KiezKucker means “neighborhood watcher” in German. This is my character. I made up the name KiezKucker by combining “Kiez,” which means “neighborhood,” with “Kucker,” which means “looker.”
My first trip abroad was to Germany in 1997. I was 16. I stayed on as an exchange student to attend a German gymnasium (as my Junior high school year). I didn’t fully speak the language upon arrival. I was a stranger in a strange land being perceived as strange–a girl from New Jersey suddenly in the Black Forest in southern Germany. I felt like I didn’t have anything in common with those people. I couldn’t express myself and I didn’t understand everything that was expressed to me.
The mediating factor became pop culture. I started to move away from fixed perceptions of who I thought I was, that is, simply putting those forth, and toward reflections on what I thought about works of music, books, fashion, and art. I learned to ask the people I encountered the same.
That exchange year taught me the value of language-ing experience, and that there are different versions of “me” based on where I was, what language I was speaking, and the people I am speaking with. The experience propelled me to explore the world and my active part in it. Traversing cultures and subcultures in a meaningful way is an art. When it’s done well, people learn that we are not strangers to one another.
The stories are posted with a date at the end: the date is when the story actually happened.