Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take that, topic police!

Ignore the title.

The weather lately has been pretty warm. Actually, it's kind of surprising. I move to the northern half of a country which the entirety of is in a higher latitude than the 48 and most days have gotten into the high 80s. I guess it gets warm everywhere.

I wonder at times what portion of the local population I see. Jena is a small city of about a hundred thousand. It's also pretty dense (though perhaps not dense for Europe). Most of my waking hours I spend in the center of the city or at the institute which is just a little north of the center of town and kind of in a residential area. Still, after a couple of weeks, I feel like I am seeing the same set of people all the time now. Now I am not just talking about the people I have met, but even the people I see just around town.

With any city, I think there is a certain crowd that is often around the restaurants and bars and so forth. In Winston-Salem I ran into the same crowd all the time and there was a level of interaction that was above stranger but below friends that generally existed. For instance, I knew a few people at my favorite bar and they knew others and if I came in on a week-night around 8pm or so, I'd likely be able to strike up a conversation with someone or catch a game of pool. About a third of the time, I'd run into friends that I hung out with a lot.

At certain businesses, I really got to know the owners and employees. At City Beverage, the local beer enthusiast store, I knew the owner, his son (and business partner) and their one regular employee Dave. When we moved away, Dave gave both my wife and I hugs goodbye.

Language can become a severe barrier. I don't really speak German and I this will really get in the way of getting to know the community I am a part of. I want to learn German while I am here but even three years won't be enough to learn the language and get to have the kinds of relationships I am used to.

Two weeks is not a lot of time for reflection but I have some thoughts so far. Coming here has made me appreciate aspects of both German and American society. I guess I should be more specific. I have learned a new appreciation of aspects of Winston-Salem and of Jena. Saying American or German society covers a lot of ground.

Anyhow, I hope everyone is doing alright. Talk later.