I am spoiled. The people that I come from (my home country – the U.S.A.) are also spoiled. This concept is reinforced nearly every day in most of my classes here in Germany.
The classes that I take are geared toward infrastructure systems for developing nations (e.g. a large portion of the world and its inhabitants), and many of my fellow classmates are representatives from these developing areas.
So the running joke is that the U.S. is number 1 … number 1 for the most wasteful clean water users, number 1 in power consumption per capita, number 1 in waste generators. Well, now … isn’t that lovely. So what if we (my representative country) water lawns with drinkable water, fill swimming pools, take long showers, have pre-packaged everything, and have 18 different electronic devices/appliances running at one time per room. Oh yeah, the U.S. is an urban sprawl master (which is not necessarily a good thing).We have room to grow out our cities and expand ever further into the frontier, sure. The area covered by our large cities out-pace probably every other city of the same population. As a wanna-be planner, this is a nightmare – the lengths of pipe, power/telephone lines, and roads needed just to connect one sprawled neighborhood with that picturesque hill country/beach/mountain/river view (until of course, you are staring at the next development that comes along) to everything else is … well … sad. But I have grown up in this culture. I like going out for a drive (or more precisely, a ride on my motorcycle). I like the idea of having space around me to move and breathe and make noise without disturbing your neighbor one shared wall away, or the ones above & below you.
But those aren’t the only reasons I am oh so spoiled. Take English, for instance. That is my native tongue. My classes here are all taught in English. Easy peasy … for me. Even with the required level of understanding of English to be accepted in this program, I can’t help but think about all of my friends who think in the Indian languages, Spanish, Mandarin/Cantonese, Russian, and can’t forget the immense number of African languages. Most people around me speak at least 2, 3, or 4 languages. Me? I speak English. Yes I know enough German to get me in trouble (and probably not enough to get me out of it) and a very little bit of Spanish, and even less (= a selection of words & phrases) of Hindi. But I am pretty much a master of the English language (until I can’t remember what something is called. But just don’t ask; it’s embarrassing). Not even talking about my classes though, I have this assumption that people will understand me while in a foreign country. My first go here is Deutsch, aber naturlich. But when I get stumped … “sprechen Sie Englisch, bitte?” And for the most part, it works.
I find myself living in an odd paradox. My life here in a typical European metropolitan city (if a typical does exist) is like a novelty. Not having my own transport and relying on a very efficient domestic rail and bus system is different and enjoyable – not something I would’ve chosen, but I gladly except because “when in Rome …”. The other end of my quaint little paradox is something I’ve mentioned before. How I’m living feels natural, feels ordinary. An ordinary novelty. I thing that might explain me, as well.