Germany and Birthdays

The last thing I could expect upon my arrival to Germany was to get onto a roller coaster of birthdays. It started in Berlin, with my CS host taking me rock climbing at Magic Mountain, where one of his friends was celebrating.

I must admit that I overestimated my powers and all the memories of previous rock climbing sessions were old and wrong. Taking into account that I spent the last few weeks on the couch with my cat, a laptop and a ukulele, trying to sort out my blog, write an article, manage my couchsurfing and travel plans and do some research for my thesis…
Well, I climbed one level 3 wall and that was it. On level 4 I could only make it through the half of the way, twice. My body was in pure shock that after weeks of relaxation it suddenly faced physical work, and as I don’t usually pity it much, it overworked. But at least I learnt to make three steps down a sling rope. But that’s not what I was going to talk about. I was going to talk about friendship.
What struck me was this warm, almost perceptible connection between these guys, something I haven’t seen in a long time. No, I’ve seen friends and friendships; but in the digital age one really starts to forget what it’s all about. When most of your friends are spread around the globe, and even those in the same city rarely find the time to spend together, seeing a group of people who know each other so well – all the good and bad sides – and just spend that day, their friend’s birthday, together climbing rocks and making fun of each other, made me smile. They didn’t go partying afterwards – they popped into a nearby kebab place and got some meals and beers. It felt so genuine. After all, we people don’t have to put much effort into making our friends happy – it’s just about simple attention.
The next day I got to Jacobs University near Bremen to stay with Dani, my SAS friend, for a few days (boy did my body hurt after all that climbing, the second day even worse than the first). And immediately it turned out that it was the birthday week – all Dani’s friends were celebrating birthdays.
Yesterday we went to Sarah’s party. They chose the mafia theme, and everyone was dressed in black, drawing mustaches with eyeliners and clicking the plastic guns. And, of course, playing mafia. Sarah’s friends made her a birthday book, with each page containing a wish from a friend, a nice picture and sometimes a secret message. Such a good old-school present, just like our SAS maps and books. Everyone was saying nice things about her, and the room was full of friendly chatter. After the dorm part was over, they went downtown to hit the clubs, and we went to sleep. I actually like waking up early and having the whole day at my disposal. But then you get really sleepy at ten pm…
And today Dani&Co threw a surprise birthday party for her roommate Ulla. Ulla for sure suspected something, but her friends were able to keep her away while they were setting stuff up and baking her a banana cake. At midnight they brought her into the common room, blindfolded, and we all sang “happy birthday”. The look on her face! It was worth a million dollars – yet such a simple, natural thing to do. And all that was carefully planned, with secret presents and all. Me and Dani went shopping beforehand, buying sweets and drinks and plastic cups. In the end I was in a sweet coma – almost all my favorite noms in one place, and you just can’t eat them all, because there are too many!!
Ulla never saw her present from the girls, because all they gave her was an envelope with an instruction to not make any plans on a certain day. She doesn’t know that they’re taking her out for lunch in Lubeck that’s to be followed by a musical. Nevertheless, Ulla says that this semester the amount of surprise birthday parties was so high people sometimes walked in on their surprise party, ruining all the plans. I keep thinking what does it take – a group of good old friends, a small community limited in time and space, a certain culture, or just the right attitude? Why don’t all people do it for their friends? Is it that difficult?
It seems that tomorrow it’ll be someone’s birthday – again – and everyone’s plotting a surprise for another upcoming birthday.
So simple.
So right.
So human.
We should all do that.

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