Wanderlust war bereits ein mittelhochdeutsches Wort und beschreibt die Lust am Wandern, den steten inneren Antrieb, sich zu Fuß die Natur und die Welt fern der Heimat zu erschließen // A middle-high German word describing the joy of wandering, the constant urge to walk through nature and the world far from home.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Mexican Thanksgiving, in April, in Germany

        After two and a half months of gorging ourselves on stuffed cabbages, homemade schnitzel, dumplings of all shapes and sizes, and every native Wurst in Eastern Germany, we finally returned to the kitchen to cook up the one thing we missed the most from home--Mexican. I had the idea a week or two ago (when I started missing the always-nearby Chipotle, my hometown El Dorados, and the three Springfield El Toro's) and asked our German friend Lisa if she thought a Mexican meal would be a fun idea. She confessed she had never had Mexican, and always up for a new experience, she immediately jumped on to the idea and we set a date for the feast. It took three German "supermarkets" (nothing here is even mildly reminiscent of a Kroger's) before we could locate all of the correct ingredients. Luckily Lisa stuck with me as I was trying to find translations for words like "cilantro" and "refried beans," and never wavered when I insisted we needed at least 6 jars of salsa (food quantities are also quite subjective here, nothing comes bigger than a quart generally, especially the "exotic" foods like salsa).
        So with ingredients in tow and the kitchen reserved, we set to work Wednesday afternoon, taking turns at the stove and using every available flat surface on the first floor for various stations: guacamole making, vegetable dicing, salsa doctoring (German bottled salsa is much like ketchup and needed a little help), and meat preparation. We started to worry we wouldn't have enough food, and so Katherine ran out about an hour in to buy 10 chicken breasts, returning in record time to marinate them in lime juice and stuff the skins with tomatoes and peppers (she works magic with chicken). The labor was so incredibly worth it, however, as by 7:00 we had prepared one hell of a feast.

Taylar takes on shredded chicken 

Hannah and Lisa share veggie duty

I forget about Nat's dislike of all tomato-products and assign him to salsa doctoring; when that doesn't work he assists Katherine in chicken-magic and has great success

Tortilla rationing begins

Katherine and chicken-magic

All of the cooks!

Brandon leading the way

We teach Lisa how to fold a burrito!

First bite!

Sitting down to eat, together and happy and thankful.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mauerfälle // Falling Walls

        This past week I, and my mother and aunt, had the opportunity to see a very unique exhibit that recently arrived in Wittenberg, a photography exhibit entitled "Mauerfälle," which literally translated means "falling walls." It is a collection of photography from a diverse arrangement of German photographers--many from Eastern cities that I now know and recognize from long train rides through Saxony or visits to neighboring villages. The subjects were equally as diverse--at times an expectant mother sunbathing, at other times political demonstrations in Leipzig, at other times four young men canoeing the Saal. The only connecting element was their date of capture: all of the photos were taken in the year 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and opened the border between the formerly socialist German Democratic Republic and West Germany.
        Wandering up to the first banner of the exhibit I realized it was entirely in German, so I quickly tried to translate the bits I could for my mom and aunt. Hearing me stumble through a shoddy English translation, the director of the exhibit walked up and gave us a short write-up in English, welcoming us quietly, humbly, without even an introduction. He began to explain the purpose of the exhibit, and the idea behind it, in English, trying to express to us in our language what he quite obviously was so passionate about. I answered him in German, hoping he would feel comfortable enough to switch back. He did, and what followed was incredibly moving. He talked for about five minutes, expressing in German a lot of things I can't do justice in translation, trying to say much that is probably, for him, largely unsayable. I only understood about 75% of the words he used, but it hardly mattered, because his emotion conveyed more than his words, and even my mother and aunt left feeling as though they had understood.
        He said over and over that it was not what was in the pictures, so much as the existence of the pictures themselves within one year. I took from it this, that people all over Germany were living and working and waking and sleeping in 1989, just like they were in 1988 and just like they were in 1990, but that this year, this one place in time, connected them all, and that so much was happening. He talked about being in the Monday Demonstrations, the fear of people in the streets, knowing that even a peaceful protest could warrant violence from the police, and explained that the picture taken of the demonstrations was taken from an overhead view--the same perspective the government's snipers would have had on the square. There were times though, moving through the exhibit that you laughed out loud--a whole series of photos taken at dancing halls in Munich, or photos of children jumping wildly into a pool in Potsdam, or photos of older couples at horse races. The point is that they aren't our usual pictures of the wall falling, not the newsreel photos that those of my parent's generation would have memorized. They are photos of real people, taken by real people, about family and friends and food and normality. And yet they tell the story of a generation that has a history on both sides of the wall, and thus say something very profound, by showing a series of very simple moments.
        I have no pictures from the exhibit, but if you do know some German and would be interested in the website for the exhibit, you can check it out here. The artist we spoke to (I later learned his name from the gallery catalogue he generously gave to us) is Frank Heinrich-Mueller, and you can learn more about him (in English!) here.
        However, I did happen to visit the East Side Gallery with my family on their last day in Berlin. The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining section of the Wall, and now one of the most famous open air exhibits in the world. Artists from all over came together in 1990 to paint images of freedom on the East Side of the wall, leaving behind a memorial that is at times lively, moving, haunting, hilarious, and provocative. Walking along it I heard at least five different languages, which, I think, is very fitting. Here are some of the pictures from our walk:

looking through a gate to the West side

French, for my sister

perhaps my favorite

I am consistently humbled by the people I meet, by their generosity and their honesty and their willingness to share their experiences. I guess "falling walls" resonates in a number of ways, here and at home, and it's the only phrase I can think to describe my experiences here, in this community, thus far.

Wittenberg Blasorchester // My adventures in German polka

        As some of you may know, I am now a proud member of the Lutherstadt Wittenberg Blasorchester! Blasorchester is a fancy word for Wind Orchestra, which here really means a brass band with a handful of clarinets and saxophones. I am actually the first flautist they have had in five years, and the only woman that has played in the band in at least that amount of time, I'd say. It is absolutely wonderful. They are the kindest, most generous, most rambunctious bunch of old German men I could ever have the pleasure of playing music with. And as with most German occasions, band rehearsal is always a reason for celebration (if there is no beer, they aren't playing).
        We had our first "concert" type performance last weekend, in the next village over (Dobien I believe). My Aunt Barb was able to get a video of one of our songs, so here it is for kicks. I am the second from the left in the first row (wearing a sweater over my lovely maroon 1980s sport coat uniform because it was chilly that day and our conductor was worried I would catch cold). Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Prague, and a visit from three lovely long-awaited ladies

     If my alliteration didn't give it away, my family is visiting this week! My mother, sister, and Aunt Barb have been here since last Friday, when they arrived in Berlin, and since then they have accompanied me to Wittenberg, Leipzig, Berlin, and Prague! Prague was our fist post-Berlin airport adventure, and certainly one of the most beautiful (if not THE most beautiful) city I have seen so far. It is how I will always picture Eastern Europe--chaotic and ancient, proud and ornate, with a touch of accordion on most street corners and enough meat and potatoes to have you in a food-coma until your departure. As I learned from Poland, however, border proximity means absolutely nothing when it comes to language comprehension--my German rendered me mostly useless in the Czech Republic. The best way I can describe the Czech language is one of many syllables--I've never before heard anyone pronounce more syllables in a word than there are letters.
     My family, thankfully, trusted my pieced-together train wisdom, racing along behind me for the four train stations, five trains, and five hours that we traveled to Prague from Berlin (as my sister would say after the many flights of stairs she was forced to sprint: wheeled luggage is certainly convenient, but stairs render even these absolutely useless). We arrived in Prague in enough time to watch half of a city marathon from our taxi (marathons mean pricey cab fare though, of course). After settling in we wandered and found our way around pretty well. Here are some images from our Prague-walk:

St. Charles Bridge

Aunt. Sister. Mom.


I wanted to sit out here and read a book and look like I belonged. So badly.

A view of the St. Charles Bridge from across the river.

I love gargoyles.

Czech is more than impossible.

Prague is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. To quote Anke, my German professor, "es ist wie ein Traum," it is like a dream. And no one expects you to know Czech, thank God.