March 12, 2009

Well, I guess you might say I’m settling in.  Now this becomes less of an account of all things new and exciting and more generally a blog about my life.  We’ll see how I handle the transition.  There are some events and changes worth mentioning.  Bullet points kind of feel like cheating, but I’m using them anyway:

  • I started a German course!  It only took my visiting three different schools and calling seven different answering machines, and having to take the 40 minute train ride each way to a school twice in one day, once to register and then to pay (and, ridiculously enough, I also bought a watch, which I have been in dire need of, only to come back and discover it didn’t work, so I had to go back again the next day), but I finally made it and started today.  We learned some stuff I already knew, so I looked though the book and discovered I had learned almost everything in it.  This doesn’t mean I know it, but that I am familiar with the concepts.  I’m going to see if I can transfer to a higher level (from A2 to B1) on Monday.  For now, I think it’s worth noting the incredibly international quality of my classroom.  I have two Spanish and two Portugese classmates, two from Poland, one other American, and one each from Thailand, Vietnam, Iraq, Iceland, and Columbia.  I have only had once class, but its interesting what have already emerged as interesting language differences.  For instance, the Spanish and Portuguese speakers have trouble with Warum? (Why?, pronounced va-rom) and weil… (because, pronounced ‘vile’), because in Spanish and Portuguese, you ask, “Por que?” and answer, “Por que…”  I took Spanish and never realized that the word for “why” and “because” are the same.  I’m sure there will be more tales of word follies to come.
  • I am beginning my attempt at political involvement here in Berlin.  After all, both wars are still going on and there are plenty of opportunities for fighting against them here in Germany, where there are more US military bases than anywhere except the US itself, and they are full of soldiers on their way or back from the Middle East.  One developing story is that of Andre Shepherd.  If you don’t know who he is, check him out on Democracy Now!, on the IVAW Europe blog, or in Der Spiegel (Germany’s equivalent to Time or Newsweek).  And if you actually clicked any of those links, you can imagine how excited I am to hear him speak this weekend at Winter Soldier Europe!  There are going to be a bunch of vets who live or serve in Germany as well as Chris Arendt, who I know from Portland, where he, along with my roommate Chris Martini and a few others, started the Portland chapter of IVAW (now IVAW Oregon).  I just secured some transportation mere minutes ago, so I’ll compose a rousing report for next week.
  • And in other political news, I went to a planning meeting for the 1. Mai Demo.  If you clicked on the Democracy Now! link above, you saw (or read) Elsa Rassbach, who was my sole anti-war contact when I got here.  She sent me a number of meeting notices (all in German), so I just sort of picked those I was able to attend and went.  The 1. Mai Demo meeting was also all in German, and we all know how well I do in all-German environments (though watch out!  This class is going to turn all of that around!), so I only got the most general sense of what was going on, but I spoke with the woman who chaired the meeting after it was over, which helped me put some context to the acronyms people used to identify themselves.  May first, traditionally a workers’ rights day that has lost a lot of strength in the US (excluding the Immigrant’s Rights protests of 2006 – I think it was 2006.  If anyone wants to expand on this, feel free to leave a comment), but in Europe there are still big events.  Apparently there is a big union march, which I gather is rather tame, there will be a neo-Nazi rally, and then this group is planning an anti-capitalist demonstration.  There were 30 people in the room to plan an anti-capitalist demo.  After doing anti-war activism in Portland, it is ridiculous that there would be that many people planning a demonstration that openly protests capitalism.  The participants were members of socialist and communist groups (which I am interested to hear more about at future meetings because I have no idea what the political differences between the political lines of these organizations.  Especially because several of the groups use the hammer and sickle in their logo), anarchist groups, and anti-fascists groups (another question: they seem to simply hate on some Nazis and fight capitalism but I’m not sure what they are about beyond those vague principles).  It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds.  There are some other events coming up before then, like the April 4th No to Nato demonstrations, so I’ll keep you updated.


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