Monday, August 31, 2015

Musik zum Leben - und Text dabei zum Lesen, und Verstehen

von Thomas Riedel
aus Dresden               Musik für die Seele

Das Licht der Stille, von Thomas Riedel


Verborgen von der Welt
leuchtet eine Stille in Dir....
Du kannst sie nicht 
mit deinen Tagesaugen sehen
denn Du bist geblendet
von den Dingen dieser Welt.

         - - Zwischenspiel - -
Und trotzdem hast Du
Augen dieses Licht zu sehen. In diesem Licht steht die Welt
still und neu vor dir
strahlend in Unschuld,
lebendig voller Hoffnung und
gesegnet mit einer 
Liebe, die aus Dir entspringt.

     - - Zwischenspiel - - 

Wer könnte fürchten sich
in einer solchenWelt?

Sie heißt Dich jeden Tag
willkommen voller Freude.
Sie sieht das Licht in Dir,
und schützt es als ihr Eigen
Sie gibt Dir einen sanften,
warmen Platz zu sein.

Sie sieht Deinen Wert
und freut sich, dass Du da bist.

Sie gibt Dir ihren Schnee
und ihre Blumen,
in Dankbarkeit für Dein
wunderbares, stilles Licht.
Dies ist die Welt,
die Deine Liebe Dir enthüllt!
Du wirst sie sehen, 
wenn Du nach innen schaust. 

Sei also still für einen Moment
und lege alle Gedanken über die Welt
und Dich beiseite,
Leere Deinen Geist von allem,
was Du denkst und willst.
Halte nicht einen Gedanken fest,
egal wie wichtig und richtig 
er auch erscheinen mag.

Lass alles los!  Mach Platz 
in Deinem Geist und Deinem Herzen, 
für etwas Großes und Weites.
Und Liebe, die Du noch nie gekannt,
sie wird kommen, und sie kennt den Weg,
viel besser als Du ihn je erdenken könntest.
Die Liebe braucht Dein stilles Warten, 
deine freudige Gewissheit ihres Kommens.
Sie ist Dein, weil Du 
als liebevolles Licht erschaffen wurdest.

Schau heute nur auf 

dieses stille Licht in Dir, 
und segne es in allem, 
was Dir in der Welt begegnet!

Wer hat Fragen um den Text? --rsb

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Germany Helps House Refugees as they Wait for Asylum

The Associated Press

As refugees flood in....

In this photo taken on Thursday, July 30, 2015, Syrian refugee Leila, no last name given, poses in an emergency shelter in Berlin where she waits with her family for her pending registration as asylum seekers. The surge in migrants and refugees to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and elsewhere this year has sent countries scrambling to come up with housing - both temporary for those awaiting the outcome of asylum applications, and permanent for those allowed to stay. Many European countries face similar problems, but none greater than Germany. Europe’s richest economy attracted 43 percent of Europe’s 400,000 asylum applications in the first half of the year - more than double the number in the same period of 2014. (AP Photo/Olga Syrova) 
Associated Press+ More
BERLIN (AP) — Twenty-three-year-old Leila, her husband and two small children spent their first week in Germany in a temporary shelter, an austere but desperately needed haven after a traumatic flight from Syria that began when her husband was told to fight for the government.
Among an expected 800,000 asylum seekers flowing into Germany this year — some four times last year's count — she and her family shared a small room built in a converted covered tennis court in downtown Berlin during their first week in the country in August, furnished with three Ikea bunk beds, a small table and a small closet. They received three meals a day in a common room for the 300 refugees in the facility, and bathrooms were shared.
The setup was basic by European standards, but for Leila, who cannot forget the bodies littering the streets of the Syrian city of Aleppo, it was a fresh start.
"We were so afraid, before we came here," said Leila, who requested that her last name not be used for fear of retribution against her family still in Syria. "Now we feel comfortable because we are treated well ... We feel safe here."
The surge in migrants and refugees to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and elsewhere this year has sent countries scrambling to come up with housing — both temporary for those awaiting the outcome of asylum applications, and permanent for those allowed to stay. German authorities say they have 45,000 spots in temporary facilities for new asylum applicants — excluding tent settlements that have been hastily erected — but they need as many as 150,000.
Many European countries face similar problems, but none greater than Germany. Europe's richest economy attracted 43 percent of Europe's 400,000 asylum applications in the first half of the year — more than double the number in the same period of 2014.
The converted tennis court where Leila and her family are being housed was supposed to be closed in May, but it has been kept open to help deal with the flood of newcomers. Funded by the city, it is run by the Berlin City Mission, a Christian nonprofit organization, and staffed largely by volunteers.
Elsewhere in Berlin, portable shipping containers have been converted into small stacks of apartments to accommodate 2,400 refugees around the capital. At one in container village in southwestern Berlin, which is just opening, colorfully painted containers offer comfortable space for 300 refugees. It boasts single rooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms on each floor, as well as small flats for families, and even accommodation for the disabled.
In government and non-governmental projects around the country, former military barracks are being converted to housing, disused nursing homes are being refurbished and even small tent cities are being erected. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has already doubled the financial assistance available to local authorities to 1 billion euros ($112 billion) and has called a meeting with state leaders in September to discuss the refugee situation further.
Some Germans have taken matters into their own hands. Last year, Berlin resident Jonas Kakoschke decided with his roommate to house a refugee in her place while she was spending six months abroad.
Kakoschke helped the refugee, a Mali-born man from Senegal, learn the language, get his paperwork done and eventually find his own apartment. Now, with the online project "Refugees Welcome" that Kakosche and his roommate founded together, they help find private placements for more new arrivals, by matching ages, language skills and other criteria.
"Many refugees say they don't have direct contact with local population and our project helps them with that," Kakoschke said.
Through July, they say they have placed 64 refugees across Germany and 34 in Austria in private apartments. There's also been reports of people across Germany who have taken in refugees on their own, but it is not clear exactly how many.

First Day of School? Don't Miss Getting a Schultüte !

Make a Schultüte 
By Marie LeBaron

There are many ways to get your kids excited and ready for the new school year. As my oldest is going into First Grade this year (I can’t believe he’s already in 1st grade), I thought it would be fun to make him a Schultute. A Schultüte, or school cone, is a German tradition where parents give their child going into their first year of school one of these giant cones filled with school supplies and treats. So as my son is going into his “first” year of school, I’ve made him this giant Schultüte (Star Wars -themed, of course, can you tell he likes Star Wars?)!

* poster board or large cardstock paper
* scissors
* glue stick
* heavy tape, I used packing tape
* Decorations: I used a Star Wars poster to cover the poster board, but it could be decorated with paint, crayons, paper, stickers, whatever you think your child might like.
* tissue paper
* ribbon

First, you’ll want to cut the poster board into the shape of a large triangle. I also cut my Star Wars poster the same size too. Then I attached my Star Wars poster to the white poster using a glue stick.

You’re ready to roll it up to form the cone. Then using the packing tape, seal the edges together. I used regular scotch tape to hold the cone closed until I used the heavy tape to seal it all together.

With your glue stick, put some glue all around the outside of the cone, about one inch from the top. Then holding the cone straight between your legs, attach the folded in half tissue paper to the outside of the cone. The first tissue paper didn’t make it all the way around, so I used two sheets of tissue paper.

Fill the Schultüte with your goodies for your child. I put in colored pencils, a notebook, a ruler, pencil sharpener, his favorite candy M&Ms, and a few other small things that he might enjoy or share.

Then tie the tissue up with ribbon to seal it off and keep the contents hidden!. In Germany, these Schultüte get quite a bit of mileage. They are presented at home and carried to school by the child.  Family members join in at a special  first day of school reception, which of course, involves individual and class photos -- complete with Schultüten.  Afterwards, families return home to celebrate the new school child in their own way, often with invited guests. 

**For another version of a smaller style Schultüte, visit our friend Zakka Life.
Also, if you’re not the crafty kind or *cough* can’t fit *cough* this project into your schedule, you can find unfilled Schultütes for sale at Magic Cabin
So, who'll be the first one to mention the Schultüte that is in the corner of our class this year?  

I don't expect to create one of these for each first year German student, although I have done so in the past. (Perhaps the German Club will take that on this year instead!)  But I do expect to fill, and distribute from, the Schultüte which is already there, as feels appropriate. (Several years ago, our class Schultüte magically filled up every day all first semester long, and into the second semester, thanks in part to some remarkable student elves.  Thanks again!! )-- rsb

8 Questions Every Language Learner Has About Language Conversation Exchanges

Word on the street is that all the kids are doing LCEs.

Oh, sorry—are you new to getting your language learning kicks online?
Thanks to the Internet, the world is your oyster. It turns out that language learning on your own terms can be fun, interactive and exciting.
When you want to start interacting with native speakers and practicing conversational skills, you’ll want to know all about the LCE experience. Far from the classroom with its recorded listening tapes and prompted conversations with other beginners, an LCE, or language conversation exchange, gets you speaking like a native faster through pure immersion.
To do an LCE, you will meet with a native speaker of your target language and converse with them, alternating between your language and theirs. You exchange your knowledge of English (or another language you know well) for their knowledge of the foreign language you’re learning. It gives you experience of real, one-on-one communication, a chance to converse and listen. This is vital to helping you learn quicker, better and with more enjoyment.
Sounds pretty great, right? An opportunity like this must rapidly accelerate everybody’s language learning, right? Sadly not. LCEs often fail or fade out, and their magic potential for language transformation is lost.
Luckily for you, I am going to spell out how to find, create and maintain an LCE that explodes your language learning as you know it and catapults you into a new level of fluency. And you might even make a friend along the way!

Everything You Need to Know About Language Conversation Exchanges

Why Should I Do a Language Conversation Exchange?

Before you start scouting for a buddy, it is vital that you know what you want this exchange to do for you. Do you want a structured and challenging test of your linguistic abilities? A mate to hang out and relax with? What is most important to you?
People have all sorts of reasons for seeking out an LCE, from pure love of language to understanding a new culture, finding a new friend in an unfamiliar place or having someone to reassure them that they are doing fine when they order drinks in a funny accent.
If you know what you want to get out of your LCE, you are more likely to find it. You won’t waste time with vague feelings that this isn’t really what I was after. No time for that! You have a language to master!
Sit down for five minutes and brainstorm why you might be looking for an LCE. Then choose the three main points—all related to what you want to achieve and experience. Make a note of them and refer back throughout your LCE to see if you are getting what you originally wanted.
Know what you’re looking for? Great! Let’s go get it!

How Can I Find My Language Conversation Exchange Buddy?

If you are looking for an online buddy then the internet is your oyster! Start right here with the FluentU iPhone app. Find a system that suits you with this amazing comprehensive list of high quality languages exchange sites.
Language conversation exchange
I personally recommend Hellotalk to find a buddy in your target language. It is free, you are linked up instantly and you can keep searching until you find your perfect buddy. This works as a good introduction service. Later you can decide if you want to just text or maybe progress to Skype chat or beyond.
Skype isn’t necessarily the end goal—it’s actually a fantastic place to start! Check out Skype’s community message boards for people looking for a partner. Skype language lessons attract speakers of all languages and you can find many offers for languages exchanges there.
Language conversation exchange
Couchsurfing also has a great community forum you can log into and post on for buddies. Here you can find kindred spirits who enjoy travel and adventuring.
These are my personal favorites. Check out the links above and see what works for you—and don’t be afraid to get out there and explore more options!
As for those of you lucky enough to actually be living abroad, it is even easier to find a buddy. Utilize centers of education—universities, schools, cultural centers. Leave an advert and a contact number there. Many universities offer a “Tandem” or language exchange service. Contact local TEFL teachers, too—they can give you contacts to their best and keenest students.
Being the foreigner in your town, many people would welcome the opportunity to learn with you. Ask your friends, ask your colleagues. Somewhere out there is your perfect LCE party waiting eagerly to set out on a language adventure by your side.

How Do I Recognize My Ideal LCE Partner?

Be discerning at the start. The better suited you two are for one another, the better your chances of having a successful LCE. Gut feeling is a good indicator. Is this person interesting to you? Do they have a similar personality and lifestyle? Would you choose to chat with them normally?
Then there is level. It is not necessary to have someone the same as you in ability and fluency. Even a total beginner and a near fluent speaker can help each other wonderfully as long as both are fulfilled and getting what they want.
Next, find out what your potential buddy wants from this exchange. Can you help them? Do they seem interested in helping you?
This last point is very important. Do they want to help you as well as improve their own level? Be sure you have a partner who you feel comfortable with, who seems supportive, patient and interested in your motivations and desires. People sometimes forget that speakers of a global language like English also want and need to improve their second language skills. Make sure your buddy is a team player before you move forward!
Okay, Got My Buddy! But How to Start?
Be flexible at the beginning. The relationship will take its own shape. That said, it is good to set some starting rules:
How often will we meet? At least once a week is best to keep things progressing nicely, but the more you meet up the better your speaking skills will become. Do not try to overwhelm your buddy with too many meet ups if they have a busy schedule, but be sure that you express your goals in terms of frequency.
How will we divide the languages? The most common format is to speak for half the time in your language, half the time in theirs. But it is up to you and your partner. You could alternate weeks or come up with your own system. Bear in mind though that extended language immersion will deepen your skills, so try not to flit between languages too quickly and too often.
If you are in an online LCE, you have the advantage of at least some written communication. That means you can post a short summary of the guidelines of your desired LCE to your buddy. Feel free to keep in touch via online messaging in between your meet ups.
Where will we meet? If you have a physical meeting, then vary the location. This makes each session unique with its own set of challenges and learning opportunities. Go to a museum or a park. Meet at your house or at your buddy’s. Not only will you be more stimulated by each meeting thanks to the varying scenery and topics of conversation, you will come across new vocabulary and challenges too.
If you are meeting online, there is no reason not to explore cyberspace together! Play games, have fun. Sometimes you can Skype for talking practice. Sometimes you can text chat so that your buddy can give you writing tips. Try different chat rooms and experiment with different conversation sites. Maybe you can even go on a SIMS adventure together!

The Time Has Come—What Should We Talk About?

Try to keep the topics of discussion diverse. At the start, you can focus on getting to know each other, but your LCE will be much more fun if you deliberately address different areas of conversation.
This is especially relevant for online LCEs because we all spend a lot of time on the computer and are distracted by Facebook, background events, etc. Planning varied and fun themes ensures that your LCE is the only thing on your mind when you turn on your computer. By avoiding distractions and staying focused on a topic, you will get the absolute most from the exchange.
Role play and explore situations. This can work as well through Skype as in person. Your buddy can prep you for possible job interviews or interactions with trained staff. Role plays are a great way of both minimizing nerves (by pretending to be someone else) and becoming adept in situations you may need in real life. And they do not need much preparation. Just set a situation and think of a few points that may come up. Believe me, it is less effort than preparing nothing and then forcing conversation about the weather and your summer plans.
If your language has a formal\informal function, as most languages do, you can choose to speak one week formally and discuss more professional topics such as your career. Then the next week you can devote to casual speech and slang words.
Get practical. Put yourself in real situations. Explore language through food!Go to dinner or to the pub together, order food and pay the bill. Agree to take your native buddy around town without guidance so that you read the maps and you ask for directions when you get lost. Go to an art gallery and explain how each picture makes you feel. Take the train and describe the route to your buddy.
Maybe you want this to be very low-key and laid back. That is fine as long as it is what you and your buddy both want. But remember that variability and challenging yourself will take you farther faster. You are going to meet loads of foreign speakers to chat and hang with once your language level starts accelerating. Why not use this novel opportunity to its maximum potential?
This was fun. When shall we meet next? Always end with a new time to meet. This is important for motivation and so that your LCE does not get swallowed up by the busyness of your lives. Having research to do, a role-play to plan or a topic to mull over means that your mind will stay on your LCE all week.

How Do I Know My LCE Is Really Working?

Want to be sure that you are getting the most out of your LCE experience? Want to rest easy knowing that you are making tons of great progress thanks to your new buddy?
Make a goal for your LCE, whether it be to widen your vocabulary, increase your confidence or simply be able to order drinks by yourself (with or without laughter). This main goal gives you something to aim towards. Then you can set up small, achievable goals for each meeting, such as:
  • Go out for dinner and talk to the waiter all night
  • Have a basic discussion about the political background of this country
  • Survive a 30-minute conversation without giving in and reverting to English
This does not need to be a structured thing with charts and progress boards. Just keep it in your own mind. Keep your focus on what you want to achieve and how that is going. This will keep your LCE alive and useful for you and make sure that you know you are progressing.
It is also up to you to set the level of correction you want from your buddy. If your aim is confidence, then just relax and talk as much as possible. If you want to nail your grammar, then ask them to point out and explain mistakes. You can set yourself specific goals for each session, for example:
  • Today I want to use conditionals correctly
  • I am bored of using the same adjectives all the time. Today I will experiment with more advanced and unusual ones
Once your buddy knows your aim they can help you reach it and give you feedback and advice.

How Do I Keep My LCE Fun?

Treat it like any other important relationship—invest your time and energy in it. Commitment and regular communication are important to keep your LCE a part of your life. Be excited about it. Goal plan and reflect on how each meeting went and what you each got from it. What could you improve next time and how could you better help your partner? Once your LCE is something you are excited about, it will stay on the front page of your attention span.

How to End My Language Conversation Exchange?

For whatever reason, LCEs are sometimes quite short. Maybe you just needed that initial boost to get you going in your new language or to find a group of friends. Maybe you or your buddy is super busy now. That’s okay, it usually has to end sometime—and you can always keep in touch in the future if you like.
But do make sure you end your LCE fittingly. It has been an adventure and a learning process for both of you. Go for a final dinner or drink together. If you are online make sure you schedule that final webchat or Skype meet. Chat about what you learned and what was fun and think about your plans now.
How you will keep improving your language? Did you get what you wanted? Did you push yourself and reach new boundaries in your new language? Are you still hungry to go farther, to get even more fluent, confident and capable?
If so…there are a million other LCE partners waiting for you. Whether online or in your town, reach out to them. Remember—each human being is a whole new world. For you, that is a whole world of new knowledge, understanding and learning. Use this opportunity to your advantage!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

10 things you should know before moving to Germany

This autumn marks my four year Berliniversary—four years living in Germany. Oh mein Gott.
Though I’ve lived abroad a few other times as a student and a “slow” traveler, this has been my first real experience living abroad.

Without question, it’s been a learning experience and I’ve come away with a lot of great stories.
Everything from the process of moving to a new country, embracing a new culture, learning a new language and a million other things.

I never expected to live in Germany, but four years on, here I am.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way …

Special thanks to Claire who has helped put together these fun illustrations.  Check out:

1. Learning German is Essential

learn german language 620x401 
Claire Webster

While it might seem like a monumental task at the beginning, learning the language will make your life easier and way more fun while living in Germany. Sometimes you find yourself in a club and the guy on the dance floor next to you whispers in your ear. This is an instance when knowing German is helpful. (Trust me: this comes from personal experience!)

Of course, the language is also important for finding jobs, getting visas, visiting all the Amts and dealing with the bureaucracy of living abroad. Even though people in bigger cities (hallo Berlin!) tend to speak English, it’s not always the case. Plus, a language that has a word like bitte which can be used for just about any situation, it’s really not that difficult to pick up essential words to know. It’ll help you get further in your expat experience.

In every city across Germany you’ll find Volkshochschule which are local community schools which offer classes in everything from art & web design to language classes including German. Another good way is to attend language exchanges and meet-ups. The InterNations website organizes regular meet-ups in most major German cities, making it a good way to try out your language skills—plus meet other expats.

2.  Germans Love Their Bikes (and So Should You!)

Getty Images/Sean GallupGermans are avid cyclists, and for a reason. The city infrastructure is usually built with cycling in mind, meaning bike lanes can be found almost everywhere.

Germans are avid cyclists, and for a reason. The city infrastructure is usually built with cycling in mind, meaning bike lanes can be found almost everywhere. When moving to a new city, cycling is usually the best and the cheapest way to get to know your surroundings. Used bikes aren’t usually expensive, and several cities have bike-sharing services where you can use the public bikes for a small annual fee. Bonus: they’re emission free and will help to burn those extra calories from all the beer and sausages you stuff in your mouth.

3.  Cash is King

cash in Germany 
Claire Webster

Germans don't like debt. Businesses don't encourage debt. So do not ever assume that your card will work at any shop, restaurant or ticket machine. No matter if it’s credit or debit, German or international, much of the time it just won’t be accepted, and that's final. Many places don’t accept EC (electronic cash/debit) below a certain amount (usually 5€ or 10€).  -- Grocery stores are one of the few places I’ve found where credit cards are almost always accepted for any amount.

4.  Electronic Music Is What You’ll Hear

Germany is famous for its techno music scene. You might think it’s a stereotype, but I dare you to go out to a club in Berlin and not hear some form of electronic music. Even smaller clubs tend to have at least one night a week with techno, but really: it’s the bigger nightclubs that you’ll want to experience for electronic music. I don’t know why electronic music is so popular in Germany, but it is. Maybe it’s the country’s history, or the fact that so many of the world’s best techno DJs have come out of Germany (sorry, Bristol).

Even if electronic music isn’t your thing, give it a chance. In the right club atmosphere, you’ll find yourself swept away by the beats and the crowds.

5.  German Food is More Than Just Wurst & Bier

Saying that, as an expat, at some point you’ll probably start to crave your favorite foods from back home. Luckily, Germany has a relatively diverse cuisine—more so than you might initially expect! Even if you can’t find your favorite international foods quite as easy, there are specialty food shops and international supermarkets (plus more than a few online services) to get what you might miss from home.

In Germany, though, you’ll also find a lot of Italian and Turkish food options. American-style burgers are currently all the rage throughout the country, as is vegan & vegetarian food. And even when you’re craving German food in Germany, know that your options extend beyond sausages, beer and potatoes. Käsespätzle is a sort of mac & cheese perfect for the winter (or as a vegetarian option in most German restaurants) and the huge variety of meats make it easy to try new foods.

6.  Fizzy Drinks Are Awesome

I’m not 100% sure why, but Germans have a fixation with carbonated drinks. Water is always sparkling, unless otherwise specified. When you want to order water without the bubbles, ask for stilles Wasser (or Leitungswasser if you want it from the tap—but be warned they might not offer it to you for free!).

I won’t lie—I didn’t like sparkling water or many fizzy drinks before moving to Germany, but now it’s a staple of most of my meals out. Germans don’t just make their water fizzy, though. It’s also in their beer. Beer in Germany is generally excellent, perhaps predictably. Even the smallest village seems to have their own brewery. And in the summer, nothing is better than a Radler (a mix of beer with lemonade) or even a Diesel (a mix of beer with cola). There are also a variety of hipster soft drinks of every stripe available. Try the German brand Fritz Kola, out of Hamburg but widely available in Germany (and even across Europe).

7.  Everything Can Be Recycled

recycling in germany ordnung 620x288Claire Webster

Germans have a predilection for Ordnung, or order/discipline. And anyone who’s been to Germany will attest to the fact that everything can be organized—especially the trash. Glass bottles are separated by color. Organic waste goes in its own special bins. Paper and electronics are separated. Everything has its place. All the grocery stores have places to deposit bottles where you’ll get change back, ranging from 8 to 15 cents. In some cities, it’s quite common to leave beer bottles out on the sidewalk for the homeless and other bottle collectors to pick up.

The longer you stay in Germany, the better you get at organizing things. It’s actually quite a comforting thing—knowing that your trash is going to be recycled. You will be a fan of green energy too, it is simply contagious: I am nuclear-free. Plus, wind turbines are an essential part of Germany’s landscape, and you will love to see them from your train or your bus while crossing the German countryside.

8.  There’s a Place for Everything

It’s not just your plastics and papers that can be sorted, but just about everything else in Germany has its own special place and rules. You might think the stereotype of German bureaucracy & paperwork is a myth, but it’s not. Rules are followed to the letter in Germany. There’s an Amt (office) for everything—from registering your address at the Bürgeramt to dealing with the Ordnungsamt.
The rules go so far that even jaywalking is considered a serious offense. Trust me: try to cross an empty street when the Ampelmännchen is red. Just don’t tell people I told you to do it! (I have seen people screaming “children killer!” to someone who crosses the street with a red light, because in good German logic, children see you breaking the law and will follow your example.)

9.  Social Media Will Always Help

I don’t think I could’ve effectively made Germany my home without a network of friends, those people that had moved here around the same time, or those long-time locals who I was lucky enough to meet in my early days living here. Starting out in a new country, you usually don’t know many people in the beginning. I came to Berlin and knew no one.

And while Germans can be a bit formal, it’s definitely possible to break through those tough exteriors. If you’re relatively social, using social media you should be able to connect with new people wherever you are in Germany. Facebook and meetups connect you to local events, and through them it’s easy to find out about cool things to do. I’ve also found it helpful to connect with other international people living in Germany—those that are in similar situations and probably have dealt with the same issues of bureaucracy. I couldn’t have made it here so long without a strong network of other expats. Free networking websites like InterNations make it pretty easy to connect—they’re one of the biggest expat communities worldwide and a good resource for asking questions. Sign up here for free and maybe see you at one of the many Berlin meet ups!

10.  Get Comfortable in Your Birthday Suit

There’s a stereotype about Germans and nudity (and a more free-spirited approach to sexuality—but that’s a different story!) and I can tell you after living in Berlin for four years, it’s definitely true. Nudity just isn’t an issue in Germany. That first summer when I went to a lake for a day of suntanning, the crowded beach was a bit of a shock: there was a lot of droop. Quite a shock for this American!

But after that initial shock, I’ve come to realize the Germans really know what’s up. Nudity shouldn’t be an issue—when you separate clothing from sexuality, it’s actually incredibly liberating.
* * *
I can write lots of other stuff that you need to know before moving to Germany, from the (self-)imposed silence in public transportation to the surrealism of German television (and their weird taxes). I believe that Berlin made it easier for me to move here because the city is truly international. There are always lots of different people around. I sometimes dream of moving to a new city, a new country—somewhere like Barcelona or London, but I sincerely think I would miss Germany. Once you get in tune with the mood and the German-style, you can conquer the world (metaphorically, of course!).

How Germany keeps its cities clean during festivals

A Facebook post from my Uncle Erik in Denmark today shared this photo of the new solar-operated public trash compacting stations he saw this week, while he was visiting the capital city of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Kiel. 
Photo: Erik Rønholt

What Erik found so impressive is that the not only do the solar panels signal when to compact the contents of the station, can hold five times more items by volume, reducing collection requirements by up to 80 percent. An electric eye inside detects the level of trash (or recyclables) and triggers compactions as needed.  This eye also notifies the collection agency when the box is at capacity and needs to be serviced.  Pretty high tech.

What is so cool that I learned today was that the technology of these BigBelly solar-powered compactors actually comes from Massachusetts!  Also, we have several of these units in Newport these days, thanks in part to funds raised during a student's Senior Project! 

Very cool.

But Kiel has a major waterfront, and these boxes don't help on the water (yet).  So there is a very involved program to handle waste and separate it for recycling, which I don't believe takes place in Newport, or in any USA port.  Sanitize specialists, most commendably, work around the clock to catch trash -- and separate it -- before it can become an environmental problem.  In particular at sea, they are always a welcome sight, since yachts can really generate a lot of trash, and where, with limited on board space, there can be considerable temptation to let trash "disappear" overboard.

Here are a photo from Kiel's magazine the Fördeflüsterer, features an employee holding one of the trash retrieval baskets with that welcoming signal, which other vessels gratefully flag down in order to take advantage of their trash removal service. A corner of the sorting station appears on the right.

Kieler Woche -- Since 1882

Kiel is the capital city of the northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein.  Each June since 1882 it hosts an impressive, international sailing extravaganza called Kielerwoche (Kiel Week), with nearly round-the-clock cultural events of all kinds, most of which focus along its harbor and shoreline.

The ring of a ship's bell kicks the week's events off, and, once, after a long week of tight competition, and all the prizes for each sailing class have been awarded, the culminating events are the following week, with the world's largest parade of sail

Here's a 2-plus minute photo collage (by Finn Karstens and Phillip Spieck) of the build-up to the week, as well as some of the activities during the week.  Keep in mind that Germany lies north of RI; there are longer days during Kieler-Woche: the sun sets at 10 pm, and rises again before 5 am.

Beginning:  Staging event; shots of Kiel; inland park for hot air balloons; Ferris wheel
0:40  the harbor begins to get filled in
0:50  many non-sailing events piggy-back with the event
1:06  the look of delight
1:16  a hint of the entertainment and onshore excitement
1:28  bustling harbor; each sailing class must find its own proper start and competition buoys;
1:39  glimpses of the landscape
1:54  tidy docks late afternoon; large outdoor screen
2:00  I keep looking for the Hauptbahnhof, which
2:08  launch ramp to launch (finnless??) windsurfers
2:16  winners' podium
2:24  coordinated fireworks show begins after dark...11 pm, probably with music

This video highlights the events along the harbor.  Other exhibits include the kids' favorite :  Spiellinie, where there are lots of interactive adventures from around the world, as well as entertainers.  I find it interesting that each year the construction of the stages and set-ups for this major attraction is part of a half-year training program (apprenticeship) for future builders, so its a practical and creative training ground, after which there's always plenty of (generally very positive) feedback.

This video shows how kids enjoy the Spiellinie during a single afternoon. (The camera crew didn't stay to watch the daily kids' concert, for example.)

Adding to the kids' platform in the park, Kiel's university also organizes daily family-friendly science exhibits.  Some involve hikes.  Others study nano particles.  Sometimes they seek to better understand the ocean, or to solve environmental problems. 

In fact, it seems as if every possible avenue becomes involved in this festival, for instance:
  • Yes, the theaters and operas offer (often open-air) performances.  
  • There are puppet shows.  
  • There's a full-blown International food market, similar to the Christmas Markets we've come to know and love.  
  • There are even events to teach about politics.
How does all of this pull off, to bedazzle millions of people in one short week?  (In 2015 nearly 4 million attended.)  Part of the answer is through corporate sponsorships.  But also, just like all around Germany, there are scads of clubs, or "Vereine" which are organized just for their participation in Kieler-Woche.  

[The Kielerwochenvereine are similar to the clubs, which sponsor so many different cultural activities in Germany around the calendar year, such as carnival (the 5th season, from 11. November until Lent), Walpurgisnacht (end of April leading to May 1), the parades and formal dances of the May Societies, the "Schutzenfesten" or protection / shooting festivals held locally, and so many other activities.] 

It seems as if everyone in Germany is an active participant in at least one such organization. Intense loyalty to these clubs helps to justify why Germans are so efficient at work. They are anxious to get their salaried job done (very rarely is there overtime), so that they can get busy supporting the organization/s of their choice.  Germans are much less interested in earning more money than they are creating their active lifestyle, participating in their communities to make them special, and enjoying the quality of life that they prefer.

Kiel Week is one splendid example of Germany's active family-friendly, community health-oriented, culture!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Old German Traditions

This narrator has a few pronunciation issues, but the film highlights several interesting, long-standing traditions.

Hamburg Fischmarkt (1703)
Rügen: Klaus Stoertebeker Fest
Köln:  Karneval  (Fifth Season; Fit? Season)
Mt Broken:  Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgischnacht?)

Berlin Hyper-Lapse

 Danke, Gabriel Behzumi Shahab!

German Idioms to Use and "Go Native"

In these 2 FluentU posts there are a few repetitions. 
What happens when you re-read an idiom?
Do you overlook it, or do you recognize it as a significantly important idiom, and so work to internalize it first of all?

A.  20 Common German Idioms to Sound Like a Native

20 common german idioms sound native

1. um den heißen Brei herumreden   (her-um-reden = to speak around)

Literally: to talk around the hot porridge
English equivalent: to beat around the bush

Da die Wahl bald ist, spricht der Politiker oft um den heißen Brei herum.
(Since the election is soon, the politician beats around the bush often.)

20 common german idioms sound native

2. Da kannst du Gift drauf nehmen

Literally: You can take poison on that
English equivalent: You can bet your life on that

Eines Tages wird er berühmt sein. Da kannst du Gift drauf nehmen.
(One day he will be famous. You can bet your life on that.)

20 common german idioms sound native

3. sich zum Affen machen

Literally: to make an ape (or monkey) of oneself
English equivalent: to make a fool of oneself

Hans wird die Arbeitsstelle nicht bekommen. Während des Interviews hat er sich zum Affen gemacht.
(Hans will not get the job. He made a fool of himself during the interview.)

4. zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen

Literally: kill two flies with one swat
English equivalent: to kill two birds with one stone

Da ich zwei Besorgungen im Standzentrum machen muss, kann ich zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen!
(Since I must run errands to run in the city center, I can kill two birds with one stone!)

5. eine Extrawurst verlangen

Literally: to ask for an extra sausage
English Equivalent: to ask for special treatment
Da er der Sohn des Chefs ist, verlangt er immer eine Extrawurst.
(Because he is the son of the boss, he always asks for special treatment.)

20 common german idioms sound native

6. Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen

Literally: put heaven and hell in motion
English equivalent: to move heaven and earth
Er wird Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen um zwei Karten für das Konzert zu bekommen.
(He will move heaven and earth to get two tickets to the concert.)

20 common german idioms sound native

7. Da steppt der Bär

Literally: The bear dances there
English Equivalent: It will be a good party
Ich gehe heute Abend zu Maria. Da steppt der Bär!
(I’m going to Maria’s tonight. It will be a good party!)
A close relative to the dancing bear is the burning air. It’s a similar phrase with an identical meaning:
Da brennt die Luft!

20 common german idioms sound native

8. Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Literally: to have tomatoes on one’s eyes
English Equivalent: to be oblivious to what is going around you
Der Freund von Anna betrügt sie aber sie hat Tomaten auf den Augen.
(Anna’s boyfriend is cheating on her but she’s oblivious to what’s going on.)

20 common german idioms sound native

9. den Nagel auf den Kopf treffen

Literally: to hit the nail on the head
English Equivalent: to hit the nail on the head

Du hast recht! Du hast den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen.
(You are right! You’ve hit the nail on the head.)

20 common german idioms sound native

10. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Literally: I can only understand “train station.”
English equivalent: It’s all Greek to me.

Kannst du seinen Dialekt verstehen? Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.
(Do you understand his dialect? It’s all Greek to me.)
20 common german idioms sound native

11. weggehen wie warme Semmeln

Literally: to go like warm rolls
English equivalent: to go or sell like hot cakes

Die Kekse, die Stefan gebacken hat, gehen weg wie warme Semmeln.
(The cookies that Stefan baked are going like hot cakes.)

20 common german idioms sound native

12. seinen Senf dazugeben   (dazu-geben = to give to"it")

Literally: to add their mustard
English equivalent: to put their two cents in

Peter spricht zu viel. Er muss immer seinen Senf dazugeben.
(Peter talks too much. He always has to put his two cents in.)

20 common german idioms sound native

13. jdm. die Daumen drücken

Literally: to squeeze your thumbs for someone
English equivalent: to keep one’s fingers crossed for someone

Viel Glück! Ich drücke dir die Daumen!
(Good luck! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!)

14. etw. wie seine Westentasche kennen

Literally: to know something like one’s waistcoat pocket                  
English equivalent: to know it like the back of one’s hand.

In Berlin werde ich mich niemals verirren. Ich kenne es wie meine Westentasche.
(I will never get lost in Berlin. I know it like the back of my hand.)

20 common german idioms sound native

15. Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben

Literally: Don’t praise the day before the evening.
English equivalent: Don’t count your chicks before they hatch.

Sag nicht, dass Argentinien die Weltmeisterschaft gewinnen wird. Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben!
(Don’t say that Argentina will win the World Cup. Don’t count your chicks before they hatch!)

20 common german idioms sound native

16. jdm. ein Ohr abkauen

Literally: to chew someone’s ear off
English equivalent: to talk someone’s ear off

Dieses Kind kann nicht still sein. Es kaut mir ein Ohr ab.
(This child cannot be silent. He is talking my ear off.)

20 common german idioms sound native

17. klar wie Kloßbrühe

Literally: clear as dumpling broth
English equivalent: crystal clear

Verstehst du mich? Ist es klar wie Kloßbrühe?
Do you understand me? Is it crystal clear?

20 common german idioms sound native

18. dumm wie Bohnenstroh

Literally: as dumb as a bean straw
English equivalent: as thick as a brick

Er redet nur Quatsch. Er ist dumm wie Bohnenstroh.
(He talks only nonsense. He is as thick as a brick.)

20 common german idioms sound native

19. die Kirche im Dorf lassen

Literally: to leave the church in the village
English equivalent: to not get carried away

Der Film war nur OK. Bitte lass die Kirche im Dorf.
(The film was only OK. Please don’t get carried away.)

20 common german idioms sound native

20. Schwein haben

Literally: to have a pig
English equivalent: to have a stroke of luck

Obwohl er nicht für den Test gelernt hat, hat er den Test bestanden. Er hat Schwein gehabt!
(Although he didn’t study, he passed the test. He had a stroke of luck!)

This second group of idiom involve food (mostly), and illustrating them is more difficult.

B.  21 Delicious German Expressions to Give You Food for Thought

In Germany, the pig is pretty popular.
A symbol for various things, to get lucky is to “have pig” (Schwein haben),
but if your German skills are unter den Sau, “under the pig,” they’re not very good at all.
Hopefully, though, you won’t think your pig whistles (Ich glaube mein Schwein pfeift) because in that case you’ve just totally lost your mind.

Now, on to the best of the Wurst.

1. er glaubt er bekommt eine Extrawurst

Literally: He thinks he gets an extra sausage.

Does he think he’s special? Like he gets an extra sausage? We all know someone like this.

2. du armes Würstchen!

Literally: You poor little sausage.

You have a cold! Oh you poor little sausage. Let me make you some soup.
(Careful, as this one is also frequently used condescendingly, which I have to say seems extraordinarily appropriate.)

3. die beleidigte Wurst spielen

Literally: Acting the insulted sausage

Pay no mind to Sally over there. She’s just acting the insulted sausage: pouting, because she didn’t get her way.

4. sich die Wurst vom Brot nehmen lassen

Literally: To let someone take the sausage off your bread.

Stand up for yourself! Don’t let anyone take the sausage off your bread. You’re too good to be taken advantage of like that.

5. das ist mir Wurst

Literally: That is sausage to me.
I don’t care about that at all. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a sausage.

6. sieht wie eine Presswurst aus

Literally: Looks like a stuffed sausage.
You might want to rethink the size of your clothing. You’re looking a bit like a stuffed sausage in that top. (Oh dear.)

7. es geht um die Wurst

Literally: It goes about the sausage.
Okay now, there are two minutes left in the game! It’s crunch time people! It’s all about the sausage!

8. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei

Literally: Everything has an end, only the sausage has two (ends).

To end this sausage spree on an existential note: everything has an end—except for the sausage—only the sausage has two.

Okay. So sometimes (if you’re extra hungry, I guess) there are a few other food options in Germany besides the majestic Schweinefleisch. Alternative table-talk has predictably, like in English, flavored (haha, see what I did there?) all kinds of idiomatic expressions. Here are more food-related German expressions that aren’t about sausage.

9. um den heißen Brei herumreden

Literally: To talk around the hot soup/porridge.

He simply will not get to the point. He keeps talking around the hot porridge/ hot soup, or, as we say in English, beating around the bush. (“Beating around the bush” is a pretty strange English one, right?)

10. Jemandem Honig um den Mund schmieren

Literally: To smear honey around the mouth.

Before you ask Tim for that favor, make sure you give him lots of compliments—you know, smear honey around his mouth. (English equivalent: “to butter someone up.”)

11. Jemanden ausnehmen wie eine Weihnachtsgans

Literally: To gut someone like a Christmas goose.

If I get another passive aggressive email from Bob I swear I will tear him a new one. I will take him to the cleaners. I will gut him like a Christmas goose. (Whoa!)

12. Dreikäsehoch

Literally: Three-cheeses-high.

Little Clara is celebrating her fourth birthday today. She’s not but a wee little thing, barely three cheeses high! I don’t know what it is, but I just love this one. It literally refers to the height of three wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other.

13. Senf dazugeben

Literally: To add mustard.

Mary always offers her two cents on whatever we’re talking about—whether she’s asked for her opinion or not. She’s always adding her mustard to the conversation.

14. nicht mein Bier

Literally: Not my beer.

Someone’s spreading rumors? Well don’t look in my direction. That’s got nothing to do with me. That sort of thing is not my beer.

15. Tomaten auf den Augen

Literally: Tomatoes on the eyes.

Seriously! Are you blind!? Do you have tomatoes on your eyes!??

16. kleine Brötchen backen

Literally: Baking little rolls.

Our country is taking baby steps toward a brighter tomorrow. We’re baking little rolls.

17. Schokoladeseite zeigen

Literally: To show one’s chocolate side.

We want to present our best work to the client at the next meeting. We’ll show them our good side. Our chocolate side.

18. mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen

Literally: Not good cherry eating.

Yeah…don’t bother inviting Tim tonight. He woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. With him is not good cherry eating. We might say in English that he’s not a man you want to mess with.

Now that I’ve got your stomach rumbling and the wheels in your brain turning, allow me wrap up this post with a couple of just plain wonderful German idioms that, I must admit, I use in translation in English from time to time—they’re just that good. (And yes, I sound pretty weird. I’m aware of that.)

19. Jemandem einen Korb geben

Literally: To give someone a basket.

When a boy is courting a girl (or, perhaps more realistically, he just asked her to join him for a Döner after they stumbled out of the techno club at 8 am) but she refuses his advances, she “gives him a basket.” The expression works thusly: “Did you hear what Dan said to Clara last night? Yeah, she wasn’t into it. She gave him a basket.”

Apparently, this wonderful idiom dates all the way back to the 14th century, when a lover hoping to get invited into a royal maiden’s chambers would literally have to be pulled up into her tower secretly in a basket. Should the noble maiden not really want the visitor to arrive, she might send down a very thin basket, or even a bottomless one—thus rendering the journey impossible. (This was before the age of simply not returning someone’s texts.)

Before properly researching this phrase I asked a German friend of mine what she thought it might mean. She replied, “ I dunno, maybe it’s like, ‘Yeah… I’d rather not, thanks, but…um…here’s a nice basket as a consolation prize?’ Everyone needs baskets.” I think I like that better.

20. du kannst mich mal!

Literally: You can me once!!

Okay, so technically this is more of an “elision” than an idiomatic expression. However, I enjoy the completely nonsensical English translation so much (You can me once!!) that I felt compelled to include it on this list. “You can me once” implies a few things—leaves a few words to the imagination—which I am not completely comfortable repeating here…but just imagine what you can do to someone who is most certainly upset with you. I’ll give you a hint: This is very similar to the English expression, “you can kiss my…” you get the point.

21. das Leben ist kein Ponyhof

Literally: Life is not a pony farm.

Ain’t that the truth! Life, my friends, is quite simply not a pony farm.

And, well, there you have it! Twenty-one German idioms for all sorts of situations to make you sound like a pro (if a slightly food-obsessed one).

Now go find a German language partner and practice! And while you’re at it, try explaining to them a few of the thousands of English idioms we take for granted every day. I suggest beginning with “to let the cat out of the bag,” “to be in a pickle” and “everything but the kitchen sink.”