Thursday, July 28, 2011

Profiling Amongst Neighbors

Tuesday afternoon, I had one of those crazy encounters I often have in Germany. I am an unwanted celebrity. Everywhere I go, everyone remembers me. I am the Black Angelina Jolie of Northern Germany.

I was on my way home from buying a sandwich in the shopping area a street away from my apartment. I was rounding the corner at this store, no kidding, called Assmann [It sells health aids.]. These two friendly-looking ladies stopped me. I am not used to older women who don't look like they hate me, so I decided to be polite and stopped. They were both smiling. Now I know why. They were Jehovah's Witnesses, not intrinsically nice people.

Only one was talking. She chose her gambit poorly. She started by saying that she had noticed that I speak English and waved her hand around the Alter Markt. So, she is watching me as I walk to and from my home. I automatically hate her but I decided to be polite, so I am sticking with that.

She continued on her broken path. She said she and her partner were sent out to talk to English speakers like me.


I stayed nice. It takes a lot of courage to talk to strangers and there is no need to be rude. Despite my hating these women, I maintained my polite facade.

She asked me would I like to attend an introductory meeting in English.

I politely said no.
I assumed that would be the end of it but nope.

She then politely asked me what religion I was.

I tried to quickly scan by brain to create something that would end the conversation quickly. I came up with nothing, so simply said, Right now, nothing because it was a short answer that would hopefully end our conversation on a positive note.


Smiley looked surprised and explained,
Oh, I'm surprised. Most people from Africa are usually something.

I am sure that I had a bit of an edge when I said, I am not from Africa.

Of course, she asked me where I was from.
She seemed a bit taken aback I reported that I am from the United States of America.

Then she asked me if I was living in Germany or visiting.
I sighed and said, I live here.

I am not sure what all this information had to do with my learning about her religion and the fact that she just seemed to be surprised by everything I said was just pissing me off.

If we were on a first date, we would not go on a second date.

Norway is for Lovers

Norway and the rest of Northern Europe were shocked by the insane violence that one man committed in Norway. Not shocked like rich people who are shocked when bad things happen in their neighborhoods but horribly shocked by someone who can do such evil. The concept of senseless violence is foreign there.

The only positive that can come from the dozens of deaths is that Europeans will squash the anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant ideas. Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany's attempt at immigration failed. This year British Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Nicholas Sarkozy have been giving speeches that attack immigrants who have not assimilated appropriately. I hail from Philadelphia, where the owner of a famous cheesesteak place won some fans when he tried to only serve people who ordered in English, so I am familiar with anti-immigrant sentiment's growing acceptance. This European intolerance is so Borg-like. Now, it is also scary.

I am a university-educated, legal immigrant from the United States who is struggling to learn the native language and not Islamic or Middle Eastern, so I am good immigrant. However, not everyone can fit into this category.

There are people who moved to Germany and live in German neighborhoods with other immigrants from their home countries. They dressed differently, worshiped differently, did different things in their free time than natives. To that I say, So what!

It is my hope that deep feelings of loss that spread across Europe and the world after the bombing and shootings in Norway will keep others from following the suspect's example and open some minds to the danger of intolerance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One More Win

Au Revoir, France!

Lauren Cheney carries Alex Morgen after Morgen scores the winning goal. (AP)

American Girls
Midfielder Carli Lloyd steamrolls Brazil's Formiga Sunday's tense win. (AP photo)

I was an island of cheer in an ocean of gloom this weekend.

German women were knocked out of the World Cup and, thereby, the 2012 Olympics.

But the American team beat Brazil. The team started the final as a favorite to win but along the way they became underdogs in the media. Well, Goliath beat David Sunday night.

I just checked the score. America is kicking Gallic booty now. They are up 1-0 over the favored French team. I am so happy. Who doesn't want to see France lose?

Fourth of July, Kiel Style

Moving to a foreign country in your 30s puts you in a weird place psychologically. You are really not a native, so native culture is often lost on you. Yet, you really cannot celebrate your own culture as naturally as you would at home.

Germans just celebrated a slew of holidays. All of them religious in nature but few people here attend any religious service or activity. I don't get that but I took time off from work anyway.
Ascension is always on a Thursday, so most people take off the following Friday. The day of ascension or Himmelfahrt is celebrated with a rush of people going out of town. The day is also the nation's unofficial Father's Day. Yes, Germany has a Mother's Day but not Father's Day. To honor the role of fathers, many men gather together and get drunk while strolling around town.

Pentecost or Pfingsten, the day that Apostles were instructed to preach the gospel to the world is celebrated with a day off from work.

In cities with large American ex-patriate populations, there are picnics and fireworks on July 4. I am guessing that there are about 200 Americans in Kiel, a city of 250,000. Although we are few, we are not united. Asmus and I got together and celebrated with cookout food cooked in our kitchen.

I made two kinds of potato salad. I made the traditional mayonnaise-mustard-relish-onion-green-pepper-boiled-egg version that I grew up loving. I also mixed up a batch of fancy tater salad that I fell in love with last Christmas at Asmus' mother's dinner on one of the Christmas days [There are two here]. There is dill and apples. I couldn't choose which salad was the best, so I had both.

Traditional potato salad on the left. Dill & Apple potato salad on the right. I made a more of the traditional one because I love customs.

Plus, corn on the cob, spare ribs and hot dogs. I had to search for spare ribs the way that we eat them in America, full of fat, but I got them and they were good.

Our Fourth of July spread. Notice the yellow and green cob holders. I hunted for those and paid the equivalent of $12 for four pairs. Money well spent.

It was quiet and a little chilly but it was my celebration.

Around the World in 80 Beers

The results of a night of beer drinking at the International Market at Kiel Week.

It was not quite 80 beers. It was never going to be 80 beers because there are only about 35 countries at the International Market. Plus, I am not an alcoholic. The night started off with Asmus and me. Near the end of our first stop, Mario, one of Asmus' co-worker joined the tour.

Mario kept our tally one country lower than it should have been. The woman pouring Carlsberg was cute and he tried to secure her digits. I can't hate a man for trying. Plus, Carlsberg is pretty good beer.

The scary long lines for the bathroom -- even the men had to wait 10 minutes [I know because I hopped in their line because the womens line was toooooooo long] -- made us cap the evening at 10:30. Because we started around 6, we got in some. [FYI-In the summertime, it doesn't get dark until about 11:15 in northern Germany.]


Tuborg from Denmark.
Denmark had an unfair advantage -- Carlsberg.
Carlsberg sits in Copenhagen but it is a beer emporium that owns
brands from around the world, such as . . .

The eponymous Carlsberg brand.
Next to the glass sits the former home of a sweet licquer (I think) shot in which a piece of fig sat. Delicious! Like Mom used to make.

Ringe from Norway.
See the little green glint at the bottom of the cup. That's a light that glows when you pick up the glass. It's pretty distracting to see red, green and yellow lights twinkling at you when you drink.

Yes, we paid 5 euros to take these cups home. No, we don't have them anymore. For some reason, my husband, who studied physics in college, decided to clean them in the dishwasher. The battery-operated mugs with a bad seal between the cup part and the electronics part didn't survive.

Budweiser from the Czech Republic.
Not the crap that your cheap friends bring to a barbecue but the well-crafted brew from the former Czechoslovakia. It is actually pronounced Bood-vys-air.


Another round of Carlsberg from the cutie but no phone number.

Kronenbourg from France.

Spain does many things well -- soccer, flamenco, ham, architecture -- making good beer does not seem to be one of them. Estrella was bitter and boring. Tuborg was flat. Perhaps we got a bad batch. The rest of the contenders were great but my favorite was Carlsberg.