I feel so lucky to have been the recipient of what seems to be a lifetime of kindness in this year alone, that, at the risk of being too oversharey and sentimental, I wanted to honour some relationships I’ve made and further developed this year by immortalising them on my blog.
This year has been completely transformational. After finishing my degrees and quitting my full time job at the end of last year, I resolved to meditate daily and learn how to do handstands in 2013. So I flew to Vienna on New Year’s Eve, and then spent 3 months in Europe, where I completed a German language course. Then I flew to India, and spent 6 weeks completing my intensive Yoga Teacher Training. After I returned, I moved into a new house and embarked upon starting to teach yoga – mainly to my friends, but I am building a humble client base. I also completed a Certificate IV in Small Business Management at RMIT, and my status as a NEIS business owner officially began last week. A few weeks ago, I moved into another new apartment, where I have 4 new housemates. Mom’s favourite saying, the only constant is change, comes to mind.
I’m becoming very accustomed to goodbyes, but I treasure all the relationships I’ve made along the way, and, thanks to the banal black magic of Facebook and email, I’ve been able to stay in touch with some of these people.
So let me introduce you chronologically to some of the people who have had an impact on me this year. I hope they won’t mind me mentioning them.
Firstly, my Austrian friend Eva, the dancer, the first person I saw in 2013. Eva invited me to her friends’ New Year’s Eve gathering in Vienna, where I promptly fell asleep at about 7:00 pm and completely missed the dinner that had been served, not to mention the countdown. Eva is the most warm, life-loving creature, who helped me through a very hard time in 2010, with infinite patience and with the most wonderful healing presence about her. At that time we had very little history as friends, having met once at a party in Melbourne, but this didn’t seem to occur to her. She took me partying with her gorgeous music theatre friends to cheer me up, cooked me beautiful Austrian comfort food, showed me her favourite Vienna cafes, and gave me the gift of a beautiful, smooth black stone, which had sat by the bedside of a friend of hers during a period of great difficulty. If I can repay half of the joy and generosity that Eva has brought to me, I will feel I have achieved a great deal.
In January, in the cosy town of Freiburg, on the edge of the Black Forest, I began my winter intensive course with the DAAD. The first thing that struck me was the standard of my peers – I was impressed by the level of everyone’s German, but more remarkable were the palpable senses of wisdom, creativity, motivation, and achievement amongst everyone who had received a place in the course. There were 9 other Australians, and, though everyone spoke English, we almost always conversed in German. The predominant group was from South America, and particularly, Brazil – unsurprisingly beautiful, spirited, and warm-hearted people with killer dance moves, just like all the clichés tell us.
One of the people who I became closest to could hardly live further away: Maca, from Argentina – surprise, surprise, a musician! Maca is a whimsical but fiercely intelligent conductor, with a strange Swiss twang to her German, and a thing for Italian boys. Maca always seemed to be humming a melody from The Magic Flute. I love her enthusiasm for the arts, for romanticising everything, and for her nonchalant attitude towards occasional bad behaviour.
This list is growing long and I am still in January, so I might have to just give a brief mention to the rest of the wonderful DAAD crew: Amelie, Derek, Carolina, Philipp, Julia, Jess, Louis, Fernando, Amanda, Ellie, Chenoa, Tjuna, Brian, Marlizel, Miriam, and everyone in the other groups…You all inspired me and I hope we can have a reunion in Freiburg one day.
Then there was Iradj, my Iranian/Spanish/German housemate in Freiburg, who shared similar standards of cleanliness to me, and who introduced me to mixing Thai curry with yellow rice fried in turmeric, garlic, and some mysterious combination of Middle Eastern spices. He also introduced me to the Baha’i religion, which teaches that there is one God, and that all the major religions worship this same God in different ways.
A common theme amongst the people mentioned in this post seems to be patience: Iradj patiently played many games of chess with me, in which I invariably lost concentration halfway and left my unconcerned king nipping at a cigar somewhere on his private island in the middle of the board, miles from his minions, waiting to be slowly accosted. Iradj also encouraged me to play music, even going so far as to sit with me for hours and help me record a very amateur version of a Regina Spektor song. We had many in depth discussions about how we foresaw our respective futures (often in German, but I’d have to fight for this because his English was so perfect!), and, once I told him I didn’t plan to marry or have children, he set about trying to convince me that it is people like me who should be bringing children into the world; people who consider the implications of their actions. No dice, but thanks for your kind words anyway, Iradj.
I visited Scandinavia for the first time in February, and was surprised when Anna, a friend who I had hung out with a few times in Vienna in 2010, invited me to stay with her in Espoo, just outside of Helsinki. I cannot put enough emphasis on how outstanding European hospitality is. Anna picked me up from the bus stop and took me to her snug little apartment on public transport, where I was offered a comfortable futon in my own room, a drink, dinner, and even a spare mobile phone to borrow. I could hardly believe that she had also taken the time to knit me a gorgeous pair of warm woollen socks so that I could adjust to the Scandinavian winter! Anna lives with her lovely boyfriend Ville, with whom I had philosophical discussions about how to find purpose and motivation in life, and about consumerism and socialism. Anna had invited a big group of friends over that night so that I would have a warm welcome. It turns out that Finnish people love karaoke as much as I do, so we played Sing Star and then headed out to a deliciously seedy karaoke bar in Helsinki. The next day, Anna insisted on taking me out to buy me the whole spectrum of Finnish chocolate bars, so I could decide which one I liked the best. My favourite was the Fazer blue chocolate bar. Yum! Anna has a harp that she plays beautifully, and that I massacred in this video I recorded.
Next up, I visited my host family in Selm, in the North-West of Germany, at the home where I had stayed in 2005, and then again in 2010. What these people have done for me, I am sure I will never be able to repay. A luxurious trip to Hamburg in 2005, where I saw my first drag show (my middle aged suburban host mother turned out to be less conservative than I had expected!); countless beautiful home cooked meals; so many gifts; again so much patience, this time with my budding German (one time in particular comes to mind when I was telling a friend that my host family had taken me to a cave, but I slightly mispronounced the word cave and ended up saying that they had taken me to hell); and so many cuddles and affectionate bum pats (“Komm Lady!”).
In late February, I visited Cologne for Karneval, where I stayed with my boyfriend’s ridiculously talented friend, Ruben, in his tiny one bedroom apartment. His room was an old converted hotel room, with funny little touches like a kitchenette next to the bed, and a sign in the bathroom instructing you to leave your towel in the bath if you would like it to be washed. Ruben cooked us a big, warm risotto, the perfect antidote to the snow outside. Then we went to a costume party at the music university where he is studying. When we returned, ignoring my objections, he happily slept on the floor and gave up his single bed so that I could sleep comfortably.
While in Cologne, I met Selim, the brother of my boss from the job I left last year, who, by the way, while I’m on the subject of generosity, gave me an awesome Asus Zenbook as a going away present last year! (Perhaps I was Florence Nightingale or Martin Luther King Jr in a previous life and karma is thanking me?) Selim and I drank mint tea and laughed constantly at a central bar, and after I told him I was vegetarian, he drove me across town to a cute vegetarian café with an attached wellness centre. We ate a spicy lunch and then walked around their shop, where he insisted on buying me a book about yoga by Osho.
This is becoming very long-winded, so I’ll have to leave it there for today, but stay tuned for more gushing about creative, inspiring people who have been incredibly generous to me.