Saturday, July 01, 2006

2 more to go!!

Just two more games to go and Germany will be the 2006 World Cup soccer champ!! Last night they beat Argentina in a quarterfinal match that ended in a shoot-out! Most exciting!! On a personal note, the shoot-out was extra exciting because I learned a new phrase-- "11 meter schiessen" (penalty and shoot-out shots--11 meters away.) During the coffee break at work, people kept using that term but I couldn't imagine what that meant. I made a mental note to ask the first German friend I talked with later in the day. As it turned out, there was so much "11 meter schiessen" going on last night, I figured out what the word meant by myself;-)

Beyond the obvious implications of a German victory, I was hoping for a win last night because of the parade that I was told would spontaneously form on the Kudamm if Germany was victorious. I still don't understand how it happens, but indeed, in the 15 minutes it took me to walk from my apartment to the Kudamm after the game, thousands of people were parading up and down the boulevard with flags, in costumes, drinking, singing, talking on cell phones, just soaking it all in.

As bizarre as it sounds, watching the parade unfold last night somehow had a similar feeling to watching Bush land at the White House on 9/11. Of course the type of emotion could not have been more different. But the level of emotion was similar, as well as the spontaneity of the gathering. For me, both were out-of-body experiences-- a feeling that I was a witness to something much, much bigger than myself. Does that make any sense? I don't know. Let's just go to the tape...

Here are some pictures that I took:

Car parade on the street just south of the Kudamm

Corner of Bundesallee and the Kudamm

Walking in the street on the way to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church. I decided to get into the street after a guy puked at my feet and a girl fell on me while I was standing on the sidewalk.

This requires no commentary:-)

Sun setting on the Kudamm

Friday, June 30, 2006

Decisons decisions

Today is my last day at the SWP. Starting on Monday I will be spending the rest of my time in Germany writing, writing, writing. But where to write? I need not write in my apartment every day and I had always planned to spend the first week of July doing something fun.

So here are my three options:

1. leave Berlin on Sunday, go to either Offenburg or Strasbourg and watch the first stage of the Tour de France. From there I could spend a couple days in Freiburg. (Ahhh, Freiburg!) I have promised myself see Freiburg one more time before I leave.

2. leave Berlin on Wednesday, go to Paris and then go on to Caen where I can watch a different stage of the Tour de France. From there I would go to Bayeux and take a tour of Normandy. Seeing Omaha beach and the American cemetery had been high on my list to see this year.

3. go somewhere else TBD.

The Tour de France enters into the equation because, well... it's happening... I'm here... why not! Katie and I normally watch the race every morning during breakfast while on vacation in Michigan. So it somehow feels right to watch it in person this year if I can't watch it with her. The one catch to the Tour de France plans is that all of the information about where to watch the riders is in French. (Insert mean, but somewhat true France joke here.) Then again all the info about watching the race in Offenburg is in German.

Whether I go to Freiburg, France or somewhere else, I will bring my computer to type my general and public diplomacy thoughts along the way.

Deciding where to go will be my project of the day... after the Germany-Argentina game.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I've been struck, in the last couple of days, by 3 interesting (I think they are interesting) differences between Germany and the US.

1. Cheese balls
In the States I am addicted to Planter's Cheese Balls. They are salty, full of fat and turn your fingers orange...what is there not to love!? I normally only eat them on vacation in Northern Michigan, so they had been placed on my list of things I would be missing this summer. Imagine then my surprise when I found German cheese balls at the grocery store yesterday! What I find so funny though, is that the packaging makes them look like a delicacy. We are led to believe that people eat cheese balls at cocktail parties with wine and grapes. The cheese looks to be a fine Bergkäse or Swiss. This is definitely a different marketing strategy than in the States!

(p.s. Dan decided that my soccer man's name should be Günter... Günter Pot Head! Günter will be returning to the States with me where I plan to plant grass in his head so I can give him a buzz cut.)

2. Bears

Since Easter, a bear has been roaming around Bavaria. To an American, this is "so what" news. Bears live in the mountains, Germany has mountains, so it makes sense Germany has bears. Not so! The last bear reported in Germany was is 1835. Unfortunately, people were tired of Bruno "wrecking havoc" in Bavaria so they killed him yesterday. Here's how the Washington Post described it:

"The last straw for officials came over the weekend. On Saturday, the bear stood up on his hind legs and snarled at three overly curious hikers who saw him in the woods and tried to follow him, but got too close. Later that day, officials gave the go-ahead to a team of hunters.

Although Bruno didn't hurt any people, he was accused of eating sheep and plundering beekeepers' hives. He also gave people a fright in the village of Kochel am See recently when he ambled around a cafe, sat on the stoop of the police station and snacked on a little girl's pet guinea pig.

Bruno, who was 2 years old and weighed an estimated 220 pounds, was born in northern Italy into a family that was resettled there as part of a wildlife restoration program. Italy and Austria have encouraged the growth of their small bear populations and have programs to compensate farmers and others for bear-related losses.

German officials said they weren't opposed to bears in principle, only misbehaving ones. "If a normal bear finds its way into Bavaria, it is cordially welcome," Bernhard said."

First of all, Germans, this reporter is clearly making fun of you. Second of all, are you kidding me? I would be mad too if 3 German hikers started following me in the woods-- especially those Nordic Walkers, they creep me out! And Bruno ate a little girl's guinea pig...don't leave guinea pigs outside and bears won't eat them! Germany is the country with no death penalty where most jail sentances are no more than 15 years because, so the thinking goes, people can change and then deserve to go on living their lives. And yet poor Bruno had to die? Something is rotten in the state of Bavaria!

3. Underwear

I was somewhat surprised the first time I went into a German department store and saw men in the lingere department helping their girlfriends and wives pick out underwear. For some reason I have been surprised by this time and time again this year, most recently yesterday. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it is just so different from the States where you might occassionally see a man sheepishly standing around waiting for his wife or girlfriend, but certainly not making suggestions on what she should purchase.

Deep thoughts for the day:-)

Sunday, June 25, 2006


With the mercury predicted to rise into the 90's yesterday, Lexy and Email and I decided to check out one of Berlin many lakes. We took a subway and bus and then walked to Tegelsee, about 45 minutes north of the downtown area. Unlike my previous German beach and sauna experiences, I was not caught off guard by the topless women, speedo-sporting men or the Freie Koeper Kultur ("free body culture") area of the beach.

Yesterday's new experience was that we rented a "strand korb"-- a twin beach chair with a wicker canopy. I know I've seen pictures of them in the States, but I can't think of the English name, nor had I ever seen one in person. It was quite nice! I would enjoy one at Lake Michigan! The water was very warm and pleasantly clear. There were minnows swimming near the shore, but no big fish or yucky stuff floating around.

The only real surprise of the day was when we sat down at the restaurant near the beach for some lunch. There were big signs saying you needed to be dressed in something other than a swimsuit to eat there. It appeared that everyone was following the rule and I was even intrigued that one guy was wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey. The surprise though was that when he stood up, he was not wearing pants! Of all the way Eagles jerseys are worn in Philadephia, sans pants is not one of them. Lexy said he was wearing a euro-man swimsuit, but all I saw was no pants!

I am sure there will be other beach days before I leave. Maybe next time we will try another lake, just to see something new.

Today was quite. I got some much needed work done on my resume and applied for a job. My sister and I discussed whether I should list "gumshoe" (from my Where in the World in Carmen SanDiego days) as a job skill at FEMA. We decided that would be "cute but not appropriate":-)