Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursdays are for thinking...

So, a good friend of mine became recently smitten with a German theoretical physicist. I cannot tell you all how stoked I am because...that means now she wants to learn GERMAN! HAHAHA! SOMEONE CARES! I mean, not that I've been suppressing an portion of my being or anything...anyway. In light of getting stoked for more old-worldage on the immediate horizon, it got me thinking a bit about how obnoxious I am to pretty much everyone I know if they get me talking too much about speaking German or whatever. So, instead of talking your ear off next time we meet, I thought I could just share this essay I wrote for my (successful, BOOYA) grad school application. "Write about a multicultural experience that has affected your professional life" OKAY.

They were wearing tight acid wash denim, fluorescent ski jackets, and had strange haircuts. It was nighttime and champagne was squirting everywhere, coating joyous heads and hands with sticky fizz. A celebration. I could not entirely comprehend the reason these people were so elated, but as I watched the artificially lit neon bodies in the inky cold night, embracing warmly and clamoring over a large, graffitied cement structure in the dark, I knew it must be something terribly important. My parents were also glued to the only television in our northwest Portland home. In 1989, I was six years old and the Berlin wall had finally shuddered under the weight of popular dissatisfaction and succumbed to history. It was the first time I ever saw, or thought about, Germans.

German felt familiar to me at first “Hallo!” in a seventh grade language sampler course. It gave me something to grip, a secret string leading me somewhere unknown. I held on, intrigued. My study of German slowly escalated through high school and college until the words were pouring out of my mouth and Berlin became my first adult, post-university home. Somehow, speaking German helped me logically formulate thoughts I could never name in vagabond, gooey English. German is crisp; it is exact. Even now, after two years living in America, a German word will still accidentally escape my lips. It seemingly rearranged my neurons for a more efficient, precise fit to my thought.

Like my language neurons bypassing their convoluted English predecessors, German culture has replaced old habits as well. It offered me rules and a routine for things I had not been taught in our diverse, anything-goes, moving at breakneck speed, workaholic country. It was in Germany that I learned punctuality, social responsibility, to relate quantities with numerical values instead of approximate analogies, to bring small gifts when first invited to a home, to look everyone in the eyes while toasting, the value of leisure time, and most importantly, that there is more than one method for successful, enjoyable human existence in this modern world. Little did I know in 1989, as I watched the wall crumble, that German language and culture would one day fill my own holes of American being.

P.S. Don't even think about using this for your application. No one will ever believe you.
P.P.S. No pun intended with that last sentence! HAHAHA. You know what I'm talking about. Yes, YOU.


Hannah said...

Love that. I so totally agree that one thinks and expresses herself differently in other languages. I've always thought I was much wittier in Portuguese and more sarcastic in Spanish (or was that the booze talkin?)- it's so weird to see what the structure, sound and feel bring out in you! I'm going to forward your essay on to Karin, Alex's German mother. SHE will appreciate it (and will speak German with you anyday). =)

EmBeLeaf said...

I have mystic memory of the wall coming down as well.

My mom was a German teacher for some lost number of years :)
and, my cultural memory also involves the champaigne. Something like the word "sect" and my host family, it's not a well-typed story

Caitlin said...

Hahaha, yes, the wall coming down involved a lot of Sekt eh? Or Proseco...

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