Adriana Duarte is one of those people who has been traveling for her entire life. The child of immigrants from Mexico, she grew up in the U.S. state of West Virginia and spent two semesters and one…
When I lived in Freiburg, Germany I took an art class with a local painter named Georg Schell. I remember the first time my friends and I trekked to his studio located deep into a very wealthy neighborhood known as die Whiere. We climbed up the steps to his studio, and first encountered a hallway filled with rows of water bottles and large paintings carelessly stacked against each other. The studio itself was entirely covered in oil paint smudges, filled to the brink with paintings covering both the walls and ceilings. Georg prized working fast most of all which yielded him an insurmountable collection. He was such a prolific artist, that the town of Breisach in France gifted him a studio, overlooking the scenic countryside. I have met few people more creative and have met no one who dresses quite like him: always dressed formally, with a black vest over a white button down shirt, black slacks, leather shoes, most of the time a nice black hat.
The first class he was a bit too excited to meet us and scared a few people off with a combination of his enthusiasm paired with a tendency to stand a tad too close to people. I left the first class confused because he had given me a single wilting rose to take home. He put it into an empty plastic water bottle with the top cut off. The bottle used to hold carbonated water and was not the most suitable vase, but no one had ever given me a rose before. I left the rose sitting on the kitchen counter in my dorm, which my roommates saw as very sweet. In that way Georg indirectly helped me make friends.
His advice often made no sense. He’d tell us things like, make it purple or use more water, without telling us why. Everyone’s least favorite Georg phrase was “Entschuldige bitte, aber das ist schon fertig”. When Georg said this it meant he thought your painting was finished despite the fact that you probably only worked on it for 3 minutes and you weren’t even sure what it was yet.
Georg emigrated to Germany as a young man from Serbia. He talks lovingly of his mother, but much more lovingly of Alsace in France, wine country. To this day I’m convinced we were enrolled in a wine and food tasting class rather than a painting class. Almost every class ended with the opening of a different bottle of expensive French wine paired with cookies, fancy salamis, pan fried trout, or various fruits. Thanks to Georg I know now that I love white dessert wines and don’t much care for fish eyes or alcoholic free beer.
Leaving Georg on the last day of class was hard. He held everyone’s hands for what seemed like an eternity. With tears in his eyes he pleaded, “Kommt bald wieder”, or please come back soon and visit. The man gave openly to us, beyond what was expected of him, not expecting anything in return. Whenever we shared a glass of wine, he always used to say, “One does not drink wine alone. It’s meant to be shared with friends.” These words, the taste of new foods, new wine, new friends, will never leave my memory.
I first became interested in the study of Sociology at the age of 11, before I even understood what Sociology meant. During a summer in Boulder, Colorado, we frequented the locally famous Boulder Bookstore, where my mother and I would spend hours exploring the shelves, acquainting ourselves with new reads, and unbeknownst to the both of us, developing new interests entirely.
I became engrossed with a collection of books which discussed modern-day issues, such as runaway capitalism, race relations in America, and food systems in America. Among my first “Sociological” reads were books like Don’t Eat This Book by film maker Morgan Spurlock, and Nickle and Dimed by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich. I was in love. The books I read about fast food made me rethink entirely the choices I made around food and awakened me to the reality that for some families, fast food is one of if not the only options to feed their families. I enjoyed reading books by authors who were active participants in exploring unjust social realities, who championed social reform through the spread of awareness of the problems they perceived around them. I wanted to follow. This is why I chose to study Sociology.
I am still glad I studied Sociology, but leading up to graduation, Sociology in the academic context had begun to feel like the wrong path for me. In undergrad I began feeling like I wasn’t writing papers and putting together projects out of passion, but rather obligation. The spark I originally had for social reform was not sustained.
Sensing that I needed to re-ignite this desire to learn more about the world and its people, I took a different approach, and took a year abroad in Germany and Denmark. I am so glad I did this. My German improved tremendously. I worked on a farm in the Black Forest and learned about sustainability in a class about Green Business practices. I talked to more strangers than I ever thought I’d speak to in the course of my entire life. Most importantly I soaked up the stories of the locals both from direct conversation and eavesdropping. I’m convinced those stories have shaped me and will continue to shape me.
While I prepare to make goals and plans for the next few years of my life, I hope to take the lessons I’ve learned both in my studies in Sociology and my experiences abroad and use them to enrich other people’s lives somehow. While the manner in which I will achieve this is still partially unclear, I hope at the very least to be a resource to people, and to be a listening ear to the stories of others.
❤ Color Me Adri
I went on the first run I’ve been on in over a year today. It was pleasant and easy unlike many runs I’ve been on before. It’s been years since I’ve ran competitively or participated in any competitive sport for that matter. It used to compose such a huge part of my identity, but I don’t look back at it as an entirely positive experience.
Today when I ran I did it for myself. I was feeling lethargic and unsettled and needed simply to move. Before I was much more critical. I started out running cross country with my coaches thinking I had a lot of promise, so I tried my best, sometimes not listening to my body for when it was time to stop.
My first two years I was on varsity. By my sophomore year I became quite anemic, needing to take naps during the day and crying when I woke up from them because it was 8 o’clock I had hours of homework to do and I felt more tired than when I went to sleep. I didn’t realize there was an issue till the end of sophomore year. It’s quite common for young women who run and also young women in general to develop an iron deficiency, so if you are a young female runner I highly recommend getting tested for serum ferritin, your stores of iron. By senior year my iron levels were a lot better and I was ready to take on my last season, but midway through I had to stop due to a hip injury.
I tried on and off during college to run but it always ended up being an activity that I was too critical on myself for. I’d go out wanting to run times I had achieved while actually training competitively and judged myself for my body not looking the way it used to when I was in shape. In college I battled with depression. When I was depressed I often sat for hours not moving at all. There was no one I wanted to see, nothing I wanted to do. I was doing my work for school but little else. I spent more time hiding how unhappy I was than I spent actually trying to heal.
Last semester in Freiburg I got into better shape simply because of the amount of walking it took to get most places there. Working at a farm also helped with gaining a little more muscle. People working at the Lebensgarten were very, very in shape, but not because they wanted to show everyone how muscular they were or beat someone in a competition. They just love to be out in the sun, farming and they know when their bodies are tired. They know when it’s time to sit out and drink coffee and when it’s time to call “Feierabend”.
So here I am with a new fit body that for once was gained almost purely by accident in an attempt to achieve something good for the earth, as opposed to getting it by being hard on myself and pushing limits that weren’t meant to be pushed. I hope to approach life in a similar way. I want to stop being so critical, overanalyzing every perceived flaw that I have in order to finally give myself over to something greater, to be in tune with the world around me, to finally love myself the way I show love to the world around me.
Thursday I worked again at the garden. My body is sore every day and there’s still dirt in my fingernails I can’t get out, but I know I’m doing work that I care about so that’s all that matters. Additionally, all the physical labor is making me be more careful about what I eat to fuel my body and about getting plenty of sleep. I can already feel myself gaining more muscular strength. Perhaps all I need are a few more greens and some epsom salts and I’ll be feeling better than ever.
Yesterday was May 1st, a holiday in Germany. Many people go out to drink the night before to welcome in the spring time and “dance into May”. I was hanging out at Amanda’s playing about the most complicated board game I’ve ever played in my life when a few more of her roommates walked in just having come back from a party from the night before, which was confusing considering at this point it was almost sunset. When Amanda and I realized all she had at home to eat was noodles we went downtown in hopes something would be open for dinner.
We ate döners in Yufka wraps in the rain amongst tourists and very hungover people. I had gotten the feeling that it was national German hangover day and I didn’t get the memo.
It’s been raining all weekend and it makes the black forest look magical like an image from a children’s fairy tale. Also this weekend was another FC Freiburg home game. The stadium is one train stop from my WG which means theres an 150% chance that any given time that I decide to go grocery shopping on a Saturday I end up coming back to a Straßenbahn packed like a sardine tin with people decked out in red and black.
I had been debating in my head earlier this week between going to Stuttgart on Saturday or staying home, resting and studying for midterms. I think I needed the rest after all and I love watching SC Freiburg fans on their way to a home game. I think I’m satisfied with my decision.
Today I started out picking out weeds from a field we literally just de-weeded last Tuesday. It felt strangely rewarding, because there were admittedly a lot less than last week. The ground was soft and crumbly from the rain earlier that morning and roots slipped out easily as did tiny rocks that keep magically appearing out of nowhere. While I was working I suddenly realized I didn’t know the capital of Alabama anymore, which bothered me the entire time. I looked it up when I got home. It’s Montgomery in case anyone is wondering.
Lately people who live around Kirchzarten have been coming in to help with the gardening, which I find so inspiring, a community coming together to help out a local farm. One woman is a dancer and I think she has the best sense of humor. She apparently loves fennel, which we were planting together today. She choreographs dance and said that she has a great spatial sense. She didn’t even really need a ruler to know how far 35 centimeters was – the distance we were supposed to leave between the fennel plants. She talked to the plants, saying that they’d grow big and strong some day and asked one fennel plant “where it thought it was going”, that it had to get back in line, like a dancer, between fennel A and fennel B.
(Keep in mind all of this was said in German and I’m incredibly proud to even be at a point where I can understand most things people tell me).
I love when we take breaks, not only because kneeling on the ground all day is tiring, but because we have tea and cookies and talk. Today the other gardeners were shocked to learn that in order to drive comfortably from one end of America to the other it would take approximately 5 days.
The Lebensgarten is considering buying a small greenhouse, which sounds very useful. In other news the rhubarb plants are growing big and strong. I feel myself growing stronger as well!
Here are some photos of the area around the Lebensgarten. It’s a beautiful walk to and from work:
Today we raked stones out of empty plots. It’s difficult because some dry pieces of earth are secretly pretending to be rocks. I was very concerned with getting out all the rocks, which I later regretted once we started shoveling them all onto the tractor. Daria mentions to me that raking the rocks reminds her of the work of zen monks.
The weight of my body did not seem to support the weight of large stones being flung into the air. Occasionally I was told good job when throwing a particularly large group of rocks. It reminded me of playing tennis, that is to say, if a tennis racket weighed approximately 10 pounds and the game was played alongside a small tractor. Trotzdem, hab’ ich es geschafft.
Next we de-weeded the salad plants with tiny tools as Daria and I discussed the difference between the metric and English systems of measurement and the drinking age differences between Germany and America. She told me that de-weeding the salad feels pointless because the weeds are so small and they grow back so fast. It reminded her of a Greek myth of a God whose job was to haul heavy things up a mountain which he must do for all eternity.
I find it to be comforting how elements of something so different can remind me of things I already know how to do. For example, shoveling reminds me of swinging a tennis racket and bending down to pick up weeds reminds me of my job cleaning machines at the Rice Rec Center.
At the end of the day we put away our tools and cleaned up a bit. I walked home sore but accomplished. Today my friend Paige Wallace flies into town and I’m more than excited to pick her up at Hauptbahnhof.
Yesterday I made a day trip to Baden Baden with the Baden-Württemburg day ticket, (which if you’re traveling in southwest Germany you should consider buying. It’s 23 euros for a day to use any regional train or bus in Baden-Württemburg and then 5 additional euros for each additional passenger up to 5 on a single ticket.)
I loooved this town. The trees were in full bloom and there were cute cafés everywhere. I had some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had for lunch and one of the best Döner I’ve ever had for dinner.
My favorite part of the day was going to the Caracalla Therme Spa for a few hours bathing in the hot mineral water that Baden Baden is so famous for. There were a few pools, a hot bath and a cold bath (which I was too much of a pansy to immerse myself into completely). I felt so relaxed.
I loved visiting Baden Baden but I equally enjoy a relaxing day in Freiburg. Here are some photos of Vauban, Altstadt and the black forest near Littenweiler: