Archive for October 14, 2009

Educational…

Posted in daily musings, places on October 14, 2009 by wfon

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Nothing trumps experience. All the reading, TV watching, wikipedia-searching and fireside tales cannot teach what can be learned by having your boots on the ground. Can I get a witness? Yes, I can. I’m always amazed by the statistic that some seventy-five percent of Americans never leave the country and quite a few of those folks never leave their immediate geographic locale. Yet, just as many seem to be well-versed in all matters of the world at large and are very vocal about it. This is not to say there aren’t important things to learn from books and teachers and schools, of course there are, but until you’ve actually breathed the air, tasted the food, exchanged the currency, navigated a train system or slept in a bed in a foreign land can you really understand… and one of the most important things you will understand quickly is; we’re all the same, one people under the sun and moon, dealing with the same problems, excited about the same mundane Reality shows, sharing the same fears, shaking our heads at man’s folly and his ability to act in such selfish and cruel ways but also in such compassionate and empathetic ways. The only distance between us is the physical one. Traveling also teaches you to observe and consider your actions and beliefs, to temper your reactionary nature. People who never leave America and have their worldview handed to them by political pundits and TV pitchmen might be fascinated to know that in Italy if you break a bone or catch a disease, you will be treated, fixed up and nursed back to health without incurring a single cost (same goes for most of the western European countries) and why? Because for some people in the world, the general wellbeing of a nation’s people is seen as a moral obligation to the state. It might also be of interest to know that pharmaceutical companies aren’t allowed to advertise on television in Europe. They aren’t given the opportunity to convince an entire population that they now suffer from a disease the ad agency created. Trains run on time. Airlines give food and drink. Bathrooms are clean and plentiful, even if it costs a Euro to use them. New construction projects are focused on their environmental impact, using materials and designs to consume less energy. No, this is not a rant on ‘how everything is better over there’. It doesn’t take long to find out that there are plenty of people suffering financial burdens, that there are immigrant problems in outlying neighborhoods. The unemployment rate in Spain (after the election six or so years ago of a Socialist governenment in retaliation for the previous administration’s support of Bush-era policies and the terrorist attack on Madrid) is higher than ever recorded. The shining example of Irish economics (much ballyhooed by conservatives over here) is currently flatter than a pancake. Even U2 can’t finish their big building in Dublin. (Geez who ever thought that bringing in cheap Eastern European labor to increase profits and marginalize the Irish middle class would have a negative effect?) So, no, not everything is better over there… just the things that count. There is a demand for balance between quality of life and capitalistic endeavours, something we could certainly learn more about over here.

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of travel, airports, lengthy plane rides. We went to Chicago for the film festival in Naperville and came away with a gold statue, new friends and another place to add to the list of favorites (and that one’s here in the US!). Twelve hours after returning from Chi-town, we turned around and flew to Munich to experience the Oktoberfest. And did we! Tens of thousands of people, daily, filling the fourteen beer halls, downing liter upon liter of beer, noshing on endless pretzels, sausages and roasted half-chickens. Quite a few probably don’t remember the experience… I don’t think the adage is true that if you remember Oktoberfest you weren’t there. From Munich we took the ICE train up to Berlin and stayed in what twenty-years ago was the East. The years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and now have obviously been a bounty of growth and prosperity, even in light of the world’s financial difficulties. The building is endless. Our neighborhood at the Spittlemarkt train stop appears poised to be the next upwardly mobile urban haven. If I had cash, I would be investing right now.

Following the path of the Berlin Wall gives more perspective than any lesson I learned about it in high school, even with Mr. Williams’ slide presentations of pictures from his trip through Checkpoint Charlie into the East. It goes without saying that as you walk along you wonder ‘how could it have happened?’ And I think the answer is that it happened because in the haze of propaganda and mis-information, while people were struggling with their daily lives, the rug was pulled out from under them and one morning their entire world changed. This is a lesson that every single American should keep in mind, always. There are some here who have the wisdom to see the forest for the trees before them and there are others who are lost in the darkness of the wood. They might very well wake up one morning to find themselves on the wrong side of the wall and they will only have themselves to blame. To quote my beloved Miley Cyrus: “Wake up America”

Pictures from all these adventures are to your right at the Flickr link. Enjoy.

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