The Innocence Abroad

... observations of the International

Friday, March 31, 2006

Some interesting Pics from Bavaria. A little town called Lauingen...

So this is Lauingen. I went here to attend a seminar sponsored by InWent called Agenda 21: Global Denken, Lokal Handeln. It basically showed how even a small town can take part in creating a better world. It was truly enlightening I must say. I was impressed how the town took recycling and made it a big part of the local economy. We toured three businesses that used recycling to become sucessful and in one case, a world class enterprise. So let's tour the city a little...

Here is a view from the tower in Lauingen.... The one ironic thing from the weekend was, as you will notice if you look in the upper right hand corner of the pic, is the nuclear power plant. Now I haven't seen any smoke stacks or anything like that, only windmills, until this event.... funny considering all the other enviro-friendly-stuff I saw...

Here are some of the participants, most were from Syria and Yemen, all really nice people! The mayor of the town with the strongest Bavarian accent I've ever heard is on the right. He's pretty impressive guy for what he's done here.

This is the Danube river. Launingen is just a little east of Ulm which is on the border between Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemburg...

The Rathaus... pretty nice one too

This is a mosque, the only one of its kind in Germany, and it is in a town of about 11,000 people. The credit goes to the mayor of the town who in the face of large opposition allowed the Turkish minority to have a place of there own. Global Denken, Lokal Handeln... I actually got to go inside and exprience my first actual Islamic service. Very very nice. The place was basically a community center as well, with a basement that had a barber shop, a pool table and internet.

"Industiral Bloom" call this. The massive amount of junk being recycled here was quite impressive I just had to take photos...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Okay Not Hurt, not dead, and not missing somewhere in eastern europe

It's been a long time since I last posted, but that doesn't mean anything is wrong (unless you count limited access to internet a problem...), in fact everything has been really taking off for the last few months, I've done so much it is almost hard to write it all down. So basically I will give a short list of everything and then go on to post them later on when I have some time.

Work: Things can go really slow and then really fast with the SPD. Lately it has been doing well. The Volksbegehren- the project that I am helping them with is finally starting. Time to stick it to the conservatives in the Landtag in Thüringen!

Life: So much so much... Since you last heard from me I have made another trip to Berlin (unfortunately I didn't charge up my battery for myc camera and couldn't take any pics... Don't ask..) It was snowing worse than when I was there for the new year! I have to be in this town when the weather was actually good, because I had a great time. The next weekend I went to a small town in Bayern called Lauingen for a seminar called Agenda 21: Global Thinking and Local Handling, well something like that. It was sponsored by InWent and so was all in German. No bad. I got fed really good and enjoyed the company of many Syrians and Yemenese. Such nice people. Anyway I will have pics ASAP from the that. Great time.
This past week I bought I new bike! Well it is a used bike, but new to me nonetheless. I am now almost German, I just need to start thinking more often in German.
I also started doing physical therapy for the 'ol Knee and I think it is going well. Basically I am trying to build up the muscle in my Right leg, it is definitely become weaker as my left. I also get some electrical therapy for the knee as well. Good stuff, and useful before i start some kraftraining on my own at the University...

Learning: Everyday is something new to learn, what are you talking about? Too much to even begin. Well, I swear more is to come, just hang in there. Bis Später!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SPD takes a chance on an American

So I have begun the newest phase of my stay in Germany, I go and get an actual job. I think I did pretty good, as I am now working with the Social Democratic Party of Deutschland. It is the Thüringen State Party. Two projects that I will be working on are the May mayoral race in Erfurt, a partisan affair in which the SPD will field a candidate. Right now though I am working on a Volksbegehren (or People's Demand). It is an interesting feature of the State Constitution (Landesverfassung) in which the people can take matters into their own hands when the bums in the statehouse pass a law no one is really happy with. It is a real experiment in direct democracy. It is also something you don't see very often at all in the states, except maybe in California. Sounds like an interesting idea to pitch in WV, I think. When you have only one party that controls everything in Charleston, there really is no way to balance the interests of the party and the people. So why not create a labrotory of democracy in West Virginia? It would be better than a Republican Majority!

Basically, I will be working with many citizen's groups and other interest groups to create volunteer groups in every county in Thüringen, so about 23. That is a challenge, but the real challenge is when the real petition drive begins, when the volunteers are going to have collect 220,000 signatures in a period of 4 months. That period won't likely begin until later in the summer. This spring will be about getting volunteers and collecting the first signatures to present to the Landestag (state legislature). When these first signatures are reviewed, then we start with the large-scale petition drive. Right now things are going a little slow because if you are going to overturn a passed law, especially if it has financial implications, then you have to propose an alternative. This takes awhile because a citizen's group is going to be made up by teachers, parents, even nature conservationist, anyone who supports it. So everyone has their own say. Then it also has to reviewed so it can pass the muster, will it fit the financial framework already set up by the Landestag and does it not interfere with the national laws passed by the Bundestag? Lots of questions to answer. Luckily all I have to is try to get the volunteers and organized.

I am doing this is until the end of May, and then I do one more month with the Green Party. They are pretty small here in Thüringen and don't have any representatives in the state government. They are on board along the SPD and the Left Party/PDS (the former communists, who are a lot more popular in East Germany, hence the condescension of many "Wessies" or West Germans, towards the party). The labor unions as well as some citizen watchdog groups are on board as well, so it is a large coalition. Hopefully in June, with the Greens I can still do some more work with the Volksbegehren since they are still involved. It is just too bad that I will be gone before the real hard part. It is really inspiring to know that people are concerned enough in Germany to take action and try to make a change for themselves.

The issue that we're working on? It is about funding for day-care and preschool for kids 2-3 yrs old. It is long and complicated, so I am still trying to get all the details mastered. I will ost some more on it later as my knowledge of the issues become more in-depth. Bis dann!

Winter Wandering

So I visit a very nice German family, the Seidels, every other Sunday or so. A little while ago we went on a walk in a quaint little German town. Quite nice. Some photos..
Sledding, almost a national winter past time here in germany. Little or no suprise they dominated the Luge and Bobsled events this year in the Winter Olymics.

We walked across a field that was completely covered with a thick layer of ice. So to have a little fun, Papa Seidel started to run and slide across the ice.

Here's my moment of triumph!

Here's the town we visited, Tiefengruben.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Super Böwl!

So believe it or not, here in Europe, you can watch football. Yeah, that was a joke. of course you can watch football, of course every american calls it soccer. But seriously, American Football is to be found around here and so I got to watch the Super Bowl here in Germany (and stayed up all night to do so!) On the first weekend I came to Thüringen (before I moved here from my summer wonderland of Radolfzell am Bodensee), I was in the city of Jena, which is about a half hour from Erfurt by train. It is about half the size of Erfurt, but the University there is about 4 times as big, and so has a huge student, and therefore exhange student population. Apparently there were enough Americans to have an American Sports Bar and Grill called, of all things "Cheers". I actually posted a pic of it way back in Sept if you check the archives. What is even stranger, is that it is not even mostly Americans there every sunday watching these NFL games, it is Germans and they play American Football there in Jena! It was certainly a strange cite to see many germans sitting around with letterman jackets that looked straight of the 1950s.
I have to consider myself one lucky fellow. As soon as I move away, my teams start winning and I am not there to actually bask in the glory of wacthing the actual games. My prime example is the WVU Mountaineers. The football team wins the Big East outright, and then goes on to win their BCS Sugar Bowl. What? WVU won a Bowl game?! Heilige Scheisse! Not only that a BCS bowl, and in dramatic gutsy fashion. Mein Gott! How could I have missed it. I worried that I was never going to witness my team ever win a big game. Perhaps it was best. Maybe after all I was a jinx and watching my teams casued them to lose. I decided to test it and watch the NFL playoffs and see my Steelers play for the Super Bowl. I wore the triumphal Sugar Bowl shirt that my dad had sent me as some form of good luck because I was without any Steelers shirts. What luck it brought I don't know, but for three weeks (oops! I missed the AFC championship game while in Amsterdam, but I still wore that shirt!) in a row, I watched the Steelers win games they weren't supposed to win. It was amazing! Then the Super Bowl came. Cheers was packed with Germans, Americans, anyone from anywhere (I had canadian, belgian and greek friend join us for the game.)The feed was from ABC, so we were able to watch all the ceremonies and halftime show. But since it was broadcast from the North American Sports Network, it didn't show the commercials, which is one of the most essential parts of the whole experience. So ich war ein bisschen entauscht. Naja, my Steelers won!
It is weird how my teams win have won since I've been gone, at least I was able to watch these Steelers win one for the thumb, finally and catch up to the Cowboys and 49ers. The price was only a little lost sleep. Next Year they will take the record on most Super Bowl victories. Now I am just wondering if I am going to have find a way back to Germany to make sure they win.

Friday, February 03, 2006


I made the trip to Amsterdam after Cologne, I figured I was so close that I would have to do it! So I went with a friend from the program and we enjoyed a lot of history and art.

Monday, January 30, 2006

More from Cologne

More scenes from Cologne...
This is from the top of the Cologne Dom! I climbed that baby, my second Cathedral tower in Europe actually. It is no wonder how the Europeans stay fit, even when they go on trips, they go and see really old buildings with tons of stairs!

Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Bundes Republik Deutschland! He was also the Mayor of Cologne for many years, leading up to the Nazi Regime.

A picture of the Deutsche Welle building. It is one of the main news channels, much like CNN in Germany. We visited in nearby Bonn.

The bells of the Cologne Dom!

The last standing Amerika Haus in Germany. The US had built many of these throughout Germany following WWII. It was a reading room, letting Germans read books in English etc., as many libraries were destroyed at the time. It also sponsored many events for Germans to come and learn more about the United States.

Some scenes from Colonge for Mid-Year Seminar

So a couple of weeks ago I had to spend the week in Cologne for a Mid-Year Seminar for my program. It was a great time, I got see many of my friends in the Program who I had met in Radolfzell and even D.C. right before I left.

This is an interesting scene from inside the Cologne Dom, this is supposed to hold the bones of the Three Wise men who visited Jesus after he was just born. It has been housed here since the late-Middle ages.

Here is a side shot of the Cologne Dom. It when finished in 1883, the tallest building in the world. That actually didn't last very long, because in the city of Ulm in Bavaria built a bigger tower in its cathedral about five years later. Then the skyscrapers started popping up...

A distant shot of the Dom, from across the Rhein river.

Chan, and Tyler Moore. Chan is a friend from Radolfzell CDC, and Tyler I shared my dorm room in D.C., all the way back in July! ( I can't believe I am halfway through this year!!!) This other dude, I have no clue, who he is. I guess he was just sitting there and saw a opportunity to be in a picture.

Emily, Tyler Ashton, and Mike- all Radolfzellers. It was definitely great to see everyone again!

Friday, January 13, 2006

More from Berlin and Prague

Some more pics to enjoy...
Church of Our Lady before Týn

The inside of the Sony Center

This is the Monument to the murdered European Jews. If you walk through the monument, you'll be surprised how easily lost you can become. The stones are much higher up then they appear.