Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: DOING GERMANY by Agnieszka Paletta

“Okay. So here’s the thing: if you’re a woman, you can probably relate to dreaming about a life in Paris, Provence or some charming little vineyard in Italy. Dreaming about running away, starting over, leaving and never looking back. Finding romance, adventure, yourself. (If you’re a man you’re probably wondering why in God’s name women are so banal.) Well, would you believe I made it happen? Yap, I did. Out of the blue, I dropped everything in Toronto: my job, my friends, my family and bought a one-way ticket to Italy. I abandoned my predictable life and began a new one. Just like that. I made that charming little vineyard in Italy happen. And plenty, plenty of adventure. Maybe not love, but definitely some romance. Italy was a dream. A suave, unreal, poetic dream. I highly recommend it.”—Prologue

Instantly I was captivated by the author’s witty, snarky, no-nonsense style. Yes, sometimes I wish could ditch the job, the boss, the responsibilities, the life in exchange for traveling the depths of the world. Oh, yeah! Hell, I wanted to read on just to find out how she did it.

The reader is given the brief highlights to how the rapid transition to Germany came about. I would’ve preferred more details to the kind of life she had before Germany, before “M” (why didn’t she give him a name? Was it a reference to Fritz Lang’s German thriller film, M?) At times, she tended to babble a little too much about trivial things, like her obsession with the dance floor or the American-European football conundrum. I found it tedious sometimes.

“No, in Europe, all the doors are open. Train, bus, tram or subway. You don’t really need a ticket to travel. It’s sort of an option. I mean, by law it’s required that you buy a ticket, validate it, and carry it with you, but by no means are you forced to do so. Nobody’s checking at any entrance points. You know how people say humans are essentially good by nature? Well, not when it comes to public transportation. Or paying taxes for that matter. Or anything else really. Who’d voluntarily pay for anything if there were no repercussions? Hence ticket controllers. People who sporadically pop-up, flash some ID and ask to see your ticket. If all you have to show is an embarrassed smile, you get fined. Hence the validation.” (13) This reminded me of my travels through Italy. Yes, that’s how it is alright.

Written in a diary format, this memoir depicts the various wacky adventures on a foreign land. Every day was a learning experience, like how you get packages from the post office or the revelation of chocolate yogurt at the supermarket. Although flaky at times, the main character was admirable in the sense that she never stopped trying to learn. Does anyone really, especially in a foreign country? I mean, there’s the language alone that you have to learn. And why was Italian easier to learn than German? I stayed in Italy for 3 months and I didn’t pick up the language not one bit.

“It was my first job after university. I was sort of a managing editor and a publishing assistant and a circulation manager and a secretary too. You know how small businesses work, right? But I grew disillusioned with the job, with love, with my life. One day I was just staring out the window and it hit me: I can leave! I don’t just have to dream about it, or watch movies about how others do it. I can do it! I can go anywhere in the world and start over! Find adventure and love! Find the meaning of life! (I was a bit of an idiot, of course. Or to put it affably, a young and naive romantic.)” (49)

“The concept of “home” was rather a confusing one for me. I’d been skipping countries for the past ten years. What defines “home” anyway? Where you live? Where you feel comfortable? Where you keep most of your underwear?” (39) You can’t help but enjoy the author’s boisterous humor!

The writing itself was average at best. Overall, I found this book to be quick and easy to relate to.

My rating: 3.5 stars

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