This week I’m going to a conference for my scholarship in the northern German town of Lübeck. Before we get to that though, I need to expound on what is probably the cutest thing I have ever witnessed. The Teddybear Klinikum (teddy bear clinic). As you may be able to gather from the name, it’s a “clinic” set up for teddy bears. Little kids come in with their bears, monkeys, hippos, and piglets to make sure they’re in tiptop shape. This is all being held at the building on the Charité campus where I have my classes. Hordes of children flow in all day. They first spend some time with a medical student who goes through an examination of Mr. Sprinkles. The kids have to weigh and measure their bear, check vitals, etc. For the sake of being thorough, they then take the stuffed animal to the Teddy X-ray. The kids come out with a print out of their bear’s bones (if the animal is a pig, their x-ray still looks like a bear… even at five, I would’ve called them out on that one). A choice few though, need to continue on. Next stop, Teddy Ops, the site of all teddy surgical care. The child is then dressed in a gown and given a hairnet. One boy, we’ll name him Hans, goes in, and after Bob the Bear is given his anesthesia, Hans is asked to do ventilations. As the doctor is watching, Hans does everything perfectly. The minute she turns away, he decides to steal Bob’s oxygen and ventilate himself. Luckily, BtB is resilient even without his O2. The doctor, with Hans’ help, then goes about sewing up Bob’s injuries. Once done, Hans is then taken to get a certificate which proclaims his teddy’s bravery. For the rest of their time, the children are shepherded through presentations on the skeleton, organs (via an extremely large stuffed bear), and other random activities. This lasts all day and is the reason I creepily watch from afar long after class is done.
One afternoon I almost call the Guinness Book of World Records. Why would I do that? Only that I’ve spotted what has to be the world’s longest rattail. This man is a fairly normal looking human being until he walks past you. Then you see that he’s truly something special. His pencil-thin rat tail runs all the way past his waste. That’s right, he can tuck it in his pocket. Incredible. On the average week, that would win for the coolest human spotted award, but not this week. The next day I go to the train station and see an enormous, cannonball shaped man. He’s wearing his black leather jacket unzipped with absolutely nothing underneath… then to add to it, he’s wearing black tights which he has cut at about mid-thigh. He accents this fine look by sporting some pink sandals that genuinely look painful to walk in because they seem to have been designed for a girl of seven years of age (his feet literally overflow from all sides). And you thought it couldn’t get better after rattail.
Lübeck is a UNESCO World heritage site just a little north of Hamburg. It’s a gorgeous little city with plenty of greenery and gothic architecture. As we arrive, I’m expecting to be put up in a dorm or hostel or something, but instead we pull into the Radisson parking lot. German taxpayer money being put to good work. That day we have a couple talks about our experience in Germany, expectations of us in the future, etc. We also find out that just in our section (northern German) there are over 95 countries represented. Pretty unbelievable. One of these is Sri Lanka, and I have the pleasure of meeting the girl representing this glorious island nation. It’s cool to recognize the places she speaks about and even cooler to find out that she actually knows of the small village where my father grew up. It’s amazing how something like a common heritage can give you so much to talk about and such a great connection. Anyway, after this we go to dinner at a huge event hall. It’s a sprawling buffet the likes of which I have not seen in my time in Germany. We eat and drink our fill and eventually go to see what the city of Lübeck has to offer for Friday night nightlife. Answer: absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy to be a Berliner. Every night in the capital city you’ve got at least five possible places to go out, but here, we are having trouble finding another human being…
The next day starts with a talk on the fact and fiction of global warming. Over my time at GAC, I had studied most of what he talked about, but it is nice to see someone quickly and effectively answer all the naysayers’ arguments. The rest of the day we have talks by various scholarship holders. I go to one on the association of emotions and memory and then another on Afghanistan and the Taliban. Both of these are very informative and interesting, but the second is all everyone can talk about. Super controversial. After this guy’s talk, there is a time for questions, and it becomes very apparent that my knowledge of Middle Eastern politics is lackluster at best. In the audience are not only people who have studied this but also lived it. One audience member attacks the speaker for “not having checked his facts,” because in one time which he describes as “peaceful,” this audience member recalls that at one point during this supposed peacetime he heard twenty women and children dying on the street after a terrorist bombing. The things that people have been through in their lives are truly unbelievable.
That night, we go to dinner at a place known as Q. It’s a nightclub, and this becomes very apparent during dinner when they can’t seem to even cook rice properly (stick to your night job). As dinner ends, they start the music. There’s an elevated dance floor that is completely deserted. Partway through the first song, a friend of mine can’t take it any longer and runs onto the stage. He starts dancing by himself in front of the close to thousand people there. Not being one to let a friend look like a fool by himself, I jump up there as well. We put on a stupid dance move showcase, and by the end of the song, we’ve got the dance floor packed (I think they just wanted us to stop dancing). Over the course of the night, I am even taught some salsa from a couple Latin Americans. Great night.
The next day we return home to Berlin on the bus passing miles and miles of wind and solar parks (gotta love Germany). Also, sticking with the efficiency theme, they seemed to just have more port-o-potties on the side of the rode than actual rest stops (get in, get out…). The day is capped off by watching Deutschland win and move on to the knockout stage of the Euros. Next time I watch them, I’ll be joined by Maxwell Lantz, one of my Gustie roommates, who is coming to Berlin to spend a week and a half with me. Sooooo jacked.
Hugs and hand pounds,