No worries

Suddenly it was the end of three and a half weeks in Cambodia.

And I still hadn’t posted about countless revelations and happenings. (For instance, that my new best friend is actually an elephant named Sambo).

And I didn’t really care. Why? I guess now, for me, Cambodia = no worries.

“No worries”, the phrase that I found myself using every day, sometimes excessively. This may have been due to the prevalence of Kiwis and citizens of Oz throwing their version of Hakuna Matata around like the rugby balls they so dearly cherish, but “no worries” seemed to be the theme of the trip. Let me be specific: Cambodian way of life is, from my limited observation, more worry- and complaint-free than any society I’ve experienced thus far. Despite incredibly low standards of living, a highly corrupt government (*cough* – did I say that? I meant, long live the king!)…yeah, they’re just happy people.

Call me cliché, but I’ve been brushing up on my Buddhism and we’re getting deep into the part about compassion. Seems like that’s really all there is to it; the Khmer people have that concept down, hardcore. Disregarding the aversion I felt when people jumped out of bushes, hotels, restaurants, garbage cans (well, not really) to try to sell me things, I appreciated that they were doing it with a genuine smile. Can we please import some of those not-necessarily-so-pearly-white grins to Deutschland? Ideally with a dollop of natural friendliness on the side? Mmmm, lecker.

Compassion helps weather storms. Which means no worries at the end of the day. And for me, that meant a whole lot of happy days in Cambodia.

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Tierra nueva

Returning to the promises I made to myself at the beginning of the year, now is the perfect time to take stock of what exactly I’ve done to fulfill them.

1)      Experience at least 3 new countries this year.


After having visited Luxembourg, Spain is the next new territory to conquer. I’m here now (!) and it’s the first country I’ve ever been to where I don’t speak the language well enough to talk about things other than numbers, colors, food, the weather, public transportation, or myself. More on this in the next post about Madrid and Sevilla, though if you want to have a sneak-peek, pics from Madrid are already up here.

2)      Noticeably improve my Spanish.

Related to #1 I had been working with Hugo, my Mexican tandem partner, on a weekly basis since February. You know I hate going to a place and imposing English on people as a default. Part of the plan was to get my Spanish up to par for communication needs as a tourist, but I plan on continuing to learn.

3)      Launch my personal website by the summer.

This one is still in the works, though the design is completely finished. Big shout-out to my best friend, graphic designer/programmer/artist Chelsea Tredupp, for her creative genius! Expect the site to be up by the end of August.

4)      Do something crazy.

Done 😉

5)      Inspire you to do something crazy.

Well, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? Some of you have told me your stories…my favorite is the friend of mine who stayed at an all-gay sex party in Berlin (observing, not participating in it, surprisingly…not that that’s better or worse) because he thought to himself, “Ginger would be disappointed if I didn’t stay – it would make a great story!” Very true.

(W)rapping up

I have to say, I absolutely love my coworkers at the Gesamtschule. I now have a sort of “Ode to Ginger” to remember forever, as they wrote and performed a song for me as a good-bye present at the last teachers’ conference of the semester. I’ll post the lyrics eventually as they’re really quite clever, but I’m in Madrid now with limited time to write — lots of things to do and see!

I’ve had a hard time processing the whole end of the Fulbright “experience”, simply because of how fast the end came. It helped that I took the time to write a brief speech in German which I presented to my coworkers as a heartfelt thank-you for their support. Last August I was definitely dreading being placed in such a small town, but I’m absolutely happy with the way things turned out. I’m so thankful for the cooperative and passionate teachers I’ve been able to learn from and work with, and for the lively, passionate, intelligent students I grew close to throughout the year.

Side note: I feel obligated to mention that my 9th grade students asked me to choreograph a hip hop routine for their graduation ceremony performance, which I somehow whipped up in an hour in the staff room. They were tough to teach, but I ended up getting them to look passably “gangsta” (well, as thug as 15-year-old Germans from a small country town can look, having been taught by a ballroom dancer from the suburbs) and had them rapping to The Black Eyed Peas’ “Time of Your Life – Dirty Bit” in front of their parents. It was a success.

The odd thing was that, aside from a day of doldrums when I finally realized all of the great stuff about to come to an end, I wasn’t sad at all during the whole process of saying good-bye to everyone. I’ll admit, I shed a few tears when I bid adieu to Elke, the effervescent bundle of energy who is our choir director, but for the most part I have it in my head that I’ll see all of the important people again soon…whether it’s during the summer in Frankfurt or after being in Asia for a bit. Honestly, it was the happiest round of good-byes I’ve ever experienced – I’m optimistic about keeping in contact with the fantastic connections I’ve made here.

I feel peculiar writing this post because I’m already sitting on the balcony of my CouchSurfing host’s apartment in Madrid. I barely had time to tie up loose ends in Gießen before I was boarding a cramped RyanAir flight to meet up with Michael, a close friend from my time at UW-Madison.  Life rolls on…

To wrap everything up — probably too quickly to do the program justice — I guess that more than anything, the experience as a Fulbright  ETA has allowed me to grow as a traveler and (as completely corny and cliché as it sounds) as a global citizen. Yes, I learned the useful lesson that I don’t want to be a teacher…at least not full time, nor with pubescent children…but the simple ability to sustain a life where I took so much time for myself and did whatever I wanted, when I wanted to…how many people ever get that chance!? Truly, in every sense, I’m so grateful for each experience of these last ten months.

Ahora, on to the proxima aventura!

Wanted: Eurojob for schlagfertige Dame

Thought of the day: it’s an oddly refreshing feeling when the contents of your life fit into a three-piece luggage set.

Only three days of Fulbright ETA work left, most of which will be spent celebrating the end of the school year. If there’s one thing to learn about Germans it’s that they (like my fellow Badgers) have a strict “work hard/play really, really hard” mentality. Once tasks are checked off the to-do list, it’s time to party!

After Kyra, Rick and I held a good-bye party this past Saturday I was left feeling a little peculiar as I’m the one “staying behind”. Having to repeat the fact that no, I’m not flying back to the states just yet, and yes, I do want to live in Europe for at least another year (or two…or three) made me start honing my plans for the next few months. Here’s the run-down of my itinerary as I have it planned so far:

June 19-July 8: trip through Spain and some of western France. Tentative destinations: Madrid, Sevilla, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Tangier, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, La Rochelle.

July 8-August 30: au pair work in Frankfurt

August 30-October 28: trip to Indochina, i.e. Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam (and Malaysia as well, theoretically).

October 29-? Mystery.

During the summer I’ll have time to find a job that ideally will start in November of this year. I can easily see myself working as a representative for an international company in ______ (insert any large European city in English/German/French-speaking Europe).

Achtung, Achtung. Here comes the part where I ask for your help…

My experience includes public relations, communications, sales, language education, event planning, travel writing, translation and more — I’m now looking for anything that will keep me working in direct contact with people and not sitting mindlessly at a computer for 40 hours a week. Ah yes, and voilà,

my CV/resumé in both English and Deutsch.

If you or someone you know has a job/internship/project/idea that you know I could rock the socks off of, please leave a comment or send me an email (kern.ginger[at]gmail.com).

With that, I’ll just leave you with a substantial “thank you in advance!” and a note that the next blog post will probably be one of those sappy, all-good-things-come-to-an-end sob fests. You have been warned…

I’m alive! I swear!

My, my how time does fly. Only five more months of this Fulbright grant to go, and I haven’t quite solidified the time frame for my plans for after June. I’d like to stay in Europe until approximately the end of August/sometime in September and then…well…if all goes right with the world I’ll be flying to Cambodia!

(Heh, your look of confusion amuses me)…Hang on a sec, you say. Germany…Cambodia…where is the connection?

Remember Ramon Stoppelenburg? (…This crazy Dutch guy, who I’m hoping wont mind if I borrow his picture to share with you…)

Apparently a great deal of fun in life comes back to Couchsurfing in the end (he was my very first CS host..awww), because I’ve nearly finished a 9,000 word translation of his website www.expeditionkilimanjaro.com that will allow him to better cater to all the German-speaking hiking fanatics in the world. It’s fun work, though considerably more difficult translating from English to German as opposed to the other way around, and I’ve enlisted the help of some friends in Gießen to keep their eyes on my progress and make sure I mean what I say and I say what I mean.

Still not following the Cambodia connection? Ok. Here goes. Ramon moved there in August of 2010 from Amsterdam and currently lives in Phnom Penh, the country’s bustling capitol. Given the flexibility of my current work/travel/life situation, Ramon and I agreed upon a somewhat non-traditional payment option and he is rewarding my help with an experience: a round-trip plane ticket (at any time, from anywhere in Europe, specifically) to and from Cambodia. Voilà.

Not only does this provide me with an excellent opportunity to travel a new continent (culture shock, I seriously can’t wait!), but I’m looking forward to the couple of months I’ll be able to spend further developing my game plan for life.

Not a bad deal, eh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Ok fo realz, I’m freakin out. In a good way, of course. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!*