Yesterday I wrote about the questions leveled at me, about the pointlessness of staying on in college, going back to the States, living a life of comfort. Today something which I have been giving a lot of thought to in recent weeks: staying here. Now, by staying here I do not mean the same as yesterday, staying in Germany. Rather, staying in this small town where I live at the moment.
There are several things which have struck me about living here, some of them good, some of them not so good. For many this is a small community town with a grand history; those that have any notion of the history are proud of it. The trouble is, most here don’t know anything about where they live and, even worse, are not interested in either finding out about it, or getting out and living in it. All have the televisions, their football on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, a few friends for a beer and a chat, the children in the school, grandma and grandpa in a home and a dog to walk mornings and evenings.
Amongst the good things, the peace and quiet. The fact that I can travel into Bremen easily both for college and for a good night out. The ease of shopping and ease of access to other towns with good shopping facilities. The high standard of cultural events held in the town. And then there are the bad things, one of which really annoys me no end.
Photo Credit: Himbeerdoni – Creative Commons
You need to have ease of shopping access in other towns simply because the supermarkets here have killed off much of the local trade. Hardly anyone is going to buy groceries from a real grocer when every single market – and there are four major ones in town – has a grocery section. The same goes for clothing and, sad to say, electronics. With the latter, they offer computers, televisions, radios and all the rest at good prices, but only as a short-lived offer. There is no background service, no real repair or selling knowledge. And the people buying look at the price, not the later costs. There isn’t a furniture store here. If I want to buy a mattress I need to travel to another town, or take a chance and order online.
The main bad point, for me at least, is the fact that this town is a cultural wasteland. There is a cinema, there are musical concerts, theater performances, art and photography shows, comedians, discussion groups, all manner of things every single day of the week. And yet it is, for me, a cultural wasteland.
We went to a photographic exhibition this evening, a large, never seen before collection of photographs of Blues musicians in New Orleans and visiting Germany. There were photographs of B.B. King, Big Daddy Wilson, street musicians, Mardi Gras, an old house with two women sunning themselves out on the veranda – long since lost to Katrina – and plenty more. I think there must have been about forty or fifty different images, each carefully framed, individual, personal, alive with the spirit of the artists portrayed, with stories behind them.
Photo Source: Viktoria Michaelis
But not just the Blues, more the life and soul of the place, of the people themselves, their many of living as much as the music which they live and which keeps them alive, in more ways than one.
How does this fit in with my assessment of a cultural wasteland? If there is so much to do, so many opportunities to meet, to discuss, to view, to learn, to enjoy and experience, how can it be a cultural wilderness?
The person putting on this particular exhibition told us about the costs involved, not just for getting the rooms to show the photographs, but also the time spent – unpaid – setting everything up, being present on the three days the exhibition would be open. The actual cost of posters to advertise the event, and the time taken going in to as many shops and businesses as possible, both here and in other towns nearby, asking for the poster to be hung in the shop window. The fact that the photographs are from a local photographer who has traveled to countries many people can only dream of visiting, and who has his own photographic business on the high street in town.
And then he told us about what he expected over the three days of the show. Perhaps, in total, from this town of four thousand six hundred souls: thirty visitors. He didn’t expect anyone from the other local shops, those who work next to the photographer and have done for decades, to visit at all. He didn’t expect any of the town ‘dignitaries’ to visit: the county Mayor; the town Mayor; local politicians; members of the business association; the people involved with museums and other exhibitions of different sorts. None of them, he forecast, would be there.
I do not know whether his prophesy is right or not, we enjoyed the exhibition beyond measure, especially listening to the stories behind and around the photographs but, if it is true, then this really is a cultural wasteland. Not because the culture isn’t there, but because those who could visit, enjoy, profit from everything on offer simply don’t, and that, for me, is a wasteland.
Love & Kisses, Viki.