Saturday, September 03, 2005

Expanding Horizons

Friday was a very interesting exercise in international relations. Our group of 20 visited the German Defense Ministry. Though the Americans asked questions about the future of conscription in the German military and long term strategy, the Russian fellows were most interested in why NATO still exists and more importantly why it is expanding towards Russia. As many already know, NATO is my favorite international organization (let the geek jokes begin!) While I learned in school that an expanding NATO is an important issue for Russia, it was mind-boggling and fascinating to see that it truly is a concern. I was told to expect that having Russians and Americans together in Germany would be open my mind to a different way of viewing history and current events. Today’s trip could not have been a better example of this!

The evening found us at a classical piano concert at the baroque Augustusburg castle. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Duvet Burrito

I haven’t written in a couple days, but I will try to keep this somewhat short (what a responsibility blogging is!)

Wednesday’s orientation highlight was the German History Museum (Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.) The museum does a wonderful job of telling the story of Germany after WWII (from the perspective of the East and the West as well as after reunification.) I am definitely going back this weekend to see all of the exhibits again! My only criticism was that our guide spoke about Americans and Italians helping to rebuild Germany and the cultural things that they brought with them (ie. Elvis Presley and gelato) but there was no mention of the Turks. Can you say Doner Kebab (gyros)!! There is a Doner stand on every other block— maybe the Starbucks of Germany! If the Doner stands and the ice cream stores were closed on Sundays people might die of hunger (or at least the Americans who forget to grocery shop on Saturdays would!)

Thursday’s highlight was dinner and a ragtime piano concert at the American consul-general’s house in Düsseldorf. Why America has a consulate in Düsseldorf I am not sure, but it was a great evening. Doritos and salsa and veggies and ranch dip as well as Country Time lemonade were served as appetizers (no joke). The Russians were a bit confused by the food choice, but seemed to like it in the end. Brent Youens performed the music. He did a great job of explaining the history behind the music and was very animated. The Russians and the Germans in the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves (score one public diplomacy point for the State Department!)

Still no spaetzle, but maybe I will make some for myself and watch the election debate between Schroeder and Merkel on Sunday evening (spaetzle and Germans intensely debating the issues of the day—what could be more German!) I am happy to report that I had my first pizza on Wednesday (pizza in Germany tastes different). It is still to warm for a delicious piece of apple strudel with vanilla sauce but I think fall is just around the corner.

Erin’s good news of the day:
I think I have perfected the European duvet “burrito.” For those who are unaware, Germans don’t sleep with a top sheet, but instead sleep with a duvet. Though this is disconcerting to some Americans (like my dad who travels with his own top sheet when he comes to Europe), I love them!

Unfortunately, in Freiburg I could never figure out how I was supposed to fold the duvet to “make” my bed in the morning. But now I’ve got it… you fold it like a burrito (the two sides in towards the center) and then turn it 90 degrees! If I learn nothing else this year, I can at least return to the States with this fine accomplishment☺)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Can I wear these in the States?

Today was another fun day in Bonn-- we began the day with an information program about Bonn, then we met the assistant mayor and then toured Beethoven's birthplace. Unfortunately, cobbled stone streets and high heels do not go well together. Half way through the day I bought my first pair of "Europeanstyle" shoes. Okay some people might call them "ugly European bowling shoes,"but I think they are cute! (see pictures)

In other news, I was most excited to discover baby carrots in the grocery store. Last time I was in Germany, baby carrots were a foreign concept...globalization can be a great thing!

The other pictures I have posted are of a boat going down the Rhein River and the common area near the university. The boat traffic on the river is amazing! There are usually 3-4 boats within sight as you look up and down the river. You might also be able to tell that the river is running very fast. While Bonn did not experience any flooding (like southern Germany and Switzerland) the effects can be seen this far north.


P.S. Some have asked about my cheese spaetzle watch. First let me thank you for your concern:-) Basically cheese spaetzle is German mac and cheese--egg noodles that look like wavy spaghetti, ementhaler cheese and carmelized onions...yum!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Day #4 of the cheese spaetzle watch

Hi again from Bonn. Today was the first day of the orientation. I am super excited that the program has finally begun. My mentor came down from Berlin for the day and said he liked my presentation, which was a huge sigh of relief! He also said he I can work at the foreign ministry for a week or so and he wants to arrange a trip for me to Cairo and/or Jordan (mom, don't freak out!) The other projects sounded interesting too, but it was difficult to understand the Russian-accented German that was being spoking by some of my fellow fellows.

In other news, today is day #4 of the cheese spaetzle watch. I know this is not really the right part of Germany for this delicious German dish, but I can't believe that there is not a single restaurant in Bonn that makes spaetzle. I am on a quest and have already checked the menus of 10 restaurants or so:-)