There is this saying which probably exists in every language, because it is simply true: practice makes perfect (literate translation from German: practice makes a master). No matter what I want to learn, I’ll start out small, move forward step by step and at some point I am really good at whatever I’ve trained or at least good enough to be satisfied with it.
It’s like that with cycling, maths, piano etudes and foreign languages. With everything. And believing that practice makes perfect I moved to Marseille and didn’t even prepare myself for it, because I thought that, after six years of living as a nomad, I’d be a professional nomad and nothing could shock me. I was wrong.
I am in Marseille and I am not really satisfied, also not unhappy, but neither quite happy and I cannot even say why. In any case, life here seems to be a bit more difficult for me and it surprises me. The first days and weeks I tried to meet people, because people are usually the key to any place. I messaged the European federalists and other organisations, I searched through couchsurfing and meetup.com. Either nobody replied or the people – men – in question wanted to hook-up and were quite blunt about it. The first time in my life I found myself in a place where it was simply impossible to make some quick friends (below 50). Even in Japan it was easier to network.
Since I had a lot of time for myself now, I thought about the whole situation (which is also not too nice, because I hate overthinking stuff and it isn’t something I usually do). Am I not a master in my field, after all? I came to the conclusion that it was very naïve and immature of me to think that anybody could become a cosmopolitan genius (by the age of 24) who will find his or her luck within the blink of the eye.
For me, Marseille is a whole new story. The city isn’t located east of Germany, to begin with. She’s also not in Asia. The culture and the collective memory of the city and the country, France, are not coined by a fresh political conflict, the young national independence and an ongoing political transformation. Everything is new and everything is different. Adding up to that it’s also really hot and sunny (I don’t like sun and she doesn’t like me either) and half of the city has left for vacation. And then there’s me, arriving to expect that I could fit into the chaos of the city just like this, find my spot and be home. It doesn’t work that way and I am okay with it.
Hence, I realized that Marseille is not my place to be. I was alright during the day, studied French, had fun in school and was quite cheerful – but at night I was homesick and miserable, comforted only by my faithful teddy bear. I didn’t let myself put off by that and ran through my homesickness-emergency-programme. This included: baking some cookies, discovering a beautiful spot, enjoying some nature and eating some liquorice. When not even the liquorice helped I knew that the situation is severe.
What’s the cause of this? Marseille, France, me – or a chain of unhappy connections?
Almost everyone (in Germany) who has great plans for their future goes abroad for some time. And the social networks are packed with the most amazing experiences, friends, landscapes and moments. It seems almost as if it’d be impossible to be unhappy in another country. You are abroad, so it must be exciting and beautiful, a life changing experience. And especially impossible for people like me, always on the road – and possibly forever – und who go all crazy if they’re forced to settle into a place for three months, without any travelling. It’s a privilege to live abroad and that’s something to enjoy, period.
I am in France to learn French. I learn French because it is often a condition for an application in international and European affairs. It is a good feeling to understand more and more and especially being able to talk more and more. But in my thoughts I am not here. I am still a little bit in Macedonia, where the court is about to rule whether or not high ranked politicians of the old government are being detained for election fraud and other criminal activities. I am already in Poland where thousands take the streets to oppose the government which wants to take the judiciary’s independence. I am also in Germany the whole time where haters are eating through the Facebook comment sections, because marriage equality has finally been decided and because integration doesn’t happen overnight and because the general elections are to be held in September.
And at the same time I force a whole lot of new vocabulary into my head who’s tired from the Southern heat and I learn about the interesting history of Marseille and I really can’t say that I am unhappy. But at the same time I can’t wait to leave again, because I don’t feel well with every man who’s catcalling me in the streets and with the chaos and the noise in the streets (it’s not louder than in other places I’ve been but it’s driving me nuts for some reason) and with the general atmosphere in the city which feels stifling and slightly aggressive.
I like to visit Marseille, I like to drink beer in the dirty, yet colourful streets around Course Julien and I find it very interesting to read about migration and hundreds of years of life around the port. I like to see the museums and to feel the wind in my hair. But Marseille is not my place to live and that’s absolutely cool. I’ll stay until my time is over and take as much with me as I can.
There are things in life that cannot be trained, I suppose. Maybe with a whole life of experience, but not before that. It’s probably impossible to force one’s own luck and one will never know whether or not a city will bring happiness or not. But I also made the experience that it is good every now and then to allow those negative feelings. To admit that something sucks even though enough people envy me for it. I am here for a very contained period of time. I have the luxury of leaving, afterwards. I will love to come back and visit for a vacation – but I’ll never buy a house. But then again I am not sure if I’ll ever buy a house anyways.
Photo credit for the pictures showing me: Institute Destination Langues