Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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Public education culture

It’s funny how different school experiences can be. As I’m a movie lover, I watch pretty much every movie I can get my hands on. Most movies we watch over here are American movies (though there are plenty of great European movies as well). Sometimes, these movies show “high school life” and “college life” in the US.

The funny thing is: Everything I believe to know about American schools is from movies. Like, that there are different groups: The drama club and the footballers and the cheerleaders. And then, everybody eats in a cafeteria, but who sits with whom is a big deal. And students wear specific clothing that outs them as a member of a specific group. This is also true for college, but there’s more: Some people are there because they are good footballers (what?!). Also, you have to take a lot of classes that have nothing to do with your major. People live in dorms and throw parties every other day.

Sounds grotesque? Well, that’s actually what I believe. Sometimes I wonder if it’s true because my school experience in Europe has been vastly different.

First off, there weren’t any “groups”. You generally were a group with the people in your year. You hang out with different people and it’s rare that someone is labelled in a specific way (except extreme nerds – but they’re generally still accepted). You have a group of friends, obviously, but these people aren’t necessarily your friends because you share extracurricular activities with them. In fact, there are next to none extracurricular activities. School is school, and free time is your own business. Of course we still have clubs over here, like a football club or something, but they are independent of the school you’re attending, so you might not meet a single person in your football group who also goes to your school.

Cafeterias are also different because schools here generally don’t have cafeterias. Schools out at 1 PM so nobody really needs lunch. The entire cafeteria deal is literally non-existent. This may change (or may have already changed) for some school forms but not for the one I attended. After school, you go home, eat lunch, do your homework, and then meet friends or go to your private clubs. It appears that school has a much more central spot in American teen’s lives because it takes up so much time of the day.

Overall, I had a very positive school experience. It wasn’t that peer-pressure thing homeschooling circles make it out to be. Actually, school here is much less central, and therefore much less influential in how teens design their lives and activities. Not that schools are bad here – remember that we actually go to school one year longer here than kids in the US (that is, 13 years instead of 12). Either way, all in all I can say that I’m happy I attended a public school once in my life. It was a great experience and thoroughly changed my views of public school education. School is always what you make out of it.

Likewise,  university is not what I thought it would be. I think this is something many people experience, but still. For one, there’s again the lack of extracurricular activities. Universities offer education, not hobbies. People are very particular when it comes to separating this. I think this may be because the German mindset is generally one of “keeping work and privacy separate”. I don’t think this is intrinsically bad, it’s just different from the US where it appears that privacy and public life (education-wise) are mixed a lot more. Either way, university is strictly about education and not much beyond that.

I read that some colleges or universities in the US require students to live on-campus for some time. There’s nothing like that here. I think people would be angry if they had to move due to university rules (again, job and privacy). Where you live, what you do, is your business – or your problem. This, of course, may be the reason why there are very few “college type parties”. I mean, I think if you live in a dorm it’s easier to throw a big party because you’re all in the clean-up together. When students live in their own apartments, they are often hesitant about inviting lots of people because they know they will have to clean up the mess themselves. It’s not that there aren’t any parties, but I’ve never seen an “American-sized” college party like in the movies. Or maybe they just really don’t exist in the US.

I think, on a more general level, life and culture differs vastly. I sometimes wish I could go to an American University for a semester to see what it’s really like. But then again, that’s not a financial option because I couldn’t afford tuition fees. I guess I will have to rely on movies and on the few lucky friends I have who get stipends for being super-smart (I don’t mean to sound jealous, by the way, these people work very hard for what they get!).

My personal University experience, again, is a very positive one. Cultural differences aside, I doubt that the home school circles really tell the truth about whatever they say about public education. It might not be for everyone, sure, but it’s certainly not a bad choice for most.

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Of free-ing the free?

I’m all for women’s rights, freedom and equality. If you look at the issue from all angles, you’ll realize that equality is easier said than done, and that sexism is not necessarily the result of religion but rather a symptom of a general disease, whether a community is religious or not.

Especially or “western” mindset makes us believe that we are the good guys, our way of doing things is the right way, and everyone who doesn’t do it this way is either a madman or an oppressed, weak woman. In this sense, we’re really not that different from all the “madmen” we want to protect women from.

I think this becomes especially evident if you look at the ways many westerners view the Islam, and especially muslim women. A woman who covers her hair is necessarily oppressed and needs our help to be set free. We cannot imagine that any sane person would choose to wear a hair covering because she wants to, Instead, us western, “civilized” and “free” women think we have to stand up for our “sisters” and free them. And if they tell us that they aren’t actually oppressed – well, they’re brainwashed. We have to show them the light.

The result of this is more often than not some sort of movement that instead of uniting women for a common cause tends to dig even deeper canyons between us. Take, for example, the “Femen” movement. All things aside of good intentions, strong women and important political causes. These are women who demonstrate against the oppression and objectification of women by going naked. This is somewhat similar to trying to extinguish a fire by pouring gas into it, in my opinion. In a world where women are objectified in every way possible, is there really a way to get a point across if you make yourself another object? Sure it gets the attention. But what do you think is going to happen in the minds of men who see these women? Are they going to think “Oh, that woman demonstrates against the exploitation of women as sex objects”, or are they going to think “Oh my gosh, BOOBS!”?

While I didn’t mind femen too much when they first started, I started to disagree completely with their methods when they started demonstrating against Islam. I’m not a muslim and have no interest in this religion (or any other, for that matter), and to be honest, I don’t care much whether you are a muslim or not (do whatever rocks your boat), but I don’t think it’s ok that a group of western women comes along as the knights in, well, no armor, I guess, to “free” women they have never asked if they actually need their help. I know plenty of muslims (there are very many in Germany). Some of them cover their hair, others don’t. Some are religious, others not. Some drink and eat pork, others don’t eat pork because they don’t like the taste (not for religious reasons, I was told pork is a taste you have to acquire), some stick to religious laws concerning their diet. Either way, it’s ok to do whatever you feel is right. One of the girls I study with wears a hjiab. She also cares about women’s rights. What makes us think that women who cover their hair are too stupid to free themselves? What makes us think that they’ll end up being thankful for helping them by demonstrating naked?

Even personally, I feel insulted. I used to be oppressed and brainwashed, but I don’t want some woman who hasn’t experienced the same thing to strip down naked and yell “freedom” in my name. It’s not the right way to appeal to the people you want to convince. If you said you’re going naked because you’d rather be naked than wear fur, I can understand why you would protest naked. But that’s not what’s happening here. What is happening is the idea that nakedness is the ultimate way to get what you want, to convince people. Sounds familiar? To me, that sounds about as terrible as any other form of oppression. Do I really want a freedom that we had to undress for? Do I really want to convince people by turning into an object that only gets the attention because it is a highly sexualized form of protest, often causing people to forget why you are undressing?

I think this entire discussion is a very difficult one. Of course there are brainwashed, oppressed women who could use some help. I was one of them. These women aren’t a phenomenon of Islam but a phenomenon of general society, and victims to men all over the world. On the other hand, plenty of women are well able to make these decisions for themselves, and don’t need our help – don’t need help at all because there isn’t a problem to begin with.

I think what should be remembered is that we need to move away from our western ideal of “freedom”. Freedom comes in many colors. Freedom includes the choice of dress, the choice of religion, and yes, also the choice to live a life that might not conform with our image of how women should live. Finding the balance is probably the biggest problem in all this. How do I balance helping women who really need help and hurting perfectly fine women because I demonize their way of life as “oppression”? I don’t have an answer to that, but if I find one, I certainly won’t be writing it on my bare breasts (and I ask you not to do that in anyone’s name either, unless you have their permission to do so).


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The things I really miss about America!

I decided to give yesterday’s post a bit more balance by describing some things that I really do miss about America.

1. Politeness. People are rude around here. Not really rude – just a lot more direct, I’d say. If they don’t like you, or don’t want to talk to you, expect to hear “I’m sorry but I don’t want to talk to you”. In America, people are much more friendly in that aspect. Even if they aren’t too fond of you, they’ll still help you. If you do something wrong in public here, you might get yelled at. In America, people are much more likely to politely ignore it.

2. Smile for once! Kind of in a bundle with politeness. People tend to have friendly looks on their faces in the US. They smile at people for no reason. They’re just … you know, they come across as much more friendly and more hospitable. If you’re an American and you’re thinking “That’s not true!”, please, come to Germany, and be convinced that it’s true.

3. Customer service. Non-existent in Germany. The checkout counter at the grocery store is a nightmare. The woman will be super fast and if you’re not fast enough at packing all your stuff away (because not a single grocery store has helpers!), the lady will just shove your stuff to the side. If you’re not prepared for that move, expect your stuff to drop to the ground. And if that happens – don’t expect a “sorry”. Expect a “why didn’t you get a cart goddamn!” (Uhmm, because I bought FIVE FRIKIN THINGS and you mean ol’ lady are totally overreacting?!).

4. Cash. Credit cards are about as normal as an elephant dancing in the middle of the street. Aside from bigger stores and gas stations, you’ll have a hard time finding places where EC is accepted. Restaurants and cafes? Cash. Smaller stores may even not accept EC (though it’s been getting better through the years I’ve been here). While that certainly helps you save some money, it’s annoying to be out and about, and then not have the cash for a cup of coffee. Where’s the next ATM? oh yeah, right over there – a mile away. Great. No coffee then.

5. Opening hours. There is no 24/7 in this country. Not a single one! Opening hours are something of a wild card. Everybody does what they want anyway. Except after 10 pm and on Sundays. And because all grocery stores are closed on Sundays, people go on saturday. This basically means that saturday at the grocery store is war – serious war. People shop as if all grocery stores were closed for a whole week on Saturdays. I’ve been told it’s a ritual. It’s just what you do. Well. It’s not fun.

6. Another thing about grocery stores: They are tiny. You have a hard time finding everything you want and need in one single store. It’s normal to run to 2 or 3 different ones. On Saturdays, of course. Cause that’s what you do. You’re lucky if the mean ol’ lady doesn’t beat you up with her walking stick on the parking lot (this, obviously, refers to point nr. 1).

7. convenience food. You’re groaning now, aren’t you? Blech, all she misses about America is convenience food? YES. YOU HAVE NO IDEA! convenience here means you still have to cook from scratch, it’s just the spices in the convenience food! There is no mac & cheese here! Actually, there is this weird pack for mac&cheese (with a big American flag on the packaging, teehee). It tastes nothing like mac & cheese, it actually tastes like thrown up mush. It’s terrible. There’s a store with an “American ethnic food” aisle here, but they don’t have much there. It’s very disappointing. I miss good mac & cheese, real BBQs and all that. Everybody who says America doesn’t have a food culture is an idiot. Southern cuisine goodies are unique.

8. Gas prices. Because gas costs an arm and a leg here (or, alternatively, your first-born son).

9. Friendships. Americans are big socializers. Friendships will come at a much faster rate, and your social net will be bigger there. It is hard to find friends here. Seriously hard. People are much more introverted and it takes a lot longer to reach a state where you can call somebody a “friend”. Though when you do find a friend, it will be genuine. It’s just so much harder.

10. National pride and holidays. People, please, on this year’s 4th of July, remember how lucky you are that you can celebrate this day without negative feelings. National pride is a negative word here (for obvious reasons). Nobody cares if you walk around with a flag in the US. The feeling of “one united nation” is much stronger. Enjoy that you live in a place where there is this type of community feeling. You don’t get that over here. Holidays are hardly ever celebrated as big as Americans do (except Christmas, that’s big here too). IDK why, but I feel that Americans simply have a more elaborated holiday and celebration-culture.

11. Politics. This is a very strange thing in both countries. In Germany, people aren’t really passionate about politics. It’s almost like they don’t even care. Yet, the percentage of people who go vote is much higher in Germany as it is in America. But in America, people are so much more passionate about it. Almost everyone has an opinion and discussing politics is a much more interesting topic than it is here. They actually care. I don’t know why so many people don’t vote despite the fact that it is a much more central issue in American social culture.

12. Religion. Yep, I said it. I like that people who are passionate about their religion don’t get funny stares. They do here. I’d go as far as saying that religious people here have to be embarrassed about their beliefs. Americans are a bit more open towards religiousness in general, and it’s also much more important to them. While it can be freeing to be relieved of religion, I also think it is very difficult for religious people here because they are seen as “nutheads” who don’t live in reality. Standing up to your beliefs is much more difficult, socially (mind you, I’m not talking politically, religious freedom is the same here. It’s a social/community issue).

Ok I’m going to stop here because I have to go to school, but it turns out I could easily add many more points to this list. I hope it is clear to everyone that these are not evaluations of better or worse, just like the last post. It’s just cultural differences. If we all were the same, wouldn’t that be really boring?

 


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I see nipples! Everywhere!

Not to insult the general idea or politics here. Not in the least! But there are significant cultural differences, specifically when it comes to religion, that make me believe that I could never have thrived the way I did if I stayed in the US.

1. Abstinence teachings do not exist. Actually, if you were to suppose someone teach abstinence in school, the answers would be “uhm. well. sure. as an alternative maybe. But kids still need to learn about condoms and body functions as well. You can’t leave that out!”. Does that mean we don’t have teen pregnancies over here? Heck no. We do. We have very similar problems! But, at least, none of those kids (especially girls) suffer from religious slut shaming. And even if that’s all that the lack of abstinence teachings accomplish, that’s still something.

2. Religion is something for your private life. Imagine someone on the street would walk up to you and tell you about their sexual kinks and ask you to try them too. That is the equivalent of people trying to impose religion on others here. It’s something that’s perfectly fine, but you keep it to yourself. You don’t encounter people with flyers or tracts or signs here. Nobody is friendly enough to accept them anyway – Germans deny being handed flyers they don’t care about on a regular basis. It wouldn’t make any sense.

3. Abortion clinic crowds. When Germans see pictures of demonstrations in front of abortion clinics, they react highly puzzled. “What’s that all about?” – “Don’t they… like… have jobs?” – “Is that their hobby or something?” It is very hard to make people understand why people in America do that. When they do understand, the reaction is usually something on the lines of calling it bad taste to harass people in a difficult life situation. I once heard of a catholic pastor demonstrating in front of an abortion doctor’s office. As far as I know, he came alone. That made it into the regional news. Just to give you an idea how exotic this is here – it even makes it into the news… Not that Germans don’t demonstrate. They love it. They do it all the time. Which is why you should plan your public transportation really well, because you are likely to catch a day where some flight personnel or some train personnel is off work for a demonstration (Hello German Railroads, we would love to have our trains on time JUST FOR ONCE!).

4. “So, do you plan on getting married soon?”. Germans find it very, very, very weird when people under 25 get married. 25-30 is still a bit unusual, but it doesn’t get you stares. If you were to marry at 18, people would stare at you in wonder and go “why….?”. Actually, getting married is pretty optional these days. Having a child out-of-wedlock gets you much less stares than a wedding before the age of 25.

5. Virginity before marriage? It’s not like people throw stones at you exactly, but that is very, very unusual here. You’d get some curious questions. People probably would understand your reasoning, but most cannot understand why it would be a big deal. And no, not everyone here sleeps around on orgies or has 15 lovers at a time or whatever negative you associate with it. It’#s just… not a big deal. You know? Nobody cares.

6. Sex and the public. Nudity is not something people get worked up over. Nursing in public happens all the time and without covers. You know why? Because people don’t care and don’t bother. Changing babies happens all the time. Because they don’t care, don’t bother. Topless women at the pool happen. People change (aka strip down completely naked) on pools and lakes. You know why? You should by now! I can’t even explain it really. They just… don’t… care…

All of these factors have been a major culture shock for me. At first, it was so hard. Seriously. So hard. Not to feel embarrassed when I sat next to a woman nursing without covers in public. Not to stare at people topless on the lake. Not to feel highly uncomfortable next to the girls in H&M who change in the middle of the shop (the lines for the fitting rooms are SO long!). It took me so long to be cool about it. And what took me even longer was realizing that nobody cared if I did these things.

I remember the first time I tried something on in the middle of H&M. Really, it’s very common here because you have to wait 20 minutes otherwise. I was in a hurry. I really wanted to try the dress. So my friend urged me: Just throw it on! Nobody cares! I let her convince me – nevertheless I prefered to do it in a far off corner. Of course, two girls were looking at the shirts there. One of them bumped into me when I was half undressed. She smiled and said sorry. And went her merry way. And I realized… nobody cares.

All of these things are so far away from everything I knew growing up. I think the fact that this is like a different world, so far away from everything I knew, really helped me. I wasn’t given the choice anymore. In America, you have the choice and the support to be against nursing mothers in public. You have the choice to freak out when you see a nipple on TV – and you WILL find support. Here, the “support” you will find is people shaking their heads and saying “Do you really have nothing else to do but get into other people’s business? If you don’t like it, you know… you’re free to leave the restaurant, or change the channel.” Yup, I think that’s the major point. Snooping around in other people’s business, telling them what to do or not to do, pressuring them with your “One true way” is just out-of-place. Do as you please, as long as others have the choice to look away.

Back at home I would have been very angry about this. I would have started screaming “But what about MY freedom? What about my freedom of speech and my right to be protected of other people’s nipples?!” I understand that now. I understand that this is a different culture, where freedom isn’t defined via being protected of other people’s bodies being naked, where demonstrating in the form some people do in front of abortion clinics isn’t valued as freedom of speech but as harassment (fyi, it is permitted to do it – just nobody feels like it’s an appropriate way to express opinions). Where you can say what you want, but you shouldn’t shove it down people’s throats. Where, when you see something that upsets you (but gives others joy), you just, for once, look away. At the end of the day, this really is a relaxing attitude. Because when you see a nursing mother, it is so much more relaxing to simply look away if it bothers you.

I wouldn’t even say that it is “better” over here. No. That’s comparing apples to oranges. Its different. Different culture, different lifestyle, not better, not worse, just different. This is purely about personal preference in the above issues and the way it’s helped me get away from old beliefs. If I didn’t come from the background I do, I might not even notice, or I might not see it as positive that abstinence is not considered in schools here. I think the best way to see it is in form of phases in life. And right now, for me personally, it is best to be immersed in a world so completely different from the one I knew. Maybe that will change tomorrow, or in 2 years, or in 10. Until then, I will enjoy a different lifestyle, knowing that I, as a rich American-European girl, have the ability to choose a different one whenever I please. And that, suddenly, reminds me that there are much bigger problems in the world than nipples on TV.


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Halloween and more German-American

We never got to celebrate Halloween because it’s a day where demons, witchcraft and evil are celebrated. It wasn’t the christian thing to do. We would, instead, stay home and pray – and hope that the evil wouldn’t invade our house on a day where all evil creatures were on the loose.

Now, Halloween isn’t exactly a “European” holiday. But we celebrate it never the less – because really, Germans don’t miss out a single good excuse to dress up and party. We do love dressing up.

I’m excited. There isn’t much of the pumpkin stuff going on – as in, we don’t eat special pumpkin flavoured everything. Some do carve pumpkins, but not many. Some kids will go for candy – but not many. Many people don’t have candy at home to give out – hence the kids that do go collecting candy usually return with huge bags of old candy nobody wanted to eat all year. Yeah, it’s not really that much of a great holiday.

But, as I said, Germans don’t want to miss out on the partying, so you’ll find a flood of Halloween parties. And those are the events I’m looking forward to!

Me and my friends, we want to match our costumes. We’re thinking about going as evil madhouse – some bloody doctors, some bloody patients. We’re going to be at least 7 people so I think that might work out nicely. I’m excited!!!

My friends proposed to go candyhunting with me because I never got to do that as a kid and they want me to experience that “part of American childhood”, but really, how fun can it be when people roll their eyes because you’re disturbing them on a normal night?

Really, it’s funny how much my friends sometimes try to make things “American” for me so I can experience “American” things now. Quotations because sometimes what they say is American, I have doubts it is.

Like on 4th of July, they painted their faces in the American flag and we had a little party. My best friend asked me if I wanted to go to a cheerleading class with her. They took me to an American football game (terrible! Germans are bad at it, sorry). On Christmas, they asked me if I wanted to follow American tradition (gifts in the morning of dec 25th) or German tradition (gifts in the evening of dec 24th).

But many times, things that I want to do just aren’t possible. For example, I do not read books in German. I can’t explain why, I just can’t. It’s strange. I feel like I don’t really “get” it, you know? German has a vastly different structure and more cases than English – sentences can go on for half a page. English tends to work with shorter sentences, it feels more “precise” to me, if that makes sense.

And when it comes to movies and such, I’m really strange. I prefer watching shows in English. Movies are 50/50, some I prefer in English, others in German (dub). News I prefer in the language of the country they’re from.

If we’re watching a movie in a different language with subtitles, I always want them to put on English subtitles because I feel like I need more concentration to keep up with the German subtitles.

I’ve been trying to read some books in German because I really think it would help me polish my style and sound a bit more “German”. I tend to apply this very short and precise English structure to German. AH, it’s weird.

And I just remembered that I did not report on my Oktoberfest experience! That will come some time this weekend!


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Health care again: Response to Libby

At first I wanted to comment this over at Libby’s post but I figured it would be too one-sided of an argument to be really beneficial in the comment section. Hence, I decided to put this up as a post on my own blog, in response to her post on the evangelical letter to 2012.

As someone who enjoys the benefits of socialized medicine, here are some things I can assure you.
1. There are in no way whatsoever problems treating the elderly. Nobody, no matter how old you are, is refused care. Nobody. You may deny receiving care. But you won’t be denied if it’s necessary. There is no euthanasia in the form of simply not treating people (though there is a discussion about letting people decide if they wish to die if their condition is deadly at that point, or if their life seems unbearable to them – as in, assisted suicide, see switzerland)
2. I do not know the waiting times for surgery, but I do know that someone with a life threatening condition (aka cancer) will be prefered over the patients with non-life threatening needs (hip surgery, for example). I personally feel that I’d rather have someone’s life saved asap than me getting a hip replacement asap. But maybe that’s just the social little me.
3. Rural areas do in fact have issues with doctors and specialists, especially waiting times. Now, how’s the situation in rural US? The same? Thought so. That just comes with living far away from civilisation.
4. I personally have never suffered extended waits to see specialists. The longest was two weeks for a checkup I demanded. My eye doctor squeezed me in within 2 days. Gyns (no emergency) is 2-7 days wait. A neurologist my friend saw had a wait of 3 weeks (very hard to get appointments).
5. Health care providers don’t approve treatments. Doctors do. Health care decides if they’ll pay for it. Doctors know how it works, they will warn you if it’s not covered. I had one case of that so far – I wanted to get an experimental treatment which was not proven to work. That’s why my health care doesn’t cover it (because it’s not proven to work). I ended up paying 200 Euros (150 for the meds, 50 for the doc for treating me). A bargain if you ask me. And it did work. I informed my provider.

I’m not saying it’s the perfect system. Every system has it’s issues. But the problem is simply, are we a society which believes in helping others when they can’t help themselves, or are we a society which believes in social Darwinism? The poor die because they’re useless to society anyway?

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Imagine.

Imagine you were a doctor, the only person around after a plane crash. There are tons of injured, some life threatening. Imagine one of the injured would offer you $1000 dollars for helping him first. Imagine another one with ‘only’ a broken leg would offer you $2000 to help him first. Would you do that? Would you treat the ones who can offer you a lot of money first? Would you let a person burn alive because he’s only got $10? Would you fix up broken legs while watching someone bleed to death because that person can’t pay you as much?

If that bleeding person offered to sell his house and go into dept to pay you enough to help him – would you let him do that? Would you allow for people to ruin their lives so they can buy your help?

Would you give better care to the rich, and only basic care to the poor? If you had to personally decide, would you?
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Let me ask you another question. Do you think it’s fair that the US invests billions to ‘free’ other countries, while refusing to treat their own society? Do you think it is righteous to use altruistic slogans such as “freeing the people of XY” while telling your own people to fend for themselves?

It’s not like I’m against helping other nations and people. But if you want to go around telling people how to do shit properly, maybe start cleaning in front of your own house first.

Is it not funny that when the US set up the new government in Germany after WW2, they did not forget to set up a proper health care system? That they thought that “a good health of the German people was essential for democracy”? (quote from here, translation by me)

Well how come that good health for everyone doesn’t seem beneficial for American democracy then? Oh well. I’m left puzzled.

As far as I know Libby is quite the scholar in history, so maybe she can help me (and others) out on health politics the US followed when it comes to helping other countries.


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Concepts of “Home”

Libby posted some thoughts on integrating into mainstream culture after you left fundamentalist culture. Some of the things she said made me think – she compared living in the mainstream American society to moving to a different country. I think that’s a great way to explain how we all feel to outsiders. But I want to add some more thoughts from the perspective of someone who actually went to live outside US culture altogether.

______________________________

There are many people around here who have asked me if I’m homesick sometimes. It’s a puzzling question for me – am I homesick?

Some people ask me if I want to go back “live in America” some day – and what I miss about “America”.

Some people ask me if I miss “the American Way of Life”.

Yes, I have to use quotation marks. Because my answer would have to be NO. Not at all. People often assume that it’s because I enjoy the “free stuff” around here so much – a typical stereotype here is that most lower class Americans have no health insurance and higher education because they can’t pay for it. They assume that I’m from one of those families (which I am) and that I’m a sort of “health insurance refugee”. I let them think that because the truth is so much more complicated.

When I think of “America”, I think the things Europeans tend to think. I think of LA and California, Las Vegas and New York, I think of millions of lights and yellow cabs and Elvis and Rap and lots of drunk teens, rich stars and some real poor ghettos, of 9/11 and war and Barack Obama.

The place I lived, the way I lived, that’s far, far away from America. The mainstream America is as strange to me as if I never lived there. All I know about it is the fundamentalist way of looking at it. America scares me – it’s a strange country. It’s a nation I have little in common with, except my language and my passport. If America called me tomorrow and asked me to give my citizenship back, I’d agree – not because I don’t want it, but because I would understand why they wouldn’t want me.

So no, I am not homesick for America.

And then there are others who ask me if I feel “home” here. And again, that’s a complicated thing.

Yes, I do, as much as an immigrant can feel at home. Because that’s just what I am. I share no common “memory” with people my age – school, TV shows, experiences, nothing. I’m a stranger to this culture, not as much as I used to be, but still.

I got used to doing things the German way – being right on time (not a minute later!), accepting the perceived “rudeness” of people (which, in reality, is just painful honesty most of the time), dealing with relationships of all sorts, work ethic, political views, and so on.

Yes, most Germans find me to be very “integrated”. I’m good at pretending.

But there’s still something – this longing that  can’t explain – this feeling that this isn’t quite my “home”, this feeling that I’m not part of everything.

This town is very popular with tourists. We had many Americans coming through and I tend to avoid them. They give me a strange feeling. I always recognize them instantly, they don’t even have to talk. The way they look, dress. I can tell they’re American. And when they speak, even when I’m prepared for it, still makes my heart jump. It sounds a bit like “home”. On one hand I’m drawn to them – I want to be close and listen and just… hear them speak English. On the other hand I’m afraid they’d talk to me, that they’d be able to tell that I’m not as American as they are.

Always being the one who’s a bit different.

Belonging but not quite, everywhere.

Is there a home for someone who doesn’t belong anywhere?

Is there a place for somebody who has different roots, no matter where they go?

What is home, when your home is a place that doesn’t exist in reality? When your home used to be a palace in the sky, built by religious fundamentalists? Is there a home for those of us who willingly tore it down to be free? Or aren’t we just what we are, what we’ll always be, displaced people trying to grow a second pair of roots, after the first pair dissolved into nothing but thin air?