Today was a good day, a great day in some regards. Unfortunately, the most important part of my day was the least encouraging and by far the worst part of the day.
The day definitely started off OK. Eh, ok not really. I’ll put it this way, I had a positive outlook (as usual, being an optimistic person) all the way through until 5:04pm. I’ll start with everything before 5pm, merely for the sake of making myself feel better. Venting, the wonders it does.
So…I woke up on time, even a bit earlier actual. The usual pleasant thoughts that have been occupying me before and after slumber were there, so it was indeed a good start. I get on the computer, have an encouraging conversation with a very special person I’ve been talking to recently. Afterwards, I started to get work done as a preparation for my archive appointment. Again, this all went ok – granted I didn’t get as much done as I anticipated, but I never do (I think that’s because I set unrealistic goals…but they keep me pushing further so I don’t know how to really interpret that). So I packed up everything I was going to need for the next few hours, brewed some joe, went along my way. Advice: when you walk outside and think to yourself ‘hmm…looks a bit like rain, meh’ turn the freak around and get an umbrella.
So my plan was to make a quick visit to the Chancellory and Magnus-Hirschfeld-Ufer: the Chancellory being the former location of Magnus Hirschfeld’s scientific-humanitarian society, and the Ufer being the memorial (Ufer is German for shore, the memorial borders the Spree – river running through Berlin – and is located across from the chancellory). I felt this was quite fitting for my experience here in Berlin, even though it doesn’t really play a roll in my research or paper, but there is definitely a certain sense of accomplishment and motivation to see the place where an influential person one is interested in made history. And after all, it’s the memorial to the very man that brought me here. This was really great! I got some great pictures to submit with my research report (part of the conditions of being award a scholarship for my project), with me in them, too. Up to this point, still no rain! So I started walking toward the central train station, and it begins to lightly drizzle. No biggie, I really enjoy rain.
So I start looking for the train I need to get to my final destination. No luck, as I was playing things by ear – I veered away from my original schedule, but still had time to get to where I needed before my ticket expired. There are at least four different floors in the train station (I’m pretty sure that’s an underestimate), and I had two potential types of train I could take: subway or the fast-trains. So I get fed up, and just get on a bus. I’m pretty damn good with busses, so I felt relieved to know I knew where I was going.
I arrived at my destination with 20 minutes to spare. But, by this point, it had started poring. Again, I love rain, but I had nice clothes on (trying to make a quasi-professional impression?), and my camera, and phone for keeping track of time. Whatevs, I kept everything secure. So I reviewed some of the questions I had, and waited around for the gentleman I had an appointment with (who, by the way, sounded quite pleasant on the phone when we arranged the meeting). The time is now 5:oo pm, and no sign of Mr. H. Typical / Atypical? Hard to say, Germans are usually punctual, but with the rain and all I wasn’t expecting anything typical. So 5:02 rolls around, I see a man biking far down the street – must be him. Sure enough, he pulls up, a bit wet of course. I extend my hand and introduce my self. I get his name (which, um, I already knew? Yeah, pretty damn sure I knew that already…and having seen his photo online, I knew what he looked like, but he had no idea who I was really…I thought it was logical). Awkward silence. awkward. silence. Walking through the building, through the courtyard. Awkward, awkward silence. A cold feeling, a bit stand-offish but I’m keeping it cool. Cool? I thought so. So we are about to walk into the archive, or should I say office with high ceilings and high bookshelves. I ask him how his day is going, very politely. I get a weird look and a smug “my day? well, I’m wet.” OOOOOOOKK. That’s when shit went sour, because German is not my mother language, I don’t respond so well when I get the cold shoulder, merely because I’m not so confident how to bounce back from that with a 60-something year old man. Whatever, he starts speaking to me in English, so I take advantage of the opportunity.
He really wasn’t being mean, or rude, just German, I suppose. For some reasons, I couldn’t seem to make it clear to him my research intentions, in any language. He started off talking about part of my project that really doesn’t have anything to do with my visit. I kept persisting, and finally we switch to German, whew. We get on track, but being a bit nervous at this point, I start making stupid errors in my speech, and get easily side-tracked. I got some useful information, but as it turns out, he has no more time to meet with me, not even one more time, in the next 6 weeks. Great, could have told me that a few months ago, when I wrote you, mentioning how I wanted to access materials in your office. Whatever, he definitely gave me some great reference points and further material to look into. I did learn something – that transvestites are not necessarily homosexuals, which has nothing to do with my project, sort of. Ok so I definitely got more useful information than just that. A few more interesting things, but the whole time he keeps making subtle suggestions, hinting at the fact that I couldn’t be wasting his time in a more intrusive fashion. Why did you agree with this time, or even suggest it? It turns out he had to leave work to meet with me. So I feel like an ass, and even less confident in what I’m trying to do. I was clearly less prepared than I should have been, he made that pretty clear.
Long story short, he definitely was trying to help me, I just don’t think he knew how, and wasn’t making the situation easier (not sure if he was aware of that…could be.). Bad news, I’m pretty sure that is the only visit to the office I’ll be making – but, good news! There is another archive I can go to, and most of the other materials I will need are at the library. Oh and the archive is definitely within walking distance to my place. There comes the typical optimism I am so keen on!
So, I’m pretty sure I’ll never become a professor now, at least not in German… At this point, I really don’t even feel up to writing my thesis, standing muster, presenting and publishing my results. Is there a bright side? Of course, it could have gone much much worse. How, you ask? Ha, no clue, but I know it could definitely have been worse – it could almost always have been worse, in any situation, unless it’s the absolute worse-case scenario. I guess I came pretty close, having lost all motivation for future research, graduate school, the whole shebang, in a matter of minutes. Not that I’m bummed out about it (only a bit, but really, just a bit), I just don’t know what to do now. Time to talk with my professor! They almost always know how to make things better in terms of academics, and my thesis advisor is particularly awesome at that and much more. I feel pretty grateful right now, it’s a good feeling after all that. My fingers are crossed pretty tight right now, though.
UPDATE: So, after having discussed my recent experience with Mr. H in the archives, several people have brought a very valid and important point to my attention. Being a researcher, regardless of my academic status (undergrad, grad, PhD, etc.), Mr. H should be willing to make any necessary arrangements to aid me in my research. Now this doesn’t mean that he intentionally goes out of his way to insure that I find what I need, but should at least be willing to accommodate me more than once. This fact alone is unnerving, considering I came all the way from the US to access materials that I otherwise would not be able to find at home. If I do become a professor or researcher or whatever, I will make sure I never put anyone in a similar situation…professional goal, check. Oh, and here are some pictures from my adventures of the day.
These are pictures of the former location of Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science; what stands here now is the Chancellory.
And these gems are of the memorial along the Spree dedicated to Hirschfeld, located across from the former location of his research institute. I was pretty excited.