Looking Back

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My last week abroad in Germany flew by too quickly. After the exciting night at Leipzig’s Cabarett, I caught a bus to Krakow, Poland for the weekend. Not a fun trip. Running on very little sleep, I couldn’t tell if it was my body odor or the claustrophobic public transportation that smelled so bad. Delicious pierogi and borscht soup temporarily made up for the uncomfortable bus trip to the southern reach of this Eastern European country, but the fatigue and discomfort caught up with me very quickly. There, I saw an ordinary castle and the basement of a traditional Polish restaurant. The language barrier was even more of an issue here, where the ancestry that English and German share and make things easier, just wasn’t present. For one weekend, I only bothered to learn ‘thank you’, ‘please’, ‘yes/no’, and ‘art’.

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(A uh… corner of a building, in Poland. Pretty much the only picture I took that weekend.)

I did pick up a large book on Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksinski and have been enjoying flipping through that for some sketching practice. In my reflections on the entire program, I’ve come to realize that one of the biggest takeaways for me has been the exposure to new art. In Germany, I forced myself to practice sketching what I saw, devote time to some larger projects, and take down the names of new artists that interest me. I delved deeper into Art Nouveau and Dadaism. Kathe Kollwitz, Alphonse Mucha, and Frantisek Bilek are just a few of my newest sources of inspiration.

The rest of the week was much more ordinary than my dreary weekend outside of Germany. The last few days of class sped by as our classes prepared group projects to present to the entire program. Mine focused on urban art and graffiti, included a humorous skit about the interactions between police officers and street artists, and ran very smoothly.

In the last moments of free time before leaving Leipzig, my friends and I celebrated a birthday within the group by going to Conne Island, a student club once famous for the meeting of left-wing radicals and revolutionaries. While abroad, I’ve been thinking about politics a lot more than usual: about the way our world is changing, the trends we’ve seen in the past, and my place in the middle of it all. Another realization I’ve come up with is that I need to invest more time in such matters. Back home, I plan to be more diligent in my research on both left and right wing politics. I want to volunteer with the organization Food Not Bombs in Philadelphia. I’m going to play an active role in the world around me, finally.

I’ve been raised up with a certain kind of apathy in my household. It came down to, as long as I’m okay, then everything is okay. As long I’m living comfortably, than the rest of the world can deal. Reality doesn’t operate like that: it isn’t such a dream, and waking up to that these past few years has been key to the process of maturing and evolving as an individual, separating from the shortfallings of my upbringing. Going abroad, witnessing the different ways other people are living, was the final nail in the coffin of such a way of life.

In the same vein, I have a new found motivation to make things happen. My next travel plans, to Lake Baikal in Russia, await me in the near future. I look forward to the year between now and then when I get to work towards realizing that goal.

For now, I’m going to work on getting over this jet lag and enjoying a free month trial of TV streaming. Then it’s back on my feet and back to work in the upcoming school semester.

 

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