Displeased Teeth / Ungehaltene Zähne, Marburg, 2014

Someone, somewhere in this wacky student village has adopted the common tooth as their tag. Props to their creativity, as you don’t usually see anthropomorphic teeth outside of dentists’ offices, and even then they always look cheery and upbeat (as if to remind you that hey, you’re in a shitty place, but things are gonna be alright at the end).

The first time I noticed these unhappy yet enthralling little creatures was when I was walking to a building called the Phil-Fak. It was a day after I had my wisdom teeth removed. To my surprise, things had been healing up well and I was barely in any pain - it was more of a dull ache that hurt if I swallowed or popped my ears - but it was tiring. I was taking things slowly, moving more slowly, paying more attention to my surroundings, and that’s when I noticed the tooth.

How fitting to see a tooth sprayed on the wall that summed up exactly how I was feeling at that moment in time. Not angry, not writhing in pain, just displeased. Then I noticed another one on another wall not too far away.

It’s like my wisdom teeth were reminding me that, oh look, we’re gone, and you have to suffer for a little bit. Or maybe they were reminding me that they were the ones who were displeased, upset at not being able to cause serious problems down the road.

Who knows for sure. Still, it was nice to see these cute but maybe not so cuddly creatures on the wall.

Schloss Vaduz and surroundings, Vaduz, Liechtenstein, 2014

Boleslaw

Boleslaw. Outside of Poland (and the former Czechoslovakia, where it’s spelled Boleslav), it’s not a very well known name.

Many English speakers find it hilarious - or look at it with derision. “It sounds just like coleslaw,” some people proclaim after seeing it in written form. “It seems, you know, too food-like. Or foreign. But mainly too food-like.”

Why, then, would I adopt it as a name?

I like it. I like the way it sounds - it’s pronounced something like bowl-LE-swaff, a far cry from “coleslaw” with a B. I enjoy the meaning behind it - great glory gives it a good tinge of respectability. Plus, it pares well with my middle name, Dartagnan.

Poland’s a country I enjoy visiting, too, though that’s more of a secondary factor if anything.

What does it matter if it’s “foreign” or not? Names and naming traditions all vary across cultures. There’s no reason to dismiss something just because you’re not familiar with it.

I plan on being outside of my country of birth for long periods of time. I am foreign, everything is foreign - and putting up walls just because something is different is one of the worst things you can do as an expat, or in general.

That’s yet another reason why I adopted it: it’s a way to help encourage people to see the world differently and learn new things they might not have even thought of. It’s a subtle way to break down those barriers, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. I like sharing my experiences, the things I’ve learned, my opinions - and using that as a stepping stone to learn from others, too.