Trip to the Old Village

On the weekend of November 29-December 1, I took a trip back home.  And by home I mean the village where I spent my first year in Germany and my former host family.  When I came to Germany with CBYX, I was placed in a small village named Neuenkirchen in the German state of Lower Saxony.  There, I lived with the Kirchner family. They are a wonderful family and made my first stay in Germany so memorable. I was so happy to be able to visit my host parents, Stefan and Sonja, my host sister, Lara, and Grandma Elizabeth.  Sadly my host brother, Sven, could not take time off from university to come home.

When I arrived on Friday, I spent the afternoon with grandma baking cakes and drinking coffee.  Later on, the whole family sat down to dinner where we chatted for hours catching each other up on everything.  The rest of the weekend was spent catching up with old friends and going to familiar pubs.  On Sunday morning, the whole family met again for breakfast, one of my absolute favorite parts of everyday Germany.  After breakfast, my host sister, her boyfriend, and I traveled to the city of Bremen and wandered around the Christmad market until I caught my bus back to Berlin.

It was a nice weekend and I hope I will be able to see my host family again soon.

German breakfast table

German breakfast table

Bremen Christmas Market

Bremen Christmas Market

Bremen City Musicians

Bremen City Musicians

Me enjoying the market

Me enjoying the market

God Bless the Philippines

On November 27th, I got all dressed up and headed to a benefit concert to show my solidarity with the people of the Philippines in the wake of the tragic typhoon. And what a great concert it was! Wonderful performances and a beautiful tribute at the end involving the Philippine national anthem. It was a great way to continue awareness and raise more funds for much needed aid. I donated 50 euros. I know it's not much but I truly hope it will make a difference to someone.

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Schmoozing at the Estonian Embassy

Post from November 25, 2013

So I was just chilling at the Estonian Embassy, drinking wine and celebrating the 95th anniversary of the Estonian Armed Forces. Besides ambassadors and other political leaders, in attendance were members of the military from an overwhelming number of countries. The countries represented included Estonia, Germany, France, Poland, Czech Republic, all of Scandinavia, Romania, Greece, Hungary, Brazil, Japan, the USA, and Israel. I networked my butt off and received a special invitation to the American Embassy by Lieutenant Colonel Peter J. Rowell to drink coffee and chat about my future. He said he would like to put me in contact with some people from the State Department. Towards the end, as I sipped more wine and tasted the caviar, I felt compelled to approach members of the various militaries and thank them for their service to their home countries. They must not hear that often because they were all very surprised and appreciative. It was a fantastic night and I couldn't be more pleased with this internship!

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My First Presentation

From November 14, 2013

Several days ago, I was told I would lead a tour and make a presentation to students from a special business program. The students came from Denmark, Hong Kong, and North Carolina. Today was the day; unfortunately, I could not take them on a tour of the Reichstag because there was a special sitting of the Bundestag to discuss NSA issues, so the day was confined to a presentation. I was able to show off my knowledge of the history and functions of the Bundestag and impress them with personal anecdotes of working in the parliament. It was a good group, everyone was interested and asked good and intellectual questions, all of which I could answer.  After the presentation, I received praise from the group and was given a nice box of Danish chocolate.  I felt especially proud when my supervisor commended my presentation.

Here is some info on the group I presented to.  All of the students were part of the GLOBE International Business Program, which is a very prestigious program. GLOBE is an undergraduate business education program that sends 45 select students to study at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Copenhagen, Denmark, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Fifteen students are selected at each of the three universities based on their academic achievements, personalities, and previous life experiences. The GLOBE administration selects students through an extensive interview process to evaluate whether students will be able to make use of the program to the optimal extent, and to see how the students' personalities will fit the program. Students graduating from the GLOBE program have gone to work at companies such as Credit Suisse, Maersk, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Boston Consulting Group, and various embassies around the world.

Performance

Post from November 17, 2013

When I provided my landlady my bio prior to moving to Berlin, I foolishly indicated I had played violin in my high school’s orchestra and string ensemble. Recently, she tossed a couple sheets of sheet music to me and informed me that I was going to play at a church service in a local ensemble, with her. She had borrowed a violin for me from a neighbor, one that had been made in 1847. I hadn’t picked up a violin since being similarly coerced to play with a group of students during my first trip to Germany in 2008. Frau Baddenhausen is very cultured lady, interested in classical music; and she and her daughter are both musically inclined. She is a forceful lady and has been extremely kind to me, so I could not refuse. We had our performance today at a local church. I don’t think I embarrassed myself.

Bundestag and the NSA

Post from November 18

I had the opportunity to observe a formal sitting of the Bundestag on November 18 as it discussed the United States’ NSA spying activities here in Germany. The discussion did not get as heated as I had expected.  I must confess, I was hoping the deputies would get somewhat riled up and make the sitting more exciting, but it remained tame.  Each fraction presented their stance on the issue.  The opposition, which includes the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party, did not mince their words and were very blunt. They found it shameful that the US would breach privacy and trust in such a way.  All members of the opposition were angry and said something needed to be done to prevent the USA from ever disrespecting Germany again.  They also mentioned that a friendship had been broken and America needs to take responsibility to fix it, if it even cares to that is.  Also, there was some support expressed for Edward Snowden by a Green Party member.

The conservative fraction, CDU/CSU, was also not too pleased. However, they stopped short of harsh words and seemed to give America the benefit of the doubt.

The session also discussed a proposed free trade deal between the European Union and the Ukraine. 

It turned out that I was sitting next to the Ambassador of the Philippines to Germany, Maria Cleofe Natividad, and we exchanged brief courtesies; but she had to leave for another function and I could not talk to her about the disaster in the Philippines.

 

Bundestag in session

Bundestag in session

Ambassador Maria Cleofe Natividad

Ambassador Maria Cleofe Natividad

Short video about German reaction to NSA Scandal. I apologize that it is not in English, but the video is pretty self explanatory.

The Island Sylt

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My co-worker, Renate, wanted me to see the regions near the German-Danish border where many of the minorities in Schleswig-Holstein live. She didn't want to just tell me about the the lives of Friesians and Danes in Germany--she wanted to show me as much as she could. 

Sylt is an island in the North Sea and the northern most region in Germany. From Renate's home, her husband Hans and I drove 15 minutes to the shore and took another 15-minute train ride to the island. White dunes, green dunes, Friesian architecture, seafood--what a beautiful place for a getaway. No wonder so many Germans travel to Sylt during the summer.

What I have loved about working at the state chancellery is meeting people who are passionate about Schleswig-Holstein and their landscapes, food specialties, cities, neighbors in Denmark, and seas. These people work at the state chancellery because they love their home.

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The Glass Palace

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This is Hans, Renate's husband (see prior post from me). He is sitting in his, what I call, glass palace, reading the newspaper and not realizing at all that he's sitting in the most beautiful room EVER. Oh my gosh, people, I want my own glass room where I can sit and read the newspaper and eat my breakfast and put cacti around the edges and watch the sunset go down. 

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Oh, and they eat like kings! Fruit, fruit, fruit, cheese, cheese, cheese, bread, tea, honey, Nutella, butter, eggs, mmmm. Yes, Renate and Hans, I'll stay over at your place anytime. 

Doors in Denmark

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There are so many rewarding things about traveling, and one of them is seeing the simple things in a culture. How would I have ever known that the houses in Denmark have beautifully painted doors, each with their own personality? How would I have known that every corner on the street of Ribe has a giant black boulder where people would make drunks sit on it so a horse could come and take them home?

Every time you go somewhere new, your brain explodes with new knowledge, new perspectives and ideas, new people with their quirks. You find your second, third, fourth home, your own sanctuary, your own story. 

Most of these pictures were taken in Ribe, Denmark, the oldest city in the country (founded in 710). I was lucky to meet a co-worker named Renate who is the minority representative of Schleswig-Holstein. Since my semester research paper is on minority policy in Schleswig-Holstein, I contacted her and found that her son went on a foreign exchange twenty years ago to FARMINGTON, UTAH and she and her family have been in and out of Utah every since. Say what? I know, right?

Traveling means meeting people like Renate, who will drive you to Ribe, Tønder, Sylt, and Flensburg just because she is that kind of person. I'm so lucky to be on this journey.

Spreewald

During every trip I have taken to Germany, including this one, I have managed to make my way around the country and see more of this beautiful Vaterland than most Germans, at least that is what they tell me.

For example, four weeks ago I traveled with my friend Christine deep into the heart of Eastern Germany into an area known as the Spreewald.  This is a very forested area which is dotted with hundreds of little villages (it is also famous for its pickles).  Christine’s boyfriend lives in one such village.  The village is named Reichwalde, and has only about 350 inhabitants. Christine and I are probably the only Americans to ever set foot in Reichwalde.  Christine and I came to Germany together on the same exchange program five years ago and our love for this place has obviously remained.

During my weekend in Reichwalde I stayed in a centuries old farm house that was beautifully restored yet still had that old world charm.  All around the half-timbered house there were little places to explore.  The best place was the room where I stayed. It was hidden at the back of a bathroom, behind a green wooden door with a heavy iron latch.  There were five steps that led up into the space that I can only imagine was once some sort of food storage room or possibly sleeping quarters for the hired farmhands.  The entire room was taken up by a large and comfy bed with the warmest quilt ever made. There was one small window and I couldn’t even stand up straight in the room. While I was in there, I felt like I had my own little hiding place.

The family was very kind. From the moment I arrived, they offered me coffee, food, wine and more food. They were very excited to have another American visitor in their home.

The surrounding area in the Spreewald is absolutely beautiful.  Christine and I took a bike ride through the country and visited a number of little villages hidden in the trees. Each town had its own little charm and friendly people who smiled and waved as we rode by.  Something I noticed as we rode around, was that every sign we passed was written in both German and Polish.  To me it was strange because I didn’t think we were that close to the Polish border.  I was informed later, however, that it was not Polish that I was seeing, it was a language called Sorbisch.  Sorbisch is a language spoken by the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany.

Later on Saturday evening, we attended the 50th birthday party of woman in Reichwalde whom Christine had befriended.  The party was held in the community center and when you have a party in the countryside, you invite everyone. All of Reichwalde was there and some guest from neighboring villages. It was a fun night full of dancing, singing, and food….lots of food.  The best surprise was when it was announced that 25 cakes had been prepared for everyone to enjoy.  I felt very very full at the end of the night.

I stayed only a short weekend in the Spreewald, but it was an enjoyable time. Nothing compares to taking some time to relax in the beautiful countryside.  

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famous Spreewald pickles

famous Spreewald pickles

Sign in German and Sorbisch

Sign in German and Sorbisch

Still No Government

Post from October 23, 2013

Formal talks began Wednesday between Chancellor Merkle’s CDU party and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) with a possibility of a coalition in sight. The SPD, however, has listed a number of demands to include: equal pay for men and women, a minimum wage of 8.50 euros per hour, and greater investment in infrastructure and education. It’s interesting to note that the issues being discussed here are so similar to those at home; e.g. tax increases for the wealthiest. Unfortunately, from my standpoint, the talks may last for several weeks, limiting my opportunities to see the government in action. There won’t be a ‘sitting’ of the government until a coalition is reached.

I am still enduring the ‘humor’ surrounding our government’s ineptness; and now, unfortunately, the scandal over the alleged NSA’s hacking into Merkle’s emails.

This is a good time to talk about other things. First, some photos from Kiel where I stayed for a week before going on to Berlin.

 

Kiel  

Kiel  

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Dr. Murmann, 3rd from right. Yours truly on far right (not a position statement)

Dr. Murmann, 3rd from right. Yours truly on far right (not a position statement)

Former UofU exchange students from Kiel

Former UofU exchange students from Kiel

A friend from my CBYX visit, now living in Kiel

A friend from my CBYX visit, now living in Kiel

Meal with the Murmanns

Meal with the Murmanns

Delicious Schnitzel

Delicious Schnitzel

Me actively campaigning for Dr. Murmann

Me actively campaigning for Dr. Murmann

Tag der Deutschen Einheit (Day of German Unity)

Post from October 3, 2013

The Day of German Unity is the national day of Germany. It is celebrated on October 3 as a public holiday. It commemorates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990, when the "Treaty of Unification" between the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) became official. This followed the "fall" of the Berlin wall when checkpoints between the two countries were opened in November 1989, allowing people to travel freely between the previously-divided countries.

Every year on October 3, a different city plays host to the official Day of German Unity. This year, Stuttgart hosted the official celebrations. I stayed in Berlin, quietly celebrating with friends. It provided a nice break from the ‘good-natured’ jabs I had to endure as our government shut down on the 1st. People here in the office were poking fun and making jokes all morning about how silly and immature the American government is. I am remaining silent. I have to agree with them to some extent.

Please enjoy the videos below.  Long live Germany! 

 

 

Live American broadcasts on October 3, 1990 as Germany officially celebrates Reunification.

Nice video of German and EU anthems on Tag der Deutschen Einheit

Just an entertaining history lesson :)

Quiet Time

Post from September 30, 2013

 

Now that the elections are over, things have quieted down. Dr. Murmann comes to Berlin for brief stays and meetings, but returns to Kiel. At this point there is not much for me to do except to continue familiarizing myself with the office procedures; reading up on the rules and procedures of the parliament, and sampling the lunches in the Reichstag cafeteria (great meals for €4-6).

All is quiet at the Reichstag

All is quiet at the Reichstag

Recap of German election

Guten Abend, meine Damen und Herren!
(Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!)

The election is over!

As you are aware, the 2013 German Federal Election is over and the final results are in.

     The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) / Christian Social Union of  Bavaria (CSU) conservative bloc - 41.5%
     The Social Democratic Party (SPD), a center-left party - 26%
     The Left Party (Die Linke), a left-wing party – 8.6%
     The Greens Party (Die Grünen), also center-left – 8.4%

Two interesting things occured this election.  To represented in parliament, a party must receive at least 5%.  A new party called Alternative for Germany (really only a few months old) came out of nowhere and swept up 4.9% almost making it to parliament. The reason this is interesting, is because this party is very anti-Euro and anti-EU, so it is worth noting that it had a lot of support.

Another shocking result of this election, is what happend to  the Free Democratic Party (FDP) .  No other party in Germany has governed as long as the Free Democrats. The FDP - economically and socially liberal has been in government 52 of the 64 years since the war. Now they are out of parliament. With 4.8 percent, the party was well below the 5 percent needed to enter parliament, and 10 percent below their showing in 2009. For the first time since 1949, the liberals will not be represented nationally.

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Current Chancellor Angela Merkle’s CDU/CSU bloc just missed winning an absolute majority of seats in the 630 seat Bundestag, necessitating formation of a coalition with another party.  The options aren’t attractive to the CDU. The three other parties together would have a slim majority, but a coalition of the three seems unlikely which would assure Merkle a third term as Chancellor. A most likely scenario for coalition seems to be the CDU with the SPD.

My Parliament Member, Dr. Philipp Murmann, won re-election from his district quite handily. This means I can keep my job!!

Election results in my boss' constituency

Election results in my boss' constituency

Me atop the Reichstag

Me atop the Reichstag

Congratulations to all! I am proud and excited to have been able to be so involved. Now, the real work begins.

Der Adler,  the symbol of Germany

Der Adler,  the symbol of Germany

Emotions after presidential elections

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On Sunday night of September 22, 2013, Germans throughout the country turned on the radio, stared at the television, and scrolled through news sites for election campaign updates. Around 10pm we all knew who won—Angela Merkel (CDU) would again be the Chancellor of Germany.

Some partied. Some shrugged. Some cried for their lives.

I remember the anxiety and sadness that my friends and their parents had when Obama was re-elected. Many were scared for their lives and safety. I didn’t feel this way when Obama was elected and re-elected, but as a child I remember my dad watching the television as George W. Bush was elected. He mumbled something about our troops being back in Iraq before you know it and I could feel he was worried.
 
I didn’t understand that worry. In fact, I voted for George W. Bush in my second grade classroom vote. I didn’t know anything about the candidates, but something about John Kerry’s long face scared me. Bush looked like my grandpa, so I picked him.

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“You picked WHO?” my dad said. “Why?”

“Well, he looked nicer.”

“Nicer?” My mom said. “George Bush looks nicer than John Kerry?”

It was only a matter of days before my parents handed me kid magazines and made me read the “politics for kids!” section.

Politics were discussed more at home as I got older. I’d ask my dad to tell me something, but in a fairy tale so I could understand. At fourteen, I still remember making him do this for me. Gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. Then I’d ask him to pretend like a republican and tell me the "fairy tale story" again with the republican side. “And no exaggerating!” I said. “And don’t be biased!”

My roommate, who voted for the Green party, was sad to see Angela Merkel win again. My co-workers, many of whom voted for the Social Democratic Party, were also bummed. For some reason I have no friends who voted for CDU (or do not talk about it). Sooner or later I'll get the good ol' CDU side of the after-presidential elections.

Such an exciting time to be in Germany. 

Election Day Draws Near

It's so close! Only two more days! On Sunday, Germans will head to the polls and vote for their new government; or will the current government stay in power? It truly is an exciting time to be here in Germany, and especially in Berlin. It is all about the Wahl (election).  Everywhere you go, there are posters and billboards.  The election is all over television and radio. The newspapers chronicle every move the top candidates make. The top issues are constantly debated back and forth in detail.  In my opinion, the Germans have more than enough information to be able to make an educated vote for the political party that best represents their interests. The political parties then elect the Chancellor.  Some polls show a clear winner (CDU), while others say it's still up in the air. All we can do is wait.

The outcome of Germany's election on 22 September could shape the fate of Europe and its economy for years to come.  But how does it work, what are the issues, and who is going to win?  I could bore you all with a never ending text filled with numbers and facts, but I decided to let you enjoy this colorful explanation courtesy of BBC. Viel Spass!

 

Wahlkampf macht Spaß! Campaigning is fun!

31. August. 2013-End of Week 1

I can't believe that my first week here in Germany is already at an end.  The time just flew by. It is no wonder that the time for me passed so quickly, every day I was busy from morning until night. Interning with a government official is no easy task, especially during an election.  All this week, P.M. And I were running from here to there, one hour at this appointment, two at the next and so on.  I honestly do not know how P.M. can manage to have time for campaigning, running his company, and his family. But he does it, and not one complaint has escaped his mouth. Here is a sampling of what went on this week.

Wednesday was a social policy day.  We visited two retirement homes and one care home for elderly people with dementia.  We visited the care home first.  It is situated in a 100 year old farm house, that has been re-done.  The location is absolutely beautiful. The home is surrounded by rolling fields and lots of trees. There is a garden out back where the patients can spend their days.  P.M., Niko, and I arrived in the morning and were promptly given a tour. After the tour we sat down to coffee and then there was a two hour discussion that I had a hard time following. We were then treated to a nice lunch and then we hurried off to the next rest home. At the end of the day,  we stopped at the last rest home where there was a large BBQ for the residents, Bratwurst and beer was served of course.  During the BBQ, P.M., gave a speech and then P.M.'s, predecessor entertained the crowd with music and stories which he told in Plattdeutsch. Plattdeutsch, is a Northern German dialect that is a combination of Dutch and German.  Here is an example: Firs the sentence in English, “Where are you from?” Now in German, “Woher kommst du?” and finally in Plattdeutsch, “Wonääm kümmst du vun af?”  Strangely enough, I can understand a bit of Plattdeutsch; it is most widely spoken among older people.

After our visits to the retirement homes, I though back on how interesting it was to see that the staffs really care for and about their patients; almost as if they were their own family.  I remember hearing many stories back home about elderly abuse, either from family or from care takers.  Some of the cases I heard about made me sick to my stomach.  It was refreshing to see that here, that is not a problem.  Another thing I noticed, is that in Germany there are by far many more people over the age of 80, than in the U.S.  Could it possibly have to do with cultural differences in food? I am interested to find out.

Thursday was a really fun day.  Sarah from the office, Niko, and I spent the whole day “Plakatieren.” That means we spent all day hanging up campaign posters and placards. It sounds boring, but it was actually a fun time.  I was able to see the entire district where P.M. Is the candidate.  The district is extremely large and includes two large cities.  The morning was spent hanging posters in smaller villages in the countryside.  When I say small, I mean really small.  There was one village with only 6 houses and one street light.  The street light already had posters from the other parties that were running, so we had to do some adjusting to make ours fit.  There were some villages that were hidden within groves of trees and which had some beautiful mini palaces that belonged to nobility hundreds of years ago.  In one of the last villages, I saw the funniest thing that had me laughing out loud. Stuck between two homes, there was a grassy hill which I noticed had a flag pole which was flying the American flag.  When I went to investigate, I saw that it was an advertisement for a company that builds “American style” homes.  The model home that was displayed on the hill was the most stereotypical American house. It was white home like those found in the suburbs of New England. It had blue wooden window shutters, a large porch complete with porch swing, a typical black mailbox, and was surrounded by a white picket fence. The company was appropriately named “The White House.”

Thursday evening I accompanied P.M. To the yearly general meeting of the CDU in the city of Preetz.  During the meeting they honored those members who had been in the party for either 20, 40 or 50 years.  Then P.M. Gave a nice speech about the importance of the election and what it meant for Germany.  He really pressed the issue that people need to get out and vote. 

To my surprise, I had Friday morning off to do some sightseeing.  I decided I would go into Kiel and have a look around.  In my searching, I found that there was a small ship that sailed along the bay and acted like a taxi, taking passengers to from and from different ports.  Luckily, there was a stop right down the street from P.M. In the morning I walked briskly toward the stop to catch the ship into Kiel. As I waited on the dock, an elderly woman came to me and complimented me on my outfit.  She was a well dressed woman and very kind.  I talked with her a bit and as the boat stopped and we boarded, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and wished me the best.  As the ship headed towards Kiel, I was busy taking photos of the beautiful sights.  As I looked down at the water, I noticed it was dotted with jelly fish, very colorful jelly fish.  This sight literally brightened up my day.  The ship finally docked and I headed off into the center of Kiel.  During the Second World War, Kiel was a very important port for the Third Reich and was therefore heavily bombed.  After the war not much of the old city of Kiel remained. Today, the city is mostly modern, with the exception of the Rathaus “city hall” and the St. Nikolai church.  To my surprise, a lovely woman named Avenlea Harris is currently living in Kiel.  Avenlea was a fellow exchange student on the CBYX Program, the program which spurred our love of everything German.  Avenlea is originally from Logan, Utah and she and I became very close during our exchange year. Of course we had to meet up.  It was wonderful to see Avey again after such a long time. We had so much to catch up on. We sat down to coffee and began to talk and gossip about everything and anything. An hour or so later, we parted ways and I met up with my friends Sarah and Anna. They had both studied at the U last year as exchange students.  I was also happy to see them again. We had a nice lunch together and chatted for about two hours.  Around 4 in the afternoon, I made my way back, because I had another activity that evening with Dr. Murmann. I am glad I am able to add one more city to my list of ones I have visited.

Friday evening P.M. And I went to a party hosted by the CDU in the city of Neumünster. The party was held in a large barn that was decorated with German flags and CDU balloons.  The food that was served included “Matjes,” which is herring served in a white sauce with potatoes.  I wasn't the biggest fan.  The mood was cozy and there about 140 people there.

Today is Saturday and all day P.M., Sarah and I, were working very hard do the most typical of campaign duties, manning info booths and handing out flyers.  I, however, am a pro at this because I had lots of practice last year, when I worked on Obama's reelection.  We started out in the city of Preetz where our stand was next to the Pirate Party, yes they are a real political party here in Germany.  The Pirate Party is a left wing party who's only agenda it seems, is to stop Fracking.  As we stood there, out out of nowhere came a torrential downpour. Everything was wet. Ten minutes later, the sun came out.  This is how the weather was all day. 

We moved from city to city doing the same thing.  I really enjoyed this, because I was able to get a very personal perspective from everyday German citizens on a lot of different topics.  I discussed Syria with many passersby who, like P.M. And the rest of the German government, firmly believe we need to stay out of Syria.  They mentioned that they feel the U.S. Should not go into Syria, and needs to stop putting its nose in everywhere.  The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said today that the Germans were definitely not going into Syria. 

I got to hear different view points on the many political parties in Germany and why people were voting for which party.  Some had problems with the way taxes are handled, others think the social services are too little, others think the government gives too many handouts.  I could clearly see the demographic differences between people who were voting for a certain party.  More older people are voting for the conservative CDU party, and the younger generation prefer the more left leaning parties. Most young people like the Social Democrats, but they are the few who are more environmentally conscious who will be voting for the Green Party.  Then you have those youth who are extreme left and want to vote for the Left Party, which borders on Communism in certain areas.  More middle class and working class Germans are for the Social Democrats because their social policy is more support from the government and so on. 

The most interesting conversation I had today, was with an elderly woman, whom I asked if she was proud to be German. She looked at me, and quietly said, “Proud is not the right word. I am German, I was born this way and I know nothing else.”  The woman then looked around and then pulled me off to the side, where she told me that yes she was indeed very proud to be German, but sadly she fears saying that too loud.  Due to the past she told me, Germans can't express any pride without fear of being thought of as returning to the days of the National Socialists. The elderly woman is a member of the CDU and is very happy with the way things are going for Germany and she hopes they can continue. She thanked me for asking her the question I did and told me it felt good to express her pride to someone who understands.

Speaking of Germany's dark past, the last appointment we had today was to make an appearance at an event called “Rock gegen Rechts” (rock against the right).  This event is a gathering against the extreme right and Neo Nazi groups in Germany.  Sadly, there are a lot of right wing radical groups popping up around Germany.  What is even more sad, is that there is an official political party called the NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) which is a Neo Nazi party.  This party has succeeded in having some of its members elected to local governments throughout Germany.  This Rock against the Right, is just one of many similar events around the country that hope to stop such parties from being represented in government.

In the evening, P.M. And I drove home where we to have an “Abschiedsabend” (going away evening) for me. Mrs. Murmann and three of the children had prepared a nice evening meal with a salad, delicious bread, meats, cheeses and wine.  It was a fun night.  We discussed the family's plans to visit America, and the kids asked me all sorts of questions about the U.S. And my home etc. The Murmann's are a lovely family and I will be forever grateful for the hospitality they showed me this week. I hope I can repay them some day.

Now I am laying in bed about to sleep. Tomorrow, I leave to Berlin. I am excited yet nervous to start this leg of the journey.  Berlin is where the big boys play, and Monday and Tueday I will be thrown right into the middle of the German political arena.  During the two days of the general assembly of the Bundestag, I will be able to see German politicians in action and hopefully experience some cool stuff. Maybe I will even see Angie :)   So meine lieber, I must sleep now. I will write again when I can. Take care everyone. Now off to Berlin!!          

 

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