Mission statement.

It’s been two years since I put up this so-called blog, and in that time I don’t think I’ve had any visitors.

So, theoretically, I needn’t bother with it at all. Sense dictates that no one is interested and the whole thing is a failure.

However, I never really wrote any of this up as “a blog”. I originally only wrote it up because the FB “Notes” feature stopped working properly for about a year or so, and I had nowhere to write stuff when I went to Denmark, despite really wanting to.

It was meant as a repository, nothing more. Somewhere to put my thoughts.

I really see no reason for that to change. I’m not looking to acquire a readership, after all. I’m happy to have one, but I can’t say the lack of one will kill me.

So, I hereby declare this blog not a blog, but more or less a diary. A collection of letters to people which I have no intention of mailing.

If you’ve picked the lock and got here, good for you. Read on, if you like. You’re quite welcome.

But otherwise… *shrug*

 

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Nie wieder Berlin…

Berlin wasn’t pleasant.

I’m sorry about that, but it really wasn’t.

I love Stephan and I  loved seeing him, I loved the fact that cherries in Germany are so big that I couldn’t fit more than one in my mouth at any given time, I also loved the Berlin Dom, which is basically HUGE… and after the pathetic Aarhus “cathedral” was just lovely to see…

…but, no, Berlin wasn’t pleasant.

No one speaks English! I wandered around Alexanderplatz, dragging my suitcase behind me and trying to find my way to Stephan’s place, and by the time I had found someone in the crowd who could speak English (to a certain extent) and could help me at all, I think I was 30 minutes at least.

No one knows where anything is! I asked two official-looking ladies at the Noeldnerplatz station whether I could get a cab from anywhere near the station, and was informed that the only way to get a cab was to get back on the S-bahn, go on for another station further, and then try there.

According to Stephan, though, it’s just a matter of walking one street away and getting a cab at the main road.

Oh, and of course they replied in German.

Thank GOD I know some German. Heaven knows what I would have done if I didn’t know any German.

Add that to my phone refusing to send any message, and lying to me about my balance being gone, and by the time I got to Stephan’s I was so exhausted that, I’m embarrassed to say, I just slept in my clothes. Said good night to Stephan, went to the bathroom, took my shoes and socks off, and just passed out on the bed.

The next day, I decided to visit some landmarks before I had to catch my flight home. That didn’t turn out so well either:

The Brandenburg Gate is smaller than I expected it to be. Much less impressive, too… especially when it’s closed off by Hyundai for a music festival on the other side of it.

I decided to visit a local synagogue, which I was told was the rival of the Budapest synagogue for sheer beauty… except that I forgot it was Shabbat when I got there (no tourists during Shabbat), and I ended up getting some rather odd looks from the security guards.

The Reichstag was nice, and so was the Berlin Dom, like I said… and I think the height of my day was when I decided to take the U-bahn back from the Reichstag and found that the rather large Bundestag U-Bahn station is completely and utterly empty… whereupon, I proceeded to stand in the middle of it and sing at the top of my lungs.

I got through two Gilbert and Sullivan songs, a few bars of “La donna e mobile”, and a verse and one chorus of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” before the train came and took me back to the Brandenburg Gate station, where I continued my tour.

It was fun… but I wouldn’t go to Berlin just for that.

All in all, if my flight was just… 3 hours later… I think I would have walked off with a better impression of the place.

There was a Haagen-Daz cafe at Heckescher Markt, near the synagogue, and if I could have waited just a bit longer and had a waffle, I think my day would have been salvaged in every possible way.

But it wasn’t to be. 😦

Berlin, from what I could see, can’t be bothered to get out of bed early. I respect that. I admire that. But, it really does make for a less than pleasant time when you’re pressed for time and trying to make the most of your day.

Also… there’s something a bit creepy about getting on the S-bahn when it’s bound for Wannsee.

I don’t know. I know I didn’t really give her enough time to impress me. I know that the impression I got was probably rather warped.

But that’s what it was, and I’m not inclined to break my family’s policy of not going to Germany again, just to give her a second chance at a first impression.

Might do that to visit Stephan again, one day, if I start producing money out of my rear orifice, but otherwise… nie wieder Berlin.

Gospel and Revelations

When I was preparing to get to this conference in Aarhus, I noticed among the list of participants that I recognized one of the names.

It was someone I had corresponded with, a while back, and thus… well… someone I actually knew! An ally! I would not be alone.

Suffice to say, I was over-joyed.

The lecturer was this Australian scholar I had met on Academia.edu (a sort of FB for academics), and I can tell you… it was really odd meeting her.

She reminded me of myself, in many ways. Her reactions to people were a lot like what mine would be. Her presentation style was very similar to mine.

Yes, she was definitely higher up the pecking order, and she writes a hell of a lot better than I ever could, but she still reminded me of me.

As a result, this conference was a bit of an out-of-body experience: In a strange way, I got to watch myself do things which, up until that point, I had only experienced from, well, this “side of my eyes”.

And what I saw was something of a revelation – Here she was, this talented, intelligent woman, with important, intelligent things to say… and she was practically burying herself in her text, not lifting her eyes, and rarely being heard, since she barely spoke above a whisper.

I realized then that I was the same. When I first arrived at the conference, I had introduced myself to those people I spoke to as “the lowest of the low”, the “lowest ranked person here”, and “just an MA student”. I was intimidated, and quiet… and a moron for being that way.

Having seen her lecture, I decided on a change of course. Starting with her lecture, I began presenting myself to people based on my studies and not based on my “rank”… and, lo and behold, it worked. By the time they found out I was “merely” an MA student, they couldn’t care less. They already knew I was clever and erudite and just generally worth their time.

The next day, I was supposed to chair a session. That basically means that you introduce the lecturer, keep time to make sure he doesn’t talk too much, and then moderate the discussion, asking questions if no one else asks any.

Bolstered by my new-found confidence, I strode to the microphone, tossed off a few witty comments about our next speaker (got an appreciative laugh), and then proceeded to moderate the discussion once he was done, and even cut off some of “my elder and betters” in favour of sending everyone off on the coffee break.

I then spent the next 24hrs being told repeatedly that I was an excellent chairperson – A compliment that was further elaborated and expanded upon whenever I replied that it was my first time at it.

Seeing her hesitate like that, despite her good article… and listening to some of the less than flawless other presentations at that conference, I found myself realizing that up until that point in time, I had been too harsh a critic of everything I ever did.

It suddenly became clear to me that things which were less than my all-time best… were actually more than enough for academia.

That night, I sent a revised abstract (=summary of an article) to the teaching assistant in charge of the Oxford University workshop.

I can honestly say that I no longer feel any kind of worry about that paper. I’ll present what I can… and it’ll be more than enough.

I could tell you more… about certain lecturers with pickles stuck up their asses… or about sweet ones who walked me home to make sure I got there alright… or about one in particular who was crazier than I am, and thus nearly as alone as I was there, and who remembered when my flight was, so he tracked me down at the gate to keep me company.

I could tell you about going to celebrate Midsummer Eve at the Aarhus harbour, and hearing a massive crowd sing a beautiful song about (so I’m told) that time of the year, while standing around a lovely bonfire.

I could tell you about struggling to find food I could eat, or stewardesses that think Kosher means “blessed by a rabbi”, or about how, since I asked for a vegetarian meal, I was given “salad with salad next to salad on top of salad with a side of salad” nearly every day for lunch… and how I gave it to that Australian lecturer instead, because she was also Jewish, but unlike me, she actually does like veggies.

All in all, though, anecdotes aside, this is what I’ll be taking away from the conference – Just the sight of her, and what it means about what I must look like from the outside.

I think things will be different from now on.

My dearest England, I’m leaving you. I met a cheap blonde, and I’m afraid I’m in love.

In many ways, Denmark is a cheap version of the UK.

There are… Dixon’s… and WHSmiths… and you can buy British brands at the supermarket, usually at cheaper prices than in the UK.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything is available, but there are a lot more available things than I would have guessed there would be, going in.

Also, the booze, like I said in my previous post, is ridiculously cheap for its quality. I could buy ONE glass of a more-or-less generic 12-year-old single malt scotch, here in Israel, for the price of 2 glasses of a nice limited edition single malt scotch AND a bottle of water, in Denmark.

Admittedly, the produce section might as well have been stocked with rubies and emeralds for what they wanted me to pay, and a simple fruit smoothie will set you back a month’s wages, but all in all, things are more or less priced as they would be here in Israel… and in some cases, much more cheaply.

And then there’s the people…

Everyone there is polite, speaks fluent English, and is marvelously helpful, which fits in nicely with how clean and lovely the city is.

Aarhus is also depressingly full of absolutely gorgeous blonde babes.

Seriously.

If Oxford was “hell for single women”, Aarhus is “hell for anyone who is remotely less attractive than a supermodel”.

Walking around Aarhus, I felt like an ogre.

Well… except that one evening when I went to the pub, and got all dolled up, and was then regarded by the pub-goers as rather exotic. People kept asking me where I was from and suggesting I was Italian or Spanish or something like that. That was fun. 🙂

All in all, though… I felt like an ogre, and couldn’t stop singing this song (even though it’s about Rotterdam… and the people in Aarhus are actually much nicer the ones in the song. Still… nearly everyone in Aarhus IS blonde, and nearly everyone IS beautiful, so yeah… there it is):

In any case, babes or not… I loved it. Yes, so their “cathedral” is a pathetic looking slightly-larger-than-a-normal-church church, and yes, I wouldn’t say the place is all that packed with cultural gems (They took us to their oldest church… BOOOOORING!), but the pub and the night life look wonderful, and the area around the city was pretty much the only place in the world that managed to evoke in me the desire to pack a tent and go hiking… so I genuinely think I’m in love.

I would DEFINITELY go back there, given half the chance.

 

Arrival in Aarhus

I landed in Aarhus, last Sunday morning, ready to reach my hotel in a timely and ordered fashion. I looked up the address I was given online, checked for directions, and even looked up the route I was going to walk to get there on Google Streetview, so that I would know exactly what to expect.

I was set.

Or so I thought.

No one told me that the streets in Aarhus were a three-dimensional construct. That you could get to an intersection and not be able to turn onto the right street, because it happened to be UNDER YOU at the time.

I ended up walking in circles for about 30-40 minutes, dragging my suitcase behind me and feebly fumbling with my GPS map, before I finally snapped and asked someone for directions to the hotel’s address… only to find that the hotel WASN’T THERE when I got there.

Instead of my hotel, I found a construction site! And after pathetically circling it for a few minutes, I finally found a sign that said that the hotel’s reception was on the other side of the construction site. The directions on the sign were less than clear, and I was more than a little worried about ending up, yet again, unable to reach the right street because it was above me/below me/ in another dimension/5 minutes behind me on the space-time continuum.

However, I plucked up courage, tried one of the more likely-looking streets and finally reached reception… only to realize that I had walked past it 5 times already in my previous meanderings.

All in all, though, I’m not complaining.

While I was walking around and desperately trying to find the right way to reach the street I was supposed to get to, I stumbled onto a turn in the road where I could hear music.

The street that that turn led to was one of the ones I thought would lead me in the right direction, so I tried it… and down it, I found a lovely little pub where a band was playing jazz.

I stood and listened for a while, leaning on my suitcase, and then I walked off and continued trying to get to the hotel.

When I finally got to the hotel, the first thing I did was change out of my “travel costume”, and rush back to that pub, where I then spent the rest of the evening getting pleasantly drunk on the EXTREMELY cheap, top notch, top shelf single malts they stocked there.

If I had just found the hotel, I just know I would have settled in for a good long rest. Instead, I had a lovely evening at that pub.

Personally, I consider that a result. 🙂