Rough Draft Sneak Peek No. 12 – Pottery Perseverance

Excerpt taken from Chapter 2 – North Sea

Navigating through my early childhood already foreshadowed the man I would become. I persevered and solved problems with determination. When my parents went to the opera one evening, I played ball inside our vast penthouse apartment. Konrad was fond of enormous decorative vases that wobbled precariously many times as I ran past them. Konrad and Hildegard often cautioned me and mentioned how expensive the in my mind useless pieces of furniture had been. In the absence of my parents the impossible happened and my soccer ball collided with the biggest, most expensive vase in our living room. For a moment it seemed to simply wobble and settle back to rest in the same space, but then it fell in what seemed like slow motion, hit the stone fireplace and shattered into hundreds of pieces. I had battled with my mother over abstract trifles all through the week. Now I wondered what a true disaster would bring out in her if trifles had aggravated her so much already. To my young mind, the expensive, broken vase was a disaster of grand proportions. I sprung into action and raided our house for solutions. Several minutes later I returned to our living room armed with several packages of super glue. I checked the kitchen clock and calculated that I had roughly four hours before I had to face the wrath of my parents. The vase had been half a meter in diameter and approximately one meter tall. I tackled the pile of shards in front of me like any other puzzle game I had solved over the years. For hours I stared at pottery shards and carefully put the infamous vase back together piece by piece. As the hours passed I felt greater urgency and doubled my efforts. Towards midnight I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time as I contemplated the result of four hours of intense concentration and dedication standing in front of me. I could see what looked like hairline cracks all over the finely sculpted work of pottery yet to the unaware eye my father’s most priced pottery possession looked as proud as ever. Noticing the late hour I ran and hid all evidence of my crime under my bed to discard safely the next day. Then I turned off all the lights, raced to my room and jumped under my blanket.

1988 speech in parliament

While in high school I used to sign up for many writing competitions. Once a year the parliament of Southern Germany challenged young writers countrywide. I signed up for their competition every year, then did nothing until two days before the deadline, wrote frantically for the last two days and nights, then ran to deliver my essay in person minutes before closing time. To my eternal surprise I won first price each time. One year the competitors were invited to a day in parliament. I was allowed to give a speech about my essay for the other students. So many years back… I am sixteen in this photograph… Now I seem to have come full circle, except that my work ethic has improved dramatically since then. I think this is what I am meant to do. I am meant to write, give speeches, inspire, and offer my unique view of the world we live in.

Rough Draft Sneak Peek No. 11 – Lost Dreams

Excerpt taken from Chapter 10 – Pacific Ocean:

Imagine my surprise when the head of personnel proved to be very interested in me. He clearly stated that the zoo team was very impressed by my enthusiasm and wouldn’t mind giving me a chance. If I agreed to come and work with the animal handler team for one day, and managed not to get eaten by wild beast, I’d be considered part of the gang. I buzzed with excitement and agreed to come for one day the following weekend.

When the big day came I was paralyzed with fear. My alarm clock went off at 4am and from the second I woke up all I could think about was how to talk my way out of this without sounding like a complete asshole. I was aware that the zoo director had taken a giant leap of faith by wanting to open the animal handler position up to someone with no relevant experience. I felt horrible betraying him yet I couldn’t move. My limbs seemed to have been replaced by tree trunks during the night. I was rooted to the spot. At the time I didn’t understand precisely where the anxiety attack originated. Some years later I understood more clearly. I had managed to scare myself shitless by being too daring too quickly. More importantly the very rough all male animal handler team was the major source of my panic attack. I was scared. Scared to be found out by a bunch of very rough men who might end up beating the impostor without a penis to death or feed him to the lions. I was scared of the rough housing and of sharing a locker room with these rough customers. I was scared of facing the locker room banter, testosterone-driven homophobia. I was terrified of entering a world of male roughness I might not be able to handle. So terrified that I let go of a life’s dream of working with animals – a dream that went all the way back to my childhood and those many afternoons with my best friend Markus, leafing through animal books, dreaming of a future in wildlife conservation together. I gave up, tail between my legs and ran away. Ran away from a profession that could possibly have made me happy for the rest of my life.

Not enough time had passed since going through my gender change. I felt happy in my skin, yet I was still insecure about how to handle myself with male acquaintances. I felt more comfortable talking with women. I loved taking part in long meaningful conversations about feelings, god and the world. Even being who I was, a male soul, finally at home in an almost male body, the male world was alien to me. I only felt comfortable amongst sensitive men. The cliché male, having discussions of beer, boobs, and sports at a bar constituted an alien planet I couldn’t imagine myself to ever inhabit.

what we become

A day to remember forever. I just completed the first draft of my very first book. So far it all adds up to 249 pages and 127,228 words… yet it is a living entity, a part of my soul, so much more than just words and numbers.

Rough Draft Sneak Peek No. 10 – Unforgettable Maldivian Animal Encounters

Excerpt taken from Chapter 12 – Indian Ocean:

Bizarre animal encounters, as grisly as they were at times, were my favorites. Creative hermit crabs found the most surprising shells after growing too big for seashells. One night, stumbling home after too much beer I became aware of movement in the corner of my eye. I stared, closed my eyes, stared again, pinched myself, and then stared once more. A coconut crossed the street leisurely just a few meters beside me. Other memorable hermit crab encounters included walking pottery, as well as a very cute plastic 35mm film container hastily running towards the nearest foliage.

Spiders had a way of raising my adrenalin to uncomfortable levels. As embarrassing as it was, my phobia made it impossible for me to relocate them myself. My snorkel colleague and enchanting iPod sock neighbor Kirsten heroically came to my aid and saved my life more than once.

Cockroaches were an entirely different matter. They were everywhere, each of them reaching at least five centimeters in length. I learned quickly to step aside before turning on the air condition. During the day cockroaches crawled into the grating covering the air conditioning unit. As soon as the fan inside the unit started to turn fast enough, cockroaches of all sizes were catapulted into the room. Kirsten and I formed a bond in our war against the six-legged deluge. When either of our rooms got infested with our crawly friends, we inevitably started spraying potent poisons. During one very memorable cockroach war Kirsten encountered five big specimens in her room. She started spraying the resilient insects that then raced for the many cracks in her wall. I sat on the toilet at the time, obliviously looking at the stars through the foliage of my bathroom tree when one of Kirsten’s panicked cockroaches flew straight into my face. In a matter of seconds cockroaches were everywhere, crawling through the cracks from her room into mine. I managed to control my own panic, grabbed my own spray can and started dousing the insects with poison. After a few minutes I felt as if the poisonous substance had much more effect on me than it had on the cockroaches that were still merrily hurrying to and fro. Kirsten and I opened our doors at around the same time to stop us from dropping dead before the roaches did. Finally the tough little critters succumbed to our poison attack, leaving Kirsten and me to collect the quite sizable corpses. At around 3am we ended up with a garbage can containing more than thirty cockroach corpses. We were left with an impossibly high level of adrenalin, leaving us both shaking and unable to go back to bed. We seized the moment, brought out the champagne, and sat in front of our rooms under a starry sky celebrating our victory.

Cockroaches brought out the best in me. I recall having mentioned before that above water I easily qualified as the clumsiest man alive. Imagine my surprise when one night I subconsciously executed the perfect somersault. I was half-asleep when weird clicking sounds made my insect-paranoid ears perk up. Those were definitely six little cockroach feet walking toward my pillow in the dark. I debated for a minute what to do since reaching over to turn on the bedside lamp could also mean making contact with the enormous insect. Curiosity won. I reached over and switched on the lamp. The poor cockroach must have had the shock of its life. It launched itself away from the bright light straight into my face. What happened next I don’t really know. Within fractions of a second I stood upright at the foot end of my bed, brandishing a towel as a weapon. Out of a horizontal position I must have launched myself into the air, landing steady, facing pillow and cockroach, ready for battle. Unfortunately I did not have much time to ponder the enormity of my athletic achievement. The panicked cockroach flapped about much like a damaged helicopter. I charged with towel in hand, managed to open my front door and – executing another athletic first – batted the unfortunate cockroach with a perfect towel pitch all the way across the vast C-Block courtyard into the underbrush.