London Feb 2012, Day Three: Zurück zu Deutschland.

Because I never thought I would say with a sigh, “I am so happy to be back in Germany”.

Flying back to Frankfurt-Finally, a seat together.

Continued from Part 2

Our journey began on a Tuesday morning, February 21st, very, very early. An early flight from Frankfurt-Hahn (the outlying, thus cheaper, airport that is a 45-minute journey from Mainz) to Rome, meaning we had to get up at 6am, which in US time was 11pm… my regular bedtime…

Rome was scheduled far in advance before I left the US. I hadn’t been there for years, and since I was staying with my gf in Mainz, Germany for 18 days, I suggested a 2-day stay in my former city. London was not planned. London was a weekend conference that my gf was accepted to only weeks before my departure; and we planned our trips so that Tue-Thu would be Rome, and Thu-Mon would be London. This is not so easy.

Thursday morning we had breakfast at the apartment we were staying at in Rome and left a bit early for the flight to Frankfurt-Hahn. Rome’s Ciampino airport was clear across the giant city from our apartment (from Metro stop Cornelia to Anagnina, then a bus), so we decided to cut our trip short by going to Termini and catching a bus to Ciampino where we would fly back to Hahn, and stay there until our evening flight into London departed. (I am working on a short story about this crazy trip, and will post it upon its completion).

We arrived in London Thursday evening around 10pm. We had been traveling for nearly 12 hours through three different nations and one timezone. By the time our taxi had arrived, we were exhausted. We arrived at our destination in South London’s Peckham neighborhood just before midnight. The first thing we did after the owner of the apartment left was take a shower, and crash, hard.

This third day of sightseeing was a relief. It was calm, relaxing, and, since we were riding on a tour bus, we didn’t have to worry about transportation. I recommend it to anyone who only has one day to see London, and truly wants to see all of London. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Thanks!

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Rome, A Character Study: The Lonely Nun

Catholic:
1 (esp. of a person’s tastes) including a wide variety of things; all-embracing. Universal.
2 (Catholic) of the Roman Catholic faith.
• of or including all Christians.
• of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

I took photos of two individuals while in Rome this past February, 2012. Instead of simply throwing my photos from my trip online without context, I decided to grab a handful of photos and examine them closely. I wanted to discuss these two individuals at length, and why I decided to take photos of them when I did. Here is the first part: my lonely nun.

I always like a good photo of a nun or two while in Rome, and the reason should be a bit obvious, but I found this lone nun a fascinating photo opportunity.

I was waiting in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica and climb the duomo with my gf, when I spotted the lone nun above walking through the piazza. The thing is, she looks so alone amongst all those young Italians just hanging out, or the multitude of tourists snapping photos or waiting in line. But I needed to give that more thought.

The last time I was in Rome (2003-04) my friend hosted a guided tour of St. Peter’s, and from him I learned that the surrounding columns are shaped so as to mimic the metaphorical, all-embracing arms of the Catholic Church. Thinking upon this, I wanted to reconsider my first evaluation of this nun’s loneliness. She was alone, but it was a rough judgment to say lonely. How could a nun possibly feel lonely in Rome? Much less in the Piazza San Pietro. The reason I took these photos is because her singularity caught my eye, but was it not also because I thought there was some aesthetic dissonance in her walking alone? I recalled the first definition, listed above, of Catholic from my GRE vocabulary building exercises (I know, silly) and at first I thought her singularity amongst the many was some sort of soulful incongruity; as though it was not a personal assault on her as singular individual (everyone needs time alone), but a representation of what Catholic was supposed to be, e.g. all-encompassing. And I thought there was some dissonance with this image.

But I now think I am missing the point of all-encompassing. I am not a Catholic. I was raised Protestant, and I respect each individual and their religion. But I imagine that Catholicism, thought of as all-encompassing, is something that does not leave someone even if they are alone. That’s the point, right? God, Catholicism, Belief, these thoughts do not leave the faithful. In other words: that nun was not alone. Nor is she. I don’t believe I was in error in my first approach, nor for my initial reason for taking the photos, but I was ignorant of what this person may feel, think, and believe. I was ignorant that she was, at that very moment, in the arms of her God, and therefore, never alone.

What do you think? Have an opinion on this aesthetic dissonance or the representation?

London Feb 2012, Day Two: Behold the Man

“My name is Karim Amir and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost.” –The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi

Continued from Part 1.

On Saturday, February 25, 2012, my gf and I attended a conference at the University of Roehampton in London featuring the works of British author, Hanif Kureishi. The conference took place on Friday evening and all day Saturday. We arrived very late Thursday night, and then ventured out into Peckham on our own the following Friday—all of which I wrote about here & here. After those harrowing hours away from one another, we decided never to part again while I was visiting and spent the entire day of the conference glued to one another.

My gf presented her paper on Saturday morning, so we had the rest of the day to watch others present their papers, discuss novels, philosophy, literary criticism, etc., and chat with people from all around the world. In addition to the photos below, I wanted to highlight two interesting phenomena that occurred while at this conference.

First off, are you familiar with Hanif Kurieshi? I have only read The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), and I thought it a wonderful piece of fiction that I will not attach a label of ‘postcolonial‘ ‘immigrant’ ‘British migrant’ or any other lovely epigraph critics attach to  successful, yet subversive, novels. The thing is that this conference was focusing on one man. One singular author. What an amazing thing! Two days of people form Germany, America, Australia, England all joining together to talk about and discuss words one man wrote on a page. Brilliant. You should read The Buddha. It’s good & damned entertaining.

Later on during the Q & A session, when the moderator asked “Are there any other questions…?” and no one responded, I raised my hand. I’m not qualified to ask a question about Kureishi’s work. Let’s face that fact. Every other person who posed a question had at the very least published an article about one of Kureishi’s novels. I have not read much British migrant fiction, nor have I studied a great deal of postcolonialism—I focused on Marxist cultural theory, aesthetics, and feminism while studying Lit. So, I asked him something I thought would interrogate and yet illicit a generally interesting answer.

I asked, “How does it feel to come here tonight knowing that we have spent two days discussing, criticizing and (mis)interpreting you and your work?”

He replied that he found it very humbling, and that he doesn’t like to be thought about too much. He likes to sit at the side of the room. And if anyone focuses on him too much, then he is worried he’ll start to believe all the good things they say about him. He also mentioned that he wished his kids could see him, so that they don’t think he’s just a bum who sits at his computer all day while wearing pajamas. I liked this answer more than any others he gave that evening. Mostly because he was exposing his humanness. I like that.

My other quick anecdote was something my gf & I shared, and I don’t think others may have caught. When Kureishi first arrived that evening, it was in a grand room (seen from the outside in a photo above) with floor-to-ceiling windows, beautiful wood floors, and massive drapes, along with bountiful foods such as sandwiches, cheeses, fruits, etc. But he arrived for a spoken word performance piece that evening that was, apparently, an interpretation of Kureishi’s works. It was interesting. As all performance pieces, and this post, it went on a bit too long for my taste. I was sitting down near a window eating some cheese, blissfully ignoring the decorum which bespoke a social need to stand for the performance, and my gf was standing to my right. Around ten minutes into the seemingly endless performance, as we are all standing, except me, and gazing at this man on a slightly raised stage performing spoken word poetry and making what seemed random hand gesticulations, Kureishi reaches into his pocket to check his cell phone. It was glorious. Just beautiful. My gf and I seemed to be the only two who noticed, everyone else was focused on the performance. We looked at one another, opened our eyes wide and almost burst out laughing!

That one simple gesture cut through all the pretension in the room. Ecce Homo, behold the man. Behold the man checking his cell phone during a performance piece dedicated to him; behold the man, bored; behold the man, not a god, but a human who is conscious of time and the pretension of that performance piece. From then on I knew Kureishi would rather have a beer in a pub with a few of us then sit here and listen to some dudes Neo-Freudian interpretation of a novel Kureishi wrote when he was 22 years old, and brimming with lust for life and a fervent desire to understand his place in the world.

I remember one more thing Kureishi said. He said that living the creative life was the most fulfilling way to live a life. And that he wished it for his kids, and that if anyone has the opportunity or the moment to grasp a creative life for themselves, then do it. It is simply wonderful. I can see why.

Continued in Part 3: Zurück zu Deutschland

London Feb 2012, Day One

“It never rains, nor is it foggy, whenever I visit London… pop culture has lied to me.
Although, I did solve a mystery of theatrical proportions.”

While visiting my gf in Germany this past February (yes, for Valentine’s day—for which I received a red, heart-shaped sucker upon my arrival to the Frankfurt airport) we traveled to London, England for a two-day conference featuring Hanif Kureishi at the University of Roehampton. This is the first of a three part post documenting our stay in London.

The first day we decided to go our separate ways—an awful mistake that shall not oft be repeated! While she would finalize her essay, I crossed London (south to north) to visit Herr Karl Marx in London’s Highgate East Cemetery—a philosophical visit I wrote about upon our return to Germany, and I later posted to this blog: here.

We stayed in Peckham, which is located in south London. Not the best area in London, as it recently became famous for hosting the 2011 riots, but it was cheap and a wonderful & enlightening experience. I wrote about maneuvering my way through Peckham a few months ago, and I will post have posted it within the next few days to this blog. It was quite the cultural adventure!

Many of these pics are of graves—and that seems to be a theme for me (see my Boston 2012 page)—so, I will do my best to reconcile that asap! Too many pics of dead people and rocks are not good for the blogger’s spirit… unless you are blogging about death, of course.

Hope you do enjoy them. All pics were taken with my handy-dandy iphone 4s. I didn’t even bring my point-and-shoot with me.

Continued on Day Two: Behold the Man.