Sunday, June 5, 2011

Berlin, Meet Virginia

By February of 2008, my living situation in France had gotten a bit out of control, as two of my French roommates, officially known as the "Couple from Hell," had made it a point in their lives to drive me insane. A woman I had been tutoring for a few months told me that the French police don't get involved in a crime until someone is killed, so lease or no lease, I should get the hell out of that apartment.

Since I had one of my five, two week vacations (Hallelujah French work schedule!) coming up, I decided to reconnect with Luis, whom I had met in the epitome of geek land: a Model UN Conference. Luis was doing some kind of Masters that involved speaking every romance language and living all over Western Europe. At the time, he was in Berlin, a city I always wanted to visit, so I figured a quick trip to finish off my last days in the apartment of crazy was in order. (After I got back from Berlin, I literally ran out of the apartment holding all of my stuff, not telling my roommates where I was going or that I wouldn't be coming back. But that's another story.)

Despite my ability to utter random German words out of context, such as Schwein, I possess little to no ability to speak the German language, and was thus very relieved to find out that every single one of Luis's friends I met in Berlin could speak perfect English. In fact, I thought about asking them a few lingering English grammar questions I had, like where, to use commas and, stuff.

One of the nights I was there, Luis had a party to go to, so I tagged along. Unfortunately, it involved karaoke, which is both a word I can never remember how to spell (thank you Google dictionary) and an activity I will forever suck at doing. Nevertheless, I grabbed a beer and made the sad discovery that despite being the only person in the room who was born and raised in America, I have the American song repertoire of a Tibetan monk. And no, I'm not talking about your Uncle Joe who ran off to join the cause because New Jersey "just wasn't doing it." I'm talking about an actual Tibetan monk.

One of Luis's friends, however, had a seemingly thorough knowledge of bad American pop good, in fact, that she seemed oddly familiar. On top of her knowledge of bad American pop songs, she had that vaguely goth style of dress about her. Strangely, it's this vaguely goth style of dress that seems to be the only style of clothing I have seen everywhere from Hicksville Virginia, to big city Europe, to scared tourist in Indian airport terminal. She was somewhere in between this and this. That's not very useful, is it?

Anyway, the point is that I was thoroughly confused about where this girl was from. At this point in my life, I had already been through the wine tasting fiasco, so I stayed easy on the alcohol, and approached with caution. As I was carefully inching up to her karoake karaoke area, another girl came up to me and asked where I'm from. I started in on explaining the patterns of Indian immigration and the evils of imperialism, when when the other other girl put up her hand and said, "No no, not your ethnic origin," (Go German girl! Perfectly phrased!), "I meant where in the States did you grow up?" Want to know my amazingly articulate response? It went like this: "Oh. Virginia."

Thankfully, that was enough. The vaguely goth girl turned around and said to me, "Oh! I went to Virginia once." Still not useful. Maybe she was from Connecticut and was making a swipe at Virginia. To signal I needed more information, I proceeded to awkwardly stare at the TV for 30 seconds. Finally, the vaguely goth girl elaborated, "I had a boyfriend from the States a few years ago, when he studied abroad here in Berlin. He went to William and Mary. I visited him once there...only place I've seen in the States."

Then I spit out my drink. Seriously. Do not give me liquid substances in public. For those of you who do not know, and I imagine that's 99% of you, William and Mary is a small liberal arts college in Williamsburg, VA. Jon Stewart went there to explore what he called "The Jewish mecca of Eastern Virginia." Suddenly, the poor choice of pop songs, vaguely goth dress, and impeccable mid-Atlantic US accent became clear: this girl was part German, part college freshman.

William and Mary isn't your typical state school. If this girl had visited my Alma mater, Virginia Tech, I would have told you this is exactly what she saw, and be done with it. But I guess even the social misfits of William and Mary are capable of saying stupid crap, so here is a selection of quotes she told me she heard during her two week stay:

1. "Like ooooh my 11 AM class! Who gets UP that early?"
2. "Where's the party? Who's the party!? Can anyone find me the paaaarty!?" ::Boy collapses::
3. Boy 1: "Come on, let's go watch the soccer game." Boy 2: "Is that the one with sticks?"
4. "So I was like, I know I'm like hot, but like I don't know why I keep gaining weight!" ::Turns to cashier:: "Yeah, I'd like double whopper with a large order of fries and a chocolate milkshake. No wait, Diet Coke."

In conclusion: higher education, lowered expectations.

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