When I started this blog over a year ago, I intended to keep it purely anonymous. As it has developed, however, the notion of anonymity has diminished in my mind as something to care about. This is partly motivated by a large portion of my reader base actually knowing me in real life (as well as a few very obvious failures on my part at maintaining anonymity, such as accidentally responding to emails using my name rather than my online label), but it is also partly because I have gotten to the point where I figure if people are doing Google searches for my name anyway, they might as well find this instead of cross country statistics from my junior high days. Plus, for those readers who don't actually know me in person, the following story from this past weekend would not make any sense.
You see, this weekend I took a trip to the German town of Calden. It is not much of a town, with a population of not quite eight thousand, and it was also rather difficult to get there as it is one of the seemingly few places in German not to be situated on a rail line. The reason I wanted to go there, though, is because my name is Calden Wloka. It is an unusual name, chosen by my parents based on the inability of my two year old (at the time of my birth) sister who was unable to say their original choice of Calvin. In my entirely non-objective stance, though, I am rather a fan of my name and prefer it to Calvin (also, being a precocious blonde child named Calden already netted a significant number of references to Calvin and Hobbes... I can only imagine how much more common that would have been had I actually been named Calvin). It is an unusual but not exceedingly difficult name. However, as a child and adolescent, there were times when I lamented it. One thing I always wanted as a little kid was one of those souvenier objects (keychains and the like) that had my name on it. Of course I never actually found one, and that always seemed rather sad for me. When I went through the awkward adolescent experience of moving to a rural town in a foreign country, having not only a Polish last name that had the temerity to follow a 'W' with an 'l' without an intervening vowel, but also an unusual first name meant there was always an awfully unwelcome pause at my name when teachers took attendance. For people with names that they do not have to repeat a few times when they meet someone new (and subsequently just settle for whatever pronunciation seems to suit your new aquaintance best), my giddiness about going to an entire town with my name (replete with signs and business names testifying to that fact) might not make sense. You will just have to take my word, then, that this was an exciting trip for me. Of course, I made the mistake of taking the trip on a Sunday, when everything in Germany seems to be closed, but I still managed to make it there, get plenty of pictures, and then make it back without too much hassle and lack of food (the only thing I found open was an icecream parlour, which wasn't much of a lunch). There were a few awkward moments when I had to explain to people why I was taking pictures of random signs and company names, but on the whole I got through it without too much embarrassment.
Even better than visiting a town with your name, though, is the experience of discovering that your name has an associated coat of arms displayed in stone. Behold, the Calden Coat of Arms:
For a geek, that is an awfully exciting discovery.