Wednesday, October 2, 2013

FAQs Month 4

Are you acclimated yet?
Mmmh….I totally enjoy being here, love the mix of the familiar and unfamiliar, the old and the new. It's all very interesting, engaging, and challenging. And somewhat puzzling, especially how I'll fit in here as a professional. I mostly see family, and not very many friends, but so far I am fine with that. And guess what: There is such a thing as fall here. Autumn! Incredible colors, fresh earthy smell, golden days. That said, I don't think I'll ever completely acclimate anywhere. But that's just me. I like having the view all around from on the fence. Part of the global homeless tribe. There are lots of us in Berlin.

How are the kids?
Ruby, unexpectedly, is having the hardest time. She got handed the worst school deal, too: Her 8th grade class is one of two classes to form a the second public international school in Berlin, because Nelson Mandela School has reached its limits in terms of size.  But now no one feels responsible, the district hasn’t hired people or made plans for new the school, and the mothership school doesn't seem to care.  So they're stuck in subleased rooms in another school, with no perspective and no connection to the great big school community over at the main Nelson Mandela building.  Parents are now in the process of organizing and advocating – for what I am not sure yet. Ruby’s classmates took some getting used to for her - more girly-girls than Ruby's friends in Silver. All the time she spends on facebook is not helping.

Rory is doing very good, he is attending the college track (IB) program at Nelson Mandela, and it's structured like college, and he'll be able to go to the university anywhere in the world after two years. He has lots of time he can choose how to structure. It's a little scary but seems to work so far. And he has been hugely creative, both with music production, and with working on his longboarding skills. Both count towards school. He also volunteers in a cat shelter, which also counts towards school. Right now he is down with a sprained ankle.

Ben misses his father (not this month, because Charlie is with us), and his friends, but enjoys it here otherwise. He loves his school, and he is starting to make some friends in the hood and gets play dates through other family and friends. He is playing baseball and is on a swim team. He has lots of catching up to do academically before he can enter 4th grade (and not because school is in German), as we feared. I get to do childhood memory things with him, like collecting colorful autumn leaves and chestnuts, and making little animals out of chestnuts and matches.

Is the US officially the most dysfunctional democracy in the world?
Certainly in the eyes of its citizens. But if it’s any consolation, Italy (where we are headed for fall vacation on Friday) is doing worse. Somehow this week they managed to get their whole government to crumble over the power games of ex-head of government Silvio Berlusconi - a convicted felon and crook, who not only owns most of the media outlets but also many politicians. Where the US suffers from the two-party system, Italy suffers from too many parties, and the subsequent intrigues and constantly changing alliances. Germany just had elections two weeks ago, largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, because the results will keep Chancellor Merkel of the Christian Democrats (CDU) in power. That’s the only thing staying the same, though: Her new government will be a new coalition (yes, as in, representatives of different parties agreeing to govern together, sharing cabinet and committee appointments). The coalition will be composed of either CDU and Social Democrats or CDU and Green Party. Very different from the previous partner, the neo-liberal FDP which voters kicked out of parliament with a big bang. So the coalition talks are starting, and may take quite some time. Even though Germans are complaining about the related political posturing and how long the whole thing takes, it seems to me that this is pretty functional democracy at work.

Back to the US: The news we get from there (thanks to NPR Berlin) sounds like reruns from a year ago: Mass shootings and Republicans trying to repeal Health Care Reform. Really? A law that was passed three years ago, by a president who was since re-elected. Don’t get me started.

Are you working?
Little by little. Mostly I am still learning, reading, attending workshops, talking to people. I have a few consulting engagements, and I am working with an awesome consulting firm to put together a series of seminars on strategic philanthropy. There is a word here which describes the prevalent German grantmaker approach: Projectitis. More on what I learned about the German NPO sector will be a separate post soon.

Can we come visit?

Be our guest. You can see this:

Autumn sun going down behind the botanical garden greenhouse - see the guy on top? He is dancing.
..and then there was this little helicopter thing buzzing around. What is it?

1 comment:

Herr Thees said...

This shutdown is highly entertaining. The biggest power in the world is unable to pay its state employees over a really bizarre fight - a thing Syria still manages to do while it's in a really bad civil war.
Wait - of course the USA still has money to pay it's war machinery and NSA and all the other things that bring peace, wealth and freedom to the world...
If the USA was a person a psych hold would be indicated...