Brumming in Birmingham.

(noun) Brum;
1. British informal – A nickname for the English city of Birmingham;
2. or the noise a car makes.

Known as the City of Thousand trades, Birmingham has struck me as an idiosyncratic mix of cultures, annoyed with its urban planning, sang to me in an elevator of the IKON gallery, and ultimately led to the library as an attempt to find my way around city I perceived as not only of the thousand trades but thousand of ideas.

A birthplace of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, yet still holding a popular musical myth of being solely populated by heavy metal bands that yet have nowhere to play. Shame on you, Brum.

An award of aesthetic incongruity goes to The Symphony Hall in the International Convention Centre and the odd-looking modern library just next to it. Contrasting with picturesque Dutch-looking Brindley’s place, full of canals and red brick buildings, and the Baskerville House with its Ionic columns and classical architrave.

Next to it there’s Hall of Memory, another art-deco styled rotunda encircled with ecru white columns. Commemorating the dead during World War I and II, Birmingham is another city I got to visit with a burden of war. Birmingham Blitz from the 11th December 1940, just roughly half a year after the Rotterdam Blitz.

Got me interested in politics, ironically when some of the British Labour MPs seemed to have had enough of it, led me on the track of Moseley’s alleys and cul-de-sacs, home for a time and source of Tolkien’s inspiration with the early 20th-century steam trains, owing to James Watt, a local as well.

The Library of Birmingham holds tons of sources on city’s history, books on industrial revolution being most numerous ones. The three pioneers of this period- James Watt, Matthew Boulton and William Murdoch contributed most to the city development. On the other shelves there are books on the carat gold and silver standards, corresponding well with the Jewellery Quarter nearby, one of the city’s neighborhoods. Those on the roots of Middle Earth on Level 3 just near the windows can help track Moseley’s history, just as the other bookshelf bent with weight of books on any area of the city you’d wish to get to know more of.

 

The DNA languages of cultures.

     After 266 days in Scotland, 5 days in Ireland, 1 in Denmark, 43 in Poland, 1 in Belgium, and finally 21 so far in the Netherlands, I could say the clouds in my mind have scattered, I am able to accommodate to the ‘DNA of the culture’ as I like to call it, which strikes me most when it comes to the language.

     There is some sort of specific ‘feel’ in each and every place. Once you start moving with your life and being open-minded, you can feel the place in much more profound way.

When I visited Dublin for 5 mentioned days, I immediately felt that different ‘feel’ rather than in Scotland, but still a familiar one. Even though Ireland has euros as their currency, Ireland is not part of the UK. Ireland is Europe, and bears a completely different feel than England. Slightly more similar to Scotland. Ireland has their own pride in Guinness and Jameson whisky, just like Scotland swims in their whisky. There are Irish pubs with irish fonts on their signboards and Gaelic language seen even on the street signs.


Still, Gaelic and Brittonic are languages of Celts, that first infiltrated Britain around 500 BC. In the Gaelic group we’ve got both Irish and Scottish, which might explain why Ireland felt just like good ol’ Scotland after all.

fig05_600

And if you look at the geographic spread of Celtic language, you can see how England remains untouched. England, and the English language came from Germanic tribe of Anglo-Saxons, who arrived on the British Isles at least 600 years after Celts had been already there.
English did not even originate from the British Isles, since those who brought it, Anglo-Saxons, came from continental Europe, pushing Celts outwards North and West.
And yet so many people name the whole of British Isles as “England” just because they all speak English, which gets me on my nerves.

It was inevitable for me to be affected by Dutch language in the Netherlands as well. Suddenly it struck me how my thinking and writing would be faster and better, if it was only in Dutch. And I do not mean sole communication with other people, rather the cognition of all around you. Knowing Dutch, especially etymologically, would allow me to apprehend so many more things. Here is a place for operations in Dutch, not English. Smoking in here in not that smooth like the english word itself is, the smoke from my cigarette did not swirled gracefully from it as usual. “Roken” is Dutch for “smoking”. Beginning with that characteristic Dutch hoarse rattle, cracking and wheezing the sound of letter “r”. Roken in here is harsh. And yes, after trying cigarettes in here I was coughing indeed. Hoarse, rough, hard roken. Smooth, soothing, comfortable smoking.

A nightingale is mysterious and unknown, like the night it bears in its name. They also sing in the evening, hence the name. Ending with ‘gale‘ which means strong wind, suggesting that the bird can withstand it. Even more, word ‘gale’ comes from the Old Norse word ‘galinn’, which means “mad”, “frantic” or “bewitched”. Whereas Old Norse is the language of the Vikings. Earliest inscriptions from Scandinavia were written in runes on stones, swords and artefacts. A nightingale seems mighty, strong, a secret rune of the night. Semantically belonging more to Celts than to Anglo-Saxons, now that we speak about it.

“(…) the peculiarities of mind and temper which can be still observed in the Irish or the Welsh on the one hand and the English on the other: the wild incalculable poetic Celt, full of vague and misty imaginations, and the Saxon, solid and practical when not under the influence of beer.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien’s “English and Welsh”, the inauguration speech for the O’Donnel lectures.
Whereas in Polish a nightingale is “słowik“, close to “słowo” which means a “word“. Quite a talkative bird then it is, suggesting its singing is words. Morever, suffix “ik” in Polish is used to create a pet name of a rather patronizing connotation. English nightingale is mighty and mysterious singer of the night, whereas Polish słowik is a small, annoying jabbering gibberish blabber.


“When the surroundings speaks only in an unknown language, one begins to listen to it alongside with the whole environment. And if we linger long enough, the time existing in this environment will master the language for us. That was in my case, the mind did not know at all how did it happen. I think people don’t appreciate the listening and hearing words. And the listening prepares itself to speak up. One day my mouth started speaking. Romanian was then just like my mother tongue. Its Romanian words could not believe when I was involuntary comparing them with my German words.”

How everything falls into place, in a new place.

After being thrown into high-intensity pit of freshness and novelty, meaning a new country, I almost had to re-read my own blog in order to think clearly here. Blindly gathered one-year-old knowledge about clashing with a different culture re-emerged now in a completely new way.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of boundaries.

-Erich Fromm

  1. You need to adjust.
    2015-08-08 08.06.40
    Don’t expect to have the same habits as you’ve had in a different place. You go to Spain, you do things the Spanish way. Don’t look for your favorite cafe au lait in a first cafe that looks similar to the one from home. Take the Carajillo with best Spanish rum, learn how to make it. Maybe the culture shock people are experiencing when moving to other country, moving for good, is identity-oriented rather than pertaining to adjusting. Adjusting itself is easy, however wanting that – not so much.
  2. I’ve got a plant in my room.
    2015-08-07 11.36.45
    Sure, I’ll take care of you. I can hardly take care of myself now and I think when I was 8 years old I accidentally starved my hamster to death, but there you are, in a room I rented, moved into. Sure, no problem, you will be the priority now. Maybe a prelude to me having own mansion with a dog and white fence (still on hold though). Funnily enough, not only I started caring for the plant, but the house itself too. Hey, thanks, Plant.

  3. Race for the 4G
    2015-08-09 13.25.32
    How is it that I wanted the best (as I thought) for me, and instead got a 128kb/s internet speed only, forcing me to randomly stop on the street, waiting for Google Maps directions to home? Even worse, that is a prepaid. I wanted a contract for fast, reliable 4G mobile data speed.
    Nevertheless, I’ve seen that slow internet to push me into shoving the phone back to the bag, looking around, speaking up to people on the street. They told me how to correctly pronounce the name of my street, ‘hoarsing’ it in a typically Dutch way. I was finding my way back home by streets looking nicer than the alternatives, rather than satellite-dictated Google way. Found myself a zeer smakelijke koffie just because I was mindlessly meandering through streets and stumbled upon Simon Lévelt shop. Even better, I bought a French press, found an Irish Pub to dance in four days later with a random beardy stranger, realized the 7.50 euro deal for my prepaid SIM was literally the best.

Think I am starting to realize what Mick Jagger and Keith Richards meant by you get what you need.

Everything is temporary.

Learnt it the hard way, repeated couple of times just to make sure it is true. Had my friend say to me that you keep bumping onto the same people until you learn your lesson. Now, the post is the lesson.

There is a Latin adage of Tempora mutantur, advocated by Heraclitus around 500BCE in ancient Greece, by whole Protestant Reformation in 16th century Germany, and by all of the people in your life that keep telling you “people change”. It was also Heraclitus that said everything is temporary, everything flows. No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

     If you have read or watched “Eat, Pray, Love”, you also had Elizabeth Gilbert say to you that it all goes away. Eventually, everything goes away.
     The Second Noble Truth of Buddhism is the idea that there is only one cause to suffering, which is attachment. Buddha, who could be considered a brother to Heraclitus in his skeptical judgements, knew already sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE that everything is impermanent, whereas I still fall for the idea that you could meet someone to stay with you forever. Way to go, silly me.
     In fact, impermanence is embedded so deeply in Buddhist school of thought that is has become one of the main doctrines – one of the three marks of existence in this religion.
     In real life, nothing is really granted to you, neither is sure or constant. Change is the only constant in life. Every one of your days is fuelled with external influences that you could never expect. I used to say in my life that nothing ever surprises me, and right now I am coming to a point to realize how fucking stupid I was by saying that.
     Maybe you have had the Bible shout to you, by verse 4:18 Corinthians, how the things which are seen are temporal, and the things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow yet I am almost sure, and surely would bet that you had fallen for ‘easy come easy go’ at least once. Although in fact, as I think about it, Christianity seems to be fast and easy-to-use solution to the problem. The promise of eternal life and God, the Father, who loves you no matter what shit you do, no matter how many people you hurt as long you come to him? Seems like heaven. Oh wait, they even call it like that. Well guess what, I think, that is so easy. So convenient just to rely on that, hold on desperately to the promise of eternal happiness even if in real life you fail miserably and keep on praying to God to help you. Way to go. Just stand up from your knees and head tilted down, walk out of the church and face every problem you have yourself cause heaven is here, right there, on earth. And if it looks like hell, then yes, this is how it is.
     And I’ve had Pink Floyd flooding my ears with how I wish you were here, and now I think, way to go, guys. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance, which was already stated by Alan Watts in 20th century, who has also led me into reading more around Eastern philosophy. Funny thing, two of my friends pointed that out after my last rambling about integrity, yet it took hippie-looking philosopher for me to actually get interested.
     Actually, even more of the things I was saying and doing were pointing me to that, when I was “earning my Karma points” as I’ve called it, hoping for Hindu beliefs to turn out to be true, yet this Vedic theory of moral law of cause and effect has proved one more time to me that Karma is a bitch, but I am a bitch even more. Now that I think about it, ironically, I am a perfect depiction of how everything is temporary. Because who, and why picks up any activity so to ditch it barely few weeks after so to pick another, and who can barely make it up-most 3 months in a relationship, who attends three different schools in a time period of 3 months, study completely different, unrelated things in each one of them, then applies for medicine in one country, just to leave to another country and study business? Oh, wait, and studies business for 1 year there just to re-apply for another university in a different country and move there this September with whole life, starting University one more time.
     Well seems like I have earned enough of my Karma points.

The Language Advantage of foreigners

     From my own experience, I am coming to a conclusion that foreign language is one of the best tools to boost self confidence, especially in speech. Resigning on intuition-based learning of the language, which comes through childhood to form your mother tongue holds some distinctive advantages.
  1. If you learn the language from movies, series, books, you become the characters.
    That is the case of most foreigners learning English. Our vocabulary expands in directions guided by our favourites protagonists, our accents imitate favourite actors and actresses. As they have introduced as to particular phrases first, any time we use them, we can ‘become’ those people, which leverages self esteem to a completely different level.
  2. No emotional load.
    Assuming studying the language as more mature individual, foreigners are lucky to skip the awkward early teenage phase of the language. When word sex raises awkward giggle (generally anything sexually related taboo subject that causes kids to be uncomfortable), when first swearwords are scolded by parents. ‘Internationals’ are likely to operate freely in the new language just as they wish, with no memory-based background of emotions behind words. There is no undercover feeling of stupidity or some words feeling weird, awkward. Those are the people who speak their mind in most straightforward way.
  3. It forces you to become accurate in speech.
    There is a phase every foreigner encounters when studying a language; you can’t fully express yourself as in your mother tongue. It seems like there are not enough words for you; like the words you choose are close, but not exactly what you mean. As you break through this stage you suddenly find yourself accurate, specific, relevant. You are able to extract the essence of words and random statements. Risk of becoming judgemental involved as you start to interpret meaning of what one is saying. As most of your vocabulary you have learnt comes straight from books and dictionaries you have been checking multiple times, eloquence is inevitable. You have come across too many fully-fledged academic definitions so to not assess meaning of words on a daily basis.
  4. Swearing can be unpredictable.
    As a foreigner, I did not have a chance to meet with an ’emotional scale’ of swearing. There was nobody to scold me as a teenager for the very first ‘fuck’ coming out my mouth, and my teachers in this topic were random actors and singers. I do not know which swearwords are mild, which are common, which sound childish or stupid, which sound like from previous century and, of course- what combination of them all would be the absolute worst.
  5. You may experience the ‘pendulum moment’.
    One of the most interesting experiences I have had was something I like to call a ‘pendulum moment’. It is the switch, when you find yourself in some kind of a hinterland between two languages, unsure which one suits you better. When you feel equally comfortable in both of them.
    In my international high school class we used to blend Polish and English as it suited as. It felt as if we had doubled the number of options to express what we want to say. However, switching completely to a different language- your pendulum moment- can be the best personal investment in yourself, as you breach the transitional phase of struggling with a language.
  6. Idioglossia
    Pertaining to mentioned earlier blending of two languages, idioglossia is a language invented and spoken by several individuals, which often forms in international settings, created by foreigners as an attempt to make up for unknown phrases, idioms, words. Suddenly, some words are not good enough, and you may find yourself inventing new ones. It results in most interesting language alterations, hilarious mistakes, incorporation of generic Latin-rooted words, not even knowing or caring whether it is grammatically correct. It requires much intuition in guessing the whole range of meanings and feeling behind particular words, and creativity in blending them with other ones, sourcing from any languages we know. It’s like writing Finnegans Wake in real life, and most entertaining experience.
  7. You are slightly different in other languages.
    Whether it’s the difference in words used, or what exact definitions of them you know- you reason differently in other languages than in your own. Your logic can be either distorted, forcing you to skillfully navigate through meanings you are decoding, or can be more objective, free from emotional bias present in your mother tongue. One way or another, it is surely a challenge worth experiencing.

Integrity follow up.

Strangely liberating when you do not wish for anything, when you do not expect anything or hope for.

When you have nothing to wait for and the presence becomes your only reality, there’s that feeling of positive apathy, so to not to say ‘calmness’ – which would not exactly reflect what I finally, gladly, and surprisingly have started experiencing now.

Started with integrity. Cleared out everything with everyone. Let my life out in the open. Allowed all people around me to know everything about my life. Told them every bit of truth and alongside that mastered how to lie.

Started being accurate in wording and articulate in speech. Started to listen more, instead of speaking. Started asking, inquiring, remembering what people tell me.

Started doing only what feels right in the moment. I followed every impulse. Listened to intuition with my whole mind, heart, and the so called sixth sense. I made mistakes. I admitted them. Started saying sorry to people (more like ‘sorey’ as an effect of Aberdeen Scottishifying me though).

Then, “Hygge” came by itself.

They claim to walk unafraid, I’ll be clumsy instead.

– First Aid Kit, “Walk unafraid

I won’t take the easy road.

– First Aid Kit, “My Silver Lining

Every path is the right path. Everything could be everything else and would have just as much meaning.

Mr. Nobody [2009], Jaco van Dormael

The process of becoming home

Any- and I repeat, any place, even this crammed room too tiny for you and your ego, this city too dark and small, this neighborhood too unfriendly can become your dearest home. Maybe it is because you get used to it, or maybe it is more because you grow to become an integral part of this place.

You contribute to this place from the very first day your foot steps in there. By finding your ways around, modifying and molding the environment around you, you start to create it as well. By putting your heart and soul into it, by every poster added to the room, by realizing at some point that this mess near bed, stretching to the desk and chair and closet too, is actually familiar. This is your own organized chaos that says “home”, it is in all the times your bathroom floor has felt you crying, in all the exact places for exact items.

It is also defined by the distance you have traveled to this place, together with the pillow from your home, together with furniture you dragged into this apartment, together with various rules and customs that emerged by themselves as you inhabited this place fully.

It is only you that knows when and how this curtain broke, and how to open the window now without a rattle, or why is it that one door of your closet is always open, whereas other one shut down. Which shelf lacks a nail to hold it properly, and where all your shoes are hidden, what is this lonely hanger by the door waiting for, and what is in the cartoon box inside your suitcase, inside the half-closed closet.

One person once told me a thing about settling for places that seem not enough to you, when you have to lean back in your own room so to move around it, and when you buy certain items that will travel with you to new homes, so to contribute to them as well- seems like it took me one year to finally understand it (and thank you for that.)