Month: October 2016

Hi, I’m a Sunshine (State) Blogger…

and I’ve just been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by James from A Tolkienist’s Perspective. Thank you, James!

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Now, granted, I’ve been spending my time not in Florida, and there hasn’t been too much sun here lately. But I like to think we bloggers are people who give a bit of sun- both positivity and perspective- in each other’s and other readers’ lives.

I usually do the things the blog award rules tell me to do of my own accord, so it’s not a big deal to follow them. Rule following comes naturally to me…maybe that’s why I get along so well with the Germans–though I did get muttered at yesterday by an older guy about riding my bike on the sidewalk on the wrong side of the road. *Sigh.*

The rules:

– Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
– Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
– Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
– List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

So check, check… okay. I love the questions James asked, so here goes.

  1. What books on your shelf are begging to be read?

Depends on which shelf we’re talking about. I have my “dissertation shelf” and “bed-time reading” shelf. One is above my computer in my desk. The other is in my bed-room. I’ll let you guess which is which. Since both shelves have far too many books I haven’t gotten to yet, but really want to, I’ll name the two I want to get to finish first. One is Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert [How the Soldier Repairs the Record-Player] by a German-Bosnian writer Saša Stanišić. The other is Orality and Literacy by Walter Ong. I actually have a blog site devoted entirely to my textual pursuits, in case anyone is interested!

2. How do you motivate yourself to keep the blog up and running?

Because things keep happening in my life that I want to share with the world. One can see from the way my blog was a bit neglected while back in the US, that I make many more observations that I think are worth sharing while here in Germany versus back at home.

3. What was the most recent compliment you’ve received and savoured?

Being called a real-life-friend by two fellow bloggers. I am someone who has a pretty difficult relationship with virtual realities and social media, so knowing I’ve built a relationship with people through blogging, even if it’s only through words… means a lot to me.

4. What’s your favorite season?

Not deciding. Right now. I’m really enjoying Fall. However, in Winter I’ll love winter. Spring makes me happy and summer is amazing. Though summer in Florida is awful. I guess I can decide that.

5. What’s something that amazes you?

How all the theories in the world connect and how they all make sense to help make sense of the world, even when they seem like they should be paradoxical. Also, since this needs to be said: How far optimism can bring a person.

6. Do you have a catchphrase?

In my head I do: “it’s a bitter-sweet symphony, this life” taken from The Verve song, of course. Also, “why is the rum always gone?” mostly because I never seem to have any in the abode when I’d like some. That’s probably a good thing.

7. What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Watch how the rain falls and figure out how to get my run in anyway. Or ignore my laundry. Or read a good book.

8. What’s your all-time favourite town or city? Why?

Don’t have one. But I really like Berlin… though that may just be because I’ve crossed an ocean to get here and done a lot of work to be able to stay here. And it’s just pretty cool. But I also believe any space where people have settled and created lives is worth exploring!

9. Where would you like to be in blogging five years from now?

Still blogging is the obvious answer. Still have readers is another… a few more readers, maybe.

10. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Since I don’t eat ice cream anymore (story for another day), I don’t have a current one. My favorite flavor used to be peppermint with dark chocolate chips. I called it Wicked ice cream.

11. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?

Right now, it would be Jame Joyce. Nah, it would probably always be James Joyce. But maybe I think I’d be having dinner with Harold Bloom? Actually, I would like dinner with Ralph Ellison.

Now, I would also like to nominate these blogs for this sunny award:

  1. A Pilgrim in Narnia (ha! Double nomination! but it just so happens you’re on both my and James’ radar!)
  2. Never a Dull Bling
  3. 50 in 50 Marathon Quest 
  4. running in t shirt 
  5. Slow Runner Girl 
  6. Fit Recovery
  7. Mice Notes
  8. Pip in Motion 
  9. Simply Aging
  10. Writing By Ender
  11. Jane Runs Wild

Dear authors, if you would like to accept the nomination, please answer my kind of carefully thought out questions:

  1. What do you associate the word “sunshine” with?
  2. Do you have an analog planner/agenda/calendar? Or is it all on a digital device? Or do you just not have something like this?
  3. Do you think you could live abroad for a year in a foreign country where you kind of knew the language, but just barely? I’ve been thinking about this one myself lately. Honestly, I don’t know if I could!
  4. Do you set apart a certain time each day for a specific activity? What activity?
  5. What motivates you to keep blogging?
  6. What is the primary feeling or “thing” that you associate Fall with?
  7. Do you have a particular scene that runs through your mind at a given moment? For example, when James explains what got him started blogging, I couldn’t help but think of a certain Sherlock scene in which Anderson says: ” I founded the Empty Hearse so like-minded people could meet, discuss theories… ” 🙂
  8. Which do you do more: enjoy Sunday evenings or dread Monday mornings?
  9. What book are you currently reading?
  10. What was the last country you traveled to?
  11. If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do to help “enhance” your blog? Or, alternatively, would you do nothing different?

 

 

 

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Halloween Happenings in Berlin

I posted something about Halloween in Germany a long time ago (two years ago, actually), but this time the foreignness of the idea isn’t getting to me as much. I’ve accepted that Germany has accepted most of the US’s commercial holidays, including St. Patty’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day, so I just appreciate what I do see.

If I’m not mistaken, the Germans do have a Thanksgiving- even if it’s called “Harvest Thank Fest (Erntedankfest)” and even if it is closer to the harvest time in early October (Oct. 2nd, I believe).– I write “not mistaken” and “I believe” as though I don’t have internet and Google. I do. In fact, I just spent a ridiculous amount of time playing Google’s Halloween game. I can confirm that the above statements are true. —

In other news, I still find daily incentives to just get out and about the city by bike, if possible. The Allied Forces Museum is actually on the route to one of my University’s campuses. It’s almost right across from the US Consulate, where I may or may not have recently asked whether I could just vote at the US Embassy in center Berlin if I don’t get my absentee ballot on time.

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Here’s a photo from Platz der Luftbrücke. If you don’t know about the  Berliner Luftbrücke, or Airlift, I invite you to look it up.

This museum is in former west Berlin. The actual airport where the planes (like the one above) landed is much further in the east. I happened to walk by there today on my way home from a race.

The museum is one I really want to visit, as well as the Museum of Communications. Seeing as I’m doing my doctorate with media studies, I should inform myself about them as much as I can.

Today, it’s finally sunny after weeks of dreary clouds in Berlin. I spent all morning appreciating the sun, but now have to sit at my desk and work. At least the sun is gone now at 5 p.m. (Daylight Savings ended here!), so I feel less guilty.

Otherwise, life is pretty okay.

 

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I love this monument to freedom after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Makes me happy just to be able to see it on my commute.

I have one positive and one negative thing to say about living in Germany, or in Berlin:

(negative first, to get it over with): insurance laws are confusing as f***. Then again, they are in the US too, so can’t complain too much.

positive: the public transportation is such a huge quality-of-life booster. If I don’t have to get somewhere at a certain time, I can always get lost and find another way back to where I need to go. One transportation line always crosses with a line I’ll recognize, so I’m never lost for long. Of course, when I do have to be somewhere by a certain time… well, let’s just say I always need to plan a bit extra.

Hope everyone has a great week! Happy Halloween, tomorrow! I may not be dressing up, but I have my orange black cat socks I’ll be wearing.

German-American Day 2016

As citizens, we celebrate our national holidays and heritage. As people of a faith and/or culture, we celebrate our religious holidays. However, how many days do we take to celebrate cooperation between nations? Are we capable of realizing ourselves as planetary citizens, and celebrating that together? The only other holidays I can think of that are shared by more than one country are remembrance days. One has memorial days for the soldiers and civilians who died in World War One and Two, or other memorial days for when people do horrible things to one another. However, where are the days where we celebrate the positive interactions between nations? They are there, we just don’t know a lot about them.

For example, German-America Day has been in effect since former President Reagan signed Resolution 109 for it in 1987. How many Germans know about it? Even less US Americans seems to know, and yet it’s been faithfully celebrated on or around Oct. 6th for 29 years, now. The Federation of German American Clubs has a lot to do with this, and I am grateful to have participated in this weekends event in München, perhaps one of the most “German” of all cities.

When I got to München Hauptbahnhof (main train station), I was presented with a site of trains, Brezn (Bayrisch for pretzels), and Trachten (traditional Bavarian clothing). Finding the city that hosts a lot of Germany and the world for Oktoberfest (fun fact: Octoberfest is over by the first week of October), this came as no surprise. What continues to surprise me though, is that this is the image people have of Germany. Raised by a north German and spending almost all my time when in Germany in the north, I think of many other things when I think of this country.  However, of course my perspective comes from the fact that I have more experiences and encounters than Munich train station and Wies’n.

Still, my view of Germany would also not be complete without having been to this beautiful city. I can count the previous number of hours I’ve spent in München on my fingers and toes. I’d only once spent the night here, and that was this past summer. This time, I was spending two nights in the city. They were full days.

I was lucky to have been invited by the VDAC (Verband der Deutsch-Amerikanischen Clubs, Federation of German-American Clubs) to be a part of the orientation seminar for US students who had just come to start their exchange year in various universities throughout Germany, and the return seminar for all the German students who had just come from a year in the US.

Long readers of my blog will remember that I started this blog to report on my experiences in Germany while an exchange student. Now, I happen to be pursuing my PhD independently of the VDAC in Berlin, but that does not mean I am not still involved with them, and in many ways I can be grateful for their support, past and present. Visiting the seminar this weekend was an attempt to give back a bit, provide my experiences and advice as a US alumni of the program, but somehow, they managed to spoil me again. I leave again in the debt of having free room and board, and a great cultural and political program provided. In a desperate attempt to show my gratitude, I turned down the offer to reimburse the travel costs.  I just have to remind myself that while members of the VDAC are well to do, they work hard for the money to host 40+ students for these seminars, not to mention the scholarships themselves. I can’t contribute generous paychecks, but I can be generous with my time and with the money I would have spent anyway to spend a good time in Munich.

I mentioned a great cultural program… and opera fans will be jealous to know I got a behind-the-scenes look in the Staatsoper, home turf of the ridiculously good-looking Jonas Kaufmann. I also got to sit in the old Ratshaus, or town hall, and drink a good Dunkles in a Bavarian Brauhaus. Of course, there were the seminar sittings where new and returned exchange students talked about cultural differences (post to come out about that soon!), differences between colleges experiences in Germany and the US, and first impressions/practical tips. I like to think that as the only US kid having gone through the VDAC there, other than the guy coordinating the whole thing (his experience lies a few years back), I had some good advice to give, but the German students reminded me that there are some things about the system I still have to learn. Still, I’ll repeat a bit of what I said in future post as well.

Then there was the main event of the weekend, celebrating German-American Day 2016. Short story, a bunch of speeches were given, national anthems sung, returning students given certificates of having gone through the program and in honor of supporting cultural change, a very prestigious medal awarded to an important facilitator of German-US relations, musical interludes, and a reception with drinks and some of the best mini-wraps I’ve ever had. Long story- the speeches were incredibly well-given and thought provoking, and I had more fun at the reception than I would have thought.

The most memorable quote of the evening for me was that memory and gratitude cannot always sit at the same table as politics (loose translation of Friedrich Merz, recipient of the Medal). The history of Germany and the U.S. , especially after WWII, is filled with a lot of reasons for the Germans to be grateful to the US. However, current politics cannot always be driven by this thankfullness. Just like the British settlers were once grateful to their British forefathers for making travels to the “New Land” possible, they also learned to come into their own in relations with the Brits. A friendship should always be shared by equal partners, and in the case of the US and Germany, they are constantly figuring this out for themselves. But it’s good, and that’s why dialogue is so important and it’s good to see it successfully being carried out through events like these.

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This is me in front of the famous Neues Ratshaus, or new Town Hall. You can see St. Peter’s bell towers of the Frauenkirche in the background.

I hope to be able to attend the next year’s events, which will be the 30th anniversary of the first German-American Day of October 6, 1987.

Berlin adventures in October so far

[…] Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day
In every way,
It’s getting better and better,

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we’ll both
Just have to be patient,

‘Cause it’s a long way to go,
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go
But in the meantime,

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is what happens to you,
While you’re busy making other plans […]

First of all, I’m my mother’s daughter and a Lennon fan. This song has been running through my head recently. It makes me sad that he sings “I can hardly wait/ To see you come of age”; but “Life is what happens to you,/ while you’re busy making other plans” is my current mantra.

It’s gotten to the point where I make lists of what I want to blog about, and transfer these from week to week in my planner.

On the one hand, I’ve been unusually flexible. I’ve been more giving in my time and energy, and I haven’t said “no” to every opportunity to go out, meet someone, step-a bit outside my comfort zone. On the other hand, I like my routines for a reason- they help me get things done.

Still, I went on a few adventures since my last outing to the Brandenburg Gate on German Unity Day.

First, there’s the trip to Munich that deserves (and will get) it’s own special post.

Then, there’s the Festival of Lights that I almost would have missed if it hadn’t been for the US VDAC exchange student who is currently living in Potsdam, a city just outside of Berlin. He and I met one day after work, and just wandered around. Then, I saw Potsdamer Platz lit up by projected lights, dynamic and fascinating, giving a review of 20th century German history. Then, we wandered over to the Brandenburg Gate, and I was in awe at the science and art of the light display. Berlin is famous for this yearly event, and this year the city celebrated its tenth anniversary of hosting hundreds of thousands of people to see the architecture brought to special life. Being a part of this event gave me another reason to love this city.

I also went on an outing to the Maybachufer, one of Berlin’s most famous Turkish markets, and then on a walk where I saw bits of Berlin I normally don’t see (since it’s more in the east and a 45 minute public transportation trip).

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Germany is becoming more and more of an atheistic society, but its churches will always be reminders of bygone eras, and the protestant religion is still a cited part of the Berlin culture

Coincidentally, (almost all) stores are closed on Sundays in Germany. Perhaps an unnecessary remnant of holy Sundays (and more and more stores are open a few hours on Sunday), but I actually like not having the option of running errands on Sundays. It forces me to get done what I need to before Sunday, and leaves me one day a week for pure relaxation. However, there are a few (8) days in the year where Berlin stores are legally allowed to be open. These days are chosen by the Berlin senate and usually coincide with another special event in the city, in this case, it was the Festival of Lights.

Jedes Jahr bestimmt der Berliner Senat acht feste Termine, an denen alle Geschäfte in Berlin an einem Sonntag ihre Türen öffnen dürfen. Teilnehmende Läden und Einkaufscenter können an den verkaufsoffenen Sonntagen freiwillig von 13 bis 20 Uhr öffnen. Grund für die Sonntagsöffnungen sind in Berlin stattfindende Events bzw. Anlässe.

I didn’t participate in Verkaufsoffener Sonntag on Oct. 16th. It was  the first day in about two weeks where I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything for anyone other than myself, and I stayed at home all day. Why ruin a perfectly good Sunday to do what I could do any other day of the week?

My most recent adventures involve school. I’ve still been working my part time job, but more importantly, I got my school enrollment papers! And the uni started. Nothing like fall rain to get you out early on a school day. Just kidding. I’ll ride my bike through anything but a steady rain.

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These sights get me out the door, though.

So that’s been life. It happened while I was busy making other plans, but at least it happened well.

Happy (German) Unity Day

This morning, I had the unique experience of telling a German why the store he was looking to get into was closed today. After all, isn’t today Monday? Why yes, and tomorrow is Tuesday. It also happens to be one of Germany’s national holidays- celebrating Germany’s reunification 27 years ago.

How odd was my experience, you ask? It would be like telling a US American about the 4th of July. To be fair, the man probably didn’t grow up with the holiday. While many countries celebrate a national holiday at least 100 years old, Germany has the 3rd of October, 1990 that it commemorates. On this day, 26 years ago, Germany was officially one country again.

Now, many people think that German Unity Day is the day the Berlin Wall fell. It isn’t. The Berlin Wall actually fell on November 9th, 1989. While it may make sense to commemorate the fall of the Wall, making November 9th a national holiday would be celebrating the birth of Germany as a “republic” in 1918, Hitler’s failed putsch in Munich, but also the Reichspogromnacht- otherwise known as Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass. While a Germany history test could get pretty boring with this kind of line-up, the Germans felt it would be inappropriate to make the 9th of November a holiday, so it became October 3rd.

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Another weekend for Berliners to get annoyed at traffic.

While the holiday expressly celebrates unity, not reunification, the reunification of the BRD (Federal Republic of Germany) with the DDR (German Democratic Republic) after 41 years of political, social, and military separation lies at the center of the celebrations happening all over the country.

I don’t know how I missed posting about it two years ago, when I was in Germany for the first time on this day, but I didn’t want to miss out on it now. I even wandered into a street-festival, something I’m not a huge fan of–why do I want to get four Euro beer at a stand when I can get what I’ve stored in my fridge for less than a Euro?  But I did it. I’ll admit, the festival made for some unique shots of the Brandenburg Gate and TV tower.

 

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I was gratified that among the Berlin Burrito Bus, Kindle stands, and various carnival games, there was at least a stand (very fancy) hosted by the German Parliament with multiple touch screens showing quizzes to test one’s knowledge of the Bundestag (political body) and the Reichstag (the building where the Bundestag meets). I got 7/10. Better than the three German groups I saw go up before me.

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At least all those groups knew today was a holiday, as opposed to the poor man I met this morning. Still, it was nice to be the first to wish him a Happy German Unity Day/Frohen Tag der deutschen Einheit.