Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

The Reaction… or lack thereof

Obviously the item dominating the news for the past week has been the death of Osama Bin Laden. Every time I go online, the BBC, CNN, and New York Times (among other websites) flood the screen with new headlines “Pictures to soon be released” “Pictures too gruesome to be released” “Was Pakistan aware of Bin Laden’s whereabouts?” “How will this affect US/Pakistan relations?” and so on. I understand there’s much more to know surrounding his death and we’re going to have to wait and see how this all plays out, but I’m just hoping for the most peaceful solution. Anyways, the point of this entry is just to discuss the reaction I’ve received over here in Germany, or what I more aptly call the “non-reaction”.

September 11, 2001 is a day that will always stand out in my memory. We all have stories of what we were doing, and we recount them just about every year. I was in the 8th grade, in Mr. Townsend’s science class. There were suddenly whispers floating around of an attack on New York City, and we had the tv on in time to see the second plane hit the towers. The feelings surrounding that day are something extremely difficult to explain to a non-American, as I’ve learned. You can tell your friends and your students how speechless, shocked, scared, and vulnerable you felt. You can try to explain how you believed your country was impenetrable and impervious to attack and how this all came crashing down in a matter of minutes. How the next things to go through your mind was wondering who was responsible, who could ever want to do such a thing and destroy families, cause so much hurt and grief, then wonder if we were at war. As an 8th grader (and history not being my favorite subject) talk of war immediately conjured up images of World War II- atomic bombs, men being deployed by the thousands, hundreds of thousands of deaths; was your world going to change so drastically?

But, even after you’ve exhausted yourself attempting to explain all of this and more, no matter how much sympathy a person is capable of giving, they will never understand exactly how we as Americans felt on that day and the following weeks, months, even years. The oldest of my students were 8 years old in 2001 (how old does that make you feel?!) and additionally, they’re not American. Maybe the news of the attacks didn’t even reach them until much later. So, after reading the news of Bin Laden’s death Monday morning, I felt a conflicting wave of emotions- relief, pride, patriotism, trepidation, nervousness, and lots of questions. More than anything, I wanted somebody to talk to this about but upon arriving at school Monday morning; it was mentioned once, once, in passing in the teacher’s lounge. Normally I’m the go-to for all things concerning the US, seeing as I’m the only American at the school, and the only American a lot of the students have ever met. So I was pretty surprised to see it being almost brushed off, or very quickly digested, and everyone moved right on. Okay, I thought, maybe not everyone knows about it yet, since we just got back from Easter Holidays, or is just waiting for a better time. Nope, nothin the entire week, nada, zero, zilch.

While, from what I’ve seen and heard from friends back at home, the reaction stateside was quite the spectacle. I’ve watched countless youtube videos of the celebration (and the one in Bapst was particularly emotional, I’ve gotta say) and I understand completely where the emotions are coming from and why the reaction is how it is. But being over here, removed a little from the situation, ever in “ambassador mode” representing my country, it’s been interesting to see how people have reacted not just to Bin Laden’s death, but to our reaction. They’re shocked at how Americans have been so jubilant about a death. They want to know why he was killed and not tried in court. They’re keeping the bigger picture in mind- the possible retaliation from Al Qaeda, the fact that one man does not represent terrorism, and that this is far from over. They’re worried this may only incite more fighting and killing, and they may be right. As more information is being released, the questions are being answered.

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least, and by Wednesday morning the headline on the homepage of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Southern Germany’s major newspaper, had nothing to do with Bin Laden but rather nuclear power plants. This is not to say the Germans are disinterested or apathetic; it’s actually the opposite as they’re quite invested with thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan. They just seem to have accepted the recent information and realized we’ve still got quite a fight ahead of us, with this and the recent battles in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, it shows how much the world is changing. Just want to end with a big Thank You to all of our soldiers and troops fighting for the US, our values, and keeping us safe. We can never be grateful enough for all you do.

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Germany, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe and sound

Well, I’ve successfully made it over here and am now trying to adjust to the German keyboard (the y and z are switched which stinks as well as the addition of umlaut keys) I’m using the internet at the library since the guy who hooks up wireless is still on summer vacation and wont be back until the 14th. So until then, updates will be very sporadic.

Had a relatively uneventful plane ride and somehow made it through the airport, S bahn, on and off the ICE train, and up 2 flights of stairs to my apartment with 2 45 lb bags successfully. My arms kill. The ride from Frankfurt to Würzburg was only about an hour but we reached 250 km/hr or so.  The woman from the school who I’ve been in contact with picked me up from the train station, drove me around the town, and then to the dorm building next to the school where I currently live. She also brought me breakfast food and invited me over to her home for dinner which was so nice. I’ve been very nervous about my German since I haven’t spoken it in about a year- since last time I was here. But apparently it’s “echt gut” which makes me feel better.

My room is pretty small- smaller than my room abroad for those of you who remember and that wasn’t huge. The apartment at the boarding school is nice, I’m just thinking it may suit me better to have an apartment and meet people my own age. That and I have no access to a kitchen, I’ll have to eat all my meals with the students at assigned times. That being said, the university here is still on semester break and doesn’t resume until October 15 so I may have to wait a bit. Today I’ve successfully explored Würzburg, bought a cell phone, and bought groceries. All in German. sheesh.  I leave for Köln (Cologne) early Monday morning and won’t be back until Thursday, so I probably won’t update until after then. My room does have a nice view of the Marienberg fortress (where they’re currently filming the 3 Musketeers movie) so I’m planning on an English tour of the city tomorrow then heading over there. Sal, Kurt, other history majors- I’ll try and remember as much as I can from the tour for you.

Hope everyones moving in/out is going well and new jobs/school. I’ll be sure to post pictures next time once I can update from my own computer!

September 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Are you excited?

That is by far the number one question I have been asked when I tell people my plans for the upcoming semester. Granted, who wouldn’t get excited traveling Europe for a month then living in Munich for 4 months? Yes, I am excited to leave tomorrow but also nervous and still unpacked. I’ll be using this as a means of sharing my adventures for the next 5 months- personally I think it’s a bit easier than email blasts. But please update me on what’s going on at home! It’s nice to not be completely out of the loop.

Well, it’s off to finish packing for me. I fly out to Munich tomorrow- thank goodness for direct flights. Then everything starts from there!

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment