The First Fellowship (of the Ring!) Meeting.

Unfortunately, I really didn’t go to a Fellowship of the Ring meeting. It would have been really cool too. But in middle May, I got to attend the first conference for my fellowship program here in Germany.

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This is the view of the interior of an old school in Halle.
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Martin Luther preached from this altar. Also in Halle.

As I have mentioned before, my job here in Germany is funded by the International Museum Fellowship Programme of the German Federal Cultural Foundation. I applied for the position in March of 2016 and within five weeks, I had moved across the world (that is a story for another blog post).

One of the requirements of the fellowship is that I get to travel all around Germany and visit with the other fellows (there are 16 other fellows besides me doing projects around the country). We spend between three and four days talking about the issues facing museums, like collections care, exhibition problems and cultural relevancy, and how museums work with visitors. They also feed us a lot of very good food and coffee, which means I probably eat more pastries than I should.

We spend a lot of time in workshops or hearing keynote speakers. It is a really fun perk of the program. I get to learn a lot and see parts of Germany that I wouldn’t necessarily get to see without the program.

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A cabinet of curiosities in Halle. The first one I had seen!

It’s also exhausting, but in a good way. We go for about 10 hours a day, and we get tours and talks and free admission into some really cool museums. Our first trip to Halle, and later Leipzig let me see one of my first “Cabinet of Curiosities”, something I read about a lot in my Master’s program. In Leipzig, we got to visit the German National Library and see the German Museum of Books and Writing, and at the end a visit to the Grassi Museum.

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We talked about the ethics of museum collections, spending workshops talking around whether or not museums should even be collecting items anymore, and whether or how we should be presenting items from the past.

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One of the workshops at the National Library had us all drawing each other in 20 seconds without looking at our papers. I would sit across from someone and have to draw them without looking at what I was doing. I do not claim to be the best artist in the world, and not many (okay, none) of my photos looked like my partner, but it made for a lot of fun and some great art!

 They also have a film crew wandering around taking film and pictures of the events. They made a 5-minute video about the conference. It sums it up and shows a lot of what we got to do! Check it out here. You have to navigate down a little bit to see the video.

Thanks for reading, be kind to each other, and see you next time!

All Expats get Patriotic, or Happy German Unity Day!

Today is October 3, which is the Day of German Unity, or the Tag der Deutschen Einheit. It was first celebrated in 1990 with the reunification of West and East Germany. It is celebrated a little bit like July 4th, with lots of cities holding festivals and other events. I don’t know yet if they have fire works, but they have fire works for other things, so I could imagine there are fireworks involved. There are definitely fireworks involved.

Fireworks seem pretty universal.
Fireworks seem pretty universal.
Photo by Anthony Cramp via Wikipedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

The Tag der Deutschen Einheit is celebrated by a main city in Germany every year, and in 2016 it is Dresden, near to me. I’ll admit to being incredibly lazy so I’ll probably stay at home and watch TV. Maybe rewatch Independence Day in solidarity!

This brings me to my feelings of patriotism. It is 2016, and that means an election year in the USA. This presidential race seems far more controversial than my last three.

Recently, I read a book about an Australian expat who moved away from Australia for good. It was during a time of political upheaval in her country, and she mentions that she became patriotic while abroad, having to defend her country even if she didn’t agree with things. (The book, The Thing About Prague by Rachael Weiss, is pretty good. I would recommend it if you like those fish out of water stories. I really love Prague, so it was fun to read about an expat there. I’m not getting any money for this.)

The election this year has definitely brought the eyes of everyone on the States, and as one of the few Americans here in Freiberg (that I know of; it’s a university town and there’s a few American students here, but I am the only non-student American I’ve met) I get asked a lot of questions of the USA political elections. The Germans seem to find it a lot easier to talk about politics with a foreign stranger, something I admit to having done with foreign strangers in the States, but usually try not to.

My interrogations are always polite, and there two questions when someone finds out I am an American. The first question is inevitably how I come to speak such good German (they are more impressed that I can speak it at all, though in reality my grammar is rarely perfect). The second question is ALWAYS about the presidential candidates. The asker is rarely seeking my actual opinion, but they are always curious. I usually steer the conversation back around to other, safer topics, pretty quickly.

I do have opinions, but I often feel that my personal opinions are not what the asker wants to hear. They want answers, and I do my best to represent the people of my country, not necessary the politicans, in my answers.

Thanks for reading! Next post: the Leipzig Fellowship Conference!

Be kind to each other, and until next time.