Arrival in Cologne

I saw it, I said to myself. I am here. After being held up in Louisville due to mechanical issues and missing my flight in DC, I finally was here.

The afternoon I left for Europe, it was an easy-going day: I talked with Greg and the team before leaving at roughly noon.  The talk was nice and it was about the lighter things.

I arrived at the airport early like a good traveler. The shuttle plane arrived late.  The delay in Louisville caused me to miss my flight to Zurich. I was able to get to Washington DC a bit later in eventuality.  In DC, I was booked on a flight, which I thought was to Frankfurt, but when I arrived at the gate, the flight was bound for Munich. How strange the situation it was.

I was already off target for my plans in Cologne.

Having survived my first trans-Atlantic, I arrived in the City of Monks (Munich). The old city’s airport gave me a glimpse of German industriousness with their sleek modern design exhibiting every surface of their airport. Everything smelled, felt, showed, and softly whispered: Europe.  Or Germany in this case.

Though it was the only airport I was already getting acquainted with German ways. The workers at the airport shops were some quite different. They immediately spoke German, but were rather quick to change to a number of languages. Very stern and direct in their approach I felt a lesson on my shoulder creeping into me.  The woman at the register barely looked at me and not a hint of a smile she asked me for a euro and a half.  After a split second of hesitation to respond, she re-instructed in English.  I poured out a bill of some amount of euros from my hand and wallet.  The change came swift.

The flight to Cologne was quick but not quick enough. My anxiety was now becoming somewhat apparent. We touched down and all passengers shuffled down to the baggage claim. Cologne-Bonn Airport was a rather small airport no bigger than Louisville’s. It had a rustic nature to it, but charming with a less refined nature to it. At one time this airport must have been on the map for being the capital airport as Bonn was the former capital of the Federal Republic. Yet it was not as polished as Munich in its stature.  It had a lot of charm and grit to it.

I followed everyone through the customs gate and came out looking for the train. I found it. I went down trying not to look as confused as the foreigner I was. There were many others using the set of automated ticket dispensers.  Fathoming the instructions in English was difficult and my German was just not up to par to get through the instructions.  I finally succeeded in figuring the fare out with sweat on my brow and a little embarrassment, which I self-contained.

The platform was down a long escalator from the airport terminal.  It was a like a bunker hidden beneath the airport as if there was some need for it to be protected.  The concrete channel was rather intimating and it gave me a feeling of claustrophobia.  I looked around at other people, and then turned my attention to the signs.  Some in English with no meaning that I can find and most in German with no more meaning than anything I knew thus far.

A man I assumed that was probably from Africa was along the platform trying to understand how to get somewhere by asking in a rather attention seeking manner. I looked around for reactions, but there  were not many at all. Many looked like they had not noticed.  A few people helped to explain to this man, but the man’s somewhat attention-seeking method may have been giving the locals some ire.  I think he eventually got an explanation.  Of course, I would have liked to help him but I was not in troubleshooting mood after the long and confusing travel I experienced.

I boarded the train.  Hasty and a little awkward I found a spot near the door and nestled in.

I felt strange in the train. I was looking around and watching all the scenes pass me by. The first thing I noticed was the graffiti on many of the flat vertical surfaces. Even on the somewhat old walls and structures there was hardly a surface not kissed by the artificial colors of a spray can.  Rather different than in the US where we find that only these art forms on inner city areas abandoned and left for no one else to see.  The art was in full view of everyone and it was in the most obvious places.

Then, the train came to slow and began a slow stride with a jerk. I had a qualm come across me that I had not felt in a while. Something climatic was about to happen: we crossed the Rhine.

The bridge showed the historic rust of brown and rouge with the addition of the graffiti. I saw the locks of lovers hung along the pedestrian walkway’s fence on the bridge as I had read somewhere one would see this. The water beyond all this was blue with a little tainting from modernity of brown.  It was a river, but not a strong or weak one: I felt like it was saying something.  If I imagined what it would say, I think she would say: “I am here, and so are you.  You are not the first nor the last to cross me.”  I crossed the Rhine with the least amount of attention, but there was something special here now in me.

Rivers and large bodies of water affected me somehow. The Ohio River seemed so magical every time I crossed it. Crossing the Pacific Ocean had a similar effect, but not since traversing the Shikoku inlet to Osaka on the ferry had I felt this way before. The ferry ride on the Himawari (or Sunflower) was epic every time: the bridges and the lights along the channel were amazing on a giant ferry.  Seeing the fishing boats and other vessels traversing next to the giant machine was belittling with the wind and spray off the ocean.  This strange feeling was the reminder of how small I am compared to the world and the universe. The World was moving and its machinations were constant and not receptive to the small trivial humans within it.

The Rhine is an old river and the history of her had been pivotal for European civilization. Why, of course, had Cologne existed at all without her? The Rhine has its place in history along with the Danube. The Western Civilization can find itself here. Perhaps this was part of my journey here and why I was pulled to come here.  Germany (Deuschland   in its people) has contributed – as well as continues – to world civilization.  Weber, Freud, Kant, Marx, Hilbert, Wagoner, Nietzsche, Goethe and the others of Germanic descent gave things I think the world might not never had without those hard thinkers.

The platform of the Cologne Central Station was old but updated. Some photos I have seen from the older times still guide to the station’s originality. So down the tunnel of people I walked. I was confused; I went down a lesser-used exit. I found an exit and walked out to, a Starbucks. Then I walked further and before I could to search for it, the Dom (Cathedral) appeared before me.

Like seeing a dragon rising before me I saw 500 years of awe and antiquity before my eyes. I got goose bumps trying to fathom what was in my eyes. The towers were so high from my point of view that it was bewildering how humans could have possibly made this structure happen. The dark grey coloring on the walls spoke the time and its occurrence on this area. I stood and stared at this structure straining my neck just to see all of it. The thought reminded of seeing the giant wooden temple in Nara, Japan where the giant golden Buddha is held.  The intricate designs and just the size does not allow words to explain properly.

The Dom was so distinctly large from what I had seen before that it took me back to the castles and dragons I remember fantasizing about when I was a child.  The people around the area awing as I was, made the scale apparent: it was beyond large.  I was accustomed to large, but this was different in its appearance and nature like seeing a dragon for the first time.  For instance if a dragon was real, it would shock reality into anyone.  Football stadiums and skyscrapers did not have the same effect on me.

People were everywhere in the square. They sat before the Cathedral on the steps from the train station. The variety of people standing and watching was stark: Muslims, Chinese, Caucasians, darker skinned people, and fairer skinned people. I had not quite the same feeling as I did when I was in college when I saw many different in a Japanese setting. Yet it caused me to pause and consider where I was: Europe.  This was the Europe and nothing of it could prepare someone who had been living in small town outside a big city.  I was treading waters that I had never felt before.  Canada, nor California, nor Kansai were like this.

I decided to use Facebook to check-in. I did it passively; I did it to milestone this point in time. That did not matter so much I thought though.

I stood there thinking about being in the moment for a while before getting through my next task: finding the apartment I was to stay for the next two nights.  I smoked my cigarette looking at the main entrance and all around.  I remember watching Tageschau a few months previously and I watched a report on a sexual assaults (by immigrants and refugees of Middle Eastern origin) in the very area I was standing.  This was winter when that happened, and now it is May.  I was watching that newscast replay in my mind and listening without much understanding of sexual assault victims.  I think those events were unfortunate and repulsive.  Yet I find myself feeling like I was standing in a battle after all the blood was washed away.  I kept those thoughts as well as the feeling of exhaustion and gladness for having arrived.

But I am here. That mattered to me in the moment.

Job Search – 3 Jan 2016

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the unemployment office.  I assume it is to interview that I am actually searching for work and I am not just sucking the resources of the state while I do nothing.  I think the wording in the actual email was slightly different but that was the feeling I am coming away with.

The holidays make this especially hard to search for a job.  So for a week I had the luxury of not having people call asking me to apply for jobs that I am either not interested or are far out of my location that it would be a difficult move to make.

I am placing a lot of my hopes on a certain job mainly because it is fresh company to the area with a young company culture and exciting product lines.  They are European, which is a new market I would like to explore.

I have experience in the Tier 2 level of American automakers in addition to my experience with Toyota as Tier 1 supplier.  But Europe is a new idea and I do not much about European automakers and their quality.  Perhaps that is a good thing in that I do not know that they have much knowledge on their quality except for the Volkswagen emissions fraud.  Other than that, I do not know anyone who has a German car except for my relatives and friends in Europe.

Other than that, I have limited prospects.  Other opportunities are in places I would not go even only driving through on the way to some other destination.  One job prospect is in the middle of Tennessee.  Others are in Michigan and northern Indiana.

I just hope that this opportunity pans out and I can get back to earning a living rather than living off unemployment insurance.  I would rather have fill from my hard work than a hand-out.  While I take the hand-out graciously, I feel that it is not deserved.  I never wanted to leave my job and I am still confused as to why I had to.  Perhaps that is another post for another day.

A Thought on Norms

So yesterday I was at my favorite cafe doing my thing: learning German, reading my book, and just people watching like the person.

I had to sit at the bar, which is a three-seat section near the barista station where all the drinks are distributed.  The cafe was somewhat crowded and I was forced to choose this area since all the areas were either barely filled by other people.

So I sat at the end of this row of three watching the baristas make and hand-out drinks.  I placed my bag on the chair next to me as I sat myself.  These were bar-stools: they were high enough that placing my bag on the floor would be cumbersome to get off the ground.  I thought to myself that this would not be an issue since if the cafe had become so full I would just place my bag on the floor to sit in the remaining two stools.

I watched for people in need of both chairs: a woman who sat while she waited for her drink at the end stool.  Another person hovered around the stool later but never sat.

Then a couple floated to the area with some food bought from the cafe and appeared to wait for their drink.  The woman of this couple sat in the stool at the end while a man hovered around while looking at his phone.  I tried to make eye contact with them, but I was confused whether they were going to stay or leave.  The woman was walking here and there, and the man just seemed like he didn’t know what she was going to do next.  The man’s body language was communicating to me that he was disaffected by the environment.

I ignored them momentarily.

After a minute or so, I looked up again to find that they were still there and the woman now sat in the chair.  The man not facing me or the woman not paying attention to my attempts at eye contact showed now that they were staying.  I looked at them again to see if I could get any communication on their intentions, but could not in the end.  Seeing that the effort was not worth anymore at this point than just placing my bag on the floor, I removed my bag from the stool and lowered it lightly to the floor to the corner next to me.

I went back to my task at hand.

Surprisingly, in the next moment I heard and saw the stool moving away from my side as I had kept it close since my bag had previously been keeping it.  The man pulled the chair and sat facing away from me toward his female companion.  His shoulders were a wide expanse like the Wall of Jericho while his head hunched down to his phone.  I heard murmurs from beyond the wall, but nothing toward me.  I was not at all within their thoughts.

I did not receive any gesture of acknowledgement of my actions.  Not that I wanted it, but regular politeness would have afforded me something.  I am not upset by this, but it got me wondering about these things of politeness and in other ways, moral obligation.  This is supposed to be upsetting to a degree, but in a way I feel that this all but common and useless to ponder.  Yet to some extent I feel that this could be how the real world and how to improve it.

How can we communicate when we cannot communicate?  It is a timeless conundrum, and I felt I did the best I could to create some trust.

I see it from this man and woman’s side of the equation where it was a public establishment and because there was an opportunity I should not be wasting them the opportunity to be seated.  On the other hand, from my point of view, I had allowed them opportunity with effort: I could have ignored them and just assumed they were intending on staying.

I felt like I knew that man (and woman) somehow in their thinking that perhaps there is a sense of entitlement.  There is some of them in me when I think about it, and despite whether I am right or wrong I would like to improve the world.

Girls chase Boys chase Girls

Because Waterfront Wednesday is an event I look forward to, I timed the rain end to my departure from my apartment correctly.  It was storming with thunder, lightning and gusts of wind that it seemed to be a bad idea to leave the safety of my home, but I already decided that life is too short.

The awkwardness of the meeting at the flagpole under the walk-bridge was not as bad as I had thought it to be.  There was David and another and another guy.  Another guy and another guy were too shy to say ‘hi’ or make eye contact with me.

Lance showed up out of nowhere in particular, or Jasper, Indiana.  He was a lanky forty-one year old that could barely look me in the eye, but his eyes were blue and had a lot of nervous energy.  Lance talked with pauses that showed how he gathered his thoughts as if trying excessively to pick good words from his mind.  His disjointed speech was rather tiresome as you can almost expect the next words to come out of his mouth.  There was some naivety mixed with partial self-confidence about Lance, like a book smart child trying to explain her idealism about the real world.  He felt like a mix of Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstedder from the “Big Bang Theory”.

After meeting Lance and David, it felt that I had gone into the “alpha-male” trance: every time I feel bored with other males around I feel the need to take the reigns and be decisive and become the leader.

The third act was in mid-set.  Coco and Ming left.  A bunch of other guys were left, but I didn’t feel the need to talk to them and it felt mutual.  Ivan finished eating all the food.  Kim disappeared without much of a trace.

Lance wanted to walk down to the river and take a look around.  Ivan and I thought it might be nice to check it out.  The short walk through a sea of people was a journey though it felt like the sea parted a bit.  Many kids and other adults were at the water’s edge hanging out and some were drinking.

We were talking a bit and looking around.  I noticed out of the corner of my eye a person approaching a breach of our personal space.  It was dark so I could not distinguish much about her other than she was thin, wearing a blouse of dark color, and perhaps brunette or blonde.  This girl had a cup in her hand.  Her movement indicated inebriation. She made some greeting and began small-talk.  When she seemed nervous, so I called her out on it and asked, “Are you talking to us on a dare?”  Immediately she began targeting Lance, and by targeting, I mean that something was not right at all by this situation in that she was asking him to do something.  She picked off Lance to where Ivan or I could not hear what she was saying to him.

The gist of it was that she wanted Lance to talk to an older lady who was probably closer in age to him than Ivan or me.  The reason was not clear, and I am not so sure about the justification for her request.  Lance was all too quick to do this for this girl and immediately struck up a conversation with the older lady.  I heard them talking as it was rather inaudible as the music continued nearby.  But the conversation ended rather abruptly and quickly.  Ivan and I turned around and found this lady storming off like she had been offended by either someone’s words or an odor.

I didn’t see much of the older lady Lance approached, but my instincts implied to me that she was in her forty’s, single and never-married, and had extremely low self-confidence.

The girl that approached Lance scurried off back to her friends.  I found it rather unnerving so the alpha-male, or more likely, the avenger in me sent out the “What the Hell?!” body posture of throwing up my arms beaming in their direction.  Four girls about 20 – 30 years old lumbered over and made awkward impressions.  They were pretty as far as I could tell, but rather immature.  These four were drinking and they were a bit weird in their presentation to us.  I could not get straight answers when I asked them questions.  I couldn’t fathom their motives so I began to phase away the conversation.

Lance however seemed intrigued by these four even though the flags were all red.  Somehow, Lance decided to ask the girl who had approached us initially for her phone number, but I couldn’t believe that it was going to be a legitimate number or whether these girls were virtuous enough to give a response.

I pulled out and began being facetious with one of the girls I was able to talk to.  All instincts were point toward that someone, Lance, was going to be heartbroken.  These girls appeared to be having fun at someone’s else expense.