Friday, July 8, 2011

Aufwiedersehen Deutschland, Hallo Meer!

In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I have to die. Thomas Merton

I just spoke with today's teacher: Glen, a wonderfully spirited 86 year old who lives in my grandparents retirement housing complex. He gave me this quote, we gave each other uninterrupted attention, and we both give this world a limitless energy and desire to live. My recent days have been pleasanted with the company of those passing kindred spirits. These moments solidified my feeling of the meant-to-be; whether part of: adieu-ing in my final sentimental days in Gießen, rejuvenating with song-filled friends in Berlin, conversing with fellow characters in the disillusioned state of travel, returning to deep-seeded love in New York, or breathing in new life with old friends in the place I will know as 'home.' As you can tell, crossing the ocean is not enough for me, not now. My pants were on fire as I bounced between four homes in the past two weeks. It has been a marvelous return, without holding expectations I would say it was exactly what I would have liked to imagine.

Naturally life is a continuous process, without assessing it along a linear timeline, I would like to bring my time in Germany to full circle. As Glen told me this morning- showing me his memoirs- writing makes you exact. You tell the truth, and then it is out, expressed, and done. This blog has served a function to document my incredibly impactful year as an English Teaching Assistant. That is no longer my title, and thankfully I have acquired and carefully packed away the momentous lessons into my pack. I will carry with me the love that I've felt and given to my surroundings and relationships. Nearing the end of this journey it truly felt like I was completing the circle. Sure, it is hard to leave something so precious behind but there are other horizons to see. Just one explanation of this Kreis: during my first weeks in Gießen there literally hundreds of crows circling around the rooftops near my bedroom window. They squawked, crowed, and flew low like ominous signals of present death watchers. On my last night in Gießen, I placidly sat on my friend's balcony, an adored spot where I had created much of my art, and moments of growth. Above me the crows flocked, briskly fleeting away in a westward current. They were flying out of Gießen, one by one. I watched until they all past, knowing that it was also my time to go.

Enough of being Buddha. I hope you've gotten at least a smirk of enjoyment out of my words, pictures, and antidotes. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing, however occasional or momentous my posts were, and I plan on continuing this venture on the next step in life. I know I've been blurting out these plans to whoever will listen, and I thank those friends and family who excitedly show support. Basically a childhood dream of my best girlfriends and I is coming to fruition. We are sailing around the world! But we wanted this challenge to take on a purpose, meaning, and reflection that we care to give good energy back to this world. We will be documenting our teams social art project, the plan is through a website, blog, and perhaps even radioshow! Over the next few months we are planning our route and destinations for port cities in which we will foster community art initiatives. Keep a look out for our postings, and please please please, feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Aufwiedersehen Deutschland, Hallo Meer!

p.s. parting images for the lasting final memories in Germany

Mountain biking with Holger in pristine Hessen landscape

Canoe Trip! Huge group of friends, sun, and the Lahn river weekend tour

Going cazy in Gießen/Frankfurt with Celine--priceless.
Her lovely visit was a definite highlight

Anti-Atomkraft Dance Demo in the rain... AWESOME

Last heart-warming, ice-cream chilling visit from family

Laughing and loving with meine gewählte Familie in Berlin

Abschlussklassenfahrt nach Berlin-
accompanying four graduating classes for a spectacular week

Moments of tranquility and wonder

Seeing a new window of opportunity

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Carry/Mit Mir

The opening of my exhibit/Die Eröffnung meiner Ausstellung

Thank you to everyone who made this evening such a success! Special thanks to Jana, Uli and Lars for helping me install the show. Truly, it was an unforgettable evening and one that reflects how greatly this year has affected my identity. It is no wonder why this show is composed from portraits of friends and family; our relationships in life are fundamental to our recognition of an experience, and influence how we view our own conception of self. I could give you a long drawn out explanation of all my painting made this year, but I will let pictures speak for themselves.

For those who are inclined to read the german language, you can find an article (at the link below) I wrote, that was published in the Gießen newspaper: If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me. And lastly, I encourage you to think about the relationships in your own life that have affected how you present yourself to the world. 


 A task for visitors was to manipulate the space itself by adding commentary along the paper scroll. The white paper connecting all of the works added an element of fluidity and creativity. I want guests not only to be viewers but partakers in this Gesamtkunstwerk (integrating different art forms- music, theater and visual arts).

And naturally we partied until the sun rose and the birds could greet us with their morning song

An example that the real subject is much more beautiful than a picture could ever be

Simply enjoying life... and the speed at which I'm traveling

Perfect end to a breathtaking week:
getting a ride along the cliffsides overlooking Epidavros on the back of a Professor's motorbike. Nicht schlecht.
Neredeyse...σχεδόν... left Istanbul, next stop- Athens! Naturally a whopping 20 hour bus ride leads not only to a few new vocabulary words in both Turkish and Greek, but some very interesting conversations. It is an easily-discoverable fact that traveling opens your eyes to the world, and to current pressing issues (such as the animosity between my two destination lands, and the visible economic crisis in Greece). The following travel experience altered my view of the world and the possibilities I see within it that realm.

 a beloved pastime:
 people watching (especially cute kids)
With great appreciation, I was given time off from work to attend the Kufstein 2nd Annual Summer School in Epidavros, Greece. From Sunday evening to Saturday morning bright sun shone upon the fragrant orange groves, glistening un-touristified waters (avoiding high tide tourist season times), and the heads of the excited participants. Such an intensive week, with such marvelous students and presenters, was just as wonderful a treat as the scrumptious traditional greek food, home cooked and served to us nightly. It was absolutely uplifting to arrive with a clear intention of being actively involved, and receive such positive energy in return. The week was educational, refreshing and fun; most importantly I came away in an empowered state, ready to foster these new ideas into reality.

Set in the stage of the small ancient Epidavros theater,
a scene with some of the school's actors

How I imagine my future reality: coasting along to new adventures and projects, we are an international group of friends that has begun a non-for profit organization that supports local artists and activists in their efforts to revitalize local community networks. We use our sail boat not only as a mode of transportation to sail from port to port, one community project to the next, but we also command this vessel as a tool for open space forums- creating an international atmosphere that allows critic and creativity in the form of arts programming, workshops and discussions. Our FriendSHIP, would be a long-term project that consists of a basis manifesto, yet manipulating a model of presentation to adjust to the needs and desires of individual communities.

This is just the start. This framework and many more connected ideas were formulated and supported during this blissful week in Epidavros. And what is truly amazing is that the first steps are being made. In the summer I am returning to Minnesota to get down to business with the gang, to assess how we can turn this plan into action. I would love to hear your commentary, and I promise to stay connected with how this dream unfolds.

Keep dreaming! While at that, take time to smell the orange blossoms and stay still to hear the busy bees.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Istanbul or Constantinople?

Discovering the Taksim area by night

Merhaba. Smile, gesture, nod. In the city that truly never sleeps, my desire for communication is reduced to pleasant body language, indicating my cultural respect and utter amazement in this tourist state. Sure speaking English and German is perfectly practicable here, however in these moments I wanted to remain contemplative in my observations. The fathest east I have ever traveled, the city of Istanbul permeates with sense-stimulating air, a quality that can only be achieved from a mixture of historical richness and modernizing change. Not surprisingly, we were surrounded by a westernized capitalistic environment, which had its perks to find quaint book shops and cafes, but after a while you get tired of being seen as the foreigner with money to spend. Yet Gabe and I survived the rapid pace of touristic shopping- as it was the 'official' shopping spree month in Istanbul- to find pleasantries in the small and unique characteristics of this lively city.
Wishing folklore in Hagia Sopia

Joining a German group tour of the Blue Mosque
No matter where we would have been, the most important aspect of this trip was being together. Here I would like to acknowledge just how loving and generous Gabe has been, and how lucky we are. It is not easy nor normal to lead a Fernbeziehung (long-distance relationship) for such extended periods. Every time we come together it is a beautiful remembrance and reality of our companionship. Wandering through the streets, visiting holy sites, and breathing in the atmosphere, we once again were close with one another. An activity that we thoroughly enjoyed, which was irrelevant of space and time, was reading to one another- Gabe in his best brooklyn accent read 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' by Michael Chabon, and I 'Winning Through Enlightenment' by Ron Smothermon.
Pete, Andrea, Gabe and I 

Lindsey will always be the Beste
(sorry, still can't help the pun)
Our time together was enlivened too by the wonderful people we met. We were couchsurfing most of the time during our stay, and once again would truly recommend this network to travelers. Not only were our hosts generous characters- making conversations enthralling and learning about turkish culture realistic; through this network we also met wonderful new friends- Pete the Professor of Philosophy/English, and Andrea Werner, a German Student from Alsfeld (near Gießen). We met them for a fantastic afternoon in the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art. I may be a nerd, but I was so elated to be with intellectuals, viewing art, and speaking German. Constantly, I am reminded it is a small world. Another example- we hung out with a Beste! Yes, Lindsey, the sister of one of my 'sisters' (Molly is a girlfriend that goes back longer than can be remembered), and to our fortune she is studying in Istanbul. Our two met-ups, for dinner and the Dolmabache Palace, were definite highlights of the trip. Although we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside, the Palace was an epitome of grand embellishment, and a fascinating tour with a view of Istanbul's westernized architectural/decor idealization and eastern influence. To say the least, our days were filled with culture, discussion, and love.

Jumping to where I am momentarily, I would just like to mention my brief stay in Athens. On Friday I took an unbelievable 18 hour bus ride from Istanbul to stay in Athens for one day, because later today I will be making my way to Epidavros for the week-long Kufstein Summer School. In less than 24 hours,  I recouped and enjoyed the luxury of traveling.  I explored the remarkable Akropolis ruins, not far from my delightful hostel stay; then at night I enjoyed the company of a grandfatherly Turkish antique carpet collector, Mustafa, for an evening of good food, drink and conversation. In Athens, the sun is bright and my energy is bursting for all the discoveries of the day. I hope your days are as filled with sunshine and joy!

Roaming the site of the Akropolis-breathtaking!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Remembrance/ Im Gedenken

 Sometimes worldwide news hits close to home. Issues such as Fukushima strike my awareness and activism of global issues, but as of now I can only sympathize with the victims of the unfathomable destruction. Although engagement naturally occurs by witnessing the pain of others, there remains an inevitable distance since we are simply spectators of these hardships. Remembering the ideas of Susan Sontag, in her book: Regarding the Pain of Others, I have been reminded that an overexposure to images of traumatic events is an informational phenomenon and a possible danger in our increasing global world. However, ab und zu the news meant for masses touches our personal experience.

On Wednesday April 20, 2011 Tim Hetherington, world-renown photojournalist, was killed on the frontlines of Misrata, Libya. His active presence on war-torn frontlines placed him under constant threat.  However he continually pressed on to produce stunning work. You might have heard his name from his production of the 2007 Sundance winning film Restrepo, or perhaps from his World Press Photo nominations and awards. If you are unfamiliar with his work, please take a moment to breath in the moments his photography captures ( I came to know his work through my undergraduate research thesis. His series- Sleeping Soliders changed my view about documentation of the current war.  Hetherington's frontline photography had an ability to portray fascination while simultaneously terrifying moments. Viewing his work at the World Press Photo show was the catalyst for my thesis topic; his images stimulated my involvement and consciousness about our drawn-out, disregarded military presence in the Middle East.

It is rare that artwork moves us, challenges our state of thinking to develop and search for greater awareness. I began researching other current photographers who were making photo documentary efforts to accurately demonstrate the toll of this war on soldiers, and through images show the war in a more personal light- by displaying the portraits of the men and women in our armed forces. Amongst all of the photographers I spoke with- An My Le, Ellen Susan, and Tim Hetherington, I felt their deep seeded interest in working with the realities of war. Like Robert Capa (photojournalist who died in the First Indochina War), Tim Hetherington will be remembered as a landmark journalist of his time. His camera eye was unbelievably poetic, catching also the daily sides of life and interaction amidst chaotic worlds. Upon meeting him in New York, his good nature was immediately apparent. We spoke very honestly about the role of photojournalism and its involvement in the public’s perception of the war, and he was very receptive to all of my questions. After a personal encounter, and admiration of his work, I am truly saddened by his passing. On the day he died, the world lost an incredible perception through this incredible man’s eyes. 

To honor a man who committed his life to his works passion, I would like to reflect on my own passions and furthered journey towards finding important life work. Art has always been a passion of mine, and I have used this outlet to express many concepts, as well as to challenge and inspire others to reflect about certain issues. For the past few weeks my spare time has been filled with finishing a body of work that will soon be displayed in Gießen. The show: I Carry Mit Mir, is a collection of portraits from my beloveds, both new friends in Germany and family/friends in the states. It is a fluid Gesamtkunstwerk that is meant to show how we are inevitably influenced by relationships- both between other people and places. I’ll post more pictures after the opening, but if you can be there in person it will be quite the blast! And I’ll be performing with a French friend of mine… wow, the first time since Whirligigs!

Making art on the rooftops of Gießen
My Kunst AG after we just assessed value of legal (gallery) and illegal (street) art

Importantly though, I have been graced with realizing the power art, and how it can change a community. Even in my very small art club (Arbeitsgemeinschaft) that I formed at the Ohmtalschule, a weekly time investment yields an incredible connection with these students and their creative potential. A few weeks ago my colleague Holger and I took them on a day trip to Frankfurt to visit two different museums- MMK and Shirn (great contemporary museums). The attention was focused on art the entire day; from my instructions to sketch strangers in the train, to museum tours and workshops, to creating our own Happening (flash mob- improvisation game called the Machine). It was such a memorable, magnificent day! This was an indication too that art needs to somehow be involved in my lifelong work!

Whether it is our life’s passions or simply our day-to-day job, I believe work always should come second to family and our closest relationships. That is why, no matter what other job offers I had for this year, I realize this move to Germany was vital because I am becoming close with the side of my family that I wanted to know better. Last weekend I became the Godmother of my only nephew- Jan. It was a blessing to have this nine-year-old ask me to be his Taufpatin, and then to take on this role as an important go-to adult in his life. It is a real honor and responsibility to be a role model, but the best part is to remain honest, patient, and good-hearted.

This post, in dedication to Tim Hetherington, is written with thoughts of a man who was a role model for journalists and artists, for persons with convicted spirits, who work for what they believe is right, and what needs to be addressed.

My French brother Alex also spent the week with me in Gießen! 
All three- Jule, Stine and Jan were baptised at the same time,
so it was a grand event.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wunder des Winters/Wonders of Winter.... long overdue

As you probably have noticed by now, the less I write, the busier I am. The months of February and March whizzed by making the short winter days filled trotzdem (nevertheless) with joy. Finally I am sitting down, in my newly reorganized room (spring cleaning rocks), with sunlight streaming in the direction of my desk- my computer whispering... 'Kyra, you need to sit your tush down, reflect, and write.' If my computer could talk I also think he would be agitated how much I use him without much thought. His energy-life source is slowly petering on me as he is a constant connection to my work and communication with loved ones. 

His memory is currently full with saved projects and new ideas, as I am furiously writing, especially for two reasons. First, is a fantastic new project, in which I am translating a website for antique tiled-stoves. Sounds a little off the beaten path, but that's exactly why I'm entralled combining my art history affection with language! It is truly wonderful to be a nerd; especially when it comes to identifying styles amongst this the largest stove collection in all of Germany. I became involved with this project because my friend/colleague's brother-in-law is the antique collector and owner of this business. He is also a very worldly and cultured man, so I feel especially grateful to be part of this, as well to meet his fascinating connections. I am sure this news will be a part of my future blog writing... so there will be more to come.

Secondly, I am writing applications. Applications for jobs, internships and conferences. Basically I'm putting my feelers out into the world because I see the finish line of this Fulbright year approaching with tremendous speed. My plan as of now: enjoy the rest of this year- going to Istanbul over Easter with Gabe, then to Greece for a week-long Summer School Program about Creating Cultural Leadership. This is the website link if you are interested: I am taking every opportunity at the moment to see where it leads, and I believe that this program in Greece will lead to at least amazing ideas. Basically I am keeping eyes and ears open in both Germany and the States. At this point I know my talents of working with people, communications, teaching, and art education; and I also recognize my passion for international awareness, cultural studies, and education advocacy. My definite plans however have a date: I have a return plane ticket to New York for June 30th. When I return to Germany is just a question of time. 

So, you're probably wondering how I can compact two months of unbelievable experiences into one blog. Well, I can't. The summaries will be mostly based on my travel timeline- first Heidelberg, Köln (Cologne), then Berlin. Berlin deserves it's own though... and you'll read why.
My first impressions of Heidelberg: quaint, isolated, tourist haven, stunning.  I was there at the beginning of February for the Fulbright Formal Winter Ball. Yes, quite the treat! This preserved city gem has a beautiful University and German baroque-style old town center. Of course I visited a massively impressive castle and celtic ruins atop of the surrouding mountains- it's Germany right. This weekend was completely refreshing, from the old-German attractive atmosphere to the protected valley climate, it warmed any residual winter woes that I incured from the Kahlheit (bleakness) of Gießen. Plus, I had the warming welcome of a tremendous Couchsurfing host, James- an American working for the military in Heidelberg. His apartment (conveniently located in the center of the historic district), was only a few blocks from the imaginable tourist sights and also the elegant state building where the ball took place. This weekend was such a great example of how Couchsurfing is an invaluable experience. James actually came to stay surf with me in Gießen last week, and so the circle of good karma continues. The Ball? Can't forget the reason for coming! A memorable evening of dinner, dancing, and enjoyable conversations with German Fulbright recipients and other ETAs. Just what I expected- a good time. 

Now Köln. Whew, if you have knowledge about German traditions and where/how they're celebrated, then when I say Karnival in Köln I bet images come to mind. Cologne is known for the spectacular craziness that are the days before Lent. We didn't make the opening on 11/11/11 at 11:11, but we arrived in Köln on Sunday, and left late the next day on Rosenmontag. My friends- Rick, Ginger, Zoe and Björn- and I were definitely mild on the scale of celebraters; but we definitely had a fun time especially because it was Zoe's birthday on Monday. Costumes were in order as you can tell from the picture below. Rick was a mime, Zoe- well that wig says it all, I was an Indianer *Germans have a strange fascination with Native American stereotypical culture (but I was happy to loan the costume from my flatmate), Ginger a pirate,  and Björn a clown. And were we successful at this parade! Not only Ginger got a lot of booty- arg matey... we all had bags full of candy and flowers. Incredible! This is not even comparable to American parades; here I saw a man bleeding from a giant chocolate bar that hit his face. 

Karnival Umzug (Parade) Booty!
 Naturally these two weekends were quite spectacular, but also in these two months I enjoyed the ease of routine and work at my school. Another wonderful realization is that it is quasi-routinue now to visit my family in Fulda. I was there for my niece's birthday weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed the 12-year-old group of girls that were over to celebrate. What else- exercise along with spring is bouncing back into season. I've started mountain-biking and a fitness-club membership, so my days of that lovely sore muscle feeling is back! Woot! Now that the sun is shining, and it's the weekend I will bid you adue to enjoy these summer-sunlight hours.

Hope your days are filled with brightness! Es geschehen noch Zeichen und Wunder- Wonders will never cease!

Liebe Grüße

Friday, February 4, 2011

überwechselnd=crossing over

This post is dedicated to Ariel Lawson. No matter how long since your physical being left us, your spirit resounds in our hearts. Thoughts of you help me breath, learn, and think in some of the most critical moments. You have taught me that strength and goodness of heart surpass death. 
I love you.

On the way to work this morning, I had one of those striking moments of collective satisfaction. My goodness, I can only be grateful. These moments have not been seldom, rather they occur on a consistent basis, sparked by cohesive beauty such as united meaning in thought and present experience. Sitting meditatively, listening to Xavier Nadoo's 'Der Kreis' (if you don't know his music, find it!), my thoughts wandered as they often do to love. My waves of thought drifted from Gabe to my mother, friends to relatives, Ariel to uncovering new love for myself. A French couch-surfer I met the other night said it best; first you must deeply love another person, then yourself, and finally mankind. However, I believe this order ist egal, it is only a matter of experiencing acceptance of self and other. My time in Germany is teaching me many things, but in particular daily experiences reinforce the love for fellow man.

Today I was correcting texts of 10th graders that are reguarded as 'weak students'; the prompt being: what will happen in the future? Reading through grammar mistakes, their message was clearly present. One especially was remarkably poignant and beautiful. This student normally sits quietly, reserved to answer due to a prominent speech impediment. Most days I observe his eyes to measure where and how his attention is being held. As I was correcting his assignment his eyes were on my reaction. Immediately I could see the thought, effort and time put into his answer. What will his future bring? He wants to have a good job, wife, a son and two daughters. He wrote about his siblings, parents, and about his own heart failure. Punkt. Pulling my heart deeper, his last sentence was his desire to return to the school in three years to visit his teachers. No matter how long we share this earth with others, we want to be loved, we want others to be proud of us. My own future holds many uncertainties, where I will go after this year, what will I pursue...etc.; and yet it is so good to realize I am normal, that questioning and uncertainty is a familiar part of each individual's life. 

The only certainty is that life continues to move. It is amazing to me how one day I will be looking forward to a specific event, and before I know it that event it over and I'm concentrating on the next bridge. However, I have been conscious about enjoying my time as it comes and embracing walking over the bridge that is underneath my feet, not solely the next one on the horizon. In this manner I can only give you a brief synopsis of my wonderful winter break back to the states. I laughed, loved, and shared wonderful party moments with friends. Okay specifics: After a few days jet-lag recover time, Gabe and I flew to Minnesota for Christmas. As usual, time back in MN consists of the hustle and bustle to see friends and family, and although it kept me on my toes, to connect with loved ones is utterly beautiful. I especially cherished seeing my brother, Vicki, Kinsey, Mary Bildsoe, the Carlson Clan, Molly, and some of Gabe's friends. Fortunately too, my break was filled with cousin-time! Gabe and I spent Christmas with my Aunt Margo and Uncle Mike, Monica and Shawna (cousins that are more like sisters), and then celebrated with the family at Monica and Mike's engagement party. The next day was back to New York- we amazingly returned safely and swiftly amid the drastic winter weather.

Back in New York we hunkered into our warm routine of seeing friends, enjoying each other and the city. How lovely to still walz into Outpost Cafe and be greeted by workers who've been waiting for your return, or to visit the Lyons to have the kids immediately and affectionately climbing all over me. These are the best parts of returning to the old familiar. My Shawna brought a little more sunshine to the city by visiting over New Year's. Avoiding the Times Square Crowd, we watched fireworks from a Queen's rooftop at our friend Abby's incredible house. Good time, good times. Other phenomial aspects: seeing Lydia, Rozana, Janeen.... the whole crew, and a special visit from Pat Weise and his mom. Returning to Germany brought a less intense parting because 1. Gabe and I will be romantically reunited in Istanbul in April and 2. I am overjoyed to be able to continue my work, study, and life here in Germany for another few months. 

Tom, Rick, myself,
our Couchsurfing host Charlie, and Doug
Celine and I practice our skating moves!
Another note to add: 
I took a trip to Paris with a group of good friends from Gießen. Our adventurer friend, Doug Donnellan was flying from Paris, leaving Gießen after settling for down for a few months. He is quite an inspirational fellow, spending the last year traveling the world filming a documentary on Geo-tourism (it's great, check out EcoTravel Media). I will miss his constant energy and positivity here, but I have a feeling our travels will reconnect us at some point. So, we took a road trip, the boys and I, and made it to Paris to spend an incredible weekend. My lasting memory too of this journey was a special Ameliesque day spent with my dear friend Celine Mancel. Since I have no phone we arranged a surprise meeting. We only knew where: at the Sacre-Coeur Basilica when: 9am  and how: in costumes. We toured around the city stopping for chi gong in the park, ice skating and naturally a cafe visit. Beautiful, beautiful day. 

Well, I'm off to Heidelberg today for the Fulbright Ball, so I must pack. I am sure there will be plenty of commentary about this elegant weekend, but I can only tell you about the journey after I've crossed over the bridge. My parting wish for you is that you have the courage to change, and to move toward recognition of love and equality in every new situation that arises.

von ganzem Herzen,