Monthly Archives: March 2011

Go Beyond the Hour

How many of you took the time to switch off the lights at 8:30 PM on Saturday, March 26? For those of you who did, BRAVO!! You participated in the largest Earth Hour event the world has seen to date, with 134 participating countries!

What is Earth Hour? For those of you who are unfamiliar, (or live under a rock,) Earth Hour is an event organized by WWF to show people the difference each person can make in shutting off the lights for just one hour each evening. This is represented by major landmarks in major cities, towns, and villages across the world shutting of the lights at 8:30 PM local time (or now that I’m in Germany, 20:30).

This year, many nation’s events focused on energy change, as we all watched with horror the unfolding events in Japan. Here in Berlin the words written in candles were not 60 or WWF, but “ENERGIE WENDE JEZTS!”, Energy Change Now!

Image thanks to BerlinSidewalk.com

The lanterns A, I, and 15 or so others held up as the lights were switched off. (Image thanks to BerlinSidewalk.com)

All in all the night’s events were great, though it was pretty damn cold in Berlin on this particular night and after arriving at 5:30 to help set up, my toes were numb around 9…so I had to call it quits just a bit earlier than I would have wanted! But looking at some sights that show you the Bigger Picture and which set up interactive visuals of the changing horizons in various cities around the world, you really feel amazing to know you are part of something bigger!

Now WWF promotes what is called “Beyond the Hour” to help people realize small changes they can make daily to go beyond Earth Hour and to move towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable future. See what you can do to promote a healthier environment in your daily life!

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Forcing English on Unsuspecting People

…or Globalization has it’s perks.

Being a foreigner in a new city is not new to me. Being a foreigner in a city where I don’t know the language…well, okay also not new. But knowing that I will be living here and still don’t know the language, that is quite another story.

I have met a lot of new colleagues this week, as well as people in pharmacies, restaurants, cafes, photo shops, book stores, real estate agencies, etc and I’d say about 90% of them are native Germans. Of that 90% about 98% of them speak English, and pretty damn well. For this, I am grateful, but not without a measure of sympathy for those who are not anticipating an English lesson for the day when I approach them and confidently say, “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”

Most people downplay their level of English telling me they really can’t speak, (in perfect spoken English,) or that for me, they will try. And I speak with them patiently as they grasp for the right word, and sometimes I even find it for them, but for the most part I am helpless as they repeat a German word to me over and over asking, “What is it in English?”

I must say, though, that if this experience is teaching me anything, it is that the giant evil monster called Globalization, which I have been theoretically opposed to for so long, is really quite an amazing thing. The fact that I am able to travel across the world, so far from home, in a land I have never been with people I have never met, who speak a language so different from my own, and still am able to manage fine is pretty amazing. Add onto that that I also can buy my favorite eye shadow, hand lotion, or dress brand wherever I go and it just makes you want to look to the globalization gods and thank them for all they’ve done for mankind.

Maybe that is taking it too far, but at the very least, I want to thank the British for spreading their language far and wide across the globe so that today, I can wander aimlessly anywhere I please and make due with my native tongue.

Hey Baby...Getty Images and someone's poor photoshop skills got it right!

The Wait of The World

Two week packing marathon (or 24 hour frenzy, depending how you look at it) behind me and I am on day 4 in my new home: Berlin, Germany! Man it was a long journey to get here, but I finally made it through, not too much worse for the wear.

I arrived after an exhausting 11+ hour journey and very little sleep while on my two flights to a very comfortable hotel room in the middle of the city. Thinking I would be exhilarated upon landing and ready for action, I was slightly disappointed that I spent the better part of the day lying in bed wondering if I should give in and let the ZZZ’s take over, or fight to keep the zombie in me awake just a few more hours.

But my stomach began leading me astray from my grand plans to take in the sights and sounds of my hotel room, and I finally ventured out around 7 PM to see what was around for dinner. Hackescher Markt, where my hotel is so conveniently located, is filled with bars, restaurants and, (as much as I hate to admit I loved hearing them,) obnoxious American tourists. It was strangely comforting to hear my mother tongue, not spoken with a strange pompous accent, in a place that seemed so foreign to me.

I wandered a few streets before deciding to stop in a Spanish Tapas restaurant, partially because it was food I was familiar with and partially because it looked packed and cozy inside.

I AM...Hungry

I was seated at a table by the window until bar space opened up (the table was reserved but the hostess wanted to make me comfortable as early as possible.) I then ordered a glass of Syrah and a veggie tapas platter, which was prepared right before me by the man behind the bar. He took such care to pick each olive, each caper, and each piece of cheese. It was as though he were imagining what specific morcel would be most pleasing to my senses. And he did a great job, for the most part, except for the pieces that burned my tongue like hell!

Notice the selection of extras also behind the bar

While the food may look unrecognizable, let me point out for you the sun dried tomatoes to the left, the block of fresh feta cheese to its right, large spicy green olives intertwined with yellow peppers, large capers, queso manchego, sauteed mushrooms, black olives, and a red pepper stuffed with cheese.

I was so happy that the people of Berlin spoke my food language, that I wanted to tell the world, (and so here we are.) But the meal that night just reassured me that the packing was finally done, the anxiety over leaving home, the worry about what it would be like when I arrived…the wait was finally over. And with a delicious meal like that, I knew I could survive here. And so it’s on to the next chapter…

World’s Worst Packer

Packing for a vacation is difficult and could take about 3 hours. Why could packing one suitcase possibly take that long you might ask? Well I need to try everything on, and matching shoes, and determine exactly every possible outfit I might want to wear during the span of my trip. Not to mention that after I’ve packed I usually need to go through again and take about 1/4 of it out so I don’t go over the weight limit.

Now imagine this same neurosis in the context of packing to move to a new house. And then amplify just a bit more to realize this new home is in another country. What if they don’t sell my favorite shampoo? Or the same brand of jeans I love? Or what if their grocery stores have a shortage of canvas bags? What if I have guests in my new apartment and need extra blankets, towels, and bedsheets? What if I can never find THE BEST Earl Gray tea that I know Whole Foods sells?

I am not just going through my belongings in my room and taking things out and moving them around, I am also simultaneously going through boxes that have been packed to the gills from a recent move out of my NYC Apartment (almost 1 year ago) and all the boxes in the attic from when I moved to college and then back home from college years ago. Why do I have photos of former friends in tiny 2×2 frames still in my attic? Beats me! Except, that I’ve never looked through these boxes before to reduce my possessions and have decided to take it on now.

Now, you can start to imagine my method for packing, which also includes about 10 different lists I manage simultaneously for things I own, things I need to buy, things I need to do, things I need to arrange for my arrival in the new country. So, I guess depending on how you look at it, I am either the most effective and thorough packer in the entire world, or I am in fact the World’s Worst Packer!

She's got the right idea!

The Daily Bread and other DC Food Adventures

I was in Washington DC for a workshop with WWF last week, and the group offered to treat us to dinner. Given that we were a group of about 8 it was difficult to find a place that would take us all, and even the restaurant where we made our reservation wouldn’t honor it when we arrived, (can they actually do that??) So right next door, I breathed a sigh of relief, as I saw Le Pain Quotidien. No one was sure where to go, as members were from pretty much any country OTHER than the U.S. and so I left the group to walk up and ask if they would have room for us all for dinner, and sure enough they had their huge farmer’s style communal dining table (where strangers can eat together) and plenty of room for our group.

We walked inside, grateful for the warmth and a place to sit, (and alsofor the wine menu.) A bottle of red and a bottle of white were ordered and passed around, and intriguing food selections were made. They are known for their delicious open-faced Belgian style sandwiches with anything from prosciutto and mozzerella to avocado and chickpeas, and also have a wide offering of salads, poultry, and fish.

My choice was easy, Tomato Mozzarella Salad served with fresh bread.

Everyone in the group loved what they ordered and were all impressed with the restaurant selection, (insert bow and applause here.)

Feeling nostalgic for this favorite of mine in New York, I decided it was also the perfect lunch place for the following day where I tried the Avocado sandwich and homemade Spinach soup, (which only required a bit of salt on serving.)

It was amazing, as expected. And now for the even better news – they have locations in Germany! Though I may need to travel to Frankfurt or Munich to get it, at least I know it will be worth the efforts! I highly recommend this place to anyone close to a restaurant, of which there seem to be hundreds 🙂

Was Fate Talking to Me?

I was on a train back from Manhattan to Westchester and couldn’t help but catch a glimpse at the glossy new advertisement by my EXIT. Coincidence? Or Fate?

Smart Travelers...

We Are Connected

Today I sat in a room with eleven people. Amongst those 11 people, there were 7 different countries represented and at least 5 different mother tongues. I was in the minority, being one of only two Americans in the room. Amongst my colleagues were Indonesians, Colombians, Canadians, Kenyans, Germans, and another which I couldn’t name. If ever, at any point, I wondered if it was true, in the words of WWF Mexico I can truly say, “We are all connected.”