Friday, March 14, 2008

where the Easter Bunny comes to shop...

Because I will not be here next week, I wish you all a Frohe Ostern in advance and share with you some pictures of beautiful German bakeries (which I always miss most when in my other homeland).

Here is where the Easter Bunny (Osterhase) comes to shop:

signs of Spring while walking through town today:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kultur, Kultur

Okay, so this weekend has been like Culture-Extreme. Saturday I went to a book reading by a woman who wrote about Simone de Beauvoir, and her book is a biography with quotes and excerpts from de Beauvoir embedded in the text. It was really fascinating and really informative. The author is French but spoke perfect German and was really easy to listen to.

She talked about Simone de Beauvoir's youth, her relationship with Sartre and her book La deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) and its impact on the feminist movement. She also talked about her personal philosophy and emphasis on personal freedom, as well as her later political work, support of legal abortion and, later, communism.

I don't know if this has been in the press at all, but 2008 is the 100th anniversary of her birth, and here there are lots of books coming out in commemoration.

On ne nait pas femme, on le devient.
(One is not born a woman, but becomes one.)

Then, on Saturday night I went to see "Die Fälscher", I think the English title is "The Counterfeiters". It was the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. Really, really great. I recommend it.

I have also been able to read a lot this week, I read Thomas Mann's Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice) and Ludwig Harig's Kalahari.

This is totally me (about a guy who "explored the German language down into the fine hairs of its roots, read German books, untangled its hide-and-seek games, deciphered its puzzles of meaning, and in the end no one could sell him an X for a U"):

"Er durchforschte die deutsche Sprache bis in ihre feinsten Wurzelhaare, las deutsche Bücher, entwirrte ihre Versteckspiele, entschlüsselte ihre Bedeutungsrätsel; schließlich konnte ihm keiner mehr ein X für ein U vormachen."

And on Sunday night I went to the musical Jekyll and Hyde in the Saarland Theater. I was a bit skeptical about making a musical out of this story, but it was well done. Also interesting: there were French supertitles above the stage! I kept getting distracted by them, wanting to read the French!

So yes, I have been keeping busy. I never really know where the time goes. I waste a lot of it on the internet. :)

Typisch Türkin?

Thursday night I went to a book reading in the Frauenbibliothek, (women's library). The author is a second-generation Türkin, born in Germany with Turkish parents. For her book "Typisch Türkin?" she interviewed 19 different women of Turkish heritage and wove their voices together on different themes such as "headscarves", "marriage," or "sexuality."

During the reading, the author basically talked about how she wanted to emphasize the "?" in her title, that we should question how we stereotype or picture Turkish women in Germany today, because the group "Turkish women" is so diverse. Some women are extremely independent, goal-oriented, some are more traditional. Some are religious, some are not. Some wear headscarves, some don't, and even among those who do the reasons for wearing the headscarf are multifarious.

More interesting was the discussion that followed. The audience was all female, but varying ages, probably from 20 to 70. Some of the comments were decidedly from a different generation, one not familiar with cultural diversity. This provided for interesting commentaries and questions.

Although there are differences, there are many parallels in the way Americans talk about Mexican immigrants in the United States. Americans and Germans are worried about the way their society is changing. Should they have to speak English/German? What is the best way to integrate them? How much of their culture should they have to give up? Interesting issues.

One thing I think is really important is school. If kids don't get to know kids from other backgrounds in school, where will this kind of mixing and integration happen? How else will they get to know people from other backgrounds as "other kids just like me" and not as "those foreigners"? And the way the German school system is set up does not exactly promote this, as many children from immigrant backgrounds do not end up at the Gymnasium. Not to say that the US is perfect, because I'm sure that a lot of segregation happens just because of geography, areas with more immigrants for example, but it's a start in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

more British

torch = flashlight

(I guess the Brits never understood electricity or something)

Monday, March 3, 2008

ugh British!

Man, I have a difficult time sometimes because the kids here learn British English. It's just little things, but they add up and are frustrating.

Today, for example, I was walking around checking homework and told a kid that "shortcut" is one word, not two. Then I sit back down and look at their book and sure enough it's two. I checked the Oxford English dictionary and an American English dictionary (and Google, by the way, if you type in "short cut" asks you if you mean "shortcut") and sure enough those Brits separate it out...

Also, am I just weird or is the word "clothes" pronounced the same as close as in "please close the door"? The Germans have such a hard time with the "th" I told them not to worry about that one, and just pronounce it like an "s". But according to the phoenetic spelling in the dictionary I'm wrong. Oh I said, little non-important things but these are some little thoughts that drive me nuts.

By the way, the Brits also say "at the weekend" instead of "on the weekend" and "to get on with somebody" instead of "to get along with somebody." I hope that makes you smile, too.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

die Straßen kennen...

Today walking to the post office I was reminded of a scene in the movie L'Auberge Espagnole, where the protagonist first arrives in Barcelona. He has to look at a map, and asks a passerby for directions. Then he says after living in a place you will know the buildings, the streets, you will have lived (made) stories with the people, names that once seemed strange and foreign roll across your tongue, everything "becomes normal and familiar."

I remember sitting at home over the summer, looking at a map of Saarbrücken and thinking "I'm going to be living there..." and finding my address on the map, the nearest post office, looking at how far I was from the Saar River, from my school, from the market square.

Now the names of the streets are familiar to me... I know where the best bakeries are, markets, the houses are familiar... I see some of the same people... it's a great feeling to feel at home in another place. Although then, no matter where you are in the world, you always feel homesick for your second home. There will always be things about the US I miss when I'm in Germany, and there will always be things I will miss about Germany when I am in the US.

Here is the clip I am talking about, the part I mentioned starts 1:40 into the film sequence (sorry, I couldn't find it with English subtitles!).