Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I Just Really, Really, Really Like Being A Journalist...

Watching an episode of "American Idol", one cannot possibly miss how all contestants "started signing before [they] could talk". That's really good for those contestants because they are in the process of making lifelong dreams come true. As a child, I also wanted to be a singer. And a TV host. And an actress. And an architect. But after I had learned the alphabet, my father gave me an old typewriter to "play" with and I started writing a book. That book, about a cool chick I had seen on TV going by the name of Joan of Arc (yeah, that one!), was one page and a half long, and I started asking around how that could get published. Very clearly, I wanted to be a novelist more than all the other things, although I did practice my lip-syncing almost every day...

The dream of becoming a Hollywood actress disappeared after 2 hours on Hollywood Boulevard. All other occupations I had in mind also perished before I even hit my final years of high school. When it was time to decide what to go to college for, I can't remember even considering something other than Politics. The age old question of "what do you plan on doing with it?" was a good one. I thought, maybe I could become a writer one day, an actual book writer that says things people want to hear. For that, I was missing a lot of knowledge though (and skills, but who knows that at age 19?). So for a long time I was training to become a journalist without really knowing that in the end it would be the only choice I would have. The job market sucks, and journalism is the only thing I actually had to choose from. After the shortest time, however, it was clear that choice was the only one I needed.

For a while I got tempted by money. I know, I'm young, have no kids, and I don't even like expensive things too much, so why would I care about money? If there was ever a time to go for the dream, not caring about the money to be made with it, it was now. When you are faced with earning way below minimum wage despite having two Master degrees, however, that temptation would come naturally. I had a couple of more lucrative jobs on the side, and then was offered a really high paying job that has absolutely nothing to do with writing. I knew the RIGHT choice, but I was tempted. After I turned down that one, didn't get the one with writing I wanted, and was offered another more lucrative job, it was clearly God challenging me if I really, really wanted it. My choice remained the same: I kept chasing the dream!

Right now, I work for the local paper, going to plays, festivals and press talks, talking to politicians and refugees, and no job I had has been crap. Sure, not all of the assignments are amazing, but there is nothing that's not worth knowing about. Last week I went to an art exhibition about water. I'm not into art, I don't get it at all usually, but I learned something new and talked to a local and a Jewish artist from New York which would never not be interesting, no matter what they talk about. I'm from Germany, we don't have many Jewish artists, how cool is it to hear from them? Nothing makes me happier than hearing something new, being able to discuss it, and then finally writing it up so anyone who wants to learn the same is able to do so. I seriously struggle to think of a cooler job.

Sure, just like all the other dream chasers I could fail miserably. In Egypt, due to my criticism of the country and people being unable to differentiate between criticism of a country and personal attacks, I had to listen to a lot of people telling me I'm not a journalist and I'm bad at it. To those people I need to extend my biggest gratitude because hearing them just made me think one thing: "You'll see!" I am a journalist. I am a journalist now and I will be even better in time. If I was so bad at it, I guess, I wouldn't even be where I am now, interviewing with people who are nothing short of my biggest idols for years, sometimes even decades. This is the only thing I ever really wanted to be, and I think I'll succeed. And if I don't I'll still have a lot of really cool stories to tell my grandchildren. At this point, I just choose to listen to Kate Winslet telling me I can be whatever I wanna be when she won an Oscar. Let's try this... why not...?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Where did all the good people go?

The message that is clearly being spread every day is "the world is a bad, bad place!": murder, terrorism, people exploiting people. And even beside the news, I suppose loneliness is the biggest problem of people in our society which is the clear result of people just not loving each other. It takes movies like "Love, Actually" or this video to remind ourselves that there truly is good in people, while it seems most of them either want to exploit, harm or even murder us (I'm looking at you, ISIS). Cynic as I am, I immediately believe that movies are just Hollywood and this video is a fake, and considering how even my best friends have sometimes deeply hurt me I understand my own cynicism. However, as a reporter I have more resources than anyone to actually see that the "news" are not just the bad stories of hate and injustice. And both Hollywood and these videos don't always just lie...

Not every homeless guy would do what the guy in the video did. To be frank, most of them would probably not spend the money on pillows and blankets. Yet, and I truly believe that, if you give any of them 500 dollars they would burst into tears. Maybe cynic people would believe they are just happy to be able to afford 50 bottles of rum; I personally believe they would be touched by a sign of affection I think many of them have never received. To a homeless person that may be money, but what it really is is care. Homeless or not, we all need affection and respect, and homeless people have fewer of both, even if it was misconduct or bad decisions that made them have to live in the streets. If you encounter a person with affection and respect, they would all be touched, even rich people.

Having said that, being a good person takes a lot less than a buck. In order to be charitable one does not have to save homeless people. Every single person knows someone who is in need of such affection and respect, and it usually doesn't take money to give that. There's plenty of people who have the financial means to help with money, most notably Bill Gates who lost the title "richest man in the world" because he gave so much or J.K.Rowling who is no longer a billionaire because she donated plenty of money. I know these people do it for no other reason than to enjoy giving because I would do the same thing with the same money. When I don't have money, which is usually the case, I try to find other ways to make people happy. The biggest lesson to learn from Hollywood might be cheesy, but "Pay it Forward" is literally the answer to all of the world's problems...

As a reporter, I seldom come across a news-worthy story that involves a person's choice of openly hating people. Sure, painting a true picture of the Trumps of this world is part of the news as well, but the stories I remember are the Macedonian Good Samaritan that opened her house for refugees walking past her house, giving them water, food and clothes, or the Egyptian cat lady that bought a house to rescue beaten up cats and dogs in Egypt's countryside. People all have this wonderful thing inside of them that just varies in how much they let it out. Even Donald Trump, the current epitome of hateful behavior, has given loads and has been an outstanding person to some (presumably white, privileged males). People like these stories more. Knowing these stories we all feel better. And there are so many of them out there...

So how does good always lose to the bad? Well, it doesn't. On the eve of Germany's latest mass shooting, I consciously made the decision to go out and celebrate, having thought the attack had been a terrorist attacking our freedom. Terrorists battling freedom are largely outnumbered and have no shot at winning this war of theirs, and what I saw that night made that clearer than ever. I was hanging out with a friend in a wheelchair and we decided to go dance. Upon arrival on the dance floor, people picked up his wheelchair numerous times and helped him dance as he was unable to do so by himself. In that moment, these people gave this man their affection and respect, and I knew I was surrounded by good people. Maybe they've done wrong before, we all have, but they went out of their way to make sure someone more disadvantaged had a good experience. I cried for minutes...

I often sound like I victimize myself, and I don't really mean to, however, I have had pretty bad experiences with people in my life before (even mre better ones, so no worries!): I had people lie, cheat and bully me, people I lived with evict me for gaining weight and people I begged to treat me right because I cared about them so much turn away from me without even saying a word. I know what it's like to not be treated with affection and respect. In these times, I was desperately hoping to give up, maybe just start drinking and live on the streets, forever alone. I can only imagine what people had to go through to end up in situations where their well-being isn't in their own hands anymore. My ambition prevented me from ever letting go, but I can't expect everyone to have the same luck. Unfortunately, the more a person has been through, the more they know how little acts of kindness, a hand reaching out, or simply an acknowledgement can change everything. So when we ask where all the good people went, it is clear to me: they lived life, they fell down and got up, and they realize we have tremendous power to love each other. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the majority. Not terrorists. Not false friends. Not liars.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

4 Best Things About Rio 2016

Hooray, it's finally August 2016, time for the Olympics in Rio. There is almost no discipline I'm not looking forward to, and I am thanking the heavens I don't have a 9 to 5 job right now because Swimming was on until 5am last night (worth every second of being tired!), and Usain Bolt will not make an appearance before 3am either. However, other than the obvious highlights of looking into the pretty faces of Lochte, Bolt and whoever carried the Tonga flag at the Parade of Nations, this year's Olympics have some stand-out themes for me.

Rio Backdrop

For me to see the Maracana will forever be the sight of my most favorite Germans becoming the World's Number One on July 13, 2014, however, back when the World Cup was hosted by Brazil I had similar feelings as now: the "Fernweh" to Rio is through the roof. Back in 2009, when Rio was merely nominated for the Games, I spent some pretty good times there. Until today, looking down on Botafogo from the top of Corcovado Mountain is the most amazing sight Momma ever got to look at. Rio is an extraordinary place, full of life, and breathtakingly beautiful, so imagining that having the whole world come together in that magnificent setting is causing some seriously short breaths. My memories of Brazil are so wonderful that everything in connection to it lights up as well, and when my favorite place is connecting with sports, my second favorite thing in the world (after Politics) I can't help but love it.

Gotta love some diversity!

Racism genuinely doesn't really suit me. First of all, I am from a generation that is trying pretty hard to stop people from being racist, xenophobic or what not, and for my personal life that's working tremendously well. I love all people. And since there are so many news stories out there these days where that attitude doesn't seem to reflect, athletes in all shapes and colors standing next to each other, fighting for their country through sports, is a notion that has always given me goosebumps. Sure, if they're American or Chinese they tend to not be "one" with the competition, because they're usually just way better at the respective sport, but it all happens in the spirit of sportsmanship. It's a time where over 10,000 athletes share a stage at a parade of nations, looking nothing alike, but all having the same aim, which never happens except in sports. Sudan sharing the stage with South Sudan, and other examples, doesn't happen anywhere but the Olympics, and it's wonderful.

Passion wins!

I have been asked what I look for in a man many a time. Race, as I said, hasn't been the best indication; my dating portfolio has made space for all shapes and colors. Being in- or extroverted seems to not be the theme either. The only thing I really go for in a man is if he can make himself be passionate about something and follow it, no matter what. This doesn't only apply to romantic mates: I adore passionate people, whether that passion is swimming (cough, cough, Ryan Lochte, cough) or building houses out of matchsticks. Without passion, people are boring. At the Olympics, every single person on that screen has found that passion in their life, and I don't have to share it. I can watch a good old round of Equestrian races although I have no interest in horses at all just because I find it impressive that some individuals have made it the content of their life to do what they love and do that well. No matter what that is.

Refugees, duh!

Obviously, my favorite thing about this year's Olympics is the Refugee Team. Do they need a team of refugees? No. Is it a wonderful gesture that is necessary in a world of Marine LePens and Donald Trumps? Absolutely. These people are extraordinary before they even compete, and yet it is the same passion that brought them there, only under a lot harder circumstances (and that is saying something, considering the lives of some pro-athletes). Of course, American athletes will outperform them because their biggest problems in their life would maybe be occasional injuries or tough diets. If American athletes lose, they leave as losers. The refugee team, however, are the only team arriving as winners, no matter what times or scores they get. They represent humanity, not countries. And as a de facto non-nationalist, I have to celebrate that. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

How to Deal with Loving People Who Support Donald Trump

There are many things wrong with me, but the worst feature I have is definitely loving a political discussion too much and appearing like I'm talking about life or death. To be honest, politics are so important to me they basically are my life or death, so when someone approaches me with an insane idea, a ridiculous request or an abysmal argument my circuits go into overdrive. At the same time, I have made a lot of very different friends all around the globe, so meeting someone who is not of my political convictions was completely unavoidable (nor was it desired). Since the appearance of Donald Trump on the global stage, however, ameliorating friends of more conservative beliefs has become almost impossible. Sure, I accept all political affiliations, but this one I cannot understand. Needless to say, I have been exposed to the challenge of having to love someone I thoroughly disagree with...

But let's back up a little bit. I have long been a social democrat, probably because I'm from a pretty humble family, with almost no money, believing in democracy and equality and the whole package. My political stance on gay marriage came from knowing gay people and on refugee policy from traveling the Balkan Route with them. Naturally, not everyone can make these experiences, and information about most issues is scarce if you don't know where to look. Those PR machines in political parties are no joke, and they know how to work the media to make you believe what they want. Knowing all that, I am very aware how different opinions come into formation. I do not blame anyone for disagreeing with me. I can't thoroughly deflect blame for being brainwashed by media outlets of my choice either, but at least I try for that not to happen. But not everyone can or knows how to do that.

As a result, some people, even in my circles, have been told that political correctness is just trying to be nice in a world full of sharks or that global terrorism is fundamentally Muslim. These things may sound like opinions but they're not. If they're sold as facts, how are people with no prior knowledge in independent thinking supposed to know that? Sure, it's tempting to just dismiss them as "stupid" because it is a lack of thinking that has them believe in certain facts that just aren't any. But just because a person does not possess the knowledge that is required to form a fact-related opinion, their intelligence isn't non-existent. When Donald Trump, with all of his other imperfections, goes on a lying spree, a lot of people just do not have a background in knowing that his speech is coming from the same place as their opinions: a lack of experience.

Some of my best friends are Trump supporters. Now, if I'm totally honest, there's a part of me that would consider them pretty stupid for knowing what I know and still showing support for a man who has proven to be disgusting. Truth is they don't know what I know. They don't know Islam, and so when some maniac tells them it's a dangerous religion, who will tell them it's not? They also, in large numbers, don't really know anything about policy because those who do know you can't just give the job to a random and wait for him to make good decisions. I can't expect people, especially in the United States, to understand their country's foreign policy when schools there don't even emphasize knowing anything at all about the rest of the world. One year of Sophomore Geography, dear Americans, ain't gonna cut it. So when my family and friends in the US post pictures of Nazis and compare them to Bernie's Socialists, I don't think it really is their fault they just made a huge idiot of themselves.

My love for these people is affected but not gone. I sometimes read what they have to say about political issues and am shocked how the same person that appeared saint-like to me could be posting something so blatantly ignorant, including the D himself. I don't even dislike Donald Trump as a person, I just believe his derogatory demeanor and complete unsuitability to be the President of any state, let alone of the United States, is all a person needs to know about this man to see he is impossible to vote for. However, I also know them as wonderful people. Coincidentally, most of these people became my friends because of their loving treatment of me due to their religious principles, which are in direct contradiction with almost everything Donald Trump ever stood for. Are all the wonderful things they did for me back in the day when I was pretty much homeless worthless because they are now preparing to vote for a man who made hating people and disrespecting minorities a daily routine? The only thing they really need is a reality check, not necessarily a head butt...