Friday, January 27, 2006

A Sneezing Russian, Guitar-Playing Spaniard and American Buffalo Wings

Last night I headed off to the New Years reception and concert for the Humboldt foundation. It was fun to catch-up with some of the other Berlin based fellows and amazing to see how many other people are involved with the Humboldt foundation from around the world.

It was especially nice to catch up with the Russian fellows, one of whom informed me that he is now famous. “Do you know Matthias Platzeck?” he asked. (Platzeck is minister-president of the state of Brandenburg). “Well, I was having an interesting conversation with him this afternoon and then I ‘gen???’ him.” At this point in the story I should explain that the Americans and Russians have a heck of a time understanding each other auf Deutsch but we enjoy the challenge.

So in my mind I am running through all of the past tense words I know that kind sound like what I just heard. Gegessen (to eat… that could be, this guy ate with Platzeck.) Giessen (to water… no, he probably didn’t water Platzeck’s flowers.) Geniest (to sneeze... no, there is no way my fellow fellow sneezed on Matthias Platzeck.) Alas after a few rounds of charades and re-explanation, indeed one of the Russia fellows now considers himself famous because he sneezed on Matthias Platzeck. This can be added to the list of silly stuff this guy did during orientation. What an ambassador for German-Russian relations!

Being the immature person that I am, the visual of this guy sneezing on a famous German politician was enough to give me the giggles throughout most of what turned out to be a fantastic classical guitar concert by a Spanish Humboldt fellow. Guitar is not usually what I think of when I think of classical music. I’ll post the name of the pieces and the guitarist soon. The music was so unique and relaxing!

Afterwards, we were treated to buffets from around the world—the US/Canada table had buffalo wings, tortilla rollups and muffins among other things. A Europe, Asia and Latin America/Africa table rounded out the offering. The other crazy part of the evening was who I ate dinner with. The director of the IES Berlin program, where I had participated in a model EU Summit during my semester in Freiburg happened to stand right next to me. She was pleased to discover a former IES student back in Berlin. I am very pleased to have another contact in Berlin! Small world!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


It is currently, “you take my breath away,” tongues freeze on flagpoles and boogers freeze in your nose cold in Berlin! The front that is currently bringing single digit temperatures to Berlin is bringing even colder temps to Russia and Poland, so I guess I can’t complain too much. But holy cow it is cold here!

In commemoration of this chilly weather I would like to present the
“ELT Cold Weather Clothing Awards”:

Coolest outfit: the guy I saw this evening riding a little scooter while wearing a leather jacket and GIGANTIC Russian fur hat.

Dumbest outfit: the girl I saw wearing a short coat, hat that didn’t cover her ears and stiletto FMBs. Fashion boots are not winter boots! One needs to especially keep this fact in mind in Berlin because the sidewalks never get shoveled and you have to trudge through the snow.

Silliest and most un-PC outfit: this is a group award to all the men I have seen wearing fur coats. I am sure these coats are warm but in this day and age of thinsulate and other jacket insulation, let the little animals stay in the forest! On top of which, there is a hilarious Seinfeld episode about men wearing fur coats so I can’t help but think about Cramer and David Putty every time I see a fur coat in Berlin.

Most practical (albeit not super stylish) outfit: I admit that this award goes to me. I decided to buy children’s snow boots after determining that I was unwilling to buy either adult boots that had high heels and no insulation or puffy purple metallic old lady boots. Mine actually look sporty with jeans, but not super with dress pants. Oh well, my tootsies are warm and there is plenty of time for cute shoes in the summer☺

Monday, January 23, 2006

Oh La La

About two years ago in Washington, word started circulating that the ambassador's wife was turning the basement of the residence into the "Berlin Bar," a sheek lounge in the spirit of the "Paris Bar" in Berlin. At the time, I had no idea what the Paris Bar was, but ended up being impressed with the red walls and mod black leather furniture that came together to create the "Berlin Bar."

Now living in Berlin, west Berlin no less, I decided it was time to visit the Paris Bar and see what all the hoopla was about. Was it really the west Berlin bastion of intellectual thought, coolness, snobbery and cigarette smoke that I had heard it was? To find out, I spiffed myself up in my coolest Berlin outfit (according to me) and headed off to meet a friend for dinner on Saturday night.

The entrance, with its neon red sign, does remind me of the sign leading to the Berlin Bar. Though the visual comparisons between the Berlin Bar and the Paris Bar seem to end there, my evening was very cool indeed. Old photos, a paper machete alligator, wooden African statues and other chochkies decorated the walls and ceiling. Smoke permeated everything (my clothes are still airing out on the balcony,) and groups of Berliners dressed in black sat together looking intellectually stimulated while enjoying a wonderful French bistro meal.

I had potato and leek soup and a delicious salad with warm goat cheese. Jude had the equally French Nicoise salad. While I can't comment on what others were discussing (I find it hard to eavesdrop in a foreign language), it was fun to catch up with Jude and talk about our respective fellowship experiences. She is on another Germany fellowship through the Free University of Berlin. Her hubby is a fellow Humboldt fellow.

The food, atmosphere and company were all great! I can definitely see what the Paris Bar has the reputation that it does. Though I won't be back until the spring, when the windows can be open so it isn't so smoky, the vibe was cool. I will be back:-)