Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ah Kraut!

A couple years ago a German said to me that the motto for the embassy’s website should be “Krauts No More.” Horrified, I suggested that Americans would not want such a derogatory term on a bummer sticker for their car or a t-shirt to wear around town. Perhaps my political correctness radar is a bit more sensitive than most, but such a motto was way overboard even for normal sensibilities I thought.

So imagine my surprise when a former colleague sent me a picture of a t-shirt he claimed was bought in Germany. The shirt said “Let’s Go Krauts.” Is that for real? No way?

Yes way! Indeed it seems that Wertheim department store IS selling the shirt as official World Cup Soccer apparel. What’s more, the shirt seems to be very popular because when I came across them yesterday there were only two left.

Actually, now there is only one because I purchased the other:-) I slinked up to the cash register like an underage kid trying to buy beer, praying that the sales lady would not make a comment. But I was willing to take the risk because the shirt is just too horrible/unbelievable/ hysterical not to own!

Will I wear it outside? I don’t know. Is this like the “N” word that only African Americans can use with one another? Is the shirt okay for Germans to wear but not for me? What do you think?

In general these phrases pose an interesting public diplomacy dilemma. Funny? Yes. But really an image Germany wants to perpetuate? I don't know. I guess I still stand by the fact that government should not use the word "Krauts" in its official advertising. But as a shirt for soccer hooligans (and now me,) it's kinda cool!


Yesterday I went to Italy for lunch. Okay, actually I was at the Italian embassy down the street from work, but it is technically Italy. The lunch invite came because of some connection with the Ebert foundation’s Middle East department that is still a bit fuzzy to me. Whatever! It was lunch in Italy☺

Large marble pillars and stairs decorate the outside of the pink Renaissance style building that looks like it was moved directly from Rome. Apparently Hitler built the embassy as a gift to Mussolini, though Benito never got the chance to see his present. We bombed the building in WWII (I wonder why) and some of the ruins are left in remembrance of the war. The ruins reminded me more of the Coliseum or the Forum. Check out the embassy's website to see some cool pictures.

The actual offices were great—lime green curtains, red chairs and melon orange leather couches appeared to be the standard issue. I would describe the decorations in the cantina as rustic Italian. More importantly, the food was great!

Now I ready for a real visit to Italia!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Random Friday Thoughts

Here are four random thoughts for Friday:

1. Bird flu has hit Germany. Yesterday in the newspaper, experts warned that parents should not allow their children to play with dead animals because they might have bird flu. DUH! Children probably shouldn't be playing with dead animals regardless of the bird flu scare!

2. Do Chinese restaurants in Germany serve fortune cookies? Are the fortunes in German? Do they not make sense half the time like US fortunes? (I might research this this weekend;-)

3. I met with my language partner for 3 hours last night (way too long!) Anyway, we were talking about translations and he told me about a funny translation that occurred when George Lucas came to town to promote Star Wars. At the end of his remarks, Lucas said "May the force be with you." The German translation: "Am 4. Mai werden wir bei Ihnen sein.'' (On May 4th we will be with you.)

4. KaDeWe (the famous German department store that is only in Berlin) is planning to expand and form a group of 13 luxury stores in 13 other German cities. KaDeWe in Freiburg? One can only dream:-)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Krankenhaus Waldfriede

I’ve just finished two days of doctors appointments to complete my health screening for the State Department. The embassy recommended the 7th Day Adventist hospital south of Berlin, so that is where I went to find “one-stop shopping” for all of the tests I needed (who knew 7th Day Adventists were in Germany!) Between my German and a bit of charades, the appointments were fine. And I learned lots of new vocab:-) The only bummer was that the nurse had to draw blood twice because she didn’t realize how many different tests had to be run (HELLO, read the forms twice, poke once!)

The slight surprise came when the doctor questioned whether I really needed a TB test. He asked if I had been vaccinated against TB. Do we vaccinate against TB in the States? Do you in Germany? Anyway, instead of the “three-poke test” they did a “results in 15 minutes” blood test. That’s a new one to me!

This was the second hospital I have been to in Berlin. I find the hospital experience in Germany a bit strange… since it’s Germany, the land of certifications and regulations, I have the feeling that the doctors and nurses are highly qualified and really know what they are doing. On the other hand, the inside of the buildings are more run-down than US hospitals I’ve been to. This is really more of an observation than a judgment. Pretty waiting rooms with fish aquariums don’t necessarily equal better care in the States.

I have to meet with the Embassy’s doctor in a week or so to go over all the results of the tests, but hopefully I will be “cleared for worldwide assignment” and then it is on to the security background check!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cheney's Valentine's Day Poem

"Rose are red, violets are blue, say something I don't like and I'll shoot you!"

-DC-radio personality Tom Joyner on the VP's shooting mishap over the weekend

I can't wait to hear what The Capitol Steps and John Stewart have to say about this!

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone:-)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Language partner

I met with my German conversation partner for the first time yesterday. It was strange at first because what were we really supposed to talk about? But we chatted about what we are each doing in Berlin and then the conversation seemed to move along just fine in a mix of German and English. He smokes like a chimney but is otherwise very interesting. Originally from a town near the Danish border, he moved to Berlin last year from Cologne when he changed his major to Sociology.

I think meeting each week will be a really good thing for both of us. It quickly became clear that I am a pro at small talk but when it comes to higher-level conversation things quickly fall apart! He said he reads a lot in English for his university classes but doesn't speak it very often.

We decided we will switch between English and German meeting to meeting, but try not to speak both in one meeting.

We'll see!