Feels like the US – somehow

Going into another country is nothing new to me: I lived in the US (Arkansas) for a year as well as in Sweden plus all the small trips. So how is it this time? Different, really different. It reminds me of my first weeks in Arkansas, USA. I was in a completely new – although not unexpected – surrounding. People spoke a language I was only in parts capable of understanding and I was “the new guy”. Especially the latter is true for Asmara. In a city that is as big as Köpenick or Uppsala, twice the size of Erlangen or just ten times Hope, AR, people know you if you come andwhitebeetle “intruded” on their regular life. Luckily for me, I was quick in meeting other interns from Embassies like the Norwegian, Dutch or British. They show me a little around and enable me to meet with “the community”. Young people tend to stick to each other or so it feels as there are not many young Eritreans around apart from those in good jobs or those on holidays from their exile-lives in New York, York or Frankfurt. All knowing each other and us interns “in the middle” of it all – usually at the one pub that sells Cocktails for European prizes. Just like in 2001 I am the German who came to replace some other German who was here before and there will be another German after me replacing me. As boring as it sounds, the people are still interested in my name and – above all other questions – how I like Asmara. Usually you have to be careful when answering. 80% want to hear that it is really cool (which I can approve of having not felt the tininess of this place in the first two weeks) but the rest is usually aggravated by the little opportunities and wants to mock a bit. As I learned at Blevins High School as well as in Falun, Sweden, I say it is really interesting, “different” and very nice (all of this is true) and drop by that I come from Berlin. (Hello, BERLIN! 3,5 Mio. People. Artists. Cinemas. Cars. Roads. Skyscrapers. Business. Politics. Jobs. Parties until Wednesday Morning. Berlin = cool!) People look at me shyly and say something like “Oh, nice. So how do you like this Party?” Maybe mentioning where I’m coming from is a really smart way of over-valuing my gratitude for the small things, maybe nobody cares. For me it is always good to keep it n mind. The difference is what counts, even though this is the third time I call my new home “behind the moon” without anybody complaining. So, the other interns are already way better connected than I am and probably than I ever will be which depends in large parts on how I deal with some university-leftovers I took with me to Asmara. They remind me of other exchange-students in Arkansas which I always admired for being so well integrated within their High School life. Probably this was an illusion but if you sit at home learning and know that other “strangers” (e.g. Whites, Europeans, Germans) meet with locals you revisit your social behavior mentally and try to find things to improve. But like in the US there is not much room to do so: I have no mobile here as this privilege is only granted to residents of Asmara (or interns who are lucky to have from their embassy). This complicates the matter of meeting people further despite me having two phones (yes, two – I don’t know why) in my apartment. Hence, there was already twice the situation of me standing in the city waiting or being lost not knowing that plans have changed somehow. If you are used to being hyper-flexible due to a cell-phone, it will be a challenging experience to have none! Having no car is not as bad as in rural Arkansas (where it is the life-and-death issue for young people!) as Asmara is small enough for walking most distances (home-embassy, home-central market, home-friends) plus I have a bike and the city has some nice bike-ways. It is just sad that you can literally feel your lungs filling with deathly toxic while biking alongside one of the overcrowded busses or 1950s Beetles. Since I am a social person – or at least this is what people say about me, I am still wondering why – I made contact with some locals but it proved to be hard to get a hold of them. However, they are generally willing and happy to have a Macchiato or Spris (juice) with you. This would take not more than an hour which is about my time if you meet someone who you will not have the big philosophical issues exchanged with (especially if all the old Eritrean men looking at you as if they have not seen a White before – which in principal is wrong but somehow is right as well). If you are in a new environment you have to kick yourself sometimes an call people and ask them out as they, being inside their structures, don’t do this so often (and honestly, being German is not very exotic). So I – again – feel myself in a struggle between the books and work at home and the going out. Luckily the city is small enough for you not to “miss out” on to much. However, it is always very nice to meet the locals as they have a very warm hospitality towards strangers. People talk to you on the street and smile at you or greet you (the younger ones). Kids usually wave even if I walk on the other side of the road and not in a few

Eritrean commercial for Condoms

Eritrean commercial for Condoms

incidents was I asked “How are you?” Wow. I mean, this is truly so much American! But I think that while in the US the phrase is a common extension of a “Hi” (not necessarily superficial as people tend to say about Americans) here people are more interested in you. It is not that they want to here your life story as it would be in Europe if somebody asks you how you are, but they like to know if you feel fine in their country and possibly where you are from. Some more things that remind me of the USA is the big number of small businesses and “business” in general people are having here. Plus: the dirt roads. Notwithstanding the fact that my parents-road is not more than dirt, they have pick-up trucks here. And Coca Cola. But the main reason for the US-feeling I have is this being the other. We didn’t have this in Falun where we were all exchange students. Here, I could stick to the other interns only. But they are so well connected to the local youth community that I will try to do it as they did. I heard it is pretty easy facing this warm and lovely Asmari-attitude. I will give my best and write back on the “social topic” in some weeks. But now I have to go out to a Coffee place and surely meet someonw I know on the street…


Über GYGeorg

Global. Young. Green. Drei Eigenschaften von Georg, der lange u.a. bei den Global Young Greens (GYG) aktiv war und mittlerweile für den Kohleausstieg in Deutschland kämpft.

Veröffentlicht am August 13, 2009 in Eritrea und mit getaggt. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink. Hinterlasse einen Kommentar.

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