Expatriate, not ex-patriot: I'm a progressive liberal and queer American in Berlin, Germany. My roots in include 18 years in Denver, 6 in Laramie, Wyoming, 6 in Bloomington, Indiana, and 6 in Weimar, Germany. Sense a pattern? Don't want to leave a comment on this blog? Email scintillatingme at gmail.com, username "elmadaeu"
Man, I sure know how to pick the most cheerful spots in Kiev.
Like last time, back in 2006, I visited the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev. Unlike last time, this time I went alone. Katya spent her Friday supervising workmen in her apartment, getting into arguments with them, while I returned to what is one of the most interesting and, simultaneously, gut wrenching, museums I’ve ever visited.
This time there was added irony – given that Ukraine is a relatively poor country, it wasn’t surprising to see that the displays were enhanced with courtesy of funds donated by a rich country that experienced first hand the devastation of nuclear bombs and, now, a nuclear meltdown of their own.
Chernobyl and Fukushima are why I’m opposed to nuclear power – at a fundamental level, when one of these plants has an accident, the consequence take hundreds of years to resolve.
Like last time, it’s hard for me to really explain what the museum is like – other than to say that it is very well done.
My time in Kiev was meant to be relaxing – insofar as visiting a place with a language that I can neither read nor speak can be relaxing. I might not speak Swedish, but at least I can read the signs and understand if I am going the right direction in a quick glance.
The plan was to stay with Katya at her new apartment and use that as a base to explore the city – unfortunately her new apartment, which was supposed to be ready a long time ago, was a concrete shell, with rooms that will be cozy, but, at least last weekend, were far from move-in ready.
Instead she rented me an apartment in the city center; well located by the golden gate and within walking distance of most of the places I wanted to visit, and, if not, right next to a Metro station.
Ukraine’s Soviet History is everywhere.
Looking back at my photos, it’s rather shocking to see exactly how much I did – too much to cram in one post, so, if all goes to plan, I’ll do it in three.
Equipment troubles – not surprising considering its age.
My first full day in Kiev, May 9th, was a national holiday – Victory Day, commemorating the day that Germany was officially defeated in World War II.
Swoosh! There it is, Nike!
We met up at the parade through the city center – it was a short military focused parade, followed by a military band performance, and a history of the war in song.
Veteran being interviewed during the celebrations.
All-in-all, it was a nice way to mark the end of the war – a war for which there are not very many veterans left.
I wonder if the guy is American or just loves America; front row at Ukraine’s celebrations marking the end of WWII.
We spent the rest of the day wandering through one of Kiev’s parks, pausing for a late lunch, then, meeting one of Katya’s friends, a very relaxed and pleasant walk through the city along a path of art, followed by a very relaxed and pleasant dinner.
Geesh, I have not had a lot of time to blog lately.
What have I been up to?
I spent a weekend down in Thüringen, one night each in Jena, Weimar, and Erfurt – it was a weekend of visiting many friends and three kids. Unfortunately I only saw two kids because my first train was an hour late, and by the time I made it to Jena, the first child had already gone to bed. C’est la vie – Despite this, I still had a blast visiting friends and eating a bratwurst.
May Day was spent in relative calm. Unlike a lot of other expats in Berlin, I kept a low profile and actively avoided the chaos associated with the day – my main event was going to a picnic with a 4 year old!
Then, last weekend, I escaped to Kiev to visit a friend – and had a great time. The weather in Kiev was brilliant – everything that Berlin was not – warm, clear, sunny. Despite the inherent challenges of visiting Kiev, I managed to have a great time. There will be photos of the trip in due course (I hope Thursday).
When not on these trips, my free time has been surprisingly busy – I missed watching the Eurovision preliminaries tonight because I was out to dinner (May is the start of Americans in Europe season, hence dinner out). Given that I feel more than a bit underwhelmed by this year’s entries, I’m not actually sure that missing the prelims was all that bad.
I’d work on my Kiev photos tomorrow night but I am going to go see the newest Star Trek film tomorrow night – I want to see it while I can and while it is still fresh.
Wait – before you give up, hear me out. As most of you know, I’m a Eurovision fan. Perhaps not the most dedicated (I don’t pay attention to within country song selection processes, not even within Germany), but I do buy the music and listen to it when it becomes available.
Usually I find three or four songs that I really like – the kind of songs that go onto my gym iPod and power me through hours of cardio. These might not be the songs that win, but these tend to be songs with a nice beat, a positive message, and click with me – they are my personal ear-worms, songs that I wake up to every morning – running through my head.
Unfortunately this year, out of the 39 entries, none have made that kind of impression on me.
In fact, shockingly, only three songs come up as songs I kind-of, sort-of, like.
Ireland, Malta, and Finland.
Ireland is “Only Love Survives” by Ryan Dolan. I sort of like the song. The video is sort of cute. And Ryan, well, he’s also sort of cute. I wouldn’t kick him out of bed, but, on the other hand, I wouldn’t fly to Dublin to spend the night with him either.
Malta’s song, “Tomrrow,” has a sweet, sappy, and silly story about Jeremy, the IT guy. But Gianluca Bezzina, the performer, isn’t anything (at least in my book) to look at, and this song has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting out of the semi-finals.
Finland’s song, “Marry Me,” by Krista Siegfrids, is cute. Again, I sort of like the song. The video is passable. And Krista, well, she looks like she’d be a lot of fun to hang out with.
That said, a bunch of people got together and made a parody video for Finland’s song, and I actually like the parody more than the official video
The rest, I can leave. Most are so bland as to be forgettable, and the few that I’d rather not listen to again, are not so horrific that I feel compelled to delete them.
It’s cool and I would have let it float past me without too much extra thought had there not been this bit toward the bottom:
My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found.
Did you know that it is difficult to get work done when you’re tearing up, on the verge of crying?
This small gesture by Jason Collins means the world to me – because much of who I am today is because Matthew Shepard suffered so mightily on that fence over on the east side of Laramie.
It also goes to show that for my generation – and make no mistake Jason is of my generation – Matthew Shepard matters in a way that is hard to measure. His untimely death inspired me to be better, making me a better human being. It also influenced Jason Collins – and thousands of others.
Temporary Invalid once appeared in photos like this.
This past weekend I headed up to Hamburg in order to visit my favorite Temporary Invalid – ideal timing because he was mobile enough to get around, but not mobile enough to escape me.
Given that I’d never actually been to Hamburg’s biggest small attraction, the Miniatur Wunderland. It is a fantastic, gigantic, train display with amazing detail – it goes on forever.
No sooner had I walked into the Miniatur Wunderland with Temporary Invalid (and two others—of fast food fame), than he announced that he’d learned, while taking the behind the scenes tour, that when one looks closely, one can find, as he put it, “coupling.”
The hunt was on – and Temporary Invalid was good at pointing out the fornication in the bushes – loudly.
“Hey Adam, look here, they’re doing it doggy style.”
Temporary Invalid spotted this!
This was, I might note, in full earshot of perverts like me, who come with cameras, and teenaged boys, who love the notion of sex in any context. Both times that he announced discoveries, the scenes were immediately crowded with peeping toms.
This couple was brave doing it so close to a car accident.
Beyond that, Miniatur Wunderland was a ton of fun; the thought put into the displays is astounding and the attention to detail fantastic. The displays are arranged thematically – Switzerland, an amazing airport with planes that actually take off and land, Austria, Germany, and Scandinavia.
The space shuttle landed at Knuffingen Airport.
Oh yes, and the United States.
Lost Wages, Nevada — during Miniatur Wunderland Night.
Time passes quickly in the Miniatur Wunderland – Temporary Invalid and I were shocked to realize how long we’d been examining the scenery looking not just illicit dalliances but also at many of the other creative details.
Sunbathers in front of their RV.
I’ll be back.
Poor kid… leaving the outhouse with toilet paper attached to his shoe!
A couple weeks ago, just before Easter, I took a long lunch and wandered by Berlin’s branch of Galeries Lafayette, the French department store. It’s actually quite convenient to my office and since I had forgotten to prepare a dish for a party I was attending, it’s basement boutique grocery store gave me the opportunity to buy something not-German for a German gathering.
I like chocolate men…
While perusing, my eye was caught by this eye-candy—that actually is candy: chocolate mixed with candy (in this case, smarties) and molded into the form of a hunky man. It’s then put in a pair of swimming trunks and in front of a surfboard and then sold to guys like me.
I bought three bars – one for myself and two to give away.
This is where things get interesting for I bought the chocolate precisely because of the form but the women I gave the chocolate to, never noticed the form.
I first discovered this when I stopped by Colleague 1’s office (names omitted to protect the innocent), and she said to me, “Thank you for the delicious chocolate, it was really good! Where did you buy it?” – I told her where and then asked what she thought of the form. It turns out that she, and her office mates, had never noticed that the chocolate was the form of a buff guy. The only thing that they had noticed is that when they broke the chocolate into pieces it didn’t break into equal pieces.
Such is the problem of breaking up a six-pack and nice pectoral muscles.
When I told her that the chocolate had, in fact, been in the shape of a man wearing swimming trunks and standing in front of a surfboard, she was flabbergasted.
After learning this, I decided to buy more chocolate – and when I delivered the second bar, Colleague 1 saw exactly what I meant about the form of the chocolate.
Meanwhile, I’d assumed that Colleague 2 had noticed the form of the chocolate. She’d thanked me for being her Easter Bunny (I’d delivered it anonymously) and I thought nothing more of it until I bought her more of the chocolate.
This time she was at her desk when I delivered it – and I thought I would tell her the funny story about Colleague 1 not noticing that the chocolate had been in the form of a man.
However, as I was explaining what had happened, it dawned on me that Colleague 2 hadn’t noticed the form when eating the first bar of chocolate. She’d thought that the chocolate was Easter specific and had assumed, some how, that the surfboard was meant to be egg-shaped.
The news bit included the cover of two of the books on the list, Totally Joe and I am J. I own Totally Joe – and while it’s been awhile since I’ve actually read it, I remember coming away thinking it was a perfectly fine book, the kind of book that I wished had been around when I was in elementary or middle school (I guess it’s aimed at younger teenagers, but I was reading way ahead of my grade level, so it probably would have had a greater impact on me in fifth or sixth grade).
The second book, I am J, I’d never heard of. Queerty noted that it was “a novel about transgendered teens.”
Although I’ve known several transgender people, I could not recall ever having read a novel featuring transgender individuals. Surely they were secondary (or tertiary) characters in a novel somewhere, but I honestly cannot think of a single example of one in a book I’ve read.
So I decided to order a copy of “I am J”—surprisingly easy, thanks to Amazon, and read it.
My main problem is that the book is entitled “I am J” – and, consequently, I expected a first person voice. I expected J, who turns out to be FTM, to do the talking. I expected J to tell me what he was going through. I expected to see the world through his eyes. Instead there was a narrator doing the talking, providing perspective, and telling the story. I fully realize that this is probably not an issue for most readers, but for me I ended up becoming really annoyed with the book through the first third because the narrator seemed so detached from the situation.
Face it: it’s a teenager at war with their own body. He wants to be a boy, but he’s going through a girl’s puberty and the consequences thereof. We’re told in a distracted way about chest binding. The narrator explains that J makes something to bind his chest and wears it. I would have preferred it had J told us about how he made it and what it felt like to wear it.
Beyond the third person narrator, the story is certainly though provoking about what it’s like to be a transgender teenager – a transgender person of any age – and the challenges that come along with it, like, for example, going to the bathroom. The book is set in New York City, a city that is, I suspect, fairly Transgender friendly – but even there at a support group meeting, transgender teens complain about the difficulty of finding a place to pee.
Surprisingly the book’s author, Cris Beam, isn’t transgender, although her foster daughter is and her partner is gender variant. Perhaps this is why the book ends up being written in the third person because Cris, herself, isn’t able to give a first person perspective of what it is like to be transgender. I cannot help but wonder why, though, she didn’t try to put the book into first person, especially considering that the target audience are transgender teenagers. Surely her experience working with transgender teens plus her transgender foster daughter should have given her enough insight to pull it into first person and give J a much stronger voice and impact.
I do not want to diminish the contribution that this book makes: there are few books aimed at transgender teens that seek to give voice to the transgender teen experience – and every single book helps, but I wish that Cris had gone that extra step and put it into first person. The target audience, I suspect, would find the book that much more powerful and helpful.
I’ve been meaning to throw up a couple pictures from my last day in London –it’s only been three weeks. I don’t really have a good excuse other than the fact that work has been keeping me extremely busy, and when I’ve left work, I’ve been feeling exceptionally lazy most of the time.
The building in the reflection is the Lloyd’s Bank Building
Even over Easter.
This is the gherkin, at its base. One of my favorite buildings.
That said my last morning in London was excellent. I’d signed up for Harry Goat’s London Photography Mystery Tour, which started at the Bank tube station and then involved a 3-hour walking tour around the City of London.
The red-coated doorman at the Lloyd’s Bank Building has his own glass booth.
This was perfect for my needs – I had a leisurely breakfast, left my suitcase with the concierge, and then took a tour where somebody slowing the group down in order to take photos wasn’t a problem.
Is it brick or is it carpet. The tour guide was sure that it was brick, but I’m not so sure when looking at my photo.
Actually, the tour was fantastic – there were only two of us on the tour, plus the guide, which mean that we could go at whatever pace we desired. Our guide (whose name I’ve forgotten three weeks later), was friendly, knowledgeable, and interesting to talk to. I ended up seeing parts of London that I’d never seen before, wandering through alleyways that had I not had a guide with me either would never have ventured down or never have noticed in the first place. London is filled with tiny “streets” that look more like private walks than public passage.
The City of London’s emblem!
Given that I’ll be back in London in a few short months, Hairy Goat is on my short list of activities on that trip. They offer a tour of London at night – and I’m thinking it would be fun to bring along my tripod and join a group.
I have no idea what “man riding” is in this context, but I’m disappointed that it is banned.