Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ich bin ein Berliner... wait wha?

The trip to California was finished and I was back in Germany... good ol' Deutschland! But of course there is no rest for the weary. Only 4 short days after getting back home and we were headed off to Berlin once more. This time it was for an official Fulbright event. They were celebrating the 60th birthday of the Fulbright organization and we were all invited! And they were paying for everything too!!

The event started Sunday night and ran through Thursday breakfast, so Mariko was able to get some time off from work... which I was excited about as I feel she works too much (but I am biased after all). Luckily BS is on a major ICE line to Berlin so we didn't have to wake up too early, but were able to get to the hotel by 13:00. There were a lot of Fulbrighters from across Europe, so there were a lot of people around the hotel (and a lot of familiar faces). Fulbright was definitely trying to take care of everyone, not only with the hotel and food, but they were also providing tours for all Fulbrighters.

We noticed most people taking the Cold War tour, though that was a little dry for Mariko and I so we opted for the Pergamon Museum. Our tour guide was very zealous historian who enjoyed regaling us with many many facts about the era. Sadly we weren't able to see the whole museum in the 2.5 hours that we were there, but we did see a lot of the major exhibits:

The Pergamon Altar

Statue of Athena

The Market Gate of Miletus

The Ishtar Gate

Monday morning started more of the official events for the Fulbrighters to attend, while the spouses were able to relax and go to the Berlin Zoo! I think it was a fair trade personally. The Zoo was very beautiful and I was able to see a lot of animals that I haven't ever seen before. Mariko's event was at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures)... also known as the pregnant oyster. We met back at the hotel and got ready for the next event.

That night was rather cool in my opinion, we got to feel very very important. The buses dropped us off out front of the Federal Foreign Affairs Office. We made our way through metal detectors, guards and passport checks all to make sure that we were on the list. The speakers for the evening included: German Minister of State, German State Secretary of Education and Research, American Chargé d'Affaires (Acting Ambassador), not to mention a few higher-ups in the Fulbright organization. Sadly the food was not to our liking, as they had a peanut sauce (silly Germans). So we excused ourselves and had a lovely dinner for two on the Alexanderplatz, it was a very nice date with my wife.

Day two was a very similar repeat of the previous day with more welcoming events and many officials telling us how Fulbright will change our lives (we kinda already had that figured out after 7 months in the country). Tuesday's highlight however was the Music Gala performed by fellow Fulbrighters. To make it even better, we knew 2 of the performers from our language course in Marburg. Cathy performed two opera pieces with the last song coming from the opera Faust. Her voice blew away the crowd and was amazing. Gabe's performance could only be described as awesome. He is a Tuba player and decided to do something a little more entertaining than most. He performed a piece called 6-pack. It was a piece that included 6 movements and before each movement he had to chug a can of beer. Luckily he is a big guy, but the piece is also written so the movements are short... he didn't really feel too much of the beer until he was finished.  Here is two videos of a previous performance of this piece:

We convinced our friend Matt to kiss the Love Stone
The last day of the Fulbright event went rather quickly, as they gave us more leisure time than previously. Though we had already seen quite a bit of Berlin, we had missed some parts that weren't too far away. So we walked to the Holocaust Memorial and then around the Tiergartens a bit. The Memorial was beautiful in a simplistic way, just stone blocks but they symbolized so much more. We also enjoyed the Tiergartens as you could tell that Spring was starting to come to Germany.

Fulbright wasn't done with showing us a good time yet, as after dinner they bused us over to one last stop. A dance club that they had rented out all for us!! Upon arrival we were given two drinks tokens by Reiner Rohr, the Fulbright German Deputy Executive Director. It was a fun night filled with talking, laughing, dancing and just a bit of drinking. We got to really connect with a lot of our Marburg group that last night, and it was good to see so many of them.

Thursday dawned bright and early (too bright and early for some others I'm guessing) and we had one last meal in Berlin. After breakfast it was time to check-out, meet up with our friend Rachel, and then we were off to Prague!! But that is a story for another time.

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