Saturday, March 6, 2010

die Überleitung

[ Transitions ]

After some good quality sleep - and still defrosting 36 hours after the frigid Cologne rendezvous - I felt refreshed and ready for the official beginning of the third part of this year. It is hard for me to believe, but I am already in the third phase of my scholarship year in the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm having completed my semester at a German university and now moving on to the work world.

Looking back, it is a similar feeling to my transitions from Saarbrücken to Göttingen - I was leaving one family and life that I became adjusted too, and with full suitcases moved to Göttingen worrying how I was ever going to make friends and successfully complete homework assignments [ let alone final exams!] in German with only 2 months of language experience.

Now I am in a new transition. My very enjoyable days living with Inge and Andreas have come to a small Pause - they have left to New Zealand on an exciting 2 month excursion meeting friends and making the most of Inge's opportunities to travel now that she is in retirement. In the meantime I am still in Göttingen and living with the Deinzer family, friends of the Sebode's, and Hans who is a friend of Moritz and has also become a friend of mine since I have gotten to know him well over the past few months. I cannot complain since I am staying once again with extremely freindly and generous people, but moving homes and repacking a suitcase, especially after the go go go weeks that have just passed with tests, visiting friends, and finalizations for my internships, is admittedly a bit taxing.

[ In light of the move taking place, being in a different neighborhood of the city has me now traveling down different streets and corners of Göttingen. I have been able to discover some great new sights and old buildings that I don't think I would have every wandered to before. ]

Once again I have experienced some big changes in my daily life and living situation at the beginning of a new phase in my program, and it almost serves as a reminder to me that every day here in Germany is an adventure with something new to experience. In this transition, moving into the Praktikumphase of my program year, I have constant thoughts running through my head wondering how I am possibly ready to work in an office setting after only half a year of learning German - sure I can get around town, enjoy long conversations and even present a decent final exam speech in the language - but can I function as an intern without being a burden needing a translating-crutch as part of an office team?

It is February, and just like I thought during the days in Saarbrücken painstakingly editing my error-filled resume that I had TONS of time to find an internship ... the first day of the job is here, and somewhere in the blur I sent out applications, resumes, had small interviews with future bosses and now have internship opportunities lined up for the upcoming months. At this time last year I had sent out the application for this year abroad scholarship in Germany, not thinking much of it - now one year later I am conversational in German, wearing a button up shirt, and heading to my first day on the job. It is kind of a "pinch me" moment.

Politik des Kölner Karnevals

[ Politics of the Cologne Carnival ]

Whereas my photos may be a bit obnoxious, I didn't leave the adventurous party hopping in Cologne without some new perspectives on German culture and especially political humor. There were many sights to see everywhere, and quite a bit of history to understand why this particular German city still holds on to its old Catholic traditions of Mardi Gras and presents one of the largest week long party events in Europe. As one journalist described his travels through Cologne

" Carnival is an unlikely cultural artifact: a week-long alcohol-infused costume party that traces its roots to medieval Catholic society and functions as an annual bucket of confetti dropped over Germany's long, gray winter. Like New Orleans' Mardi Gras, Carnival functioned as an organized release of steam before the onset of the traditional Catholic period of asceticism, Lent. "

Since I wanted at least one post to divide my "first day of work" post coming directly after this - just hours after returning from Cologne - instead of being side by side with photos of my strutting around the Cathedral square with a diamond studded belt and golden hair, I felt my curiosities and perceptions of the politics of the Karneval Parades to be an appropriate transition.

[ As mentioned before, the Germans almost feel as if Obama is a politician in their country - they speak of him fondly, and they critique him rigorously, and this can be seen in some of these floats ]

[ Italian Prime Minister - infamous for saying that President Obama "has a nice tan" - is well known for being kind of a player - The Germans have no problem pointing out his constant publicity with young, attractive women. ]

The parades surrounding Karneval are different - they aren't lined with feather-ruffled bakini clad models like in Rio, or bead throwing rendezvous of New Orleans. It definitely isn't exactly the family oriented Thanksgiving day parade either.

The parade is a hodgepodge of everything that makes the Cologne Karneval eclectic and unique - wild costumes, lots of cross dressing [ the Princess of Karneval is traditionally always a man in drag - the tradition only halted during the Nazi regime ! ] and the winding streets lined with bleachers and spectators fueled and buzzing by Kölsch beer. The floats themselves may be the most surprising - and also the best connection into Kölner [ and even overall German ] humor and a love for irony and political satire. The floats were no stranger to cartoon characterizations of political figures bearing bare bottoms and breasts, and ultimately very provocative messages that made a very political punch.

[ Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi, well, presented as having connections with the mafia...]

[ yes, that is Angela Merkel naked ]

Cologne is not the only city that creates large politically charged floats for large parades and parties - other cities in Germany create their own parties too, including nearby cities of Düsseldorf and Mainz. On TV, much like Oktoberfest, the events are followed with full coverage, as well as television presentations of kitschy singing and dancing that traditionally goes with the festival.

[ " Help, now we are completely brainless " - Critic on die Linke Partei ]

[ Iranian President Ahmadinejad bringing a Trojan horse to Obama, stereotypically clad as a cowboy as the American president often is in European political cartoons ]

The entire atmosphere surrounding Karneval is unique - over the top, loud, rambunctious, but not without historical connection and explanation for all of the small details. Just seeing the floats alone, one can get a good, fresh look at the puns Germans like to use, especially in regards to one of their favorite pastimes, critiquing politics and politicians.