Arrived in Berlin

A few days in Berlin, among other reasons, to spend time with my dear friends, and to attend BarCamp Berlin.. which is neither a bar nor a camp.. just a nerd convention. Naturally there will be several podcasts and vlogs coming up related to issues here in Germany and beyond… I’m especially curious to discuss the experience of a new parent in Germany, what support the government gives you and that sort of thing.

For now, I require sleep.

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Rotting American Image

During one of my very fun nights out on the town in Berlin my two new friends offerred to show me their favorite night spots. And as we walked town the now typical hipster street, we ran into a big crowd of people gathered around one guy who was struggling to be heard, telling some story like a tour guide.

“Oh this is so funny. Have you ever heard about these pub crawl just for Americans?”. my friend asked. Of course I had not. So she went on “Yeah they have this guide who brings alcohol in this backpack dispenser and everyone gets little shot glasses and it advertized for Americans to come get really drunk and maybe get laid.”

As I listened to these words I was already noticing all these details, looking at the obscenely loud crowd of college age kids in front of me. We walked around them like you walk by the scene of an accident. We joked about maybe trying to fit in and observe them up close. The joke didn’t last long and we got out of there in a hurry.

tacheles

Hours later we hopped into a tram to get to the next destination. It was a typical Berlin tram on a wednesday night, not too full, lots of people sitting and the odd conversation here and there. Suddenly, as the next stop approached, there came this overwhelming sound of people. As if a stadium had let out after a championship game, there was a crowd outside and it was chanting and singing and yelling. And as the doors opened, they packed into the tram with a resounding roar, banging on the walls and stumbling over people in their seats.

YOu could hear the accents, you could hear their words, it was very painfully obvious that the American pub crawl crowd had invaded the tram. When they weren’t shouting conversation to their friends, they were busy leaning over passengers.. repeatedly apologizing for being drunk and for George Bush. I’ll never forget the look in the middle aged German couples faces, the look of disgust and pity, as college kid after college kid apologized for George Bush or even.. being American.

After two never ending stops, they piled out. The silence was deafening. Those who remained on the tram, I’m not exaggerating, gave a collective sigh and everyone looked at each other with this knowing look. To me it said “my god that was horrible.”

These events replayed in my head all evening. The college kids, the pubcrawl, the local people on the tram, the unbelievably loud communication, and of course.. the repeated apologies for what their country has done.

Say what you want about George Bush or even Congress, but these encounters remind me that there is something deeper going on. It is hard to break down what it is all about, but I definitely look to how people are being educated in the US, especially in college. To me college is the new high school, except that now you pay big money for you kids to basically attend a glorified high school with fewer rules.

Then you come back to the whole American image abroad thing. It is in shambles. And It won’t be cured by this congress or a new president. It will take a revolution in American culture that looks highly unlikely any time soon.

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Fear of Losing Estonian-ness

As part of being in Berlin this week I attended a lovely hacker conference-party by the name of PH-Neutral. Perhaps the best part of this get together was that I met two very fun new friends, K and F. (maybe they dont want their names used, who knows)

K recognized me from the talk I gave at the congress back in December, she gave me a big smile and told me how much she enjoyed my talk. Turns out K is Estonian but has moved her life to Berlin. She and her boyfriend took me out on the town last night, exposing me to some of the nightspots where other revolutionaries gather. And throughout the evening we discussed education, culture, the internets, and much more.

One very interesting thing I learned from K about what is going on in Estonia, was about how fearful Estonians are that their culture will disappear. With only around 1 million citizens, she explained that the very common political and social discussion is about how things like culture, language, and especially music, must be preserved and passed on. This is, of course, while Estonia also has a very significant Russian minority that has lived in the country for several decades. The conflict she pointed out was that Russia being so huge and right next door, is seen as a force that could erode Estonian culture… and as an extension of that.. there becomes a struggle between the Estonians and the Russians in Estonia regarding language, culture, and from what Ive read – rights.

So then comes the very typical discussion that you here in various countries… the classic question of how minority groups should interact with the so-called national majority.

a wall

K and I agreed that neither of us supports the forcing of anyone to be anything. But I understood that the average citizen in Estonia doesn’t share our opinion. Instead it sounds like typical rhetoric about how minority groups must do this and that in order to be good citizens and get “intigrated”. Still it is hard to compare what happens in Estonia to say.. the US or even Germany. Small place. Few people. Unique situation.

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Kitchen Radio Berlin

I wandered over a few blocks from where Im staying here in Prenzlauerberg (Berlin), to take part in the latest eipisode of Küchen Radio. The people sitting around the kitchen table were great fun and I loved answering questions and observing their style of running a show.

By all means click and give a listen, you’ll here me talk about media, money, growing up Portuguese-American, some very personal issues, and much more… if you can stand one hour of me and the Küchen friends.. go for it.

Otherwise all is well in Berlin. Many stories to tell and issues to bring up. Also if certain organizations would please return my dam emails, I could continue doing my crusading journalist work!

Danzingerstrasse

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