A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ctamler

home is

Home is what you don’t get.
Home is something we are giving up.
Home is nowhere anymore.
Home is everywhere.
Home is where the heart is.
Home is anyone who reminds you of what you love most.
Home is something that makes you want to be better.
Home is what you protect.
Home is what defines you.
Home is silence.
Home is a thing you can leave.
Home is something you don’t always recognize.
Home is matzah with butter and honey that reminds you of playing SIM City as a child.
Home is waiting for him to call.
Home is dreaming that you’re back there.
Home is ownership.
Home is the reason for war.
Home is the reason to love someone.
Home is the thing you destroy when you love someone in order to build a new one.
Home is too spread out.
Home is a thing I don’t believe in or may have forgotten.
Home is what your future is.
Home is what everyone wants to know about you.
Home is going to a synagogue and hearing the same tunes, the same words.
Home is this picture: me with my head in your lap. A bird with a nest. Always something about women there.

Everyone has an equation to solve.
Home is the origin.
Home is the lack of searching.
You can have more than one home.

Posted by ctamler 17:50 Comments (0)

The saga of Regina and Cory and the night train

Barbra Streisand

View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

first, to set the scene:

characters - Regina and Cory
goal - 12:47am train from Rome (where we celebrated NYE with our friend Adam) to Milan
scene - all over the city of Rome, Italy (background: old stuff)

we left Adam at Hostel Lido (the site of our magical NYE celebrations) feeling like we were sitting pretty. it was only about 11pm and we had almost 2 hours to make it to Tiburtina. we walked fairly quickly to the Lido station, but naturally had to wait until 11:30 until our train left -- Hostel Lido's one downfall is that, being not really Rome but a major suburb of Rome, it's a bit of a trek from Rome proper. well, that's okay, we still had an hour and fifteen minutes. we get off at the EUR MaglaakldgaklfdgnuItalianItalian stop shortly before midnight and saunter up to the metra stop to wait for the subway. two train station security guards wave to us from the other side of the platform. we smile and wave back.

they wave back more aggressively. "chiuso. chiuso. la treno, chiuso." (or whatever's Italian for "the train is not running anymore.")

if you have ever seen two balloons deflating...

we run down from the platform. the security guards repeat "the train is closed!" to us. of course NOW we remember the signs we'd all been seeing for the past 3 days: about how the metra stops running at 11:30pm on weekdays...when we tell them we're trying to get to Tiburtina, the one who seems to speak no English makes a very pitying and exasperated face at us. i think he says something like "can't be done," in Italian.

the other guy is more positive. "night bus n2. take this train." he shoves us toward the train going in the opposite direction, which has just arrived on the platform. "you go. you take. last train. take one stop. get off. one stop. bus n2. Viale Beethoven. you go. take last train. go! go!" and he ushers us on. Regina makes it. the door closes on me and my backpack gets stuck, and the helpful guard pries the door open to pop me through. did i mention this was the last train?

shell-shocked, we get off one stop later. we aren't sure that he said "Beethoven," can't find it on the map, and it's now shortly after midnight...we have 45 minutes to make it to Tiburtina on the other side of the city. Regina runs to look at the nearest bus stop to see if the n2 stops there while i sprint into a still-open cafe. neither of the guys at the counter speak English but i manage to tell them we are looking for bus n2. after some rapid Italian exchanges the younger one tells me, with appropriate hand gestures, but all in Italian, to walk to the left, make the first right, go 4 streets, and make another right.

Regina and i sprint off, following his directions, which do happen to lead us to Viale Beethoven and an n2 bus stop. the bus comes at 12:11am. we have 36 minutes to get to Tiburtina. we do not talk to each other during the ride, other than to make pseudo-cheerful comments like "we'll make it," "we're morons," "maybe we'll sleep in the train station," and "hey, we can always hang out at the Trevi Fountain at 3am!"

12:39am: we pull up to Termini. the bus pulls into its stall and chills. it is not going anywhere. we wait two minutes before evacuating the waiting bus. with six minutes to make it to Tiburtina before our train's scheduled to leave, we run frantically around the construction-littered parking lot until we find the taxi stands. "how long from here to Tiburtina?" i ask one of the drivers.

"how much?"

"no, how long, how many minutes!"

he considers. "seven...ten minutes."

Regina and i exchange desperate glances. "that's too long," we say. but then Regina says, "should we risk it? maybe the train will be late?" we both remember how sketchy Tiburtina was and consider how terrible it would be to spend the night there. it's the dumbest possible choice, but we say, "yes, take us."

after ridiculing us lightly with his fellow taxiers in Italian, the driver books it to Tiburtina. it's 12:51am when we pull in, yank our luggage out of the back, and sprint -- without hope -- into the deserted station. up on the board we see our train number, 830, to Milan. still listed. with a 15 minute delay.

we arrive on the platform panting like idiots and laughing hysterically (/practically crying) from relief to be greeted by the stares of fifty pissed-off Italians who are less than happy about that 15 minute delay. "i could KISS this train for being late," Regina gasps. here we are, being thrilled:


9 hours later we pulled back into Milan, on a train we had no right to be on, after having walked, ridden a train, ridden the metra, ridden a night bus, hailed a taxi, sprinted, and faked a lot of Italian to get there. i will never complain about a late train again.

and now, to share the great musical discovery of our trip:

thank you, Italian Döner and Pizza shop...for saving us from our NYE famine and for bringing us Barbra Streisand.

Posted by ctamler 06:23 Archived in Italy Tagged night backpacking train_travel Comments (0)

Frühes Thanksgiving

View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

my first time in Augsburg with a decent handle on German. i am surprised and excited by how it went. with Leonie it’s especially wonderful and easy. we can switch back and forth between English and German pretty naturally, and i spoke more German with her than English. at our early Thanksgiving dinner i saw Nora and Vinz for the first time, and we didn’t schaf a lot of Deutsch; but the next day over coffee, Nora and i spoke quite a lot of German. then Nora said,

„see? wir können es schaffen.“ pause. „und es ist nur ein bisschen komisch.“

„was denn?“ fragte ich. „meinst du, auf Deutsch mit mir zu reden?“

„ja. nur ein bisschen.“

naturally she’s right – it is a little weird to speak German together, after two and a half years of English. but i’m at the point where we can do it. it is still hard to talk to more than one person; the conversation tends to run very quickly for me, and either i get lost or don’t have quite enough time to react. but it’s immer besser.

Augsburg is getting gussied up for Weihnachten (Christmas). on the way to catch my train back to Berlin, Leonie and i walked through the Christkindlmarkt. “Christmas always makes me not cynical,” she said. she is convinced that she’s generally cynical, but i don’t totally believe that. we had a really wonderful few days together. on Saturday we went to the Lamm (one of the few Aux clubs/bars) for a singer/songwriter contest and Mieze, who’s working with Leonie on her pop-theater-project AUXTSCH, won. we got up early Sunday to go to church in the little Dorf where Leonie’s Oma lives. the morning was foggy and cold (much colder right now in Southern Germany than in Berlin).

Posted by ctamler 06:19 Archived in Germany Tagged language holidays Comments (0)

Independence Day

rain 14 °C
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i had fully intended to celebrate a sort of personal Independence Day on 2. November. one year ago on that day, i left Pittsburgh. it was one of the most difficult decisions i've ever made. it has turned out to be one of the best. i meant to have a beer and oh, i don't know what else. but i just realized i forgot to watch Dexter this week, too.

i'm working on finding a rhythm; working on being motivated when i have so much unstructured time. i do feel -- good. like there are a lot of ideas in my head. a LOT. my Avant-Garde American Theatre class, while not a good influence on my German (i have to read way more for that class every week than all my others combined, and all in English), is a good influence on my brain. we've set up a system for creative production for Farms and Fables as an attempt to find our footing as a creative ensemble and to start to generate material. i did get some writing done today. i'm moving forward.

there are other things i want to do. start climbing at T-Hall. try to take part in this puppet workshop.

and things i need to do. like get my visa. still.

oh, procrastination...

Posted by ctamler 11:52 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Photos in Friedrichstraße

sunny 6 °C
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last night we saw the World Press Photo 2010 exhibition in the Friedrichstraße Bahnhof: some really stunning, often disturbing pictures. this is their chosen top photo of the year:


taken by Pietro Masturzo, it depicts women crying protests from a Tehran rooftop after a disputed election.

there are some awful things going on in the world, you know? i find it hard to think about how to even begin to contribute to a solution, because it seems to me such an obvious thing that, dude, you shouldn't kill people. not for religion, not for drugs, not for money, not for anything other than if they're trying really fucking hard to kill you. how do you argue for "it's not right to kill people" other than saying "it's not right to kill people"?

well, Daniel Kahn on Thursday was incredible, and his music made me feel like it could change you just by listening. i want to be that kind of artist.

Posted by ctamler 03:45 Archived in Germany Tagged photography Comments (0)

things i can do now that i definitely couldn't 2 months ago

  • call a theater and reserve tickets in German (thanks for helping me prove myself not 30 seconds ago, Hebbel am Ufer)
  • understand the basic content of a German movie/play without subtitles...even if it is super weird...though probably excluding highfalutin language
  • cook from a German recipe without much consultation of a Wörterbuch
  • have full conversations in German

weirdly, though, i often have trouble following the news...

Posted by ctamler 09:21 Archived in Germany Tagged language Comments (0)

Kürbiscremesuppe mit Ingwer

(pumpkin soup with ginger)

overcast 6 °C
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i just made this soup. and it is delicious. i used an extra onion and added some carrots and curry powder. i also used a fresh vegetable broth that i made today. hot. DAMN. and, now i can say i've cooked with one of the funny Kürbis (pumpkin) you find in the stores here (called, apparently, Hokkaido-Kürbis because it is "sehr beliebt" in Japan):


i love so many things about fall, and far from least is the food. pumpkin with its rich, velvety taste like a vegetable version of chocolate. things that are dark and rich with cinnamon in them, or ginger. appley treats. cookies. (cookies are so much better in the fall or winter than summer.) hot drinks: hot chocolate and coffee (oh god, coffee is to die for when leaves are falling) and peppermint tea and this year there'll be Glühwein.

the triumphant return of soup,
the special warmth spicy things bring,
the promise of latkes.

i am one of those lovers of seasons...i can't imagine living somewhere where i don't have sweaters and a blaze of colors waiting for me in October.

a favorite thing of mine about living someplace new is the new food rituals you develop: a mixture of local culture, your budget, whom you share meals with, and what the closest grocery store stocks. i have a Germany pattern, begun with Christina during our summers in Augsburg, modified by the last two months in Berlin:

Muesli, Nektarinen oder Pfirisch, Jogurt, und Milch
Kaffee (natürlich)

Sandwich mit Käse, Gemüse (Gürken und Tomaten), Butter, und manchmal Fleisch
was suß: Kekse, Schokolade...
oder essen in der Mensa

evenings are a bit more variable, depending on what the day's been like or what the night's going to be.

in a month i'm going to have fall's most exciting food adventure of all, in Augsburg, with Leonie: Thanksgiving. and, since we'll be celebrating a weekend early so that i can see Nora's play, maybe i'll get to have TWO Thanksgivings...i'm sure there will be one in Berlin.

going to see Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird tonight:

i'm pretty excited.

Posted by ctamler 07:58 Archived in Germany Tagged food music Comments (0)

Ich wohne seit fast 2 Monate in Berlin

(i've lived for nearly 2 months in Berlin)

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things like blogging and journaling have fallen by the wayside over the past months. call it my settling-in period. it's not for lack of interesting things to write about. i could have written about the struggle to find a WG -- ten days in Friedrichshain, and then getting bloody lucky and finding this fantastic apartment in Neukölln. i could have written about Oktoberfest with Nora, Vinz, André -- but i could also let this photo speak for itself:


i could have (and should have) written about language, as i've been learning it; the Vorkurs at the FU that i took for six weeks, all the Erasmus students i got to know. i did write bits and pieces in my journal.

I speak more and more German. With my classmates, my new roommates [...] I had a dream that P & C spoke German to me. Sometimes it comes out quite nicely and I can follow conversations just lovely and other times, it's all a lot of work. But whereas a few weeks ago I couldn't comprehend fluency, now it seems like an attainable goal. (26. September)

it gets better and better, my German. i'm still shit at writing in German, but speaking's coming along well, and i can understand most all of the theatre i go to see...except the super experimental stuff. and i know i don't have that ganz schrecklich amerikanische Akzent. "i can tell you're foreign, but i can't tell you're American."

i could have written about the Fulbright Orientation in Göttingen. how there are 3 other Fulbrighters doing theatre projects in Berlin this year. how all of the Fulbrighters are so damn interesting: a total mischung of recent grads and doctoral students, journalists and grad students; artsy types, nerdy types, teacherly types, sciencey types.

i could have written about some of the fun things i've done. the weekend of not coming home three nights in a row til 6am. the Warschauer Straße Party and the pierogies i made.


last weekend's trip to Berghain, "Europe's best club." or perfect fall day hike with Matt, Amrit, and Paul in Grunewald. but hey. i was too busy enjoying all that stuff.

i have started to write about theatre, mostly to keep a record for myself of the things that i see. Christina, Patrick and i have started to put together a reading list. i Skype on Saturday with the OFAF artistic team for the first time since leaving Maine. i've put together a Lebenslauf and am starting to apply for Regieassistentin positions. this is the first week of school and i am very excited about my classes (Einführung in der Theaterwissenschaft, Avant-Garde American Drama, Deutsch B2.1, and Postmigrantisches Theater). slowly, i am emerging from this acclimation stage and starting to think about work.

i am no longer sure what my project's going to be about. i'll tell you one thing -- the "multiculturalism debate" is EVERYWHERE here. if you know me, you know how disconnected from politics i tend to be. now i am in fact making an effort here to stay a little more informed than usual, but honestly, i couldn't escape it if i tried. and it is very present in the theatre. Migrationshintergrund auf der Bühne...certainly there's plenty in that. well, i'm not in a huge rush. i'm trusting in the process of going to the theatre constantly/reading Theater Heute usw./taking classes/doing a Praktikum. what i want to write about will come up.

there it was, a piece apology, a piece catch-up, a piece speculation. hopefully more regular updates are now in order.

i have one last thing to say: Berlin is amazing, and i am having the time of my life. that is a phrase from which all meaning's been drained, a cliche to end all cliches, but it is really what i mean. this is something special, unique, a one-shot deal that so far has proved just incredible beyond all expectation.

Posted by ctamler 14:27 Archived in Germany Tagged educational living_abroad wg Comments (0)

Surfing Couches, Hunting Apartments

semi-overcast 16 °C
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day one in Berlin: after a restless sleep on the train from Augsburg (thanks, snoring man) and trekking all over the city since arriving that morning to look at WG-Zimmer after WG-Zimmer, i drag myself up three flights of stairs to Johanna's apartment. it's already nearly 10pm and my plan for the evening involves checking email and sleeping, not necessarily in that order. however, i'm intercepted by Jon and Jan, who offer me a gin and tonic. "what are your plans for tonight?" they ask. "i'm just going to stay in," i answer. i also say something about how when i travel, i'm usually only up for either running around all day long OR checking out the nightlife -- some people can do both, i guess, but not me.

six and a half hours later, we leave the last club of the night. hello, Berlin.

the WG hunt is interesting. there is a lot out there, but also a lot of people looking. after two days of it, i have a much better idea of where i want to live and what kind of rent i want to pay. it's looking likely that i'll end up in an apartment in Friedrichshain with a horoscope writer (or as she says, "writer of bullshit") for a month or two...cheap, one of the areas in which i'd most like to live, and that way i can take my time looking for something else to last through July.

balconies are very important around here. they always seem to be a bit of a selling point. bathtubs are also apparently important. in Berlin the street numbers wrap around. so on one side of the street the numbers are increasing in size, on the other side they're decreasing -- rather than odds on one side, evens on the other. individual apartments don't tend to have numbers; you just have to know the inhabitant's Nachname so you know which bell to ring.

everyone bikes. EVERYONE bikes. i need a bike.

the Freie Universität is a bit of a hike from the city. i knew that from visiting last year, but this morning was an emphatic reminder, as i left the apartment of the girl i'm CouchSurfing with at 6:45 and didn't get to the FU til a little after 8:00 (okay, later, because i got so unbelievably lost). but the distance is nice, in a lot of ways. there's a lot of green around campus. it's a change of pace from the city. i guess we'll see how i feel about that after six weeks of daily language lessons here. three hours a day. i guess i'll learn a thing or two.

here's my embarrassment of the week. i knew Jon was British; i'd never met Jan before, but the two had been chatting away in English, both with very British accents. so i assumed Jan was British, too. "what about you, how's your German?"

"well...i'm from Germany," Jan answered.

i don't feel too stupid over that, though, because even after i knew he was German i couldn't detect the accent, which is rarely if ever the case -- i've gotten pretty used to the German-British flavor of accent.

shortly i'll be finding out how my German is, thanks to some kind of intense placement test i'm about to take. (i'll give you a hint: the answer has the words "very," "good," and "not" in it, in some order.) then the language course starts for real tomorrow, and hopefully life will start to develop a bit of a routine. meanwhile, thank goodness for couchsurfing.org, Fabienne, and her ridiculously adorable bunny, Jimmy.

Posted by ctamler 13:22 Archived in Germany Tagged language educational couchsurfing wg Comments (0)

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