Best. Post. Ever.:
December 18-16, 2011
What an adventure! Not only did I formally couch surf for the first time, I also informally couch surfed for the first time. I relearned a few lessons along the way.
Lesson 1: Make detailed plans and meeting points.
I arrived by bus on Saturday morning several hours before Andrea. I decided to jump right into the heart of Dusseldorf at Christmas time by going to the Christmas Markets. Dusseldorf is the fashion capital of Germany, so I also did a lot of window shopping. I saw a lot of pretty and also pretty expensive things in Dusseldorf. I took pictures just in case any of my readers win the lottery and decide they want to buy me similar items. (I don’t expect you to travel all the way to Dusseldorf to hunt the exact ones down.)
I was excited to see my cousin days before I left, and the anticipation only grew as I waited for her at Central Station where we had decided to meet. But, there was a small problem. We never said where in Central Station. So, I used my problem solving skills and figured out the platform and exact time of her arrival. I thought for sure I could pick my Indian princess out of the crowd emerging from the train. Not only did I not see her get off the train, I didn’t see her inside the station after walking many laps in alteration with standing in one place for bouts of time. If you are asking why I didn’t just call her, it is because she didn’t have a ‘mobile’ on her. I would find out later that her flight was delayed, and she missed her train.
Our back up plan was to meet at our couch surfer host, Tanja’s house. So, I began the journey on the tram/metro. I was really relieved I got off at the correct stop because they aren’t all labelled. At this point, it was dark outside and this whole knocking on a stranger’s door was starting to scare me. Isn’t this how people end up dead in foreign countries? I rang the bell because I didn’t have any other option that seemed more appealing. No one was home. Great. I sat at a kebab place drinking a Coca Cola Light praying that every time a new metro arrived Andrea would be getting off of it. An hour and a half later, I still had no success.
I tried buzzing up to the flat again, and this time I was greeted by Marianne, Tanja’s flatmate. Just after I freshened up, Tanja arrived home. Andrea was only a few minutes behind her!! We were both incredibly relieved to see each other. And I was also relieved to not have been murdered.
Lesson 2: Hanging out with people of different ages is fun and educational.
We all know how entertaining kids are. They introduce you to silly bands, cool handshakes, new music, the possibilities are endless. ‘Older’ adults are also engaging comrades for a night out on the town.
Andrea and I were standing in awe, amazed that we were outside of a bar watching the Chicago Bears on a flatscreen in Dusseldorf, when we bumped into two Americans. They are two pilots who fly the rich and famous around the world. They invited us to the restaurant Bender Marie for a fantastic dinner and paid the “cheap” bill of 130 euro. It was interesting to hear about their lives and their families. Ben has kids a little older than us, and CJ is living the single life excited about moving into his newly built house. It was fascinating to hear their life journey and how they ended up where they are. You really can accomplish any dream you dream if you set your heart and mind to work.
“Chase your dreams.” - Tanja (Our couch surfing host)
Lesson 3: Cooking can be enjoyable and not so challenging
Our first night in Dusseldorf Tanja taught us to make ___?__ . It is a pasta dish served with a mushroom cream sauce. Meat eaters can also add chicken. It was cheap, easy, quick, and delicious.
Marianne was especially talented in the kitchen. We were lucky to arrive during Christmas time because the Christmas cookies were continuously fresh out of the oven. My favorite was an apple cookie/ pastry with icing. It was like a gourmet pop tart in the shape of a star. If anyone speaks German and would like to translate the recipe, that would be wonderful. If you want, you can go ahead and make the dessert for me.
In the classroom, teachers are now saying activities are challenging because the words ‘hard’ and ‘difficult’ are discouraging. Cooking has always been challenge for me and it still is. But, it is not so challenging nor so intimidating any more. Learning to make a friend’s specialty dish is great way to expand your repertoire because it is almost guaranteed to turn out well. When you make the meal again in the future, it will be a nice reminder of your friend.
Lesson 4: Trust
-Gaining and giving trust is easier if you are part of a community. Couch surfing wouldn’t work without the network of references online, and the ability to report someone if they are too crazy to have people surfing on their couch. It is also easier to trust someone if they are willing to trust having you in their home.
-Trust in a higher power. I’m not referring to fate or God. Just this universal force that makes the world go around. When Andrea and I had no where to go and no way to get there, a stranger opened the doors of his home to us. I trust that karma will be good to him and that any good we do will be returned to us.
-Trust body language. This usually doesn’t lie. If someone gives you a hug and tells you goodbye, it usually means that they want that to be goodbye.
Lesson 5: Doppelgängers are real.
Doppelgänger is German for “double walker.”
Exhibit A: Margaret McLaughlin joined us at a pub called Paulaner.
Exhibit B: Jim Etchingham let us sleep in his flatmate’s room. We had no idea Jimmy was so determined to become a world famous chef.
I’m still not sure blogging is for me, but the “ah-HA!” kind of moment I’ve had over the past few hours simply exceeds the “appropriate content” level of Facebook.
First, go to www.TED.com.
Scroll… Click… Watch… Repeat…
Click… Scroll… Watch… Repeat…
Do you feel it yet? I sure as hell did.
After hours looking at the site, skimming some lectures, downloading the app, and devoting myself to an apparently new-found passion, a hollow feeling of “How the hell am I ever going to amount to even a fraction of what these people have?” began taking over.
And then it hit me. I’m a sponge. A sponge. I literally, honestly, am a sponge. Like, if I was in the popular book by Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass, my daemon (your spirit-animal-thingy), would most definitely probably (this is just how I am) be a sea-sponge.
Here’s why: I love a lot of things, and want to absorb them up, but actually retain them for a very short period. Mostly, I’m kind of crazy, but this happens all the time. It’s why I’ve always felt a strong connection with social media. Things that move me, inspire me, or I feel compelled to share with others, I take from my sponge-like brain and instantly drain into a venue where it will (hopefully) be absorbed. It’s like a sponge! Thoughts are fluid, filling my brain up to its limit, which focuses on them, obsesses over that purpose, but alas, always terminating at one of two finite ends: they’re either going to be purged out by some other external pressure, or they’ll slowly disappear over time due to evaporation.
Today has been an eye-opening day. I spent much of it coming to powerful conclusions about my occupational path, with the realization that Social Media needs to eventually take its rightful place as a central part of my professional life. It makes so much sense, and I’m shocked at how long it’s taken me to see this, but something I so greatly enjoy, dare I say, I am passionate about, could also, very realistically, with a lot of hard work, continued education, and dedication eventually be a primary component of my livelihood.
Then, to come home from work and stumble upon this little gem, I think I can say it’s been an electrifying day as far as epiphanies and overall mental activity go.
It’s in the past year that I’ve really awakened as an adult. In the past year, I came to understand myself in a way that I honestly do think separates me from a majority of the world’s population. There are two dates that I already intend on having tattooed onto my body (so I can never forget them—remember, I’m a sponge): 11/9/10 and 06/18/11. Today is going to be a third, and I think it’s only been possible because every realm, category, area, whatever you want to call it, of my life truly feels “at peace.” So few people have the privilege of knowing that feeling. Whenever I’ve felt it in my life, for extended periods, moments of enlightenment have followed.
So, while I probably haven’t done a good enough job explaining what exactly I discovered today (I think I still have more delving to do), let me leave it at this: today has been important enough in my human development that the day is a date I want to remember for the rest of my life. For now, I think I do the day justice by simply saying that 10/26/11 was the day that I:
- wholly comprehended my human potential (at least to the extent of my current consciousness, for I know I will exceed my own expectations)
- thoroughly freed myself from the ridiculous notion (excuse) that having come into the world lacking in privilege somehow limited the good I was capable of bringing to society
- decided to live a life of vigor, and commanded from myself a separation from the lethargic lifestyle I’d been living up until this point
Every moment of every day must be lived with clear intention. I imagine this will be difficult, but for now I’ll be employing a simple series of questions: “Am I consciously choosing my current behavior?” and “To what end will this lead.” Hopefully this will be instrumental in overcoming numerous obstacles that remain on the sometimes strenuous path I’ve lain for myself. Regardless, it’s really exciting to realize that I’m at a professional and academic beginning and that I truly can choose to proceed with a specialized education in any field, having experienced an incredible professional and academic foundation in my current fields of work and study.
Today, the limits of my life have been expanded.
Now, 10/26/11 is not yet over. I think I’ll go do all the things I neglected doing while experiencing spiritual gratification throughout the greater portion of the day
"For me, it isn’t about not getting fat again. It’s about never returning to that dark, terrifying place. If every obese human-being could experience the emotions that result from climbing out of that pit of despair and into a daily life of what is literally, bliss, there would no longer be a weight problem in this country. The joy caused by an active lifestyle, when discovered by one who was previously overweight, is an emotion so powerful it could ferociously ignite the world into healthy and productive activity." -Derek House, igniteactivity.tumblr.com