Hello again, its good to be back.
Ever since our families adventure in the desert, it seems that I have had nothing to write about. Lucky for me, this Christmas will be my first out of the state of Arkansas. Starting on the 22nd, unless the apocalypse occurs, I get to write about traveling again!
Until next time.
August 1, 2012- Hello internet, its been awhile.
Any-who, I’m back on the road again. The family has taken Leon to Las Vega and Arizona for the next week. We flew into Vegas Monday night, now to me, Vegas is different. It is one of those places where you go, but everything kind of seems like a blur. You go from one casino to another, high end restaurants, great shopping, but none of it’s real. That bothers me, Vegas is completely fake, it has absolutely no substance to it. For about two days it’s really fun, then it loses that certain grandeur, and starts to look cheesy. I will say that I was very satisfied with the shoe selection (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a fan of sneakers, something I have a lot of, just saying).
At about noon today, we escaped the hazy mirage of Vegas to the dessert. A quick run by Hoover Dam was the real highlight of the day. I seem to forget how critical Hoover Dam is for the entire southwest. A single Dam controls water movement for nearly 20,000,000 people.
Tomorrow were visiting the Grand Canyon, looking forward to the serenity.
Till next time.
July 17, 2012- After a few days, I feel that I have finally become accustomed to home again. It took a few days, but my old life is back. It’s good to be home.
Next, I have a delayed promise to keep for a friend. She asked me if I could write about Germany’s past (specifically 1940s era), and see how it affects the country today.
I think the majority of Germany’s problems began after the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty ending World War I. After an ill-conceived war, the recently born German nation was heavily hit by sanctions limiting the economy. What allied powers did not know, was that in a global economy, if one country is taken down, the rest will soon follow. This, and many other inconvenient events, triggered the Great Depression of the 1930s. Since 1919, a charismatic young German joined a political party know as the Deutsche Arbeiterparei (abbreviated as DAP, and later commonly referred to as the Nazi Party. This particular German, was a brilliant public speaker, and used his savvy political skills to reach a position of power in the party. In 1933, he was made Chancellor of Germany, giving him full control of a major European power. His name, Adolf Hitler.
In many ways, Hitler may have been a savior to Germany. Through craft maneuvering, and decisive leadership, Hitler managed to heal Germany in a way no other rulers could. Behind a revived economy, and a population of eager nationalists, Hitler vowed for revenge. At first, the entire situation looked harmless, Germany was invading territories that had previously been their own. Nobody was being hurt, original borders had been restored. A weak League of Nations (an alliance of countries, similar to the United Nations, did not include America) did nothing to stop this new Germany. Finally, in 1939, Poland is invaded, sparking World War II. The rest is history.
After the dust settled, Germany has sort of been licking its wounds ever since. The divisions of the nation throughout the Cold War, did not help. When democracy was finally restored in 1990, Germany has worked its way back. It is currently the strongest nation in a struggling European Union, and it is one of the most energy independent nations in the world.
The point of this post, is to basically shed some light on how Germany thinks of its past today, and they are not ashamed. Nobody believes what the Third Reich did was right, a Holocaust and oppressive regime make it nearly impossible to do so. It is kind of the way that America looks at the Trail of Tears, Slavery, of Japanese Internment Camps. It’s ugly, but it’s also apart of who we are. Children in classrooms will not raise their hands to the sky, because it resembles a heil (raising your right arm straight at a 45 degree angle). In Berlin, almost anything resembling a swastika, has been destroyed and put behind them. Germany is a new country, a respected country, looking ahead to the future.
P.S. I’ll be posting every few days, Leon arrives next week, I’ll have more adventures for you then.
June 11, 2012- This will be my last post, at least here in Germany. In a mere 12 hours, I’ll be on my flight home. The entire thing is odd, I feel accustomed to the area, it was like when I was leaving Arkansas. I had embraced the place where I was, I didn’t want things to change, but life does seem to change in a way. There are certain luxuries that I’ll be looking forward to, air-conditioning, television, diet coke, ect.
I would like to give special thanks to people, for making this trip and website happen. First to my family; Mom, Dad, and Julia, for everything and more. To the rest of my non-imediate family as well. Frau Leopard, for encouraging me, and teaching me my Germenglish. To everybody at rotary, especially the Don’s. And a special thanks to Rick Steves, personal hero, and esteemed traveler, with his help, my blog now has over 3500 views, in over 30 countries. Keep on traveling Steve.
I’ve told the majority of my goodbyes already, the only one’s left are my host family. About mid-way through the trip, I posted about lessons I learned. Things that will stick with me, and there are many, but instead of some list, I think that I can sum it up in one.
1. Where ever you are, with who ever you’re with, if you are surrounded by people you love, your home.
I will still do posts while Leon is in Arkansas, but I doubt they will still be as exciting.
For dramatic effect, I’d like to end my posts here in Germany, as it began.
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” -Frank Herbert
A sleeper may have awaken.
Already making plans to come back next year.
June 10, 2012- Today was my last day of school, I’ve never moved schools in my life, I may now know how it feels. Initially, when I met all of my host brother’s friends, it was odd. I knew nothing about them, nor did I speak their language. Yet, as we spent more time together, friendships emerged, similarities were found. I can truly call of my friends at the Marie Curie Schule, my real friends.
Although we had no history together, over time we sort of jelled as a group. There is Janick, Miggoland, Stella, Minue, Celine, Julia, Meiter, Ula, Dennis, Neuer, Morlitz, Simon, Nina, and others who I seem to have forgotten their names. I’m also stupid enough to not take a picture before I leave, I’ll see if my brother has one.
Now I’m leaving. Over five weeks, I have formed relationships with everybody. Most of them don’t know that I may come back next year, for another exchange. Also, I’ve given school administrators information about my school, were going to try and set up a sort of agreement. Every year, we could send a few kids as short term students. So maybe next year, a few of my buddies could join me here.
July 8, 2012- As I woke up this morning, I realized that my stay here is Germany, is running out. Less than 100 hours till my flight on Thursday morning, so these next few posts will probably be recollections of some sort.
It seems that these past five weeks have gone by fairly quickly. It’s hard for me to even recall some of the things we did. Try to think back to what you were doing five weeks ago, it’s hard isn’t it? Since my arrival, I’ve gone into Hannover six times, been to the North Sea, spent a weekend in Berlin, and visited multiple museums and castles.
This entire trip has been a mixture of vacation and real life. It would be like if you were back in Arkansas, but every weekend you travel to neighboring cities for a few days. Next year, I’m considering do a full year exchange here in Germany, it’s hard to imagine what that would be like. My host family has already invited me back next summer, I’m considering the options. Still have about six months till that decision needs to be made.
July 6, 2012- When contemplating over what to post about today, I realized that I’d left out a very important part of Berlin, and that is The Reichstag.
Since the initial German unification in 1896, this building located in central Berlin has been the German seat of government. Only during the world wars, and the devision of Berlin, has this building not been in use.
After the Berlin Wall was torn down, renowned architect Norman Foster spearheaded a project to restore the building. Currently, the German Bundestag, or parliament, meets here every spring and summer. The center of the building features a vast parliament chamber, much like the one inside the American capital building. Hearings and sessions are held here daily, so getting a date to visit the building can be challenging. Lucky for us, there has been no national emergencies, and only one debt crisis to worry about.
The German system of government, is very much like our own in America. It is a democratic system, based on deferent levels of local and national government. The biggest difference, is that the Chancellor, or leader of the country, is not elected by the general populace. The members of parliament, who are elected by the people, elect the chancellor. It would kind of be like if congress were to vote on who the next president is.
Another interesting fact I’ve learned here, is that Germans, really do not have a clear idea of what American government is like. They know who the president is, but other than that, little to nothing. The majority of what they know is based on stereotypes. Many think of presidents like Clinton, with his impeachment and famous quote, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. Did you guys just read that in a Bill Clinton impression? I did. Also they think of Bush as a war waging president because of Iraq. The most popular, and confusing out of all of these, is a John F. Kennedy quote. In the height of the Cold War, Kennedy visited Berlin to soften relations with Soviet powers. Speaking to a large crowd, he says, “Ich bin ein Berliner”. Which loosely translates to, “I am a Berliner”. He was trying to tell the crowd that he was one of them, and he planned to fight for what they believed in. Yet, the word Berliner, has a double meaning. A Berliner can be classified as a traditional German dessert, usually eaten in the morning. So some Germans believe that the president of the United States, called himself a doughnut.
Lastly, the building is famous for its giant glass dome that was added on by the architect Foster, in the 90s. The dome, has a winding walkway up the sides, so it offers panoramic views of Berlin. Personally, I think the coolest feature of the structure is a bit of symbolism. Once at the pinnacle of the dome, you can look down upon the parliament chamber. So in a way, the citizens are looking down upon their government. Instead of being oppressed by regimes and dictators, the citizens can now keep a watchful eye on the people they elect.
July 5, 2012- It seems that in Germany, if there is some sort of minor holiday, it deserves a festival. So the “Day of the Hunter” should obviously have a full blown park and parade, right? Yeah, I don’t get it either.
After school today, my host brother, Janick, and I boarded a train into Hannover to celebrate Hunterfest in style. It was basically just a large carnival, filled with unhealthy food, and rides. It was fun at the beginning, but as it wore on, it wore me out. So after only a few hours we came back home.
It dawned on me today, that I have less than one week left here in Deutschland, five weeks has gone by much faster that I thought.
Now to, our third day in Berlin. After another early morning breakfast, we took a casual stroll throughout the city. At around noon we hoped on a river barge, and viewed the city by water. A cup of hot chocolate, and an enhanced view of the city is enough to make me happy.
One of my favorite things about Berlin, is that no matter where you were, you could always buy currywurst. Pronounced ker/e/v/orst, this Berliner delicacy was by far my favorite. It is basically a big piece of sausage, cut up into smaller pieces. Then it is prepared like Curry, a traditional Indian food. After that it is drenched with ketchup and is served along with a bread roll. It may sound odd, but it was heaven.
Next, I’d like to address what I believe to be not only Berlin’s symbol, but Germany as a whole. The Brandenburg Gate is the center of activity in Berlin. As a structure, it has truly stood the test of time, in a city filled with destruction. Two world wars, multiple sieges, and even a division, cannot stand against the Brandenburg Gate. Originally built as a decorative structure to beautify the city, it is now a representation of what Germany is, and can become. In front of those monolithic columns, president Reagen pleaded with “Mr Gorbachev, to tear this wall down”. An old story says, that Reagen asked for speakers to face east Berlin, so those under oppression could still hear his call to freedom.
All in all, Berlin is easily one of my favorite European cities. Filled with art, history, and good food, it’s a must see in my book.
July 4, 2012- Happy 4th of July, from a country that doesn’t recognize it.
The Sportfest at school today was really fun! It was basically a track and field day, but you can do whatever you want, or nothing at all. I participated in four of the events.
Event Number 1. The water bucket event, you basically had a small plastic cup filled with water. You would carry that cup through an obstacle course and put the water in a larger bucket. Our team won the competition, filling up the bucket the fastest.
Event Number 2. It involved a frisbee, and it is too complicated to explain, sorry.
Event Number 3. Four people carried a stretcher across the field. That was literally it, weird huh?
Event Number 4. The last event featured a giant water fight, the objective was to not get wet. With water bottles filled to the brink, we attacked each other. They thought it would be funny to team up on “die Americano”.
Next, we have last Saturday’s Berlin adventure. We woke up at around 7:00 and had breakfast in our condo. The first thing on our agenda is to visit the Berlin Wall, the wall is like a giant memorial the spans the city. They don’t want to take it down though, the government leaves it as a reminder of previous woes. Berlin has a lot of that, sad little reminders that show what the cities history.
After the wall, we strolled through museums and government buildings galore.
My favorite part of the trip was definitely when we ate dinner in the Nikolai district. The Nikolai district is this really cool area along the river Spree, it features three gothic churches and multiple beer halls lined with courtyards. Nearly every building has green ivy running down it, and the majority of the area is pedestrian, so its really quiet.
Tomorrow were visiting the Rathause (Public Hall)
June 3, 2012- Once, again, I’d like to apologize for being so flaky with posts lately. I’m ready to get back on a rhythm today. This last weekend, my host family took me to Berlin, the Haupstadt (capital city) of Deutschland. Since I’m behind, I figure that my next few posts will feature a day in Berlin, mixed with the current day.
After arriving in Berlin late Friday night, we really only had time for dinner and a quick stroll of the city. We ate dinner outside along the Spree River, instead of people watching, we simply watched the tourist barges float up and down the river. (Fun Fact- Berlin’s Spree River, along with its 650 different bridges, outnumbers the amount of water and bridges in; Venice, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen.) There isn’t much to our first night in Berlin.
Sportfest is Germany’s equivalent of a track and field day. All the students sign up for some sort of athletic event, and are given a free day off. I missed the sign up day, so I was put in an event that features putting water into buckets. I’m confused as well. We’ll just have to see how it goes tomorrow. Until next time.
It is funny how events here in Germany can run over time. Not that I’m too picky about that stuff, but it’s just funny who two hour events can become four hours. If you’re really OCD, this may not be your country.