A few years back, I read about a photographer’s trip to Italy’s Abruzzo. I was impressed by the wonderful pictures of mountains and sea and added a bookmark in my mind: definitely a place to visit before I die. Back then, I did not expect that this would in fact once become my honeymoon trip! As it turns out, it was the right choice. We settled in Crecchio and stayed in a very romantic flat (actually house!) in the premises of Vini Fantini’s Borgo Baccile. From there, we took day trips to closeby villages (Orsogna, Guardiagrele), to the coast (Marina di San Vito), and we also ventured in the mountains. We drove up to the Passo Lanciano-Majelletta in the Majella National Park, a ski region as well as a well-known mountain stage for the Giro d’Italia. We saw the street scribblings from 2017!
The whole area actually seems pristine, not to say a bit abandoned. Many houses by the street are only half-way built, the Sunday market in Orsogna sells fashion from ten years ago, and we seldom crossed paths with other tourists. The most lovely village of Pretoro was not even mentioned in our tourist guide, and the place itself seemed deserted. Where was everybody? Maybe in only a few years from now, smart investors from abroad will have snapped up all those lovely “vendesi”-houses and rent it out to American tourists on the hunt for the original Italy.
We were happy to have this kind of solitude, it was our honeymoon after all. The wonderful pool was mostly ours, and there was always a free table in the restaurants to indulge with pasta, seafood or porcupine. And wine! Yes wine! Because… it was actually in Italy, Venice, where we have fallen in love in a wine bar. Qui si chiude il cerchio. >> pictures
… had not been a scenario even in my wildest dreams. I love capturing street scenes when I travel, and I easily get up before sunrise to photograph landscapes in their morning sleepiness. This is bliss enough, I don’t need more – I had thought. But then friends and family asked me to please photograph their wedding. In the beginning, I refused (“I am not good enough”), but they convinced me to do it anyway. In retrospect, I realize how meaningful these weddings were to me.
When we take new paths in life, we often can’t pinpoint at which corner they start: When did I fall in love? How did I end up being a Sociologist? And how did it happen that I now have that website that advertises Christine Geserick as a bookable wedding photographer? All I know is that it must have been “there”, for a while. I really enjoyed the weddings I had photographed. A lot of emotion, challenges, and pure adrenaline, for 12+ hours straight.
Then, in the spring of 2014, several things happened at the same time: new liberal laws in Austria, a “business opportunity” in Munich, a revived contact with my Munich-based photo-friend Alexander Hoffmann, and a growing realization the landscapes are not as happy as newlyweds when you retell their special moments. It so happened that in August 2014, Alexander and I decided to become a team of wedding photographers. All this within 24 hours. By the way, we never got the Munich-wedding job, somebody else was even quicker. But we now had the energy to define what we wanted, built up our new websites, and discuss the real stuff: offers, prices and strategies.
So, here we are, with our new ideas, waiting for couples to reach out for us. I am curious where this path will lead. This is my new website: christine-geserick-hochzeitsfotografie.com, and this is Alexander’s. Please spread the word to all lovers you know, or get married yourself… We are ready! And willing to travel!
One evening in June, actually in an Irish pub in Bavaria, I was offered a short-time teaching job in Beijing, China! Starting only 6 weeks later, I could teach at University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) for their 2013 summer school. At Wikipedia, that university is said to represent no less than the “Oriental Harvard” and “the Switzerland of Chinese universities”. So, no question: I had to go! In rapid speed, with a 2-week-trip to the Northcape in between, I prepared a 18-hour-lecture on the “Sociology of Family in Europe”, hopped on that airplane, and arrived in Beijing, humid and hot with 37 degrees.
At the airport, I was picked up by my teaching assistant and his cousin, both holding one sign each: One read “Dr. Christine”, and the other “Geserick”. That made me smile, and it would be “sweet” like so many experiences which I had with that assistant and the other 40 students. They were all so interested, attentive, disciplined and waived me goodbye when leaving the class room. However, teaching was both physically and mentally challenging, as I had to give 6 hours of lectures for 3 consecutive days. It was hot, I was on West-East-jetlag, and participation in class was rather non-existent. I basically talked for 6 hours each day.
It is one thing to hear that China has been opening up to “the West”. The other thing is to experience that curiosity first hand, while being there. It is in the attentive eyes of the students when I start my sentence with the words: “In Europe today ….” And it is in the encounters with Chinese tourists when they carefully tip on my shoulder and say a friendly “hello”. They want to have a little chat with me, the Western girl. The chat usually starts with a “where are you from?”, then leads into the question “can I take picture with you?”. We take that picture, and for a goodbye, they shake my hand, followed by the typical Asian goodbye-waive. They smile. And so do I.
Actually, their picture-taking of me encouraged me to ask the Chinese just the same. At first, I took “pictures-in-return”, meaning I portrayed just everybody who had photographed me. But this project got out of hand, because it was so many, and the scenes somewhat too ordinary. So I ventured to ask others, those whom I really wanted a picture of. Here, due to lack of Chinese skills, “asking” meant that I presented the Nikon, gestured that I would like to take a photo, tried to smile an irresistible smile, and put a question mark at the end. I did not ask many people, but whenever I did, it worked. Note so self: I should have asked more people! (All pictures here.)
Some Beijing scenes felt especially “surreal”, while at the same time I indulged in that feeling of being so foreign there. For instance, I remember a rainy lunch break when I walked on campus, under a pink plastic umbrella which I had been given to protect me from acid rain. Almost fainting from jetlag, I was munching on some pretzels, only realizing that their taste was actually seaweed. In lack of hot espresso, this meal was accompanied by sweet iced latte in a can. Strange coffee culture!
Other things that surprised me were:
– How rough people can become be when in anger. Angry couples talk to each other in obvious disgust, accompanied by sounds that I have never heard before.
– And then again: How tender people are with each other. Young lovers would hold each other close when on the metro. Parents would give their little ones very tender care in public places. Everybody was physically very close.
– That it seems OK bring your own beverages to eating places, e.g. beer from a kiosk kind of store or even sit inside Starbucks to eat food from KFC, not ordering anything from Starbucks!
– How steep the Great Wall is!
– That a little kiosk suddenly sells beer from the Domhof brewery from Speyer (near my hometown)!
– That I found a “vibrating condom” on my hotel’s night table. For sale.
– That Mao is still referred to as “the chairman”.
– That the rain there is really acid rain. It caused me a sore throat and red eyes.
– How men lift up their shirt in hot weather to have their belly breathe.
– How bad the smog is! It made the air blue in the evenings. And the local Seven Eleven sold breathing masks, three different kinds.
Yes, the trip was a challenge, but it was so worth it! I felt so even more, when I received the most lovely thank you-notes from my students. These are my favorite lines:
– “I have spent a short but unforgettable summer school with you, which is full of learning pointy about family and social security. You’ve really gave us a window to see Europe family and social security, which inspired more curiosity from my heart.”
– “… You impressed me very much and I think I will never forget you as my first foreigner teacher!”
– “Again, thanks for everything you did during the summer school. I will always remember the happy time we spent together.”
– “I felt great passion and gratitude and I really appreciate your teaching attitude. ^_^”
– “Those 3 days must be a treasure in my life.”
… yes, same with me!
Tomorrow (i morgen) it is off to Norway. For the next 2 weeks, I will travel around in Northern Norway – right in time to experience Midsummer and those nights that don’t get dark. The trip will be simple, yet adventurous: We go with a rental car, a tent, most effective bug repellant (deet), and the new Nikon.
Packing my bags, I get a bit sentimental. Not only that I expect an exciting trip, but Norway is special to me. In 1994, I spent 6 months in Kristiansand, on Norways’s southern coast. I lived in a small apartment in a red wooden house on a hill. I was there to work as an au pair, took care of 3 cute Norwegian kids, and I guess this time has shaped me in many ways: I have learned to speak “real” English (thanks to the Oprah Winfrey Show broadcasted on NRK and my friends Jill, Cecilie and Reed!), and I realized how inspiring it is to live in a foreign place. Oh, and I should not forget that my au pair experience inspired me to write that PhD thesis…
So, I am looking forward to soon entering the country of geitost, Tine melk and Freia chocolate. Given the forecasted temperatures (10 degrees in Tromsö!), they could also start selling julebrus – which I like a lot. But I’d gladly trade in the Christmas lemonade for a few warm days. (For those of you who have not tried Julebrus: it tastes a bit like a mixture of coke and herbal lemonade, e.g. Almdudler.)
Naturally, this trip is not just for pure wildcamp-leisure, but the new Nikon will go on “her” first (real) trip. Last week, I had my first job duty in Bamberg (in Germany) to document the 4th European Congress of Family Science (–> see photos). But now, it is time for some outdoor fun. Oh, we are all excited. Norge, vi sees!
When I started feeding this blog, in 2009, I was spending 4 weeks in a Victorian house in San Francisco writing on my dissertation. I actually did this for the proud usage of the exact line: “I spent a month of academic writing in a Victorian house”. It sounded so good. The whole thing was crazy expensive (flight, unpaid job leave, housing!) but gave me the satisfaction to have fulfilled my fantasy which had entered my mind many years back when I was sitting at my desktop in Münster, rain outside: “How good that would be now! Sitting in sunny California, in a Victorian house…”. Such adventures are much better for the soul than checking off these imperative “1.000 places to see before you die”. Make your own list! Don’t even customize, create!
This is what, towards the end of my thesis writing, friends would ask me: And what will you do after? It was hard for me to picture. I would slowly shake my head and say: “I don’t know!” I have a rather secure research job in academia, which I love. Would I thrive for more? Maybe become a professor? Spend some post-doc time in the U.S. or Australia? Or would I just stay? As of now, gaining this new title is simply that: a new title. A “Dr. phil.” that now accessorizes my name, and flatters my ears as the Austrians just *love* to use it. Especially at doctor’s(!) appointments when they address me(!) with: “Frau Doktor”, would you please proceed to room 2. All for that moment.
But what I do notice though: I enjoy “neutralizing” my heavily academic past by plunging into non-academic hobbies. Like reading fiction or playing the piano. And: I spend a lot of time with my camera. “The Nikon” has entered my life in 2009. Together, we have travelled quite a bit, and I have learned a lot during some great photo workshop trips with Rainer Martini.
I believe that the revival of this blog is happening because I anticipate to share some of my future trips and travels, photo projects, or simply some Vienna daily life trivia. So, here we go: No (Inner) Sunset, but Dawn – in full color!
Black sand still between my toes. For a last farewell to the city, I went running along Ocean Beach. I had not planned on that, especially since it had been raining the whole day. But when the rain stopped, I felt a “now or never” moment. I unpacked the sneakers from the suitcase and took the streetcar to the Ocean. There had to be a last enthusiastic good-bye. I thought running would express that.
It was a very special mood at the Ocean. An after-rain ease and bright light towards the Western horizon. The dark purple clouds were still hanging over the beach, but had lost their thews to make it rain more. So I ran, for the last hour before sunset (I should mention I am a very slow “runner”). I picked up a weird, beautiful seashell. When I wanted to rinse it, I was said hello by an underestimated waive, i.e. my shoes were under water. They would now squak.
I was there when the sun set. It was not visible (it usually dips into the water, right there), but the clouds would get just a little rose. The beach was dipped into warm light, and the high clouds gave it an almost artificial, tent-like atmosphere. Then it got dark, and the winds started blowing again.
Now, I am back home. Packing, feeling weird. I had my last imported “Sonntagssuppe” (Sunday soup) from Maggi. The sneakers are sitting on a garbage-can-phone book-tower-arrangement in front of the heater, so they can dry out before going on their suitcase-trip tomorrow. To San Diego.
So. That was it. I am most thankful for a wonderful time, in the Inner Sunset. I guess I have found what I had come for: Sun, solitude, inspiration, and a bit of San Francisco’s magic that keeps me coming back here. My new discoveries, Duboce Park Café, Arizmendi’s Bakery and the concerts at the Chinese corner store will be missed dearly. I also know there will be those moments in Vienna where I miss to just hop onto the street car for the stroll along the beach. The seashell will be my souvenir, in the best sense of the word.
Farewell, San Francisco.
Let’s stay in touch.
It has been a slow Saturday. Around noon, I went downtown to have coffee in the Yerba Buena Gardens (photograph above). The weather was warm, but the sky was overcast, and it felt more like a late autumn day than one in February. But maybe this is my mindset, dealing with the approaching end of a spring spent in San Francisco.
My leaving is a bit easier as I look forward to a few days in San Diego and a car trip to L.A. before going back to Vienna. So, I spent two hours at Borders, taking notes on what not to miss in San Diego. Oh, and Vienna is a nice place too! When I came home, what did I find on TV? Rick Steves, from Europe through the back door, was in Vienna, proudly presenting our old street cars traveling the Ringstrasse. It feels weird to be presented the city I live in by an excited American who poses in front of the city hall – and my work place is almost in sight. While I am typing, Rick is still traveling. In the last two hours, he has been to Tuscany, and is now at the Tate Modern in London. It seems this program goes on for the rest of the Saturday. And slowly am I feeling I should really go visit Europe some time soon! 🙂
I woke up in a slight panic: There are only 3 fully days left in San Francisco! I spare you the usual cry-out of “how unbelievably fast this went by”. Yet, it frightened me, because I am unsure if: 1) I have produced enough text? 2) Had enough sun yet? 3) Enough melon cakes? For the cakes, it is a definite negative.
For the text, I went straight to Starbucks and wrote a bit to a call cappuccino and an apple fritter. For the sun, I got some when I was walking back and forth between the laundromat and my house.
Washing! How easily I can still fail American daily life. I DO know how to generally manage an American washing machine. For a European, this is almost ridiculously simple: Open the lid, throw it all in, pour in some detergent, close lid, choose if you wash “colors”, “bright colors”, “whites” or “wool”, and there you go. There is nothing like a temperature control (this works over the color selection) or spinning speeds, let alone a button to save water. It does it all by itself. Great. The countdown function told me to be back in 26 minutes. That’s quick. But when I came back, it had stopped by 12 minutes, and in the display there was some blinking: “unbalanced”, it read. – What do you mean, washing machine? Is the balance wrong, like you want more money? Are you broken, as in “disturbed”, unbalanced? I walked around the 24 machines, looked for signs, by making sure I did not look like I wanted to steal anybody else’s laundry. Finally, I found a sign INSIDE another washing machine (under the lid), explaining that “unbalanced” would require the washing individual to rearrange the laundry for its final spin. Great placement of the note! So, I opened the lid, “balanced” the laundry, it washed, and I collected it later. All is clean now.
There are still so many things I need to learn in that culture. And I fear 3 days will not do.
My communication pattern is very different from that in Vienna. Or simply: I talk less! There is no business conversation, no after work wine sipping chats, no phone sessions at night. Here, in the mornings, my first complete sentence is often formed at Duboce Park Café: “One single cappuccino, please”. – However, America is the country of ultra-friendly, standardized shopping language. And as a customer, one is actually prompted to respond in many ways: “yes, thanks” – “no, thanks” – “It’s to go”. That gives opportunity to communicate, also for those like me, who browse the city without company. So, which words were spoken today, in my little anonymous life abroad? Below is a list of the questions I was asked today. It incluses an eating scenery (lunch), one coffee trip, and some store hopping downtown.
So, basically, the words I have spoken today, were those:
After all, this is not so bad, is it?
I am always relieved when, after an “academic fatigue” (which I had yesterday), the good spirits are coming back and I can easily concentrate on what I want to do. Today was such a day. I finished the second revision of an article, registered for a doctoral seminar in the upcoming semester (yes, that qualifies as work!), and wrote some sentences on methodology.
In an 11am blueberry-scone & coffee-pause, I turned on the TV. I caught “Who wants to be a millionaire”, and it was the first time I ever saw the American version. I sometimes like watching the German “Wer wird Millionär”, mostly because I like the showmaster Günther Jauch. It is interesting to see the differences, e.g. that the American version has a time limit for the candidate to answer (20 seconds). In Germany, they can take their time, rethink their answer, get a hint from the showmaster (only if he likes them). They go back and forth, it might take forever. Not so in the American version: “B, final answer”, they say, and in the next second, they get their result. Isn’t this telling something about American efficiency? Right or wrong, no arguing, and no second chance. Also, the multimedia aspect is pushed. There is an expert who can be called via Skype! Skype is also the one who has picked that expert. Very interesting! In Germany (G), there is no such expert, and there is no Skype. In G, there is only the three “telephone jokers”, apparently the equivalent to the “Phone a friend-option”, and they show pictures of the people – which adds nicely.
Anyway, I do not want to compare the whole format – but conclude with this here: Comes the question for the candidate: “Which of these European capitals is located farthest South?”. Unfortunately, the Gentleman had no clue (you can also tell from his face). So, that was it. He went home with 16,000 USD. Put simple: You can’t do without Vienna! 🙂