing today”. When I arrived in Texas, it was still Summer (although there was a “cold front” that blew through decreasing the temperatures to a level that is an absolutely beautiful Summer day per German standards); I wear shorts and t-shirts outside and I wear a fleece and socks while inside. It’s November. It’s November and I don’t have to wear a coat or even a jacket, while my Stuttgarter friends had their first snow while it was still October. Whew, glad I missed that one.

But leaving Stuttgart, leaving my friends and life of two years was hard. A wonderful group even went with me to the airport crazy early to send me off … and made me cry. I miss them. I miss sharing life with them. I miss their assumed presence nearby, even in the world of instant communication via Skype, Facebook and text messages.

But upon re-entry into American life, I wanted to hide away. I didn’t want a big show of anything or proclaimed enthusiasm, even genuine enthusiasm. I just simply wanted to get back into life: getting auto insurance, finding a part-time job while I *attempt* to finish my thesis, and finding/applying to a long-term career.

These sorts of things seem to take much time. Suffice it to say, I am not driving illegally without insurance, I finally have a prospect (one out of many applications) for the part-time position, and I have been invited by the United Nations to the next level in their hiring process. So things are working towards normalcy … however, my productivity has significantly decreased for my thesis. This is not good.

And, to add to the fun, my 28th birthday was a couple of days ago. To lessen the amount of people that would post a ‘happy birthday’ message, I privated my birthdate on Facebook. It was just my way of quietening the world from chatter.

This week, I really need/want to finish that thesis. I’m tired of it looming about, both directly in front of me and in the background. I’m ready for that part to be over. It’s like it’s that thing that is preventing a real step forward into and beyond this new phase of life.

On the plus side, I get to work-out regularly at a fitness club; cook dinners for my sister and I; shower in a place larger than a meter by a meter and without a klingy curtain; enjoy warmer temperatures; and spend time with my sister while I stay in her house. So besides stress from thesis and being jobless and careerless, life is okay.

persona non locata

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I don’t much fancy when things are uncertain.

There has been a common theme while back in Texas highlighting an ever-constant question: ‘so you are going back to Germany, but then what?’ I think I prefer being among people who are similarly without a clear direction (i.e. back in Stuttgart) because we know that there are questions not so easily answered as asked. I suppose it’s similar to the well-known statement: misery loves company. But I’m not miserable; in fact, this period in my life has been one of the best – a time to explore, to play, to learn, to befriend, to laugh, to be quiet, to be active (and for those who keep asking out of concern for me, ‘to love’ does not get added to the list – I am not marrying a German nor in that process with any nationality).

My first time through university life I pretty much skipped. I was lost in my own head and working full-time and schooling full-time. I wasn’t looking for a social life, and honestly, I probably couldn’t have handled one either. Now? Now, I quite enjoy being in the place I am in … maybe besides this persona non locata thing I’ve got going.

Thesis-ing is my main priority at the moment (i.e. the last couple of months and for the next few months) – how else is there going to be a ‘then what?’? But then … uhhh … hmmm … I have a dream job identified, but cannot begin the process of trying to make it a reality until that Master’s diploma. And I’m beginning to feel a queasiness associated with the concept of loving the idea of plan A so much that there can’t be a plan B. Maybe living in the present is the best way not to hyperventilate at the thought of the future.

life continues

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Thus began my last semester of my German graduate school program – the last of four semesters – a tiny chunk of my life in comparison to the rest of it. It seems especially weighty (the fact of the “last”) because I am not in Germany, and so truly marks the end of something wonderful.

This final semester of the international master’s program of infrastructure planning at the University of Stuttgart is dedicated specifically to the research and production of a singular paper – Thesis. So, due to cost and availability of English literature, I am back in Texas. Literally, in this moment, I am at the university library in San Antonio, doing research (kind of being productive 😉 )

Besides for the shear boredom of sitting for 7-8 hours in the same chair, at the same table, looking at black text on page after page, book after book, I really quite enjoy what I am doing – mostly, or entirely, because my thesis topic is my choice. I am interested in the subject; this is the direction my life is headed and has headed; this is where I want to impact the world: Redevelopment After Urban Disasters.

Disasters happen throughout the world – natural, technical, civil strife. Disasters rip apart life, society, and the physical environment. I want to help heal that. And I really want to do that in developing countries.

So, will I go back to Germany? Yes, but only for a moment to present, finalize and submit my thesis (and graduate), just like I am in the United States for a moment. I deeply enjoy and feel comfortable in the States and European metropolitans, but I am a wandering spirit. I love traveling; I love experiencing and being engrossed in other locations, other cultures, other lives; I love finding “home” wherever I am. I want to be where I am needed.

And so life continues. And life will continue into the unknown and unplanned at the end of this year. (I do have “plans” that consist of desires and hopes and expectations … but nothing solid, which is a point of minor anxiety. But alas, c’est la vie.)

not there

So yesterday was 11 September 2011, 10 years from one of those days that a story (is story accurate? event?) circled the globe. I know many people wrote about remembering that day and the people who were killed either by an attack or in the act of rescue. Facebook posts were full of the “where were you when…” responses. Even my church back home did a remembrance video with clips & gorgeous music (a wonderful gift of that worshipping body: music), as I am sure many, many other churches did the same sort of thing (or at least with the same end goal).

But me … I am glad I was not there – glad I was not even in the U.S.

I realize that must sound strange, maybe even … I don’t know … like I’m hiding from it or just don’t want to deal with it. But for me, there really isn’t an “it” to deal with.

Yes, I remember where I was when I first heard about the first plane crashing into a World Trade Center tower. I was a sophomore in high school then, and I remember that I was in my computer science class, which meant we had TVs in the room, internet access with lots of computers, and a laid-back class & teacher so that we sat there watching the coverage. But I only remember this because society told me to. “This is a life-changing moment.” “The U.S. as we know it will change.” “Years from now, everyone will remember exactly where they are and what they were doing when this happened.” So, like a good little girl, I remembered.

It’s like me remembering when my dad died. I am not good with dates or chronology, but I knew that people would ask (especially in the months to follow) when the accident happened. I can’t tell you what day of the week it was and I wouldn’t know the date except I found a memory technique to help me remember the numbers … basically, I cheated. But the date itself doesn’t hold any emotive value for me. Neither does my birthday, but that’s off topic.

For me, 9/11 almost never happened – though I know it did. It’s like seeing pictures from war zones on someone else’s land. It is so far away that I don’t feel involved. Geographically, New York is quite far from south Texas, and then, I didn’t know anybody who even lived there; I wasn’t close to any active duty military or firemen/police/medics. The sub-populations that were directly affected weren’t in any of my sub-groups. The events of that day didn’t affect me or impact my life (besides now the fun times at airport security and the current wars … still though happening out of my sphere). It was like watching a movie, that once the reel was done, it’s all over and back to life as normal without a second thought.

So why am I glad not to be in the U.S. for that day of remembrance? Because I feel like if I would try to explain myself – why it doesn’t bother me – and that those very words might be misconstrued as an attack on a person’s sense of fight for freedom. I know that sentiment is strong among my kinsmen, but my thoughts, well, ‘them are fightin’ words’ and more than likely offensive or in the very least appalling. That day just wasn’t a life-changing event for me. Sorry. I know there are many of whom that it was. Death and evil are a terrible facet of life that sometimes feels just down right unbearable. There are many in our world who have those types of life events on a more sad/cruel repeating interval. Why doesn’t the world stop for them?

not here

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I miss him.

It’s not even every day that I think about it. It’s just sometimes.

Right now, I think it’s because some good friends are planning to come visit me (and Germany in general) in a bit over a month from now (!), and my sis came to visit last Christmas. I greatly value that. There is something powerful about shared experiences. I am grateful (and have told her several times) that my sister was able to visit me in India (as well as Germany) because she could know where I was coming from and how my surroundings change me, and there’s a unique language to it all that is hard to understand without that reference point.

All of this leads up to the thought, the desire that my dad could vacation with me as well.

I miss him – I just miss him.