It's been a long time without posts, I know, but this one is extra-long and ends with a surprise.
Last night I returned from my weekend in Düsseldorf, which wound up being incredibly fun. Coming back to Hamburg has been consequently rather bittersweet. When I arrived at my hotel on Friday evening they informed me that my room had been upgraded free of charge. It turned out to be this big suite with two levels and giant floor to ceiling windows. I had a comfortable amount of time to shower and change before meeting up with my host, the friend of a friend's ex-boyfriend. In cases such as these there's always a decent chance that the person you'll be meeting will be boring, obnoxious, awkward, or in some way totally incompatible with you. Luckily for me, my host was both courteous and friendly, and pretty handsome as well. We met up with four of his friends at their favourite local bar, and as it turned out his friends were pretty fantastic too. Amusingly enough (given we're all in Germany), not a single one of them was German. Two are Irish, one is Swedish, one is a European mutt, and my host is Danish. The best part about this array of nationalities was that each of them would make ruthless fun of the others for accents and quirks that were unique to their homelands. It was some of the funniest conversation I've ever been party to, and I don't think I've laughed so hard since arriving here.
After hanging out for a while at the bar we decided to go to another, starting what would becoming something of a pub crawl. The European-of-ambiguous-descent wound up heading to a club, but our party of four was no worse off for good times. The bar was a combination of brewery and bar, where the beer was served in these little glasses that can't have been more than half a pint, if not less. Waitresses would come around carrying a tray of these glasses, and would keep count of how many you had had on your coaster. We half-joked we would try and fill the whole edge of the coaster but wound up making it just under halfway, which was probably a better idea. I'm pretty sure we may have taken some shots as well, but I won't pretend that I was paying close attention. Once we had finished enjoying ourselves there we moved on to another place that was well-known for it's Friday nights. However, once we arrived it was completely empty. And I do mean completely empty: besides the staff we were the only ones there. So, we each had a beer and then promptly moved on. I think the next place we went was also the last, a little Irish pub. We set up camp in a corner, at which point I switched to water, though that hardly helped, since until then I had been keeping up with the Europeans who are truly prodigious drinkers. Hmmm... come to think of it I think we started chatting with some North Americans, but I can't really remember the specifics. Anyway, that doesn't particularly matter. After staying there for however long we all piled into a cab and called it a night around what I assume was 5am, because no one leaves before then.
I slept a few hours, and then ventured out to explore a little of Düsseldorf. Unfortunately my late night had me rather tired, so my heart (unusually) wasn't into the shopping. Also, in typical German fashion I got caught in a downpour wearing nothing but a cardigan and a sundress. Magnificent. Nonetheless I wound up getting some super cute shoes, and super cheap coat which I've come to the conclusion is ugly-pretty. Saturday night I met up with the same crew as Friday but larger. This time there were several more Swedes, an Italian, goodness knows who else and maybe even one or two genuine Germans. It was a little intimidating to begin with as the whole group had gone to high school together and the evening was something of an informal reunion for them, but luckily I was able to chat with the boys I had met on Friday night and not feel too awkward.
After everyone had arrived, settled in and had a few drinks we all migrated to a (different from Friday) Irish pub a couple of streets away for some more drinking. I can't say I totally grasp the necessity of moving around so much but I wasn't complaining as it's excellent fun. We didn't stay there overlong before heading to a popular club, SUB. Once there we bought a table and good times ensued. The music was a mix of techno and hip-hop, and was fun but not didn't leave a lasting impression as there was so much else to be distracted by. Dancing was great and everyone had a good time, but I saw the most ridiculous thing! Inside the club there was a man carrying a bouquet of roses that he was trying to sell. Apparently these guys are all over the place, because nothing spells romance like "Hey, I didn't think about this ahead of time or put any effort in whatsoever, but do you want a flower? Yes, in the club. Why wouldn't you want a flower while dancing?"
We stayed at SUB until probably 3 or 4, at which point the group started to split: my host needed to get home for an early morning, while the Irish lads and some others were set on staying out. After a little debate I decided to stay out, since there's no way of knowing if or when I'll ever see these people again. We all headed off to some other club, dancing and chatting with equal frequency. Our last stop of the night was to the same Irish pub we'd been to last on Friday night, but I don't recall staying very long. When closing time finally came around it was getting light out, and so I convinced my escorts (there were only two at this point) to show me the Rhine river. This was probably one of my favourite parts of a fantastic weekend: despite that it was effing cold and I was wearing a summer dress, and despite that it was about 6:30 and I'd had no sleep, it was still something like magic. In true European pastoral style the far bank of the Rhine had a flock of sheep on it, baaaaing away happily.
When I finally got back to my room it was 8am, and I had only two hours to sleep before it was time to pack in preparation for check-out. Once that was done I left my suitcase with the front desk and went in search of some Chamomile tea and somewhere comfortable to lurk while waiting to meet up with my host. He was kind enough to come and collect me from the hotel, after which I got to see his home and meet his family and hang out for a little while before he dropped me off at the airport. The flight back was short and I slept on and off for most of it.
And now I am back. I wish I could just appreciate having had such a superb visit, but honestly right now I just feel awfully bitter. I feel like I could be having just the same amazing times in Hamburg, but I just haven't met the people yet. It is so damn difficult meeting people here. Honest to god it is no myth that northern Germans are aloof. While I know many lovely people at work they all seem to be in a different mindset or leading their own independent lives. We work long hours all the time and I suppose what little free time is left is allotted to responsibilities and relationships. Because hey, everyone here is either dating or married, even though much of the company is very young. Today was particularly frustrating. The people I met in Dusseldorf had all attended an International School together and so their common language was English. Additionally, they were supremely inclusive and so friendly that I may even be visiting one in Dublin. The switch back to constant, incomprehensible German and German... formality is just beyond depressing. While I still without hesitation acknowledge that I'm incredibly lucky to be here I can't help but feel that this is my own fault for picking somewhere so unfamiliar and culturally different.
In Germany's defense, my coworkers seemed to pick up on my depression so one of them made me a Mountie poster for my desk. It has this slightly rotund RCMP officer on it, and above him it says "Just like home" in letters filled with the Canadian flag. To my embarrassment my eyes welled up and I nearly cried, but sometimes the little things can mean so much.
Come September 1st I'll be relocated to a new department called Ligalux, which primarily deals with design, though honestly this is such a vague description I have no idea what to expect. I'd like to hope that moving will mean expanding my group of friends, but now that I'm more familiar with German ways I'm just worried I'll feel even more lonely and that it will be hard getting to know people. It also means reintegrating, which last time was stressful, embarrassing and frustrating. On the plus side I'll be learning more about this business, and I certainly won't be bored. For the last couple of weeks we've been pressed for an important pitch, and for me it has meant long hours and late nights filled with odious and seemingly arbitrary image searches. I won't be so sad to leave those behind.
Sigh, I suppose there's a fairly important part of this that I'm leaving out: namely romance. The trouble is it's so very complicated, and I'm never certain how much of those details I want shared with both the wide world and my readers who also happen to be related to me (hi mom and dad!). Well, suffice it to say I met someone. We're both history majors and talked for a while about our studies, and he actually liked that I'm intelligent. It was refreshing to have some academic discussion without backlash, as twice previously I've had gentleman I've dated remark that I'm too smart and it's inconvenient for them (of course not to my face). After history we bonded over music, and the night carried on with discoveries of many such shared interests. The night ended with a shared kiss as the sun rose over Düsseldorf and the Rhine. But on to the problems: he returns to school off the continent within a few weeks, whereas I am firmly entrenched here until my return to Canada, at which point I will be even further away. While this would be enough of a romance blockade all on its own, he - like every other worthwhile man on this godforsaken continent - has a girlfriend. Tony Bennet may have left his heart in San Francisco but apparently I left my morals in British Columbia. This of course turns what would otherwise have been a promising encounter into something tinged with guilt. I suppose everyone has their own definition of cheating, but if you count a kiss then I guess that makes me the "other woman", a role I was never interested in playing. I don't envy him though, for whom this will be much, much worse I imagine. It's just frustrating. I'm not saying that I'm currently stuffing my face with Ben & Jerry's while crying along to P.S. I Love You (though the thought has its appeal), but it sucks to meet someone you really click with but to so immediately have little hope of any kind of continuance. The most rational part of my head is telling me that given that things have started with pseudo-cheating they would probably be doomed from the start, but right now the louder part of my head is the part shouting "But he was so CUTE! And had an accent! And was tall!"
In all likelihood he woke up the next day feeling guilty, and no matter how much he liked me will probably do his best to forget it ever happened. The sooner I accept this and give up on any future communication, the better. In the meantime, maybe I'll get some of that Ben & Jerry's after all... if I can find it in this ridiculous country.