10th April, 2011
Hello everyone 🙂
I just returned from a trip to Göttingen where my flatmates and I celebrated an old flatmate’s birthday. We took a train yesterday morning and I was quite taken in by the beauty of the countryside. We changed trains at Hannover (the city of the Scorpions (yeahhh!! :)) and passed south. The little villages we passed had similar architecture as we have seen in picture books about Germany and similar to the helicopter-shots (forgive bad terminology, filmmakers) in The Sound of Music. The double angled roofs of sun-faded orange tiles and quaint small windows from the upper stories which turn the slope of the roof yet again. Very traditional and beautiful. I also saw the first hills in several months! Oldenburg, similar to the Netherlands is quite flat; so even though it is a nice city with trees, it is not ‘scenic’ per se. So I gasped when the first hill I saw also had the most beautiful white castle on it. The upper walls of it were squared up and down like the stereotypical castles we drew as children and the towers were high and coned. The church towers which stood higher than all other buildings of the villages were also distinctly German-Austrian with a curvy dark roof and some which reached straight up like the ones in the UK. And as often in Oldenburg, in Göttingen too we could hear the bells in the distance.
Göttingen itself was also quite pretty but I’m sure my impression was strongly influenced by the fact that I saw it on two lovely spring days with the sun shining bright and fluorescent green leaves peeping out of the distrustful trees. Spring hasn’t announced itself with the flourish it did last year in Edinburgh but through my room window, as I watch beautiful sunsets, I also notice bare trees turning white or pink with blossoms and others sprouting tender new leaves.
We unloaded our luggage into our host’s car and went for a long walk through the university campus. (Göttingen has a Max Planck Institute which is reputed as one of the best for molecular neuroscience and math – that I know of). I also saw many Indian-Asian shops although it is a smaller town than Oldenburg. It must have many more Indians. I was delighted to see Tamil writing but the same shop later made me homesick.
We then packed a picnic and went to the lake. As we spread the new picnic sheet and gorged on birthday cake, we also watched toddlers play in the park. Children are so adorable and there always seem to be more of them during Spring!
We went out in the night and though the others took their time in getting up this morning, I woke early and solved a puzzle that was lying around 🙂
The birthday ‘boy”s girlfriend’s brother had brought his car (he also used to live in our flat) and I took a ride back with them because I wanted to Skype with my parents before they slept. On the way, because Germany is open about its speed rules, he reached speeds of 180 and even touched 200 once! In fact, at 100kmph, the car felt slow !
Note: When I talk of girlfriends and boyfriends of those I live or work with, it is not the kind of relationships I have observed in the UK or in India. Germans (maybe mainland Europeans) seem to take their relationships very seriously and are a lot more committed to making it last into marriage. In fact, I would equate their relationship to an unofficial marriage because several of them grow pets together and buy houses together before they get married, not to mention continue long distance relationships for up to 3 years in belief that they are meant for each other. To them, it seems like marriage is the final emotional commitment of life, not the beginning, merely a step of maturation of a relationship. It is quite different to how we see things in India.
Traveling makes me think a lot more than the routine of daily life and it gives me an almost uncontrollable urge to write. My mind wandered to thoughts about Germany history; what was it known for before the Nazis, and what’s the other side of the story where they are villianised by the victors, and about the Star Trek episode where a historian uses fascist German regime on a naive planet to bring order to their chaos, later explaining that it was the most efficient way of running a society; to have one strong leader, order and rules with a strong philosophy. (Later in the episode he also admits that when such power is up for grabs, if the benevolent historian who intended to use it for efficiency, can be captured, the system can easily be used as a tool for irrational war and killing. It also got me thinking about the pros and cons of democracy; now accepted as the best way to rule. I’m sure a better system is possible (where leaders are merely administrators monitored for their efficiency…somewhat similar to a corporate judgement of ability and qualification…where emotional propaganda plays minimal if not no role.)
On my way back I thought about how I would like to grow my own fruits and vegetables. That way, I would be more in touch with my resources and earth. I came up with several ideas which should be feasible in Germany (re-afforestation being one) which I intend to propose to Green Peace when I meet them this Thursday. (I have written to them already and they are enthusiastic about my joining them).
I had my first German class on Wednesday and partied on Thursday with the psychology group and my work is progressing steadily too so this week has overall been quite hectic, tiring and great! 🙂 I look forward to starting more classes (in psychology for credits) and becoming better at German. I hope also to join a weekly singing group my flatmate found.
Life is full and happening! I hope you are all also having a good time and making the most of the “‘Now’. That is the only truth we can be sure of”. I will leave you now with some videos:
I notice I am prey to this conditioning: to focus primarily on the brain. The sharpness of how worldwide this phenomenon is was brought to my attention when I listened to this TED talk.
I strongly recommend a watch. Although it is a most serious and important topic, it is conveyed with optimal humour 🙂 It is about the current education system and how it trains us to define intelligence a certain way, ignoring others. It speaks of how the future needs more creativity which our education systems worldwide seem to remove from children.
This is also a TED talk. I have sent this to some of you already because it resonated so strongly with my recent thinking about how stereotypes are created by repeating one type of story over and over again. She exposes the power play involved in this with her own country and life as examples. Most stimulating!
When you have lots of time:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZwZ1sa04tk This one is by David Icke and links up many facts from endless disciplines to draw a unique picture about what our reality is made to feel like. He makes some very shrewd observations which would not occur to one who doesn’t think about these things too deeply. Although his angle is that of conspiracy of controlling minds, the facts and insights leave you something to chew on. School children may also benefit from the anti-conventional nature of his thoughts. My previous quote about Now being the only reality is from this and though it is much longer than the others, on a wind-down evening, it would make for an interesting listen.