Tumultuous Times

The last few months have been, well, tumultuous times.

The Weltzeituhr
The Berlin World Time Clock

Not so much in my own life; I am still employed locally, working on a lot of technical writing and quality control for my employer. On the side, I freelance, with editing and graphic design taking up the most of my spare time. I still enjoy what I do, I am just not so sure I enjoy where I am doing it.

The America I grew up in, the America I am most proud of, is changing – or changed. The close of 2016 brought a new uber-conservative regime into power with a thin skinned and hot headed commander at the helm. With few exceptions, each day since the election reveals more scandal, more corruption, and more threats against civil securities than I ever imagined – 0r at least, only imagined in my wildest nightmares and worst dreams.

While budget cuts threaten the arts, education, and the environment (all things I am passionate about), it appears there are endless funds for the American war machine (which I am by far less passionate about). I simply do not believe continued armed conflict will ebb the already existing tension and distrust among world cultures. We meddled and tried all this before, and I expect similar results in the future – angrier enemies and a larger rift in an already seemingly unsurpassable cultural divide.

world-astronomical-clock
The Prague Astronomical Clock: The oldest still functioning.

Tumultuous times, indeed.

So what am I to do?

In short, all I can do is all I know how to do: communicate, advocate, network, and educate. Feeling more and more like an outsider in my own land, the draw of continuing my education and career abroad is stronger than ever. If America is no longer a place I find personal belonging, perhaps I must consider my future not merely on economic and educational concerns, but rather ideological concerns. America may no longer represent me, but I will continue representing America. The peaceful, pro-education, pro-environment, pro-world America I know it can be, and will be again – someday.

The best way to do this will be by stepping away, an unofficial ambassador in a faraway land. Thus, I am eliminating my consideration of graduate school in the United States.

With growing issues surrounding international travel, border controls, and visas, this path could become one wrought with ever changing policy and bureaucratic hurdles. Preparation for a (likely) permanent move has to be well-researched and thoroughly thought out. Aside from obtaining the necessary funding, I will need to close up and sell off my home and belongings. I will need to assure my cats can come with me. Services, insurances, memberships, and residency must be cancelled and reestablished elsewhere.

I suppose to some this comes off as a wee bit scary, and all too complicated.

I do not disagree, but I have the passion to persevere.

goabroad
GoAbroad is a great resource for anyone considering life overseas!

In recent weeks, I read a few articles encouraging life abroad, and “Five Unconventional Reasons to Study Abroad” on GoAbroad.com stood out because, as a participant, I now recognize the deeper value gained from the overseas experience, beyond the basic and obvious stuff. The fifth reason the article refers to  is experiencing the world beyond what the media shows you. Although the article is older, the importance of actual cross cultural interaction means more now than ever before. In my experience of the refugee crisis in Europe, I know there is truth in this. Back home, news networks were broadcasting nonstop footage of violence and fear along the borders of the Balkans Route, and while there were certainly pockets of turmoil, Europeans, for the most part, continued with their daily routines. There is no religious takeover, no holy siege, no martyring mass. Not the way some news organizations would have you believe, anyways.

If I am going to make a difference, I am going to have to go out there and prove it to the sceptics back home. Likewise, if I am going to convince the world Americans are not all self-serving warmongers, I better get out there and become a part of it.

 

Assimilating in Salzburg

For over a month I have been living in Salzburg, and while there were rough beginnings, I can now say I feel at home.

Last week I traversed the streets of old town, looking at it not through the tourists’ gaze but through the eyes of one who lives here, and I have to say, it was one of my greatest feelings yet on this overseas experience. I noted with appreciation the efficient progression of the construction in old town, I swiftly maneuvered through alleyways and narrow streets directly to my destination, deftly avoiding flocks of tour groups marveling at the baroque architecture and stopping to photograph Salzburg’s massive –and beloved- fortress.

I know when and where to find the buses I need, and more importantly, when they stop running. I accept the weather is at best unpredictable, and mastered the art of dressing in layers. Indoors, it is always too hot, and outside, too cold. I respect that native Austrians will not smile at me directly on the street, but have learned smiling at their dogs will get me a nod and a look of appreciation. I need not be reminded the stores are closed on Sundays, and therefore diligently complete my shopping on Saturdays. I realize no server or restaurant staff will ever rush me out the door, and if I want to leave, I best request the check.

Overlooking the city from the north facing wall of Festung HohenSalzburg.
Overlooking the city from the north facing wall of Festung HohenSalzburg.

When I walk I am careful to avoid hogging the bike lanes, and always keep an ear open to the dinging bells warning me of their approach. I know when crosswalk lights start blinking it is a good idea to pick up the pace, and when it’s red I better hold up. I now know what it means to wear sensible shoes, packing flip flops and stilettos was an absolute waste – blisters turned to calluses and pedicures are a thing of the past. I never complain about hoofing it up hills, I realize a true mountain always awaits on the other side.

While I often feel separate from the crowd due to the language barrier, I do not mind the solitude. I know enough to get me by, and if I am confused I follow the body language and subtle ques of those around me. The time I spend in public without the overwhelming drum of conversation to distract me is something I value very much. Without interference, I can truly appreciate this land, my surroundings, and the culture. Without hearing, I feel the heartbeat of the city, the very pulse of Salzburg. It flows around me, through me, into me.

I am home.