new site

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home-leaving, home-coming

Frankly, my dear ... oh wait, that's not how this begins. Being in another country, which should be home and is partially still but isn't at all anymore, is confusing to say the least.

Frankly, before departing my current home - Stuttgart, I was worried about what I would experience emotionally/mentally upon arrival and limited stay in Texas - my once home. Maybe worried is too strong; I was in deep consideration and mental introspection. I think I was expecting something similar to my culture shock and general uneasiness that occurred after returning from my six-month stay in India. I've been in Germany longer and I know that I am returning there shortly. So I know that I am not returning home in this trip, but simply here in familiar surroundings for a total of eleven days then back home I go (via Berlin for a class excursion for a week).

I arrived in Houston at some point ... time travel confounds me to no end, especially since according to the airline, I ate dinner at 10am and a midnight snack at 4:30pm, and it was all still happening on the same day that I left. Thus far, it has all felt exactly the same to me. I hadn't planned on this. Besides the particular activities I am doing or not doing, nothing is different, not even my perceptions - no cultural shift necessary. I don't find myself longing for the U-bahn or being surrounded by German talk & text or whatever else defines my newest reality. (oh! but that first taste of brisket was heavenly.) My sister has commented on a few things that I have said or done that are funny to her - one being my speech patterns: my english is different from being around people whose native language is not english, and I also have two other languages swarming in my head constantly. But why do things feel as if the last 9-10 months don't exist?

But that's me. I know life goes on. And really, my life has too traveled from that past into the present, but it's like I have compartmentalized my experiences. hmm.

I am not a loud person. I am not one that jumps into the middle of the circle or enjoys being the center of attention. I am in country for a specific reason: to be very present and supportive before/during/after my sister gets ordinated (I'm pretty sure that verb doesn't exist in the manner I use, but it works for me - ordination in the United Methodist church as a full-blown elder/clergy/pastor/etc.). That's why I've flown over. So when we were going through the schedule of my time here, I was glad that I was in essence staying away from my old city and old church (sorry gang) because the swarm of people is not my style. I like business-as-usual gatherings, either my presence doesn't change the stride of the conversation or it's like I was never gone. Silly to dream such things, I know. But now that I am here, I find myself not minding if I could meet up with friends on this side of globe. We will see; we will see.

In summation: I left "home" confused and have arrived "home" opposite-but-equal confused. Life is grand, ain't it?



No matter the language I'm speaking or learning, no matter the types or nationalities of my friends, and no matter where I "hang my hat" - you can never take the Texan out of a girl.

I know, I know, sounds silly coming from a partial √©migr√© living in Germany with prospects to be all over the world, but I’m beginning to see the truth in it.

Why? I have had various country songs spring into my mind at all hours for the past months. The recent culprit: “I shoulda been a cowboy / Shoulda learned to rope & ride / Wearing my six-shooter, riding my pony on the cattle drive / Stealing young girls’ hearts / Just like Gene & Roy / Singing those campfire songs / Oh, I shoulda been a cowboy.
“I mighta had a side kick with a funny name / Running wild through the hills chasing Jesse James / Ending up on the brink of danger / Riding shotgun for the Texas Rangers / Go west young man, haven’t you been told / California’s full of whiskey, women and gold / Sleeping out all night beneath the desert stars / With a dream in my eye and a prayer in my heart “ (Chorus again)

Besides the tunes on my lips, nachos & chili run through my veins. I don’t want to deceive anyone – I am no cowgirl. I don’t own Stetson or Wranglers; I don’t have the boots or the shiny big belt buckle or the perfectly formed hat. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t before or don’t dream about it now.

There’s just something about the Texan lifestyle/culture that I’m thinking will never leave me. And I’m quite glad about that.

Makes me think about how my dad would answer and end a telephone call ... always: "Yellow." "M-bye." Texan born and bred.


multi-personality pics

I was browsing through my collection of digital photographs that I have taken through the years (probably being distracted from some other thing that I should've been doing), most taken on travels, but some are of everyday life. And I noticed something.

My photographs show rather clearly that when I hold a camera, one of three personas becomes dominate: the Chronicler, the Artist, or the Observer.

The Chronicler: As a child, my sister was the family photographer because she was the only one willing to walk around with the beast of the thing that were cameras back then. But I also think psychology inserts itself here too because (I believe) she knew the value of that treasure - having tangible memories of time past. She acted (and still carries forth) like a middle child, although there are only the two of us. She's the peacemaker, the stable soul seeking stability. Now, I was the younger sister and played that role as best I could, causing grief to her daily. But I've always been fiercely loyal & protective of her too. As a pre-teen & beyond, I imagined that if she ever found herself in a fight (which of course is preposterous being a peacemaker) or was ever bullied in any fashion, that I would utterly destroy the perpetrator; she is, after all, my sister to mess with and make cry (sorry Kelli) and nobody else's.

All this to say, that I was not born chronicling, but have stumbled into it with perceived necessity. I've written before about memory and my amazing lack of it, so having a visual story-line that I can refer to as a manual recall of memories has become of great value to me.
(Summer studio 2007; Noragachi, Chihuahua, Mexico; process to make adobe block)

The Artist: these are the pictures that I most love to take. Some, without labels, I can't even identify what or where in context. My favorite topics: repetition, shadow & light, detail mechanisms or textures, and human interaction (though I have the guts to take far less of people because I don't want to intrude on someone else's moment).

The Observer: this is when I realize I have nothing to show for an event/occurrence/situation. I simply forgot I had a camera, maybe took a shot or two then simply observed in real time with both eyes. When I let the observer in me take over, I know I catch far more beauty in my mind's eye, and must then rely on some stray thought to recall them back from my disastrous filing system of my long term memory (or on someone else's pics).

However, if someone else has a camera, mine may never see the light of day. Maybe I'm an observer first and foremost, down to the bone, but I let the other me's come out and play.


sleep, sleep, slumber deep

Holy Week this year is like no other I have experienced. Yes, I now live in Germany, which I suppose would change things, but not all can be directed at location. In 2008 I lived in India ... and yes, those Easter-related observances were quite different as well. But this is different from my time in Texas and different from that Indian different.

I really do understand that the Lenten season is a mental and spiritual journey, but this time around, I think that I missed it.

Even though, while in India, my friends and the culture were newer to me by several months than my familiarity with my world here, I was in an intensely Christian environment. We were all missionaries doing missionary work. To do Easter et. al. with them was natural and built into our small community.

Germany is not a Christian-hostile country, but it appears like a Christian-ambivalent country. Most of my friends (from all over the world) are religiously ambivalent, non-practicing whatevers. Some of our discussions when a few gathered for Kuchen/cake baking (and a 2 hour walk waiting for said cake to cool) was about how inconvenienced we were since everything seemed to be closed for the government holidays. And I was right there with them when we set our hopes on finding an open ice cream kiosk after our walk under the warmth of the sun. I did not go to services.

Back in Texas, I was very involved in the church, especially during Lent. Lent was always busier than Advent (leading up to Christmas). The prayer times and bible studies. (and of course Fiesta is thrown into the mix.) Oh, and the orchestra, my beloved music: the centering music at Ash Wednesday, the celebratory anthems of Palm Sunday, the heart-wrenching tones of Good Friday, and the joyous revival of life found in Easter carols. Playing those put me right there. But not this time ... none of it.

It's like I have fallen asleep and adopted the ambivalence of the world around me. A good friend asked if my faith was wavering. And no, no it's not. My answer: it's like it's waning. It's becoming devoid of passion and value.

It's this odd place I find myself this Holy Saturday, between the darkness I didn't experience of Good Friday (Karfreitag) and the joy of Easter (Ostersonntag).


future found!

Have I found my future this very night? After hours and hours, weeks upon weeks of sifting through oh so many governmental agencies and international organizations, have I finally discovered a kindred spirit?
The United Nations Development Programme, Bureau of Crisis Prevention & Recovery: helps countries prevent and recover from armed conflict and natural disasters. (http://www.undp.org/cpr/)

This is exactly/verbatim/wholly encompassing of the direction I have wanted to take with my upcoming master's thesis project, and thus with my future career. Because my thesis semester is still one year away, I need to work it so that vielleicht I can collaborate my personal project (yet to be decided) with them so that then they can know of my awesomeness and hire me.

hmmm ... I need to discover the best medium and diction to illustrate my thoughts of "pick me! pick me!"


flying blind

Okay, not literally flying blind, but it's called Blind Booking. The air carrier GermanWings offers incredibly cheap flat rate flights from certain destinations (one of which is Stuttgart) to a handful of destination cities. The trick: you choose when you want to fly & they choose your destination (obviously based on seats they have left). When my friends first mentioned Blind Booking I was extremely intrigued by the notion. It fascinates me because I like adventure and simple clueless wanderings, and it's just enough unknown to make the Type-A planner-to-the-last-detail in me squirm.

From Stuttgart, there are four groupings available to choose from: Culture (Barcelona, Budapest, Dresden, Leipzig, Lisbon, Rome, & Vienna); Metropolis Eastern Europe (Belgrade, Budapest, Dresden, Leipzig, & Zagreb); Metro Western Europe (Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, London, Rome, & Vienna); and Party (Barcelona, Belgrade, Berlin, Budapest, Lisbon, London, & Vienna).

For 30 Euro (really twice that due to taxes) you can fly somewhere. Where? Well, that's where the fine print comes in.

For a few weeks now, I've been waging a battle within me about how much planning should be allowed in preparation for this trip. Is it cheating to plan ahead on what's suppose to be an unknown adventure? When my sister came here after Christmas, I had already booked lodging in every city, train tickets purchased, maps w/ locations & directions highlighted, and a semi-rough itinerary laid out. Part of me wants to do that for each possible city that I could be shipped to. But that goes against the attraction of Blind Booking (besides cheap airfare). A friend last week pointed out to me that I could narrow down the possibilities even further through exclusion (pay 5 fee per city excluded) and I could check to see which cities don't fly on certain days (i.e. there is no flight from Stuttgart to Lisbon on Apr 4).

I am disappointed to say that it's not as mysterious as I imagined. I romanticized that the airline would let you know your destination when you showed up at the airport to claim your ticket, or in the least the day before (realistically better so that you'd know when to get to the airport).

But not so.

Apparently when you book your flight dates and chosen destination group, the confirmation email sent immediately after informs you of where you're headed ... which sadly leads ample time to Type-A plan. Na gut.
In any case, it's a pretty sweet deal, still slightly enigmatic, and something fun to do during holiday. Now, Eastern Europe or Western or maybe Culture? (if Western, I'm excluding London & Berlin ... been to both & will be back in Berlin in June ... I want to go somewhere new and, please God, warm.)


ends & beginnings

The end of something will always mean the beginning of something. Sometimes we forget this.

I am most definitely at the end of something, though this "end" has been happening for quite a while.

Even before moving (and planning to move to Germany) I have felt that pull of needing to conclude a chapter in my life, to move on to something new, though I knew not what "new" meant. I still don't, at least not entirely. I have ideas, I have leanings, but let's just see where the path leads, even if cut my own path.

That big "end of something" was huge. I gave away my stuff. I packed away my life. Became literally homeless. Quit my job, which was so much of who I was for years. Cancelled accounts/services. Truck-sold. Motorcycle-sold. Honestly, the hardest for me was losing my bike. It became an extension of me, of how I learned to define myself. I had this not-so-secret hope that maybe it won't sell by the time I visit Texas in June so that I could hop back on and ride. Just ride. But alas, ends are not discriminatory. (Did you notice my chosen diction of "visit"? I'm not returning home for a week. It's no longer home.) The "end" was huge. And strangely I like it.

There's lots of types of ends however. There's the big, final, life-altering ends, then there's the short transitional ones, like my present situation. My first semester of graduate school in Germany is [quickly] coming to a close. Only three more exams (out of 11) then next week begins a month off awaiting the beginning of the summer semester. It seems both quickly passing and forever in frozen time; both the desire to move time along and an eagerness to slow its haste.

Time is truly measured. The measuring stick seems to be just beyond our comprehension, but we know it's continuous. Time marches on despite those ends. So there's beginnings. New semester, new chapter, new life definition.



Music has been an integral part of my life, well, for roughly my entire life.

I remember moments growing up where we would be in the car with country music on the radio and just singing it out. Those songs, when heard again, are dear to me. And if it wasn't country, it was classical music - with the powerful melodies or strong brass lines or dream-like flutes and strings - a place where my imagination could flutter away.

When I was a little older and my classmates were talking about and singing this classic rock stuff of the early 90's, I would "stealthily" listen to a radio station in my room when I thought nobody would hear. I still don't know why I thought I had to listen to it in secret, like it was against the rules or disloyal to like another genre. Strange kid, I know.

Middle school band changed my life. Seriously.I was the shyest introvert ever, but when you have to play and express yourself out-loud, whoa. And as a teenager, my French horn has been an outlet of expression for me when I didn't have any other way.
But you know what I miss? Today, while going to class on the U-bahn/S-bahn (local train) with my iPod streaming music into my ears, I miss singing out loud.

Back when I would drive to work in a self-contained vehicle and when I had my own apartment, I would sing along to the radio (or whatever else was playing in my head). Or start up iTunes and just have a field day with my favorites. I don't do that here. But I wanted to today. I really wanted to. I even walked to the edge of the train platform where nobody was just so that I could sing softly. I feel like I don't want to disturb people, and I'm sure self-conscientiousness plays a prominent role. But it's such a deep urge within me, that I only identified today.

I also miss worship music that I allow to impact me. It's like I've shut myself off from that type of emotion because I just don't want to deal with it right now. I miss music, and I miss music that impacts.


ich habe eine Idee / i have an idea: thesis thought

One of my classes for the first semester of studies in this master's program is Power demand, supply, & distribution. Part of this class is presentations by fellow learners about their home countries' power situation (i.e. electricity). For the most part, I find this time rather interesting considering we have the United Nations represented in young minds right here. We have examples of countries with so much demand that it's pitiful when compared to the rest of the world (i.e. USA), countries that have an increasing demand as the country develops (i.e. many Latin American countries), countries that a minority percentage of households have access to electricity and even that the country cannot supply (i.e. Nepal & India), and countries that have an incredibly low population with access to "daily" amenities (from the eyes of an American) and seem to be okay with it (i.e. several African countries). It truly is fascinating to me - the world.

This last student presentation session was about different countries demand's for commercial nuclear power (as in non-military) and hydro-electrical power production. One person's presentation in particular struck a chord of some sort within me: Afghanistan.

But to back-step a bit, the country right before was Nepal and their extensive use of hydro. Some 40% of the small population (it is a small country consumed by the Himalayas, so the small population part makes sense) have access to electricity, and the government can only provide those with power for half the day - morning and evening/night. From living in India, power cuts are of no great surprise to me. But with Nepal in my head, Afghanistan was next.

In the mid-20th century, Afghanistan, with the aid of a few industrialized nations, developed quite a sufficient infrastructure including several hydro-electric dams. However, due to the Cold War fought on their soil, then civil war, then once again this "War on Terror" against Taliban forces, they are broken. (I'm not entirely sure who "they" is - the infrastructure, sure; the nation, maybe; the trust of the people, seems reasonable; the people themselves, I hope not.)

14% of the population have access to electricity. Wow. When asked about that percentage, my Afghani classmate responded that during times of war, when bombs and bullets are a daily sign of life, it is expected that one would give up on luxury items. Naturally. My bigger "wow" moment occurred when he talked about how his government is trying to rebuild itself. One problem with that: hydro-electric dams have huge up-front costs, and no financier will provide the government with a loan. In their [World Bank & Bank of China] eyes, the country is too unstable and a guarantee cannot be provided that their investment will last long enough to get a return.

This all makes sense, but it's devastating nonetheless.

So my internal wheels started turning. "War-torn and unglued: redevelopment after war and natural disasters." My thesis topic for next year popped into my head (well, potential topic, anyway). This is a good fit to what I've done, where my heart is, and where I am thus far. I want to study, and subsequently put said study into practice, how countries/nations/people-groups rebuild their lives, their homes, their world after disasters - human caused or otherwise. How do we get Haiti back on her feet after the devastating earth-quake or gulf coast regions on the U.S. after hurricanes or Afghanistan after decades of war or Rwanda and Sudan after genocide or North Korea ... does it finally make sense to me why I've wanted to go there? How did Germany and other Eastern Block, previous Soviet occupied countries rebuild after WWII and beyond?

I think I've figured out what I want to do. It's a good thing I'm studying in Germany, so part of my [potential] thesis research is at hand. And a bonus (though my friends might not consider this a positive), long-term travel can be arranged while in the thesis semester ... so I can go to other disaster-laden lands and see what I see.