Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Göttingen Marktplatz

[ Göttingen Market Square ]

Maybe it was the sheer joy of finding perfect cherries in a Turkish quarter of Berlin, and picking up a Kilo bag for only two Euros and snacking on them throughout the week. Something triggered me upon my arrival back to Göttingen to capture one of the best places in the city on a weekday morning - the city Market Square. The square is full of stands, many with flowers and vegetables, ranging also to bread baked in ovens on the streets as well as huge assortments of antipasti, oils, cheeses and honeys as well. Definitely one of the best tastes of European life living here in Göttingen.

die amerikanische Botschaft.

[ The American embassy in Berlin ]

One of the best parts of my week long seminar in Berlin was unfortunately also the event that we were not permitted to carry any cameras along with us. On the Friday of our seminar week, all American scholarship recipients were brought together to visit the German Bundestag. There were many faces I had never seen before, emphasizing the fact that this CBYX scholarship is not just limited to college students [ that is actually the smaller faction ] yet made up of many groups of high school exchanges as well.

Once in the Bundestag, I was once again able to see some of the congress workings take place and then we were led to another large conference room for the next event on the agenda. Speaking to us that morning were not only some very high officials of the German Bundestag, but also the Ambassador to Germany from America. The event was filled with speeches from students and other stories and Q/A periods and served as a good closer, and inspiration for future connections between America and Germany.

This event triggered some excitement in me as well that I could only directly connect to a similar experience in Finland. Back when I visited Helsinki, and saw my first foreign American embassy, I was so impressed with the working environments and also the staff - often times speaking multiple languages. The foreign service has always intrigued me. The job is a challenge, many language to learn, and assignments that require one to live away from home upwards of 2 years, but it seems to have much adventure and opportunities to serve my country.

The American Embassy in Berlin was the next place that we visited. At first, there was very heavy security and passport checking, but once inside, it was absolutely beautiful [ and furnished with American appliances, causing some to squeal with joy just at the sight of an American electrical outlet in the walls! ]. From my previous visits to Berlin, I noted how the American embassy was right behind the Brandenburger Tor, and very near to the French and Russian Embassies [ the British nearby to the Bundestag ] which was a physical reflection on the history of the city for the past few decades.

Being in this atmosphere once more, and learning about the potentials of the foreign service, language learning, and what I can do as an American abroad really inspired me. It was one of the events that really epitomized just how incredible this opportunity is for me here this year, and opened many ideas of what I will do next.

Anfang der Weltmeisterschaft

[ The World Cup begins ]

Starting as I was in Berlin, the world cup kicked off, and I was able to see first hand huge groups collecting together in parks where large public viewings were taking place for the first match of South Africa against Mexico. There was something about the Stimmung - the atmosphere - of the city that had me so excited. Every street I walked down, bars were full, cafe's and restaurants had chairs and tables lined down under street side pavilions - all the people clad in tank tops and shorts in the heat, and each small address had a large flat screen TV set up, hastily plugged together for all to see. It is a surreal thing to describe, this soccer frenzy here, where someone can literally walk down the street in Berlin, like the multicultural and somewhat exotic quarters near Frankfurter Tor, and see the game progress every 5 to 10 meters just because there are so many TVs broadcasting the game.

This first introduction in Berlin was just the beginning. Once back in Göttingen, the center of the city was also clustered with viewing parties - many bars and restaurants decked with national flags, and many rows of benches lined out to the streets. The biggest excitement for me is the interaction of the entire event. I have found myself chatting back and forth with friends in Japan, talking about the games there, or meeting with my very diverse friends around Göttingen as well, ranging from the German team to Italian, Spanish, South Korean ect. It has even been fun to watch the American team, even though their credibility by word of mouth can only be defined as lackluster in regards to the German's outlook. [ so I keep my cheering more to myself ]

The Germans however are in full World Cup spirit. As I have mentioned earlier in this blog, a German flag is rather rare to come by on an average day here, but now during the World Cup, there are people wearing the flag as a cape to viewing parties and bbq's, as well as many other combinations of black red and gold. The national spirit brought along by soccer is unprecedented here. 4 years ago, when Germany hosted the tournament, there was a huge wave of new national pride which was very new for Germany after so many years of remaining reserved. Soccer proved to be a turning point for German pride, and from what I have heard, it has only increased this World Cup 4 years later. When Germany won their first game, Moritz and some other friends that were over all said we had to quickly get to the city center. Sure enough, just minutes after the win, Ganzelieselplatz was overflowing with cheering fans, all dressed in German colors and celebrating so hard as if the World Cup had just been won that night.

Soccer is viewed differently here. It is slowly catching on in America, and I have always enjoyed watching it there, but there is nothing that compares to watching the World Cup in one of the most Soccer-frenzied nations in the world. Here is to another month filled with checking scores and updates in the streets and other bbq's and viewing parties to attend!