Sunday, April 17, 2011

Class Notes: Germany

A toddler who rejects sleep, a husband with a double ear infection and a tempermental internet connection are all horrible blogging assistants... I know it's been a while. These are my excuses. I have been meaning to write about so much - the transition into a new season, the adorable shaggy dog-sized ponies we saw at the Vestamager Naturecenter this past weekend, an amazingly beautiful stumbled-upon cemetary in the middle of Østerbro. All these things seem to go out the window when it's 10 o'clock at night and my spawn, I mean son, is still screaming bloody murder at the injustice of being put into his bed. So instead of writing about things that take real mental power, I will take this opportunity to begin a new segment of my blog - Class Notes.

I grew up on Long Island, about an hour and a half east of New York City. It is what's considered "downstate" New York, although we hardly ever refer to ourselves as that. In fact, we often forget there's a whole lot more of New York north of Westchester County. It's all lumped together as "upstate" which might as well be another state as far as we're concerned. We hardly bother to learn much about the rest of the state, don't follow what goes on very closesly or seem to understand the concerns of our fellow New Yorkers. [Author's note: I've since tried to make amends by attending college in Ithaca and marrying a guy from Buffalo.]

A similar sentiment could be applied to my understanding and attentiveness, as an American, to the rest of the world. (To be fair, there's a whole lot of America to slog through before you even attempt to broaden your worldly horizons.) A big chunk of what I know about the rest of the world comes from grade school assignments. The Ghats are mountains in India. Building a scale model of Machu Pichu out of sugar cubes takes a heck of a lot of sugar. The rest comes mainly from current events like the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan.

But when it comes to the actual cultures, the people, the stuff that makes a Dane a Dane or a Nicaraguan a Nicaraguan, well, they might as well all be "upstaters". So I'm trying to make amends by querying my classmates from my Danish for Foreigners class and sharing with you the amusing, fascinating, and funny anecdotes I've picked up from this goldmine of intercultural exchange.

Germany, you're up first.

Germans love their zoo animals and a number of them have become über-celebrities of sorts. The one I had heard of was Knut, the polar bear who was raised by human keepers after his mother rejected him. What I hadn't heard though was that he recently passed away - whether Knut will be stuffed and put on display in a musem in Berlin remains to be seen. Then there's Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum who has her own website, a Facebook page with a couple hundred thousand fans as well as her own YouTube channel. And perhaps the funniest, but also coolest, German animal star has to be Paul the Octopus, who correctly predicted all of Germany's matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as the final match, by selecting food from one of two boxes marked with the flags of the competing teams. Poor Paul has also passed away but you can visit his shrine and cremated remains at Sea Life in Oberhausen.