Sunday, June 16, 2019


I swear, sometimes life just humbles you in moments you least expect it.

The other day, in one of my classes, I had two new students. I was able to tell that one of the students was not a native German, but I don’t think anything of it. I thought his ethnicity might be Turkish  because German has a strong minority of Turkish people.

Anyway, I had asked the students to write a small essay for me. I had just spent the entire last class talking and truth be told, really wanted to rest my voice for a bit. I told the students to write a small essay about the following topic: “We all sometimes have to make difficult decisions in our lives. What was one difficult decision you had to make? Please explain what the decision was, what you decided for, why and what the effects of that decision were.”

After assigning the task, I went and got myself a cup of coffee. It was only later, when I was marking the essays, that I found out that the new student who looked like he was from Turkey actually was from Syria. And not only that, he was a refugee who had escaped that war-torn land and made it to Europe in the most difficult kind of way, by crossing the Mediterranean. I was immediately humbled by his story, which I have reproduced below. Enjoy.
The most difficult decision in my life was my journey to Germany. I was in Turkey and I had a little budget to start a life there but I decided to leave Turkey and go to Europe, exactly like  a lot of Syrian refugees who wanted to start a good life and get better chances in their own life. It was very hard to take the risk and travel illegally across the sea with the death boats, risking my life leaving my friends and family and all the people that I have known to go to live in a foreign country with a new culture, new language and start from zero or maybe even less than zero. For me it was “to be or not to be.” I wanted to make my future with my own hands and build it as I want. I didn’t know how hard it would be. I went through very bad moments. Luckily, I have made it all the time. A lot of bad memories and lot of good things I have learned. The life is experiments and I want to try everything I want.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Think of all the moments that we record with a camera or video camera, never to do anything with those pictures or videos again. Here is simply a moment I didn't want to lose, but one I knew I would if I didn't post the video of it here. Enjoy.

Learning German

I must admit, learning another language is really hard. Sometimes, I have to come up with creative ways to remember things that should be pretty easy. For example, there's this one phrase in German that I had wanted to learn: "in alter frische." The English equivalent of "in alter frische" is "with bells on." So just as how we would say, "I'll be there tomorrow with bells on" to show that we will arrive the next day with energy and a good attitude, we would say in German, "Ich komme morgen in alter frische."

But I had been having a seriously difficult time remembering exactly how the phrase was said, particularly which letters ended which words, so I made a little mnemonic device: "in alter frische," "re."

So the mnemonic sentence would be: "This message is re the phrase "in alter frische."

Boom, solved.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Poem: "You May Thank Me; That Was You"

You may thank me; that was you. 
You may not know it now.
You can thank me; it was you.
So what’s before you now
Reflects the light you give, you make
Life a bit more bright.
You may thank me but it’s you and I'm
Glad your in my life. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Poem: "Equanimity"

equanimity: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

I had a dream about a great white shark,
But I wasn't afraid
And I faced the beast with equanimity.

I knew the thing could go two ways,
Which was OK for me; 
I faced the beast with what I had,

I saw it from straight on and then
It passed me on my side;
It saw me, smelled me, felt me and
Decided to go by.

I’d like to think that it was God
Who from its jaws kept me.
But I can’t help think that it was just
My equanimity. 

Friday, June 07, 2019

Ex-Girlfriends, Instagram and Numbers

One thing that has always fascinated me is trying to quantify the intangible.

What the heck am I talking about?

Well, we know how to quantify the tangible. For example, if you have two apples and I give you three more, you now have five apples.

But how do we quantify the intangible? If I help you move house, for example, how much do you owe me in return for the favor? Do you owe me a favor that requires equal effort? Do you owe me anything at all?

It's hard to quantify the intangible.

But recently, I was actually able to quantify the intangible, and I want to share the whole fascinating experience with you.

But first you need some backstory.

In January, my girlfriend and I broke up. I didn't want the breakup, but she did. While dating, though, both of us had Instagram accounts, and we would "like" each others' photos often. After the breakup, I was pretty certain that she was still checking out my Instagram account. Although I hadn't thought that her ability to still view my account altered my behavior on the platform, I was certainly aware that she was still probably viewing my pics.

Now skip ahead to about three weeks ago when I decided to my block my ex-girlfriend on Instagram. I figured, Why should she be able to look right into my life whenever she wanted?

And so, a small, new chapter in my life opened: the one in which my ex was no longer able to see into my world via the pictures I was taking.

After this online blocking, I still continued to take pictures for Instagram. I love the platform, so, understandably, I carried on with the habit.

But then something started to happen. 

With my ex now blocked, I started to get the feeling I was taking fewer pictures.

After getting this feeling a couple of times, I thought to myself, "Am I taking fewer pictures now that I know she can't see the account?" I thought the answer might be yes.

And now here's where the whole quantifying thing comes in.

Because Instagram stamps each picture posted with the date of the posting, I was able to see exactly how many pictures I had taken in the 28 days since having blocked my ex. I was then able to compare that number with the number of pics I had taken in the 28-day period before I blocked her, the 28-day period before that, and the one before that one, too, going all the way back to around the time of the breakup.

And the results were shocking.

In the 28 days after May 6, the date I blocked my ex, I posted 59 photos to Instagram. In sharp contrast, during the 28-day period before that, a time during which my ex could still view my account, I posted 136 pictures. During the 28-period before that one -- again, we're still broken up but she can see my account -- I posted 111 pictures. In the 28 days before that, I posted 80 pictures, and in the 28 days before that, 106.

So, when I knew my ex could still see my Instagram account, I was averaging 108 pictures per 28 days. Over the 28 days during which I knew she couldn't see my account, I posted only 59 pics. That's a nearly 60% decrease in the number of pictures posted!

So why am I telling you all this? Because it absolutely fascinates me to be able to quantify something that is not easily quantifiable.


What exactly is that thing that is not easily quantifiable? What exactly are we talking about?

Well, what hadn't been quantifiable was how much I was actually taking pictures for her. Although I thought that I was just taking pictures for me, a huge part of my motivation for posting all those pics, apparently, was her and the knowledge that she was probably looking at my account from time to time. 

So there you go -- a very personal blog post, but a very interesting one nonetheless. If anything, I think the takeaway messages is, when it comes to social media, we should really think about the reasons why we use these platforms.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Poem: "You Feel It Alright"

You feel it alright come on, I'm ready
You feel it alright come on
Unsteady I have been but am
Ready to take on
Your chaos now 
You feel it too
I knew you would, you have 
Spent it in the woods, under 
Suds of bubble baths.

You feel it now, I knew you would
Keen and sharp and hard
You feel it now 
Come on, come on
Don't leave me seeing stars.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Poem: "I've Seen You on This Line Before"

I've seen you on this line before
I've seen you on this line 
Before I've seen you on this line
I've seen you on this line. 
Eyes closed and the sunshine on 
Your eyes as you sit there 
Lighting up your face and your 
Strawberry blond hair. 
I've seen you on this line, the line 
You need cause duty calls 
Cause money doesn't grow on trees 
Like apples in the fall.
I've seen you on this line, your line 
Before I tell you this 
Before you kiss a frog and you 
Turn it to a prince 
Hold the line, please hold the line 
First see what fate has planned 
Then open up your eyes and be 
The woman to my man.