31. August. 2013-End
of Week 1
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.
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!!