Enfant Terrible. Nice Guy.

I blame Jutta: She was the one convincing me to give Tinder another try (I had downloaded the app around Christmas time and deleted it two days later because … nope.). So I set up a new profile in early March and forced myself to check the app at least once a week. There were some matches, but barely any conversation – most of the times, I either could not be bothered or was too busy.

On an afternoon in late March, I languidly went through the profiles again when a photo of a guy sitting on a motorbike caught my attention. He had a cigarette between his lips, and usually I immediately swipe left with smokers, but there was something about him – a cheeky grin and a defiant gaze into the camera. He made me chuckle, and although there were no further information (he had not filled in the “About me” part), I swiped right … and lo and behold, we had a match.

I started texting him the same evening, realising very quickly that he a) was Dutch and b) had an outstandingly good command of English, as well as a great sense of humour. Soon enough, we were texting every day – initially, just a couple of times per day, but after a few days, we spent hours sending messages. He came across as smart, confident, and yet very caring, being equally interested in my life and opinions as in sharing his. It took less than a week to establish a rather strong connection; we were both keen on meeting, but with me being away in Hamburg for some days and he having some family commitments, it took almost two weeks for us to finally meet. As I was in the northwest anyway, visiting some friends, I suggested we could meet in the Netherlands on a Sunday afternoon.

When I arrived in W, I took a picture of a windmill and, on a whim, sent it to him, challenging him to a scavenger hunt; it says a lot about his character that he was immediately up for it. We sent each other pictures of our whereabouts, with him directing me closer to the square where he was waiting …

… and then we found each other.

Ich gebe Jutta die Schuld: Sie war diejenige, die mich überzeugt hat, Tinder noch eine weitere Chance zu geben (ich hatte die App um die Weihnachtszeit heruntergeladen und zwei Tage später gelöscht, weil … nein). Also habe ich Anfang März ein neues Profil eingerichtet und mich selbst gezwungen, die App mindestens einmal pro Woche zu benutzen. Es gab einige “Treffer”, aber nur selten eine Unterhaltung – ich hatte entweder keine Lust auf ein Gespräch oder war zu beschäftigt.

An einem Nachmittag Ende März klickte ich mich gelangweilt durch die Profile, als ich auf ein Foto von einem Typen auf einem Motorrad aufmerksam wurde. Er hatte eine Zigarette zwischen den Lippen, und normalerweise lehne ich Raucher sofort ab, aber er hatte was – sein freches Grinsen und ein herausfordernder Blick in die Kamera haben mich irgendwie angesprochen. Obwohl es keine weiteren Infos über ihn gab (er hatte den “Über mich”-Teil nicht ausgefüllt), habe ich spontan nach rechts “gewischt” … und siehe da, wir hatten einen Treffer.

Noch am selben Abend habe ich ihm eine Nachricht geschickt und schnell gemerkt, dass er a) Niederländer ist und b) hervorragende Englischkenntnisse und einen großartigen Sinn für Humor hat. Nach kurzer Zeit haben wir uns täglich geschrieben – anfangs nur ein paar Mal pro Tag, aber nach ein paar Tagen verbrachten wir Stunden damit, uns Nachrichten zu schicken. Er wirkte intelligent, selbstbewusst und gleichzeitig sehr einfühlsam und war ebenso an meinem Leben interessiert wie daran, mir von seinem zu erzählen. Nach weniger als einer Woche hatte ich das Gefühl, ihn bereits ewig zu kennen. Wir wollten uns unbedingt treffen, aber da ich für einige Tage in Hamburg war und er familiäre Verpflichtungen hatten, dauerte es letztendlich fast zwei Wochen, um einen Termin zustande zu bekommen. Da ich sowieso im Nordwesten unterwegs war, um einige Freunde zu besuchen, schlug ich ihm vor, dass wir uns am Sonntagnachmittag in den Niederlanden treffen könnten.

Als ich in W ankam, machte ich ein Bild von einer Windmühle, und aus einer Laune heraus schickte ich ihm das Foto zu und forderte ihn zu einer Schnitzeljagd heraus; dass er darauf sofort eingegangen ist, sagt schon viel über ihn aus. Wir schickten einander Bilder von unseren Standorten, und er dirigierte mich immer näher zu dem Platz, an dem er auf mich wartete ….

… und dann haben wir uns gefunden. 

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“It’s the Ciiiiiiiiircle of Liiiiiiiiife …”

I went to Hamburg again; it was not purely a family visit, as I had an appointment set up for the afternoon, but Anna needed to cancel it last minute due to health issues.

My stay was still put to good use: First, I visited my uncle and aunt for a couple of days and then stayed with Jen for a further two days. We did something I had never done before – we went on a harbour tour, spending a sunny afternoon ferry-hopping, commenting on other passengers, and laughing our heads off (Jen was particularly amused by me reenacting Simba’s introduction scene from The Lion King with a bag of M&Ms whilst singing “The Circle of Life”).

Even though my appointment fell through, I still had another great time in Hamburg … and Anna and I will have another try in about two weeks.

Und wieder stand ein Besuch in Hamburg an; ausnahmsweise ging es mal nicht vorrangig um meine Familie, da ich heute Nachmittag einen Termin gehabt hätte, aber Anna musste aus gesundheitlichen Gründen kurzfristig absagen.

Meinen Aufenthalt habe ich trotzdem gut genutzt: Zuerst besuchte ich meinen Onkel und meine Tante für ein paar Tage und blieb dann noch zwei weitere Tage bei Jen. Wir haben etwas unternommen, das ich noch nie gemacht hatte – wir gingen auf eine Hafenrundfahrt und verbrachten einen sonnigen Nachmittag auf diversen Fähren, lästerten über andere Passagiere und lachten uns immer wieder scheckig (Jen hat sich köstlich darüber amüsiert, wie ich die erste Szene von Simba aus Der König der Löwen mit Hilfe einer Packung M&Ms und gesanglicher Untermalung von “The Circle of Life” nachgestellt habe).

Obwohl mein Termin ins Wasser fiel, hatte ich mal wieder eine schöne Zeit in Hamburg … und Anna und ich werden in circa zwei Wochen einen neuen Versuch starten.

Preparation is Everything.

There will be some travelling going on this year, something I will detail in a future post. What I can reveal already is that one of these trips will take me to Ireland again, but not on my own: I will teach one of my Bachelor courses in Limerick this summer, taking 17 students from our uni with me.

The course is designed to start here and then conclude in Ireland; after the first lessons, I was getting a bit worried about the bunch of students I had picked to come along, as they were rather quiet during the lessons. Very quiet. So to get to know each other a bit better and see whether they were actually able to relax (and hence survive in Ireland), I took them out to my local for a Guinness or two.

I shouldn’t have worried: We spent 5 hours at The James, emptying their supply of ciders (I am not kidding) and entertaining all the other guests with our stories. After a quick stop at a kebab shop with six of them, I decided to call it a day at 2.30 am, while they wandered on to a club to dance the night away.

Looks like Ireland is going to be fun after all.

Klootscheeten.

As mentioned before, I do some teaching at a company in the northwest from January to March, usually going up for a full day on Tuesday and half a day on Wednesdays. It is some nice extra cash on the side, although the fact that the finance authority taxes me heavily on the money, taking away roughly 50%, makes me sometimes wonder whether it is actually worth doing.

But then, I really like the people I teach (and I use the word “teach” in the widest sense here, as we mostly drink tea, eat sweets, and talk about our respective private lives); in the seven years I have been doing this course, a lot of them have become acquaintances, if not friends. So when it was time for the lab department to have their annual Klootscheeten (which is basically an excuse to first get drunk during a walk and then get drunk inside a party tent), it was a no-brainer for them that I was to be part of the team.

As I had to work until 2 pm, I was a bit late and hence “forced” to catch up on booze; even though they had just started the tour an hour earlier, some of the ladies were already dangerously imbalanced when I arrived. Give them a little metal ball to throw, and you have an almost deadly combination; it still surprises me nobody was seriously injured, although we came quite close once – thankfully, even after 5 beers Jan still had fast reflexes and managed to duck.

If there is one thing I can count on during these kind of parties is that after a while, men tend to flock towards me; the drunker they are, the more they seem to have the need to discuss private matters with me … including guys I have never met before. We hadn’t even reached our destination yet when a young bloke from another team started asking me whether he should continue studying or instead find a job to support his girlfriend who wanted to have a baby. Rather startled, I told him that given his age (he looked about 19 to me), they shouldn’t really aim to have a baby yet, to which he replied, “My girlfriend is 30”. And then, giving me a meaningful look, “I like older women”. Oh dear.

Whilst slowly backing away, I bumped into Daniel (one of “my” people) who wanted to discuss his relationship issues with me; after I had patched him up, Robin was going on about his relationship and whether I could help him make a decision (short answer: No.). I finally made it to the dance floor and just stayed there for the next couple of hours to be out of harm’s way, even though the music was mostly shite (something we all agreed on, and yet everybody was dancing. The miraculous powers of alcohol …).

I had booked a hotel room to be more independent when it came to partying the night away; it was a wise decision, as I was (as usual) one of the last to leave at about 3 am – but not after arranging another meet-up in about three weeks’ time.

Facilitating the Writing Process.

As part of my work contract, I am required to visit the occasional training day. Luckily, I am allowed to pick the topics of these workshops myself, so at least they are about something I am actually interested in.

So today, I spent a day in Dortmund, doing a workshop on how to facilitate the writing process for students, dealing with problems such as identifying research questions, helping students to develop their own writing style, offering the right amount of input without becoming too domineering.

The good news is that I am apparently already doing a lot of things right, at least in terms of structural and motivational support. The bad news is that there is not “one cure for all” when it comes to teaching students how to come up with research ideas, time management, and proper citations: What works for one person might have the opposite effect for another, and in the end you can only do a certain amount of “pushing” in the right direction – learning how to carry out (and communicate!) research is part of the individual academic learning curve, after all.

It still was a pretty good workshop, as it made me realise that I need to revise my presentations on research and academic writing; maybe I am assuming too much foreknowledge by students, which could be the reason why their research papers are not always up to the standards I am aiming for. But for students to understand and meet these standards, I have to explain them more thoroughly. Lesson learned.

Hamburg.

The weekend brought along a quick trip to Hamburg to see family and organise some appointments (travelling one day later than planned, as a lovely stomach bug had gotten the better of me and made me faint twice). After first stopping at Jen’s place, we made our way to the stadium to stock up on some merchandise from our favourite team, finishing the day with a little home-made food orgy.

The next day, I travelled on to my uncle and aunt; my aunt and me spent a rather lazy Saturday evening and Sunday morning watching quiz shows and biathlon respectively, while my uncle prepared some rather delicious dinner and breakfast. After 48 hours, I caught the train home, but the next trip to Hamburg is already booked.