VDAC

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.

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Berlin in August

I haven’t even been in Berlin that long, but I’m already losing track of my experiences. It’s time to collect them and share them.

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What a coincidence I rode by this yesterday!

First of all, excuse me if this post seems a bit rushed. Knowing my writing style, that may actually be a good thing (and you may not actually notice). However, I had written a post and wanted to post it, and in the process of posting it with no internet, lost it somehow. Since it took me so long to finally write to begin with, I’m not having as much fun during round 2.0. But I hope it’s still enjoyable/informative!

August- After weeks of fall-like weather, cool and wet, Berlin was gifted with a midwife’s summer. Still, it wasn’t -fancy-hat-Sunday-picnic weather, more like oh-my-bottles-in-the-freezer-and-bikini-clad-jump-in-the-nearest-Brandenburg-lake weather. I won’t begrudge the Berliners their fun in the sun, but I prefer it cold.

On the other hand, when bicycling around the city to avoid public transporting costs, not having to worry about rain and poor visibility is nice.

These past weeks, I did several things I had never had to do before: sign up at a job agency, sign-up for internet service, volunteered at a race, and arranged for my water heater to be replaced. Some of these experiences I wouldn’t have minded avoiding, but they’re all part of living here.

On the day I decided to register for assistance in finding a job, I discovered that there are multiple agencies in the city that are meant to service certain regions. There’s also a difference between an agency and a center. The Job Center, apparently, is where one goes if one wants to register for Arbeitslosengeld (joblessness money). I think the rate right now is about 480 Euro a month, which wouldn’t be bad, but I actually didn’t intend to sign up for that. I want to see if I can find work first. Because of this approach, I was sent back in the direction of my apartment to the Agentur fuer Arbeit (agency). After only 10 minutes wait (I got lucky!) and 20 minutes filling out all the information one can find on and off my CV, I had a profile and appointment for personal Beratung, or advice. This appointment isn’t until Sept. 20th. It’s a bit late, and I hope to have work long before then. The online profile is useful though, and I use it along with Indeed.com and stepstone.de, as well as jobspotting, to search through and select jobs.

Finding an internet service was fine, and I won’t have to resort to WLAN thievery and prepaid accounts anymore. Replacing my water heater was less fun, but at least I now have contacts and know how to turn off my water and electricity in future events of water catastrophes.

Speaking of catastrophes, have you heard that the German government (some ministry I don’t feel like looking up) recommended a Vorratskauf? Basically, it’s the end of the world and Germans are being told to prepare for the event of a major terrorist attack by storing enough food and water for ten days in their homes. I don’t know which is scarier, this precaution being condoned after thirty years of peace in Germany and having to find a way to store 30 Liters of water in my small apartment, or the fact that such an attack could happen in Berlin where these precautions would be necessary.

On a lighter note, I had my first volunteering experience at a race. I was a helper for the Bambini races of a recent Sport-Scheck half-marathon and 10K designed to help Berliners prepare for the Berlin Marathon. Bambini is the Italian word for “kids.” Seeing the little kids run 200-900 meters, was soothing for my cranky-runner’s heart. In return for three hours of my time (and a 5:30 AM wake-up call on a Sunday), I got a free shirt, lunch packet, and $10 that were supposed to be transportation costs, but I used it for breakfast. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and I only just found out that I get to be on the course of the Berlin Marathon Sept. 25th as well! I’ll be handing out water near kilometer 30. If you’re there, let me call you out!

So that’s something to look forward to, but in the meantime I’m trying to prep for my own marathon, and since I can’t run (broken toe), I have to find creative ways to cross-train. The bad new is, it’s really hard to replace a 20 mile fast-finish run. It requires about 4.5 hours of cycling at more than moderate speeds. The good news is, the city is here to be explored, and so I went on a ride that I doubt many Berliners ever make- from the west to the far east.

Berlin ride

It was a really interesting tour through a lot of what used to be East Berlin and GDR IMG_1730Germany. I had enough reminders that I was in former east Berlin, from a general light shabbiness that seems characteristic of former east-bloc states to street names commemorating some of communism’s heroes.*

But I also had enough reminders that I was in a new Berlin, finding many of its monuments and old Berlin among all the new construction. There were too many moments where I was at a random corner or crossing, and I just couldn’t capture all of them.

I made time for new and old VDAC (Federation of German-American Clubs) acquaintances as well. I met the president of the Berlin German-American club, who is a delightful and inclusive lady. We met in the Himelbeet Cafe, which is a cafe grounded in a community garden in Wedding, a quarter in north  Berlin. I had never been in this region before, so the ride there as well as the few hours sitting with her, collecting the impressions of this community, was memorable.

IMG_1706On invitation from the student-exchange chair lady of the Hamburger German-American Club, I came to Hamburg for a delightful afternoon of Alsterlauf, conversation and sunshine with two lovely ladies. I collected enough impressions here as well, and found it slightly bizarre to be back in the city I had grown to love. I was struck by a lot of its beauty in the sunlight- the view of a ship, a metonymy for the city as sea-trade-capital, reflected on an adjacent building had to be captured.

So, bureaucracy, training, participating, Hamburg… there. I think I’ve reached the end of it. Berlin has a lot to offer in the late summer, and I couldn’t take advantage of all of it. For example, there was the long-night of museums, where 77 (or more, I forget) museums in the city were open with events and exhibitions from 6 PM to 2 AM the following day. There was also a Schlosser-Nacht in Postdam, neighbor of Berlin and capital of the state Brandenburg. This night of palaces is something I hope to take advantage of next year.

Looking forward to September– the International Literature Festival of Berlin is happening next week, I have several events I’ve been invited to by the president of Berlin’s German American Club, and I have several meetings at the university- school starts mid-October and it’s time to start getting in the academic spirit!

Happy last day of August,

Dorothea

* It is impossible to be in Berlin and not be reminded of its history. I’m not talking about WWII and the only history many US Americans seem to think happened in Germany, but the Cold War history. The city had been divided for forty years, and the divide is mostly stitched together, but by many different surgeons with many styles. One can find the scar of this divide, rigid and bumpy, not only in the landscape of the city, but in the mentalities of its citizens. My generation 25 and younger, don’t remember anything about this divide. However, anytime I talk to an older Berliner about the city, things to do, or traveling through it, I’m reminded that they experience/d the city in a much different way. The Berliner’s relationship to this history is complicated and fascinating. I hope to explore it more as I live here.

 

 

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen… Goodbye?

wordpress asks you to “share your story” here, when you go to write a post. But isn’t there some sort of rule against posts that are too long? Any story I chose to write ends up including way too much detail to be a “short” post. So, I won’t share my story, but I’ll share the drafts to it.

I’m going to spend the next several posts recapping my last weeks in Germany during my study-abroad time. I spent some time in Germany after leaving Hamburg, and already I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences there. I guess four words sum it up:

work hard, play hard.

People often describe their experiences as “adventures.” As much as the phrase is used (dare I say overused?) the newness, excitement, sharp gusts of dangers during extended stays abroad for work or study  do justify the use.

I’ve been on an adventure, and it will take me several posts to describe it all.

As I started this post, I was diving away from the city that hosted me for 10 months. I can’t really wrap my head around the difference between how I felt when I arrived, and how I feel now, but I need to acknowledge that I’ve changed while being in the city, and my experiences through the VDAC have changed me.

I am am stronger. This is to be expected. Obstacles, bureaucratic and otherwise are more difficult when in a country of different customs, habits, and language. If I’ve trained to run on mountains, of course hills will be easier. I’ve learned to be polite, but direct, when requesting things and to be patient, but know my rights. This came in handy today, such as when I had to make sure my transcript was ordered, reflected my recent status as a graduate, and was sent to the right office. The old me would have accepted that it would take a while and figured the bureaucracy would work itself out. The new me was able to walk out with the envelope that I could and over to the intended party.

What I didn’t expect is that I’ve become a better listener. When I first arrived, I was so occupied with my own plans, my dazed experience, and comparisons to the U.S. Throughout the year, however, I’ve been complimented by many close to me that I listen more to them, and am easier to talk to. I don’t know if I should feel insecure about how I must have used to be, but I am grateful to recognize that my experiences have made me secure enough in my own experiences and strengths to be more open for others. I think part if it is that I’ve learned not to jump to conclusions about people, and let them talk it out.

I want to write so much more, but I already said I would use several posts to catch up, and so I won’t give you too much to handle now. I just want to say that I don’t think leaving Hamburg is “good-bye.” Rather, it’s a chapter in my life that lays out the foreground for much of my future life (I hope), especially if I get accepted to a PhD program there. We shall see, and I’ll keep writing.

In the meantime, here are some photos of Hamburg/Berlin, where I spent the last weeks with my family after they came to join me!

The Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom

Need I mention what this is? I took the photo while siting in public transportation, so it's not the best quality.

Need I mention what this is? But I’m sorry I took the photo while siting in public transportation, so it’s not the best quality.

My brother in front of the statue of Neptune in Altona, Hamburg

My brother in front of the Neptune fountain in Altona, Hamburg

The old Nationalgaleri where an exhibition of impressionist and expressionist artists were presented, side by side

The old Nationalgaleri where an exhibition of impressionist and expressionist artists were presented, side by side

Things I find myself doing that remind me I’ve spent a year abroad

I’ve only just gotten back from Germany, so clearly I will have a bit of jet lag (six hours time difference). But there are other differences in my behavior that make me stick out from other U.S. Americans like a sun-burned man in Ireland.

  • I write the date as day/month/year versus month/day/year
  • I use 24-hour time when telling people when to meet
  • I bring a shopping bag to stores and get weird looks when I use that instead of a cart or a basket, and I don’t go to get a cart because I don’t feel like looking for a coin that fits in the slot to release the cart from the cart in front of it.
  • I look for a way to stop the flow of water during the flush of the toilet. In Germany, there’s usually a way to raise the lever or push the slab used to flush a second time to make the water stop when the waste has gone down; it’s an effective way of saving water.
  • I want to separate my trash into paper, packaging, or waste. Thankfully, this is something the U.S. (at least public administrative buildings) are getting better at accommodating. It shocks me how much is thrown away here, much more than it did before I left.
  • I get confused when the teller or cashier is talkative or friendly… it’s almost overly friendly.
  • I need a dollar and start looking for a coin (at least, those do exist. Conversely, there is no such thing as a 1 Euro bill)
  • I avoid going to a public restroom because I think I’ll have to pay, and I don’t have any money on me. Not having to pay is something I appreciate!
  • I say “Tschüß” reflexively when saying good-bye to people. I may keep that.
  • edited to add: after finally getting used to the German keyboard, it seems that I’ll have to learn to get used to the English one again… especially when typing in German.

These are just a few things I’ve caught myself doing, but as the week goes on, I’m sure there will be more. Hopefully, nothing too embarrassing!

10% Left to Go- Nearing the end of my VDAC Hamburg stay

Coupled with Thanksgiving, yesterday’s Independence Day marked the second day where I, without a doubt, would rather be in the U.S. than here. But that’s all okay, since there was a performance night at my dorm and people were partying. I also had a paper to write, and that can be done here as well as there if I can’t go out anyway.

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July 1st marked nine months in Germany. Ignoring the possible metaphor I could set up with conception and birth of a baby, let me just reflect a bit on what this means. First of all, it means 10% left. November 2014, I wrote a post about my first month here, and the things one should have done during one’s first month studying abroad. I noted how weird it is to divide one’s time into sections and grant it value based on which section it was, but I stayed true to my word and managed to metaphorically put the last eight months into one dazzling piece of uncut, multifaceted mineral. I did a lot of very exciting, life-affirming things, had a few rough spots (it ain’t living if it’s perfect all the time), and overall really enjoyed myself while being here.

However, 10% is the image on my TomTomRunner when I’ve set myself on course for a goal and I have 10% left of the time or distance I set out for. Usually at this point I kick into a high gear and elevate or hold through the end of the race. I suppose that’s kind of what I’m tempted to do now, with one month left.

I’ve got the academic end covered, with a hectic week of presentation, term-paper, and exam to complete. Once I’m left gasping for air on the shore of the first academic break I’ll have since Summer 2013, I’m going to take care of the last things on my list-a list I created for myelf, based on the suggestions of dozens of well-meaning Germans and people who know Hamburg, when I first got here. I still want to do some sort of water sport on the Alster, even if it’s just to paddleboat. I still haven’t been to the Heidepark (a sort of amusement park) yet, and I want to visit the Auswandere Museum. Seeing as I wrote my thesis on migration narratives, I think I should visit the museum that dedicates itself to the documentation of one of the largest points of migration in Europe.

That’s about it, though. I’m open to other suggestions, but I can honestly say that I think I’ve really taken advantage of the opportunity to live and study in Hamburg. That is not to say that I don’t notice or learn something new about the city everyday. Yesterday, for example, coming back from my run, I noticed the General Konsulat for South Korea. I’ve run past it at least four times a week for the past nine months, and the building is so inauspicious that I never noticed it until now. Things like that are welcome surprises. I also am in love with the roses in bloom all over Hamburg.

I’m trying to come up with some good things to talk about to close out the year here… but I’ll save those for after finals.

Hope everyone has a good week!

VDAC Seminars: Always a treat

Two weekends ago, many German and U.S. exchange students were invited by the Tübinger VDAC club to a wonderful seminar in their beautiful city. I can’t help but think that every city I’ve visited in Germany is beautiful, but Tübingen has a special, old-German charm that made driving for six hours in a train worth it.

Before talking about this weekend’s seminar, and talking about the last one in Kassel, which was also great, I want to give a few notes about the seminars themselves.

The VDAC student-exchange program is really fantastic in what it offers roughly 50 students each year in German and the U.S. Not only do they organize studying abroad at a foreign university, often with TA positions for the German students and attractive universities for the special interests of the U.S. students (from exile studies to music conservatories), the Verband provides aid with housing, a 600 Euro stipend a month for the U.S. students and equally helpful funding for the German ones (though, admittedly, paying 300 Euro a semester is easier to help with than the 3000+ tuition at U.S. universities). But on top of this, the Verband, through the efforts of individual clubs in Germany as well as the collective support of the whole Verband, enables five to six different seminars throughout the country. When I write “enables,” I mean that students are treated to a fully-paid–including bedding, meals, events and even travel to and from the seminar with a “selbst-Beteiligung” of 20 Euros– seminar for three days, two nights during various weekends throughout the ten months of the program. When one considers that students are given the chances to visit five or six other German cities at no real costs to themselves, what the VDAC offers is truly fantastic. Such an opportunity to visit a country and get to know a vast array of its cultural, geographic, and political realities is quite rare. Of course, part of this opportunity presents itself through Germany’s small size (maybe one of the reasons German exchange students don’t have the same opportunity in the U.S.), but also due to the hugely effective organization and funding of the German VDAC clubs. They rotate turns to host the seminars in their cities and arrange the cultural programs for the students.

The first seminar, shortly after the semester orientation programs begin at the universities, is the welcoming seminar for the U.S. students as well as the club’s celebration of German Reunification Day and the awarding of the Lucius D. Clay medal for special services for German and U.S. relationship. The former German exchange students also attend to receive their honor, or “Urkunde” for promoting U.S. and German friendship through their exchange. This year, the seminar was hosted in Dresden. In my opinion, this beautiful city was the perfect city to start a year-long stay in Germany, since its iconic Alt-Stadt was historically grounded enough to make a good impression of Germany’s history and small enough to navigate without adding to the issues of the language and the jet-lag/everything-is-new feeling.

The second seminar is a culturally oriented one. This year, it was hosted in Nuernberg and coincided with St. Nikolas Tag and the famous Christmas markets in Nuernberg. The Nuernberg seminar also functioned as a feedback seminar, since the U.S. students had been in two-months now and more than a few experiences to share and ask questions about.

The third seminar, hosted in February, this year in Mainz, is the politically (charged… ha ha, nah) oriented seminar. At this seminar, students got to know Mainz while having the perhaps most seminar-ish experience. The International university near Mainz prepares multiple different lectures with a wide-spread of applicability for the different students, and while I was balancing my thesis writing, due the Thursday following this seminar, I learned a lot at this seminar that I could apply to my academic work (not to say that I haven’t learned things at each of the seminars to apply to my studies).

The fourth seminar, usually held in May, coincides with the VDAC convention that is attended by representatives of each of the clubs throughout Germany and the awardance of the “Urkunden” to the U.S. students, who by this point have spent seven months in Germany. I haven’t gotten to write about this seminar, held this year in Kassel, yet because I’ve been very busy… much busier than my first semester in Germany (even though I don’t have a thesis to write this time) I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I hope the lovely ladies of the Kassel club can forgive my short summary of what they’ve organized for us.

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First of all, you may not know that Kassel hosts the contemporary art event, documenta, every five years, but the people of Kassel won’t let you forget it. Some other claims to fame, asides from the reminders of past documentas, include hosting the brothers Grimm (known for their romantic linguistic and philosophical contributions, as well as the fairy tales), the Bergpark (absolutely gorgeous) and walk along the beautiful Fulda. Also, fun fact was that Kassel hosts one of two dead-end train stations in Germany. This is why the Hauptbahnhof of Kassel is not the actual center of Kassel, nor the one everyone wants to go to found at Wilhelmshoehe. The other dead-end station is Altona Station in Hamburg, which is why most trains throughout Germany begin or end there. The Kassel club organized the whole VDAC convention (complete with fancy gala buffet) as well as a tour of the town hall, a lecture from the Kassel treasurer (Schatzmeister, treasure master sounds so much cooler), a small private tour of the inner-city and a hiking trek + picnic in through the Bergpark.

Finally however, I come to the last seminar of the year, usually held in June so that people whose universities end earlier than the national standard in July can still attend the seminar that functions as a good-bye for the U.S. students and an orientation for the German students going to the U.S. in August. U.S. students can provide feedback of their experiences and German students have the chance to learn from the U.S. students what awaits them in the U.S.

More on the Tubingen Seminar later. 🙂

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In the meantime, a few closing words on what these seminars mean. First of all, they are a medium of orientation for the students. Despite living “normal” German student lives in respective cities, the students have the opportunity at the seminars to be U.S. Americans for a while, maybe even behave like tourists and definitely to talk and hear English for a while. Of course, I’m sure we’re all grateful to have the opportunity for complete German immersion, but hearing the English tongue (not with a British or German accent) for a while is sweet, just like the occasional hearing of the U.S. anthem, as occurred at the first seminar and the VDAC convention. Not usually patriotically sentimental, I’ll admit that hearing the “Star Spangled Banner” brought a few tears to my eyes and made me realize how much my upbringing in the U.S., where the anthem is played at many school, sport, and political events, has defined my life.

So enough of that. I really enjoy these seminars. I only wish that the same kind of possibilities were available for the German students of the U.S. The seminars make rather starkly evident how much stronger the Verband is in Germany than the U.S., and I wonder if there’s anything I can do to help facilitate a more interest in organizing such seminars on the U.S. end…

If you’re in the position (U.S. undergrad or graduate students at a participating school) to apply for a year-long study abroad program, check out this website: http://www.vdac.de/

I could always become a bartender

I’ve done so many things this past week, that I will need several posts to catch up. It’s a good thing today is a holiday in Germany and I have the day off to write; though I do plan on going out on the town a bit too. Some near-future posts will therefore include what it means to join a sports team while studying abroad, the most recent VDAC seminar to Kassel, preparing a presentation or essay for German university courses, discovering sections of Hamburg anew, and transportation options in the city.

This post, however, I’m dedicating to a short blurb about the things I’ve done from my role as VDAC exchange student.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am here through the Federation of German-American Clubs, and the particular club that makes my stay in Hamburg possible is the German-American Women’s Club of Hamburg. They arranged my participation at the Uni Hamburg, my stay in a beautiful dorm not far from Uni campus, and various events for me to participate in, as well as a good amount of other things and all the details they pay attention to blows my mind.

Hamburg AlsterThe most recent event was a sort of charity/donation event for German-American Friendship Day at the U.S. Consulate in Hamburg, right on the Alster. If you don’t know Hamburg, let me explain that the Alster is a lake type thing that comes off the Elbe, and anyone knowing something about real estate can imagine what it means to be directly on this beautiful piece of water. Of course, the US Consulate had a spot there.

The exterior of the consulate is impressive, with a mixture of classical and more modern architecture that I’m sure engineer students could tell me a things or two about. The interior reminded me of the pictures I had seen of the White House: stately furniture, deep red and blue rugs with golden edging. It was really neat to be invited into the building, even if the security was a bit extreme. This picture does not show the five meters of no-man’s land and the two security buildings one has to pass to get to the front door.  photo IMGP0047.jpgStill, it was a treat just to go in.

Of course, nothing is for free 😉 My fellow US exchange student and I were asked to help serve drinks at the night’s event. At first, I had no idea about walking around with trays in my hand and I was nervous about offering people something. But then, I ended up behind the counter of the bar, and I was surprised at how fun it was to sere people drinks, receive the orders from the other students helping that night, chat a few times with the guests (a surprising amount of people liked the rhubarb/water Schorle), and generally have a quick moving, but non-stress pastime. I figure that if the academic career doesn’t pan out for me, I’ll just become a bartender.

What was even more neat was working behind the scenes of this building. I was able to go into the kitchen and allowed to use the industrial dishwashing machine. Three minutes! It only takes three minutes for 40 glasses to get cleaned with one of those boxes. Why can’t my family borrow one around Thanksgiving or Christmas back home?

Several speeches were given that got me thinking about contemporary German-American relations, and the event had been very well organized by the club ladies. It was nice to see a few of them again, some of whom I hadn’t seen since the Charity Bazaar in November. My time is winding down while here though. It sounds strange, but I will be sad to lose some of these opportunities to take part in these events.