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- Monday, 08/14/23 ** 07:59 First morning working from the hostel - Generator in Hamburg. Linguistics lessons last night until 1 AM from people who can speak way too many; Iona, a southern Frenchman with a machine learning background, told me that my choice of which French syllables to pronounce - and which to omit - was 'unlucky'.
They're playing Glass Animals, Flume, Chet Faker (now Nick Murphy?) in the hostel loby. I grew up - 2013, 2014 - listening to this stuff on YouTube. I'm glad I'm here and not there. ** 20:56
Traveling, now, I think I understand what I'm missing...
It's the small social interactions that I have throughout the day that give me life. A concerned glance I shared with a mother after watching an abandoned dog limp across the street in front of a Hamburg bridge. A bright smile that I shared with so many others watching the sunset, or just one other person watching the guitarist perform off-key American music with half-English, half-German vocals. I don't need to speak the same language as you - I just need to share a moment with you.
It's saying hi to someone and giving them a photo - giving them a gift - not one that they asked for but one they receive joy from.
Perfecting these little gifts - shared emotional expressions, thoughts, feelings, dances, little throes of passion throughout the day - those are gifts you can give to others. A gift is about caring about someone else in a way you can't care about yourself. A gift cannot be asked for. A true gift can't be expected - it's given completely voluntarily. A true gift is a dance shared with someone who can't speak your language at all, picking up someone's coin that's fallen out of their pocket; a gift is your attention.
Hamburg is also the first time I've really noticed why scandinavian cities feel so comfortable - this is the first city I've been to this trip around Europe that puts my guard up. Having to act with antagonism - to fear your neighbor, to run from or refuse or ignore a request from a stranger, to walk one path instead of another, to hold your bag a bit closer to you and hide your belongings, to not step too close to someone else for fear that they will think - or you will be - pickpocketed or mugged or held at the wrong end of a knife. This is Brooklyn, it's San Francisco, it's Portland (Oregon), it's Austin, it's everywhere you look in America - but that feeling in Stockholm, in Copenhagen, it's gone. (Malmö feels this way in part - and I'm not sure why.) People are supposed to trust one another, to walk down the street in good company and say hi, to care deeply even when someone else isn't perfect. The big city without the proper social services, help, security, trust, takes this away from us.
The conductors on SJ trains look at me strangely when they see that I choose to keep my pack between my legs between my legs instead of on the luggage rack. Deusche Bahn employees - despite having a policy that explicitly disallows this - understood.
Listened: Trip 35: The Internet