Some days already feel like spring… so it can’t be too far off, despite the snow today… right? Don’t want to wait til the weekend to get next to that potential someone special? Here are some comprehensive date ideas for every day of the week, now that it’s not so cold and not so warm. Keep in mind that these are things I’d personally enjoy doing and have tried out myself or heard about from friends – someone else may tell you something completely different, of course.
Monday:It’s a good evening to explore the east side of town, in a chilled-out way, before you decide if you want to take it up a notch and extend the date into trying out your pipes together. Say what? Yes. Start out by going to get a burger and drink at the Biergarten/bar Substanz (as long as it’s not too crowded – if it’s too crowded, you can try the BrauereilokalHopfenspeicher nearby). If you get there at or shortly after 6 p.m., when they open, that will give you more than an hour for a warm-up and chat before heading to the movie theater. (I’m still a fan of the movie theater date. Though you shouldn’t talk during the movie, the experience provides an opportunity to “accidentally” touch your date and a topic to discuss afterwards.) Regina Palast, a mere 500 meters away from Substanz, shows new releases in English every Monday at 8 p.m. – so you can check out our list of movie showtimes in the original ahead of time to see what’s on. Monday is also *drumroll*… karaoke night in Leipzig. So for after the movie, you can choose between Zum Kakadu and Flowerpower – both close to the city center – if you want to put your (singing) pipes to work, have some fun into the later hours, and witness some funny, weird, random stuff going on.
Tuesday: Want a more, say, upscale date? Head over to the super-chic, but not all-around-pricey, Chocolate (Bar Grill Dinnerclub) for a large array of drinks and a food menu that includes steak and burger samplers (which is what caught my eye)… plus some non-meat items, I’m sure. From 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, you can find live jazz in the basement of the nearby café/restaurant Telegraph, where I personally spent one of my most pleasant evenings in Leipzig. You can look at the Jazzclub Live calendar to see what’s coming up at Telegraph and elsewhere in town holding live jazz sessions – and other lively music – for the coming weeks.
Wednesday:If you’re in the mood for experiencing some art & culture with your date, Wednesdays are a good day for it. The Gallery for Contemporary Art (GfZK) offers free admission every Wednesday, and is open until 7 p.m.; other museums in Leipzig offer free entry on select Wednesdays each month, while some others are always free (you can look that up on our “museum days for free” list). If you get a chance, be sure to stop by the Gallery’s Café bau bau for a before- or after-chat and coffee and cake together – a suggestion of our events expert Marjon. You can extend the evening by walking over to the famous Moritzbastei (700 meters away) for some drinks and whatever they’ve got on that particular night (they’ve got a packed music and nightlife calendar).
Thursday:My favorite day of the week for “happy hour” is Thursday – getting pumped up for Friday and the weekend, but not quite there yet. So you can start earlier, and take your date to Karl-Liebknecht-Str. (Karli). You can get discounts on drinks at more than one spot on Karli: like 4.50 euros for any cocktail at tiefblau and two cocktails for the price of one at La Boum. After hanging out at the “happy hour” place for a couple hours, if you have no set plan, you can decide whether to end the date there or go on to dinner (good for a first date when you don’t yet know the person and are not sure how it could go). You have lots of options for food in the same area of Karli: like Acapulco for Mexican, Pata Negra for Spanish tapas and Safran for Indian. If the date’s going really well, you can go watch a movie or show and have another drink at die naTo a few steps away.
Friday: How about an evening of performing arts… in Lindenau? Maeshelle, our #ArtsAndCulture editor, suggests you choose among a concert or play at Neues Schauspiel, a musical or operetta at Musikalische Komödie, or a dance performance at The Lofftto take your date to. You can have a drink at any of those places and also nice food at The Lofft, or go to Café Westen for dinner and drinks.
Saturday: Maeshelle and I recommend that you start your date early and go to Spinnerei in Plagwitz, where art galleries open at 11 a.m. and stay open until at least 3 p.m. You may want to try Kunstkraftwerk afterwards for some more culturally diverse exhibits – when there’s an exhibit on, it’s open until 6 p.m. When you’re finished gallery-browsing, head over to Karl-Heine-Str. for something sweet at Café Albert, or walk a little farther to Café KH70 for what Maeshelle calls “the best French fries in town… with mango curry sauce.” If you don’t want the date to end (perhaps ever, because this can turn into a marathon), you can go to Schaubühne Lindenfelsfor a live performance or movies, and drinks and some more food (in case you’re still hungry). For yummy cocktails and a kissy cozy atmosphere: Go to Tacoholics. The people working there can recommend you a party to go to if you’re not ready to take your date home yet.
Sunday: Hopefully you’ll be waking up next to your date by now – if not, you can still meet up for brunch. My recommendation is Alex in the city center – plenty of breakfast and lunch food for a very reasonable price. Maeshelle’s recommendation is Stelzenhaus in Plagwitz, “where they just keep bringing out different types of food – it’s great… and it’s classy.” But there are many places offering brunch in town, and some people I know also like Luise, for example. If you’d like something to do other than going back to bed and watching a movie online, check out the Opera – they’ve always got something on.
What would your recommendations be? Please leave them in the comments section! Would be nice to have other tips on different areas of town and totally different activities.
No person is your friend who demands your silences and denies your right to grow.
– Alice Walker
Lately, I have been dreaming of my brother. It seems three or four times a week, he makes some kind of brief cameo in my unconscious. We have passing discussions and there is a sense of reconciliation in these fleeting moments, that the past between us is forgotten, that our relationship, severed for some time, can somehow move on. I feel his presence, even view him with the same kind of sunlit lucidity found in waking life.
Dreams possess their own sense and coherence. When we are dreaming, we believe, while in the unconscious state, that the reality before us is the only one. I’ve woken from dreams believing I still need to finish a university essay or cram for an upcoming exam. The trouble with this particular ‘brother’ in my dream is that though he physically resembles my sibling, the dream version in no way mirrors my real-life brother’s mental and emotional state. In such night-time encounters ‘he’ – who happens to be kinder, gentler and more patient – is far from the reality I have ever known.
Then I awake, and the dream ripples back into some discordant and faintly dissolving memory or non-event, like lyrics overheard or a scene in a movie fast-forwarded; there, but not lasting. And the feeling of ‘there’ but ‘not there’ persists, while the outside world is a place we can physically manage and manoeuvre based on memory.
With simple directions, we find ourselves developing an interior map of experience and knowledge to match and work with the external one. There seems to be an ongoing and reliable relationship between ourselves and the physical world. On the other hand, in dreams we carry both the impression of the dream’s changing landscape and ‘reality’; but when it dies away the next morning, the fading contours have no real anchor, no real cohesion of experience and dimension.
Yet, the emotions linger. I am at times plagued with hope and a feeling of peace I know will never arrive. And with that a longing to see him again, but the ‘him’ that realistically will never be. The dreams feel stark in their bleak dissolution, the emotions of reconciliation sharply contrasted with the current-world emotions – of grief and melancholy.
Still, the dichotomy of such feelings seems to be based on some spectre that lies between what I hope for and what is hopeless. I rest on the pillow in the grey morning light with the bitter knowledge I have come back to myself but my brother never will.
Estrangement is not a word that arises in daily conversation. It is a word that comprises our fears in relationships, especially when we think of the difficulty of relating to those who share our DNA. But I and many others live such a reality. For those who cannot cope with the pressures of family or find themselves conflicted by the expectations of relatives, estrangement becomes a form of escape, a haven but also a hard solution.
For British journalist Becca Bland, it is a harsh reality. Bland has been estranged from her parents for over a decade and writes often of the struggle, an ongoing grieving process of being ‘estranged’, the stigma and confusion surrounding it, whether during the holiday season or contending with it in the world of social media. During a 2013 interview with Nora Young on CBC radio’s Spark program, Bland discusses seeing her mother on Facebook and contending with the conflicted emotions of voyeuristically viewing her parents’ ‘perceived happiness’.
“Estrangement is in the experience of having a discordant relationship with one family member or a number of family members. That means you live in isolation from your family unit”, Bland reveals in a similarly-themed interview on BBC Radio 4, Digital Human with Aleks Krotoski. She talks of the causes of her familial estrangement, namely a conflict in which lines were drawn and she and her parents found themselves on opposing sides of an ever-widening abyss.
I can relate to Bland’s experience. Perhaps it wasn’t one family conflict with my brother but a relationship in which I felt continually disadvantaged by his presence. Though I am the older sibling, I spent a great deal of my life trying to appease and placate a brother whose continuous demands and high expectations of family relationships and dynamics over time wore me down emotionally and psychologically.
A psychologist, upon studying our mutual past, might suggest the separation of our parents and our differing attitudes/behaviours formed the roots of our future estrangement. According to Hidden Voices, a study of family estrangement conducted by University of Cambridge and Stand Alone, a UK-based charity spreading awareness of estrangement, whose chief executive happens to be Miss Bland, “mismatched expectations about family roles and relationships” play a major part in estrangement between brothers. This and “clash of personality or values”.
My brother and I clashed quite a bit over the years. When I was deathly ill and dishonest regarding sharing the true nature of the disease with my father, my brother overhead a phone message left by my family doctor urging me to return to the hospital. Overprotective of my dad, aware of his incessant worries, my brother resented my rebellion against the medical community, seeing it upset the proverbial apple cart of our family paradigm. For my parent and sibling, one always listened to the doctor and followed instructions. It didn’t matter that I felt the specialists who were treating me ignored my needs; I dared to go against the family and my brother never forgave me for that.
Then, years and years later, after recovering from the worst of the illness, after gaining equilibrium within my body while living in British Columbia, I returned to my native Ontario to live with my brother. He charged me moderate rent in his upscale condo and offered to mentor me in business. I thought our relationship would continue to mend and the past would be discarded in favour of a more viable future.
While I was attempting to start a wine consultant business in the Niagara Region, I quickly learned such a market would be difficult to crack in the then-blue-collar community nestled within the wine country. I was no entrepreneur and my brother, my so-called guide, would not let me give up and became insulting when I suggested looking for alternative employment. I tried to market my wine knowledge services but wine education and consulting had a better market in Toronto, not St. Catharines, my home city still reeling from the 2008 recession.
Instead of stopping and allowing myself to feel the futility of a malfunctioning enterprise closing in around me, I soldiered on, one event of failure following another. I invested more time and money but gained nothing in terms of a positive response or interest from the local business community. I joined networking groups, singles groups, handed out business cards but all the time I felt like a ghost-version of myself. The pressure to succeed felt like an illness in my psyche. After nearly committing suicide over the stress and effrontery of my failing enterprise, and the pressure from my brother, I backed away from a balcony to focus on my own happiness. (When my brother later learned of my suicidal low-point he said he wished I had jumped.)
The wine consulting misadventure aside, there were other things. When I ran out of money and couldn’t find work, he upped the rent and I was forced to go to the welfare office.
Blood is thicker than water.
Even after the welfare incident, finding work, moving out, I did my best to remain in contact with my brother, to forgive previous trespasses. I did this mostly for my father, for the guilt of what I put him through when I was sick and lied about it. But forgiveness, that ever ennobling interior performance, is actually a form of blindness when it becomes steeped in self-infliction. On the surface, one believes one is good, saintly even, by forgiving. But then one ignores the pain or the fact that by forgiving the same person over and over, one has corroborated one’s self in the same torturous habit. It becomes an altruistic addiction/affliction until eventually the pain of anticipated infliction becomes the reality of life.
I eventually stopped forgiving when my brother took advantage of my hospitality in 2014. After I had agreed to let him and his friends stay at my place as a stopover on the way to Chicago – I was then living near the Detroit-Windsor border in Southwestern Ontario – my brother once again took advantage as I attempted to please. Seeing the kitchen in disarray the following morning, the remains of egg yolks in the pan, milk cartons left out, all the while knowing he had saved at least a hundred dollars by not staying in a hotel, I decided I had had enough.
That summer I didn’t go to his wedding.
Though I have these dreams of my brother, seeing his ghost in my unconscious, I feel myself at times confronted with this implacable grief for someone who is still alive. A grief for the person he never became or a relationship that could never be.
In the Hidden Voices study, in the section entitled ‘What do people wish was different’, the majority of those going through estrangement wanted a “more positive, unconditionally loving, warm and emotionally close” relationship, whether with the estranged father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter.
It is fairly clear what people want most from those they feel are lost to them. But such things may never arrive. In the meantime, there is a feeling of being in limbo, of being unresolved and insecure in the decision to maintain the estrangement. For many, this desire to stay resolved in these distances comes from a place of self-protection, like escaping from abusive family members or fleeing cultures that would have one sex subservient to the other. On the outside, there is the social stigma. Giving up on certain friends and relationships is fine but family is another matter. “He’s your brother,” I have heard now and then, and you “should try to work it out”. But how can that ever happen when neither of us are going to change for the other?
When people do decide to embrace estrangement, it offers a mixed feeling of puzzling grief and relief.
In Ambiguous Losses: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief, educator and researcher Pauline Boss writes of the human hunger for certainty. “Even sure knowledge of death is more welcome than a continuation of doubt” she notes in her book, describing the unresolved grief whether from estrangement, divorce, Alzheimer’s, immigration, adoption and other traumatic factors. For Boss, it is the landscape between there and not there that is difficult to reconcile, a threshold never fully crossed because of the conflict of hope going up against the harshest of memories.
In Portuguese, there is saudade, sometimes defined as a “melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that you love” or a solemn “nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened” or may never happen.
Now that I have been living in Germany, have found my way to some degree, I feel the old vestiges of my hopes (the saudades) for my sibling relationship returning. Hence the dreams. In waking life, sometimes I see the relationships I’ve formed around me as a form of recompense for what I never had with my brother. Other times, I see traits and tendencies of my brother, both positive and negative, in the people I associate with, whether friends, acquaintances or business contacts. Even with an ex-girlfriend, I saw aspects of my brother, her sarcasm resembling his, sometimes her criticism of me like his.
But I understand this ‘there’ and ‘not there’ and have to fight to be more honest and perhaps allow the crueler side of myself to insist that I may never want to see my brother again. It is a realization that haunts me a little, torments the easier and gentler side of my nature. I doubt myself at times and wonder: If my brother returned to me with an olive branch, perhaps sick, looking for support from me, from someone who had gone through what I did, would I be able to offer my compassion, accept his peace offering and go from there?
Acknowledging the limbo, the estrangement that grows in days and months, I turn away from the saintly aspect, the one longing to be good and forgive. I think of Becca Bland again, philosophizing on Digital Human. Estrangement, she notes, nearly echoing Pauline Boss, is “a loss but not a death. You always know the people are breathing somewhere.”
It is this loss that surrounds me with dreams for what could have been. And now that I have come this far, I know I must continue, accept my decision while trying to understand the ‘grief’ that has no comfortable definition.
Maybe by writing this, I will see the figure in my dream as a myth or a surrogate for the future I wanted with my brother. And by knowing this future to be non-existent, I am closer to letting ‘him’ – and him – go.
Usually I don’t write about my work here, but this time I’m doing a video installation for The Leipzig Glocal #FUNkyFRIdayz launch party tonight.
The installation is about everything tonight is about. It chronicles dance, as available on YouTube. It starts in black and white and moves on to colour. When newspapers started, no one could have imagined we could create a webzine that could be accessed on computers and phones at the touch of a finger.
The work starts with dance in the 20s and 30s in the States. This was a time of racial divide. Like with hip hop, the movements began in the black community. Performers, like the Nicholas Brothers (the first ones on MY list) and Sammy Davies Jr came from poverty and rose through performing. Sammy hit the stage at 3 and stayed “in his place” until his death….through hip replacements and a glass eye. He was “discovered” by Frank Sinatra and became part of the Rat Pack and even had a white wife. Others I featured have fallen into obscurity. Names, long forgotten, their moves can be found on the net, like an architectural dig.
The installation goes on to focus on other cultures. These dances will be taken out of context because you can’t hear the music they originated from. It’s amazing to see the similarities. In Polynesian, Iranian and Indian traditional dances, dancers tell stories with the hands. Syrian traditional dance spins and spins and spins. The fascinating aspect of watching these moves to hip hop is that they are often with the music. With all the turmoil in the world we are facing due to migration, it’s a testament that we can keep our identity and still come together to create something enriching and valuable.
Also included are cartoons, movie-dancing greats and modern choreographers. There are many layers of this work that is designed for 2 screens and to loop after 4 hours. I hope you come and find a few of your own.
Here’s what we’ve got for you guys this time around… Friday in particular is PACKED.
February 27 & 28 ► Antiques Market at AGRA
Every last weekend of the month the Agra Grounds transform into a giant second hand market, both indoor & outdoor. You’ll find furniture, household items, books, reclaimed (industrial) materials, DDR memorabilia etc. The market is very popular and attracts visitors from all over Saxony and beyond. Warning: may cause traffic jams, so consider cycling there or taking a tram. More info
February 28► Kawi Kids Flea Market – Kawi Kids Kinder Flohmarkt
Second-hand market, held several times a year, for every thinkable child-related item, like clothes, toys, strollers, books, bikes etcetera. At the indoor baby/toddler playground Kawi Kids in Südvorstadt, at August-Bebel-Straβe 9. More info (in German)
February 26► Quiz Night: February – The English Room
Trivia in English in a cozy environment, with couches and possibly new friends (or competitors to the last bit). More info
February 26►Pedal the World Documentary
“18000 km, 22 countries, 365 days.” Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Curious to find out more? Go watch the film at Cinestar! More info
February 26► Fly By LIVE at Poniatowski
Leipzig’s hub for Polish cuisine, vodka and arts & culture continues its tradition of supporting blossoming talents – and this time it features someone with a voice described as “full of blues & soul… somewhere between Cheryl Crow and Pink, but unmistakable.” More info
February 26► #FUNkyFRIdayz Launch Party (REMINDER!)
The Leipzig Glocal has a new column where DJ Buti gives us mixes from Leipzig-based talent – and what better way to officially launch it than have a hip-hop party with DJs and nice food? Hope to see you there! More info
February 28► A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Schauspiel
Simultaneously translated into English via headphones and with a live orchestra playing Mendelssohn’s score for the Shakespeare classic. Plus a (post-)modern twist on the original play. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a mid-winter evening! More info
March 2► Shameless English Comedy at Noch Besser Leben
The organizers promise a “Berlin experience with an NYC twist.” Check out the international and local standup lineup they’ve got for us! More info
March 2►Kinotek projection at Leipzig East
Kinotek will be showing Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” movie from 1979, with English subtitles. The movie is described as a “rich, spiritual and contemplative journey through the fantastic inner world of human hope, desire, disillusions and beliefs.” More info
March 3-6► Cine Brasil Leipzig
A bunch of fascinating Brazilian movies for four days at Schaubühne Lindenfels… I am totally in! More info
I can’t believe it’s already been six months since my wife Alex gave birth to our little Katerina. I don’t think that there can be a period of your life when you’ve got a learning curve as steep as during the first months of parenthood. So in this post I want to share some of the things I learned. Of course these insights are quite personal and by no means universal, but I still hope you’ll find this interesting.
Step-by-step: Having a baby is not overwhelming. After Katerina was born I spent most of my time admiring our little bundle of cuteness. Mothers are occupied with learning how to breastfeed. Once in a while you have to change a diaper – at this stage they do not smell at all. Everything then happens very gradually. At the beginning our Katerina slept pretty much all the time and rarely cried. Her sleep time was slowly reduced. Her nappies did start to become a bit smelly after a few weeks, but there was plenty of time to get used to it. When she first turned on her back, she didn’t do it again until a week later. There is never a situation that is totally new and overwhelming. Everything is arranged like a well-organized university module giving you time to learn slowly and steadily. This is a real relief to young parents.
Love potential: Within hours a new human being becomes the centre of your life. All of a sudden there is this new person and you’re willing to die for them. This is something I couldn’t quite imagine before Katerina was born.
Cuteness: Yes, all babies are cute in their own way. But Katerina is the cutest baby I have ever seen. I have heard other parents say the same about their own children, so I can only assume that this is a universal phenomenon.
Poop: I love my nephews, but I can’t help finding their snot, dribble, poo and pee kind of gross. With Katerina, however, from day one I felt completely comfortable. When she was three weeks old she actually projectile-pooped on Alex and me – we just laughed and thought it was funny. Nothing at all to worry about in this area.
Freedom: Last week we got back from a road trip to Ukraine. Katerina actually loved it because we carried her all day and drove her around. We have also been to parties and bars, although this does become a little more difficult. It is obvious that you can no longer go clubbing or come home after midnight, but that was never really my thing anyway. Going to restaurants becomes actually more frequent because you have less time to cook. You also tend to leave those restaurants again after an hour when your baby becomes bored.
Friendships: I have friends all over the world and I wish I could regularly stay in touch with everyone, but it is difficult to even see people in Leipzig. Spending time with family however is great fun because they tend to take care of the baby.
Parenting advice: Friends and family will give you well-intended advice… on when your baby should go to bed, on why your baby is crying, on how to soothe her, on what she should wear or on how she should be put to sleep (this is a very basic list). However, nobody knows Katerina’s routines, cries and habits better than her parents. What I want to tell everyone is this: We know what to do and unless we ask for it, we don’t want your advice.
Obligations: Yep, when you have a baby you always need to put yourself second. You might long for that moment when you can finally rest on your sofa and watch a movie, only to hear your baby crying in the bedroom, needing you to take care of her for another two hours. But that’s okay – it gives a new sense of meaning to your life that you’ve never felt before.
Sleep: Since Katerina was born I don’t think I have had a single night of uninterrupted sleep. During the week I need to get up at 6:45 am, so I try to go to sleep at 11 pm, but lately she’s tended to wake up at least three times a night. I usually find it hard to get back to sleep afterwards. But that’s okay, you get used to sleeping less.
Having a baby never gets boring and there are always new challenges ahead. But it’s nothing you can’t manage. It always helps me to keep in mind that human beings share the prime directive of all life – reproduction. We are made to have babies so how could it be anything but fun??
It was late last year when I first saw Rolina Nell‘s paintings. They have not left my mind since. There was something hauntingly beautiful and yet disturbing about them.
Rolina had just come to Leipzig as part of the Leipzig International Artist residency program. Now, three months on, she’ll be going back to the Netherlands at the end of the month. I asked her how Leipzig had affected her work. She said that she had had the luxury of time which allowed her to experiment. Her work always features women because that’s who she relates to since she is one. What has happened is she has gone much smaller. Inspired by being at the former cotton mill, Spinnerei and by pre- fall of the wall DDR fabrics and women’s fashion she saw at places like the Rund Ecke, Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig and Agra. She wanted to revive that which is in danger of being forgotten. The work is about identity and absence.
Often her work evokes memory. She spent the entire 2007 at artist residencies, changing on an average of three months. She took photos of the women in each of these places. Then she’d paint them later, in a new location. The photos were all from the perspective of leaving. Each one was only from the back.
The following year she and her partner ran their own art residency project in the city of Dealft. It took place in buildings that were slated to be demolished. The spaces were available for the site specific work for as little as three months and as long as a year. For her work, she chose to photograph women in the street and then paint them on the walls of the houses, thus giving life to the properties one last time.
These days she lives with her partner, two dogs and a cat on a farm in the community she grew up in. It’s actually a manmade community that was designed specifically for farming in the 50s when her grandparents moved there. She left when she was a teen because it was boring. It’s not boring any more. They have a large garden and have converted the space into studios and have a residency program.
When she gets back, she’ll be showing the work she created here at WTC Art Gallery in Rotterdam in a solo exhibition that opens in April. Meanwhile you can get a sneak preview at her open studio this Thursday.
…Or so my mother always says. Or indeed pretty much any other native or stereotypical British person. As both a native and stereotypical Brit, I had never really questioned the wise truth behind this outspokenly optimistic catchphrase until coming to live in Germany. This is a place where people seem to be more fond of “Kaffee und Kuchen” than “a nice cup of tea”, and where, upon requesting tea, I am more likely to be confronted with the question of “which fruit?” rather than “milk and sugar?”.
In this spirit, I thought I would have a deeper look at the good old “nice cup of tea” suggestion, and see if I could discover the wisdom, if not the truth, behind it.
In traditional style I will start at the very beginning. The word “a” doesn’t lend itself to commentary, but “nice” can be analysed nicely. It is seemingly a very standard positive adjective, which can refer to just about anything. Provided you like tea, this word can fit with almost any situation, without necessarily improving it, apart from its relation to the temporary excitement of the taste buds. I think we can say, therefore, that “nice” is just that, nice. It is pleasant but fairly mundane.
“Cup” is also fairly normal. It is a vessel for drinking; a practical necessity. Perhaps, though, “a mug of tea” has a different ring to it. Perhaps “a beaker of tea” would not spark the same magic. Perhaps, then, the magic lies in the formality of the traditional English teacup.
Or then again, a simple cup which “makes everything better” seems a bit ambitious, does it not? It may be more natural to assume that the wonder lies in the tea itself! What does it contain that can perform such a miracle? Is it the fragrant leaves, their oriental charm, or maybe the small caffeine dose, which may wake us up or lift our spirits?
To “make” is here to “cause”, but “everything” implies a braver suggestion than many! To make everything better may be considered impossible for a person, not to mention for a small quantity of liquid! Does this “everything” include real situations and tangible problems, or does it rather refer to our attitude towards them; the worries that we have worked ourselves up into?
“Better” is just as interesting, but this time in its vagueness. In its non-affirming elusiveness; we can only assume that “better” does not necessarily mean “healed”. Rather, it means that the situation has improved, or at least, that the person involved now feels better about it.
Feeling better about worked-up worries and lifting our spirits from real-life problems seem to be more psychological than physical solutions to this “everything”, which is seemingly not in its best state prior to tea-drinking. Psychological solutions can logically be found by thinking or discussing, as is often done over a cup of tea. I am therefore willing to make the bold suggestion that the magic of “making everything better” lies not in the tea itself, nor in its various paraphernalia, but rather in the social occasion of tea-drinking.
A cup of tea is namely often drunk with a friend or trusted companion. Indeed, if somebody has just suggested to you that “a nice cup of tea makes everything better”, then you can usually safely assume that this somebody has already put the kettle on, put the teabags in the pot, and is ready to discuss any slight worries or deep concerns that may be gnawing at you.
It is not the “tea”, but rather the “time” of “teatime” that is important. The time that somebody gives to you, the time out that you take for yourself, and the feeling of appreciation for that person or for that time. The fact that you have a warm drink in your hand is just an excuse for coming together; the ten minutes taken to drink it is a necessity, where talking is encouraged. It’s not surprising that people tend to open up more to talk about their worries during their tea break – that is the time specifically set aside for relaxing; for letting off steam while waiting for your tea to do the same. And if you can talk to somebody about a problem, a listener is often all you really need. The solution to a problem often lies in the very act of explaining it – put into words and given an order, it all seems much clearer and more manageable to oneself. The idea of a problem shared being a problem halved is especially true during tea breaks, where problems are more easily shared and biscuits often halved. Not to mention the fact that tea is familiar and homely – it provides a sense of warmth and security, and may allow a person to feel more at ease, to share their worries with less embarrassment. A cup of tea is, in short, the perfect excuse for a chat, a way to ease conversation, and a way to work out solutions to complicated problems.
“Where there is tea, there is hope” claimed a certain Arthur Wing Pinero. This may indeed be true, but I would promote claiming instead that “where there is teatime, there is hope”. Or indeed, where there is Kaffee und Kuchen, there is hope! For the hope exists in the time, not in the consumption. The Germans then, have perhaps not got it so very wrong after all. If the precious wonder of making everything better is in the time, then we can’t complain. Or maybe we can, and SHOULD complain over a cup of tea. Or indeed, of Kaffee. The key is in the complaining itself, in the discussing, in the slow consideration and comprehension of a problem.
So does a “nice cup of tea make everything better”, as our mothers and other tea-believers tell us? I would argue that yes, it does. Once you have a warm cup in your hands and a warm heart to listen, the conversation and the problem-solving flow as easily as tea (or coffee, for you continentals) from the pot to the cup.
*Felicity Parker is from England, where she studied modern languages at university. She is living in Leipzig at the moment in order to learn dressmaking and improve her German. She is doing a long period of work experience in a tailor’s workshop, while working regularly in a shop and teaching English both privately and in various kindergartens. During her free time in Leipzig, you can generally find her in one of the many and beautiful parks (whatever the weather).
Ghost tours began to emerge in English-speaking countries about 20 years ago. I was always fascinated by these special tours, and checked out all the local ghost tours where I was traveling. A couple of years ago, tours like this spread to non-English-speaking countries as well. I moved to Leipzig in 2012 and wanted to join a haunted tour. But there were only non-scary tours! How could this be, in a city like Leipzig, which is more than 1000 years old and has so many dark secrets to be revealed to courageous guests?
So I started researching the occult. I read about urban legends and real horror stories that took place in Leipzig. The more I read, the more it scared me. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night, because these stories had followed me into my dreams! But I was determined to finish my work, and nine months later my baby was born: The first original German “Gruseltour”, which translates to “Ghost Tour”, took place on Halloween 2013. Now the “Gruseltour” has grown and grown. I was lucky to find great guides and had supportive friends and family behind me.
Even though the question “Can you really earn money with ghost stories?” came up quite often and tried to hold me back, I believed in myself and the project. It was hard work to establish the tour in the first place and it continues to take a lot of time to develop it further.
My new business partner, Sebastian, and I have gathered a team of guides, called the “Magic Circle”, who are capable of protecting our guests against the dark powers, which arise when we tell our haunted stories about Leipzig. You see, this tour goes way beyond storytelling. It’s an interactive journey. Guests who survived our tour gave us quite good reviews. According to TripAdvisor, “Gruseltour” is the No.1 city tour in Leipzig. People kept asking us about offering the tour in different languages, so we created a Spanish tour, “Leipzig Misteriosa”, and an English tour, “Haunted Leipzig”.
Now it’s time to ask yourself: Are you ready to be scared? Do you want to get a sneak peek at horror, panic and crime? If your answer is yes, we want to welcome you on the dark side.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lilith – perhaps some of you have heard of me. I have wandered the earth for a long time – not only decades or centuries, but for millennia. Yet despite the passing time, I do not age. What is to some a gift is also a burden. I must see all that I love pass away. But me, I remain. On the path of all this loss lies even more pain – I am always there when something terrible happens. The devil has bestowed this burden on me. Time and place play no role for me. I can be in many places at once. I can even wander through time, seeing it all.
That is why, my dear guests, I will take you on a special journey. I will stay by your side and tell you everything… the truth about the hidden and dark side of Leipzig.
Join Lilith or another member of the “Magic Circle” at your own risk.
I typically steer away from reading books about cultural stereotypes. In truth, I find it too easy for an outsider, like a research scientist or anthropologist, to take on a country and its countrymen by seeking to define and distil an entire society down to vague generalizations. Look on Amazon and you will find books a-plenty fussing about the foibles of the French, the crazy degelijkheid of the Dutch or how charming and indispensable the Italians are. There is no shortage of quirky guides to the culture of whatever nation. Some are written by travelers, some by expatriates. Many are humorous – there is the Xenophobe’s Guide, a series put out by Oval Books. Others are a bit more sincere; for instance, Culture Smart! which offers up short introductions to a given country, slim volumes to complement your LonelyPlanet, your Fodor’s or Frommer’s Guides.
In Leipzig, Germany, wander into Lehmann’s and here you’ll find Adam Fletcher’s two popular books about living in Deutschland displayed atop the language table on the second floor.
Again, typically, I steer myself away from reading such books; but last year, taking the word of a friend, I borrowed Fletcher’s first dual-lingo book, Wie man Deutscher wird in 50 einfachen Schritten/How to be German in 50 easy steps and rather enjoyed it. Fletcher’s writing, quirky and reverently irreverent, makes affable light of his new-found home, shares anecdotes about the cultural stereotypes and gives a joyful account of daily life in Germany. No harm, no foul, the book is a pleasure to read but one you can pick up and put down. Moreover, it is written in both German and English, ideal for those still hammering away at their Deutsch.
First let me say, I am thankful to currently be living in a country where men do sit down to pee. Originally from Canada, from my earliest years and on, I spent many a public restroom moment wiping off the urine of the previous idiot’s poor aim. It’s great to have a book that explains part of the reason men do this but also helps me feel I am not alone.
Like Fletcher, Frank and Cave cover the gamut of German idiosyncrasies in several sections ranging from ‘Basic Rules’ to ‘Shopping’, ‘Work’, ‘Getting Around’ and ‘Socializing’. Naturally, they talk about German drink and food (Bier and Wurst) and sex habits; for instance, they caution foreigners not to ‘flirt’ too hard or that if you hit someone with a German pillow, you can be charged; the said object can legally be considered a ‘passive weapon’.
Still fairly new to this country, there were some things I gleaned about my adopted country from this book. I already knew about Mallorca as the hedonist headquarters of German travelers, the 17thBundesland, but I didn’t know it was nicknamedMalle (and interesting to note, the word also means ‘out of one’s mind’ in Northern German). I also read about the stereotypical Germans at the beach who enjoy digging holes or that you can mix red wine and coke, among other concoctions. So yes, a few surprises, a few tidbits of useful and amusingly useless information. This title is a welcome addition to the libraries of those who are, like me, in the discovery stages or even for those who have never been to Germany but are making plans to travel or live here for a crazy little while.
In terms of structure and pacing, the information is good, the writing definitely solid, rendering it both fluid and readable. The authors have talent, no doubt, and the mood of the prose imparts a general cheerfulness.
But now let me get to the ‘something missing’. I find the authors’ presentation lacks the character and personality that Fletcher brings to his work. Within the first few pages of How to be a German in 50 Steps, you gain some insight into the author’s background, where he’s from, why he’s in Germany. You know a bit about his agenda, his perspective and therefore, you can enjoy the reading journey, accompanying him on his ride to becoming ‘German’. In short, Fletcher allows himself to be present, making the reader feel present with him.
However, in German Men Sit Down to Pee, you cannot even find the author biographies. They are as anonymous as those who pen a prestigious scientific journal, where research comes first. By the end of the book, which reads like an article, we learn a great deal but know so little about the men behind the prose. Used to Fletcher’s approach as well as being curious, I went online to find the press kit to gather some idea of who these two writers were. I learned that Frank is German and Cave is Irish. For me, I would really be interested to find out how they met and why they wanted to write this book together. And also, what has Frank experienced as a German citizen to make him step back from his culture to analyze it and poke fun at its quirks? Or, why did James come to Germany and how is the country he hailed from less or more weird than Germany? Knowing their backgrounds, incorporating them into the writing, personalizing the gathering of research would certainly have made it more pleasurable for me.
As it stands,German Men Sit Down to Pee is good value (günstig) as a Kindle Book. But Fletcher remains the one to beat or at least, complement. Stiff competition.
Frank and James can comfortably share a space on the e-shelf with Adam Fletcher but if they plan to do a follow-up book, I hope/suggest they bring more of themselves into the writing.
Other recent reviews on this book can be found here, here, and here.
Bass is my drug. Dance is my passion. I genuinely can’t wait for next Friday night and our #FUNkyFRIdayz launch party. I’m gonna get comfy and just move and sweat and get lost.
I hope you’ve been getting into DJ Buti’s new Leipzig DJ mix set posts. Last week, as part of our #LOVEzig Valentine’s special, he featured SKOR. Personally, I loved that set. It was like a journey. I’m super excited to hear him at the launch party.
Broken down to the basics, for Skor Rokswell it’s all about good music, point blank. Coming from a long history of listening to rap music, he started ignoring boarders within what you might would define as genres, when he stumbled upon the likes of Madlib, J Dilla, Waajeed and several other artist who broke loose from dogmatism without forgetting their roots. Running several regular nights, hosting Producers and DJ’s in the same variety as his record collection is built.
If that’s not enough, SHAPE is also spinning. Did I mention bass was my drug? He blurs the boundaries between rap, beats and dubstep. A girl could just get in her zone and never come back out. Oh, I sincerely hope so!