Saturday, March 25, 2006

What if Mike Brady had been a Muslim?

What American hasn’t seen countless episodes of “The Brady Bunch?” Popular in the US in the 70’s and still today, “Drei Maedchen und Drei Jungen” was apparently also popular in Germany. Since last week, Germany has begun airing its own distinctly German/Berlin version of The Brady Bunch, called Tuerkisch fuer Angaenger (Turkish for Beginners.)

The basic story follows Metin and Doris and their respective children (2 on each side) as they move in together and try to form a family unit. The twist, however, is that Metin and his children are Muslim. Though Metin and his son are not strict, his daughter is very devout—prays 5 times/day, doesn’t eat pork, wears a headscarf, etc…

I think the show is great on a number of levels. In terms of pure entertainment value, the show is really funny! Doris is a quirky therapist and Metin trys to be super dad but much like Mike Brady, often isn’t quite successful. Doris’ daughter Lena has perpetual boy problems and Metin’s daughter Yagmur is constantly irritated by her integrated family’s lack of “proper” behavior. The sons are funny too, but don’t play quite as major a role. This week’s episodes have included Doris accidentally serving pork to Yagmur and Yagmur confusing her new family with the punishments she gives herself to atone for her sin. Having nothing to do with being Muslim or Christian, all the kids are horrified to find their parents sleeping together and all are having problems at school of one kind or another.

On a slightly deeper level, I am intrigued by the show because of how current the topic is and unique. There have been couples on television and in the movies that were mixed race and Jewish-Christian, but I can’t think of a program where a Muslim family has ever been featured; and certainly not a Muslim-Christian family. I can’t really see Hollywood making such a television series, but I can’t decide why. Is it because ethnic/religious integration is just not as big of an issue in the States or because the topic would be taboo?

The actor who plays the father was interviewed on television earlier this week and was asked whether he felt the show should still run in light of the Mohammed cartoon protests. He said absolutely because the program shows gently pokes fun at both sides. I would generally agree with that. In my opinion, the show is similar to Will and Grace in that it walks the fine line between using stereotypes to help push the envelope of social acceptance and causing more harm by perpetuating stereotypes of lesser understood groups of people.

Then again, I am concerned not only by stereotypes but also by people who overanalyze everything:-) Long story short, If you understand some German, check out the show’s website and make up your own mind!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"This is Fr. Taylor, how can I help you?"

I have a new land line number attached to my cell phone. This means that I can receive calls when I am in my neighborhood-- at home, at work... or while shopping at KaDeWe;-) Instead of being an expensive cell phone call, it only costs what a land line call does. Do we have this option in the States? Crafty Germans! Anyway, the new line is good news.

The bad news is that the number is nearly identical to the number for the Steglitz/Zehlendorf Buergeramt (town hall/citizen services for a district in Berlin.) By switching the last two digits of the main line with the last two digits of the next number in the phone book, you've got my new telephone number! I didn't think anything of the first call this morning; I assumed the second was just dumb luck; by the third I was getting suspicous; by the fourth I thought it was funny and by the fifth it was REALLY funny! It was actually after the fifth call that I looked in the phone book and realized exactly what was going on. Caller five was actually the funniest and the sadest call of the day. She wanted to get a divorce from her husband. When I told her this was a private number, she was confused. I said, "no worries, you are my fifth wrong number today." But she didn't hang up. So after a moment I asked her if she wanted me to look the number up on the computer. She said yes, so that is what I did!

It reminds me of the Seinfeld where Kramer's number became the Mr. Movie Phone information line. Maybe I will start answering, "Thanks for calling the Buergeramt. We're working hard to serve you better. If you are a cute single boy, please hold on the line for the next available operator. If not, please dial 63 21 0. Have a nice day.";-)

St. Patrick's Day

Day three in Kitzbuehel was definitely the highlight of the trip. I was on the slopes by 9:30 and was pleased that Thursday’s fog had burned off into nothing more than a slight mist on some the trails. For the most part though, all of the runs were great! My favorites were the two that started at 1802m and ended in Kirchberg at 837m. Gradual and scenic, they were the perfect trails to be able to cruise and make big turns.

As luck would have it, Johnna, another fellow, just happened to have planned a trip to Kitzbuehel at the same time, so we met up at lunchtime and then skied the rest of the afternoon together. It fun to plan to meet someone at the top of a mountain and lunch was FANTASTIC—cheese spaetzle and apple struedel! It was the best cheese spaetzle I’ve ever had at 1900m;-) The apple struedel was most unusual in that it was garnished with pink and black pepper, pumpkin seeds, a stalk of aloe and some kind of fruit that might have been a yellow plum, but the jury is still out! Very Martha Stewart for a little ski hut restaurant!

Knowing that my legs were not going get me down another run, I ended the day in Kirchberg and took the ski bus back to Kitzbuehel. After a quick shower, I was off to meet Johnna and her friends at a British pub to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. You throw together a couple hundred après skiers, 2 British singers, some ciders and a talking moose head and you’ve got yourself a party!

see the talking moose head?

Johnna, Sara and I commandeered some chairs and a bench and started to “dance to the music!”

The evening was “capped” off by the bartender dancing on the bar with nothing but a smile on his face and a leprechaun hat on his…
lost a bet or willing participant? P.S. I did not take this picture. (Couldn't get my camera out fast enough;-))

Two fights broke out soon after and Johnna and Sara got pushed so we decided it was time to mosey. The last St. Patrick’s Day I spent in Europe was when I had to spend the night in Amsterdam (on the street) after missing a train to Brussels. Kitzbuehel on St. Patty’s Day was equally memorable and definitely more fun!

Saturday morning I took the bus from Kitzbuehel to Salzburg, where I caught another discount flight back to Berlin. It was, of course, still snowing in Berlin. Today is the first full day of spring, but Mother Nature hasn’t quite gotten the message. Any day now; I can feel it!

Monday, March 20, 2006

The First Run

Bells—lots of bells awakened me on Thursday morning! One set tolled the time, while another set sounded more like the bells that ring after a wedding. Regardless of their purpose, for me they signaled my first day of skiing in the Alps! After a quick breakfast and a stop at a local rental shop, I hoped into a gondola and headed into the clouds. Unfortunately, I never really got out of the clouds. At the top of the mountain, people clicked into their skis, headed down the trail and quickly disappeared into the fog. I did the same and soon remembered how much I love skiing, but also how dangerous it can be. The first trail was foggy, narrow and gradual and then wider but very steep. It was on the steep part of the hill that I wiped out for the first time. While not the most spectacular wipe-out of my two days, it was unfortunate to “bite it” on my first run. Oh well!

Anyway, I finally found some sunshine as I approached the first chairlift. The sun illuminated a crystal clear panorama of mountain peaks, green pine trees and lots and lots of powdery snow. The mountain peaks poking through the clouds reminded me of icebergs emerging from an undulating ocean. It was absolutely spectacular! (I had a small camera with me and will post pictures after I get them developed.) The trails at the top of the mountain were nice and sunny but it was impossible to ski a long run without running into the fog again. For a while it was manageable, but by early afternoon I decided that it had really gotten too unsafe. I reached a fork in the trail where I (and a bunch of other people who were stopped) thought the trail continued in one direction, but realized that was incorrect when skiers started coming towards me. So after that slightly frightening moment I followed a ski school class onto a towrope (figuring that a towrope never leads to anywhere too scary) and finally found the gondola to take me back into town.

Dinner was a bit of a disappointment—Mexican at a place I thought would be a cool ski town kind of restaurant but wasn't. Mexican food is something that is really best left to Mexicans or Americans to make. C'est la vie! Besides Friday night made up for a lackluster Thursday… more on that tomorrow…

(I promise tomorrow will be the last Austria posting:-)