Sunday, October 31, 2010

Alpen Wochenende

This week coming up, I have four days of continuing education in Garmisch, where I'm settled in to a pension at the present moment. I can't see forking out $190/night to stay at the place where the conference is. Plus it's full of Americans. And I'm in Europe.

Strangely, after my last post, on Muslims, I've booked myself in a place which is run by a warm man whose daughters wear beautiful head scarves, as well as an older white man. I can't figure out the connection. But I think they all live and work here.

So again, the Gods provide me with some nice people, who happen to also be Muslim to back up what I just wrote the other day. Well whatever you want to believe.

I started off yesterday after 11 hours of sleep. (So damn lazy.)

This is an abbey in the town of Ettal, in the foothills of the Alps. They make their own beer here (as is common) and sell it. Maybe pays for the upkeep. Maybe helps make more sinners so they give more to the church, and so on. An endless cycle, I'm sure.

Ok, just me driving. So pretty though.

It actually reminded me of the south island in NZ, way down there. The Germans used to gush about the beauty of NZ, but I don't understand. Germany is beautiful too. Not too different.

One of crazy King Ludwig's smaller castles.

My Zimmer which I rented for 23E in Mittenwald. Simple and clean. And I got to spy on the people who lived there. An old lady about 80, with long grey hair, and a dress that HausFraus wear invited me in and showed me my room. All Deutsch. When I told her what I did, she said that her eyes watered when she rides her bike. How sweet.

Mittenwald, from my hike up.

I went until I got scared. I'm actually a little afraid of heights. I used to be anyway. But now I am really just scared of cliffs. Esp when they are covered with slushy slippery snow, and I am by myself wearing sneakers. And if I fall off, no one is going to know. And y'all know, I am clumsy! So I turned back here, but it was still a good 3-4 hour hike, which is gut genug!

Wavin' hello.

Relaxing on the way down, sitting in the sun in the grass. Writing. Reading DH Lawrence (who I love) and letting life pass by.

Schloss Elmau which is still owned by the original family who built it but now they've turned it into a pretentious resort.

Fantastic fashion.

Look, it's my Mini! :)

Funny enough, I checked into my conference, and look whose name is next to me. I just thought it was strange. I think he is saying hi.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pondering the phobias around Muslims

I'm fortunate, in that I've had a lot of positive contact with people who were Muslim. Coworkers, friends, lovers, students. I've traveled to Muslim countries. I've visited mosques. I've had no bad experiences. In fact, they were all just normal people, like you and me, with all the same hopes and fears, just different religious beliefs.

And yet, I think the world has somehow decided that it's ok to hate people for this religion. To blame it for what is going wrong in the world. When truly we need to look at ourselves to find the hatred. We all carry it inside.

I'd read an article, "Islamophobia and Homophobia" yesterday which supported my thoughts, by comparing it to people's changing feelings surrounding gays and lesbians.

"Still, however "natural" this irrational fear, it's dangerous. As Islamophobia grows, it alienates Muslims, raising the risk of homegrown terrorism — and homegrown terrorism heightens the Islamophobia, which alienates more Muslims, and so on: a vicious circle that could carry America into the abyss. So it's worth taking a look at why homophobia is fading; maybe the underlying dynamic is transplantable to the realm of inter-ethnic prejudice."

Earlier I posted an article about a German-Afghani filmmaker who felt he had no place to call home. Though he felt Germany was his home, he was still seen as an outsider. The same article talked about the sweeping fear in Germany regarding Muslims. It bothered me for days, seeping into my thoughts as I wandered about.

By accident, I ended up having a lengthy conversation with a nonmilitary coworker, an RN about 50 years old. He'd been recently working at another military post and stated, "I couldn't stand it there. Too many Muslims. You'd go off post, go left one block, and they were all around."

I was sort of stunned, didn't understand and wasn't sure what to say. "Were they wearing burqas?" I asked.

"No, but they had those head scarves all wrapped around themselves, covered up. You can't make eye contact. You don't know who you can trust. It's so uncomfortable. I just don't want to work there ever again. You never know who's gonna turn around and take you out."

"Oh, but I don't know if it's like that." I tried to smooth it over, relate my positive experiences. But it was a waste.

It left me wondering even more. If someone who appeared to be fairly normal and smart could have such reactionary feelings, it seemed rather hopeless.

I mentioned it to a friend of mine. And he also seemed to think that guys reaction was not so strange. Maybe it is hopeless to hope.

I can see that burqas might be alarming for main stream society, but head scarves should definitely not. And what is the difference between a burqa and some of the skin-baring attire that's out there? That makes people uncomfortable too. Why is one better than the other? The oppression of women in some of the Muslim sects is an issue, for sure. But there are many religions where this is the case. That's a different question all together.

Maybe I am in my own happyland planet where I think we could all get along one day.

It just seems sad, that's all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What I have taped on the front of my journal

"Hope" is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune without the words --
And never stops -- at all --
And sweetest -- in the Gale -- is heard --
And sore must be the storm --
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm --
I've heard it in the chillest land --
And on the strangest Sea --
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb -- of Me.
-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, October 23, 2010


"The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indestructible as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched."
It is so true.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Immigration issues; being an outsider in your own country.

To ponder this weekend: cultural assimilation, making judgements, seeing people for who they really are, not who you think...

Questions: Who is really a German? Who is an American? Who is Muslim? Who is Catholic? How can you tell? How do you guess what language someone will speak? How much of this is based on appearance? How many snap judgments do we make every day without even thinking about how wrong they might be?

From NYT article: With Film, Afghan-German Is a Foreigner at Home
Published: October 17, 2010
Burhan Qurbani has realized that his audience sees him as an Afghan immigrant who made a movie about Islam, not as a talented German filmmaker.

He suddenly realizes that he is a foreigner at home, and that his audience sees him as an Afghan immigrant who made a movie about Islam, not as a talented German filmmaker who chose to explore issues common to all mankind.

"Of course, I am German," Mr. Qurbani said. "I have Afghani roots, I can't deny that, but mostly, I am German."

Mr. Qurbani's personal narrative should be a tale of immigrant success. His parents fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and settled in Germany. His father was an electrician, but his parents divorced, so his mother raised two boys with the help of public assistance. He received a first-rate education and had the chance to pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker.


"It is tragic what is happening here," said Hatice Akyün, a writer and lifelong German resident of Turkish descent who, like Mr. Qurbani, must confront the frustrating daily exclamation from other Germans who never seem to tire of telling them, "You speak German so well."

"I'm tired of explaining," Ms. Akyün said. After living here for 40 years, she said, she is so distraught by what is happening that she is considering moving to Istanbul. "The only country I consider home," she said, "is Germany. But it is getting worse and worse."


"My grandfather told me and my brother, 'You are like a bird without legs; You cannot land,' " he recalled. "You will never be at home here and you will never be at home in Afghanistan."

It was not until the film came out that he realized how right his grandfather was. "I'm not the filmmaker who worked with brilliant actors and a talented cinematographer; I'm the Afghani," he said, again dragging on a cigarette.


Like much of Europe, Germany is gripped by anger and mistrust between ethnic nationals and immigrants, especially, but not exclusively, Muslims. The debate in Germany, long simmering beneath the surface, broke into the open with a recent book that condemned Muslim immigrants for "dumbing down" society and accusing them of coming to Germany only because it is a generous welfare state. The book warned Germans they were losing their country.

Ms. Merkel stoked the growing debate over the weekend when she told a meeting of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union that Germany's attempts to build a multicultural society had "utterly failed." While immigrants are welcome in Germany, Ms. Merkel said, they must learn the language and accept the country's cultural norms.

A survey released last week by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation reported 58.4 percent of the 2,411 people polled thought that Germany's approximately four million Muslims should have their religious practices "significantly curbed."

These are scary and sad close-minded thoughts.

I hope for the world to be different, yet recognise that it's not. I've seen this in Germany, so I know it's true. It's nothing unique to Germany- it's worldwide, nationwide. If we're to become a multicultural, loving world (and individual societies), I think the only way is through honest open dialogue and self-questioning.

We must change mindsets, the treatment of individuals and groups of people. We must start with ourselves.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just guessing: Haruki Murakami is A Short Man.

Quote from recent read, After Dark, by said author:

"Mari is a tiny girl, and the woman [Kaoru] is built like a barn, maybe two or three inches shy of six feet." Also referred to Kaoru as a "Big hunk of a woman."

Who knew a 5'9" woman was so massive? God help me.

Now, to test my hypothesis, I looked online for height and weight stats on this author whose book, Kafka on the Shore, I loved. But there were none. I looked for photos, for height comparisons, and this man does not appear in any group photos and only two with other people.

So I cannot be sure.

I still like his writing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Long Fall Days

Driving to work lately has been a swirl of colors and textures, each day different. Part of the changing seasons. As much as I see beauty in it, I'm still hampered by seasonal thoughts. The trees, though shades of a favorite color, orange, still seem ugly to me. But a dry patch of leaves on the ground to crumple through reminds me of the bonfires we used to build when I was a kid. And so each day waxes and wanes with emotions of changes.

As the days shorten, I feel myself cocooning inward. Quietly absorbing life. Less chat and idle laughter. More contemplation. It is okay.

(The top three pictures I took while driving and did not crash, so that is positive!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Last walk through Belgrade

Bicycle elevator sign. :)

I think building on the right used to be very grand. I could see old beds and such through the windows, walking along the bridge to the right (which you cannot see in the photo).

Attempted to go to the Modern Art Museum but it was bombed in 1999 and still under repair.

Walking through the park along the Danube.

Fashionistas everywhere.

In the suburb of Zemun. I spent about an hour sitting in the window on the left watching people. It was the only non smoking establishment I found, and I was happy. I don't care if it's a chain in Serbia!

Would you guess this is a mall in Serbia? I always was creeped out by malls, and the loss of time and place that occurs once you enter. I think it's the retailers hope this occurs, so you lose your whole day losing all your money to things you didn't need anyway...

Going home...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Search for Love -- DH Lawrence

Those that go searching for love
only manifest their own lovelessness,
and the loveless never find love,
only the loving find love,
and they never have to seek for it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Losing parents

Low Stress Fields

(This is according to's Best Jobs in America 2010 issue.)
Rank Job title Best Jobs rank % who say their job
is low stress
1 Biomedical Engineer 10 70.0
2 Transportation Engineer 51 69.0
3 Statistician 64 64.0
4 Web Developer 67 57.7
5 Geographic Information Systems Analyst 97 55.6
6 Technical Writer 88 54.9
7 Test Software Development Engineer 30 54.2
8 Marketing Consultant 61 53.5
9 Civil Engineer 6 53.3
10 Optometrist 56 53.1
From the November 2010 issue
Source: survey of more than 40,000 workers
Who knew I was in the company of such nerds? Yes, my job is low stress. It's because the job is pretty damn easy, and full of lots of bullshitting with patients and staff. And we call ourselves "Doctors." All good stuff. Really.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Novi Sad a.k.a. Нови Сад

I decided to take the train to Novi Sad today. It's the location of Exit Festival and supposedly a little more of a cafe culture, and laid back. I also love public transport, so the idea of a few hours on the train sounded good and relaxing to me.
Gorgeous exteriors. A bit deceiving.

Trying to document how filthy it was, but this picture does not do justice. I was mulling over whether it was the dirtiest public transit I'd ever been on or not.

Novi Sad Train Station.
It's a pretty town. And the people seem happier as well.
And they were having a marathon!
This guy's trying to decide whether he needs new glasses or not. I think anyway.

Ok that was sick whipped cream or marshmallow creme or lard sugar. I'm not sure which. The underneath was a local thing called "Zito" which is a walnut/wheat dessert and not too sweet actually. This was lunch. When you're solo you can eat dessert for lunch if you want.

It was actually the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of Milosevic's regime-- back on Oct 5, 2000.
I'd just like to point out that they're more bike friendly in Serbia than they were in New Zealand. Bet you wouldn't have guessed that. They have special bike lanes and no curbs to jump. And cars don't try to kill cyclists. How nice.
Poor damn marathoners.

Is that not cool or what? And all safety-like with the vest.
Catching the train home.
Oh wait, it's the bus. The train broke. So we had to return our tickets and pay 4 times as much for the bus and then ride in this thing which was "kinda broken." Plus people were smoking in there. Nothing like being in an enclosed space with a sinus cold breathing cigarettes. I was thinking that the smoking thing might just be what gets me back to the States. I truly hate it so much.
Riot police lined up. Today was a gay pride parade, which I read about on the way to Novi Sad. Apparently Serbs are not into that sort of thing and the riots had been expected. Really sad. There was broken shit everywhere, only a half block from my hostel. Glad I'd left town for the day.
Stairs to the underpass.
Are berets for army compulsory around the world?

And VERY SADLY, I was going to go to an art exhibit called Oktober Salon, here, but it was closed due to the Damn Riots. Oh well.

Post note: When I got back to my hostel, the girl at the front desk wanted to know where I'd gone today. I said, "Novi Sad." She was relieved, and had been worried that I was caught up in the riots. Very sweet.

Second post note: I decided if I continue to visit Eastern Europe (which I will), then I really need to learn the Cryllic alphabet. That's next on my list of things to do. And watercolor class.