Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari

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California Dreaming: Yosemite National Park

It’s been a while since I last gave tips for awesome trips through California. Pardon me, I was a little busy with school. But to make up for it, I am hereby presenting you amazing photos of Yosemite National Park!! Although San Francisco offers a great variety of outdoor activities, nothing beats the grande impressions of wild nature that are just a short 4-hour-drive away! I highly recommend taking a 3-5-long trip there if you have time at all to spare. It will be so worth it!

DSC_2447_1Cooks Meadow Yosemite Falls, close to the Park Entrance

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Tunnel View

 

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View of Nevada Falls from the Vernal Falls Plateau

 

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You don’t get that sort of night sky in a big city, enjoy!!

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Vernal Falls

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Are your lunch buddies ever that cute?

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Watch after the little ones!

 

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One day we hiked in a T-Shirt, the next day we woke up to this!

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Grizzly Giant, with roots as big as an average tree!

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Great, it rained. Happy?

Last weekend something weird happened in the Bay Area. The clouds in the skies would get darker and darker, the fog wouldn’t roll out but become a thick cover and wet stuff was falling from the sky. People called it rain. I called it Armageddon.

After California had been heading towards a serious drought for the past months, this past weekend brought a temporary relief in the form of inches of precipitation for San Francisco and its surrounding. I should be happy but, of course, it was the one weekend of the year I had a friend visiting from Germany, which called for lots of sight seeing. I learned several things over that past weekend:

1.) I am not equipped for rain. Neither mentally nor actually. How did I survive three years in a city with more rainfall than Scotland?! Last weekend, my so called “water resistant” shoes proved the salesperson wrong within minutes and my mood dropped to below zero before sunrise.

2.) Avoid malls during rainy season. Or shiny grounds in general. Trying to lift myself up via retail therapy, I marched into a mall and…fell face flat to the ground. After stumbling embarrassingly for a good couple of steps. When I stood back up, EVERYBODY was starring at me- sales people in the stores, shoppers on the escalators, bystanders. I bowed and ran away but it definitely taught me a lesson.

3.) Rainy season means survival of the fittest. Or of the ones with the biggest umbrellas. Suddenly, people forget how to live the California way and start pushing their way through the streets instead, as if their amount of pushing could limit the amount of rain drops that would fall onto them.

4.) Avoid public transport. Because that’s where you’ll find them. The inhabitants, the tourists, the homeless. Don’t take the F train because the first few ones will pass by your stop due to overcrowding and when you finally do get on one, it will smell like wet dog. You will be equally wet if you simply walk.

5.) Netflix. Day in, day out, without having to feel guilty about it. Finally.

6.) No Wharf. Because, at the wharf, you will be surrounded by water from all sides and it just leaves you with a very…watery…feeling.

7.) If you do decide to take a break from Netflix to go out (crazy much?!), don’t bother trying to combine clubbing outfits with rainprofability. It probably won’t work anyways and also, nobody cares. After a whole entire day of sightseeing in my hiking boots, my friend and I went barhopping in the castro (yes, in hiking boots and rain jackets). Nobody noticed. Nobody cared. Instead, we got props for daring to go out at all.

8.) Once it stops raining, the city finds itself in a state of rebirth. The air is fresh, the streets are clean and clear and people walk around in a state of astonishment. The world did not end, the sun came back, the temperatures rose. Faith in California restored. I know that it would have to rain a whole lot more to diminish the fatal results of a drought and I know I should be happy that it did rain. I should stop being naive and foolish and selfish and turn into a responsible, conscious citizen of this region by praying for more rain. But I am still in shock and so I am praying that this end-of-the-world-scenario will not repeat itself anytime soon. Between rationing water usage and heavy precipitation, I’d take communal showers anytime!

9.) A rainy day in San Francisco is still better than a rainy day anywhere else in the world.

 

But, just to make sure that my spoiled body gets its’ monthly sun intake that it has become accustomed too these days, I will be going on a roadtrip down to L.A. this weekend. Next blog posts with awesome photos and tips coming soon!!

Why I love Americans

Well, there are countless reasons, actually. But this specific one derived from a phone convo I had had with my parents today.

I have been going running regularly for almost two years now. So, when my classmate told me she was training for a half marathon on Hawaii at the end of August, I started thinking. Wouldn’t that be a great goal to train towards, an amazing experience and a fun story to tell for the years to come?
“Aaah, back when I was 22 I went abroad for a while. Meditated in San Francisco, went surfing in LA (Tabitha, that has to happen!) and ran a half marathon in Kauai.” Sounds kinda badass, right?

I told my (American!) housemates about the idea and they loved it! Reassured me that it would be an unique experience indeed and erased my doubts of potentially not having enough time next to school to prepare for it. Encouraged me by telling me how well I was running distances already. Left me with a pretty good feeling.

Then I told my (German) parents. Their reply was a list of things I would have to consider if I’d actually pull through. “You should read up on how to train properly. And what if you get injured? Check with your health insurance, you know that the American ones don’t cover as much as the Europeans ones! Also, you need adequate equipment and it will require a consistent amount of energy. Adjust your food intake. And your water intake. Oh and by the way, how were you planning on even affording a flight to HAWAII in the first place?”

Now, notice how they never said “It’s a stupid idea”. But in all their Germaness, they pulled up an entire checklist that I’d need to fulfill to get the job done. I think Germans tend to strategize lots and lots before actually getting started on something to ensure that the outcome is not going to fail. Americans fail often and early. But if they fail, they try again. Not only do they possess the optimism to believe in their own ideas and potentials but also do they have enough positive thinking to trust in other people’s dreams too! I don’t know if I would actually pull through with the half marathon. But I do know that having people believe in me so purely and strongly motivates me on an entirely different level.

It’s not a matter of “in order to…I need to…” but rather a matter of “I believed I could, so I did!” that Americans tend to live by. And that’s the beauty of their thinking!

Nike Ad as found on Pinterest

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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Approaching- Outbound Trains in 100 minutes

Dear M Outbound train,

After three months of relying on you daily to get me into the city once, twice, sometimes even three or four times a day, I have had enough! I tried to be understanding, you know. Be OK with the fact that the next outbound train might be announced to arrive in 5 minutes but still takes half an hour nonetheless. Accept the fact that trains are being skipped and the few that do make it into the station are helplessly overcrowded, badly enough so that I fear to miss my stop because I cannot get out in time. I tried to make my peace with the fact that a two-car-train is being randomly disconnected at a station, which I only realize after my part of the tram continues as a different line and all that is left for me to do is watch the first part continue en route to home. Oh, you announced that? Over the speakers that are not working? Why, thanks! I tried to take the random assortment of people with a great deal of humor because, after all, that is part of the San Francisco feel. You gotta learn to love the junkies and old ladies clipping their toe nails and isn’t it great that people don’t even question the big puddles on the seat next to them anymore? Could be pee, could be water, definitely is not sperm, cause that can be found in that used condom in the corner. Excuse me Miss, does your bag really need its own seat while the old lady here has to stand? Inhalling the scents of a homeless person while being stuck in the tunnel for fifteen minutes without any explanation of why that is happening. But that’s fine because two guys who are clearly high on something offer free real-life entertainment.
No, I am getting tired and I am longing for a car. Or a bike. So, here are my final words for you, I thought of them the other day while waiting at the station for 45 minutes, then being pushed into the tram only to be told five minutes later that the inbound M line I was on would spontaneously be changed into an outbound L line, which forced me to switch trams again and miss my salsa lesson:

Seems like just yesterday
that you failed me again
you used to drive so frequently
you used to be on time
your seats comfy and clean
is now a distant dream
Of the unbreakable, of nothin’ goin’ wrong
Now I can’t breathe
No, I can’t sleep
I’m barely hanging on

Here I am, once again
I’m torn into pieces
Can’t deny it, can’t pretend
Just thought you’d get me home
Broken up, deep inside
But you won’t get to see the tears I cry
because you never run

After long days in school
I just want to go home
You could help me make that true
For once in my life
Now all that’s left to me
Is hoping the next day will be
So different, that you might be on time
‘Cause I can’t breathe
till I feel the breeze
of you runnin’ into the statiooooon

Here I am, once again
I’m torn into pieces
Can’t deny it, can’t pretend
public transport in the city sucks
Broken up, deep inside
But you won’t get to see the tears I cry
because you never run

Swallow me then spit me out
from an overcrowded tram car
Waiting for you became a norm
No, I don’t cry on the outside
Anymore…
Anymore…

Here I am, once again
I’m torn into pieces
Can’t deny it, can’t pretend
just thought you could do better
Broken up, deep inside
But you won’t get to see the tears I cry
because you never run

Here I am, once again
I’m torn into pieces
Can’t deny it, can’t pretend
Just thought you were the one
Broken up, deep inside
But you won’t get to see the tears I cry
I hate you M train!

(thanks Kelly Clarkson!)

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