"Lovetrotter": love stories from all over the world
The journalist and author Wlada Kolosowa, born in 1987, grew up in St. Petersburg and Germany and writes among others. for Spiegel Online, jetzt.de and the Tagesspiegel. After studying psychology and journalism, she is currently studying Creative Writing in New York. For her first book "Russia to go" she traveled to Russia, the land of her parents.© Inken smoke
ChroniquesDuVasteMonde: How does one come up with the idea of getting on a plane, traveling around the world and talking about love with strangers?
Wlada Kolosova: I have always liked listening to the love stories of other people. At some point I started to write everything down - first for jetzt.de, the youth magazine of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, then I interviewed unusual experts on the subject of love for Spiegel Online, e.g. a gerontologist, a biopsychologist and an entrepreneur operating a third party platform. Besides, I always wanted to make a world tour. But it was not enough for me to do tourist stuff all day long. I needed something for this trip that forced me to break out of the backpacker environment. So I came up with the idea of combining both: traveling and talking to people about love. Just watching temples - that would make me tired. I never tire of love stories.
Love is a very intimate topic. How did you find people who entrust their love stories to you?
That was not so hard. It sure helped me to live far away and people thought, "It's different with her than when I tell an acquaintance." And if you check, people like to tell their stories. Of course I could not talk about sex and other intimate things everywhere, but it was less complicated than I thought. But I also got cancellations. In China, I had little luck, because I missed the access - because of the language barrier and because people wanted to talk less about their privacy.
Did you address people on the street?
I've always tried to couch and live with couples. If a pair did not work out, I asked other couchsurfers if anyone knew an interesting story. I have also posted ads on the internet. And I talked to people in the street, "You have a ring like that, what does it mean?"
"Lovetrotter: A World Tour around Love", Wlada Kolosowa, 356 pages, 14,99 Euro, Kailash Verlag, Amazon
How does our understanding of love and romance differ from those in other countries?
Here is the idea that only the brainwashing infatuation comes and that is absolutely necessary for a relationship. And we have very high expectations of a relationship that is not found anywhere else in the world: that your opposite is the best lover, someone who challenges you, but also your confidant, your best friend. Everything should always be very exciting and yet comfortable. In some countries you simply say, 'This is my husband. And he has the function of being my husband. He is my breadwinner and the father of my children. ' Not everywhere you expect emotional support from your partner. Many women consume sisters, cousins, aunts and best friends from their networks. They are there for the emotional.
Is our expectation of love in Germany too high? Do we want too much?
I think people in other cultures would think so. But I do not know what you could do about it. You can not say, 'Screw down your expectations, then you'll be fine.' We grew up with these expectations, they are a part of us.
Is there an aspect of love that is the same everywhere in the world?
Everywhere you prefer a special person to other people. Everywhere you fall in love, longing for security and human closeness. Also this drowning thing that I have spoken of earlier. That's so deep in us, that's not culturally dependent. Only what you make of it.
Did a country surprise you?
Yes, Iran. If you read the travel warnings of the Foreign Office, it sounds like a dangerous country, where you are very unfree. But I was surprised how open it is in closed doors in liberal families. You can not show much skin, or walk with your friend, but some parents say: 'In the street is the moral police, bring your girlfriend home with you. Here you can smooch. ' But I can not say that for all parts of society. But the people I met on couch surfing had a similar life behind closed doors as we did.
What can we learn from lovers in other countries?
That what one considers love is not the measure of all things. That one should not say: 'The way I understand love, that's right. And a woman in an arranged marriage can not be happy. ' I believe that love has many more forms than one would expect.
In your book, you also collect country-typical pet names and love phrases. What are your favorites?
Of all passions, love is the strongest. It simultaneously attacks the head, the heart and all the senses. ' This love wisdom from China pleases with especially good. And pet names? 'Lapochka' - that's Russian and means 'paw'.
At the end of your book you tell the story of Klaus and Uwe, who are a bit older than the other couples. What makes love different at a young age from love in old age?
Before my trip I would have said that in old age it's more about companionship and mutual support. But in conversation with Uwe, I realized how much in love he is after all these years with his friend. Love probably becomes calmer with age. But I think you can also really fall in love with 80. Nobody is safe from that.
Has the journey influenced your own life and loved ones?
I moved in with my friend after the trip. Before, I had thought about it a lot: How will that be? Does it have to be that way? Is this the right time? Should not you wait a bit? And why, if so? Then I met so many couples, who live together and where the dirty socks belong to love. They just took the step.
Lesbrobe: Ghazal and Ali from Tehran - the world inside, the world outside
When the plane lands in Tehran, my heart still hangs in the air, 10,000 feet up. Passport minutes are the longest minutes in the world; the face of the fat border official: impenetrable. Two lumps of coal, pressed into a piece of pale dough. The man has good reasons not to let me go to Iran. I am a journalist. I've been to Israel before - even though he does not see the entry stamp because I got a new passport afterwards. I stay at Kenan *, and that too makes me suspicious. Firstly, I met him through Couchsurfing.org (according to the Foreign Ministry warnings, travelers "who organized their accommodation in Iran via social networking sites on the Internet, were reviewed by the Iranian authorities and asked for immediate departure") , Secondly, he is a man (and "when dealing with Iranian women or men in public with police checks must be expected. (...) According to Iranian understanding lewd conduct is severely punished, sometimes it is threatened with the death penalty.") But the officer just flips sleepily in my passport. It is five o'clock in the morning. The eyes that seemed so suspicious to me a second ago just look tired. He does not ask for the hotel's booking confirmation, which I have reserved on an alibi basis. No questions about what I intend to do in Iran. No second look at my face, which I have wrapped tightly with a headscarf, so no lewd hairs flashes. Just a parting yawn, so big that I can see into his colon. And the longed for stamp. Then my heart finally lands.
"I am in Iran, a country with a long list of prohibitions."
I am in Iran. A country with a long list of prohibitions: drinking alcohol. Cycle. Photograph public buildings. Show naked skin, if you are a woman, apart from face and wrists. Iranians are not allowed to get in touch with foreigners "beyond normal", whatever that means. I'm still zigzagging around the airport, like a B-movie about spies, to hang out a potential hangman. My conspiratorial maneuver is somewhat affected by a pack of taxi drivers chasing after me in zigzags. Finally, I surrender to one of them, confess Kenan's address and let me go there. Behind the dusty window dusty streets pass by. Cube houses flicker in the heat, and every now and then a tree in the color of dried poppy passes. And cars everywhere. A sea of honking, stinking cars. The guide states, "While Esfahan or Persepolis may be the soul of Iran, Tehran is undoubtedly its big, loud, chaotic, dynamic, ugly heart."
An hour later, I drink tea from Kenan's Sponge Bob cup and know - everything will be fine. "Well, scared?" He asks. I shake my head and blush. Kenan grins. For a week, he has been answering my panicked emails almost daily, soothing everything in his country to be less dangerous than it seems. "Ordinary Iranians have nothing to do with the spinners of the government," he says. Maybe he's right: Already at the airport I saw couples who were in their arms to greet each other, Facebook can easily be reached via VPN, and the alcohol is always just a phone call away - you just have to dial the number of the "alcohol taxis" , which then drives the desired drinks to the door. Kenan even brews his own beer in the dining room, which is also the classroom.
"I have to wear a headscarf - because of the watchful neighbors who are lounging on the spyhole."
The economic situation is currently very poor, so he has three jobs at the same time: as an English teacher, engineer and film critic. His regular working day starts at 6.30 and ends at 19.00. "Are you coming alone?" He asks before leaving, and I nod and do not stop nodding.After the door closes behind Kenan, the sleepless night on the plane becomes noticeable. I doze off and dream confused dreams of the religious police, who found out that a lewd journalist is sleeping with an unmarried man, and now banging on the door. "Wla-dah! Wla-daahh! Open the door!" Even after I open my eyes, the knocking remains. I hardly dare to breathe. "Me friend Kenan!", Says the voice in the hallway. In the peephole I see a petite woman around the 30th She has black button eyes and a doll nose, her headscarf is loosely on the short black hair. When I keep my eye on the peephole, she holds a bowl from the other side. "Breakfast!" The breakfast is called Kashk E-Bademjan, a kind of eggplant spread. And the supposed religious police is called Ghazal - she's a neighbor who has charged Kenan to babysit his over-excited guest. Ghazal's trains travel on jerky English tracks, but still at the speed of an ICE. I am immediately provided with food, instant coffee and instant love and invited to her home. The apartment is right across the street, but I still have to put on a headscarf when we scurry over - because of the watchful neighbors who are lounging on the door spy.
"If you pay enough, even unmarried couples may live together."
"Miss Germany! Welcome!", Says Ghazal's friend Ali and drums a welcoming swirl on his face. After that, his English vocabulary is exhausted. We understand each other perfectly that we do not understand each other. Ali sells cars and plays in a traditional Iranian band. Under the balding head, behind the thick glasses hide mischievous goblin eyes. His facial features are disproportionate and somehow each stand alone. But when Ali laughs - and he does so often - they move to the right place and make a whole. Apart from him, Ghazal's sister Nasrin and her friend Amin are currently staying in the apartment. "I thought unmarried people should not live together in Iran," I say. "Possible, possible," says Ghazal, rubbing his thumb and forefinger. Meaning, if you pay enough, then you can. The rents for couples like Ali and they are often twice as high as the married couples. And the death penalty? Ghazal waves down. The moral police sometimes actually rings at the door - but without a search warrant they are not allowed to enter. And by the time you get one, your sweetheart with his toothbrush is long gone. Ghazal is a singer - not a simple profession in Iran: women are only allowed to perform in front of a female audience and as part of a choir. A single woman's voice, which can be attributed to a woman's body, would cause immoral responses in men. On the music videos that circulate on the Internet, singers make up their face beyond recognition or wear huge sunglasses. Nobody should recognize them. Recordings and performances take place in the underground.
When Ali first saw Ghazal in the recording studio, he jokingly threatened to sue her if she turned down his invitation to a dinner. I would like to continue the story. But Ali and Amin have already unpacked their instruments for a welcome serenade. Ali plays Daf - a kind of flat giant drum, which is covered only on one side with fur. Amin plays Setar - a plucked instrument with a long neck. I like Persian music, in which the sadness and the joy of this world seems to be stored. "Like life," says Amin. "Like love." Then he kisses his girlfriend. Ghazal's living room is home to the world as I know it. But behind the threshold is the Islamic Republic of Iran. To go out, Ghazal, Nasrin and I have to put on jeans and a Manteau on top - a coat-like top that covers our curves. I sever my bangs back and tie the headscarf tightly around my head like a balaclava. Ghazal and Nasrin laugh at me and pluck hair: Every strand is protest. The government demands that women remain invisible. Maybe that's why they are so heavily made-up as in the Kabuki Theater. Maybe it just fits the Iranian ideal of beauty. Ghazal and Nasrin wear skinny jeans under their skimpy manteaus they bought extra in the children's section to keep them tight. Going outside with an uncovered head - but even the bravest would not dare. And the sun has also disappeared - with exhaust clouds.
"Being alone in Iran is a bit like being dead."
At twelve o'clock, the city is a car avalanche, which is advancing with perceived three-hour intervals. Ali smokes, curses, smokes, curses. The cars honk. One and a half hours later we arrived at the bazaar? a paradise of spices, pomegranate mountains, rugs and well-priced "Chanel" bags from "Louis Vuitton". Many girls proudly raise their noses with broad patches sticking over them. Operated noses in the "European style" are not only more beautiful, explains Ghazal, but also a proof of prosperity. A plastic surgery, you can not fake, unlike the "brand bags" in the bazaar.I get two new, half-transparent headscarves and a bag of Goudje - immature, green plums, which the Iranians sprinkle with salt and eat incessantly, like cows the grass. Then there is a three-hour city tour at a stowing speed of 37 degrees. I'll hand over to Kenan at seven. This is the blueprint for the next five days: breakfast, tea, Goudje, music, Goudje, city tour, Goudje, heat, Goudje, philosophical talks with Kenan. I never manage to go out on my own or pay myself. The guest is the king. And therefore requires a royal watch and care. Privacy, the kinder sister of being alone, is not known here. Being alone is the saddest thing that can happen to a person. "In Iran alone," says Ghazal, "is a bit dead."
I am trapped between infinite gratitude for the hospitality I will never be able to repay - and infinite annoyance. A feeling that I know in this form only to my parents. No matter how early I get up, Ghazal is at the door five minutes later. By chance, she always wants to go exactly where I want to go that day: in the carpet museum, in the L? Leh Park, in the Museum of Contemporary Art, even for the ladies' room, she has to, if I have to. Every night at nine o'clock I fall on Kenan's sofa and sleep dreamless, drained of city tours at 40 degrees under two layers of clothes and three inches of make-up. Every day Ghazal and Nasrin insist on painting me: "In Iran, women are allowed to show their faces on their own, so it has to be especially beautiful."
* All names have changed to avoid endangering the people who have given me so much hospitality.