mainz revisited

Old photos from a visit back to Mainz, my first German home, a few weeks ago. I was meeting an American friend who does crazy-impressive long-distance with her boyfriend in Karlsruhe, so she hopped the pond for spring break and I met her "halfway" to introduce her to schnitzel and my favorite Rococo cathedral (although, to be fair, the bus ride was probably about as long as her plane ride).

I had almost forgotten how much I loved living in Mainz - the weather is always lovely (at least relative to Berlin), the Rhein is always a skip, hop, and a run away, and I had a distinctly nicer apartment only a few blocks away from my favorite ice cream shop. There was, of course, the significant downside of it not being Berlin, but there could have been no better place to struggle through the German language and culture shock, and to make all those Spanish friends.

Anyways, it's nose to the grindstone again - one last exam and then I shall be rewarding myself with hopefully-not-failing with a trip to Brazil. (Thank you KLM for those crazy-cheap flights!)

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an excerpt from my journal on gratitude

Sometime last week I was at an informal dinner gathering with some fellow students from my uni, and the girl from Kyrgyzstan was explaining how in her country it is lucky to get the last bit of wine in a bottle. Since I had that lucky bit in my glass, then, I was to make a wish.

Without putting much thought to it, I said, "Oh- I hate it when I have to make wishes, because I can never come up with anything I want that I don't already have." Cue incredulous laughter with comments of "wow, that's cool" and a generally unsure reaction around the table.

Thinking about it later, it occurred to me that that's not a sort of comment you hear very often - even though you really should. But it's true - everything I want that I don't have basically amounts to random things that I know will not actually contribute to my real happiness in any tangible way, besides which it seems utterly silly to use a wish on something like "I wish I could just find the perfect pair of summer sandals I have in my mind".

I find this inconceivably insane - my life transpires in a context where everybody has so much - and yet everyone always wants so much more. How rich you believe yourself to be is only relative to how much you wish to have - and I'm as rich as I ever really wish to be, because I have everything I need and an already-uncountable number of things I want. Sure, I'd like a my picnic blanket to be a magic flying carpet, perfect concentration, and maybe leftovers from my mother's cooking to magically appear in my fridge, but hey - too perfect is no fun either.

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argentina

Today seems as fitting a day as any to spit out a last-minute blog post on Argentina, my *third* culture, as today is my host brother's birthday. FELIZ CUMPLE FACUNDO si estás intentando leer esto :D

I guess it's clear at this point that vegetarianism went out the window as soon as I made it to my host family's house. They're hardcore Argentinian in the sense that when they eat meat (which they do every day), they go all out. (I've been very good since coming back to Germany though!)

Argentina and Argentinian culture is dear to my heart, even though I as an American am often not so dear to many Argentinians :P but my family and friends there make it a place I will always go back to, and that I will probably send my children back to too. It's a very passionate culture, and a very passionate people. I keep in touch by drinking mate every morning out of my own little gourd as seen above. My (American) mother thinks this is weird and that it tastes like dirt. I think it's the best alternative to coffee known to man, plus I like the taste of dirt I guess.

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valparaíso

I was reminded of my few days in Valparaíso this week when a fellow traveler I met while wandering through the city dropped through Berlin for coffee and falafel. I always had a hunch I would like Valparaíso, and it was not so far off from the truth... I did not, however, enjoy the inflated coffee prices, especially coupled with the fact that it often seemed to be instant coffee. Harumph.

But if there's one single thing you need to know about this city, it's that Valpo likes street art. Giant, amazing, murals are at every turn, as well as a good workout around half of them (if uphill-walking is your thing, you're in luck). The best street artists from all over the world flock to Valparaíso to cover its walls according to an intricate set of well-accepted rules about who's allowed to paint where and when and, presumably, to enjoy some great views and overpriced meals. It was also where Pablo Neruda had one of his many residences, worth visiting if you're into finding out about the more scandalous sexcapades of a man who can melt the hardest of us with words.

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san pedro de atacama, chile

Holy crap I have so insufferably much to do it's questionable whether I should make time for a coffee, which of course means my instagram is suffering. But Friday we're throwing our first house party, complete with DJ and decorations. We've got some unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate?) couchsurfers on the spare mattress in the living room who certainly won't be getting any sleep, and I've just gotten ahold of yet another string of Christmas lights to make sure the party is extra sparkly, just like the Atacama sky at night.

Ahh, yes. Atacama is meant to be one of the gems of South America, but I found it to be a rather boring desert actually. But that's what happens when you get your expectations up too high - you really feel the down when you realize there will be no rolling hills of sand, but rather just endless rocks. I did rather like the flamingo-littered salt flats, but that just speaks once again to my penchant for anything that crystallizes, I suppose. I'm equally enthusiastic about rock candy and Swarovski.

And yes, those are alpaca skewers. No, I did not partake, because I am vegetarian and also I already tried a bite in Peru. It tasted kind of like beef.

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