Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Religion: Spirituality!

I go to church, and I like it. At the same time it is hard to do so without wanting to get into the whole debate over what my testimony is. Many people asked. I guess this post is it, as close as it gets in few words. I am one of those people that says "I'm spiritual, not religious". People that second that sentiment are trending right now because they are disillusioned or can't identify with the restrictions of religion anymore. Or, like in my case, do not want to. If I felt that a single religion can answer my questions I'd have no problem whatsoever sticking with every rule that comes with it but that just isn't the case. I used to be very religious, and my beliefs have not changed. However, the limitations that come with these restrictions have alienated me a little bit over the past few years. And I don't mean the no alcohol, no sex before marriage or no lying parts...

I was born and raised Catholic but was baptized again in my Christian church community in California in 2006. One can already tell that a certain development took place there. I never drank alcohol before, I had never had sex and I wasn't a big fan of lying ever so acclimatizing to a new "religion" was pretty easy, especially since we were talking about the same Jesus. What I preferred in my Christian community over the Catholic ideas was that I was able to have my own dialogue with God, not through a priest. And the service actually gave me something. Not drinking, waiting until marriage and all the other things that people assume happen for religious reasons sounded reasonable to me, too. Not to do these things wasn't necessarily a religious rule I obeyed but a choice I considered valuable. I had become religious.

Over the past few years I have increasingly abandoned thinking of my life in the frame of a religion which is a bad development in some parts but in most it was good. However, this hasn't happened because I wanted to drink or have sex but because for me the rules of Christianity did not end up making me a better Christian. I think Christianity is a fantastic religion and I identify with its values. The part where I started to disagree was that obeying these rules would affect my relationship with God. When I started to drink occasionally at age 20 my beliefs, my faith and my relationship to God was not altered. I hung out with people that were not living a Christian lifestyle but were exceptional people. For me to judge their heavenly potential seemed to disrespect the rule "love thy neighbor!" And that sentence is really the only religion I chose to live after...

I then came to realize that this in fact the limitation of the frame I don't want to live with. I want to have an open mind in my life about all kinds of situations, and I'd like to extend this ability on the unknown. I don't know what or who God is and I want to have the chance to be wowed once I find out for sure which I expect can only happen after death. I therefore believe there is something but I refuse to put any sort of tag on it, even the tag "God". What I believe in is much bigger than anything describable by a word. There can be learning from every person whether they're Christian or Catholic, Muslim or Atheist. I do not want to limit myself to a religion to find out what the true meaning of everything is. I believe few human beings have found it. I believe Jesus to be one of the enlightened ones but in my eyes that doesn't rule out Siddhartha as another person that has understood life better than us. 

My ultimate goal is to become the best person I can be. I am nowhere close to being the person I want to be or can be but I know that I want to consider everything in order to get there. I want to obey Jesus' rule of loving my neighbor because I feel it's the best way to live, not because I feel I have to do that to please that God of mine. I met many Atheists who were incredibly loving and Christians and Muslims who were very judgmental. For me that is a sign that there is no right or wrong for us to assess who we are. We do not decide what is right or wrong. The only thing that the first 25 years of my life have taught me is that I don't know very much so how can I assume to be right about something that extends forever. That brain of mine can't even comprehend that number, forever

I decided to not spend my life thinking about what could happen because frankly, I think in the end we're all wrong. We talk about eternity, and yet we're not physically able to understand eternity. We talk about unconditional love but have failed to define what love is. Both science and religion cannot make true sense of some things. I will accept that I don't have all the answers. I won't cease to ask questions but my realm extends any dimension science or religion could answer. Since these notions are freakishly bending the boundaries of all existing religions the only thing that remains is the mere idea of spirituality. What that spirit is doesn't matter as long as it helps me figure out where I need to go. And that includes where the parts of me go that I have not yet figured out...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My questions about Scottish Independence

I apologize in advance for this message. I love ya, Scotland!

This week, for the first time, I commented on a facebook post that was remotely about Scottish Independence. It goes without saying I shouldn't have done that. Within minutes I was confronted with some of the craziest "facts" pro or con independence I could ever imagine. Political discussions are one of my favorite things ever but I can't say I'm a big fan of getting in one with people whose political awareness does not exceed the very basics of knowledge. Hence, facebook is usually not the place to have one. In order to make political choices this knowledge might suffice but not to give policy advice. I, myself, with four years of education in the field struggle sometimes to make an informed statement, however, the majority of people believe their information is sufficient to solve Scotland's problems entirely. And that is my biggest problem with the debate, and not whether Scotland actually claims independence or not.

I realize there are a number of angles to look at this from but it is the economic, the political and the national one predominantly in focus. So first of all, there is the economic reality, asking questions such as "Who's getting the Oil?", "What will happen to the pound?" and "Can agriculture feed a country?". Now this might be very old-fashioned of me but there were times when these questions came second to people, after "Am I free?" or something. During the big revolutions I don't recall people being concerned about the price of their pint staying the same. The question should be "Do I care about being represented in the government of my country?" It is that simple. If the answer is no, carry on, be British and live the life you've lived. If, however, and that would be the case in my life, political representation was a part of the democratic value I want to exercise there are few ways around voting Yes.

Political devolution in Scotland is very strong, yet the Scots are governed by a government they did not elect. If there is one thing you learn living in Scotland is that they really, really (,really) don't like Conservatives. And Maggie Thatcher. The day she died they had a party in George Square in Glasgow. That's an impressive amount of hate. Yet, their government is Conservative although all but one constituency voted against them. They are led by a man that is more hated in Scotland than Satan himself. This shows the reality that a country of Scotland's significance will never be able to influence Westminster. If Scotland decided to be communist there is no way they could be. Even if they all wished to be. When I think of living in a democracy, however, I consider having a voice a basic right. But even if all voices in Scotland shout the same thing, they still won't be heard.

As a result, I am surprised that Yes is going to fail. I agree that staying in the union is probably the more convenient way and will make life easier than Independence but wasn't there also some nationalist agenda? A people that hates being called British not taking the opportunity to put an end to that puzzles me. Hardly a Scot I met uttered the phrase "England's alright!". Ever! However, the main reason Yes is going to win is economic uncertainty. News flash: independence comes with uncertainty. It is a matter of whether it's worth it or not. Scotland, think about it: Is there really a possibility of you guys starving in the end? Or maybe an epidemic you won't be able to cure without the help of Westminster? As long as that is not the case I personally can't understand why economic uncertainty wouldn't be worth having a voice in democracy. The only explanation must be that nobody believes in democracy anymore.

Did Europe post-WWII have a long-term economic plan? Was storming the Bastille not uncertain? Was protesting at Euromaidan this month not a very risky business? None of these developments could have had a positive outcome without people willing to sacrifice and stand up for what they believe is wrong. And Scots believe being called British is wrong. So what it feels like to me is that Scotland is just too chicken to make the necessary steps to solve their biggest national problem. If there hadn't been an actual demand for independence there would be no referendum. And now that shit gets real the Scots pussy out. And I couldn't care less if they stay or go. My sovereignty, my voice or my national identity is not on the line. It is a Scottish decision and I will therefore refrain from continuing debates on facebook because my opinion doesn't matter (tbh I can see myself getting into a couple of more of them but I'm not saying it's a good idea!). However, it comes down to one question: Do you want to have a voice in democracy? Vote accordingly...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rector Edward Snowden - a brilliant message or an embarrassment?

This week my Alma Mater, the University of Glasgow, conducted an election to have the student body elect their new rector. The rector, at a British university, is the highest representative of the students at the school's council. Consequently, you would expect the student body to elect an approachable person who is able to fight for their interests. The incredible student body of the University of Classlow, excuse me, Glasgow, chose to elect whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yes, that NSA guy. The one who fought for our privacy. Yes, a man physically unable to ever step foot on campus. Never mind the country. Even the continent should pose a problem. Well done!

It is hard to write an opinionated piece about an issue such as Edward Snowden. For any opinion to be reasonable I consider it important to have as much information about the topic as possible, and having information about privacy and the CIA is obviously a huge problem. Most importantly, however, this is the kind of thing everybody has an opinion on but only few people try to reason with themselves whether it is justified or not. Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? The answer to this question depends a whole lot on who is asked...

For understandable reasons the Americans are pissed at him. For us Europeans who were not screwed over by his revelations it's easy to say he acted heroically, listening to his morals rather than what many consider American propaganda. I find that hard to believe but I can't say that for sure. I don't know Mr Snowden and why he did what he did so I am going to refrain from having an opinion because I could never have enough information to justify it, whatever way it goes. The only fact I have is that he broke the law and is facing a charge for a reason although a life sentence seems ridiculously disproportionate.

My life wasn't impacted in the slightest because I never cared if the NSA read my texts. They'd just come to the conclusion I'm an idiot and then read someone else's. I therefore don't want to assess whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor. He is definitely both because his actions were courageous and probably saved a few people from bad things happening to them, at the same time sold his country out and endangered  American security. I am a general friend of transparency. I am also a realist and know that not everything can be disclosed. It is a sad reality that people in his position have to make a choice on a daily basis but that's the way it is and I'm sure Snowden knew this when he took the job. To assess who he is therefore obviously depends on from what side you're looking.

Glasgow's student body obviously looks at it from here where finding out that the Americans spied on us is understandably outrageous. Nobody's been affected by the NSA scandal negatively so students in Scotland celebrate him for "doing the right thing" and "exposing the evils of the USA". These students aren't even Russian but they love him. At least that's what the more than 3000 votes in his favor told me. They love him so much that 5 people appeared at the announcement of the new rector at GU's Bute Hall. Yes, I'll repeat, 5 people in a massive, ancient hall, making university history. What a testament! The student body should be ashamed of themselves.

It was said that Snowden was elected as a symbolic rector, praising what he did rather than electing him for a role he is obviously unable to fulfill. Dear Glasgow Uni student, think about it: showing up at the Bute Hall would be a sign that this support goes further than logging on to a student account and tick a box. Make a shirt saying "We love you Eddie", for Christ's sake, and show it to the media (who was actually at Bute Hall, if you believe it or not!). If you're feeling particularly rebellious maybe delete facebook and flush your phone down the toilet because privacy is obviously very important to you. Don't elect a whistleblower to be your freaking representative. It is not a good move!

This idea to make a statement to the world that GU student body approved Edward Snowden's actions in electing him to be rector hugely backfired in my eyes. Nobody in the world cares. The unfortunate part is that the office of rector has become pointless in the process. At least my previous uni elected someone who had actually been to the country, although Brian Cox, Dundee Uni Rector, now resides in New York or LA, wherever Hollywood stars live. He actually launched a program in Theater Studies because, let's face it, other than acting there is not much this guy can do for Dundee Uni. I met him, I know. That's more than Edward Snowden will ever be able to do for Glasgow. In fact, the only thing he was able to do, and which I believe is the reason he was elected, is to put the word "Glasgow University" in the Huffington Post once.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ode to Dundee

It’s been almost 5 years since I took my first megabus to Dundee. I was coming from Aberdeen where I had been visiting the campus and said to my Mom “the other places are going to have to be preeetty awesome to beat this!” I got off the bus in Dundee and asked the first person I saw for directions to High Street. He was super hot and friendly. Immediately I thought “It’s a sign!” But I received a lot of signs there. The next day I visited the campus, the sun was blasting although it was February and a certain man called Dr Alex Wright showed me around who would turn out to become my advisor a few months later. The strongest sign, however, was just feeling it. Everything felt right and I could just see myself living there. It was like meeting a man and knowing you could fall in love with him, without knowing why. With people they call it the spark. Dundee had it.

Everyone who’s been will know exactly what I mean because there is nothing to like about Dundee, yet everyone who studied there did. It was a sweet life I had there. Maybe it’s the lack of expectation anyone would have coming to Scumdee, then realizing it’s really Fundee all along. I was particularly lucky to also be enrolled in the best course anyone could study. I genuinely never doubted it, not even the day I got my first assignment back which I got an F on. I just sat on my butt and said to myself “Boom, I’ll show ya, you can’t love this more than me!” And I made that F an A. I sat on the geek table and was part of “the Politburo”, a self-named study group full of Russian Politics losers, me being their most pathetic example. At the same time I took the dance floor apart every Tuesday, walking home with my chips & cheese because you can walk anywhere in Dundee. Except to the movies. To see a movie you needed a friend like Steven who has a car.

Undoubtedly, like any place, the people made it. In my three years there I never really met anyone I didn't like. The people I didn't like were dead easy to ignore and nobody was even so bad you would have had to. Dundee’s student body had a collective passion for focusing on the right things. There are no fun clubs in Dundee so the longer we’d been there we realized it would have to be a house party to entertain us. And at house parties you feed from the energy of the people. There was a lot of energy at a Taymills party, let me tell ya. During the day there was exactly one place to go. A place that held all my friends for the majority of the time: the Library. I spent a lifetime in there and I even took the train back to Dundee when I studied in Glasgow to write in that God sent place. Three beautiful levels that provided a fantastic little break walk looking for someone you knew, and it would never take longer than 20 seconds until you found someone to sit in the cafe with for an hour or five. Because almost everyone at Dundee was on the same page, and that page was awesome.

Now I was particularly lucky because for the majority of my time there, and far beyond, I hung out with my favorite boy Conor who is about the best person to know when you don’t like boredom. There are two weeks in the year Conor’s availability is limited around exam time, and even then he was usually up for a pint. It’s safe to say I would have been bored a lot more without that guy. But of course he’s not the only one. I accumulated a bunch of pretty awesome people and for the first time understood when people ridiculously chant “I have the best friends in the world”. Some were good for lunch, some were good for a party, and some were good for a good conversation about how much my boyfriends annoyed me. All these people stuck with me when I moved to Glasgow and they were the ones laughing at me when I returned like every other week to sit in the library or have Chili Beef Nachos at Tonic.

When I graduated, however, I was ready to go. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and he was a dick to me. I couldn't wait to get away. I was therefore pretty vocal about how my awesome new life was waiting at the West Coast. When Glasgow turned out to just not be an awesome place at all I returned all the time and looked like a huge hypocrite. A couple of months ago I was then confronted with the decision to actually go back to Dundee permanently for a job. A guy was really everything that drove me away the first time, and the first time I came back after moving back to Germany was also partially because of a guy, at least at the time I planned it. I wonder if having an actual boyfriend there would have swayed my decision not to go back because by the time I arrived back there in November I already knew that the boy I came to see had found a more (geographically) compatible lovebird, thinking I didn't know of course but I ain't blind. However, I’m glad he had because I don’t think I would have rejected the job if I had actually had someone to like in Dundee. And neither that relationship nor the job had any future or potential to make me happy in the long run, and I had known this for a while. It was hard to accept but I realized I had taken from Dundee all there was to take: the best memories, the best character I could have and an education that would take me way further than Dundee. It had come to a natural end.

If I had a dime for every time I said Goodbye to Dundee I’d be a rich bitch these days. The last time I did it though was the first time I felt I meant it. I never once wanted to leave because Dundee is sort of home but people leave home to pursue bigger things all the time, and this is mine. I never wanted to be back in Germany and I definitely don’t feel like I should be. However, Dundee is definitely not the place I need to be either. All good things come to an end and burden your heart after. All I know is that Dundee will forever stay in mine and I should not corrupt that and leave it at that. I'm curious to see how successful I will be in that task...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Last Saturday with Martin Schulz

This weekend, again, I had the pleasure to attend a lecture by Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament. Schulz is from my town so whenever he's around I'm there. I'm genuinely his biggest fan. Now I don't know him personally and I don't want to be ignorant but this man seems like he has his stuff together and actually works for what he's saying which is always a treat in a politician. Never before, however, have I actually had tears in my eyes listening to a politician. Martin Schulz made it happen, this very Saturday. That's probably less his achievement and more my emotionality over the fact I'm still jobless but what an exceptional guy nonetheless.

I like to see someone do something I feel they were born to do. Michael Jackson was born to be Michael Jackson, and he was the best at being Michael Jackson. Or Meryl Streep. There is nothing else Meryl Streep should have done in life but being Meryl Streep. I consider Martin Schulz being that kind of person. He was born to be in the position he is. His talent of speaking, of engaging with people and the interest in the issues he faces explains why people in Europe, not in Germany, or in Aachen, have recognized that he has whatever it takes to be a leader. 

The discussion I attended was focusing on European values and I can only imagine that Martin Schulz' work on this must be very tiring. Especially in Germany we like to complain. What you hear about EU regulations is not how they make Europe a safer place but how a cucumber could not be sold because it didn't have the right EU measurements. It is economic frustration and disillusionment that makes people reject European values all together. But democracy, human rights and the rule of law are just these values too, so Schulz is entirely right that the disillusionment should not cause people to turn away from the core values. 

My answer to all this is obvious. In my opinion communications in the EU are terrible. It is necessary that the success stories of the union are praised over the failures. I am a testament to this. Without the EU I would not be holding my degrees in my hands because my family could not have afforded tuition fees. I grew up in what Schulz called "the most European city" in the world, besides maybe Brussels and Strasbourg. When I was little and found a dime in the street I ran over, across the border, to the Netherlands, less than a block away from my house, and bought myself a Popsicle. I am the biggest fan Europe could have...

What both Martin Schulz and Prof. Christopher Clark who also spoke at the event observed was that values had changed. Post-WWII people were facing much harder trials than today’s Europeans. Yet in the 1950s, when Schulz was born, he said, people understood that they would have to invest hardship into a better future for their children. Nowadays, the hardships are invested into bailing out banks while our kids are still unemployed and have no shot at a decent retirement plan. And this got me! I actually applauded so loud I got slightly embarrassed. Obviously I’m the unemployed person that really shouldn’t be unemployed. And I believe it’s people like Martin Schulz that can work best on eliminating these problems as much as possible. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An above-average amount of thought about the Zombie Apocalypse

I've always loved Star Wars and X-Men and a bunch of stuff I would consider unlikely to be be liked by a girl that on top of being a girl also looks like a barbie. A look in the mirror tells me to make a Raspberry Margarita, drink it with a pink straw and shout "wohoo!" While I indulge in this kind of behavior occasionally (at least twice in the last five years!) my every day life and the vast majority of my hobbies focus on rather untypical activities for girls. However, my biggest passion aside from politics and sports is what really makes me question whether these boobies are real: I love Zombies!

It goes without saying that I watch the Walking Dead, I anticipated seeing World War Z because I had loved the book and have dreamed about being in the Zombie Apocalypse more than once. A recent quiz on the internet revealed that I am indeed most like Rick Grimes out of all Walking Dead characters. In other words, the internet believes that I would kick butt should such a scenario arise in my lifetime. Unfortunately, this belief in not shared by the people closest to me. My best friend, an Irish lad that at times looked like a zombie himself with his dreadlock-mohawk, refused to save me in the apocalypse because he believes I'm emotionally unstable, a liability to the group and he can't have sex with me. What good would I be?

The truth is that dear old Conor is pretty right. I almost have a heart attack watching 28 Days Later. How badly would I fail if I was surprised by an actual monster that wants to eat me? The mere thought makes me shiver. I doubt I'd be able to do anything but scream, therefore attracting more of these suckers. As long as running would suffice I could make it through the first couple of weeks because I'm reasonably athletic. When it comes to strength though I'd need a beefy Rick Grimes to step in and save my day with an ax because I can't even open pasta sauce without help. The main difference between me and Conor or the guy who will survive however is that I actually do not hope for this to happen. Surviving would not be a cool game for me. I love all that zombie stuff but I don't actually want to see one. And, unlike Conor, I have also not devoted a huge chunk of my time into developing the perfect plan ensuring my survival. I thought about romance, and being on a beach, and buying shoes for my infant son James. Not carnivorous neighbors...

So after the initial shock that my best friend wouldn't save me I have come to the conclusion that I am in fact actually too girly to make it in a real zombie apocalypse. I am just too pathetic, I would completely fall apart. Hell, this life is already too vicious for me sometimes. I'd cry a lot, missing my dead family. I would not consider surviving on four beans and an egg a day an adventure. But most importantly, I am just too damn weak. A zombie with rotten muscles and cavernous bones could probably still beat me in arm wrestling. If they had any brains they would know to go for me first because I'm too ridiculous to escape. I should be a little bit offended that Conor thought my death would be better for the whole group as my emotional and negative attitude will affect everybody who is looking to survive but he's so right. Living in the Zombie Apocalypse sounds shit! I therefore give everyone permission to leave me behind or drag me along until an opportunity presents itself to sacrifice me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Vladimir's Games

As a political scientist specialized in Russia I can't believe the day is here and Sochi kicks off. Of course it has been a constant presence in my reading for almost as long as I'm studying Russia, especially in the recent months when Sochi has increasingly become a political issue. Olympics have a history of being relevant to much more than world sports. Now that Sochi occupies athletes, political leaders, and minorities we know this is history in the making before it even started. But now it has started...

For the love of world politics and the scholarly possibilities arising from this I absolutely love that the Olympics are in Russia. Few countries hosting could have had such relevance to the international system. No other country is like Russia. On more than one level Russia can not be touched. Russia is, was and will be one of the main players in our world and however much the West, or even the East, may hate that, it's not going to change. This whole opening ceremony demonstrated that clearly. Everything about Sochi was born in Vladimir Putin's mind, and this ceremony was no exception. The master of self-display did a tremendous job. That ceremony was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Maybe it's because I'm a Russian connoisseur but who couldn't love all things Russian after such a performance?

While this is an observation that most people will have made I want to specifically express what this display meant for a person with my background. That background reaches from German, to Russia fan, to gay-lover, to sports fanatic. Is it even possible to see this as either a sporting event or a political platform exclusively? My answer is no. I love both Russia and homosexuals. My heart was therefore filled with pride and my entire body covered in goosebumps when my country's athletes arrived dressed in rainbow colors. They looked hideous but their substance outshone style. We're in Russia, more protest than this is virtually impossible. Our President not being in the audience will have bothered Vladimir about as much as US criticism of not delivering American yogurt to their athletes. Maybe, just maybe, his nose at least itched a little bit when he saw our athletes. And even if not, the world will see it. I'm proud that my country acknowledges that the Olympics are as much about human rights as they are about sports. Ban Ki Moon sitting two down from Mr Putin should be the very evidence of that...

Commentators also mentioned that the dance of the mascots was the only part of the ceremony that Vladimir did not have his hands on. Wait a minute, he didn't? The Russians actually had a democratic election about what the mascots would be. As we all know Russian democracy is very, very advanced and so the decision over this was made exclusively by the public... yeah right! The public favored the polar bear until Vladimir mentioned he'd prefer the snow bunny. And well, we didn't see a polar bear dance in the stadium, did we?

But it is about sports after all. Sochi will be everybody's achievement in three weeks, not just Putin's. Now that the athletes are there, and the terrorist attacks were prevented, the world will focus on the athletes, not Sochi's influences on world politics. Thanks to the Cyrillic alphabet in which the athletes emerged from below the stadium Israel was followed by Iran... couldn't have had it any more symbolic! Because after all they will all be staying in the same village, and they're all competitors, not just the jews and the muslims. And that's why the Olympics are so special because few things in the world have the power to put politics behind us and enjoy what we all have in common. Of course we won't and don't want to forget about equality and human rights but hopefully athletes and politicians will be able to execute sportsmanship, including Putin and his minions. As a reaching hand to international criticism they included a song by t.A.T.U, a lesbian band, to the ceremony. He is a pro, that Vladimir, he is a pro...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A journey to Sinai, or: A party on a bus!

The last time I was in Egypt I left before I had the chance to come to the Sinai. This time it worked out. The last few days I spent in Dahab in South Sinai. Just like anywhere in Egypt it isn't considered the safest place right now. Getting on the bus from Cairo I therefore expected to be worried. I was prepared by many to expect a hell ride. Now I took the train across India, a bus from Nakuru to Mombasa, Kenya that was basically so broken down it could catch fire any second and many, many Ryanair flights so you could argue I have been on a fair share of hell rides in my days. To my surprise I then got on a modern and spacious bus I couldn't believe would give me a bad experience. The comfortable patted chair I sat on didn't compare to the wooden bench I had to share with two staring Kenyan men on that bus in Kenya or the crowded compartment on the train in India before. I thought this wasn't going to be that bad.

So I have to admit it wasn't a hell ride whatsoever but I still have so much to comment on. I'm going to defy all rules and won't save the best for last. My favorite occurrence must have been at close to three in the morning when, for entertainment purposes, the speakers blasted "Let's get loud" out of all songs for those of us who are bored. Because, I have come to realize, Egyptians will sleep through anything. I'm not that lucky. Thankfully I hadn't forgotten my ear plugs and of course I was shattered so I managed alright. It was more of a funny situation than a massively annoying one. Obviously J.Lo was accompanied by a lot of Egyptian artists whose singing was much more annoying however I don't know if they were also singing about having a loud party on a bus at three in the morning. I somehow doubt it.

More annoying, and also much more disturbing, were the music videos by the government shown on a TV screen on the bus; basic pop songs about the greatness of Egypt and the military, and of course the fantastically successful revolution (see earlier post), visually supported by footage of the Egyptian troops kicking butt. No matter what anyone's opinion of the current political situation is in Egypt these videos were propaganda and nothing else. Even a military supporter will spot the idolization of a governmental body that is questionable for a democratization process. I had never seen anything like it. That greatness of the military could then be self-assessed by all listeners on the bus once we got close to Suez.

Before entering Sinai every passenger had to get off the bus, claim their bags and stand in a line while half a dozen soldiers with heavy machinery inspected passports and led a dog through the line to detect what you would expect is a weapon. Naturally, children were no exemptions. However, my sister shared her sentiment that all they were really looking for were some drugs to brighten up their own day. Whether that's too cynic or not, the whole process was more than pointless, not solely to the fact that the soldiers weren't doing a very thorough job. Some people stayed on the bus, some bags were never claimed. If they were looking for bombs I'd expect a different approach. For all I know I could have easily smuggled all kinds of things to Dahab and back and I went through all their checks.

On the way back to Cairo from Dahab we exchanged the public bus for a privately hired minibus. Although this is how most people get kidnapped in the Sinai we made it to Cairo without a scratch, and in perfect mental health as we were able to listen to our own music, read a book or snooze in silence. However, we had to hit five (!!!) checkpoints in which we had to present our passports to a soldier with a machine gun. The question why this needs to happen is absolutely impossible to answer even for me who values security and shows understanding for procedures like that. Next to the streets I spotted a tank here and there with a soldier or two sitting on top, pointing their weapons to a target in the sky. Now we get nervous in Germany about a police officer to be around when we're jaywalking. In Egypt, beside the fact that traffic lights are for decoration only, you can't get nervous about the presence of the forces. Where there is no officer, there's a poster of one, and that will only get worse after the military government has cemented their power.

In the last six years since I've been to Egypt the traveling methods have definitely changed. This comes as no surprise to me since six years ago we weren't traveling in a failed revolutionary country. The lack of efficiency, however, is a shock to me, especially being German and all. The security measures all seemed very badly organized and served no purpose in my eyes. I support security measures, however, Egypt's current government must believe that prohibiting conflict is sufficient to prevent conflict. And scaring people off, of course. I doubt that they will have the long term success with that they're hoping for.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Time heals all wounds

"Time heals all wounds!" - One of the most obnoxious sayings ever. I know it to be true. Get ready for some really sad and dramatic writing...

There were a couple of times in my life where I felt pain and couldn't imagine it to ever go away. Death does that! When my dad passed away when I was 17 I couldn't see myself ever returning to a normal life in which I didn't want to cry all day. Although it took a long time that moment came, and instead of crying every day I didn't cry for three years. Now, almost eight years later, I barely ever think back to this undoubtedly worst time of my life. It wasn't a new dad that replaced the old one that made it better. It wasn't a new friend or love that distracted me from my pain. It wasn't a lottery win that sweetened life a little bit. Genuinely nothing had changed, only time passed by. And with every day accepting the words "My dad is dead!" became easier up to the point that I am at now, being able to speak about it soberly. The only thing that healed me was time...

Everyone's been through break ups. If every abandoned lover had a dime for each time "time heals all wounds" was used we'd be in less trouble. It's annoying! Nobody wants to hear it. On the other hand, I cannot see anything else to be said fit better. Now I haven't been through a lot of proper break ups, my heart has never been broken and I've never really been rejected by someone I loved so apparently I have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm still fairly confident in saying that time is probably the only thing that can heal that kind of pain. For me the time span to get over boys varies between 20 seconds to two days which obviously stems from the fact I have never been in love. When a relationship or fling didn't work out for me it was usually (every time!) something I had seen coming for a while so I suppose I had time to prepare myself. I always thought it was for the best so I never seemed to need time. 

Of course I'm slightly lying as well because I still think about boyfriends from my past here and there, and it still stings once in a while although I don't regret any of these break ups. However, the more time goes by I'm not even bitter anymore. If I saw my ex-boyfriend- who told all of his friends that he had to break up with me because I was mentally ill - in the streets today I would probably go say hi. Why? Because over time the anger about his numerous lies has faded. I was angry because his lies directly affected me and because, frankly, it was more than rude even if the truth hadn't been just a tiny bit different (a lot!). Nowadays the anger has turned to pity and I'd be able to talk to him again. Time has healed my anger. And time has made me able to go on an ex's facebook page, seeing him with other girls, and feel absolutely nothing. That was obviously not always the case. At first I thought I'd be devastated if I ever had to see that. But that never happened. Time has transformed the feelings into apathy. And time made the love go away that all I see now is "Phew, good thing that's not me!" At least most of the time.

So time also always makes you realize you're better off. The most horrendous of things have lessons, and once you've learned them you will look at things differently. I have had negative experiences with people and I might have been upset at the time but from the future it's easy to laugh about it. Time reveals new things which makes dealing with wounds easier. Finding out your ex-boyfriend is a douche-bag eases the pain. Seeing people do the same to others that they did to you will make you feel less dumb (although maybe not necessarily better). Seeing your classmates who bullied you in school be majorly unsuccessful with their pathetic personalities will add some spice to your life. It's really just a case of sitting, waiting and wishing when it comes to pain because it wasn't designed to stick around.

This time business works so slowly you can't really detect any work taking place at all. You won't wake up and feel better than the day before. The improvements are so marginal I never realized I was getting better. I just remember being happy one day and being surprised about it because I had been so convinced it would never happen again. It's this experience that lets me go through everything I'm facing now. Last year I had a second low, almost as bad but at least not connected to the death of a parent but "only" facing a lifetime of unemployment and loneliness. I had the same feelings: despair, unhappiness, sadness. Only this time I knew it would end, because it always does. I felt that everything I want in life I can't have and that nothing would ever make me happy again. But that will never happen. At no point in life will the possibility for the tide to turn again cease to exist. And I'm ridiculously happy about already having made this experience, although at a very young age, because nothing will ever convince me again to give up. I always know that with a little bit of time things will fix itself, because they have to, and that makes life very easy to live. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

What Travel does...

While I was sitting at the beach in Dahab, Egypt, looking over to the other shore of the Red Sea I had one of those moments again. I was looking at mountains in Saudi Arabia, a country that exists only on the map for me. With no synapse of my brain have I ever really thought about the country that is Saudi Arabia. I have never thought about going to Saudi Arabia. I don't want to go to Saudi Arabia and it's possibly not even one of the places I could go easily. Yet I was sitting there looking at it as if I could just swim over.

That moment I'm talking about is the feeling of complete awe about how you got where you are and that you never thought you would get there. You can interpret this sentence literally and wonder what lead your way to Egypt or reflect on how you became the person you are. Both considerations are highly insightful and educational. Now I had already been to Egypt twice before and vowed never to come back the last time so being in Dahab or in Egypt in general was surprising to me to start with. However, that feeling I mean is much bigger than being in a location you didn't expect to be in. The awe about how beautiful the world is makes me realize how lucky I am for being able to see it. Literally everything else doesn't matter...

I have very little money, never had much, but sacrificed a lot to go traveling when I was younger. Still, a girl at 25 years old has usually not been to 25 countries in the world. I was blessed both with the financial opportunity to go see some of the places I always wanted to see and the courage to do it by myself, on a budget, staying with creeps along the way and almost dying a couple of times. My biggest blessing, however, I consider the ability to learn from these experiences. It's not about seeing Saudi Arabia, saying "wow that's cool!" and moving on. It's the ability to let it sink in that I get to see the world I believe was created by someone special and let my "soul grow" in the process (Thanks for that expression, Paolo Coelho).

I remember a couple of moments in my life where seeing the beauty of the world virtually changed my life. Once I camped out in the Sahara for three days. It is commonly known that feeling solitude in the desert has a life-enhancing effect. One night the sky was littered with stars. I genuinely saw another world you could probably never see from the cities. Seeing that I was suddenly sure that there must be a God because it would be ridiculous to think that we're all there is while all that was in front of me. The other time I climbed up to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro only to see the most beautiful panorama I have ever seen in my whole entire life. Beauty like this cannot be imagined. To this day it is hard for me to think back because memories don't even do it justice. All I remember is thinking "what have I done in life to deserve to feel this?"

I was blessed hugely in life and I am aware of it every day. Still, I'm just another human being that struggles to count the blessings rather than let negativity darken the goggles you use to look at life. While I was living in Glasgow I therefore made sure to go to the Highlands as often as I could, just me, a book and a sandwich, to remind myself that this beauty exists that makes you look at things differently. Once you see it you know you're blessed and that you have to force yourself to remember that. I tend to have to remind myself of this fact and therefore travel not because I want to see places only (in fact all I really want is to find a good place and stay there forever) but to experience my personal growth that would take me weeks and years otherwise. Travel is an educational process that should not be underestimated. Many of my travels have transformed me and that state of awareness has inspired me. I can only recommend for everyone to do the same...