Things Learned In 2013

I have never had a year with so many “lasts“- last college party, last undergrad final, last sleepover, last hug from my friends, last walk across campus, my home for the past three years.
But I also never had that many “firsts“- first time on the West Coast, first time living abroad, first 10k run, first round of the “sisterhood of the travelling bag” that my four best friends from college and I started, first step of the next chapter of my life, first Thanksgiving and first Christmas away from home.
I have had my downfalls and my moments of triumphs and the sum of these make this year such a special one in every aspect. Here are some life lessons it taught me:

Breaks do not work
If you wanna break up with someone, be straightforward, do it and leave it at that. Do not waste your energy, dreams and sparkle on a constant back and forth. There was a reason the relationship came to a halt and second chances often just extend the inevitable. If your partner really loves you, he/she won’t do anything that requires a second chance. If you are the one pleading for a second try, maybe ask yourself what it is that got yourself into that situation in the first place.

Trust
Trust in others, trust in yourself and, mostly, trust that everything really is going to be alright in the end. Don’t get discouraged because you find yourself in a different situation than expected, you never know where that new path is going to lead you. Life is trial and error and that’s the beauty of it!

Friends
Oh my god, I could write about that one for hours. Find yourself friends that will believe in you even if you have given up on yourself, that will show you the truth when you deny it and, most importantly, that will laugh with you. If you have found those, hold on to them with everything you got!

Self-Criticism
I had taken that to an extreme for a while and it was anything but helpful to me. I think when you fully stop caring what other people think, you are holding something really powerful in your hands.

Travel
Remember that tingling feeling of excitement when your plane approaches the airport and you catch glimpses of your new travel destination? You feel excited, wild, adventurous, hungry for new experiences and new people and new impressions? Exactly, that’s why everybody’s ought to travel as much and as lightly as possible!

Love is all you need
Yup, the Beatles got that one right. Sometimes, love actually is all around.
In a life that is full of interruptions and plot twists, it is nice to realize that love will always be a reoccurring phenomenon. It will come in different forms and different people but it will always be there to give you butterflies and new daydreams. And you know what they say about dreams… As for me, I’m in love, which is the perfect end to a year and a perfect beginning of a new one!

I hope you all have a happy new year and can look back to an enriching and unique couple of months.
See you all back in 2014!!

Cheers,
Ari

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The Windy City

Chicago gets me. It has everything I could ask for- the beaches in the summer (aka Lake Shore), the tall skyscrapers, the bridges and rivers throughout the city, Chicago Style Pizza (Giordano’s is perfection, that pizza is like a high-five for my mouth!), a NUTELLA BAR, little cafés, a German christmas market  and definitely more of the fast-food chains I remember from my time in NYC. If only it wasn’t for the weather. I left SF sweating in my winter coat under 68°F…right now I am shivering under three bed layers because it’s -5°F outside. The wind was biting and icy, cooling my body down no matter how much I jumped around and kept moving. Merry Christmas to every body part not covered in wool.

I did all the touristy sightseeing, fought my fear of heights on the sky ledge up on Willis Tower, got interviewed by ABC World News (and made a complete fool of myself), went Christmas Shopping on the Magnificent Mile, tried something at Argo Tea (Which is like Starbucks but with different tea creations- I had a Red Velvet milk/red tea combination and it tasted amazing!!) and even donated some dollars to a couple of bums on the street. Because, let’s face it, being homeless anywhere in the world sucks but being on the street in wintery Chicago is cruel.

I could live in Chicago because it reminds me of New York but I also realized that it will be hard in the future to find a city with as beautiful of a landscape as San Francisco’s. The hills and ocean and green parks, the small houses and the pyramid and bridges definitely make it stand out. People come to California to see L.A. and San Diego and Disneyland and some of the National Parks but S.F. trumps them all, I’m tellin’ ya! Nevertheless, I figured I’d share with you some wintery Chicago pictures. Nothing distracts you more from holiday homesickness than traveling! Where are you gonna spend Christmas?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADID YOU KNOW: “The Bean” is part of the millenial park- which happens to be the world’s largest rooftop terrace! It’s located on top of an underground parking area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiordano’s has several stores within the city, this one was located on Michigan Street, just a few minutes away from the Millenium Station. You might have to wait for about an hour, which is totally worth it though!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Magnificent Mile is comparable to New York’s 5th Avenue. Shop till you drop, basically.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFind Eataly Chicago, the Nutella Bar is located on the ground floor. The crepes were amazing!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASun setting and night crawling into the city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChicago Christmas Market. 50 W Washington Street. Crowded and long lines for everything but gebrannte Mandeln (roasted almonds) and the traditional Glühwein (warm spiced wine) are so worth it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWillis Tower- 233 S Wacker Dr. Again, wait time varies and can be long depending on the season but the views on a clear day are going to be breathtaking. DID YOU KNOW that it was the tallest building in the Western hemisphere- until it got replaced by the Freedom Tower in NYC? Yeah. Cool story, right?

Reminiscence

I am at SFO waiting to board my plane to Chicago for Christmas break and of course, me being Eastern German, I am two hours too early. I spent 7 USD on a small bag of M&Ms. 5 more on a small bottle of coke. Walked the terminal five times. Cursed myself for not having packed sleep-aid to calm myself down. And now, thanks to American Airports being fully equipped with WiFi, I can report back live from the scene to you.

The sun is shining although it’s almost Christmas and I am way too warm in my gloves and scarf and coat. The ocean is glittering in the distance and the mountains make me feel like I am in some sort of movie scene. A little bit like I felt exactly four months ago, when I first arrived in this beautiful city by the bay.

When you are about to go abroad, people will tell you how excited they are for you. For having this life-changing experience ahead of you, for having a year that will make you a different person, that will help you grow and change. So, I guess I was waiting for this big BOOM. For the day I wake up, look around and realize that I am a completely different person. But truth is, that hasn’t really happened. I would love to share some very smart words of wisdom, some deep thoughts on how much this time abroad, away from family and friends, way out of my comfort zone has shaped me into a different, smarter, stronger grown-up.

It’s not like nothing happened. I lost my wallet. I fell in love. I travelled. I got a little homesick. I made new friends. Found a new home. Learned to walk really really REALLY steep hills in heels while carrying a big bag. Introduced people to my traditions and was being introduced to new ones in return. Realized that home really isn’t limited to just one place or one person but is a very flexible, bendable term. Began to understand that life never plays out the way you thought it would and that that’s the beauty of it. Being immensely excited for the unknown that is called my future. Learned to be less German about things. But I also realized that some things will probably never change.

I am still afraid of flights. Basically dying a thousand silent deaths right now.

I am still going insanely crazy over the sun shining, every single day. You would think I’d have gotten used to it by now…I haven’t. It still amazes me how I can run around in a T-Shirt in December, it makes me so happy.

I am still dropping things and trip and burn rice while cooking it and run into tables. Getting new bruises every day.

I still love everything about the US. Minus public transport. But, apart from that, everything.

My jokes are still bad. Like, really really bad.

I still tend to doubt my decisions, plans and achievements a lot- gotta work on that in 2014.

Sometimes, I still worry too much. I am in California, for heaven’s sake. Chill and surf!

Still not talking with a California accent. Dammit, when is that gonna happen?!

Still dunno how to drive a car.

Well, the year isn’t over yet so stay tuned. Maybe I’ll have some mind-blowing insights to share for my upcoming 2013 recap post. I just needed to write frantically to keep me distracted from my upcoming flight.

Cheers and save trip to all those of you going home for the holidays!

Love,

Ari

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The Tragedy of TacoBell: A Play in 8 Acts

Saturday evening, 7pm, TacoBell. Celebrating the end of a productive study day, my boyfriend, his roommate and I decided to indulge in juicy burritos and crispy Tacos- at the TacoBell around the corner. What should have been an uneventful fast-food binge turned into a mildly entertaining and severely stunning live performance staring the people of the Tenderloin. For anyone not too familiar with SF and its districts, the Tenderloin is comparable to New York’s Bronx. You know, homeless on the street, people dealing and taking drugs, drunk hysterical women, lots of trash and the like.
The following 8 scenarios happened within a ten-minute-time frame.

1. Us: “Hi, two times three Tacos please!”
Cashier: “Jimmy, six Tacos,  two times three!”
Jimmy: “Two times three tacos..but I thought you said six?”
Cashier: “Two. Times. Three. That’s six tacos, ain’t it?”
Jimmy: “Woman, you ain’t listening to me. That’s what I said!”

2. Table next to us
Mother to kid:  “No cinnamon bun before you haven’t finished up your Supreme Burrito chipmunk. Come on, they’re
good for you.”

3. Homeless to cashier: “I told you what I want. Go get it! Ain’t you hearin me, go and place ma order!”
     Mother from before: “Hey, you ain’t talkin to that cashier lady like that, you hear me? ‘Tis none of your business to
talk to her like that!”

4. Homeless vs mother: “Don’t you dare tellin me how to talk or not!”
     “I said shut the f*** up, you ain’t talkin to that cashier like that!”
     “YOU better shut the f*** up or I’ll come for you!”
     “You wanna fuckin’ punch me? Yeah, let’s take that outside, I ain’t scared of ya!”

5. Fight resolved. Homesless leaves. Comes back minutes later.
Homeless to mother: “Hey ma’am, I’m sorry. I have to apologize, I know I…”
“No, Sir, I got to apologize, I…”
     “I’m sorry, I know that…”
     “I apologize, I’m sorry for telling you off…”
     “No, I’m sorry, the cashier is my daughter…” (which I don’t think makes the whole fight any better)
      “I know, I know, I know y’all. Just, I didn’t want you to curse in front of my children”  (yeah right, ’cause you’re
such a saint)
“I know, I know ma’am. I’m sorry!”

6. Peace agreement.
Mother to homeless: “Hey, you smoke?”
     “Yeah, I smoke. But it’s ok, you don’t have to…”
     “No, we got some cigarettes for you, come on, let’s go outside and have a cigarette together, whatcha think?”

7. Mother to kid: “Mommy will be outside for a cigarette chipmunk! Sit down and eat your burrito.”

8. Boyfriend to me: “I think you should write about that in your blog…”

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

is the most amazing holiday ever established! This year, it was the first time in my life that I had ever celebrated it and I am absolutely in love. Think about it- it’s about the three Fs in life- friends, family and food. Honestly, what more could you want from a holiday? I even had the honor to celebrate Thanksgiving twice in two days- first with my adopted host-mom and her daughter in Santa Clara and the next day with my roommate and her amazing family in Oakland.

Then, something unexpected happened. In between cheering for a football team that I had never heard of and be swept away by the mouthwatering aromas filling the house, people were asked to name one thing they were thankful for this year. Imagine a table with 25 people, cousins and nieces and grandparents and moms and dads, all smiling cheerfully, each one of them emphasizing how thankful they were for being with their wonderful family during this special holiday. Then it was my turn. What was I thankful for this year? So many things popped into my mind instantaneously: Having made it to SF despite all obstacles. Having found a great group of friends really easily. Living with awesome, warm-hearted people. Having an amazing boyfriend who makes me incredibly happy. Getting good grades in my classes. Waking up to sunshine and 68°F at the beginning of December. Having the chance to live in a city as beautiful, magnificent and breathtaking as San Francisco. Being able to jog down to the Pacific Ocean. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and, along the way, realizing that I am both capable of much more than I give myself credit for but also really loved. And, of course, being in CALIFORNIA for heaven’s sake, I mean..how many people dream of living in this state for a while at least once in their lives? And that’s what I ended up saying: “I am so thankful for being able to live my dream!”

But while I was sitting at the table, thinking about how fortunate I was, it finally happened: I got incredibly homesick for the first time since I had come here. Which was really the most awkward time to do so because, you know, we were having this jolly get-together and I was in a room full of strangers. I hastily blinked my tears away and indulged in the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie and tried to move on. But, although I could push it away that day, it still came back. This nagging feeling that something big is always going to be missing, no matter how happy the States would make me: My family. My crazy emotional mom who calls me 15 times within five minutes, just to “say Hi”. My dad, who is sending me recipes he always makes during Christmas time- his subtle way of saying he misses me and hopes that I will be having joyous holidays. My 20-year-old brother who is trying so hard to fill my place as the oldest sibling in the house. And, most of all, my 13-year-old baby brother who loves to record us karaoke-ing “Somebody that I used to know”, who comes into my room saying “If you have time, we could go biking but if you’re busy, I’m just gonna sit in your room and read” and who was trying really hard not to cry at the airport. My cousin, who is basically like a sister for me, with whom I can crack up about the most random things for hours and who amplifies my clumsiness to a point where lives are actually endangered. My grandparents, who figure out how to call me over Skype and spend ten minutes celebrating their triumph. My friends.

It’s ironic, really, how you can spend so much time desperately trying to get away from a place because it just seems too small for all the dreams you have in your head. So, here I am, in a new country, with so many amazing things happening in my life, being happy and having that feeling of belonging…but also realizing that it will never be whole. Because, no matter how happy a place makes you, it can never be perfect, unless it has the ones you love in it, all of them, the new ones and the ones you have loved a life time. I know that, no matter where I am going to live in the future, the grass will always seem greener at the other side of the pond. I have gotten to a point where I feel at home in several different places in the world and the people that matter to me will always be equally far spread out. And, most of the time, it’s enough to know that they are there, no matter how far away. Most of the time, I find it exciting not to know whether I’ll go back to Europe in a few months or in two years or in five, it makes me feel adventurous and tough and different. But just every once in a while, it would be good to know exactly when I’d see them all again. In person. To give them a huge hug and tell them how thankful I am for them.

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