Thursday, June 01, 2006


Here are a couple of the non-official photos that one of the other fellows got taken with his camera. The one of her talking to us is a riot... basically everyone's expression says: "yes, Chancellor Merkel, whatever you say Chancellor Merkel, ooh how fascinating Frau Chancellor!"

I'm heading to Rome for the weekend. Look for an update on Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Not your average 3 days in Berlin

Now for a bit of context to my Angie encounter…

Since Monday, all of the Chancellor Scholars have been meeting with politicians and diplomats in Berlin. “THE” meeting of the three days was yesterday’s photo-op with Chancellor Merkel—after all, the fellowship is named after her job!

Monday after lunch, we met with Deputy Foreign Minister Erler. I was most impressed! Not only was he willing to answer any question we had, he was very eloquent… and… wait for it… from Freiburg! Our other meeting of the day was at the Russian embassy. Stretching almost an entire city block, the building was amazing—Stalin or the Czar could easily entertain there. Our meeting was held in a large reception room overlooking Unter den Linden. I found myself wondering what people inside the embassy must have been doing and feeling as they looked out the windows on November 9, 1989 and saw thousands of people flooding towards the west.

Let’s just say that Tuesday morning started with a lesson in public diplomacy and cross-cultural miscommunication. We were waiting at the American embassy expecting to meet with one speaker when we discovered that the plan had been changed (we had been ditched for something in Washington:-o) and that there were 5 heads of section (equally cool) waiting for us at the America House across town. Once we finally got there, the discussion was fascinating! I would have answered some of the questions differently, but overall I was impressed. I was most fascinated by what was said about public diplomacy. One of the speakers brought up Edward R. Murrow’s famous quote that public diplomacy really happens in “the last three feet”—person-to-person contact. For benefit of the Russians and Germans, the speaker quickly made a point of saying that three feet is approximately one meter. This small comment was an awesome reminder that even person-to-person contact can require cultural translation and understanding. Our day continued with lunch at Theodor Tucher a restaurant next to the Brandenberg Gate that I’d been dying to try. It got the ET seal of approval!

Don't let the innocent Midwest faces fool you, we have questions and we aren't affraid to ask them!

View from the 7th floor

Then came the main event! We met with a man who works on media and culture issues at the chancellery and then it was up to the 7th floor for our photo-op. The chancellor came out of her office after we had lined ourselves up for the picture. She asked us a few questions about what we were doing and told us about a plan to expand the fellowship to 10 Chinese “future leaders” next year. She also encouraged us to use the contacts we have made when we return home and said she hoped that we would always remember Germany. (Will do!) I will also always remember how friendly she was when she came out of her office--like she was Martha Stewart greeting people into her home. (Pictures of us with the BK to follow in a couple of days)

Cabinet Room-- Merkel and Munterfering get the first 2 chairs

looking from the Cabinet Room to the Reichstag (sponsored by Adidas)

After she left, we got a tour of the rest of the building.

Neues Museum

Guide explaining how they were looking for the right shade of white for the walls

The last part of the day, which was almost as memorable as Angie, was a tour of ALL the museums on the Museum Island by the press secretary of the museums. An archeologist by training, he wore an Indian Jones hat and Clark Kent glasses—the perfect tour guide. Amazingly enough, the highlight of the tour was not the Pergamon Altar or even the Nefertiti statue, but a tour through the Neues Museum, which has been closed since 1945 and the Bode Museum which is also being renovated and will be reopened this fall. Standing in the Neues Museum, looking at art work that has not been seen by the public in over 60 years made me feel a bit like an archeologist as well!

Bode Museum

This morning we headed back to the foreign ministry and met with the coordinator for German-American relations, the head of the culture and education department and a representative from the Russia department. The fellows were once again thoroughly impressed with the speakers’ openness and eagerness to engage us in a discussion about culture in Germany.

The final item on the agenda was our last group meal together. (Let it never be said that the Humboldt Foundation lets its fellows go hungry!) While discussing the year, one of the Humboldt reps said, “you are not the people you were at the beginning of the year.” Hmmm, I think that is very true—a bit strange, a lot cool and very true!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I met Chancellor Angela Merkel today. Simply put, she rocked and it is even more clear to me than ever that women really should rule the whole world:-) More tomorrow, I'm exhausted!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Oh Hail!

After having a fun morning at the Kollowitzplatz open-air market and lunch with Lexy, I realized late yesterday that my wallet was missing. Oh hail! Where could I have lost it? I turned the apartment upside down, but then remembered that I had it out on the subway to show the ticket checkers. Could the wallet have slipped off my lap without me noticing?

Regardless, I ended up spending the better part of the afternoon putting holds on all my credit and bankcards and submitting a lost property claim with the Berlin transportation authority (which is of course not open on the weekend.) I spent the evening learning about replacing my drivers license, train discount card, insurance card, etc… which were also all in the wallet.

If I may, let me take this moment to share an interesting tidbit I learned about German law. The DeutscheBahn website states that “in accordance with Sections 978ff” of the German civil code, good Samaritans who return lost property in Germany are entitled to 2.5% of its value, up to 500 euros (and 1.5% over 500 euro.) WHAT! That is whacked on two levels! On a capitalistic level, if you are going to get a reward, chances are that it will be more than 2.5%-- I’d rather take my chances at getting a big reward than having the GOVERNMENT sanction what I “deserve.” Of course on a more important, moral level, returning lost property is just a good thing to do. I think it falls in the “do unto others…” category. I highly doubt we have such a thing in the States!

But I digress… Like most good Erin adventures, this story has a (mostly) happy ending. Last night a guy called my cell phone to say that he had the wallet! I met him this morning and got the wallet back minus my monthly subway ticket and the cash that had been inside. (And gave him a more than 2.5% reward!) As I wrote after I lost my cell phone (I know, it’s been a bad month,) Germans ROCK the honesty meter!

I lost the wallet in the middle of the city; the guy said his girlfriend found it down south in Zehlendorf and it was returned to me way out in western Charlottenberg. In the meantime, Visa tells me it made a stop at a music store! From the condition of the inside of the wallet, it looks like it probably stopped in a few other districts around the city too!

So now it’s raining, HAILING, and windier than heck outside. But my wallet and I are happily inside—back in sleepy Wilmersdorf to enjoy a QUIET Sunday.