Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Germany Blog - Day 5: 2/4 - (Berlin Day Two - Part II)

We spent some time walking back up the church dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm. It is partially destroyed because it was left that way so people can remember some of the damage of World War II. It has new age looking buildings on either side of it that are used for actual masses and are open to any worshipers, and if I understood correctly, are open around the clock. When I told Fogg of KaDeWe, she had to immediately see it, and our travel plans were altered so she could “find her religion”.

After my second stop at KaDeWe, we walked to the SONY center. It was a square with shops and tables and such, with large screen TV’s out in the open and a pretty wild sound system to show concerts and such. I scored the best Italian gelato I have ever had. The person handing me the cone (with cappuccino flavor, of course) told me it was the best. He did not lie.

From there we went back to the Reichstag, or German Parliament building. After getting through airport security more stringent than some airports, we went up to the top of the dome. The dome is open on top to provide ventilation to the Parliament floor through a vortex shaped cone. Fabricius told me that so much hot air comes out of Parliament that snow and rain evaporate before they ever reach the floor. Also, people in Parliament sit on the left side if they are left (or liberal) and on the right if they are right (or conservatives). I never thought your political bend would change your place of seating. It would be wild to see it tried in the U.S. One man’s liberalism is another man’s conservatism. Or something like that. I was given a long lecture from Herr Fab about a variety of topics concerning the Reichstag and its design, including a massive screen, shaped like baseball catcher’s pads, that moves with the sun and mirrors that can be set by computer to reflect certain amounts of sunlight, all to keep the Parliament floor at the perfect temperature for proceedings.It was great, I was trying to be like a sponge and soak it all in, but it was impossible. There was too much to do that day to get it all. I do know the history behind the German Eagle, finally, though. It was selected along time ago by various members of German royal families and appeared on their crests. As Germany was eventually unified, the Eagle, known as the Reich Adler (sp?) became a mainstay and eventually became a national symbol for a unified German nation. Some of the details of the hanging of the one in Parliament were interesting. There is also a restaurant on top of Parliament where many of the members eat dinner. Anyone can get reservations and eat dinner there. Fabricius and I ducked inside to see it and he fetched me a business card, just in case I decide I want to have dinner with German Parliament, or the second in command under the Madame Chancellor, the Minister of Defense (I think), who is also the head of Parliament.

I think most students were burnt out at this point because they were lying down on the benches. Sandman was the lucky recipient of a vogel bomb. Many people say that getting muted on by birds flying above is good luck. I never see flying fecal matter as lucky. That’s just me, though.

As everyone was waiting to take the elevator down, I took a few minutes to stand in the open air and take in the sight of the skyline of Berlin with two majestic German flags blowing in the wind and it hit me where I was. I was in flippin Berlin, standing on top of the German Parliament! Here I am, formerly a kid from a Lebanese home in Utica, the first kid in his family to go to college and graduate with a four year degree, and now I am on the rooftop of the Reichstag. It also hit me, right then, the number of sacrifices that my parents, grandparents, and other friends and family made to help mold me into the person I am and how important they made getting a good education and how great my life has really been because of it. None of that would have been possible, at least not like this moment was and what it meant to me, if it wasn’t for them. I know some people feel like getting handed something for doing nothing, to being entitled to something, is really where it is at. But honestly, even though its sometimes a lot harder and takes more work, and takes sacrifices of your own and of those around you who care about you (like your wife who is home while you are in Germany), it makes the experience so much better. And as I looked around and saw the kids somewhat loafing and checking out, I hoped that at least one of them had an epiphany like I did today. Or that they would have one soon. It wasn’t about being an American in Germany. It was about embracing a chance to embrace another culture for a short while and bring back knowledge that may very well shape your own children and grandchildren. And I hope that some of that have that feeling at some point because it was so incredible that I just had to stand there and look out and say nothing to anyone.

When I finally had gotten my head around all that, I took the elevator down to the ground level and we took a bus to the Alexanderplatz, where I had to make sure Erin could have her first Doener, as I had promised all day long with my “Doeners for Dinner” campaign slogan. I was finally able to order my own; this time with the red schaff sauce because Sandman thought it would explode my head. Erin also managed to get a suitable doener (even though I can't type the cool oomlau) and was seen here before Snoop Foggy Fogg showed up and caused mass hysteria and near rioting. Eventually Fogg had to cave in and give up her vegetarian ways and she decided that now was as good as ever so there were doerners, doerners, everywhere. Everyone else there next took turns making the two girls laugh so hard they were spitting up Doerner and collapsing to floor to avoid “making water”. It really wasn’t fair. They were so tired, it was easy pickings. Note to anyone: just cite any part of Jeff Dunham’s Achmed Routine and the two of them are done. Totally and completely done. Don't believe me, call Erin and Fogg over and read the following to them in a an Apu from the Simpsons voice (or Achmed if you know how to do it): Knock, knock. Whose there? Me. I kill you. If you don’t get it, you probably don’t understand Peanut Butter Jelly Time, either. But that doesn't mean its not gold. Just ask Laija.

After taking the S-Bahn, we went back to the Sunflower Hostel where I sat at a table in the main room while students blogged, played foozeball, and joked around in the Yellow Submarine Room. While I was there, I picked up a piece of German Literature and tried to read aloud to work on my pronunciation prowess and look for common spelling patterns. It dawned on me, finally, what Baba must have felt like in The Kite Runner. I have two degrees and teach writing and literature. Reading aloud, even I knew I sounded like, at worst, totally illiterate and dimwitted and at best, like a first grader and foolish. I get now to a small degree what it must feel like to be so accomplished in your own country but then to emigrate to a different one where you are reduced to being a gas station attendant. I mean, he went from building hospitals to pumping gas.

Finally, Woody, Sandman, Erin, Parkes (and I saw you blog, Parkes. I don't get how I "suck". are the one who couldn't understand the card trick figured out by a five year-old. And Sandman! Ouch!), Shannon and Canavan all made it to the table. After wowing everyone but Sandman with my dazzling card tricks, we played a game of “I Doubt It”, a.k.a. Ballston Spa. That went on until midnight, when Herr Fabricius pointed out to us the early departure time due to the fact that we only had until 11:30 in Berlin the following day, so I headed up to bed (after letting D.J. go out before me so he could feel accomplished) and did my journaling, finally falling asleep around 1:30 A.M.

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