Thursday, December 10, 2009


[ Sleeping Beauty ]

Sleeping until noon is usually considered sleeping in, but when it only means that you slept a little more than 5 hours, it doesn't really do you much good.

A little groggy to say the least, after a cup of coffee I was ready to go on an outing with my host parents and enjoy the rest of the weekend together with them. I had a very nice time catching up with them about the delegations from the previous week at Bonn and explain to them the great learning opportunities I had participating in the United Nations conference.

My host parents had an afternoon planned to drive out and visit another castle like we had seen before [ They noted how they enjoy the facination of American and Japanese tourists at the German castles gawking at iron aromor and swords - I guess one has a different perspective on the history when it is more history and less mistique and nostalgia ].

Before making it to the castle, we first stopped at a little town that was having a mideaval festival complete with tents and attractions of traditional foods, hand made crafts and some actors walking the streets cloaked in tunics making the atmosphere more exciting. Inge and I had the opportunity to test our aim and try out some old fashioned hunting weapons... I must admit that Inge's aim was pretty precise.

[ This photo should serve as a reminder to me to treat my host mom nicely ;) ]

Being a bit of a cold, drizzly day, we warmed up sampling some mead [ fermented wine of yeast and honey] and headed off to the next stop of the tour.

Come to find out - to my amazement and excitement - that the castle I was about to whitness had a very unique history as well. It was the fabeled castle of Dornröschen - or in another name - the Castle of Sleeping Beauty popularized by the tales of Brother's Grimm. It was at this castle where the legened was passed down that a princess was locked in a tower for 100 years only to be saved by her saving prince.

The tower may not have been as unbelievably tall as its Disney counterpart, but the castle was very beautiful with ivy encompassing all sides of the walls. Outside the castle not so far away was a trail to go through woods that was filled with centeries old oak trees with trunks imensely huge. I had a very enjoyable time weaving through the paths finding the most impressive trees and chatting with my host parents along the way.

To finish up the great day - along with hearing some great jazz and oldies blues that Inge and Andreas love to listen to playing on scratchy casette tapes in the car - we went as a family together to the Weihnachtsmarkt - Chrismas Market - in Göttingen to enjoy a warm mug of Glühwein accompanying a Wurst. We checked out stand by stand the great handcrafted Christmas gifts glowing in the christmas lights dangling from wreaths around the small booths lined in the marktplatz.

Possibly from being a bit drowzy from my outright lack of sleep, but also just for the sheer fact that the day was so enjoyable, I was all warm and fuzzy and definitely beaming despite drooping eyelids, because of the great Christmas experiences I was having and the great moments I was sharing with my host family here in Göttingen.

die Nikolaus Party

There is another tradition in Göttingen that goes along with the holiday of Nikolaus, but is a little more than a night hoping to find chocolates in the morning. In fact, it actually involves a night of completely no sleep.

During my first days in Göttingen almost 2 months ago I started hearing about the 'Nikolaus Party'. Apparently it is a huge tradition in the Universitätsstadt Göttingen and is known throughout Germany as being the largest Nikolaus party in the nation.

Throughout the entire month of November I saw posters around advertising the ticket sales and the live music that would be played at the event. From the great excitment that I heard about the party I knew that it was something that I couldn't miss out on, so I had my ticket ready, and just hours back from Bonn completely exhausted, was ready for the final event of the week - the Nikolaus Party.

Now asside from being such a big party in the city of Göttingen that is apparently well known around Germany, there were a few other things that I noticed about the party that were extremely interesting to me from the perspective as an American student as well.

First of all the party was held in one of the Universities buildings - The ZHG building. Not only was I surprised that the building was used for the party, but also for the fact that the building normally used for classes and lectures was turned into an all out club filled with stages, bars, more bars - I guess in another perspective I don't think I would ever see booths for beer and tequilla shots in Angell Hall at UofM...

Also astounding was the fact that the attendance at the party is said to reach over 10,000! The party doesn't just go on with live musical guests and christmas themed decorations everywhere - there is actually a tradition of viewing [and even dressing up as characters from] the German cult-classic Feuerzangenbowle - a comedy about a Christmas gathering titled after the festive drink common at typical weihnachts gatherings.

The night was a lot of fun - filled with a bit of pushing and shoving to the coat check albeit - but I am very glad that I was able to witness such a huge event. I was completely exhausted at this point from minimal hours of sleep in Bonn, to heading to bed past 6 am on Sunday morning after hours of dancing at the Nikolaus Party but it definitely turned out to be an event that showcased another unique attribute of studying as a college student in Europe, especially at Georg August Universität Göttingen.


Leaving to Bonn for the BIMUN conference, I unfortunately had to miss Advent, the first Sunday of the nativity calendar which is officially the start of the season here in Germany. Even so, I have still been able to enjoy the Christmas markets as they have been well underway and experience some of the traditions of Germany for Weihnachten. When I returned from Bonn on the 5th of December, I actually forgot the fact that it was a prominent day during the Christmas season in German - especially for recieving candy.

Nikolaus - the celebration of St. Nicholas [ the Christian figure that has evolved into Santa Clause and Father Christmas in the west ] - is celebrated on the evening of the 5th to the 6th of December and is a day that has attained a new meaning in Germany and other Euopean nations as well, especially for children. In the evening, Nikolaus visits the homes of children and puts candy in a Nikolausstieffel [ Nicholas Boot ] for children that have been well mannered and behaved during the previous year. Apparently if you are bad, from what I have read, children can be upset to find a Rute - a tree branch - in their boot instead.

[ Is the branch for decoration... or have I been a little bad?... ]

Well, I think that Inge [correction... Nikolaus] thought I have been good, and coming back from Bonn I found a nice gift of a St. Nick chocolate and some other candies waiting for me. I think Andreas was good too... well, he did have a bottle of wine in his boot... but a tree branch too...

Along with my nice surprise of having a bit of German Christmas traditions shared with me, I also had an Advent Calendar hanging for me in my room as well. I know that these are very common in America as well - but they are no way near as prominent as they are in Germany. Stores are loaded with many different designs and sizes [some are HUGE] and from what I have heard, they are supposed to be given as a gift and not purchased for yourself.

I have a nice calendar now hanging for me in my room given to me from my host family. I have been thrilled to feel like a little kid again with Christmas surprises and enjoying the season with my host family here. I did miss a few days of December after all in Bonn, so I had to catch up with the chocolate eating in my calendar - just to be up to date of course.

die Beschlussfassung

[ The resolution ]

As I have implied in previous posts, resolution writing was not a simple task in our BIMUN committees. There was a lot of the debating - often several hours in a day - and the debating continued well out of the formal sessions into coffee breaks or even in the lobby late at night in the hostel before - and even after long nights out on the town [ I never said we weren't a bunch of nerds]. The fact that everyone was so integrated into their roles made the experience all the more exciting.

Resolution writing made me not only learn more about Germany and the industry sector here, but also the functioning of the United Nations and really how complected it is within this international governing body to promote fairness and peace. The resolutions sound simplistic - and oftentimes I found that they were - but what was most interesting - and taxing - was realizing first hand just how much controversy and opposing arguments can come out of these relatively simple goals to promote a better world. I am still learning about the processes of the United Nations and how it promotes the legislations agreed upon between the nation states, but nevertheless our group managed to pass a few pages of documents that our group finally agreed would create a better balance in our own simulated world.

For some examples I am including some statements from our resolutions that were very relevant to the topics of the week and were also highly supported - or controversially contested - by the BDI. It was a very interesting process, and also a very satisfying one to take place in a heated voting session and try to pass amendments and proposals as a group. I will leave it up to the reader to contemplate whether it was supported by BDI, or if it was criticized for its unfairness or having many loopholes.

Resolution 1.1 [2009] Safe and Sustainable: New Jobs for a Low-Carbon Future. International Labor Conference

6.) Encourages developed countries to provide financial support for those developing countries most affected by climate change as it is preconditioned for the exclusive purpose of creation of green and decent jobs.

9) Fully urges governments and enterprises to ensure the decent working conditions and reasonable income maintenance of workers employed in green jobs, with a special regard to green jobs employing unskilled and less skilled workers, seen as a most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

14) Suggest to increase cooperation between countries including technical assistance, education and training programs, transfer of know-how and good practice, that would facilitate the development of the low- carbon technologies and technologies based on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Obviously there are issues of defining what is meant by "green jobs", what is specified by "good working conditions", and where the solutions should be implemented. On face value the resolutions seem common place and simple - but with different viewpoints arguing over the meanings of issues down to the verb used to implement it brings hours of controversy into resolution writing.

[ In the subway 'on the way to work' for the day - I couldn't help but feeling a bit professional - it was a great opportunity to work and experience the conference in the historic city of Bonn with so many international students ]

BDI was keen to ensure that green technologies [ new markets to promote less C02 emissions and hence promote new employment in these sectors - understanding the necessity of balance between fair working conditions and efficiency ] were promoted as well as measures to assist the public of modernized nations to be led to jobs and education opportunities in these fields [ hence the connection to all three issues of the week of green technologies in the economic crisis, equal opportunities to education as well as fair working conditions for women around the world.]

Resolution 1.2 [2009] Safe and Sustainable: New Jobs for a Low-Carbon Future. International Labor Conference

15) Proposes intensive institutional cooperation between all interested agencies, bodies and committees as well as international organizations in order to establish mutual cooperation, exchange of information, knowledge and statistics in order to improve capacities of every individual country for the realization of aims mentioned above, emphasizing the avoidance of the damaging consequences of deflationary wage spirals and worsening work conditions.

IV. Building Social Protection
14) Emphasizes on measures to stabilize employment and facilitate transitions in employment as well as access to the labor market of green technologies for the labor force.

Coming home with pages of notes, sheets of research and hardcopies of the resolutions we produced gave me a feeling of emptiness. It is hard to describe, but being so involved during the week at the MUN conference in our own little "bubble" of a world made everything feel very important and vital - only to really be just simulated resolutions at the end of the week. The MUN really was a bubble since we gossiped about delegates with their adopted nation's titles and debated as if we really were working as part of our delegations. Overall it gave me a great perspective of how to understand international relations and also incorporate everything I am learning in Germany as well, but also a chance to become friends and hear opinions from students from all over the world.

What will be very enjoyable is to compare our debates and resolutions to the outcome of the real global warming climate conference in Copenhagen this month in which nations around the world will tackle the leading problems in the environment in modern day. Coming back to real life, I returned home with a lot of new perspectives on the United Nations and international diplomacy, and also a better understanding of Germany [America and other nations as well] as a player in these political agreements. The MUN conference was a one week opportunity to act in a simulated world and use your imagination a bit, but it only made me more aware of my potential as a student pursuing a better grasp on foreign languages, rhetoric and international affairs.