A Collector

20. März. 2011

While „hoofing it“ in the more  non-traditional sense, I’ve noticed how I tend to collect things. I collect followers, books, things people offer to give me, I gather ideas.  Sometimes its books, sometimes ideas, sometimes pictures.  I love to travel. Friday morning started out at the train station in a foreign car waiting while the smoking members of our adventure starting in Bamberg, Germany sat outside. They were trying to finish their smokes before taking off for the 7 hour drive to Northern Germany,  Lübeck. I found this ride through Mitfahrgelegenheit, a car ride-share opportunity.  People post their trip on a website, post a price for the cost, people call months in advance and reserve their place. When travel day comes the Mitfahrer have the enjoyment of walking around the parking lot (often train stations) to find the color, license plate or brand of the car that was written in the post. Then, you hope that the person driving the car doesn’t look crazy, like they might steal you off to Eastern Europe, or that there aren’t 6 black Peugeots in the parking lot.

Each time I’ve used this method of travel, the drivers seem to get more and more interesting. Meeting each other that day in Bamberg we all knew we were in for a 7 hr road trip together.

Also, wir sind der Partywagon nach Lübeck oder?” I said.

Germany isn’t that big, technically you could drive from the farthest north end of Germany to the southern border and into Austria in a day. Just, in a long day.

The road trips become, mainly when they are long, like slowly reading the pages of a book, or unwrapping a candy bar. As the trip unfolds you unwrap the layer of the person. Slowly. As we all gauge the trustworthiness of each other, we start to express and talk about things. Learn things.  You could learn a person’s entire history in a car ride with Mitfahrgelegenheit, depending on how open that person is. Sometimes, they don’t talk at all and you stare at the scenery, listen to headphones or play with your phone. Sometimes there are long open pauses where you can sit and look at the scenery and wonder why no one is talking. This trip, because we had time to spare until with met up with our Couch surfing host in  Lübeck that evening, we mentioned it didn’t really matter where he let us out at once we got there. He offered to have a coffee with us and hang out until we met up. The person he was meeting also didn’t get off work until at least 5:00.  So there we found ourselves, in the warehouse parking lot of the big bay/dock of Lübeck Travemünde. His friend lived in an apartment on the dock because he worked in the shipyard. Later Sarah and I paid him for the trip, somewhere around 30 euro each and ended up playing pool before meeting up with our perhaps even more intriguing CouchSurfing host.

By the time we met our host, full of energy and mingling at a coffee shop, we were weary from being in a car all day, and our backpacks were becoming heavy on our shoulders. We arrived at our Couchsurfing house with “Kloocki”, as he is fondly called, and he dashed up the 4-5 stories to his rooftop house. He carried my massive backpack with him as he dashed up the stairs. He was very fit and around 45 yrs old. We sat down with him and his lady friend who came over for dinner. They bought us a beer, and although nearly twice as old as we are, we sat down and chattered on non stop for at least 2 hours. We all felt an Instant connection.  It’s amazing what people with similar ideas, and big ideas, and people with big passion can find to talk about so quickly. At that point, we knew we were going to have an amazing couch surfing experience.

I have to clarify that CouchSurfing isn’t just staying for free at a someone’s house so you don’t have to pay for a hostel or hotel. It’s an exchange, of people, of life, of experience, and of cultures, of art, and often music!  Often people from all over the world work up stereotypes in their heads about certain nations. We later found out that our host had been even skeptical about hosting Americans. But being a part of the traveling world, you begin to realize just how similar people are. We’re all just people with different backgrounds.  We’re all just people. After dealing with the stereotypes that Americans face, I enjoy being that person that flips the stereotype upside down. I can almost guarantee that each person I’ve stayed with can no longer say, “all Americans are the same.” Or thought that, if they had before.  It’s a culture exchange, and likewise for me.

The purpose of the trip was to go explore another side of Germany and the language that I have devoted so much of my time to learning.  I will make the most of my Germany study abroad, going to northern Germany rather than to Rome. I’ve also learned more grammar the past 2 days than in the past semester.  I also wanted to relax. While entirely avoiding the Hostel “scene” of drinking and meeting drunken hitchhikers and spring break party travelers, so far I’ve skipped most of the main-stream “touristy” hustle and bustle that is just a mode of collecting money anyhow. Last night we ended up at a FilmSlam with all the local filmmakers of the Northern German “Schleswig-Holstein” community.  Something we otherwise would never have been able to find had it not been for our wonderful CouchSurfing hosts Kloocki. Ive come to realize that northern Germany probably is more like a community than just a state. And their ideas, language and way of life are different than the lower half of the country.

We all stayed up Friday night after our arrival and long chat at the Kaffee Shop chatting long into the night. It was the sort of conversations you don’t realize has gone on so long until you look at a clock and suddenly its 3 in the morning. Or, until your eyes start to burn and you can’t process full German sentences quite right anymore.  Yes, the whole evening happened in German. We talked about all the things that aren’t being done in the world, and about much of the apathy the world seems to have. About one person’s inability to make a difference in any of it. One person can’t do anything. Or so they say. I think even couch surfing in a sense is one step out of that mentality. Just by opening up your home to other often “foreign” people you are opening up your mind, and an exchange. You find people terribly similar to you and your way of thinking. It’s a step in a right direction at least, of bringing people together, as people, on the small planet that we live in.

Sarah, my travel buddy and I started realize that we shared many of the same tastes in music as our host as started pulling out record after record of amazing things to pop onto his record player, sitting on a makeshift beat making type DJ table adorned some sort of red African blanket. He pulled out didgeridoo music and hip hop beats and blues. Anything you could think of, and after talking about various things, he would start running off to grab a book he collected somewhere, someone had given him, or he had found in some pile ready to probably be hauled off to a dumpster while someone was cleaning out at old house. He has books with notes and postcards in them, books from 1700’s, books with pressed leaves and flowers in them from possibly 100s of years ago. His house has more character than any I’ve seen thus far in Germany.

Yesterday morning after a cozy breakfast of brötchen and one of the best Fair-Trade coffee I’ve had in my life we followed that with a little pause on the roof of the building where he lives.  To my excitement, Kloocki brought up a didgeridoo (I’d mentioned earlier what an infatuation with didgeridoos that I have) and played it on this red roofed Luebick house over the top of the city. We played didgeridoo over the city of Luebick. Then just before he made a quick trip to the store, he looked over and handed me the didgeridoo, and asked if I wanted to play it. I hesitantly asked in my bad German,  “kann ich es spielen??“  “can I play it?”  “Ich weiß nicht ob du es spielen kannst“ he says and smiles and hands it over.  “Well I don’t know if you can play it or not.”  With one of those taunting grins.

Can you imagine how disappointing it would be suddenly confronted with your favorite instrument … only to realize that you simply can not play your favorite instrument? I took it carefully, stuck the thing between my toes down at the end to balance it, puckered my lips and proceeded to flap my lips into the opening of the didgeridoo. I was instantly be disappointed in the odd flatulence resembling sound.  Not quite the magical sound I’d hope to finally create. Only to be followed by another, and another, to eventually sounding like I was killing an elephant on the rooftop over the little seaside town. A big red church lingered over my shoulder and rang its bells at me. The didgeridoo spitting with church bells ringing went on at least 10 minutes. Spitting, puckering, breathing, stopping. Spitting, puckering, blowing, stopping. Breathing.  Then a couple of times … the noise came out just right. I made … a didgeridoo sound. It was a short note, and then I ran out of breath. Then again, I managed to make a similar long low aboriginal sound and held my breath long enough to emit a long, long low sound spit out end of a makeshift didgeridoo. Breathe. That was followed by a varied vibration of lips, which created a new sound. I was playing the didgeridoo. And after being quickly told how one should learn a circular deep motion of breathing, I tried again to manage my breath in such a way that I could hold a long, deep, seductive didgeridoo note.  And women can’t play them, poppycock.

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