Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Frat House

While Koblenz was nothing that I expected, nor was it 100% everything that I wanted from a city (I miss the beach. sob sob sob), I really do feel at home here.

I've travelled a lot around Germany in the short 4 years that I've had an active interest in its language, culture and history. I've lived in a small town in Niedersachsen with my ex-boyfriend, visited Hamburg, Frankfurt, Berlin, Köln, Aachen and Bremen, as well as festival and concert hopping in 2010. Now finally, for 2 months I've lived in Koblenz, one of the largest cities in Rheinland-Pfalz in the south-west of Germany.
I certainly do have adventures when I'm in Germany.

After having a tremendously difficult time finding a fucking apartment, and experiencing some awful, smelly old dumps on my way, I found myself invited to live in large room a traditional german Burschenschaft.

Burschenschaften receive a lot of bad press. As old-style student fraternities dating from the 1810's, often with traditional dress worn at events and with old-school fencing duels, it's not hard to see why. The modern view, that anything traditional, German and basing itself on ideas of collaboration and unity, only seems to stir up images of right-wing extremism and nationalistic thought. However, I've found that not to
be the case at all.

What sort of right-wing nationalist student fraternity would allow a gay, British man to live within their walls?
Not to mention a gay, British man with an often less-than-perfect command of the German language....

It's nice here. I have a lovely large room, a great big bed and there's quite an open community feel here. Everyone I've met so far has been welcoming, interested in myself and excited at the fact that I really do like living here and excited that I take an active interest in their events etc.

I must admit to feeling a little out of my depth at times, especially as I'm the house guest of people who have lived together for a few years, or even longer, and sometimes I don't entirely understand what's going on. I guess that's just a normal part of living abroad in an apartment with locals.

The frat guys who live here are really interesting characters too. I live with an entire spectrum of people, ranging from heavy-metal loving architecture students, to mousy, calm, collected ones, all the way through to the manly beer drinkers and the ones who take care of themselves and certainly look the part. I have missed living with guys. Living with girls is difficult sometimes....

If nothing else, this living situation of mine has certainly broadened my horizons and made realise just how diverse and yet spiritually-bound people really can be.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Language students, fluency and not yet being German.

Language students are an odd bunch. We learn (for the most part) a foreign language in our home country, where we are told to immerse ourselves fully into the language and our studies (heh?); we express ourselves in different ways to everone else, for example by saying some words that sound exotic in a different language or screaming 'putain' whenever something goes wrong since no-one understands it. and thinking of ourselves as groundbreaking for listening to some exotic French reggeaton from the suburbs of Marseille.

Maybe all of that is just me, but I have noticed that a whole hell of a lot of people seem to act the same way.
Drawing Union Flags on their pencil cases, and telling others that the Beatles are 'obviously the best band of the British scene' because John Lennon had lovely hair and that Strawberry Fields really should be Forever. Anglophilia is actually pretty huge outside of England.
We're a flag waving nation, but bugger me, in 21 years I've never seen so many Union Flags as I've seen in just under a year here on the continent.

It is in this way that I was totally blind before I came out here to France, and to Spain, and to Germany. I had no idea what was happening behind the Channel if I'm quite honest. We'd wrote presentations and god knows how many ridiculous essays about political parties and regionalism, but I feel like I've learned a lot.

It's a bit fucking cliché to say that the Erasmus programme has opened my eyes, but it really has opened my eyes to the world.

I thought my German had been 'alright' for years until I was told a few days ago by a German friend that 'one year ago I couldn't understand you, Gareth...but now, it's definitely better' and that it was 'weird for him' to hear me 'speaking German for once'.

I'm not sure whether that last quotation was accidentally mean, or that I'm now speaking proper German, but either way it's a good kick up the arse to get myself motivated and actually sit down and do some revision instead of hoping to obtain this lifelong skill through osmosis. It doesn't work like that. I tried that in Spain, to a crowd of Catalonians I met in Tarragona all saying ¿Que? and most likely not understanding any of my severly broken Spanish. I daren't even mention my Catalan, which wasn't any better.

I have a hell of lot of stories to write about rom the last two months, in which I've not been motivated to write, nor to take so many photos. probably down to the fact that I feel very much at home here in Koblenz. I've always been best on the ball when I'm inbetween feeling at home and feeling totally alienated.
Anyways, I'll be tring to make more of an effort with this blog. I have a few months left in Germany, have met some new amazing people, caught up with old amazing friends of mine by god I am making the most of it, if it kills me in the process.