Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
[ Work trip to Hanover ]
Back to work after a very nice, and long, Easter weekend, I returned to my current intern project at the FDP office researching and translating information about current findings in Sports medicine and anti-doping protocols. I am not always in the office however, since there have been some nice opportunities, such has Berlin, that have provided me more outlooks on Niedersachsen and Germany as well.
Dr. Knopek, the abgeordneter, Parliament representative, that I am currently making my Praktikum for was back in Göttingen for a few days and one morning he had a meeting in Hanover to attend and I was able to come along. Hanover is the capital of Niedersachsen, and being the major city of the Bundesland, it has many important institutions – such as the notable Rathaus, many businesses, and a huge soccer stadium for the local team.
Our meeting was right next to the stadium and it was the headquarters for sport programs for Niedersachsen. Sitting at the oval table with other workers scrawling notes on their pads, I listened in on the history of sports in Niedersachsen that they discussed, and how money is distributed between different factions, such as school athletics, amateur athletics and Olympic training programs as well.
I was even able to tour one of the largest Olympic training facilities in Germany, complete with an indoor track, swimming pools and gyms with many different gymnastic sets. The subject of sport medicine and funding for training programs has never been something that I have had much previous knowledge of. I did realize however, that in America, many training facilities and programs for Amateur athletes are often connected to Universities, often times offering sport-academic related scholarships.
[ Dr. Knopek, the Bundestag representative whom I work for, at the Hanover Olympic Trainings center ]
Here in Germany, while observing the complex of the Niedersachsen Olympic training center, the disconnection from a university was notable. [sports are rarely, if ever, connected to schools are universities. Most students join private teams, and schools normally do not have any extracurricular sport activities that is so commonplace in American culture.]
The pressure of sport scholarships to Universities is widely understood and highly esteemed in the States, and this must be viewed as a very unique aspect of our culture. Until working on my project for the FDP, I had not previously realized that this concept of scholarships for athletic performance [as well as its negative side of students abusing steroids or other drugs to cheat the system] was viewed as a very foreign aspect of our culture. The trip to Hanover was another good experience and another example to me, that whereas Americanization is happening all over the world [and the pros and cons are many], there are still many aspects of our culture that are just as foreign as the next.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Church attendance aside, Germany’s closer connection between Church and State than America does offer many more religious related Holiday’s. For the Easter weekend I had Friday and Monday off, making it a 4 day weekend, which I know is the envy of many American families, especially ones with college students that try to bring the family together like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The four day weekend was nice, and I was spending it as a family with Inge and Andreas as well as Janna, who returned from Paris for the weekend to spend at home.
With Janna back home, we finally celebrated Inge’s delayed birthday with a very nice dinner, as well as the cake that I pulled together [ Blueberry cheesecake with walnuts, a bit on the sweet side, what NY style cheesecake isn’t, but it was a good attempt ].
On Easter Sunday I woke up early to first hide my Easter candies and gifts for everyone, and then I was off to Easter mass. The Catholic mass was at noon, directly in the middle of Inge and Andreas’ plans with guests for Brunch, so I made the decision to try the Evangelical Church. Not the same, but I figured when else in my life would I not be visiting a Catholic Church on Easter – an experience nonetheless. Still the youngest by far in the pews, I did miss the celebratory feeling that I remember of Easter growing up – crowds of people, dozens of flowers with colors of spring, Babcias and Grandmas all around with beautiful corsages.
I wasn’t expecting anything to be the same, however, it did take me by surprise, with exception to the church bells ringing in the distance, the city was silent and deserted. The protestant mass had some nice music and a choir – obviously a different set up for the service that I wasn’t used too – but surrounded by the hushed environment of the city, I learned firsthand that Easter, at least in Göttingen, was a family celebration kept close knit and at home.
Back home in time for brunch Andreas and Janna were anxious already to search for some Schoko-eier! [especially the Lindor truffle easter eggs]. Whereas hiding eggs on Easter is a practiced tradition in the States, I noticed that our Easter Baskets delivered by the Easter Bunny was not the norm in Germany – best explained to them by relating it to Nikolaus and setting out one’s stocking.
Being adults didn’t stop us from hiding chocolate eggs, bunnies and other trinkets all around the house, and then trying to grab as many as possible – the best surprise was when everything was gone and a few days later, to Andreas’ delight, nestled between books on the bookshelf another golden Lindt bunny was waiting to be eaten.
It is also exciting to note that over the few days that the branches we picked were resting in a vase of water, they blossomed with vibrant curled green leaves. With delicate eggshells dangling off these, now verdant branches, it was a very festive centerpiece for the wohnzimmer on Ostern.
Easter had nice traditions like Christmas here in Germany, yet there were also many to compare and contrast with what I do back home. Easter definitely wasn’t the big commotion I have come to love back home – big family, constant backing, Polish specialties, blessed easter baskets at church and many dyed eggs.
Here Easter was a quieter day, with the company of the immediate family, good chocolate, a nice dinner in the evening that we all pitched in to help with Inge – Lamb and sides with very French names – and ultimately the chance to sleep in Monday morning after the long dinner conversations Sunday night.
There is a very famous poem by Goether, essentially the Shakespeare of German literature, about Easter Sunday. It has been a joke over the week that I would have to memorize the poem about an Easter Sunday walk fascinated by the beautiful surroundings, and then recite it at dinner on Easter. As we all went for a walk through a forest during the afternoon after brunch, Andreas and I were able to find a fitting hill with a view over the budding Spring landscape and pronounce the famous lines:
Hier bin ich Mensch, und hier darf ich sein!
Here I am human, and here I may be.