Author Archives: zazaglen

About zazaglen

A fan of bananas, travelling, and being on stage, she enjoys speaking in at least three languages and fears ordering pizza over the telephone.

Neanderthals at a soccer game

Soccer game with my new rain hat

Soccer game with my new rain hat

We were told the stakes were high.  Blood was to be shed, mayhem was to sweep the stadium, and hell was – without question – going to break loose.  Sounded like a game of the century!
I asked myself, who on earth is playing?  Barcelona versus Manchester?  Brazil versus Italy?

Nope, this soccer game was between Halle and Magdeburg, two small cities in Eastern Germany that no one has ever heard of.  Except for the population of Halle.  And Magdeburg.  Ooh, and do they ever know of each other.

An excited American Language Assistant told us that these cities have been major rivals for decades.   It didn’t matter that I didn’t really know these towns; two unknown German towns playing soccer can entertain me just as much as the pros.  The game was to take place in Halle, and we bought tickets to sit with the Halle crowd, since all the other language assistants live there.  So, I dug out my red and white gear, generally only worn on July 1st (Canada Day), and set out to watch the game, donned in Halle’s colours.  I was ready and rarin’ to go!

As our group approached the stadium, I started to feel a little uncomfortable.  Well, first off, it was painfully obvious that most of our group didn’t fit into the quintessential sports fan.  For example, we had Nick, an intelligent, talented musician; Aubrey, Nick’s petite, artistic girlfriend, who looked even smaller than usual surrounded by large German men; Robert, the English Cambridge graduate, and I.  Not only are we probably the only foreigners here, but we’re the only polite, upstanding observers.  We clearly do not know how to act at a soccer game.
So, take a bunch of artistic university grads who enjoy traveling and discovering new cultures and throw them into a mass cluster of sports fan babboons.  Perhaps what struck me the most was the fact that there were scarcely any women to be seen (20 to 1).  We were surrounded by men of all sizes and ages, all standing with their legs spread, pelvis forward, a beer in one hand, and a cigarette (or their penis, depending on if they were relieving themselves on the side of the road) in the other.

We noticed, however, that they were not speaking German – they were grunting at each other.  So, it appeared we were to join grunting, slobbering, drunk Neanderthals at a soccer game.  Lovely.
I glanced at the rest of my group, and they looked just as bewildered and disturbed as I did.  As we lined up to get into the stands, Robert leans into me and comments,

“This is just like a game in Britain in the 1950s: machoism and no females.”

But, no matter!  We were here to enjoy the game, whatever level of grunting was involved.

The crowd was pushing and squeezing its way to the seating area rather too intensely for my liking, and I looked back every so often to make sure Aubrey hadn’t disappeared into the throngs of the sweaty, blubbering mass.

Finally, we made it into the grandstand, and by the force of the masculine mass, our group was separated.  Robert and I found some good standing places (which was what we paid for), and we settled in to enjoy the game.

The game had started but five minutes, and the only word out of Robert’s mouth – a former goalie and captain of his soccer team – was “Shocking”.  Apparently, we were watching a rather poor game, and nearly every move each team did, Robert would shake his head or shake his fist in direction of the players and say “shocking”.

Now, in my opinion, it wasn’t so much the players who were shocking; the spectators were the trouble makers.  There was the usual back and forth chanting between both team fans and the loud clapping of those weird plastic things.
This game, however, things were a little different, much more heated.  First off, both teams were separated by two stands of empty seats, and there were policemen, a team that resembled SWAT, and even helicopters flying above the game.  The back-up required to show this game to people from both towns were over a hundred policemen.

As Robert kept up with his “shocking” routine, all of a sudden, the Magdeburg fans seemed to all surge at once with a incredibly loud roar and a group of guys jumped over their side of the stands, ran into the empty seats, charging towards the Halle fans!


The police jump up, hold as many men as they can back, forcing them to return to their area.  As the police are in over their heads with drunk, blinded-by-rage men, the Halle side does the only appropriate thing they can think of:

Start a fire.

As smoke billows out from the front seats and flames start licking the edge of the pitch, the players are forced to pause their game.  A back-up of policemen arrive on the scene as the bottom part of the Halle seating section is engulfed in smoke.  Fans are still climbing around the seats, pushing around policemen in a rioting spirit, as they seem to have forgotten which way they were going.

It takes ages putting the fire out, getting rid of the smoke, and shoving the cavemen back in their respective seats.  The game is finally able to resume, and Halle ends up winning, which in turn leads to having beer poured on me.  I am now a true fan… at least on the olfactory side.

Photo borrowed from Nick

Photo borrowed from Nick

Smoke at the game!


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Separation of the Sexes


After a year overseas, I decided I needed to get back to my Canadian wilderness roots.  After being in Germany, and then Japan – a country where all cities just seem to blend into each other, leaving very little space for any rural area – I realized just how much I missed seeing fields, mountains, forests, and lakes with absolutely no one around.  As a Canadian growing up in a rural area, I was used to having vasts amount of space to myself.  It was normal going somewhere to climb a mountain and not running into anyone.

This wouldn’t happen in Germany and certainly never in Japan.
Before this past year, I hadn’t really thought of the fact that many people in the Western world had never seen real wilderness.  The European countryside (think English countryside) is one thing – always man-made, well-mantained and excessively enjoyed and raved about by the Germans.  In fact, when I was in Cambridge, I spoke to an Irish guy from Belfast, who was in the midst of completing his PhD.  He had grown up in Belfast, and then moved to Cambridge for university.   It shocked me when he said the most rural area he had seen was when he was in Germany, looking out from a castle up on a hill, and “aside from the telephone polls and wires, I looked out and all I saw were forests and lakes” and described this event as a spectacular discovery of being away from the city and submerged in the country.   However, when I hiked up to German castles and looked out, I would always marvel as to how much civilization one could see.  I suppose that is the difference of growing up in rural Canada rather than in Belfast, Ireland.

During the month of August, I worked as a Theatre & Music Director in an all-girls camp two hours North of Montreal.  It is a magnificent area; the camp hosts a beautiful lake surrounded by rolling green hills, a canoe and kayak dock, windsurfing and sailing dock, a rock-climbing wall, an archery field, and a simple theatre.  I was in charge of putting together two musicals, one for the younger girls, the other, for the older ones, and practicing piano during the day.

Because most of you don’t know me, it is best to explain that my two main passions are music and theatre, and the fact that I did this all day gave me immense joy.  I loved running around looking for costumes, working on solos, blocking the script, practicing my pieces for the musical, etc.  I’m not a camp person, but I enjoyed my role within the camp.  It confirmed my love for those two passions, but something felt strange to me being at an all-girls camp, and for awhile, I couldn’t pin-point it.

When I was first hired, the number one concern on my mind was: ‘Will I be able to handle an all-girls environment?’  I generally thrive in mixed company, and I find it usually easier to meet guys.  Don’t get me wrong – I have many girl friends, but I find connecting with girls more difficult at the beginning.  Also, I thought of the high estrogen levels, the cattiness, and the flakiness that I was sure I was to encounter.  It did not appeal to me at all.

Luckily, most girls at that camp weren’t the floozies that I had imagined; there were many grounded, good-humoured, and intelligent girls there.  As it turns out, I don’t mind, nearly as much as I thought, being with girls and women all day.  It is an extremely positive environment, everyone is very supportive and helpful, which I encountered first-hand every day, since I was a new staff member.

The camp boasts: “88 years of creating a physically and emotionally safe environment where young women can be their true selves”.  And I saw that every day.  In the evenings, I would hear girls talk about how they can really be themselves here and not worry about being judged.  They can wear the most hideous/funny clothing, not shower for five days, and not have to worry about impressing.  In a way, though, it’s a shame that the girls feel that they can only “be themselves” and comfortable in this environment.  It’s true, grades 8 to 10 are difficult, especially with the whole “fitting in” crap.  It’s just too bad that we, as a society, aren’t starting at a younger age to encourage a mixing of the sexes; that there still exists a clear division, a repulsion at a certain age, and an uncertainty about the opposite sex for years. Why are boys icky and girls have cooties at a certain age?Having brothers always encouraged mixed-gender interaction for me, but I still feel we put too much emphasis on the division.  Does a segregated camp or lifestyle improve one’s life?  I think it just further causes a division, which causes further fear, uncertainty, and just general malaise around the opposite sex.    I think we should be able to feel comfortable around certain kind of people, regardless of gender, more focussing on personality and values.

I discussed this over e-mail with my friend Alanna, and this is what she had to say:
“I was watching Oprah and she had a psychologist who was discussing how important it is for mothers to talk to their daughters about self-stimulation. Although that experience would probably be awkward as all to get out, the psychologist explained that by talking to girls about how to get their kicks by self-stimulating themselves, and in turn gain control of their own sexuality, girls will be less likely to give away their bodied to the first guy who offers a compliment.

She also described how women tend to see their own pleasure as the responsibility of men only, whereas women should hold domain over their own sexuality, and not hold back from telling men what they want in bed. The whole interview was really interesting, and I believe, incredibly important.

Obviously a bunch of stupid uptight women complained, saying that this kind of discussion only promotes sexual deviancy and promiscuity. Kind of like how condoms only encourage sex? Abstinence conquers all hormones!”

It looks like Alanna was ready to launch into a completely different rant, but I think what she says holds true and can be applied to my critical all-girls camp outlook.  I believe the main reason that girls feel that they can only truly be themselves in this all-girls camp is because the absence of boys/men.  What tragedy.  Why can’t both sexes thrive together, even through the awkwardness of teenagerhood?  What aren’t we teaching them?  What are we missing?  Why does society teach boys that they lead every sexual activity, whilst telling girls that touching their bodies is unladylike or dirty?
Naturally, there are many groupes of people are not like that in the least.  Growing up with siblings of the opposite sex often helps to feel comfortable with other people of the opposite sex.  Also, some people get to know their bodies and their sexual selves without grand trauma.

But yes, there are many in the dark.   I was actually asked by a friend of mine to instruct her boyfriend on how to give her an orgasm.  I sighed and told her there was no way he was getting the job done before she had.


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