One month on tour - On Heimweh and cultural differences
Susan has been away from home on her audition tour for almost a month. Though this is arguably one of the most exciting times in her life, this is also one of the toughest. Susan is struggling with a touch of homesickness. But, she has accomplished so much in such a short time! Auditions, coachings, networking with agents… you go girl! Read on to see what Susan is up to now, including singing, being a tourist, and attending Halloween celebrations.
"This week was the first week I wondered seriously if it was a good idea to write this blog. In a myriad of ways, everything is fine. It’s actually pretty shocking how much a person can get used to. By this time, going to the grocery store or a coffee shop or getting on the train where nobody speaks English is nothing. I’m confident enough in my German that even if I stumble over a word I don’t know, I can probably figure out how to talk my way around it, at least within the context of ordering something or having a casual conversation with the taxi driver.In terms of my lifestyle, it’s been difficult. At home, I had a full time day job. In order to afford this trip, I took on an additional part time job. For months, I did not have a day off. I was go, go, go all the time. Now, even though I have coaching appointments or auditions some days, it’s not every day. Even days when I have stuff going on, it’s not going to take all day. I’m spending a lot of time alone - possibly too much - particularly considering what I’m trying to get out of this trip. I’m happy to take myself sightseeing (I love solo adventures!), but I’m sorry to say I’m sort of running out of stuff to see. I saw the Berlin Dome, the Brandenburg Gate, the Grunewald, the Tiergarten, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Komische Oper, the Staatsoper unter den Linden, the Alexanderplatz, and the Alliierten Museum. I’m just not all that busy, after a long time of being very busy, and it’s getting to me a little bit.
I’m embarrassed to admit it a little bit that I find myself wondering what to do with myself. I’m here to study! I have all this time! Isn’t that what I wanted? Isn’t that the ideal situation to get a lot of stuff done? I’m not totally sure what’s wrong with me. It’s like without a structure, I sometimes struggle to do much of anything at all. One can only get on the train and take it to the end of the line so many times before one realizes that isn’t really much of an adventure, so much as it is me trying to find a reason to get out of the house for a while.
Simultaneously, my grandmother had to have surgery this week. It feels ridiculous that this should make me homesick. Even if I was still in the states, I live across the country from my grandmother. Even if I was there, I wouldn’t be THERE. Plus, she’s fine. She’s recuperating at my parents’ house and she’s going to be just fine.
A few days later, completely out of nowhere, my mom stopped being able to see out of her left eye. Turns out she tore her retina and also had to have minor surgery. Everything that applies to my grandmother applies to my mother. I live hundreds of miles away from where they live, even if I were in the states, I’d still be experiencing this through various phone calls with various family members. It still makes me feel weird about spending a good chunk of the day sending emails, watching TV in German before I practice, take myself for a run, and then go to sleep. It’s like being a housewife only without the children or husband to take care of.
What a weird time in my life this is. I miss the familiar. I miss my boyfriend and all my favorite junk foods and my teacher and knowing exactly where I am going and my own bed. It’s dumb. This is such an amazing opportunity for me; I’m thrilled to be here. I love the coffee and the people and being on an adventure. It’s uncharacteristic for me to be downed by homesickness. The Germans have a great word for this feeling – Heimweh. Literally translated it means home pain.
At a dinner party a few weeks ago, I met one of the Stipendiats at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. She reached out and invited me to a Stranger Things party at a club this week, which was fun. Berlin is famous for its nightlife, but I hadn’t been able to see much of it as yet since part of being a singer means taking care of yourself and making sure you get enough rest, etc – being boring, in other words. The whole thing doubled as a Halloween party so a lot of people were in costume. Obviously I didn’t pack a costume, but it was neat. We were maybe the only expats there, so that was nice too, since people kept speaking to us in German. I got home and thought to myself, “Jeez, what is that smell? It reeks in here.” Turns out it was me! People were smoking at the party and I could smell it all over my clothes and hair. Smoking at clubs and bars is illegal in America and has been since before I turned 21, so that was a new experience.
She’s been here for a few years, so it was good to be able to talk to her. On her recommendation, I’m going to start taking a German class at Die DeutSCHule. It’s 200 Euros for the month, which is totally reasonable – cheap, even. For that, you get a three hour German class Monday through Friday. I’m hoping that will give me some much needed structure. I’m sure it will also make my German better, but mostly I just need to be out in the world and not by myself anymore. Plus, that’s cheap enough that when I have to miss a class for an audition or coaching, I won’t feel too bad about it. Sorry this week was such a bummer. I’ll try to bring you better news next week."
Let’s send Susan some love after a tough week! Homesickness is a bugger. There’s no simple solution to it. How do you handle homesickness while away from home singing in productions or doing longer summer programs? Please comment with your ideas! Also, remember to sign up for the GVAI newsletter to receive our blog in your inbox and feel free to share it with your friends.
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Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....
GVAI's Summer Opera Program 2018 will be the Magic Flute again. Details will be announced in the near future. Enjoy pictures of the last program here.