posted on my blog so that I know where to find it
(Source: James Vane; Translation by Michael Henry Heim; Image: Anton Chekhov, via.)
Moscow, March, 1886
My little Zabelin,
I’ve been told that you have taken offense at gibes Schechtel and I have been making. The faculty of taking offense is the property of noble souls alone, but even so, if it is all right to laugh at Ivanenko, me, Mishka and Nelly, then why is it wrong to laugh at you? It’s unfair. However, if you’re not joking and really do feel you’ve been offended, I hasten to apologize.
People only laugh at what’s funny or what they don’t understand. Take your choice.
The latter of course is more flattering, but—alas!—to me, for one, you’re no riddle. It’s not hard to understand someone with whom you’ve shared the delights of Tatar caps, Voutsina, Latin and, finally, life in Moscow. And besides, your life is psychologically so uncomplicated that even a nonseminarian could understand it. Out of respect for you let me be frank. You’re angry, offended…but it’s not because of my gibes or of that good-natured chatterbox Dolgov. The fact of the matter is that you’re a decent person and you realize that you’re living a lie. And, whenever a person feels guilty, he always looks outside himself for vindication: the drunk blames his troubles, Putyata blames the censors, the man who bolts from Yakimanka Street with lecherous intent blames the cold in the living room or gibes, and so on. If I were to abandon the family to the whims of fate, I would try to find myself an excuse in Mother’s character or my blood spitting or the like. It’s only natural and pardonable. It’s human nature, after all. And you’re quite right to feel you’re living a lie. If you didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t have called you a decent person. When decency goes, well, that’s another story. You become reconciled to the lie and stop feeling it.
You’re no riddle to me, and it is also true that you can be wildly ridiculous. You’re nothing but an ordinary mortal, and we mortals are enigmatic only when we’re stupid, and we’re ridiculous forty-eight weeks of the year. Isn’t that so?
You often complain to me that people “don’t understand” you. But even Goethe and Newton made no such complaints. Christ did, true, but he was talking about his doctrine, not his ego. People understand you all too well. If you don’t understand yourself, then it’s nobody else’s fault.
As your brother and intimate, I assure you that I understand you and sympathize with you from the bottom of my heart. I know all your good qualities like the back of my hand. I value them highly and have only the greatest respect for them. If you like, I can even prove how I understand you by enumerating them. In my opinion you are kind to the point of fault, magnanimous, unselfish, you’d share your last penny, and you’re sincere. Hate and envy are foreign to you, you are open-hearted, you are compassionate with man and beast, you are not greedy, you do not bear grudges, and you are trusting. You are gifted from above with something others lack: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of people, for there is only one artist for every two million people on earth. It places you in a very special position: you could be a toad or a tarantula and you would still be respected, because talent is its own excuse.
You have only one failing, the cause of the lie you’ve been living, your troubles, and your intestinal catarrh. It’s your extreme lack of culture. Please forgive me, but veritas magis amicitiae. The thing is, life lays down certain conditions. If you want to feel at home among intellectuals, to fit in and not find their presence burdensome, you have to have a certain amount of breeding. Your talent has brought you into their midst. You belong there, but…you seem to yearn escape and feel compelled to waver between the cultured set and your next-door neighbors. It’s the bourgeois side of you coming out, the side raised on birch thrashings beside the wine cellar and handouts, and it’s hard to overcome, terribly hard.
To my mind, civilized people ought to satisfy the following conditions:
1. They respect the individual and are therefore always indulgent, gentle, polite and compliant. They do not throw a tantrum over a hammer or a lost eraser. When they move in with somebody, they do not act as if they were doing him a favor, and when they move out, they do not say, “How can anyone live with you!” They excuse noise and cold and overdone meat and witticisms and the presence of others in their homes.
2. Their compassion extends beyond beggars and cats. They are hurt even by things the naked eye can’t see. If for instance, Pyotr knows that his father and mother are turning gray and losing sleep over seeing their Pyotr so rarely (and seeing him drunk when he does turn up), then he rushes home to them and sends his vodka to the devil. They do not sleep nights the better to help the Polevayevs, help pay their brothers’ tuition, and keep their mother decently dressed.
3. They respect the property of others and therefore pay their debts.
4. They are candid and fear lies like the plague. They do not lie even about the most trivial matters. A lie insults the listener and debases him in the liar’s eyes. They don’t put on airs, they behave in the street as they do at home, and they do not try to dazzle their inferiors. They know how to keep their mouths shut and they do not force uninvited confidences on people. Out of respect for the ears of others they are more often silent than not.
5. They do not belittle themselves merely to arouse sympathy. They do not play on people’s heartstrings to get them to sigh and fuss over them. They do not say, “No one understands me!” or “I’ve squandered my talent on trifles!” because this smacks of a cheap effect and is vulgar, false and out-of-date.
6. They are not preoccupied with vain things. They are not taken in by such false jewels as friendships with celebrities, handshakes with drunken Plevako, ecstasy over the first person they happen to meet at the Salon de Varietes, popularity among the tavern crowd. They laugh when they hear, “I represent the press,” a phrase befitting only Rodzeviches and Levenbergs. When they have done a penny’s worth of work, they don’t try to make a hundred rubles out of it, and they don’t boast over being admitted to places closed to others. True talents always seek obscurity. They try to merge with the crowd and shun all ostentation. Krylov himself said that an empty barrel has more chance of being heard than a full one.
7. If they have talent, they respect it. They sacrifice comfort, women, wine and vanity to it. They are proud of their talent, and so they do not go out carousing with trade-school employees or Skvortsov’s guests, realizing that their calling lies in exerting an uplifting influence on them, not in living with them. What is more, they are fastidious.
8. They cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities. They cannot stand to fall asleep fully dressed, see a slit in the wall teeming with bedbugs, breathe rotten air, walk on a spittle-laden floor or eat off a kerosene stove. They try their best to tame and ennoble their sexual instinct… What they look for in a woman is not a bed partner or horse sweat, […] not the kind of intelligence that expresses itself in the ability to stage a fake pregnancy and tirelessly reel off lies. They—and especially the artists among them—require spontaneity, elegance, compassion, a woman who will be a mother… They don’t guzzle vodka on any old occasion, nor do they go around sniffing cupboards, for they know they are not swine. They drink only when they are free, if the opportunity happens to present itself. For they require a mens sana in corpore sano.
And so on. That’s how civilized people act. If you want to be civilized and not fall below the level of the milieu you belong to, it is not enough to read The Pickwick Papers and memorize a soliloquy from Faust. It is not enough to hail a cab and drive off to Yakimanka Street if all you’re going to do is bolt out again a week later.
You must work at it constantly, day and night. You must never stop reading, studying in depth, exercising your will. Every hour is precious.
Trips back and forth to Yakimanka Street won’t help. You’ve got to drop your old way of life and make a clean break. Come home. Smash your vodka bottle, lie down on the couch and pick up a book. You might even give Turgenev a try. You’ve never read him.
You must swallow your pride. You’re no longer a child. You’ll be thirty soon. It’s high time!
I’m waiting…We’re all waiting…
When I walked in, there was nobody there except a lady sitting in the front. Frauenkirche is a much bigger church than the one I saw in Regensburg yesterday, and it’s much more well-kept (maybe it’s because people actually uses it). The statue of Jesus was quite impressive as it was hanging from the wall like a giant pendant. I found it interesting, that Jesus was sticked into the cross with his mouth and eyes free. Isn’t that quite mesmerizing. Even though physically he couldn’t move, mentally (or spiritually) he could still be alive.
An interesting anecdote about the church: on the ground there was a black footprint, and if you stand on the footprint, it’s impossible to see any windows. It was said that after the church was built, one day the devil decided to pay a visit and left the black footprint. Unable to see any windows, he said that a church was useless if there was no window. However, one more step forward two windows popped out from both sides behind the pillars. The devil was so angry and defeated that he turned into a wind, constantly hovering around the church.
The only problem I found with the anecdote was the size of the footprint: it was only a little bit bigger than my footprints and hence seemed quite unrealistic to me: the statue of Jesus was so big it had to be hung up from the ceiling, when the footprints of a devil is only slightly larger than that of an Asian female.
I really enjoyed the museum. First of all, I found museums in Munich and its surrounding cities generally a nice place to spend time at because: 1) it’s always raining (although when I was at München, only the second day it rained a bit) 2) it’s much colder outside anyways 3) entry tickets do not cost much (the entry ticket, if you are a student, is anywhere ranging from 2 to 4 Euro)
The museum for old Art is situated directly across museum for modern art. I saw some Art students bringing their own foldable chairs, notebooks and watercolors to outline some of the paintings. There are also primary school students sitting in circle with their teachers sitting amidst them discussing the art works. I was surprised by how quiet the kids were and genuinely interested into Art, something I only got into after entry into high school. Upon talking to one of the locals there, I also learned that Sunday was “Museum Day”, a brilliant idea in my opinion, to keep the people cultured (and busy).
The museum website is https://www.pinakothek.de/
It’s an open space about five minute walks from the museum. I got my lunch here, sitting next to a group of students from the technical university in Munich. The salad tastes like salad everywhere and my waiter checked with me twice before he took the order:” Salad only?”
There was a nice park on left hand side of Königsplatz with some tables for table tennis. It was Friday afternoon and dogs were out having fun. I also realized that I was the only one sitting alone on benches. This is the only time that I missed being in Berkeley: it’s the exact opposite, from my observation.
Das Staatliche Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (+special exhibition in Modern Art):
There was the Egyptian God who transformed himself into the shape of an eagle. He’s my favorite. Every other god just looked awkward, especially the cat one. I was also surprised to find out the influence of Greco-Roman aesthetic on Egypt, after it became part of the empire. Interesting, never thought about what happened after the ancient Egyptian culture (i.e. the old and new kingdoms)
On the plane:
I knocked out the moment I was on the plane. This is my first time flying with Lufthansa and I have to say I can’t stop but comparing it with Cathy Pacific in my mind. (Although it’s maybe because I slept through the entire trip; when I woke up the captain was already broadcasting “cabin crew please prepare for landing”.) Although the german broadcasts are interesting and I was reassured that I needed to work harder on my German. Also, landing is extremely soft (as opposed to the time with Air France when they made landing like an entire catastrophe and everyone clapped for their own pure luck when the plane landed safely.)
I didn’t have any dreams and plus I was sick. Buried inside my blankets ( I brought one of my most trusted and used wool blanket and the one distributed on flight ) , eye covers and a surgical mask, I was only woken up once in the middle of the flight because the lady sitting next to me needed to use the restroom. (She started coughing at the end of the flight so it might be possible that I gave my cold to her… I felt very sad about that.) For the same reason, I totally ignored the foods. I remembered smelling something but that’s it.
First thing I realized upon arrival in Munich was the awesome time difference of Germany between US and China: I could talk to family and friends from both parts at the same time!
Second thing worth noticing is that the subway from Munich airport to Münch Hbf was late for an entire hour. And everybody looked totally fine with it. I wondered when I could reach that peace of mind. I also realized that people walked slower in comparison to in the States.
(The inspiring ticket that was supposed to leave at 18:27 that actually left at 19:30)
My train to Regensburg left at 6:44 am and arrived at 8:11 am. My plan was to arrive early to walk around and got a general feel of the city before everyone got here. But the train was already stuffed with people getting off at different stops along the way. Deutsche Bahn’s inter-city trains kind of reminded me of their counterparts in Japan. Both countries have train stations built into a collection of (fast food) restaurants and sold tiny pocket books.
(on the way to Regensburg: sun came out at around 7:30am)
(Haha this is so funny, it’s at a coffee shop called “San Francisco Coffee” on second floor of Regensburg Bahnhof.)
(And of course I need to get some caffeine here. )
I spent the morning exploring University of Regensburg. The university itself is like a combination of Soda hall and Evans on Berkeley campus. Before I left, I was shown a booklet of pictures from Regensburg so I had high expectations. Needless to say, the university had much more practical design.
(A 20-mins walk from Regensburg Hbf with the help of Google map)
(Flags; and winter sun in Regensburg)
(See what I was talking about?)
(Philosophie… Moses Hall on Berkeley campus left such a good impression of Philosophy Department on my mind, which translated to confusion when I saw this very direct, practical, black-and-white, simple design of directory)
(But! It did get a lot better once I ventured onto the main campus.)
(Not us. Those are just two random human beings.)
(Artistic bridge connecting main campus with the sports facility. Three students were chilling at the end of the bridge.)
I wandered around campus for a while, especially amongst the Physik and Philosophie Departments. There were some interesting talks going on. But I guess my snow boots are instant give-aways of my actual identity: a curious visitor. In order to make myself less noticeable so as not to disturb the students, I tried to blend in with one group of local high school students. That was a harder job as apparently I was the only Asian following at the end of the group.
Then I left the university to visit the actual Regensburg Altstadt. It was another thirty minutes walk. This Thanksgiving break I would like to give my most sincere Thank you to google map.
(On the Way to Regensburg)
I decided to join a day tour at the visitor’s center. The tour was in German and although I couldn’t understand 100%, I did find some familiar terms from in class. Did I know that Regensburg was the largest city in Bayern in the German Empire? No I didn’t. I also didn’t know that the reason that Regensburg preserved many architectures from middle ages because it didn’t have enough money to build more fashionable buildings. Before the discovery of America, Regensburg was very rich. But once colonialization started, Regensburg lost competitively and could only re-use its previously built buildings over and over again.
(The most “fashionable” Regensburg could get with a not so full wallet. An Italian design tower)
The church was also interesting in that Regensburg was one of the first cities in Europe with Protestants and catholic population living together peacefully. The solution was two separate churches and the gothic cathedral was left half-undone. In the 1900s when nationalistic values were on the rise the gothic element became valuable and so the rest of the cathedral was finished. Hence, even if the cathedral looked old half of it was only done during the last century.
And for the first time in my life I had sweet Crepe only with sugar! It tastes so good! I got tired after walking for a while so I went back to München earlier than I expected. But I was so excited that I got to use my German a bit today!
Last week I received an email from WordPress to renew my $30 “rent” for the blog. Looking back, I did document important moments in my life, things that haunted, pleased, moved, or angered me in the past year. I always try to be honest on my blog and it is a hard job because after all this is an open space and I, like most of the writers, can’t stop but imagine what the readers would think about my experiences, as I jot down words.
Initially I wanted the blog to be only for my personal records and hence in some earlier posts I would hide out my school name, friends’ names, etc. But I realize this is due to a deeper fear and distrust of internet, and more importantly a fear that my writings are mediocre, plain, and boring. And this fear is not towards readers, but towards a future me. What if I myself found my own writing useless? That would be the worst nightmare. Words are only powerful if you know how to use them. I often encounter difficulties trying to reproduce occurrences and found myself trapped in an unnecessary position: will this word be cool to myself ten years later?
Now, judging from the stats, indeed not that many people actually read this other than myself. (Hence I stopped blurring out names). But I did remember looking at some of the earlier posts thinking, “what? that’s how I thought about the things happening around me?” I guess from this point of view, it is worthwhile to keep documenting my life.
This week we celebrated my high school’s 70th birthday.
Although unfortunately I couldn’t go back to reunite with my high school teachers and friends, I did send them text messages and was surprised to find out that they remembered surprisingly much about me. The timid, quiet, oftentimes socially awkward (or so I thought I was) teenager that couldn’t find her place. I never peaked in high school (unlike most of my classmates who described high school as the gloriest time of their lives). Although now I doubt that already in high school my classmates had a clear idea of what they wanted for future, ok, maybe one or two of them, but the problem is I was the one who wrote all the confusion on her face. I was in student council, because I thought some immature high school bureaucracy would secure my position amongst my peers. But I felt increasingly hard to blend in and that even within the student council it was hard for me to socialize. I would talk about projects when actually people just wanted to chat. Then I would talk more about projects because I had nothing else to say to them. This week when I finally connected with my upperclassman, who directed me during my first year in student council, he laughed and said that I was a bit “hard to talk to” and that I never participated in their small talks. I felt sorry about that and I wish that I could have small talked more during high school.
I guess I have a better time coming to terms with myself now, but back in high school I rejected the idea of writing journals or blog posts, to document my life. There was nothing to write about. On the contrary, I think I’m kind of “peaking” now because I find Berkeley a paradise on earth. I’m surrounded by people who are smarter than I am but humble enough to talk to me and open my eyes. I’m constantly changing, in a good way. And thus all the experiences gave me incentives to write blog posts.
Moreover, I realize that I am no longer a ghost, or an outsider amongst my peers. This is partially due to the fact that in college I was given the freedom to choose my own friends, as opposed to in high school when I’m constantly enclosed with the same group of people, who I didn’t and would not choose to hang out with. Consequently, all of my friends in high school (except two) were sitting in other classrooms, sometimes even other buildings on campus, when I ,in my classroom, couldn’t wish more to diminish into pure air and drift out of the windows. As opposed to in college, I found out that each of us are like small planets, and gravity attracts each of us into our paths. For example, once I set my mind on studying German all of a sudden I met tons of people who are interested in the same thing. It was like I was given a key to an enclosed circle. Amazing encounters like this happened throughout the last year. Although feelings are not exact measurements of facts, I can only describe my experience as stepping on stones above a swamp, without anyone directly guiding me, but somehow every time I stand, another stone in the future appears.
I can’t say which way of meeting people is better, i.e. following the flow or taking my friends for granted. I also cannot decide whether my way of navigating through the past year is practical or not, can be adapted to future practices or not. There are so many absurdities and accidents lying ahead of me and the fact that like a boat drifting above the Antarctica, I have no idea whether I’m going to crash into an iceberg any time soon, makes me uncomfortable. I wonder when will I arrive at the stage of complete peace, or is that only achievable in death. But I don’t want to be dead, yet. There are so many great foods to eat and wonderful people to meet, it’s much more interesting to stay alive.
Again, all of these are just observations of me in the year 2016-2017. A self that recently turned 21. And although I’m a bit anxious, I still want to see what will be written on this blog in the future. Nevertheless, I believe this blog can act as a roadmap, not for the future, but for the past. i.e. It is equally important to acknowledge the self in high school or past in general since the core of me never changed. It simply found different expressions under different circumstances. When Hesse talks about the development of the young self, I think he’s talking about the development of acknowledgement, of recognition of the self, instead of trying to transform it into something different. I have all the answers in me. This is not to say that I am almighty or invincible. Quite on the contrary, I think it’s my weakness that make me human and interesting to talk to. From this standpoint, the mysterious future might be scary, but also interesting.
I hate Coffee.
I am not one of those apex humans who pride themselves as superior to the slaves of caffeine. However, I try to keep myself as far away as possible from coffee, as past experiences revealed that getting way too excited at 2am sure got the work done, but the next morning I would find myself grunting of self-deprivation and my self-esteem sliding to a new record-low. It’s kind of like sugar-high, or an inflationary gap. Thus from a sustainable development point of view, I always try to limit caffeine consumption. One night of overflowing productivity can result in a week of fatigue, self-questioning (“why would I drink coffee last Wednesday, I told myself not to do it.” ), fear of future (“wait, am I addicted to caffeine now? “), and above all, a deep sense of Weltschmerz (“I’m so pathetic, if only I could have planned things well ahead, like not binge-watching “The Blue Planet” last Saturday night. Do orcas ever need coffee to catch up on killing the next adult crab-eater seal? No they don’t. Because they are more self-disciplined than I am. “)
That’s why when I woke up this morning with a headache, I felt like standing on the other side of a collapsing wall. I know I’m doomed. Last week was filled with assignments and an extremely important exam for me (which I did way better than I expected, 24.5/25). Then, in other to survive last week, I made a decision to get excited the entire week (i.e. drink coffee every morning to avoid the fatigue caused by stress) and deal with the negative side-effects, like mentioned above, together this weekend. I had this sweet and naive assumption that if I just slept through this entire weekend (thanks to not having anything due next week) to reset my system, I would be a golden, sensible, happy human being next Monday, free of caffeine and light as wind.
If only everything went as planned.
Addiction in general makes me very uncomfortable: I don’t want to rely on anything else to be sane. Isn’t that what the Enlightenment thinking’s all about?
Hence the title. I’ve heard about the prevailing arguments that coffee is not that bad for your health, especially in an environment demanding constant work and responses. I guess trading the freedom of coffee or not every morning with not missing deadlines are constantly made every day by a large percentage of people on campus. But it always felt like a pact with demon to me.
Despite all the complaining, I’ve been drinking coffee while writing this post. Maybe my dream of living in a Monastery in Ireland after retirement won’t come true after all: coffee counts as temptations, right?
Or not, pc: https://vashonmonks.com/wp/coffee-new/
About the path out of Paradise and towards the mysterious, exciting, turbulent, bittersweet turmoil and freedom we called adulthood.
“I have no idea whether parents can be of help, and I do not blame mine. It was my own affair to come to terms with myself and to find my own way, and like most well-brought-up children, I managed it badly.
Everyone goes through this crisis. For the average person this is the point when the demands of his own life come into the sharpest conflict with his environment, when the way forward has to be sought with the bitterest means at his command. Many people experience the dying and rebirth – which is our fate – only this once during their entire life. Their childhood becomes hollow and gradually collapses, everything they love abandons them and they suddenly feel surrounded by the loneliness and mortal cold of the universe. Very many are caught forever in this impasse, and for the rest of their lives cling painfully to an irrevocable past, the dream of the lost paradise – which is the worst and most ruthless of dreams.”
― Hermann Hesse, Demian. Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend
Due to the screwed up midterms and increasing unwillingness to actually do work, I decided to take this weekend off (believe me, it took endless hesitation and tons of guts) and searched online for fun stuff to do around Berkeley. I tried a bunch of things: Stammtisch from the German Department, an event that provides free beer only if you speak German; Hanging out with dogs, which worked out much better than I thought; Hanging out with a high school classmate who recently landed a job at one of the tech companies, which made me question my major decision again (I wonder, how many non-CS majors are having second thoughts now. I guess the doubts came more from the fact that apparently my classmate had everything figured out (or at least he looks like it) while I couldn’t even figure out a freaking midterm! ); Then I saw this theater play “Metamorphoses”.
Now, I know that Ovid wrote Metamorphoses, and I’m pretty sure I read parts of it in children’s book version back in third grade. It was one of those sketchy “reading corner”, which shouldn’t even be called a corner considering that it’s only one shelf. Each week half of the class bring some books to class and stacked them, then we trade books, or “borrow” it. I remembered detective stories are extremely popular, especially the “Tiger Team”. (which I recently found out was actually written by an Austrian writer. Komisch. Now I want to get German versions of them.)
Whoever got the full collection of Tiger Team deserved respect from the entire class. Anyways, tiger teams are limited, or sometimes reserved for friends of the owners. One time I was browsing through the “not so popular” rest of the rack and found a book about Roman mythologies. I was interested in Greek mythologies and can (even till this day) recite all the Gods living on Olympus Mountain. Thus I was like, “Roman mythologies, aren’t they just rip-offs of the Greek ones?” But I was bored and decided to give it a go.
Now that I look back, I finished the book rather quick in a single session. It did take me some time to transit from Greek god names into Roman ones, but once I got used to the naming system most of the stories were, indeed, what I already knew. I still had fun, but I kind of established this stereotype of Roman mythologies being not authentic and adopted an rather skeptical attitude towards mythologies in general. Nevertheless I still believed in Gods and would go out of my way to prove that. It took me some time to realize that some religions actually only had one God. I remembered being quite baffled:” how can one single God explain everything?”. It still seems to me that interactions between different Gods are more convincing than a monologue. After entering college I was exposed to Scandinavian mythologies and to be honest didn’t find the thrill when I first read about the Greek ones. And thus technically after Primary School I haven’t rekindled my interest in ancient mythologies.
Not until tonight.
Although, I have to be fair, the play didn’t “rekindle” anything, but it was like a sudden switch on a music box, a hurried friction on the match box; the enjoyment was temporary but it explained why I was very much interested into mythologies, or stories in general as a kid. Stories were ways for me to explore societies, when I was physically confined to the smallest unit of societies — my family. Would I call my friends, or my school a society? I would not, when I was surrounded by mostly kids who were way too young to form their own ideas, and adults who didn’t really care to establish equal terms with me. Mythologies are ambiguous attempts to merge power with humanities. Although most people would say mythologies are trying to explain natural events I actually think they are used to set social standards and rules. Greek mythologies were interesting to me because it was exotic, alien, the rules, behaviors they introduced sounded familiar but distant.
But back to the play itself. The set was practical. The actors were living the characters, and at the same time adding a modern twist into them. As Ovid mostly focused on love stories in his original work, the play also mainly included well-known love mythologies. Some words were tremendously sad but in the end I enjoyed it. I didn’t have any high expectations coming into the playhouse but it was really an unexpected, curious but rewarding experience.
This summer is either a waste of time or a fulfilling experience of German, PoliSci classes, lots of cooking, little reading, and even fewer blog posts.
First let’s talk about classes.
German 3: One and a half year after my last German class is probably not a good timeframe to take German classes. But I took it anyways. I wanted to do an independent study on German politics, and I thought knowing some degree of German might be helpful. With such a simple and naive goal I found myself entering into German 3 with much difficulties even to understand what the teacher was talking about (again, 1.5 years is way too long a gap, enough to burn away my shallow possession of German knowledge). I felt immensely hard to blend into the class, as it’s so clear that I am the worst student in class. I made grammar mistakes all the time, have no idea what some of the basic vocabulary means, basically, I have to meet with my instructor after class to discuss extra exercises and in some cases, online textbooks so that I can hopefully catch up in two weeks. (The class is a summer class which normally only lasts for around 6 weeks. And I spent 3 weeks to catch up. )
Thanks to this website and University of Michigan (my instructor finished her undergrad over there), I was able to (finally) write German in fluent sentences. I haven’t posted anything I wrote in German3 on my blog because I was embarrassed all the time. Anyways, for the first six week from May 20 to end of June I spent my morning feeling bad for myself, (“Why won’t you take German3 sooner so that you won’t be the idiot in this class”) and trying my best to learn German. You know the metaphor of learning like a sponge absorbing water and become fuller in appearances? That was me in German3. Not that I really want to learn a lot of German, I just don’t want to fail myself and my instructor, who spent way too much time after class trying to help me.
Ok, I have gotten over the hardest part of my Summer. Now off to the easier (?) classes.
PS 129B: Russian politics. I have really high expectations towards comparative politics class, but then again like I wrote in previous post, the quality of a class really depends on a lot of things. The class always start 10 minutes late, which I already got used to from previous PoliSci classes. (Is it a departmental tradition or is it just some instructors who like to start late?) The only problem with the class is that it starts right after my German3 class. I got so nervous about missing it that one time in my German class it was 11 am and I thought it was 12 pm because some part of me just wouldn’t stop yelling “dude it’s 12 you’re late for class!” I made such a clown out of myself that time. I felt bad even now, thinking back to the moment standing up so determined that it MUST be time for my next class and I have to leave. Also, some coincidences happened when I found several German words in my Russian politics reading like Rechtsstaat and Bundestreue. The two times I felt like learning German aside PoliSci is not a bad idea.
PS W145: Indian Politics. I took this class mainly because it’s an online class and I like garlic naan…… I hope none of the people from that class can see this but in any cases I registered and there were so much readings. Although the last week of readings on electoral politics, collations, rise of regional parties and BJP was really fun. But to be honest I only spent around two days on those readings. I think India is interesting, and the class would be much more interesting if I am taking it in the semester, so that I have more time to digest the readings.
German 4: As I struggled so much in German 3, I seriously don’t want to go back home and have to take German 4 next summer. And so I finished the two classes together in one summer. German 4 is actually a lot better than my experience in German 3, maybe it’s because I already have rebuilt some of the basic grammar in German 3. Although to the end of the class I got so carried away by PS W145’s assignments (I have never written an Op-Ed before. ) I think my writing improved a lot and I was just watching an Arte documentary (dubbed in German) regarding international relationship between France and Germany, and I can roughly grasp the general idea.
Then it’s off to extra-curricular things. I finished Edna O’Brien’s “The Country Girl” series and her autobiography. I also finished several film by Tran Anh Hung, the director of “Scent of Green Papaya”.
(shot from “Scent of Green Papaya”)
I also learned how to make Granola. And it tastes exactly the same as the ones they sell in FSM!!
Now I just want to stay home for an entire week. I felt so exhausted and some part of me just hope that I didn’t take that many classes in Summer. But looking back, it is a very enriching experience.
Aufsatz 1.2 (just got it back last week)
Während die homosexuelle Paare in Deutschland einen wunderbaren Tag feiern und in Eile heiraten, demonstrieren die homosexuellen Paare in Russland auf Kosten ihrer Leben. Warum gibt es in Russland und bestimmten Teilen der Welt viele problematische Hindernisse auf der Bahn zu der Gleichberechtigung zwischen heterosexuellen Paaren und homosexuellen Paaren? Ich glaube, dass die zentralen Gegenleistungen das politische Gewicht und die politische Priorität sind. Ich will in diesem Aufsatz die Niederlande und Russland diskutieren. Im Vergleich zu Russland gibt es in den Niederlanden das „Verzuiling“ (Versäulung) sozio-politische System. In diesem Aufsatz, möchte ich das besondere politische System (Versäulung) in den Niederlande und die homosexuelle Ehe als ein Produkt der politischen Priorität in die Niederlanden diskutieren. Ich will auch das neue politische Ziel Russlands als den Oppositionsführer diskutieren und letzte Politiken gegen homosexuelle Ehe in Russland als einen Beweis für die Verpflichtung Russlands zu den konservativen Werten verwenden.
Die Niederlande hat ein „Verzuiling“ (ein niederländisches Wort für die vier „Säulen“ in dem politischen System) sozio-politisches System. Jede „Säule“ vertritt eine Subkultur, unterscheidet sich durch die Sprache, die Religion, die Ethnizität, die Geschichte, oder die Gesellschaftsschicht. Die Mischung aus unterschieden „Säulen“ ist unmöglich, weil das wichtigste Thema in der niederländischen Geschichte die Trennung ist und die Leute nur in ihren „Säulen“ leben wollen. Vor allem schaffen die „Säulen“ die ausschließlichen politischen Parteien, die nur entsprechenden „Säulen“ dienen sollen. Das Ergebnis ist eine gespaltene politische Bühne ohne eine einheitliche politische Macht oder einen starken politischen Wille. In diesem Fall sind die unbedingte Toleranz, respektvolle Gleichstellung und aufrichtige Zusammenarbeit zwischen den „Säulen“ die Notwendigkeiten und politische Prioritäten. In der verschieden und lebendigen politischen Kultur sind die langsamen aber sicheren Fortschritte zu der homosexuellen Ehe gemacht worden.
Im Vergleich zu den Niederlanden verabschiedete in Russland ein Gesetz und kennzeichnete die Propaganda über der Homosexuellen Ehe als „unzulässig“. In Russland gibt es ein Präsidialsystem, ein persönliches Regime, ein großes Gebiet aber kleiner als die ehemalige Sowjetunion. Die Russen waren stolz auf der militärischen Kapazität der Sowjetunion und der Führung der Sowjetunion in der kommunistischen Welt. Nach dem Zusammenbruch der Sowjetunion fand die Russen Yeltsin, den ersten Russischen Präsident, alkoholisch und schwach, weil Yeltsin die Wirtschaftskrise und die Oligarchien in Russland nicht behandeln konnte. Der öffentliche Wunsch nach der weltweiten Führung Russlands und einem starken und mächtigen Präsident hat erhöht. Die Bürgerrechts, Zivilfreiheit und Homosexuelle Ehe sind nicht in Russland wichtigste Themen oder politische Prioritäten.