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Guille

The short life that changes your life

Tosca, Buddy, Punky, Santi, Pon, Frijol, Noname… the list of names of dogs that I remember living with us is way shorter than the actual number I could have kept. I feel a bit embarrassed for not remembering them all but they were many and I grew up surrounded by them and saw them as a normal ocurrence in life… but they are much more than that.
Those dogs that were there when I arrived, that were there when I left, as part of the daily things I knew, some that were old when I was young and some that aged and died while I was still young, I wonder if they ever wished for more than we could give them. They were there to take care of the house, to help us whenever we went to the forest for wood, to play now and then, they were sometimes the only companions I had to hold on to when things weren´t going so well, I wish I had known a bit better how much they mean, but you know what they say: „you only know what you have…“
As I grew up and faced the world and the things that change when you leave childhood behind, I started to understand the deep meaning these dear friends have, the lovely paw print they leave in your life, the way they change who you are. I have read more than once that every child should have a dog, and it is a statement that only those who have a place in their heart for such a friend will really understand – be that friend a dog, a cat, a horse, everyone knows what fits them better – and be able to agree that some of the greatest lessons in life come from someone who can´t say a single word.
Years ago, when I was a little kid, there was a TV show I was familiar with. Once I saw the whole family in the show crying and getting ready to attend a funeral, I was shocked to think that probably the daughter of the couple had died – since father and mother were seen -, however I felt more shocked when I realized it was their dog that had passed away. I just couldn´t understand the extent of their loss, I was used to seeing dogs come and go, being born and die, my parents had taught me that every animal in our almost-farm house had a purpose and function, and no animal had the function of being a friend. As time has passed and family and friends are somehow falling into the past and becoming more memories than presence, now that life has become a new way of seeing and feeling, I find myself holding on as tight as I can to a paw that the same softly touches my hand than opens a whole in the garden, a little buddy that often pushes me away if I try to hug him, but licks my face and jumps like crazy whenever I come back home even if it´s been only minutes since we last saw each other.
There has been the long debate on whether animals really understand us or not, whether they love us or just see us as part of their group or simply as the beings that feed them; I, of course, don´t need to read explanations or hints that point towards this or that, I just need to open the door when I come home to get a clear sign that the little one I love also loves me. May it be so, may it be not, I find it the only possibility.
We sometimes say that life is too short, but then you realize how shorter THEIRS is. If you are lucky you spend a bit more than a decade building up a relationship that comes with no financial or material benefits, maybe the inicial reason to get a dog was the thought that you wanted someone who needed you, but on the way you realize that it was you who needed them… which might sound selfish, but on the realms of your relationship with them, that may-be selfishness disolves into your long walks in the dark, in the cold, hours in a room worried whenever they get sick, cleaning up after them without feeling any disgust even though you usually can´t even see a dead bug on the ground. You try to be for them what they are for you.
They come into your life and earn a permanent place, they teach you that words can be easily substituted by a moving tail or head, they make you feel that they care about you, even if they might have never been able to tell your name from other´s.
And over the years, through good times and bad… through ups and downs, they will be by your side, as happy with an expensive toy as with a stick, as long as you are the one holding it. A silent partner… the first one to greet you at the door when you come home, the one who stares at the same door the day you leave to face your own destiny and your mom tells you that he stayed there for hours. They are the little ones who, as long as you treat them the way they deserve it, they see in you the best company, the greatest being. They are the ones that don´t expect you to change your dressing code, your table manners. They are the ones that let you know a different way of happiness and are the happiest just being with you.
Not expecting that you change who you are, they actually change you forever.

Stolen memories (parts I and II)

Some old record playing in the room interrupts the silent night, slow music fills the place with a melancholic touch of rhythm and peace. A small round table takes up the center of the room and a delicate figure of a slender woman sits on it. Courtains flow with the wind, the glass door that leads to the balcony is open and lets the voice of crickets and owls enter the room and mix with the music. On the wall to the left of the door, a sober couch with a blanket on top, next to it a stand with a lamp, a telephone and a book that awaits for a reader to sit again to continue the story. Opposite that wall, two old-styled chairs facing each other, a tea table with service for one, and a glass shelf with beautiful ornaments made of silver and a golden trophy make up the rest of furniture. No pictures can be seen, only naked walls that contrast with the familiar feeling that the music offers. The apartment on the second floor of a three-story building surrounded by trees and bushes is just the place for someone who looked for peace and quiet.

Suddenly, a dark figure breaks the inanimated state of the room, a masculine shape that opens its way through the courtains. Slowly, trying to figure out what his next move should be, a man appears and examines the sorroundings. Black pants and a black long-sleeved pullover help him comouflage with the night, sneakers conceive the sound of his steps, leather gloves cover his hands. His eyes move from right to left, it is hard to say if he is looking for something in particular or for anything at all, he seems to be around his late thirties, a three-day beard and the icy eyes give him an eerie look. Before he can walk any further, a scream and the noise of porcelain breaking as it hits the floor let him know he´s been seen. On the other side of the room, a woman stands with her hands over her mouth, as if trying to hide her own voice; her eyes wide open and her body stuck to the door… a door that, she will regret immediately, just closed as she tried to step back.

For a second neither of them moved. It seemed as if even the music had stopped. As soon as she could put her mind back together, she tried to turn around and open the door to escape, but her nerves kept her from succeeding. She faced the man again and while pointing at him with her shaking finger, she ordered him to leave or otherwise, she would call the police. Her trembling voice barely made it out of her mouth, thick walls made it improbable that any of the neighbors would hear her. Even though she had little to nothing to do with them, she hoped they´d hear and maybe arrive and help her, but the truth was, ever since she became a widow and moved in and left the house she had shared with her late husband, she had tried to keep her situation and story for herself, avoiding contact with the rest of the world as long as it was possible.

“Please, don´t be scared…” the calmed voice of the man contrasted with the moment, he didn´t seem to be nervous or scared, he didn´t react like a thief who had just been caught breaking into a house. “I beg you to forgive my careless actions, I understand that you are so scared, but please let me explain. I am just looking for my cat, Aki… he ran away again, it´s the second time this week.” The woman felt overwhelmed by her feelings: part of her just wanted to run away, part of her was intrigued by the man´s words and tone… and yet another big part of her mind was simply too confused and shocked to actually do anything other than stand and stare. “You see, even if you want to call the police, if your apartment is like mine, and I think it is, the only phone in these houses is the one in the living room… the one to your left. My name is Evan, I also live in this building, well, I just moved in a few days ago.” The woman´s face didn´t seem to convey a positive reaction, so the man went on: “If it makes you feel better, let me give you a tip, instead of dialling 145, you should try 555 333, that way you´ll reach our police station directly, instead of the central, it happens that I am a policeman myself. In any event, I will leave now, I don´t want to scare you. Please excuse me, I feel terrible for having caused trouble, but Aki is my only company and you know, I won´t forgive myself if he´s lost, my wife loved that cat.”

Evan was just leaving when he heard: “Why are you wearing gloves?” He turned around, the woman was still standing with her back against the door, but her body seemed to be a bit more relaxed, her voice also reflected more curiosity than fear: “I mean, if all the things you said are true, why are you wearing gloves?” Evan smiled, as if the answer was so simple and clear: “Well, it seems like Aki does not feel too comfortable with me yet, ” he took one glove off and showed some scratches. “He will fight, scream, scratch and run whenever he does not feel like accepting that now we only have each other. The thing is… he is not really mine, he is my wife´s cat… I mean, he was, or…  I don´t know… it´s just one more of those things that don´t make any sense. She would take care of him and he, in return, often followed her wherever she was. It´s not that I don´t like him, it´s just that maybe we are too alike and we both tried to gain her attention, and now that the link that made us kind of enemies… I´m sorry, I should really leave.” Once again he turned around, but as he tried to leave, the woman spoke, even taking a step forward: “I am Caroline, please, wait a minute.”

END OF PART I

 

 

Caroline came forward and extended her arm, Evan came also towards her and they shook hands slowly. „I am sorry, I should have thought better before just jumping inside, it has been a foolish mistake.“ Evan spoke while he held Caroline´s hand, she smiled timidly and agreed that the situation was less than appropriate, but added that they could maybe still make something good out of it. He thanked her, she picked up the broken pieces of cup and plate and put them next to the door. Meanwhile Evan looked at the shelf, amazed by the details carved on the trophy that held the place of honor among the other delicate pieces that Caroline kept there. „I am sorry, that you have lost your cat, I will look around, I guess I would have seen him already, but that does not mean that he isn´t here, you know how well they can hide.“ Evan turned around, took a deep breath and replied with saddened voice: „Seems like not even a cat can stand me nowadays.“ Caroline felt moved not only by what he said but also by the way he said it, she could see it was really hurting him, so she invited him to stay and have some tea… his cat would probably come back or be found the next days, in any event, it didn´t make much sense to go on looking during the night. Evan thanked her for her kindness and trust and said that he was actually quite tired and that would love to have a cup of tea, Caroline opened the lower part of the shelf where the trophy was and took a couple of cups and plates out, then she asked if was tired because of his looking for the cat… he replied that he didn´t mean phisically tired.

As they sat together conversation flowed easily, as if they had known each other for long. They discovered that their stories were fairly similar: both had lost their beloved ones in car accidents, neither of them had kids, and both had decided that a new, smaller house would have to do, since the bigger one felt just too big. „They say that it is a matter of time, that even though pain will never stop, it will eventually subside“ said Caroline, „ that you learn to deal with it, that it is just the way it happens to be. Some people learn quickly to face the truth, some take a while and some just don´t do it at all. I still don´t know where exactly I am.“ Her eyes were fixed on an empty space of the wall as she spoke and held the cup of tea between her hands. „I guess that is still a set of questions I will have to ask myself too.“ Evan replied and also found it hard to look at the person across the table. After a moment of silence, he tried to go on with a different subject: „I have to ask about the trophy and the other things on the shelf, are they all prizes you won?“ Caroline poured tea again and asked Evan with a sign if he also wanted, to what he nodded. „The silver figures are just something I bought for reasons I cannot understand. I saw them in an ad and thought I could start collecting something… don´t ask me why I chose silver, maybe I thought they looked gorgeous, maybe I imagined that that would be something to invest my money and time on… truth is, after the fourth piece I realized I hated them, and the fact that they cost quite a bit didn´t seem to make me proud of having them nor dumm for having paid those prices. As for the trophy, well, that is a different story. It belongs to Jack, but it is not a prize he got in a competence or so… he rather earned it; he wasn´t a man who loved sports or competitions, so it just makes sense that he got it because of his great heart. He used to try to help every person he could do something for and it happened that one of those persons was our former neighbor, Mr. Rose, an elderly man who had nobody but his old dog, Santi, with whom he used to walk around the streets in our block, we got used to seeing them before the Sun went down.

We saw them year after year, side by side, slowly going by the sidewalks and corners, the scene was as common as the sunset and there was something both melancholic and poetic about such love at such age. But as it happens with everything in life, it changed when the poor old dog got sick and wasn´t able to walk anymore. His owner didn´t know what to do, he didn´t want to just see his dog lay there until death came. We wondered whatever happened, why they weren´t there for a while, so my husband visited them and once he knew what was happening, he took them to the veterinary, where they heard that the dog was too old and sick to walk more than a few steps per day. Jack couldn´t accept that as the last alternative, so he bought a wheelchair and modified it so that he could put the dog on it and walk with him and Mr. Rose. They did that for over two months, faithful to the usual ritual, Jack was there for both of them…until the day when the dog died. It was a heartbreaking experience, but also a beautiful one.

A few days after that Mr. Rose got the trophy, had it covered in gold and the words ´real hero´ engraved for Jack. He said that Jack gave him hope when it all went downhill, when he himself couldn´t do much for his little friend, it brought Jack and me to the edge of teary eyes, Mr. Rose followed Santi not long after this.

Well, that was jack, a real hero… I wish I were as brave and fearless now, when I have no idea what to do with the things I feel, when I am in the middle of nowhere.“ Caroline spoke, and even though her voice was loud and clear, somehow it sounded very far away, Evan heard in absolute silence and only dared let a sigh escape once she made a pause. „That is a beautiful story,“ said Evan, who seemed to be really touched. „I can only imagine how satisfied you are with the way your husband acted, and even though I can´t say that I understand what you are going through, I feel your pain… by that I do not mean that I know how you are feeling, but that I can tell you are hurt. I guess nothing can ease your pain, just know that amid all the darkness, there´s some light whenever you decide you want to move on… and that is a feeling that will come at the right moment. I suppose it is hard to believe now, but I also think that deep inside, something tells you that you can try.“

Evan´s words came out as if he really felt them, and even though they were practically two strangers, Caroline did find some comfort after hearing what he said. „I am not the right person to give you advice, we barely know each other and I cannot say that I am the most righteous person, but what I mean is… I have learned that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, even if that doesn´t seem right at the moment, it is a thing about living and surviving… I really don´t know what I am saying anymore.“ Evan seemed a bit uneasy, „Is that Don Maclean singing now?“ he asked, maybe to change the conversation and with that, the mood. „Yes, it is. I´m glad you know it! I love oldies… The Beatles, The Foundations, Everly Brothers, you name the band. I just don´t feel like all these new singers and bands fit in well with the atmosphere my oldies create, actually I have a lot of discs around and that I am proud of!“ she said as she smiled to emphasize her statement. The plate she had put on the table was empty, so she stood up: „I will be back in a moment, I think I still have some cookies left… maybe you want some? I mean, if you want to stay a little more…“ Evan smiled and nodded. Caroline took the plate and the tea pot and left the room.

She returned a few minutes later with a shelf on which a plate full of cookies and a steaming pot tinkled rhythmically. Once she entered, she simply put the shelf on the table and felt how her body was too heavy to hold itself together… the glass door was open and the courtains floated with the soft breeze again… Evan was gone.

A thought, sudden and fast like lightining, crossed Caroline´s mind and she quickly looked at the shelf where the silver figures and the trophy were… she feared that her inicial fears when she saw Evan inside her house had just come true. A mixture of disappointment and relief ran through her as she saw that the trophy was still there… but the silver figures were gone. She put her left arm around her waist, as if hugging herself, the right hand over her left shoulder completed the hug. Was she really disappointed or was she rather sad? She didn´t know, she didn´t feel like thinking about it. She knew that, for whatever reason, she wasn´t mad… it was something else, something that had to do with the trophy being there while her collection of silver figures was gone.

She looked at the broken pieces of porcelain that were still on the floor and a bittersweet smile came to her face. She walked towards the door to close it, telling herself that she would try to remember to do it every night. Before closing it, however, Caroline walked into the balcony and took a look around, where she knew she would see nothing… she only went back inside the room when the music stopped.

END

 

Moving out pain

Since just a few days ago I moved out, I had the chance to live again
the helter skelter of the things that happen before, during and after
the big date… sweet Lord, the beauty of it.

I will spare you the details of the interview with the owner of the company who finally
offered the lower price to do the job… but as just a quick note I’d like to say that
rumor has it he´s still telling the story I interrupted after one hour
of patience.
I had to hire a company because seemingly the amount of
friends one has is inversely proportional to the size of the chore you want them
to help you with, lucky me! Well, to be honest, four of them would have helped,
but two were in Prague, the other broke his right hand and the last
one was to become a father around the same weekend I needed help. Lame
excuses if you ask me, but what can I do… next time they might say they can’t help because I poisoned them after they didn’t help the first time. Never mind.

First things first: BOXES! Your life turns into a one-way road, your
mind and thoughts are about one thing and nothing more: finding boxes.
You buy furniture and devices that you actually don´t need just to
dump them and save the boxes. Asking at the funerary if the dead guy
really needed that box was maybe not a good idea… I think I let my emotions take over.

Once you have your whole life inside boxes – this is actually an
interesting situation, when you realize how much you have and carry
with you – you have to make sure everything has been marked so that
you won´t have to wonder whatever is inside this or that box… but at
the end you are so tired and sick of doing and repeating the same
thing that you just put whatever inside whichever box you have
closest. Later you will realize that Sherlock Holmes himself wouldn´t
be able to help you put the pieces back together.

Once you have loaded the truck and driven to the new building, you
can only guess what type of treatment your valuable things are
undergoing while you wait for them to arrive. Some light will be cast over your doubts when you unpack
the kitchen boxes and instead of plates and glasses you find so many
pieces that you wonder if that was actually the box where you put your
puzzles… at least you find some peace in thinking that you won´t
have to wash up for a while.

Getting your furniture up to the room is also and adventure, it is
then that you notice how much those guys carrying your things actually
know. You let them know that the stairs are too narrow and that the
sofa will probably not fit, however they let you know that due to
their experience and given the correlation space-time-gravity and
considering Newton´s laws – I swear they know about that stuff – they
will make it fit very easily. Two hours later your sofa is a
three-piece set, the walls are scratched like they were carrying cats
instead of furniture and the guys blame it all on you… they also swear they told you
the sofa would probably not fit, but you insisted!

At the end of the day, after having paid two times as much as the guy
had said at the beginning – he insists he had explained that the prices he
gave you applied only if you were a student, between 22 and 23 years
old, born in Tanzania, married to a latin girl who lived in Alaska and
your last name was Pichiruche… too tired to even argue, you cut your
losses, count your blessings and just feel that the worst is behind
you. Yes, the worst is behind you, except you notice that you left the
keys inside some box… so… good luck with that.

New flowers in an old garden

As my dog runs around the garden of the apartment we just moved into, I feel the soft touch of the rain and smell how the earth gives off its esence back to heaven. The owner has been cleaning the area and cut a couple of small trees whose branches don´t seem to have hold fruit for a while and just lay as a reminder of long-gone springs. He promised he would clear the green area, but hasn´t had time to do so. Weed has grown to such height that I can only guess it´s been a while since someone took care of this piece of land and I notice that ivy has invaded most of the walls that sorround the garden, while moss grows secretly between cracks and stones.

I had not come down until now, this is the first time I set foot in this place, and even though my clothes and goods still await inside boxes all over the rooms, I let this moment take me back to a time when I didn´t feel the need to rush… a time when I didn´t have a cell phone in my pocket, no computer to check my mail, no keys to open doors, no cards to pay debts and consume, a time when things were less complicated.

My dog chews the branches of a little tree they cut recently and seems so busy and happy with it that I don´t want to take him back into the apartment, where I have a thousand things to do and very little time to get them done. Walking around the small garden I discover a nest that has probably fallen from one of those trees they cut, there is a tiny blue egg that has been cracked by some animal; this image reminds me of some of the things that happen when we humans run into nature and leave our print around: usually bad news for wild forms of life.

I see a row of ants carrying leaves towards their house and I smile while memories of following them to the entrance of those holes made me imagine becoming so small that I would fit in there and think what it would be like if I could walk around as one of them inside all the chambers and rooms. On the right wall a yellow bird comes to greet, its song sounds rather sad and I wonder if that is the mother who left the nest when the tree hit the ground, but I conclude that that would be too much of a coincidence, what do I know. The day isn´t as sunny as the ones we have had this week, but I am thankful for that, otherwise the smell of spring would not have hit me so heavily to take me to those places I had misplaced in my mind, not that I had forgotten them… I had simply not visited them for a long while.

Dandelions grow freely around, since nobody has done something to keep them from spreading, the yellow flowers have covered most of the ground. They are a very strong connection to the mornings when my mother told me to water the plants again and again, even though I had just done it… back then I didn´t understand that she just needed to keep me busy while she washed our clothes or cleaned the house. Later she would realize that asking me to water her flowers actually back fired, since I came with shoes and pants so wet and full of mud that she had extra work to do, I wish I had known better.

My dog barks and it takes me back to present day in Aachen and I remember that I have a lot of work ahead of me; however, I decide that I will try to take care of this garden, neglected by every person who lives here. I don´t really know what I will need, I don´t think it will look as good as the one my mother had, but at least I will try. This place deserves a chance most students cannot give it, but I understand, what student has time for flowers, grass, birds and ants? There are many other things that are much more important… right?

Welcome spring!!!

27. April 2015 | von

Hello spring… you just happened to arrive at the right time, when the Sun is shining and the trees are sweetly blooming. But don´t worry, weather is so nice in Germany… especially in Aachen, ask anybody!!!

In all honesty, many say they dislike the weather around here, that is no secret, but I found a quote by John Ruskin – an artist, educator and philantropist – really can help us keep a positive perspective towards those things we cannot change: „Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.“ This comes in handy not just as a way of forcing you to believe something or trying to convince yourself that the opposite of what you see is true, it works because by means of understanding that our environment is of challenging nature, we can face new situations as exactly that: a challenge.

It is interesting to see how we humans tend to do some things that are usually performed by wild animals. I mean, just look at the streets and parks, how they slowly turn into vivid spaces full of people, people who are out just for the sake of being out! Not so much about shopping, not so much about eating or drinking. The gift of seeing that yellow disc in the sky – what was its name, again? – we come out of our shelters and start a new type of life in which people seem to smile more, they seem to enjoy a simple walk, fresh air and that strange feeling of warmth that comes not from wearing a lot of clothes but from that still-don´t-remember-the-name thing that shines. To say it in fewer words: people seem to be in a better mood… weeell, except for those who work in restaurants and similar places, since they now have pretty much twice as much work. Working in a hotel and seriously disliking it, I found it awful (work-related awful) that spring came, but for those who liked the job, it meant more chances of making better tips. Sometimes it all comes down to a point of perspective and preferences, and as I mentioned in a previous post, you don´t have to excel at everything, you don´t have to be the best always and people saying that, no matter what, you should always try to be on top of the hill, well that only makes sense if what you are doing is exactly what you want to do, what brings you joy, what makes you feel satisfied.

Getting up early, studying daily, exercising, eating healthy food, these can be difficult deals, but maybe you can turn them into an easier task if you see them as a way to prove yourself that you have the will to change things you want to, little steps, you know what they say.

The one you were…

05. März 2015 | von

It´s been a week since I came back to my country… one more left before I return to Germany. This is the second time I came since I left to live in Europe, only this time I only have 15 days to see and do as much as I can. First things first, so I stayed with my family before going around to visit the touristic areas, after all, this is vacation time here… time to enjoy, but also time to meet with this pain that experts call “reverse cultural shock”.

In a few words, reverse cultural shock is the feeling that, after being away from home for a long time, the place you return to does not fit the image you kept in mind, that the place you know and love does not exist anymore but in your memory and since the image we have in our mind barely changes over time, it remains kind of frozen. That means that the fact that we are not there to see the new houses, people, streets, etc. makes us lose awareness of the fact that most cities, people and lives in general tend to evolve over time. This is particularly hard to take when we think about the images we keep of family and friends and how their faces, their color of hair, their features and those things that time tends to leave its print on have changed without us being able to adjust. One does not notice gray hair from one day to the next one, but the process of aging flows with time and we can flow with it, unless we leave for a year or so and then come back expecting to find something that just does not exist anywhere else than in pictures and memories. There is even the shock of being seen as a foreigner by those who arrived to your city while you were away and never knew you, which only deepens the feeling of not belonging.

The stress of relocating to another country and moving back and forth can be particularly complicated if you don’t speak the language, and according to some experts homesickness can have similar symptoms to depression. In extreme cases it can lead to panic attacks, and can also result in social withdrawal, sleep disruption, nightmares, and concentration problems… for me it means been there, done that. There are other aspects to consider, like the fact that those places you used to visit are maybe not safe anymore due to criminality or social issues, that the back-then empty fields are now overcrowded, that others members of your family or friends have also left the city, etc. These impressions are usually shared by those who have been absent for a long time, but for those who only took a short trip and especially for those who have always lived in the same place these thoughts sound as an exaggeration or are just too hard to fully understand.

Some particular things have a kind of mean ability to trigger homesickness: a song, a smell, even a word we hear. For those who have been there and felt it, it´s easy to feel identified and understand the power of memories. In order to feel prepared to „fight“ back and to feel a bit more in control of our emotions, social psychologist Dr Gary Wood advises people suffering from homesickness to write down three new things that one has been grateful for every night, as well as three things one is looking forward to every morning, in order to have a clear idea of what one can achieve and what one has become over time, but sometimes seeking professional advice is necessary, because the feeling of loss is just overwhelming and our capacity to adjust is not up to the test.

These days have brought a mixture of happiness, sadness, missing what was and cannot be again, even the feeling that I miss the place where I currently am and the fear that departing will be much more painful than „expected“… if that is a word to use when talking about pain. To sum it all up, I want to quote a couple of lines by Alberto Cortez, a very famous singer from Spain, in one of his most beautiful – and painful – songs he sings: „un corazón sin distancia quisiera, para volver a mi pueblo…“ –> I wish I had a heart without distance, to be able to return to my town.

Growing up means learning to say good bye…

26. Februar 2015 | von

When we are children we all are a bit of everything… astronaut, doctor, singer, TV star… growing up means having to give up on many of those dreams. This is certainly sad, but in a way, learning to say bye to those ideals also means that we learn more about ourselves and try to find our path. Days come and go and with time flies a part of our fantasy, as we are expected to become realistic persons who try to fit in this machine that our society moves on. These thoughts come and go every year, which is especially hard to take when the combination of memories and proyects seems to overwhelm many of us. Changes are now and then unnoticeable, you see yourself in the mirror and cannot tell the difference between today and a month ago, and then it turns out that over the years, without warnings, the face that looks back at you isnt the one you had in mind and you wonder „when did that happen?“

As I read once: „One should not pull the tiger´s tail… but if you already have it in your hands, dont let go.“ I cannot remember how many times I have been standing in front of crossroads and wondered what the next right move could be. The truth is, sometimes you just have to go ahead and follow what you are feeling, maybe without a plan, maybe taking a risky turn, just following your mind or heart. As time goes by, you might look back and wonder whatever you were thinking when you made X or Y decision, but it is important to notice that most of our decisions are based on something that exists in the moment we make them and it often happens that circumstances and thoughts change over time, we are not today what we were one year ago, thoughts have changed, our situation too, there´s maybe a bit more of sadness or happiness… so it is unfair to blame or punish ourselves over moves we made, after all we too, same as our environment, change.

It is quite probable that we will regret many of our decisions, particularly those the make in a rush and while sometimes it means that we didnt plan in time, other times life does not give you the chance to prepare an answer and you are only left with your hunches. Maybe we dont know what it is what we want, but we usually know what it is that we do not want, and that is not little information! Even though it has been said thousands of times, the value of the phrase: „we´ll regret rather those things that we didnt do than those we did“ continues to be true quite often. Your train of life might seem the same from day to day, but thoughts and lessons learned remind you that you have come a long way.

Want to start that crazy project but the numbers dont add up? Want to go there, where your dreams have been born? Maybe, just maybe – and I say this as someone who really wonders himself – all you need to consider is if that project, that trip will make you happier. Too much analysis of certain things take away the wonder they come sorrounded by. Some things are meant to be drawn and meassured before becoming true… those are the ones that tend to give you what you need, some other things are just meant to be done… those are the ones that tend to give you what you want. Growing up means learning to say good bye… but it does not have to mean giving up on the things we long for. Like Robert James Waller wrote: „Today I cherish, tomorrow I dust.“

Stolen memories

15. Februar 2015 | von

Some old record playing in the room, slow instrumental music fills the place with a melancholic touch of rhythm and peace. A small round table takes up the center of the room and a delicate figure of a slender woman sits on it. Courtains flow with the wind, the glass door that lead to the balcony is open and lets the voice of crickets and owls enter the room and mix with the music. On the wall to the left of the door, a sober couch with a blanket on top, next to it a stand with a lamp, a telephone and a book that awaits for a reader to sit again and continue with the story. Opposite that wall, two old-styled chairs facing each other, a tea table with service for one, and a glass shelf with beautiful ornaments made of silver and a golden trophy make up the rest of furniture. No pictures can be seen, only naked walls that contrast with the familiar feeling that the music offers. The apartment on the second floor of a three-story building surrounded by trees and bushes is just the place for someone who looked for peace and quiet.

Suddenly, a dark figure breaks the inanimated state of the room, a masculine shape that opens its way through the courtains. Slowly, trying to figure out what his next move should be, a man appears and examines the sorroundings. Black pants and a black long-sleeved pullover help him comouflage with the night, sneakers conceive the sound of his steps, leather gloves cover his hands. His eyes move from right to left, it is hard to say if he is looking for something or for anything, around his late thirties, he´s neither young nor old, a three-day beard and the icy eyes give him an eerie look. Before he can walk any further a scream and the noise of porcelain breaking as it hits the floor let him know he´s been seen. On the other side of the room, a woman stands with her hands over her mouth, as if trying to hide her own voice, her eyes wide open and her body stuck to the door… a door that, she will regret immediately, just closed as she tried to step back.

For a second neither of them moved. It seemed as if even the music had stopped. As soon as she could put her mind together, she tried to turn around and open the door to escape, but her nerves kept her from succeeding… she faced the man again and while pointing at him with her shaking finger she ordered him to leave or otherwise, she would call the police. Her trembling voice barely made it out of her mouth, thick walls made it improbable that any of the neighbors would hear her. Even though she had little to nothing to do with them, she hoped they´d hear and maybe arrive and help her, but the truth was, ever since she became a widow and moved in and left the house she had shared with her late husband, she had tried to keep her situation and story for herself, avoiding contact with the rest of the world as long as it was possible.

„Please, dont be scared…“ the calmed voice of the man contrasted with the moment, he didnt seem to be nervous or scared, he didnt react like a thief who had just been caught breaking into a house. „I beg you to forgive my careless actions, I understand that you are so scared, but please let me explain. I am just looking for my cat, Aki… he ran away again, it´s the second time this week.“ The woman felt overwhelmed by her feelings: part of her just wanted to run away, part of her was intrigued by the man´s words and tone… and yet another big part of her mind was simply too confused and shocked to actually do anything other than stand and stare. „You see, even if you want to call the police, if your apartment is like mine, and I think it is, the only phone in these houses is the one in the living room… the one to your left. My name is Evan, I also live in this building, well, I just moved in a few days ago.“ The woman´s face didnt seem to convey a positive reaction, so the man went on: „If it makes you feel better, let me give you a tip, instead of dialling 145, you should try 555 333, that way you´ll reach our police station directly instead of the central, it happens that I am a policeman myself. In any event, I will leave now, I dont want to scare you. Please excuse me, I feel terrible for having caused trouble, but Aki is my only company and you know, I wont forgive myself if he´s lost, my wife loved that cat.“

Evan was just leaving when he heard: „Why are you wearing gloves?“ He turned around, the woman was still standing with her back against the door, but her body seemed to be a bit more relaxed, her voice also reflected more curiosity than fear: „I mean, if all the things you said are true, why are you wearing gloves?“ Evan smiled, as if the answer was so simple and clear: „Well, it seems like Aki does not feel too comfortable with me yet, “ he took one glove off and showed some scratches. „He will fight, scream, scratch and run whenever he does not feel like accepting that now we only have each other. The thing is… he is not really mine, he is my wife´s cat… I mean, he was, or…  I dont know… it´s just one more of those things that dont make any sense. She would take care of him and he, in return, often followed her wherever she was. It´s not that I dont like him, it´s just that maybe we are too alike and we both tried to gain her attention, and now that the link that made us kind of enemies… I´m sorry, I should really leave.“ Once again he turned around, but as he tried to leave, the woman spoke, even taking a step forward: „I am Caroline, please, wait a minute.“

END OF PART I

A small place for latinos…

13. Februar 2015 | von

Just a short note about this place called „El Sencillito“, a small bar and dance floor where you will enjoy latin music and some nice drinks. Whether you like latinamerican rhythms or you are a latino yourself, chances are you will run into nice people and conversations. This is not the only place, nor is it particularly beautiful, it is, as its name suggests, sencillo (simple, easy) but that actually adds to the cozy feeling and atmosphere. You can even learn salsa, bachata and then some, since there are courses for different levels. I have only been there a few times, but it is definitely a place to visit and to remember whenever you are looking for a different experience in Aachen. Not far from Rathaus!

El-Sencillito Salsa Caffee * Salsa Club * Salsa Bar Mostard Strasse 15   D-52062 Aachen

Those cold Germans!!!

02. Februar 2015 | von

In keeping with the tone I had in my last post, I would like to talk about a popular belief, one that we have heard over and over, especially when talking about people who just arrived, be it tourists or new students: Germans are cold people, sometimes even rude.

Whenever I hear someone say these words, I feel like I am getting punched in the stomach, and I feel the need to fight back by saying something to let people know how far from the truth this statement can be… after all, it is nothing but a stereotypical sentence that, as it tends to happen with stereotypes, is all about lacking real knowledge.

People seem to mistake being careful and reserved with being cold. Based on my own experience, German people can actually show a great warm heart that moves them to help totally unknown people for the very sake of doing what they think is right. Granted, it can take some time for foreigners to earn a place in this society and while that happens, Germans might move carefully around us, they might want to know exactly what they are getting into, not wanting to feel too involved before they know you well. Once they get to know you, probably you will be nicely surprised by the kind words and actions you will be the object of, but even when they barely know you, you might run into people who offer you a friendly hand without questioning the whole story of whatever you are going through.

I dont talk just from a subjective point of view; rather, I recall the times when I have received a humbling lesson on selfless kindness from those people others find joy in discrediting with senseless preconceived ideas. I have experienced this kindness, and by talking about it I am not trying to paint them under wonderful colors, I just want to pay homage to those who deserve it… even if they will not read about it.

The first example that comes to mind is that of one of the darkest nights I have ever experienced: I had arrived just a couple of months earlier, I had no friends, no idea of whatever my life would become, I had no real place to call home, and the only person I had to talk to wasn´t around to hear what I had to say… and how far from everything I had known to be my life I was. Aachen is kind of a small city, but when you are feeling lonely, it can be a whole world that seems to get bigger and bigger while you feel smaller and smaller. I decided that the best thing to do was just walk, let the road take me wherever it wanted, as long as it was away from my thoughts.

I ended up at some church door, sitting on the steps, in front of a crowded street. The funny thing was that, even though the whole street bulged with people and cars, I felt as lonely as one can feel. I spent a good while in silence, in fact, I realized that I had spent at least a couple of days in complete silence, not having anyone to say anything to. How can something as simple as speaking, something that we take for granted become such an important issue? I didnt know, all I knew was that I wished I had someone who´d hear what I had to say. And then it happened: an old lady who walked her dog came towards me and, while the little pet sniffed around, she asked if I was doing okay. I had a bump in my throath that didnt let me talk and start the whole story of how I ended up there that night, so I just replied that I was fine, that I needed some fresh air. Even though my answer didnt seem to convince her, I guess she judged it was better to just wish me well and continue her way. I wished I could have told her, I wished I could have spoken, but I didnt, I couldnt. However, a few minutes later, a man passed by and came directly to me, sat down and asked if I needed help. By that point I had to ask myself what my appearance suggested, did I look that bad? In any event, he sat and even before I could reply, he started to talk about difficult times and how life can drag you up and down… I could only agree, fearing that any attempt to answer would make my voice crack. „So, what´s your story?“ he asked, „I guess you lost your job or broke up with your girl?“ he offered me some of his fries with mayonnaise – A detail I fondly remember, since he seemed to be one of those persons who dont have too much for themselves – and got a beer out of his backpack, which he opened and put on my hand. I didnt drink too often and wasnt feeling especially hungry, but given the circumstances I felt accepting them was just right, and somehow needed. He stayed there just long enough to make sure I was feeling better, which I really was. Suddenly, the city didnt seem to be that big and cold anymore.

Months forward, I had a job and was on my way to town on my scooter. One of the worst investments I have ever made, the engine of that old thing worked whenever it felt like, so it happened quite often that I was in the middle of nowhere struggling to get it back to life. One of those times I was lucky enough to have the problem while driving through Breinig. It happened on a Sunday afternoon… so I was unable to do much more than feel hopeless and call to let my boss know I would arrive late. Still on the street waiting for the ground to swallow me, I saw an old man who came out of the house I was standing by. He had heard the noises my scooter made and saw my troubled face, after just a few words and explanations, he went inside his house, picked his keys and drove me to my job… I felt overwhelmed and unable to thank him enough, not only did he drive me there, but also offered to pick me up if I needed help later that night. I was speechless, and I knew I could not just let it stay that way… so I went back to thank them some days later.

And then there´s the story of my student´s mother who´d also drive me back to my house whenever she thought it was too cold to wait for the bus; or the one about the couple who wanted to give me a bicycle because they saw me walking by their front door often and asked how far I needed to go; also the one about the lady who works for an social organization and sends me a card on my birthday, even though we barely know each other. The list goes on, but the point is, whenever I hear people say that Germans are cold, I think of someone saying that all latinos can dance salsa or that every dog eats bones or that every tree bears fruits… because the truth is that there is much more to know, there is much more to learn, there are too many stories that need to be heard before anyone can have an objective opinion.

Germans aren´t cold, they are… well, people.