Irreverence, Americans, and a Holocaust memorial

Barriers of the past

Despite living in Germany for a year, and visiting a number of times before that, I only recently visited a concentration camp; left standing so all people never forget what horror is possible by human hands.  These camps are technically no longer camps–their intended function and ability to terrorize was stripped by both physical force, and the force of conscience.  We now call these places memorials, to preserve the memory of a devastating chapter in the history of man, so not to repeat it or allow it to repeat.

This brief post is not about the Dachau memorial per se, but more about the American students seemingly unaware of where they were, what happened beneath their feet 70 years prior, or what lessons their ignorance is preventing them from learning. If this sounds harsh, it is with good reason, and comes after feeling embarrassed to be American.

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Audio Dispatch: Lake Constance

Top of the world

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of sound-rich portraits of European cities and sites.  In this episode, I try to capture the feel of Lake Constance, and a visit to an Austrian town at the foot of a mountain.

The waves of Lake Constance act as sentries on the border of Switzerland, Germany and Austria.  The region around the Bodensee (as German-speakers call it) is so integrated that ferry companies from all three countries merged to save costs, and share their international resources.  But Lake Constance also has the benefit of sitting in the shadows of respectable mountains—meaning one can sail, lounge by the lake and hike up a mountain in one trip.  And that’s just what I did.  Here is my trip to Lake Constance…

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Analysis: The state of journalism and multiculturalism in German public radio

Journalism's changing

Editor’s Note:  This is a personal narrative and commentary about German public radio, and multiculturalism therein, based on my experience in the last years.  I offer my observations, suggestions, and hopes, perhaps to prompt further thought or consideration from journalists and newsreaders alike.  Warning..this is a long one!

“You have no idea what you are talking about, Luka*.“  The small Greek colleague pushed a harshly dismissive comment toward Luka, incensing something primal in the latter.  I had not yet met this colleague, after all I was just considered a Praktikant, an intern, a visitor, a stranger and kept more or less to myself unless prompted.  I sat at the back corner of the meeting table in a German editorial meeting.

“How do you know what I have an idea about?” Luka shot back in his thick accent—Bosnian or Hungarian, I wasn’t quite sure.  The other members of this multi-cultural editorial staff shifted their eyes nervously, some chuckled, not sure what to do.  I stopped moving all-together, frozen in a pose for observation: my posture slouched, my chin buried in my hands, my eyes fixed.  A discussion about refugees from Eastern Europe quickly turned heated.

“You don’t know what the refugees need.  You don’t know who they are, or what they are doing.”  The Greek colleague looked sure of himself, almost taunting the situation to escalate.  A soft winter light shone in through the windows behind me, and story ideas pinned to a tack board fluttered slightly.

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Melting Winter

Ducks
There is something soothing about the sound of running water.  As the elixir of life barrels over itself from mountains to sea the air inherits a freshness.  Luckily for us, bordering one side of our neighborhood is a small river.  A well-flowing creek keeps the water circulating in a near-by pond .  Ice still covers much of this tree-lined pond, but the ducks still find space to dunk their heads, and search for food.

To us, this bit of nature is a respite from a city’s chaos.  We have lived in Berlin, Munich, Phoenix..all cities with an abundance of movement and healthy populations.  Even our former neighborhood in Zurich was suburban but dense–a view of a tree was enough to be considered experiencing “nature.”  A meeting with a few (Swiss) neighbors yesterday gave glimpse at how our pond and river-rich neighborhood once was, before “change” moved in.

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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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