Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life is Grand

The last days in Bonn were fantastic. Beautiful weather (though Claudia complained Winter was back, I was thrilled with the cooler temps, knowing "Famously Hot Columbia" would be blistering when I got home). I took a stroll through my old neighborhood along Poppelsdorfer Allee. The castle at the end used to feature live performances of Beethoven's works. He was born in Bonn. As I walked under the train trellis to get to Poppeldorf, I passed the sticker station that always used to amuse me. Check out this picture. Who can spot the Rebel Flag? Yep. That's right. The South will rise again, maybe even in Germany.

Friday. Visit in my second Heimat, Bonn was really fun. I met up with former Deutsche Telekom colleagues for a lunch at the headquarters, which Claudia arranged. How sweet was that of her? We ate in the cantine at DT HQ. Deutsche Telekom is the parent company of T-Mobile, and a major force in European, and now worldwide, telecomms industry. The headquarters in Bonn is impressive. I was running around like mad to make the lunch on time, as I no longer had Claudia the Original Travel Frau along to keep me on schedule. I missed the first Strassenbahn and when you're depending on public trans to get somewhere, you just can't be late. So I took a taxi, which was nuts. The guy was trying to get around all the football traffic! Germany was going to play Serbia at 13:30, and the fans were pouring into the bars and streets and trams. Many of them wrapped in the German Black, Red, Gold flag.

I finally made it to the DT HQ and it was more amazing than I remembered. The atrium is massive. Lots of windows, light and PINK. There is a DT store there where you can buy merchandise, a hair salon, two coffee stations. You want it, they got it. It's like a little town in itself. A mega screen was set up in the atrium to watch the World Cup game. Already fans were reserving their seats.

 The cantine at DT is really fancy. Any food option you want - salad bar, pizza bar, veggies, dessert. If they only sold beer! Claudia treated me on her employee card, which she can load up with Euros and swipe everytime she's ready to eat. The dining tables and chairs are very chic and modern. We found a long table for all eight of us! It was great fun to see everyone and to learn about the DT corporate politics. :) Herr Oberman, the CEO, introduced the first quota in Germany to ensure women are hired for positions, particularly in the IT field. It's a big, aggressive move, and has been met - as you can imagine - with some controversy. That was a fun theme for Table Talk. :)

The DT Internal International Communications Team I interned with in 2002, before I started the corporate training program. Front to back: Ruth Kraatz, Ursula Schmied, Christiana Frense-Heck, Fabian Dumas, Claudia Jordan, Dirk Meier, me, Karl Weiland. GREAT seeing all of you!

After lunch, Dirk and I watched the Germany v. Serbia game in the DT atrium, watching on the edge of our seats. It was a disappointing loss, but the Germans handled it like good sports. I managed to catch a shot of one of the ads during half time. It features my favorite player from the German team who was injured and couldn't play the World Cup, Michael Ballack. Aber hallo!!

In the tram on the way back into the city, I ran into lots of sad, face-painted people, and some singing and revelry. It was a thrill to be in the middle of all of that during such an exciting time in Europe and around the world. In 2006, FIFA says there was a cumulative audience, in-home and out-of-home, of 26.29 billion World Cup viewers.

A little walk through Bonn's Suedstadt to Judith and Jens' house to meet their kids and see their two-week old (!) baby was fun. I got to watch the USA football game with them, and TRY to talk a little German with their wee one, Juna. Their entire living room was decorated in Germany garb. Fun!

On the way to meet Claudia for dinner, the Bahnhof reported the 2:2 draw USA v. Slovenia.

On to meet Claudia for dinner. She made reservations at a restaurant on the Rhein called the Rohmuehle and Biergarten. It's in a restored mill house, with modern design incorporated. A gorgeous place on the river.

Right next door is one of the most imaginative and futuristic five-star hotels I've ever seen. The Kameha Grand was designed by Marcel Wanders.Click the link and watch the video. You can see how funky it is. We had a drink at the bar there. We were treated very well, as you can imagine. The entrance says, "Life is Grand." Fitting! That taxi in the picture is a Mercedes, as all the taxis in Germany are. The one that took us to the Berlin Tegel airport actually had a flat screen TV in it so the driver could watch the World Cup at stop lights. Ha.

Bonn is the same size as Columbia. It has a river (the Rhein), a university, and a major corporation (Deutsche Telekom). The T-Moblie HQ is also there, where I also once worked. We drove by it on our way to Kameha. It's got a Starbucks inside the atrium. Lots of coffee. Lots of coffee. (I drank so much while I was on vacation that I think I will have to keep up the habit. Lattes and Latte Machiatos are my faves). My point in comparing Bonn to Columbia is that we, too, could have a Kameha. I mean, we have a Hilton, but .... BORING. I think Bonn is very progressive for a mid-sized town. I like that.

T-Mobile (now incorporated into Deutsche Telekom) headquarters building. It was still under construction when I left in 2004. This picture captures only one wing of it.

Up early Saturday for the ride to the train station. Claudia was such a dearheart to drive me there. I got a Fussball Bloc at the bakery (bread wrapped in paper like a hot pocket, made especially for the World Cup frenzie) and a coffee. We waited in the quite chilly weather for my train. When it arrived (not puenktlich) I jumped in, found my seat, and waved goodbye to Claudia. She doesn't know it, but I teared a good bit on the way to Frankfurt airport.

The Frankfurt Airport is not my favorite. To give you an idea, here is what it took for me to get to my seat on my plane:
Get out of train.
Take escalator up, then down.
Turn left, then right, then left, look at signs to Terminal.
Walk a long alleyway to the Terminal. Search for my gate.
Walk further to the gate. Stand in line.
Have my passport checked, dodge lots of families with at least six sets of luggage each.
Back to the escalator to the gate area, through security (30 minutes).
Sit in a small, glassed in room with about 300 other people.
Sprite out of the vending machine.
Totally missed the chance to buy a magazine, some more chocolates and gum.
Another long walk through a tunnel to the plane landing. Search for seat.
Sit down.
Sit for 35 minutes on the tarmac. I was worried there would be another 'incident' but we took off fine. The  US Air attendants were rude, except for the male attendant. He couldn't stop saying it was 'his pleasure' to do things for everyone.

I was glad to land at Charlotte. I took the Columbia-Charlotte Shuttle home. I recommend it. $49. There were three of us in the van. One guy from India, who talked on the phone for about 20 minutes in one of the 30 or 40 languages of India. Later he told me what it was, but I can't remember. It wasn't Hindi. I told him we understood every word of his conversation. We laughed. The other guy in the van was a guy who used to work for SC Commerce and is good friends with several people I know, grew up in the same neighborhood I grew up in, and still lives close to where I do. There's that small world again! He actually knew about New Carolina. I didn't have to explain it! I actually practiced the whole flight to Germany how to explain in German what I do for a living. It's hard enough in English.

Home sweet home around 6 p.m. on Saturday, and everything was just as I left it. Except for the front porch ferns. The Japanese Beatles have made a nest in what once was a thriving, hardy, full blown evergreen. I will have to go to Lowe's. Apparently, you have to buy a little box with some magic stuff that lures the little pests away from your plants. But that is a small challenge compared to some I faced during the vacation - showering in the hostel bathroom in Oslo over the toilet comes to mind.

Despite lots of shopping, I am happy to say that I still made it home with only one piece of luggage. I added one small sack of treats to the carry on. Not bad for two weeks, seven airports, and five cities.

During my vacation, I was reminded how fortunate I am, and how important it is to live in the moment. For the first time in awhile, I really felt I was doing that. I loved being able to speak German again, and was surprised how quickly it came back to me. Surprisingly, very little went wrong on this trip (schief gegangen, in German).  And the things that did were more like adventures, and in the end, really didn't matter compared to the things that exceeded my expectations. I hope I can go back to the daily routine with this same way of viewing things. I met someone during vacation one evening who had seen it all. Nothing was interesting or impressive to this person. It made me sad. I want always to be as pleasantly surprised by events as I was on my European and Scandinavian vacation, and don't want to ever lose a sense of wonder.

It's been fun keeping up the blog. I appreciate those of you who have followed it, commented, and shared the experience with me that way. I also truly appreciate my guest bloggers, and friends who met up with me and made the journey such a memorable one. :)

In the last weeks I have waved hello and goodbye to many of my favorite people. I have a full heart. And an empty wallet.

Gruss and Kuss!

The Travel Frau

a poem my friend Karen sent:

“Waving Goodbye” ~ Wesley McNair

Why, when we say goodbye

at the end of an evening, do we deny

we are saying it at all, as in We'll

be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,

somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,

telling us the same things, go on disappearing

beyond the porch light into the space

which except for a moment here or there

is always between us, no matter what we do.

Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens

when the space gets too large

for words – a gesture so innocent

and lonely, it could make a person weep

for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown

voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel

patting and stroking the growing distance

between their nameless ship and the port

they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always

remember, and just as urgently, Always

remember me. It is loneliness, too,

that makes the neighbor down the road lift

two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes

day after day on his way to work in the hello

that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised

fingers to for him, locked in his masculine

purposes and speeding away inside the glass?

How can our waving wipe away the reflex

so deep in the woman next door to smile

and wave on her way into her house with the mail,

we'll never know if she is happy

or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment

before she and all the others and we ourselves

turn back to our disparate lives, how

extraordinary it is that we make this small flag

with our hands to show the closeness we wish for

in spite of what pulls us apart again

and again: the porch light snapping off,

the car picking its way down the road through the dark.


  1. Oh, Amy! Ilove(d) your blog!

    And your description of Frankfurt airport is so funny, because you are totally right: it is so big and confusing. When I was small I thought every airport in the world has the size of Frankfurt. Could you imaginge what happend when I first saw Koeln/Bonn: I was shocked! It was more like a bus stop then an airport to me.

    Please come back to Europe soon!

    Hugs & Kisses and Gruß & Kuss