Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The graduate adventures

So on November 4th, this thing happened to me that I had only seen in movies before, and that made me think, maybe I have managed to do something with my life after all. Maybe my life hasn't turned out as dreary as I thought it would be. Maybe one of the little fairy tales I wanted for myself did happen to me.
On November 4th, I graduated. I am excited about that, but part of me is really sad. Looking back, one reason for me wanting to study here was that the study time would be quite concise. None of the "eternal studenthood" over here, with 14 to 20 semesters in something that has absolutely no relevance to the working world. For some reason, the thought of that really used to turn me off. But then again, the thought of German universities full stop would turn me off. Can't put my finger on it why. I am generally just not a huge fan of German culture.
But over here, it was different. Student life was amazing. I miss it so much. I miss being challenged, inspired, being away from the mind-numbing rat race that is now waiting for me. Fuck relevance to real life. University was like fertiliser for my soul. And three years, dammit, just weren't enough.

But this wouldn't be a proper Patty graduation without some bizarre events weaving in, just to make things more memorable, just to have another story to tell my potential grandchildren, who, doubtlessly, will roll their eyes about their weird nan and twirl their fingers near their temple...

My dad and my cousin Sabrina both came over for my graduation. Dad was proud as hell. Even though I always did stuff for myself, because I wanted to, not because someone else pushed me, and I can't ever really remember doing something to make someone proud, this was the nicest feeling. There is no denying it, it is fucking sugar.

The morning of the ceremony, we got up really early, because I had neither booked gown nor photo session, and because we Germans are always so obnoxiously punctual. The ceremony was in the BIC, so we took the bus down to the beach, getting there for about 8am. The beach is just awesome in the early morning sun, and Dad giggled his ass off about the surfers floating in the sea like a bunch of seals, waiting for the perfect wave. He took lots of pictures of surfer asses for us girls (don'tcha love a nice ass in a wet suit), tee hee. I organised us some coffee and we strolled through the park which lay quiet in the morning sun. Sabrina followed her obsession for park benches and sat down on one in the pine walk, and before we knew it, we were surrounded by squirrels. None of the pretty red ones, mind you. No, the fat common tree rats called grey squirrels.
At that point I still thought they were cute and fluffy and utterly adorable. They sat near our shoulders on the bench, surrounded our feet, sniffing the air and eyeing us intensely to check whether we had any food. Sabrina and I squealed with delight about their darling antics, while dad went into Japanese mode and took about a million pictures. Then I put my hand out and rubbed my thumb and fingers together, which is, in squirrel language, the universal sign for "she's got some grindage to munch on". Most squirrels responded immediately and scampered up to me, but never dared to get quite close enough, jumping back at the last moment and running for their lives, the paranoid little fucks. But then one came closer. And closer. I was excited! Sometimes they sit on their hind legs, touch your hand with their tiny paws and lick your finger. It's unbearably adorable.
So there I was, in eager anticipation, while squirrel edged toward my outstretched hand. It took one look, and suddenly everything went into slow motion. I could see its little marble eyes looking from my empty hands up to my face. There was contempt in it. I swear, if it could have talked, it would have said "You lying cockteasing bitch!!" Then it opened its jaws, and before I could remove my hand, it had sunk its monstrous teeth into my index finger. (It was weird, it happened in only a fraction of a second, but I could follow it like it was going slow motion. My voice was probably deep when I screamed "Noooooooooooo!")
You would not imagine the jaws on the beast! It makes sense, if they can crack nuts, then a finger will be a piece of cake for them, but I was still shocked... I thought the fucker would go through my nail.
I pulled my hand back and frantically shook the still attached squirrel off, cursing like a sailor. A tiny bubble of red began to grow on my finger, while my mind panicked through the catalogue of possible diseases I had just infected myself with. 'Great', I thought. 'Three years of busting my ass at uni, and on my graduation day I will die of fucking rabies.'
So at the BIC, the first thing I did was not go and collect my ticket. Or find some familiar faces to chat with.
The first thing I did was to head straight for the First-Aid room, and confess that I just got attacked by a squirrel. Two old Dorset-accented paramedics shook their heads at me and said "What are you doing, playing with them squirrels. Didn't you know they are vicious?"
"But", I tried to justify myself, "they are cute and fluffy!"
"They are rats with bushy tails, that's what they are!", said one of the guys. "Do you have any idea how many people we get that were bitten by squirrels?"
"You're kidding", I said. It was a bit like in that Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie. ("Where is the monster? Behind the rabbit?" - "It IS the rabbit!")
I spent about 20 mins in the First Aid room. All I really wanted was a disinfection and a plaster, but things don't work this way anymore in these days of lawsuits and paranoia. I had to fill out an A3 (!) accident form, with details about how my injury came to be, where it was, whether it bled, whether I was able to walk unaided or whether I was conscious, on drugs, had serious allergies or diseases, what the serial number for the plaster was (I kid you not! Just in case they have to track the fucker down!), whether an ambulance had to be called, or a helicopter, or the fuckin National Guard. I was like, for crying out loud, I got bitten by a rodent and just want a fuckin plaster!
20 minutes later I walked out to meet my dad, who probably thought I must have fainted in there or something, sheepishly clutching a copy of the accident sheet. How's that for a souvenir on graduation day?

Finally, we were able to attend the main event.
The ceremony was pretty awesome, and we all looked like from an American movie, with our gowns and mortarboards (i.e. silly hats), except that we had to constantly readjust them, and that everyone was mortally afraid to stumble or lose their hat when stepping onstage. Which really would have been cringeworthy, because there was a camera projecting our potential little mishaps onto 2 big screens above the stage, so that every last person in the last row and darkest corner would not miss out on our embarrassment.
There was an orchestra playing, and I probably annoyed Michelle, who was sitting next to me, massively by repeatedly pointing out to her that I wanted them to play the Star Wars theme when it was my turn. Or Flight of the Walkures, or something like that.
There was a procession of lots of big animals from the town and the university, all dressed in silly outfits with names which I probably can’t pronounce, looking glossy-medieval, like a blue version of the Beefeaters. There were a few lengthy speeches, all very nice, needless to say, except that we had to giggle a bit, because there were those build-in jokes, which were simply too mechanical and intended to be funny, especially since the same type of joke was repeated within five minutes. Bless them for trying, I thought it was sweet, albeit slightly weird, considering that the dude who delivered it was a highly posh fella stemming from the 3% of the population who speak an RP accent and blatantly read intellectual stuff written by dudes named Alistair-something even on the loo, and the only TV they watch is probably BBC news and the History Channel, so hearing them make references to soap operas and X-Factor was somewhat surreal.
But they were nice chaps. The chancellor was sitting on a throne-like chair, and every student who walked past him was actually supposed to nod their head or attempt a little bow toward him – all a very aristocratic feel to it! – but most just sorta ignored him and ran past, the rude cunts! At the end of the stage was another fella who shook everyone’s hand. The poor chap must have had a tennis arm at the end of the ceremony.
Anyway, I may be writing about this a little tongue-in-cheek, but I have to admit, I was well nervous when I was standing on the stage stairs and was waiting for the last two people ahead of me to do their little turn on the catwalk.

Something utterly cool happened, too, that totally made me geek out! One of the students crossing the stage – once, to receive their certificate, and a second time, to receive an award – was a chap called Nicholas Doldinger. My jaw dropped. Doldinger???
Coincidentally, I ran into him when I returned my gown, and then scraped my courage together to ask him whether he was related to Klaus.
“That’s my dad”, he said, with an accent I couldn’t place, even though he must be German (yeah, we did speak English, it’s a habit thing!). “I’m surprised you know him, not many have heard about him over here.”
Not heard about him???? OK, to enlighten you fellas, Klaus Doldinger is the composer of my favourite childhood soundtrack – of The Neverending Story (and not the crappy poppy American version) and of “Das Boot”. If Dad had been there, he would have probably knocked the man out, because he had to endure me listening to that tape day in, day out, until “it was three metres longer”, like he used to say.
So I geeked out a little, and Nicholas smiled patiently, even at my minor faux pas, by first saying that Herr Doldinger was the director of The Neverending Story (man, am I an idiot, or what???). How crazy is that? If the 12-year-old would have know she one day would go to school with the son of her favourite composer, she wouldn’t have believed it. Just the irony, to find out when it’s all over. But at least I have the sweetness of having a graduation t-shirt with all the graduates’ names on it, and my name is right next to Nicholas’!

It's two week later now, and I just got a Tetanus booster last Wednesday, just in case. I honestly don't remember when I got the last one, so I reckon it was time anyway. What I didn't realise until now is that the Tetanus vaccine is active: they put a weak version of that bacteria causing Tetanus into your blood stream and your body builds up the antibodies itself.
But as I said, it's gotta build them up first.
Until then, I was in incredible pain. My left arm felt like it has turned to stone and was about to fall off. It's like an ongoing cramp going all the way down to my hand and across my back, and it morphs into a splendid headache as well. (First I thought I was hungover, but what loser gets hungover from 3 pints of Carlsberg? Especially after two weeks of solid drinking, including downing a bottle of rum and a bottle of whisky with dad on my grad weekend?) So until I was fully immunized against Tetanus, I got a taste of what it is like dying of it. The irony.

And all thanks to a little fucker of a squirrel. Later that day, Dom said to me, without a trace of pity: "So you pretended to have food?" - "Yes." - "And you didn't?" - "Well... no..." - "Pffffft", he said. "Fuckin serves you right!"
He may have a point, but I don't care. Damn that fuckin squirrel, hope it got food poisoning from biting my finger. Jamie, you now officially have my permission to shoot those vicious little bastards. I shall stand next to you and cheer you on!

bloglag: 2 weeks

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