Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wild wald

So the beginning of summer here in Berlin appears to be marked by the last concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker for the season, held at the massive Waldbuehne (forest stage). The Waldbuehne has a rather...interesting history (google it), but people still flock there in droves; the tickets sell out the September previous! This did not deter the visiting Philippe, who turned on the computer, click-click-click, and moments later he had two tickets bought for less than their original price! Didn't I say he was a smartie?

To celebrate our good fortune we went out to Xberg for ice cream and a walk in the park, where preparations for "fĂȘte de la musique" music festival were underway

Looks cool huh?
The stone formations were relatively unguarded and little kids were crawling all over it, which was just TOO tempting for yours truly, who peer pressured philippe onto joining her in crawling around.

I am a bad influence.

Then we walked through two concerts on our way out, dropped by the house, and then off to the WB, picking up a picnic along the way.

A note on waldbuehne: it is a lot like Chicago's Ravinia, an outdoor concert area to which it is customary to bring a fancy picnic and sit either on bleacher style seats (us) or you can pay a metric crap-ton and get a set on a picnic place in the front. I was ultimately very pleased that we got the tickets where we did, but more on that later.

Picnic in tow, we stood in line for a small eternity at the security station but got in relatively quickly after that. Even though we got in pretty early the place looked full, and annoyingly, lots of places were occupied by picnics, not picnickers. We got a place next to each other and enjoyed the concert as the sun disappeared behind the skilled players on stage...

And then it was suspiciously dark...and just as the Sacre was starting it started to thunder and then it started to rain. I had brought an umbrella like most of the people there, and listening to that great music and seeing thousands of umbrellas coming out all over the was pretty amazing.

Down front the picnickers were regretting all they had paid for their seats as they scrambled for their bumbershoots, and some of them brought out a semi-translucent tarp that people sat under, and seeing their heads and hands moving against the plastic was like watching some kind of high-concept modern dance thing. It also smelled pretty rad, as rain does. The rain fell hard, but it ended eventually and the band played an encore that was remarkable not in terms of the selection but in terms of their skills as musicians.

After that a very strange tradition took place. Sir Simon Rattle stood up, said

"and now the same procedure"

and the band kicked into a very Prussian march. It was not something random though, it was a march in which there were special places to whistle with the beat and cheer. And then all across the crowd people stared to pass out and light those sparkler sticks, and the nice old man next to us actually gave us each one and lit it and it was a pretty great series of moments.

People were digging the music together, sparklers by the thousands were lighting up the night, and Rattle stood up in the back, playing the crash symbols. Then--bam--it was over. The song ended and everyone just crowded onto the trains and went home. Good concert, though I think the "sacre du printemps" didn't connect with everyone in the audience.

Snobby Prediction Moment: Sacre will be the Shosti of next season. Shi-sha!!

The People are...Confused...BUT MAD!

The fact that I managed to take care of the debate tournament was doubly impressive when one takes into account the fact that there was also a general educational strike that very week in Berlin.

The causes were many and varied, and actually, I was kind of sucked into a planning meeting at Humboldt one afternoon while studying for my exam, and from what I could tell their particular demands included but weren't limited to:

getting rid of the bachelor-masters system
less expectation of student participation in lectures
getting rid of attendance requirements
no more need for permission slips

more money for the schools
...but no student fees (huh?)
no forcing students to take their exit exams
stop closing departments
being allowed to eat in the courtyards
greening of campus
extra tutors for foreign students
renewing some buildings on campus
excused absences for strikes

So a general strike was called. It didn't reach out to Spandau, but some of the teachers were going to be marching with the teacher's union, so I decided to join them a little late to be in the march, and we all know what that means!


Without Education, I'd vote for the Republicans

Places in advanced high schools are not a raffle

1 School System, not 16 (this refers to how each state in Germany is REALLY different in their styles)

Rich parents for all!

This is Alexander von Humboldt holding a sign that says "Every human is excellent"

"All you need is love"...and presumably education

This just looked cool

"we are all relevant to the system"

The message of the day was actually rather convoluted, so not everyone was striking. At the Technical Uni only about 50 students turned out to strike, but between the 50 of them they managed to stop completely a main traffic artery of the city and cause hours of backups.

The Uni Potsdam and FU kids occupied some select buildings (mostly involved in the study of politics because those professors would be the nicest about their students running around), and that's what the big crowd set out to do as well:

It was very thrilling and felt like the 60s in America, before our young people decided to put on chinos and sign petitions instead of taking to the streets. I stuck around for a while actually, even took part in some student lead seminars on literature and one on history, which gave some of the grad students a chance to feel relevant (good for them!) and then I went home a little tanner and a little more angry about the American system invading the German universities (although they are all striving to be competitive with us...oops).


"in Stuttgart, we have 12,000 protesting!"
"In Hamburg, 18,000!"
"In Berlin...22,000!"
crowd goes crazy
"and in Munich....6,000"
groans and eye rolling ensue

Best Oddly Placed Flag:



So a lot of the fun of the past weeks at MBO came from readying our junior debate team for a tournament. Going in, we are always the underdogs, since we are not from a Gymnasium, the kind of high school held in better regard by the German public; we are also a relatively new team, so no on has heard of us. In high school I was addicted to debate, and so I thought helping out German nerdlings could be fun. This was the last tournament of the year, and we were nervous. Waiting in the auditorium we could hear some of the bilingual schools talking, and our kids were antsy

we had been practicing this cheer for literally 30 minutes on the train

Then the rounds started, and the fun began. Instead of being apathetic or terrified as they had seemed some weeks ago, the team just picked up energy and got more and more into it, even after losing the first round.

I was judging for the first round, which was fine. I judge like an American debate judge would, so I am not popular, but I give tons of feedback, which is good, and this time I was doing much more of a "gloves on" sort of thing.

One of the debaters' moms came for the second round.
That just made me smile for a lot of reasons. For most parents or people who would show up to sporting events, debate is pretty hard to access, and it scares off a lot of parents and thus lets down a lot of kids, who get really into the competitions. To see a mom, and a mom from Spandau too, coming out to the middle of nowhere to see her kid perked up the team too. It was just nerd-heart warming and validated my assertion that intellectual sparring is just as valid as any other after school activity.
So, thanks Anna's Mom!!

The last round I was set to judge one school which asked I be moved to another round! I am not completely sure why this happened, but I think it went back to last tournament when I outweighed the decision of some other judges and gave the win to a team that did not speak English as well but whose arguments were better. This time, though, rather than just backing off or taking their sides, the MBO coach actually sided with me and put me in another round whilst SHE judged the other team. Hah!

For the last German school tournament of the year, MBO came out having won 2 of 3 rounds, which was awesome! This was a great season ender especially since these were our rookies.

yarrr! And they be a fine crew of rookies indeed!

As we all rode the train back together, some of the kids slept while the girls asked me questions like "what is Chicago like? What kind of music do you listen to?" stuff you would expect to hear tossed into conversation with camp counselors during an afternoon break outside the cabin as they braided each others' hair (which these girls were doing), and it was just a really sweet moment. I'll miss them.

Awwww! Bye babies!

Can we blame jet lag and move on?

Ok, so the past weeks have fallen into a blogging black hole, but I do have an excuse that you can either read or not, depending on whether or not you listen to them.

Excuse Time:
I had boyfriend in town for the move, so I didn't want to be rude and like turn my back on him. I was also packing and shipping stuff around when I wasn't working, which I was doing a lot. I also spent a lot of time saying goodbye to my friends in Berlin, one by one, each goodbye just as sad.

Typical day of my last week in Berlin: morning coffee with A, lunch with Stefan and Phil, followed by Stefan and me going together to ship a box of mine, and then a last afternoon coffee with Anne. Then passing out!

Ok, excuses over, I have some catching up to do.