Sunday, September 24, 2017

recent travel notes

Germany: In June I got to show Matt around Berlin and see some key things I'd missed in 1999 and 2014. We packed a lot into just over a week of holiday.
  1. I'm not sure whether the A-bomb museum in Hiroshima or the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin wins the prize for most emotionally intense, depressing museum I've ever seen. It starts off horribly, and gets worse, and worse, and worse, and worse, until four hours later (which was a rush job) I barely felt human anymore. Then we went to the Stasi secret prison. Delightful day!
  2. As expected, I heard some of the most amazing classical music; even Firebird (which was the only Philharmonic concert on offer that week, and I wasn't going to let Matt miss it entirely) was pretty great. In particular, not a single recording on youtube can satisfy the standard set by the Noga Quartet in their free lunch concert in the Philharmonic foyer of Beethoven's 16th string quartet (my favorite - what luck!) If anyone has recommendations, please let me know...
  3. The other free lunch quartet exceeded expectations even more (because my expectations were low - I should have known better.) Whoddathunk a woodwind arrangement of the Goldberg variations could be so compelling.
  4. Why do so many Germans* respond to questions with a tone of "how can you ask such a ridiculous question?!" When I ask (in my best apologetic pseudo-German) if a pharmacy carries a lint brush, how is "this is a pharmacy!" a useful response? Do you think it's more likely I wandered through a random door asking for lint brushes, or that pharmacies in other countries carry such things...?
  5. I like to have a backup plan. But somehow neither of my USB keys were readable by the seminar laptop, my personal laptop couldn't connect to the projector, and gmail decided not to let me access my account from a new computer without a cell phone code (which obviously I couldn't get with my temporary German SIM card - cloud security ftw!) despite the fact I don't use two-factor encryption for exactly this reason. I've never started a seminar so frazzled. I then saw nearly the same thing happen to someone else at a conference. So, useful tip: put your presentation on a webserver...
  6. Berlin is still one of my favorite cities in the world but its reputation and prices are starting to catch up, so visit soon. Why are so many of the good cities in such horrible climates? (Oh right, that's why I moved to Australia.)
In August I was in Chile again for two more weeks. 
  1. The suburbs of Santiago way up in the foothills, around my coauthor's new university, are stunning. It looks like Mountain View (very rich, with similar style houses and types of vegetation) but with 20,000 foot snow-capped mountains in the background. Also, you're above most of the smog.
  2. I went to a ski resort that is the same height from top to bottom as all of Australia, almost exactly. And it starts at 11,000 feet. That's definitely the first time I've had to stop to catch my breath during downhill skiing. But skiing totally above the tree line is bonkers beautiful.
  3. Why isn't Peruvian food ubiquitous in the rest of the world? I can't get enough lomo saltado.
Then the U.S., which isn't exactly a foreign country but nonetheless things have changed noticeably since I left. I had at least three conversations along the lines of "I met this really friendly person and then realized they had a Trump bumper sticker! *shock*" Really.....? Did you think half the country were just plain old assholes? It is unbelievably depressing how divided the population has become, not only in political beliefs but in lack of respect, or even basic trust in human decency and good intentions.

This is getting too long so I'll write about Israel separately.

* Yeah yeah #NotAllGermans goes without saying. I'm a social scientist, I'm only interested in aggregate frequencies :)

3 comments:

JohnRaymond said...

Wish I had been there to hear your encounter with those Germans when you were asking about a lint brush (hahaha). It apparently was very irritating to say the least, so I shouldn't think it was funny, but I'm just curious why you think the Germans think you are asking a ridiculous question (i. e. how you're reading the expression on their faces. Could it been you're misreading their expression and that they're actually just trying to figure out an intellectual - or at least intelligent - answer to a simple question?)
Btw, you haven't forgotten that Apotheken don't sell things like that, right?

Vera L. te Velde said...

Haha I wasn't really paying attention to what was sold in pharmacies when I was 12 :) Also I was just trying any remotely plausible place in the three block walk between the train and the university so it wouldn't have mattered.

It's more about the tone of voice than facial expression I think. When I told Matt this particular anecdote (there are others, not a one-time occurrence or I wouldn't have generalized) he said he knew exactly what I meant and that he also is amused at how Germans share a particular sort of taken-aback baffled way of talking about incidents that surprised/dismayed/whatevered them. This is more based on German immigrants than Germans-in-Germany of course since that's who he talks to more, but either way. (You do it too btw, but without the accent :) It's probably just the way subtle judgmentalism is used to inform and nudge people in that culture and not "rude", but it's rude within an American/Australian frame of reference, so it rubs me the wrong way. Although come to think of it it only annoys me in Germany, not coming from German immigrants, I suppose because in the former context it comes across as "you dumb foreigner" and in the latter case it comes across as "this foreign land I'm in is a funny one".

Justin Guinn said...

Peruvian is getting more popular in the US, but it is nowhere near as good as what is available in Peru proper. I'm convinced its deliciousness is more due to the quality of ingredients than the preparation, so pretty hard to export.