Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bears, beers, and Bern.

On Wednesday, I traveled to Bern, Switzerland, to meet up with some friends, teach private lessons, and explore the city.

My friend and tour guide took me to her university. I am always impressed by and a little envious of the university buildings seen in Europe. 


I mean, come on. This looks like a palace by American standards. The interior was no less breathtaking. Walking in the halls, I could imagine being a researcher there, having deep, philosophical, academic thoughts.


The city featured many delightful facets. An old clock tower, so often a centerpiece of European cities.


Evidently there is a man whose job it is to wind up the clock every day. I wonder what he does with the rest of his day. Is he considered a full-time employee by the city?

Here was an abandoned building, made particularly striking by the reflection of the sky in its windows.


I love language humor. This bar plays off the word "wunderbar," meaning "wonderful."


Many stores along the main drag were below ground. Their entrances were reminiscent of cellar entryways. Naturally, they would do a lot to mitigate the look and appear less spooky.


We found some nice spots to get broader views of the city…



At one point, my friend told me the legend of how Bern got its name. The founder of Bern was lacking creativity, so he instructed his hunter to enter the nearby forest and shoot the first animal he saw, which would then become the namesake of the city. As you might figure, the hunter found a bear; thus, why the flag of Bern has a bear on it.

She related this story to me, which I found quite interesting, and then we stood for a while in silence. Eventually, she pointed to into the distance at a large building with flags on it. "See there? They have beers there. We'll go see them." Neat, I thought. Bern also crafts its own beer. I'm a fan of seeing craft breweries.

We walked for a while, crossed a bridge, and I looked down. "Aiya! There's a bear down there!" I exclaimed.


"Yes," she responded, with a sentiment of Obviously in her voice. "I told you, we would go to see the beers."

"Wait… I thought you were talking about that building where they craft beers, and we would go have some to drink."

We laughed a long time over this language confusion. "Well, they do serve beers there, I suppose you could go have one," she offered. I demurred, opting to get closer to the bears. From then on, we would always get a chuckle out of each other as she continued to pronounce the animal as "beers." Interestingly, the German word for bear is pronounced almost the same as the English word, but for some reason she couldn't shake the pronunciation that was embedded in her mind.

One of the bears was taking a nap. I envied him, as I was myself in the mood for one.


We concluded the tour with a visit to the rose garden, which featured a stellar view of the city. 


We sat there for an hour or so, chatting and snacking on food. It gave me a chance to reflect upon the weekend and my present course in life. We had first met back in November, and even then I was in a rather different place in my life. 

She commented that I felt a lot different from the last time. My usual confidence, my energy, my outgoing spirit was missing. This made sense. I was currently passing through a phase of introversion, and felt it keenly at Forwards, where I wasn't actually a teacher but everyone treated me equivalently. The group was keenly aware of my presence. Without the benefit of my teacher hat to put on and inhabit the extroverted side of my character, this level of attention withered my introverted side. (The jet lag no doubt made it worse.) Flowing into Sideways, I was still unable to find my stride as I struggled to sync of up with my teaching partner. Facing a mounting set of issues, I never peaked and shared my usual, spirited self with the group.

(As this post is written retrospectively over a month later, I'm pleased to say that this problem fell away within a week.)

For the first time in my life, I am much more fully committing to teaching full time. I have, for the most part, let go of the idea of working as a construction engineer, of using my degrees from school, of having something resembling a traditional life. While I continue to apply for jobs and occasional envision myself settling down in the near future, the dearth of opportunities makes this scenario an unlikely one, so I am left to continue making the best of my present situation, which involves traveling the world to teach dance. 

What a meandering, unexpected path my life has taken! How was I to know what would come when I first signed that leave of absence form and departed from the university campus? And now here I am, touring yet again in Europe, this time for four months. I live on the road, surviving off my earnings as a dance teacher, following a path I never thought conceivable for someone like me. I remember back in 2008, when I won my first competition at Emerald City Blues Festival, I first contemplated the idea of being a real dance teacher. And talking with Lucky later that year, him regaling me with grand stories of his travels in Europe. How I would have laughed if I told myself I would be doing the same six years later. 

I have been grateful for the mixture of adventures and relaxation found in my weekdays between dance events. These moments of quiet help me gain perspective on my life: to see how far it has come, to theorize on where it is headed next, and to appreciate where I am currently.

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