Friday, September 30, 2005

Fall Friday in Berlin

I am sitting in a cafe on the Kurfurstendamm drinking a hot chocolate and taking advantage of the wireless internet on the Kudamm... life is good:-) How can you beat atmosphere like this... Max the bichon frise just came in with his owner and is sitting between me and the bar. Much like another bichon I know, he is barking at everyone who comes in the door. His owner is smoking, drinking an expresso and has a haircut like Liza Minelli in Cabaret...I love it! Maybe I should consider a haircut like that...dyed red like Run Lola Run!

I took a cab to the apartment this morning (because I underestimated how much stuff I still had in my room.) Not only did this make the final move easier, I had an amazing conversation with the cab driver. She was a woman, which was interesting in an of itself. Even more fascinating, she used to work for the East German army as a cook. She lost her job when the East German army was folded into the West. She said compared to the East German army, today's army is a "vacation club." I asked here where she was when the wall came down and she said she was at home and thought her colleagues were "crazy" when they called to tell her what was going on. Also of note, she was very appreciative towards Gorbie, who she credited for the fall of the Wall. I could have driven around with her all day listening to her interesting perspectives!

Well I am off to buy a cake pan.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Transition Week

This has been another week of transition for me, so I don’t have anything super interesting to report. I have also been too busy running errands to get into too much trouble☺ Here’s a recap in any case:

The week started well because I had breakfast with Chaney, a colleague and friend from the embassy, who is also a friend of Jennie’s. Chaney now holds the honor of being my first visitor from the States! It was fun to hear about his whirlwind trip to Spain, Germany and Latvia. Did we gossip about the Embassy? Would I do that?;-)

Monday’s projects included meeting with my mentor and investigating telephone/internet options. My mentor is going to be great—very pro-me/my project and very laid back. Deciding on a telephone and internet plan has been a slightly more stressful project. I don’t know that it is any more stressful than finding your way through the US telephone service market, but adding the German language into the process adds a twist! (the story of my life!) I think I have decided on Alice, a company who sells internet and phone service by featuring a sex-bomb blonde on all of its ads. What she has to do with internet, I am not sure, but the rates are great and with any luck I will be back online by middle October.

Tuesday found me back at IKEA, looking at sleeper sofas/mattresses/futons/something for guests to sleep on. The beauty of IKEA in Germany is that the stores are set up exactly like they are in the US. The hard part is not knowing whether words like Poang and Beddinge are Swedish-IKEA nonsense words or German words that I should already know!

Today was moving day! I took one load over this morning and Matthias was nice enough to help me with another big load this evening! My landlady left me a fresh bouquet of flowers and everything else looks great. The one interesting surprise was the window in the bathroom door that does not have frosted glass. I will be looking into a curtains tomorrow!

I hope everyone is having a great week!

P.S. My week has been made... Tom Delay has been indicted!!! All I have to say is BUH BYE!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Marathon Day!

As someone who loves watching marathons (even when Katie is not competing), today’s 32nd running of the Berlin marathon provided the normal race day excitement and a taste of the unusual!

The first question of the day was what to yell!? Normally being a loud American is something to avoid in Europe. But how can you not yell at a marathon? The most common phrases seemed to be “hurrah” and “bravo,” though the crowd was not nearly as loud as those I have experienced in the States. What did seem to be very popular were noisemakers—horns, whistles, and clapping sticks. I kept thinking that my mom would fit in very well with her cowbell! Fewer people wrote their names on their shirts, which also made cheering somewhat more difficult. In the end my standard “GOOD JOB, YEAH, WOOHOO” seemed to do the trick!

We (3 other fellows and I) started the day at the 13K mark. At that point, 15 or so men were still running very close together. Mizuki Noguchi, of Japan, had a commanding lead in the women’s field. She was trying for a world record and was running strong. Next, we headed to the Gendarmenmarkt, one of the most beautiful squares in all of Berlin. There we met up with Matthias and watched the runners come through again. The men’s field had spread out considerably (39K mark) and Noguchi was still way ahead for the women.

We ended the day at the finish line, which was about 1K away from the Brandenburg Gate. Not only was it visually stunning to watch thousands of runners stream under the arches of the city’s most famous landmark, it was amazing to realize that just 15 years earlier, the Brandenburg Gate stood in the death strip behind the Berlin Wall. It was a small, representative reminder of how far Germany and democracy has come!

Now for the more unusual (for me)…
In terms of general marathon observations: the finishers’ blankets were not metallic. What’s up with that!? (Uncle Dave, please comment.) Also, my biggest beef was that the water cups were made out of hard plastic, which posed an accident risk because the runners could not flatten them.

And of course, the finish line area was lined with wurst and beer stands, a fair amount of cigarette smokers and pop music. Though the cigarette smoke was unacceptable, everything else added a great Octoberfest atmosphere to the day! The beer was just for the spectators, right? Wrong! It did not take long before race-blanket wearing runners could be seen stretching and cooling down, beer in hand (see pictures.) Maybe Torsten was being serious when he claimed drinking a liter of beer after exercising replaced vital nutrients (see entry about Cologne!)

What a fun day! I can’t wait for Boston in the spring!