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Friday, October 29, 2010

Was ist los?

So, two of the three people who read this blog have asked me where I've been and why I haven't posted anything since that vertigo-causing video from the back of my bike. Where do I begin? For starters, I'm fortunate enough to have been asked to write a pre-election "guide" for High Country News. Now, I'm working on the post-election wrapup, and have the onerous task of saying something interesting that I didn't say in the leadup piece. Actually, the real task is keeping the word count at a reasonable level. Though this is merely a midterm election, it's an important one in many ways: the sheer cost of the thing is outrageous in itself, and will total around $4 billion when all is said and done; it's the first election since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can finance campaigns; whether or not the Tea Party wins many races in the general election, its presence has altered the shape of the Republican party forever; and the Western United States may lose a lot of the national influence it has gained in the last decade; etc. Some of it will be in HCN, the rest I'll put here. When I have time.

And I haven't had much as of late. First, we finally found an apartment, which is something I'll write about after I have a bit of distance from the trauma, during which Germany's psyche was laid bare for us to see. It wasn't pretty (but the place isn't bad. Above photos are two views from our windows, and one pic of an old insane asylum a couple of blocks away). Now, we're trying to get Internet in our apartment. A simple task, you say? Then you haven't tried it in Berlin. And, I started my German class. It's about time I started integrating, right? Problem is, I somehow "tested" into the B-level class based on residual knowledge left over from high school German classes I took more than 20 years ago. What this means is that I now spend four hours each day in a classroom filled with much younger folks than me (and from Paraguay, Brazil, Japan, China, Argentina, Spain, Chile, England, Australia, Ukraine and even Moldavia), who speak to each other in what sounds to me like gibberish but is, in fact, German. And I'm expected to talk back as though I understand, and take quizzes, and talk to the teacher. It's humbling, I suppose, which is only a few letters away from humiliating.

I can't sign up for a class at a more appropriate level because to do so might require repeating the bureaucratic (take a number and wait) ordeal that I already had to go through. So, I will quietly endure yet another trauma that will leave permanent scars for which I will once again fail to get the professional help that I need.

But suffering, I hope, will make my writing better, because I've got a whole bunch of stuff to say: About immigration and integration, about Muslim women and their headscarves and burqas, about shopping at Ikea and a short story about what happens when I accidentally walk into the wrong apartment and another one about sagebrush, Berlin and high-speed trains. Stay tuned. And since those of you deserve a reward for plowing through all my neurotic gabbing, watch this video of Borges reading "The Art of Poetry" with some harsh but good images. I stumbled upon it at nthWORD.