... Diabetes, that is!
Hey kids, long time no posts - I know. The reason I'm finally getting around to it now is because today's diet consisted mostly of coffee, diet coke, and chocolate, so I am super hyper. Hence the diabetes remark. Anyway, since it's been so long since I updated I'm going to have to attack this by topic rather than chronologically. I guess if you don't give a shit about my career then it'll make it that much easier to skip the boring part and get to the gossip, but otherwise you're just going to have to put up with some minor jumps in the narrative.
Work: Okay, so nearly a month ago I moved from the Advertising department to the Design department called Ligalux. As it turns out Ligalux is waaaaaay more like what I've done before, so my transition has been really smooth. We mostly deal with logos, brochures, and, well, design. I wish I could explain better what "design" is, but you kind of have to do it to know it. A further improvement is that while in Creative we worked predominantly with Photoshop but in Ligalux we are more reliant upon InDesign and Illustrator, which are old friends of mine. Yessssssss. Work continues to be impressively fun as most of my days are spent enjoying my favourite music while doing some glorified doodles. Doing layouts is less familiar to me, but creating logos is a really enjoyable challenge so they balance out nicely. This week I've been working on creating gift cards, and I have an idea I'm pretty excited about - let's hope it gets picked up by the client!
As for the people they're all pretty nice, but I haven't gotten to know them as well as I got to know the Advertising guys. I think part of it is because I actually know what I'm doing now and so I rarely have to ask for help. Also, while we get together for lunch fairly often we don't do it every day so I have had fewer opportunities to get to know them. On top of that Ligalux has a wider age range and the employees are more into doing their own thing, and finally I'll be with Ligalux for several weeks less than I spent in Advertising. Ohhhh well. I've stayed in touch well with the Advertising crew though, who as per usual are a pretty hilarious bunch.
Having said that, let's move on to my social life....
Adventures: Alright, so I suppose it's time to think waaaayyyyy back. Last time I updated was after Düsseldorf, so we'll start with the following weekend.
For many years now I've nurtured a love of Classical music and opera. I'm familiar with Puccini (who doesn't love La Boheme?), but it actually wasn't until I saw 2009's Quantum of Solace that I looked into Tosca. Though the music played for only a short scene I was instantly hooked, and swore that if I ever got to Europe I would see Tosca live in Germany. I am happy to say that after checking out the Hamburg Opera's Autumn lineup Tosca was set to start September 4, so I bought a ticket and waited impatiently for the day to roll around.
Things got off to a bit of an imperfect start. I wasn't thrilled to be going solo, so waiting for the performance to start and during the intermission I was a little bored, lonely, and depressed. Also, the theatre itself is a relic of the '80s, possibly my least favourite era of architecture. The libretto (a translation of what performers are singing that appears at the top of the curtain during the show) was in German, so I couldn't understand it. Luckily the program included a short English plot-summary so I wasn't completely lost. Finally, apparently not even Europeans know how to dress properly for the opera. To add some context, this was a Sunday show and the first showing of Tosca this season. And yet, there were still waaaaaaaaaaaaay too many people in casual clothes and even jeans. If you are into opera enough to be attending Tosca on a Sunday then you should know better than to show up wearing that. And no, I don't care how elitist that sounds, it's just proper etiquette!
However, all these things ceased to matter as soon as the show started. Opera in any setting is moving, but opera performed live is totally overwhelming. You get swallowed up my music, and I found again and again I would get goosebumps and chills during my favourite sequences (notably "Tre sbirri... Una carrozza", "Vissi D'arte", and the piece before/after the murder [I don't recall the title of that part just now]). It feels as though all of a sudden you have muscles in your ears you never noticed and they're all flexed at once. That description sounds uncomfortable but I assure you it's completely exhilarating. I didn't cry, but it took a decent amount of effort not to, which I consider a good measure of how good the performance was.
The following weekend wound up being a busier one. On Friday night some of the ladies from work (the secretary and one of the girls from Accounts) invited me out to Terrace Hill again for a Rockstar themed club night. After work I wound up having drinks and playing darts with the Advertising guys. It seems my darts skills have improved drastically since arriving - after two months here I finally won my first game! We had a really good time but eventually I had to home so I could get ready for the night. Unfortunately the rest of the evening wasn't as totally awesome as the start. It wound up being one of those nights where you spend all your time waiting in lineups: waiting to get into the club; waiting to check your coat; waiting to get a drink; waiting to get your coat again. The crowd at the club were a little on the obnoxious side, and unfortunately none of my group seemed very into the scene. I spent most of my time on the outdoor terrace enjoying the view of Hamburg and the fresh air. I won't lie, it was a little depressing though, and I was missing home a lot and mostly brooding about the language for the millionth time. For all the complaining I do you'd think I'd get around to doing something about it but German is NOT an easy language.
Anyway, the next day was pretty fun. I went boots hunting for the eighth (?) week in a row. I only brought ballet flats, sandals, and high heels to Europe because boots are bulky to pack and I thought I'd find something I liked here easily enough. Not so. I'm pretty picky, and everything here was all wrong: the toe was the wrong shape; they didn't hit at the right place on the leg; the sole was awkwardly cut; the fit in the calf was wrong; they had weird buckles or accessories. The list goes on... At the start of September I had found ONE pair that I liked, the perfect pair.... but they also happened to be wildly expensive. I decided to keep looking, but after checking high-end, low-end, and mid-range stores I still found nothing I remotely liked except for the one amazing pair. Anyway, I concluded that after having searched all of Hamburg and a good part of Düsseldorf I wasn't going to find anything so I caved and got the pricey ones. Sigh. Anyway, in case you're wondering they're exceptionally simple: black, just below the knee, with a loose fit to the calf and no tapering at the ankle (ew). They have an almond toe and no adornments whatsoever. You'd think that these would be easy to find anywhere but apparently not. But enough about shoes.
After a supremely self-indulgent day (much of which I spent hanging out at the canal next to the Alsterarkaden, a very beautiful area) I was just stopping for coffee when something caught my eye. There's an open area in a place called the Gänsemarkt where vendors often set up on weekends or brands hold promotions. Just as I was sitting down I noticed a group of 15 or so people all dressed in white shirts and black trousers. One woman was dressed as Marilyn Monroe in a white dress with blond curls and red lipstick, and two gentlemen were wearing no shirts but little white collars, bow-ties and fedoras. I was very curious so I went over and asked what they were selling. As it turned out it was white-dress-woman's bachelorette party and they were all out celebrating. They were a very friendly bunch (unusual in Germany) and so I wound up getting pictures with the two guys and a couple of the whole group. In retrospect I wish I had chatted them up more - opportunities for meeting people here are so few and these guys were very receptive (haha) and friendly to boot. But I didn't want to bother them and had plans to get to anyway, so off I went. That evening I had plans to meet up with my Advertising crew in an area near where I live called the Shanze.
At the appointed hour I headed out, but everyone seemed to be on their own timeline as it took a while for us to all get together. The evening was a little more on the mellow side, which I didn't mind. We were at the same bar we went to waaaaay back when I first arrived, the one we like to call Sofa Bar but has some other name. Anyway, it was a crowded night so we wound up sitting with two strangers, one of whom was exceptionally handsome and who made eye contact right away. He was typically German looking, with good bone structure, blonde hair, blue eyes and an athletic build. I was just plotting how I was going to strike up a conversation with this conveniently close hottie when our group swelled, and to my great dismay the two who we had joined wound up leaving. Just my luck. I spent the rest of the evening having forced conversation with a friend of my coworker, brooding about how I would much rather be chatting up a different guy and could have been had I not been such a coward. I left earlyish (around 1am) and spent the rest of the weekend beating myself up for missing two great opportunities to meet people.
Which brings us to this weekend. A friend of mine from University is spending a semester in Mannheim, and to my surprise he got himself together and visited this weekend. When he arrived on Friday we spent the evening catching up and then getting to bed early in preparation for a loaded day on Saturday.
On Saturday we started things off by taking a free walking tour (Sandeman's New Europe tour, in case you're wondering). One thing I found totally bizarre was that one gentleman on the tour (a German) wore no shoes. At all. For the whole time. I began to think of him as the "shoeless wonder", as he would walk down the cobbled streets (broken glass everywhere) without batting an eyelash. I wondered if he was allowed in stores like that - "no shoes, no shirt, no service".... right? Anyway, I never did find out what his deal was, but it wasn't high on my agenda.
We went around to at least four or five different churches, each of which was interesting in its own way. One was set at the highest point in all of Hamburg (a tiny hill to my Western Canadian eyes), another held what was once the world's largest organ. Johann Sebastian Bach had wanted to work there, but they had rejected his request as this was prior to his major successes. Later Napoleon used the same church as a munitions storehouse when he occupied Hamburg. We then moved on to see several of Germany's famous "contour houses" (it might be "kontur haus", I'm not sure). These are basically just interestingly designed old buildings. We saw Chilehaus, Afrikahaus, and we saw the building where Zyklon B gas was manufactured during the second World War. We went to St. Nikolai church, of which only burnt bricks and a single tall tower remain. We went right up to the top, which had a great view of the city. It felt like at any moment Nosferatu could walk out behind a pillar, which was pretty fun. After a coffee break the group headed on over to Hafen City, which is down by the docks of the Elbe. It's Hamburg's major industrial/storehouse area and quite the sight. We saw the new building for the Hamburg Philharmonic, which will have cost close to half a billion dollars by the time it's complete. We also visited the Dutch portion of Hamburg - the oldest part of the city - and also where the great fire of the 19th century started, which destroyed much of the city. We walked along cobblestones that had been there for nearly a thousand years, which was pretty damn cool.
Once the tour was over my friend and I went to the Hamburg Dungeon, which is a really elaborate haunted house type thing. Basically you move through something very similar to a haunted house, but you'll be stopped in various rooms by people in costume who will tell you the darker parts of the city's history. Unfortunately it was all in German, so I didn't understand any of it but it was still really cool. Toward the end you go on a boat ride and then to a ride where you're raised up and then dropped without warning - you'll be familiar with these rides from any amusement park.
By the time we left the Dungeon it was closing in on evening, so we trekked back to my apartment to eat, rest, and get ready for a night on the town. The same group that organized the walking tour also does a pub crawl in the Reeperbahn, Europe's largest red light district. After such a long day I wasn't sure I was all that ready for a night out as well, but I didn't want to pass up a good opportunity so off we went.
We met up with the group at a 99 Cent bar, where - you guessed it - everything was 99 cents. The others on the tour were two Australian guys, two Brazilian guys, an American man, a Bulgarian guy, two German girls, and I don't recall who else. My friend and I immediately got along with the Australians, and throughout the night there were many toasts to "The Commonwealth!" It wound up being a spectacularly fun time. One of the earlier stops was to a bar with live music playing the likes of ACDC and typical American rock, so we got our dance on and had a glorious time. I asked the Aussis about amusing local sayings, and my stand-out favourite is "we're not here to fuck spiders". It basically means let's do what we've got to do. On the whole it was pretty perfect, though my guest managed to (unknowingly) proposition a prostitute and then get on the wrong side of her pimp, which is the type of thing that would only happen to him.
In a disappointing conclusion both the Aussis were leaving Hamburg the next day to continue on a Contiki tour. I begin to suspect that Europe is conspiring to ensure I have no lasting friendships... ever. Anyway, we spent all of Sunday recovering, and yesterday it was back to work as usual.
Travels: Yesterday evening an old friend of my aunt's was in Hamburg, so we arranged to meet up for dinner. Luckily we got along well, so this weekend I'll be visiting her family in Munich and attending Oktoberfest, drindl and all. I'll be departing Saturday and returning Monday, and I'll be using the train for the first time since getting to Europe.
I've also just made plans to visit my extended family in Lyon (France) during the second weekend of October, which I'm very excited for, especially since I can actually speak functional French.
Perhaps what I'm most excited for though is Ireland. I've finally thrown caution to the wind and will book flights tomorrow to go during my last weekend in Europe. I've had a mysterious but nonetheless powerful attraction to Ireland since I was about 16, so I am beyond excited to fulfill a dream I've had for the last six years. Hopefully I'll be seeing one of the Irish guys I met in Düsseldorf, providing he's not too busy with school. But regardless I think it'll be pretty amazing. Then, before I know it, it'll be back to Canada.
My initial plan had been to return straight to BC, but I'm now contemplating a stop off in Toronto. There's a job opportunity I'm very interested in (more on that later), and I'm also dying to see my family, who I haven't visited in nearly five years. Tooooo long.
Romance: Ugh. I feel like that pretty much sums it up.
Things had briefly looked up with my Düsseldorf fling. We connected via facebook (of course), and not long after my visit he and his girlfriend split up, which was wayyyyy more than I had expected out of that. Unfortunately since then things have hit a serious lull, and I'm fairly certain the end of things has come and gone. He returns to school soon, and I have no idea whether he'll be visiting Hamburg. Even if he does my schedule is now so packed I doubt we'll be in the same place at the same time. I guess it wasn't "meant to be", but that hardly makes me feel any better.
Apparently my life's narrative has turned into a broken record though. I don't know how well you read between the lines but you may have inferred that I was leaving some details out of this past weekend's pub crawl. I got along especially well with one of the Australian guys, who of course had the cute accent (I'm a terrible sucker for accents), the blonde hair, the tan, and - what do you know? - a girlfriend. Not that that stopped a dance floor make-out session from taking place. Seriously though, WHAT THE FUCK?! Why does EVERY guy I meet have a girlfriend? And why hasn't that stopped me recently??? Before I got to Europe I had never cheated on a boyfriend and I had never been involved with a guy who had a girlfriend. But all of a sudden I get here and manage to have this happen twice in what? three weeks time? I mean on the one hand I'd like to think that I'm not the one in the relationship and therefore it's not my responsibility to ensure these guys are faithful (also, in both instances it was only kissing), but then again once upon a time I had a lot more compassion for these guys' girlfriends. For some reason that has recently totally evaporated and been replaced with a complete lack of remorse. 'Bye moral compass, it was nice knowing you.
Once again I find myself irritated that I've met someone interesting and fun who I have great chemistry with but zero future. I suppose it's ridiculous to expect any kind of future seeing as I'm leaving the continent in just over a month, but human beings are so irrational.
Alright, I've been writing for close to three hours now, and I think this update is officially long enough. Bravo if you made it to the end all in one go.