A “Fourth” Away from “Home”

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Editor’s note: Here are some past thoughts about living a Fourth away from home, from 4July2009. A new post will be coming soon.

Regular readers of AnthonyGanzer.com may be surprised by this, given my frequent jaunts to Europe over the last few years, but this is my first “Fourth of July” not on American soil.  The “Fourth” has taken its hits as a holiday just as others have.  Christmas was adorned with Santa and commercialism, Easter with rabbits and biologically inaccurate eggs, and the “Fourth” has its customary PBS concert specials and sales on charcoal briquettes–the things on which freedom was built, of course.  And who can forget the elaborate fireworks displays, and toddlers running around with “harmless” sparklers in the front yard.

But even those subtle remembrances to our country’s founding are absent here in Germany, though a faint sense of patriotism still wafts in the air.

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Integrating the Swedish Way

The life of an “expat” is an experience that comes in varied shades, with light-years between one extreme to the other.  Some companies totally fund a relocation abroad for example.  An employee might be paid $120,000 a year, given a company car, might have private school for his or her children paid for ($20,000/year value), full transport of furniture and personal items via ocean container might be paid for–add any number of other perks beyond my experience and expectation.

My reality is very different from that portrayed above.  My salary is modest, my transport is public, my (toddler) child is schooled by loving parents and paperbacks, and furniture…well…most of our furniture still sits in the US and came from the Swedish pre-fab giant Ikea, a branch of which sits conveniently right down the street from our new apartment.  And buying anew and reassembling our apartment turned out to be much cheaper than shipping over our sentimental loot from American storage.

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Southern Migration

If someone were to tell me at any point in my life that on June 4, 2010 I would have bought an ice cream cone for 3.50 sfr in Zurich, awaiting my work permit to allow me to accept a position as correspondent for Swiss Public Broadcasting…I would probably have laughed, smiled, and said, “I guess we shall see…but I doubt it.”

Except here I sit, in Zurich, and the taste of strawberry ice cream is still faintly, and expensively, on my lips.

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The Zoo and the Parenting Game

It comes over you immediately after disembarking the subway–the pressure to maintain your cool as the Parenting Game begins.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to play.  It doesn’t even matter if you don’t know there is a game going on. 

But as the groups of families and friends rush faster and faster toward the exit, hoping to be first to pay 9 Euros to enter the zoo, you realize there is something odd here.  People stare you up and down, judging you with their eyes.  They look at your baby stroller and then look at their own…they must have spent 1 or 200 Euros more on their stroller and smirk with superiority.

Visiting the zoo is supposed to be a time to relax and observe animals in their natural (man-made) habitats…but our visit today turned more into a sad study into the human condition.

Our trip to the zoo was prompted by a few things, the most important and relevant being our young man’s newly-found interest in animals, and communicating with them.  See a bird, and want to say something? “Caw, caw” he’ll answer.  See a lion? “Rawr.”  And perhaps you see a dog, or any other animal? “Bow wow” is the default, universal language for all things animal.

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Munich in Spring

Schloss Nymphenburg
Transition often brings reflection.  In relationships, career, life in general, change always brings an unsure, but steady, tone to our worlds–to the personal universes we live in.  The seasons are a perfect representation of a world in flux, and for me always bring yet another hushed moment to ruminate and muse.

With this Spring I will have experienced all 4 seasons in Europe.  That seen only on a calendar means little…but in reality, I consider it a feat worth noting.

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New Beginnings..again

Tomorrow I start a time as guest journalist at a new division of Bayerischer Rundfunk–this time with the Radiowelt (Radio World.)  My role in each editorial team is often the same: offer commentary, insight or humor to all things American.  Sometimes I get to put an American spin on something traditionally German.  But the longer I stay in Europe, one could–rightfully–pose the question: are you still qualified to give the American perspective, having not been in country for so long?


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Karneval’s Toll

Bad day
The official start to Karneval is 11:11, on the morning of 11Nov, but the drinking began much earlier than that.  Celebrants in costumes ranging from interesting (a giraffe) to ridiculous (smurfs, and fire hydrants) piled out of the subways and marched across the Roncalli Platz to find a brew–a morning elixir to make their dreams come true.

But this tangible inebriation came not without a price, and the Altmarkt (Old market) stood as a beer-soaked ruin.

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