One Month Down

Posted on October 16th, 2011 by

Hey, it's Germany.

I’ve now been in Germany for over a month. That’s pretty crazy to say. In some sense it feels like the month flew by, but at the same time, I can’t actually remember being home (I guess that could just be my lackluster memory striking again). But yeah, classes are now getting into full swing, autumn has definitely arrived, and it’s time to bust out the scarves. Happy Herbst.

As each day of class passes, I realize more and more how truly unique this experience all is. For example, there isn’t a single blonde girl in my class (tear). Growing up in Nodak and then going to the even more diverse campus of Gustavus (sadly, I think that’s actually a true statement; North Dakota winters don’t exactly lend themselves to high amounts of immigration), this absence of goldilocks never happened (even in a class of like five it’s still pretty much a statistical impossibility). But the reason I bring this up is that it is literally the only demographic I feel like we’re missing, which makes for quite the interesting discussion. Here’s an example a viewpoint I never dreamed of hearing. After three hours of talking about the insane number of health issues women face and how they’re affected proportionally more than men in most cases, the quasi-oxymoron of them having a longer life expectancy in almost every country was brought up. This intriguing point elicited one hell of a reaction from the Afghan girl in our class. A succinct version of what she said was something like this. “From the moment a woman is born, her life is a living hell. She has to struggle for everything. She has to learn to be tough to survive, and in the end, that’s why she is rewarded with the added bonus of life expectancy.” BOOM. If there isn’t life experience fueling that statement, then I’m a pumpkin. I, to be honest, was a bit shocked at the semi-rant, but when I thought about it, it made total sense. Growing up in Afghanistan, she must have been constantly told that she was inferior to men and, in many cases, treated like a second class citizen. How could you not have some pent up anger and frustration residing within you after something like that? Coming of age in that culture as a woman must have been incredibly difficult, and I hope that sometime in the near future I can sit down with her and have a great, eye-opening conversation.

With a class that is a bit older and predominantly women, I’ve been struggling to meet any guys my age. Now how do I remedy this problem? SPORTS. I could play soccer or basketball but one issue is that the average soccer player here is probably a beast. B-ball it is. I mean, my game isn’t anything to write home about, but I can’t imagine the average German throws down all that well. Now, finding these options has proved slightly more complicated than I had imagined. Universities here don’t function the same as they do back home. They’re places of education and not too much more. I mean at GAC you had anything and everything you could want on the hill whether it was food, entertainment, fitness, a place to lose all self-respect (the Dive), study areas, water fountains (these are virtually nonexistent in Germany), frost your owns, passport pictures (basement of Olin in case you had no idea), and even camping equipment for God’s sake. With that being said, German universities don’t give you much more than a classroom and a place to eat. Sports are mostly done through clubs, which also makes them a fairly bigger time commitment than I’m looking for. The most in between thing I have found is some kind of open gym thing on Thursday nights. But now, on to the story. I was getting on the bus the other day when I saw a guy with a Deutschland basketball backpack. I decide to try my hand at making friends. We start chit chatting and I ask about options to play here in Berlin. He then tells me that he’ll talk to his coach. Oh yeah, doing work. But then as the conversation continues, I realize the huge mistake I’ve made. This kid plays in Germany’s professional league… with former NBA players. They’re probs playing at a slightly higher level than I’m looking for. But seriously, what are the chances that the German baller I meet is a legit baller? Ridiculous.

Nope, not Sweden. Germany again.

Just an odd sighting I thought I’d share quickly. I was at a bar the other night, and a guy was shaving in the bathroom. How late do you have to be for that to seem like a legitimate option?

Moving on, I got a haircut this weekend. In foreign countries that has always proved to be quite an interesting task for me. From the time in Italy when a woman with a tattooed on stache cut my hair to the man in Sri Lanka who had the creepiest of smiles as he ran his hands through my hair and then “cleaned up” around my neck with a straight up blade (it was terrifying; he was like a small, brown, tiny machete wielding version of Sweeney Todd). This experience in Deutschland was also quite the time. I realized very quickly that explaining how I want my hair cut in German would be difficult seeing as I can’t really even tell you in English how I like my hair cut (other than that I want it to be shorter and hopefully have the sides be proportional). This guy had me look at a book filled with different hairstyles none of which seemed to be legitimate, so I just chose the least crazy of the bunch. I’m no barber, but I feel like usually most hair folk wet my hair and then start cutting. This guy gave it maybe one or two quick sprays and called it good. Even for the average person that wouldn’t have been sufficient, but when you tack on the fact that my hair is essentially hydrophobic and can air dry in under five minutes, you’ve got a problem. He championed through though, and after man-handling my head and poking me in the eye once or twice, he was finished. Or so I thought. Then came the time to put gel in my hair. He asks me, “forward or up,” at which point in time, I make the devastating decision of saying up. My hair morphed into a flat top reminiscent of a 1980s NBA baller. Horrifying. In the end, I had him dismantle his creation and elected for the forward option. It was manageable.

Our noble steeds (aka bikes)

Yesterday afternoon I went on a bike ride with my aunt (didn’t have the earliest start to my day after going out with a few people from my class the night before). We rode out of the main part of Berlin to the Mügglesee (See = lake; muggle = Germans knew about HP many moons ago). Forest, lakes, ducks. It was almost like being back in Minnesota minus people actually waving from their boats as they passed by. Germans would never do such a thing. Anyway, some quick observations about bike riding here. People love it for one. And in most areas there is a side walk, a bike path, and then the road. But at the same time, if you aren’t feeling the bike path people just have to respect you like you’re a car (granted you do probably weigh about the same as some of these cars). If I had to drive here, I think I’d develop some kind of road rage, but from my current perspective, it’s pretty sweet.

Well, I think it’s about time to wrap this baby up. Hope all is well.

Hugs and hand pounds,

Hassie

PS: I just want to say thank you to all of you out there for actually reading this. Apparently, my site has been viewed over 2500 times. Or Gustavus is lying to me to make me feel good. But either way, it makes it a lot easier to write when you know that it’s more than just your mother you’re writing for. Danke.

 


12 Comments

  1. Randolph says:

    It’s good to see you are somewhat getting used to living there. I hope that I can come back and visit while you are still in Germany. Keep updating with pictures!

  2. Ryan Kaufman says:

    Not even one picture of your Dolph Lungren Rocky 4 style haircut? Fail.

    • Hasanga Samaraweera says:

      I wasn’t quite sure how to say, “Hold on sir. This is so hideous that I need to take a picture to show my friends.” But yes, outside of the blonde tips, you nailed it with Dolph.

  3. Kim Ottesen says:

    Former gustie, here. Saw you featured on FB. Read the article and then your entire blog. Depending on your mood, I either have too much time on my hands or you’re a very entertaining writer. Glad you’re enjoying Germany! I look forward to reading more of your adventures.

  4. Meghan Stromme says:

    Hassie! I’m so glad I have been able to catch up with what you’re doing over in Germany through this. It sounds like you’re having a blast, but we miss you over here! Keep up the amazing updates. I’m so jealous of your adventures! 🙂

  5. Jess R says:

    Hasanga,
    I just moved back to the U.S. from Germany. I was super excited to see your blog. This is the first one I have read so far. I am glad to see that you are enjoying Germany. I am a freshman at Gustavus and my experiences in Germany helped me become who I am. I hoep that you take full advantage of living in Europe.

    • Hasanga Samaraweera says:

      I’m glad you like it. And to be honest, your time at GAC is really going to help you discover who you are. Enjoy the next four years.

  6. The Meatballs says:

    My european haircut had me looking like Javier Bardem – the not so flattering bangs version. I feel your pain.

    It’s fun keeping up with you Hassie, but I would have liked to have you out for dinner last night.

    Maria

    • Hasanga Samaraweera says:

      You should’ve sent me an invite. I’d swim across the Atlantic for some Jeremiason home cooking.

  7. Br. Pio (Andy) King says:

    Hasanga,

    Am enjoying your blogging of your German adventures!! Reminds me or a good 9-10 days in 2oo5 in rural areas around Munich, then in Cologne, including a bike ride on both sides of the Rhine.
    Good snippets of the German culture, and quite entertaining.
    Re: the parentheticals, I’m even more guilty. You still may get some form of a Pulitzer prize!
    Keep up the good work.

    Danke,
    Andy Mama

    • Hasanga Samaraweera says:

      Thanks Andy Mama. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. We’ll have to have a good conversation about your German adventures when I get back to the States. Take care and I hope all is well back in Minnesota.