Coping in Bhutan

While sitting in my room, sick as can be, facetiously thinking, “I feel like I’m dying” I started contemplating death. Death, in general, is an uneasy topic for most. It brings up sad memories or is associated with the fear of the unknown. However, this is one aspect all people, regardless of their beliefs, have in common. We all will die. Most of us go through life without thinking of our demise from day to day. The thought of our death is usually only upon tragic incidents. While it may seem distorted to talk of how we will die or what we would like to happen after we leave this life, in Bhutan this is the norm. Ironically life in Bhutan has a lot of focus on death.  Addressing their death produces happiness, less stress, and a fuller spiritual path.

Arial view of Bhutan's capital, Thimphu.

Aerial view of Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu.

The Bhutanese people’s ‘secret to happiness’ is to incorporate the meditation of death into each day. CNN’s Eric Weiner spoke to many people on his recent visit to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, and found death was not an unspoken fear to any of them. While opening up to a stranger during his travels he mentioned his panic attacks he’d experienced, despite the fact that his life was going particularly well. The kind stranger, Ura, replied with “You need to think about death for five minutes every day… It will cure you.” This statement left Weiner both stunned and intrigued. Ura continued with his advice, “It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you”.  This task of thinking about death each day would seem to send most into a downward depressing spiral, but Ura explains that in Bhutanese culture the thought of death goes hand in hand with happiness and the attainment of a full life.

These prayers flags are found all over Bhutan to represent the lives that have been lost.

These prayers flags are found all over Bhutan to represent the lives that have been lost.

Their acceptance and comfortable nature with death allows them to live a less nerve-racking and fearful life. While expected to think of death five different times a day, the Bhutanese people work on the their acceptance and readiness for death. A University of Kentucky study in 2007 found that, “death is a psychologically threatening fact, but when people contemplate it, apparently the automatic system begins to search for happy thoughts”. This reaffirms Ura’s message that the recognition of death is a necessary part of having the ability to live a whole life.

The psychological cost of not expressing things we fear can take atoll on the satisfaction we have within our lives. The teaching of thinking about your fears so much until they no longer are a fear is a process that differs from our western lifestyle. Western civilization centers on success as a key to happiness. This success typically pertains to one’s career and the strides they take to rise up.

Massive Buddha Dordenma statue found in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Massive Buddha Dordenma statue found in Thimphu, Bhutan.

In eastern cultures it has been observed that success is rooted in spirituality, personal happiness, and mental wholeness of the person. This is evident in Buddhism, which is a prevalent religion in Bhutan, where death is not the end of the spiritual life of the person, but it is the end of the body. This belief gives comfort to Buddhists who lose loved ones or are near death themselves.

In recent news a tragic earthquake has struck Bhutan’s neighboring country, Nepal, has produced a large death toll.  This earthquake was a 7.8 on the Richter scale resulting in casualty count surpassing 4,800 .

Map showing Nepal and it's proximity to Bhutan.

A map showing Nepal and it’s proximity to Bhutan.

Their lifetime of meditation practices helps them prepare for unexpected sorrow like this.  The belief in an afterlife provides an explanation of death and also a meaning to life. Meditation every single day makes passing on seem less devastating.

Life in Bhutan and in other eastern cultures’ daily meditation leads to very happy lives for its locals. This practice could teach westerners that the mere thought of our departure can make the anticipation involve less fright and leave room for more joy.

Loving Venice to Death

When we think of Venice we think of riding down the Grand Canal atop a gondola while sipping wine and listening to a gondolier sing. Though this experience is still plausible, the cherished gem of Italy, with its rich history, exquisite art, and many attractions, is sinking. This city has been on the top of many travelers’ list of where to touch down abroad. Due to the rising sea level Venice is a wonder that is slowly slipping out of our hands, and therefore the rising interest to see the city before its too late is alluring to most.  Venetians are slowly leaving their homes due to the fact that what they once called home has changed so much.  Granted time will tell as to when the city submerges, Venice continues to take a beating with high tide and a growing tourism scene.

An arial view of Venice, Italy.

An aerial view of Venice, Italy.

The city is sinking approximately 0.08 inches each year and because of the progressive sinking, Project Mose was put into play.  Starting back in 1982, after the massive flood of 1966, the plans and implementation have been drawn out. Consorzio Venezia Nuova (CVN), Venice’s best-known construction company took on the job.

Gates will be built at each entrance to the lagoon.

The gates will be built at each sea entrance to the lagoon.

This project is a multi-billion underwater floodgate system installed to keep Venice afloat for as long as possible. The gates create a barrier that will help with the annual flooding by blocking the Adriatic Sea from entering the lagoon.  With the help of a pressure system the gates will rise to block the high sea level from flooding Venice.  This ambitious construction will cost upwards of $7 billion dollars and should be completed by 2016.

There was a skeptical halt to funding for the project to save Venice in June 2014.  Mayor, Giorgio Orsoni was arrested for accepting money for his personal political campaign from CVN. Corruption and money laundering made donors hesitant to help the submerged city. “It is a tragedy of epic proportions” expressed by the former chairwoman of Venice in Peril, a donating charity to Project Mose. Project Mose will continue, though it’s controversial and heart breaking that people would do that to their own city.  The high tide has driven some Venetians out of the city, but most stay because it’s been home for so long. This contraption should aide to the citizens’ protection and the survival of their properties. Venice is slipping away more than just physically, but culturally.

The crowds of tourists in Venice, Italy.

The crowds of tourists in Venice, Italy.

Another form of aide that is needed in order for Venetians to stay in their city and that is tourism control.  Tourist season in most vacation spots is dreadful to locals, but it is beneficial for the economy and the merchants. This increase in tourism would seem valuable for Venice’s citizens by creating a boom in the spending in the city.  The current typical tourists usually take day trips, and after the day is out they board back on the cruise ship. Even though they don’t stay long, when the cruise ships unload, the tourists engulf the city.  The tourism scene certainly brings in money, but it has taken over residential areas. Venetians are slowly leaving the city because their former streets of unique artisan shops are now filled with products geared toward the visitors.  Merchants change their product to appeal to the customer, which happens to be a mainly visitors.  According to Travel, “Since 2002, the number of Venetian properties dedicated to tourist lodging has increased by 450 percent.”  This rise in tourist lodging causes the price of residential properties to soar driving Venetians to the main land.  The residents are outnumbered by the tourist population

Venice is disappearing from what it once was. Venice being the top of the list for many travelers has sent the city into a downward spiral of change. The tide is rising along with the tourist count leading this cultural change to take the charm of Venice out of Venice.

Dan Bing: A Traditional Taiwanese Breakfast

When I was studying abroad in Taiwan, my favorite thing to eat for breakfast was dan bing (Chinese: 蛋餅). Dan bing is a traditional Taiwanese breakfast consisting of a crepe and egg as the base with the option of adding ingredients like ham, bacon, hot dog, tuna, corn, or cheese. Lots of small breakfast shops on the street sell dan bing and it’s very convenient to get on-the-go and very cheap. A basic egg dan bing costs about 20 TWD, which is about $0.63 USD, and to order one with an additional ingredient would cost about 30 TWD, which is about $0.95 USD.

It’s been nine months since I left Taiwan so I thought it was about time I attempted to make my favorite breakfast food. Remember when I said it was a quick, on-the-go breakfast? Yeah, not so much when you make it yourself. I failed my first two attempts and ripped many crepes that couldn’t be saved and had to be thrown out, but I’ll share what worked and what didn’t work so you can avoid making those same mistakes. So it may not have been quick but it was still cheap! Most of the ingredients were things I already had in my kitchen and the only ingredients I had to go out and buy were bread flour and scallions.

 _1460862These are the ingredients you will need.

Dan Bing

Makes 3

½ cup bread flour

2 tablespoons corn starch

Salt

1 cup of water

3 eggs

¾ tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons chopped scallions

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Mix the bread flour, corn starch, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup of water in a small mixing bowl. Mix it well and let it sit for 10 minutes.

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For each dan bing, beat one egg with ¼ teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon chopped scallions, and a pinch of salt.

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Heat a large pan on medium heat and spray generously with cooking spray. Pour about a half cup of the batter onto the pan (be sure to stir it a little first) and tilt the pan around to spread the mixture evenly into a nice big circle. Be sure to work quickly because the bottom of the mixture will start to solidify fast. Let it cook until the top has set and then flip it over.

Tips: Once you think the top has set, I would recommend waiting an extra minute before flipping. If you have difficulty flipping it over, try flipping it onto a greased up plate and then carefully sliding it back onto the pan, cooked side up, with the help of your greased up spatula. I would also re-spray the pan before sliding the crepe back on. After my first few failed attempts, I learned that cooking spray is your best friend for anything that comes in contact with the crepe otherwise the crepe will cling on and rip.

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Once you’ve flipped the crepe over, pour the egg mixture evenly onto the crepe. Try not to let the egg mixture spill over the edges but it’s no big deal if it happens. Let it cook until most of the egg has set and then flip it over to the other side to cook for an additional 10-20 seconds. The crepe should be sturdy enough to flip with a spatula this time. _1460950Now flip it egg side up onto a cutting board and roll it up and then cut into one inch pieces. The dan bing will be hot so I suggest dipping your fingers in a bowl of ice water right before handling.

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And there you have it! A delicious traditional Taiwanese breakfast. You’ll want to serve it with some sauce. You can use sweet chili sauce or make an amazing dipping sauce using 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. I drizzled the dipping sauce I made on top of the dan bing and then dipped it in the sweet chili sauce and it tasted phenomenal!

_1460954 _1460955I also made tuna dan bing because that’s what I always ordered in Taiwan. I just mixed some canned tuna in with the egg mixture and it actually made the mixture more controllable when I poured it onto the crepe.

_1460956In this photo, I have the tuna dan bing on left and original dan bing on the right.

Big thanks to my sorority sister, Raisa Buenaventura, for taking these photos for me and being patient with me as I struggled to figure this out.

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Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Truth on Film: Columbia’s True/False Festival

March 5-8, 2015. Photo from truefalse.org

March 5-8, 2015. Logo from truefalse.org

The True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri is a documentary festival that is respected and celebrated for numerous justifiable reasons. Taking place this year from March 5-8, Filmmakers and critics praise the festival for its effective programming and advertising, audiences love the vibrant atmosphere, and the city benefits immensely from the influx in business. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of calling Columbia home for the last four years, granting me access to one of the world’s most unique film festivals. However, there might be one aspect of the festival that trumps the visible, local flourish. Films at True/False bring attention to current global issues that might otherwise be accessible only through the lens of the media. True/False prides itself on its documentary programming, streamlining urgent topics that demand a reaction.

One such film in this year’s roster is Maidan, a film by Sergei Loznitsa. The film documents aggressive protests that took place from 2013-2014 in and around Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, Ukraine. The film utilizes participatory journalism techniques in order to place the viewer among the front lines of revolution, forcing anyone who sees it to come out talking about the situation in Eastern Europe.

A film that counteracts this urgency is the patient unfolding of a Russian girl’s life in Hanna Polak’s Something Better to Come (Yula’s Dream). This documentary employs the revolutionary concept of extreme production lengths, documenting the life of a girl from age 10 to 24. The film explores adolescence and coming-of-age on the outskirts of urban Russia, a bit outside the reach of the ever-present government.

Moderated conversations with featured filmmakers are another intriguing draw of the festival. One such conversation is titled “Living Rough”, which explores the moral ambiguity of filming and gathering information in dangerous situations or locations. The director of Something Better to Come, Hanna Polak, is one of the featured guests in this discussion.

True/False is quickly becoming a routine stop on the film festival circuit, and its popularity justly matches its acclaim. The documentary emphasis places True/False in a special category of film festivals; the crowd in attendance includes enthusiastic filmmakers and cinephiles that seek truth through real-world subjects. This mutual appreciation for intimate portraits and forward thinking brings festival goers together as a unique, progressive community.

Videos courtesy of youtube.com

Healthy Italian Ricotta Dessert

I am in a constant battle between satisfying my sweet tooth and maintaining a healthy diet to remain “in-shape”. It’s a struggle many people face on a daily basis because desserts are just so delicious, but having a healthy, toned body is both mentally and physically satisfying.

It seems to be about that time of year where people furiously exercise their bodies in the gym and cut down on beer and ordering pizza at 2 AM, because spring break is right around the corner… This is definitely hard for most of us to do, but the warped pressure society puts on men to be buff and women to be tiny is tremendous, so we do it.

Italy is a country I have been dreaming of traveling to at some point in my life. I am hoping to get the opportunity to study abroad there in the near future. Between the presentation of the food, the flavors and most of the ingredients being made from scratch, Italian food is unbelievable.  I’m lucky to get such an amazing taste of it in the North End of Downtown Boston. Here lies a “Little Italy” with the most incredible food and DESSERTS. Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are two of the most famous Italian pastry stores in the nation. They make the most amazing cannolis and other desserts using ricotta cheese. The recipe I made satisfies the taste and texture of many traditional Italian sweets.

This dessert is truly one of my favorite healthy Italian recipes, but there’s one more reason why I love it SO much… its simplicity. The ingredients are minimal and the preparation time is short. As college students we don’t have too much time to make elaborate meals in the kitchen, so this Italian Ricotta Dessert becomes even more appealing because you can whip it up in 2 seconds!

So let’s get started!

Ingredients: Tub of low fat or fat free Ricotta Cheese, unsweetened cocoa powder, Stevia drops, Vanilla extract, and dark chocolate chips.

First, put the Ricotta (1  3/4 cup per tub) into a mixing bowl and add 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder.


Next, add one teaspoon of Vanilla extract.

After, squeeze three squirts of the Stevia drops into the bowl.

Finally, add as many dark chocolate chips as you’d like.

Mix together until all the ingredients are blended into a mousse-like texture.

Cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

And just like that you’re done and have a guilt-free Italian dessert to satisfy your sweet-tooth.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings per container: 3.5

One serving = 1/2 cup.

Calories: 130

Total Carbohydrate: 14g

Sugars: 7g

Total Fat: 2.25g

Vaginas connect cultures, end violence

Vagina.

I know, it’s a scary word, right? But why? Why are we all scared of a body part? Think of how bizarre it would be if people reacted the same way to the word “elbow” as they do to the word “vagina.” The funniest part to me is that even women are afraid of the word. It seems as though every time I say the word “vagina,” I’m given a startled look/blush followed by a “shh!” and by biological WOMEN: humans who have and see and touch and are connected to their own vagina every day. It’s sad that some women have this sort of “vagina-shame”, but it’s not their fault, really. It is the society we were all born into.

There are strong social constructs that cause words like “vagina” to be taboo. Luckily, there are people worldwide deconstructing these constructs and dismantling the oppressive systems that control our daily lives and dialogues. One such woman is Eve Ensler.

Eve Ensler, photo from vday.org

Eve Ensler is a feminist, activist, and playwright queen. Her best known play is “The Vagina Monologues,” written in 1996. The play is a collection of monologues that tell stories or experiences of a woman or multiple women. These monologues range from funny and uplifting stories about body positivity, women loving or discovering their own vaginas, love, menstruation, and, in contrast, incredibly heavy and raw stories of sexual violence, female genital mutilation, and abuse.

The first time I saw “The Vagina Monologues” was almost exactly a year ago today. The production was hyped all over campus, especially in the social justice organizations I was in. I was a freshman in college (at the University of Missouri) and I had no idea what “The Vagina Monologues” was, but I went because what’s more intriguing than a play all about vaginas???

Photo courtesy of MU Vagina Monologues

 

It was incredible. I laughed and cried and I was shaken by how important stories can be. In the two hour span of the show I learned more about women’s bodies, cultural customs of women, intimate partner violence, and feminine experience than I ever could have imagined. My sentiment after watching the production was something along the lines of “Wow. I have a vagina. And I rock!”

Now, one year later, I am preparing to perform in “The Vagina Monologues.” I knew before joining the cast that “The Vagina Monologues” was a production to raise money for local organizations to help end violence against women and girls, BUT I didn’t know that it was an actual international movement.

V-Day movement logo, photo from vday.org

 “The Vagina Monologues” is only a part in the V-Day movement, a movement that creates events and performances to raise money and awareness for violence against women and girls including rape, sex slavery, incest, and genital mutilation. The V-Day movement and “The Vagina Monologues” are an international movement that is increasingly spreading across the world. The production of “The Vagina Monologues” has been translated into over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. In Brussels in 2012, nine members of the European Parliament even  performed “The Vagina Monologues” as well as danced on February 14th to help raise awareness of the V-Day movement.

A crucial role in being a part of “The Vagina Monologues” cast is education and awareness of women’s issues and body positivity (loving your body as it is). Being a part of the production and getting to hear various monologues really reinforces the importance of storytelling and human experience. Women are treated differently and oppressed differently in each culture. The monologues give a heart-wrenching sneak-peak into the lives and truth of women’s experiences. Not only that, but the monologues provide a unique perspective of women’s lives in various cultures and parts of the world.

Throughout the process of being a performer of “The Vagina Monologues,” I have become one with my monologue.  I will be reading from the monologue called “The Vagina Workshop,” which is about a woman who discovers and falls in love with her vagina in a workshop. It’s truly inspiring to me how one woman’s story could hold so much weight and meaning into my life. What’s more, I think of how many women have also been affected by the same monologue throughout the years of thousands and performances, and it’s astonishing.

These monologues don’t just hold value for those watching and/or listening, they hold the same, if not more, for those performing. I am forever changed because of my experience of seeing and being in the production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

And that is something to blog about.

Vladimir Putin: The Man and the Meme

Few world leaders are as easily recognizable as Russian President Vladimir Putin.  His unique looks, as well as his antics, have made him a favorite subject for many silly jokes and memes on the internet, which I will post here for your enjoyment.

vladimir-putin-riding-bear

Meanwhile in Russia…

The first image which should come into your head if you’re thinking about Putin, or Russia in general, is of course the President riding a bear.  If riding bears isn’t impressive enough for you, he also has been photographed riding sharks, eagles, meteors, whales, mammoths, skydivers, and ICBM’s.  I suppose when he isn’t busy trying to mount some of the deadliest animals or objects known to mankind he sometimes finds the time to ride his motorized tricycle around Moscow.article-0-0DA0177300000578-915_634x449tumblr_kuxr34jtOb1qzeu38o1_400

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I think that’s Russian for ahsdufuhsabedb

People complain about Russia’s obstinate negotiating strategies, but Putin must care deeply about what the rest of the world thinks of him  judging from the notes he was jotting down during recent talks over the civil unrest in Ukraine.

Putin_on_the_Ritz

Putin on the Ritz

I wonder if Putin realizes that he has become such an internet phenomenon?  If he did, then maybe it would make him happy to be so well loved across the world and Russia would become a much more welcoming and less staunchly conservative place.  Even though he might not get the reference, how could he not smile at this?

Putin will undoubtedly be riding high into Russia’s 2016 national elections, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of Vladimir’s hi jinks before its all said and done and the internet will be there, waiting intently for the next meme-worthy moment to transform it into comic gold. ae6a3220-7269-0131-c44f-4e3b4eb21dea

Ramstein, Germany: A Home to Many Americans

Let’s talk about Ramstein and no, and I don’t mean the band.  Ramstein Air Base is an American NATO support installation established 61 years ago on June 1, 1953, in the southwest corner of Germany. It is located in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz and is surrounded by the towns of Miensenbach, Landstuhl and the nearby metropolitan city Kaiserslautern. (Fun fact: Rammstein the band got their name by adding an extra “m” to “Ramstein” to honor a crash that happened during an American Air Force flight show there.)

1988 Air Force Flight Show Crash

1988 Air Force Flight Show Crash

Ramstein is home to the largest community of Americans living outside of the United States, housing 34,000 Americans. Each year, thousands arrive at Ramstein to live for the duration of their European military assignments, and many military members stop over in Ramstein, the military hub of Europe, before deploying to places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa or on their way back to America from remote locations.

maxinereyesusa said, “After stopping in Germany! Greenery over desert! :-), Qatar was beautiful though! #ramstein #germany#homebound #usa”

Although some people may be hesitant to leave America or to relocate their family or household, Ramstein Air Base is definitely a place where an American would enjoy living and experiencing European culture and travel.  Ramstein is constantly changing  but there are always attractions that seem to stick around!

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Riviera Eisdiele

Hands down the best ice cream parlor in Ramstein is “Riviera.”  It was my favorite place to visit while growing up in Ramstein.  It has the friendliest atmosphere and easily said to be the best ice cream in town. Landstuhler Strasse 25, 66877, Ramstein Meisenbach

Landstuhl Kriegerdankmal is a war memorial built in 1934 to honor 121 Landstuhl citizens who died in World War I. Kaiserstrasse, 66849 Landstuhl

The Pflaz Wald Nature Park is a very large wooded area perfect for bike rides and walks.  There are are so many scenic trail  variations in the park. People have been enjoying the area since 1982 – 32 years!

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Pflaz Wald Nature Park

Another great attraction that everyone loves in the summer is the “Azur Swimmbad,” the pool! It was built in 1998  and hasn’t aged a bit.  Every summer my friends and I would go to this pool! This big pool has indoor and outdoor facilities along with diving boards and slides.  It has an outdoor hot tub leading from the inside to outside and lots of space surrounding the pool for families to lay out and enjoy the day. Shear Straße 50 66877 Ramstein

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Azur Swimmbad

Lastly, you can’t end without talking about the oldest building, Ramstein Meisenbach‘s City Hall or “Rathaus.” The city hall, which was built in 1750, was once a brewery! But now it contains tourist information along with the “Museum im Westrich“, which has local history and art, including a statue of St. Nepomuk, a Catholic figure.

Ramstein_Museum_vonMiesenbS

Ramstein’s City Hall

Overall, Ramstein is very family-oriented and most Germans around Ramstein speak English and are very helpful and welcoming. Even though it is not a large city and does not have the large ancient castles an American might associate with Germany, it is very valuable to Americans who are fighting for our freedom.

Under Ramstein’s Facebook page Lisa wanted to give her input on living in Germany. 

ramstein_dapdLisa Dunham, “Traveling around Europe, the castles, Oktoberfest, autobahns, the cleanliness, the sincerity of the people, döners, their punctuality, the breads & pastries, the wine & beer (and how inexpensive good wine and beer is!!), how there is ALWAYS a festival for everything and anything, the fact that they recycle and love the environment, how incredibly helpful Germans are, our landlord & his family, that they use dinner as a time to socialize not to scarf their food down and run, that meals are cooked fresh, that the simple pleasures are what matter most, Bavaria, the Weihnachtmärkte, Audi/BMW/VW/Mercedes, their healthcare system, that art is displayed EVERYwhere, that their crime rates are lower overall, and that their groceries are good…organic is not a trend, it’s the way they live normally….and that most everyone loves plants & gardens!!”

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Please feel free to share your personal experience with others being stationed in Ramstein, Germany now and in the future.

Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg! Flickr/Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart

When I traveled to Germany last year, I was a bit disappointed that my semester was in the Spring and not the Fall. How could I ever become an extreme tourist in Germany without going to Oktoberfest? Well if any of you plan to do a semester in Germany during the Spring there is yet hope. The Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) is Europe’s largest spring festival, and lasts 23 days long. This year it began on April 19th and went through May 11th. It is located at the fairgrounds in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart. It is not quite Oktoberfest, but that is alright because it still offers the same attractions. Also, since it is not as big as Oktoberfest, instead of waiting in 8 hour long lines for the beer gardens, you might only have to wait 4 hours. If you go early enough in the day though you might not have to wait in line at all. I went to the festival twice last year, but unfortunately since I was more focused on the cultural experiences in the beer garden, I didn’t take many pictures. The internet has me covered on this one though.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens. Flickr/Orkomedix

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters.

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters. Flickr/Rob124

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden.

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden. Flickr/baba_1967

 

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world!

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

Ok! Now you have rode every ride that you could possibly stomach, so where better to go than the Biergarten! The wonderful place bursting with food, polka, more expensive beer than you could ever consume, and of course other drinkers!

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival.

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.  Flickr/ Giesbert Damaschke

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don't even have to leave your table.

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don’t even have to leave your table. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home!

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest  happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion.

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion. Flickr/Karsten Hoffmann

Unfortunately Frühlingsfest has ended this year, but there is always next year. For those of you who would wish to experience Oktoberfest but can’t due to the season, then Frühlingsfest will save you. If you are there for a year even better! You can go to both, and continue your good choices of gluttony and over drinking. If you are an alcoholic you should probably fight the urge and not go. Also, be prepared to have your body hate you the following day. You have been warned. Viel Spaß!

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What Can’t You Live Without?… “Friendship”

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“Friendship” is a movie about two German friends flying to America and their adventure from New York to San Francisco.  Now, if you don’t know German it can be very hard to follow along because the entire movie is in German, but overall, the movie is really funny and entertaining.

The DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik)

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the DDR (East Germany) and West Germany reunited in 1990. After about 10 years movies started coming out that reflected on the time before the Berlin wall fell and how East Germans lived. I’m estimating that this movie, which came out in 2009, was based on the time period of March 1990. Although it was made over ten years after the Berlin Wall fell, it reflects back on the reunification of Germany in a humorous way.  A couple German words that describe this context are “Ostagie” and “Nostalgie”, or feelings of nostalgia for life as it was in the DDR.

The movie is really funny and to an American audience who wouldn’t know much about Germany’s history it would still be a funny Friendship-Szenenbild-1movie, but it also includes key references that reflect on old traditions of East Germany that an American might miss.

The movie critiques the socialist structure of the DDR, including the concept of “Alle gleich”, or “all equal”. While the main characters, Tom and Veit, are growing up in East Germany there is a scene where Tom describes everything as “Alle gleich.” Tom and Veit hate the Stasi, the East German secret police, because they are freelancers and don’t like the rules in East Germany.  The scenes depicting their childhood show a lot of uniformity and oppression in a socialist society.

There are of course critiques of capitalism when they go to America. There is a homeless man in the first place they land in New York.  In East Germany you wouldn’t see homeless people because of its social security structure. Another critique of capitalism is when Tom has a toothache and can barely afford to get it fixed.  In this scene Tom is frustrated because he says that everything costs money here and it is hard to live.  In East Germany he wouldn’t have had the issue of barely being able to afford to get his teeth fixed. Another obvious critique of Americans is that they are portrayed as ignorant.  There are many characters who were made to exemplify ignorance, including the mayor, the police, and the Tennessee sisters.

Review

I feel as though this movie shows true friendship because of the way the movie ended.  Tom follows Veit through thick and thin, living on the streets of America with barely any money. I also really liked the small details that reflect critiques of socialism vs. capitalism throughout the movie. According to the German review site Movie Pilot, critics gave this movie a 6.5 and I would agree with that, because while it is very funny, it is not the best movie ever made.  The ending is very unexpected, but I think it would have been a lot more entertaining if Veit had meet his father. I think Fibel’s comment on Movie Pilot sums the movie up well: “Das ist Kunst! Kinokunst!”

The Official Website of the movie”Friendship”

Russia’s Library Night Appears to be a Success

Amid the negative news which has surrounded Russia for the past few months, the people of Russia recently organized a notable event.

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Library Night’s bright logo attracts attention to the event. Photo credit to Библионочь 2014.

From April 25-26, more than 80 Russian regions held their third national annual event called Library Night or Библионочь. During these two days, libraries, museums, galleries, and book stores remained opened throughout the entire night, well after regular closing hours. This event was sponsored by many different organizations and partners such as the coffee shop chain Coffee Bean and book store chain Moscow Book House, to name a couple.

Anybody interested in reading and the arts in general had a chance to meet famous writers, poets, and critics.

Watch this video recap of Library Night from a town called Mikhailovka. In this video, local libraries held events for both adults and children (the best part is when the little kids dance).

The event is held in hopes of educating people of all ages about local libraries, reading, and fine arts in general. This is a great way to help preserve Russian culture and foster discussions.

Not surprisingly, Crimea managed to steal the spotlight in library numbered 172. Visitors of 172 were able to experience a beautiful event. One of the makers of this project claimed:

“This evening, halls of this library will turn into little streets and beach fronts of one of the coziest Black Sea towns, so passionately described by the great Russian writers and poets. Visitors of the summer café under the Bakhchisarskiy fountain will be treated to a reading of classic writers such as Anna Akhmatova.”

Young children who participated in the events of the night were able to play many trivia games regarding literature. A little girl named Liza won a book by correctly answering questions. She said that she really liked this event, and that she will share this book with her classmates, so they can read it too.

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Children participate in literature trivia in hopes of getting a prize.

Library Night shows that Russia continues to instill educational values in its people. Perhaps this is one aspect of Russia’s culture which the U.S. should actually try to imitate. I have never heard of such an event happening in the U.S., at least not nation-wide. It would be great to see American people, especially American youth, showing more interest in their own rich literary culture.

Europeans Don’t Get Taco Bell Breakfast

You’re not dreaming.

Taco Bell Breakfast

It’s here.

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I can officially say I tried Taco Bell breakfast. I admit, it wasn’t horrible. I wasn’t sick three hours later like I thought I might be.

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There’s no doubt, though, there’s been a lot of hype about Taco Bell’s latest attempt to rival other fast food giants. But after seeing the “Breakfast wars” that has started between Taco Bell and McDonald’s…

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Via Facebook / McDonald’s

… it got me thinking. Are people abroad just as interested in Taco Bell breakfast as American’s are? I mean McDonald’s is everywhere, is Taco Bell?

According to Huffington Post, Canada won’t get Taco Bell breakfast until the country takes Justin Bieber back.

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Via Huffington Post

But for people in Europe, they’re pretty much out of luck. Most of Taco Bell’s attempts to take on the world have failed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that’s because:

“The challenge will be going to countries where Mexican food isn’t popular and persuading customers to try the Americanized version sold at Taco Bell.”

In Greece, Taco Bell withdrew from the market two years after it opened it’s first store there. Pepsico tried opening several Taco Bell locations in Moscow during the early 90s. That venture lasted only a few years, and they now operate under different ownership and a different name. (Via Wikipedia)

There’s none in Germany either. Some locals don’t even know what the chain is. Others say Taco Bell is banned from opening there because of contracts the company has with the U.S. Military. (Via Toytown Germany)

The parent company of Taco Bell, Yum!, has plans to expand to Britain. In fact, the UK was the first European country with a Taco Bell, but most of those locations closed as well.

Via Taco Bell UK

Via Taco Bell UK

There is, however, one in Cyprus that has remained open.

Via Wikimedia Commons / Cyprusnic

Via Wikimedia Commons / Cyprusnic

For now it looks like most Europeans won’t get the chance to try Taco Bell breakfast unless they travel to the states. But no hurry, though! There’s no need to come rushing. You’re not missing out on much.

German Cooking for the American Woman: Schnitzel

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Ingredients:

2 Large Eggs

Flour

Plain Freadcrumbs

Thin Cut Pork

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

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First wash the thin cut pork.

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Then take serran wrap and fold it over the pork.

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Take a meat tenderizer and pound the meat.

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Once the meat is tenderized take the flour and put some in a bowl, take the 2 eggs and put them in another bowl, and then put the plain bread crumbs and salt and pepper in another bowl.

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Drop the pork into the flour and put a nice even coating on both sides.

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Drop the flour covered pork and drop it in the egg.

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Now take the flour and egg covered pork and drop it into the bowl of plain bread crumbs

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This is what the pork should look like after this process.

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Keep the pork covered in the fridge until it is ready to fry.

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Now it’s time to fry the schnitzel! What you want to do is set the heat on 350 degrees and fry it for about 6-7 minutes.

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I hope learning how to make the German Schnitzel was easy for you! For german sides to go with the schnitzel click here.

Here is  a german song to go with you delicious schnitzel!
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Schnitzel Boogie

(Sorta) Free Spanish Villages

Ever want to go away to your own countryside village? Well, if you have the money, you can do just that.

In Spain, hundreds of abandoned villages cover rural areas of the country. With the dawn of industrialization, people migrated to urban centers to seek out work. Oftentimes, the ownership records of the villages were lost.

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A Barca ruins parallel Spain’s economy

The Spanish government is giving away A Barca–an abandoned village in northeast Spain comprised of a dozen stone buildings–for free, provided that you agree to restore the buildings. These restorations can cost about a million Euros (approx. 1.3 million USD). The government hopes the restoration projects will stimulate the country’s struggling economy.  

In addition to the employment that restorations require, the government sees these villages as a chance for cultural tourism.

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workers restoring Armejún, a project of pueblosocial.es

One blogger believes that the restoration of rural towns could offer a look at a way of life throughout regions of Spain that marks an attempt to return to a sustainable lifestyle away from the urban centers. Another blog allows you to track the progress of the restorations of these dilapidated villages.

 

If you’re not in the mood to commit a million bucks, specialty real estate companies sell smaller villages (usually 3-5 buildings) for under $100,000. These getaways don’t require any restorations.

I think this attempt to help the economy is an interesting and exciting way to get people’s attention. The history behind these villages needs new life, as well as Spain’s economy.