...Is anyone still reading this?
I see that I haven't updated since November, thereby breaking my self-imposed "2 posts a month" rule. Considering that January ends on Sunday, I probably won't make two posts this month, either. But we'll see.
I suppose I could blame several things for my absence from writing here. For one, I was on vacation in Florida for two weeks over the holidays and was only on the computer for a fraction of the amount of time that I am here. The vacation was very sorely needed after being abroad for an entire year, and I am very thankful to have had the chance to see and spend time with family and friends that I hadn't seen in so long.
I also really missed driving my car. That sounds silly, considering most people gripe about driving. Hell, I used to complain about driving from my apartment to campus at FSU, and it was like 12 minutes away. Well, over my 2 weeks in Florida, I drove over 1500 miles and spent time in Gainesville, Orlando, Jacksonville, Palatka (not for the scenery) and, of course, Sarasota. Listening to music and driving on the various Florida highways was a very surreal, yet familiar feeling for me and made me feel very relaxed.
There were a lot of weird little things about America that weren't "weird" for me until viewed through the lense of being in Deutschland for the past year. For example, my luggage was lost so I went to Wal-Mart on my first day back in Florida. While purchasing some staple items and necessities I couldn't help but notice how strange the other Wal-Mart shoppers seemed to me. I wondered, "Are these people an accurate cross-section of American citizens?"
Also, the weight issue. I can't believe how many people are unapologetically overweight or obese. While dining with some friends, I met someone who claimed to "never eat vegetables or anything green." I did not want to say what I was thinking, which was something along the lines of: "That is probably why you've got rolls of fat spilling forth from over your jeans." But, that would have been impolite to say to someone I had just met, so I kept my musings to myself.
Still, how troubling! Is the stereotype of the fat American more than just a stereotype? Well, probably. I don't know of any other country in the world where the people have the luxury of eating as much horrible food as they possibly can, combined with leading entirely stagnant, stationary lifestyles.
This sounds too negative, like I'm casting stones. Well, perhaps I am. But in all honesty, my trip home gave me a newfound appreciation for America. It is something that is difficult to place my finger on, and it may be nothing more than the overwhelming sense of familiarity that I had whilst speaking English to clerks at gas stations or ordering something off a menu at a restaurant. In any case, I felt myself quickly realizing that I should try to make it back stateside more often, and in 2010 I plan to do just that.
2010, weird. 2000 seems so... not a decade ago. Our perceptions of time can be strange, sometimes. I remember aspects of high school so vividly, but whole years between 2000 and 2010 seem to blur and run together. Bizarre. Oh well, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who feels this way. I do, however, notice a lot of differences in myself now as compared with the person I was at 18, 20, or 22.
On to other matters. I am a couple of weeks away from finishing the 1st of 4 semesters of my M.A. program here. While it has been a truly unbelievable experience thus far, I must admit that it is not what I expected. I guess the lessons I'm learning (aside from my studies about European fascist movements or Soviet prison camps) are that no matter where you go, people are just people. Most of us, including myself, have/had a sort of perception of Europe as being a kind of promised land, both exotic and mysterious. When the exotic land becomes home, and the mystery is toned down, one sees it for what it really is: just another place, except one hears many different languages and the social customs might be a little different.
That being said, I am not unhappy. In fact, I am happier these days than I have been in a long time. My goals for myself are becoming clearer by the day. I have been going to the gym regularly, and can already feel the results of that. I've been looking into doing a Praktikum ("internship") this summer, but I'm not sure in what field. I've got a long break between the end of my summer semester and the start of next winter semester (mid-July to early October, so almost 3 months), so I need to find something to do to pass the time. Though, I would like to use the opportunity to travel around Europe some more and also to come back to Florida again. Both of my parents are supposedly coming to visit me (separately) in Berlin this year, which I am also pretty happy about. While this is true for both of my parents, I am especially excited to spend some time with my father, whom I have not really had any one-on-one time with since childhood, really.
Well, I actually have a few more ideas for blog posts, but I'll end this one now. Maybe I will come up with a 2nd one this month, after all...