1. April 2011
I used to loathe the silence. I would always need to have a TV in the background, as I was a kid, blaring away while I scribbled the math equations in my math papers. I would always have CDs and tapes playing along in my room. When I drive, I blast my music and sing along as loud as my lungs allow. I play music in the mornings, as I get ready. Now I find, I enjoy the silence. I bathe in it. It makes me contemplate, and yet relax at the same time. It slows life down. Last week I think I was truly learning how to appreciate the beauty of silence and the silence in nature as I sucked in the salty air of the North Sea. I took in the quiet moments in beach town homes as I drank my coffee and took in the simplicity of being where I could hear a falling leaf hit the ground. Although last week I admit, my silence was always short lived, my travel buddy would take the quiet opportunity to play her music. Loudly. I realize that when I was her age …. I did the same thing. Two years ago, at 21 I also needed music 24/7 and somehow over the past two years that has changed. I have changed.
I think of the silent world for the Japanese kid staying in Jugendherberge Stahleck I’m in right. Its a medieval castle tower room called Walther von der Vogelweide, and we have a huge room with five sets of bunk beds nearly to ourselves on the Rhein in Germany. He hardly speaks any English. After a friendly hello and smiles, and a few elaborate hand gestured sentences we figured out a few basic things about each other. We established that I am USA, and he is Japan. We also established, “I am famiwry” and he can, “no engwrisch” It was a good chat. It is moments like that where I realize the beauty of communication and appreciate the difficulty of a language barrier. I could think of a load of things I want to ask him, about his family, why he is here, why is he by himself, how his life has been flipped upside down probably from the hurricane/tsunami to wipe out half of his home country. But I cant. He will sleep quietly in the bunk bed next to me, by himself, and be off on his way with his sleek little travel backpack tomorrow to the next place and I will never hear his story. He is sleeping in a quiet cozy castle tower in Germany, and families where he is from have no place to sleep and are living in the wrecked remains of what used to be a Japanese way of life. Now destroyed by nature and larger than life nuclear power plants. It seems someone is trying to tell us something. But sometimes that makes me sad, talking to new people and realizing that I will never really get to know them.
Sometimes I think we can never really get to know some people fully unless we get to speak their language. I learned, that after learning German some of the German people I had known before learning German came to a new level of confidence with me. We can talk, we can fully understand each other. At least I can with them, they can’t understand me still fully when I ramble on at an excited full speed in English. I think that is the full authentic me. I switched to English with a friend of mine after talking German with some Frenchmen awhile back and they commented about 5 minutes into the conversation and cracking up, “wow, you’re a lot funnier in English!” Its true! I am always having funny conversations and saying ridiculous things in English, and I just don’t translate well into German. I wonder if I could be more me in another language. If some other language better portrays my quirky personality and silly sense of humor. After learning just how logical and mechanical the German language is, I was told by one German professor I speak a dialect of, “Kaysha-deutsch”. That could have been an insult. I feel my creativity on many levels is slaughtered through a lack of means of communication. That is often a problem for me. Lacking appropriate explanation or proper means of explanation. I can’t always clarify my ideas or what I’m trying to say, sometimes in either language! Isn’t that some sort of speech impediment?
I’ve learned that some German words don’t have an equivalent in English. So far, the top two on my list are gemütlich, spiesig and „um wohl zu fühlen“ This concept of so much personal time and he idea of self satisfaction, or self fulfilling doesn’t seem to exist in my vocabulary. That concept I guess doesn’t exist in English the way it does for Germany. Nor does gemütlich with its meaning somewhere between cozy and comfortable, but not exactly one or the other.
There is a castle moth flapping about the small light attached in my bunk bed in this ancient castle. Everyone else is asleep. I didn’t even think my dad would be able to sleep in a bunk bed in a hostel, but he seems to be doing fine. I can see the lights from the little medieval village down below the castle window. Clear skies and the soft hum of snoring is counter balanced by a sing song whirr of the moth wings against the wood and my classical music from my headphones. It is peaceful, as 12:00 midnight, when the Germany countryside sleeps. I enjoy these peaceful hours, be it early morning or late at night. It’s when I can write, and think. Sometimes I feel like an old woman already for the simplicities I enjoy at 23. But I guess growing up is just a part of learning to enjoy the silence. Even if I’ve somehow found this out a little younger than others!