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Ready to go crazy? The weirdest New Year’s Eve traditions

Germans like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a sip of chilled sparkling wine, a rich fondue and the annual recurring appointment with the adorable Miss Sophie and her scatty butler James. However, apart from the widespread tradition of watching “Dinner for One”, we Germans don’t have any weird customs for the largest global celebration. But no worries – the rest of the world offers a wide range of strange traditions…

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First Stop: Ecuador

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It’s the end of December. The sparkling snow is falling and the air is cold but very refreshing. So it’s the perfect time to take your empty suitcase for a walk. No, I’m not crazy and I know that you can walk your dog, your cat and, okay, maybe your hamster, but your suitcase? Yes it’s true, at least in Ecuador. If the Ecuadorians are planning a trip sometime next year, they take their suitcases for a stroll. The tradition says that people who are dreaming of a holiday next year should take their empty suitcases for a little walk, so their dreams come true. But I’m not very convinced that this tradition could catch on in Germany. Nevertheless, please feel free to try it out: get your suitcase, go out, get some fresh air and try to ignore the gazing people.

Next Stop: Spain

You’re not a fan of fireworks at midnight and you really hate the emotion which comes with the New Year greetings? But what else could be done? Here’s the answer: just eat 12 grapes quickly, one with each chime of the bells at midnight. For the Spanish, each grape symbolises good luck for each month in the following year. And it wards off bad spirits! But be aware, it sounds easier than it actually is; some Spanish even practice beforehand. So let’s start practicing – New Year’s Eve is close. But don’t forget to chew – it might get a bit tight in your mouth.

Third Stop: Denmark

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If some of you would like to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Denmark, then please don’t call the police if your friends start throwing old dishes at your door. After all, they’ve been collecting Granny’s old china with difficulty all year. So please show a little respect and feel flattered! Why? Smashing old plates at your friend’s door is a special New Year’s Eve tradition in Denmark, and is a measure of your popularity. The more your door gets hit by a broken plate, the more likely friends enjoy being with you. There’s a heap of broken dishes at your doorsteps? Congrats, you’re a terrific friend!

Last Stop: Puerto Rico

A different kind of “bucket challenge” exists in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans throw buckets of water out of their window. And they clean their homes before the New Year arrives. In this way, they clean out the old year and all the evil spirits and welcome the New Year.

The end of the journey has arrived and I have to leave now. I’m very busy because I still have to walk my suitcase, eat some grapes and… well no, actually I’m just going to watch “Dinner for One”, enjoy the fireworks and drink some sparkling wine. Maybe I’ll try out some of the proposals next year, or maybe not, we’ll see! Cheers, Happy New Year to all of you!

Author & Pictures: Julia Huss

How about a chat with Angie?

Our author Franziska spent three weeks as intern in the Bundestag. In her letter from Berlin she talks about her experiences so far.

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It’s Saturday and I’m reflecting on the past five days: Last weekend I arrived in Berlin with a three week practical in the Bundestag ahead of me. I am studying neither politics nor law, so I wasn’t prepared at all for what was coming and I have to admit I was a bit scared. I would work in the office of the Member of the Bundestag Waldemar Westermayer, he is on two comittees, the commitee for alimentation and agriculture and the commitee for economic cooperation with Latin America.

On my first day, I was very close to freaking out. I had a lot of silly concerns like: Were my clothes alright? Would my political knowledge be adequate enough to get along in there? Would they mind if I spoke dialect? So I arrived at the Paul-Loebe-Haus, which is the building on the left side of the Reichstag, and at the entrance I was checked by an airport-like security control. Then a really friendly secretary came to pick me up, and I took my first ride on a glass elevator. They are great! Really fast and well cleaned, and from in there you have a great view of the building’s seven floors. Funnily enough nobody else seems to share my enthusiasm, so if there’s stuff to get from an other floor, they let me get it. 😉

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But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So I got a warm welcome and an introduction to the building (I’m still getting lost though). After a few phonecalls they even found me another trainee so I would have someone to have lunch with. All this effort that was put into making me feel comfortable blew away my concerns and I became more confident. The office I work in consists of Waldemar Westermayer and his three assistants. Westermayer himself wasn’t in Berlin for the whole week, but that gave me a chance to get used to everything.

I got to do and see a lot of things. Besides the usual office work like organising or copying papers or getting the mail and answering the phone I get to answer letters and e-mails, which means I have to read up on all the political topics that are talked about. This is really interesting as I have access to all of the protocols of the conferences and to other internal information. I also get to go to conferences, where I have to minute what is being said and decided. Moreover, there’s a special programme for trainees that allows us to visit different museums and take part in discussions with well known politicians like Wolfgang Schäuble or Volker Kauder. That’s for now, and I’m really excited about what is yet to come during the next two weeks.

Now a few things about everyday life in the Bundestag. As soon as you get your house ID you can go anywhere you like. I haven’t met even one unfriendly person, quite the opposite, the cantine staff seems to smile 24 hours a day and it’s actually kind of creepy how accurately they arrange the food on your plate. I’ve already told you about the elevators, and there’s really nice and comfy seating-arrangements all over the building. And you can actually wear casual clothes, but not many people do, so I’d feel kind of weird walking around wearing a hoodie, jeans and sneakers.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that politics isn’t as untransparent as I had thought, and politicians are humans like everyone else. If there’s anything you don’t understand, you just have to ask, and there’s so many possibilities of informing yourself, I think most people just can’t be bothered to do so. I have to admit I wasn’t really into politics before, but as soon as I got an idea of how it works I actually enjoyed it!

I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks, maybe I really get to have a chat with our chancellor, but if I don’t, never mind, there are so many other things to do and see!

Text & Pictures: Franziska Leichte

A letter from Atlanta

Dear readers of eMAG,

Being complimented on your clothes, hairstyle or something else by random people when you step off the airplane, talking to strangers at stores and everybody saying a nice “how are you” before asking if they can help you – that definitely sounds a lot like the US and very little like Germany.

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As I’ve been in the region called The South for more than a month now, I thought of sharing some experiences I’ve had with you. This actually is the first trip to the US for me, and I’m amazed at how different it is from what I expected.

atlanta 2Atlanta, the city that was burnt to the ground during The Civil War by Union General Sherman on his March to the Sea through the Confederate States, has a lot to offer. After having been to some of the typical sights like the Coca-ColaMuseum, the Georgia Aquarium and the CNN headquarters, we went to some of the small cities outside of Atlanta. One of them, Sandy Springs, has quite some history to offer. If you’re interested in the American Civil War, I can highly recommend the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum, which perpetuated original letters and quotes of especially women of that period, personal stories of pain and survival.

Another small city that I spent a lot of time in is called Dunwoody. You’d probably call it the city of banks, as there are almost more banks than restaurants. Every Thursday this city offers the so called “Food Truck Thursday.” The food offered is never the same and tastes delicious. Food Truck Thursday will definitely be something I’m going to miss when I’m back in Germany.atlanta 3

I fell in love with North Georgia because of its nature, vast scenery and vintage feeling of freedom. Moreover, Lake Lanier, which is about 153 square kilometers, has wonderful spots for going water skiing or jet skiing. The diversity of the lake is breathtaking. Depending on where you are, you can find swamps with snakes on one part of the lake, beautiful waterfront houses with their own docks on the other. No matter where you are, you’ll definitely find your perfect spot to relax or have your own little adventure.

If you thought that the US only wastes energy and causes air pollution, you should go on a trip to Georgia with its richness of forests, meadows and wide, free scenery. If you look hard enough, you might even see “Bambi” walking around in the neighborhood. With the woods around, you can discounter some of the most beautiful, old plantation houses that you could ever imagine. Some of them hide between the trees, others in plain sight. No matter where they are, one thing is clear: they’re gorgeous.

Do gentlemen still exist? While they seem to be extinct at other places around the world, the South still has some to offer. Apart from that, you might find the Southern dialect a little bit odd, rather sounding like mumbling. Anyway, let me explain some of the most common phrases and words so you‘re armed for your trip to the South:

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Moreover, the general rule that Germans learn at school “Bei he, she und it, das ‘s’ muss mit.” don’t apply here – sorry, doesn’t. So don’t be confused when somebody talks without making use of the third person singular ‘s’.

The US, as sports nation number one – at least when watching sports – provides a lot of different opportunities for being supportive fans at events. Fascination for sport doesn’t start in adulthood; it’s encouraged in childhood and grows as the person grows up.

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That being said, it doesn’t matter if the event is at high schools with around 1,000, colleges with up to 100,000 or the professional  league with around 60,000 attendees. Before the game there is a get-together in BBQ-style called ‘tailgating’. Why it is called like that – no idea, but I’d guess because it takes place at a parking lot with a lot of cars and grills filled with food and booze in cups. Yes, you heard right. Alcohol in Georgia is not allowed to be consumed in public if it’s obvious that it’s booze. That’s also where the famous brown bags come from.

So if you’re romantic and looking for a holiday destination that might not be everybody’s first choice, you are welcome to the South! I’ll definitely miss a lot when being back in Germany, but at some point everybody has to go home,

Susi

Author & Pictures: Susann Vogel

Fighting food waste – Foodsharing in Augsburg

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I recently read an article in the Augsburger Allgemeine about food waste in Germany: nearly 2 tons of food were thrown away in 10 days at the Mensa of Uni Augsburg! And when I worked at a greengrocer’s in Augsburg, I was able to take a look “behind the scenes” of the food industry. So I saw with my own eyes how much food is actually wasted and how much everything in our capitalist society is based on making a profit. I was shocked when I looked into the garbage cans behind the shop, filled with food that – in my eyes – was still edible. But in other people’s eyes, this food had to be thrown away, because it didn’t look good enough to be put on display in a shop. I came to the conclusion that shopkeepers often don’t value the food they sell– for them, it’s only about making money.

That’s why I think supporting projects like “Foodsharing” is important. Foodsharing is a non-profit organization founded in Germany and their aim is to reduce the waste of resources and food. On the website www.foodsharing.de you can check for “Essenskörbe”, which are posted by people who have food to share. In their post, they describe what they can give away and where you could pick it up. Anyone who is interested can contact this person in order to pick up the food at their place. In the same way, you can offer food to other people via the foodsharing website.

foodwaste 2Also it’s possible to share food via a “Fair-Teiler”, a store room with a fridge which is publically accessible. Food donations can be deposited there, to be collected by anyone interested. Another step in participating actively in foodsharing is becoming a “foodsaver”, which means going to shops which have made an agreement with foodsharing and picking up food they would normally throw away. The foodsavers collect the saved food and share it with their family, friends, neighbors and donate it to social projects.

There are certain rules you have to respect when participating in foodsharing, the most important being that the food you share with the community must still be of good quality to eat. Furthermore, foodsavers commit themselves to collecting the food from shops on a regular basis (In order to become a foodsaver, you need to pass a quick exam on the website and you need to complete three test collections from shops). If not, the shopkeepers would soon lose their interest in giving the food away, because it’d mean extra time and work for them. Another principle is, that alcohol cannot be shared in the Fair-Teiler, because the age of the people who pick up the food cannot be monitored.

In Augsburg, there is a growing foodsharing community. There are several foodsavers and two Fair-Teiler stations, one of them in the Grandhotel Cosmopolis. The Facebook group “Foodsharing Augsburg”, in which ideas about foodsharing are shared and Essenskörbe are linked, has over 2100 members.

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Personally, I have made use of foodsharing in several occasions and I think it is a wonderful idea. How many students wouldn’t want to save a bit of cash? I always finish my helping. The awareness of the effort it needed for my food to get on the plate, that it had to be planted, watered, harvested, processed and finally cooked, hinders me from just throwing it away. However, there are still a lot of people who apparently don’t mind, or, who are simply not mature enough to know how much they can eat.

I hope that those people who aren’t bothered about our resources are bothered with our current weather and keep the good old German proverb in mind: “If you finish your plate, the sun will shine tomorrow!” We’d really need this to happen. And also, that the food they’re throwing away could save people from starving, in other parts of the world…

Author: Sabrina Huck
Pictures: Elke Thiergärtner (Foodsharing Augsburg)

Confessions of a secret mermaid

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Mermaiding? What’s that?”

This is the answer Julia gets when she tells someone mermaiding is her hobby. “Mermaiding” is the practice of swimming with a mermaid tail costume; as I didn’t know anything about the sport, I decided to find out what it was all about.

A really new idea?

The idea of mermaiding actually dates back over 100 years ago: in 1911 the Australian professional swimmer and actress Anette Kellerman was the first actress to wear a swimmable mermaid costume in her first movie, called The Mermaid. Later, she acted many times as a real-life mermaid, designing her own costumes and sometimes tailoring them by herself. Since then, mermaiding has become popular in the US and all over the world. The must-see attraction for all mermaid fans is the Weeky Wachee Springs, Florida, which hosts mermaid shows in natural springs. The audience stays behind big, underwater windows to see the stunning show in the crystalline water on the floor of the sea. In 1984, with the movie Splash which tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman who is secretly a mermaid, the sport earned its place in pop culture.

A sport´s discipline?

Nowadays, mermaiding is not only practised in swimming pools, but also in the open sea. Often it’s not only considered a sport but also as an environmental activity which helps to protect sea animals. In order to find out what mermaiding is really about, I interviewed Julia, who does this sport regularly and who set up her own website recently.

You do mermaiding as a sport. Can you explain how it works?

Mermaiding is basically swimming with flippers. You swim with a „monoflipper“ on your feet and a kind of tube made of cloth or wetsuit material to cover your legs up to your belly, just like a mermaid. It´s quite similar to dolphin swimming. You have to learn the technique…but that´s not too difficult.

Where did you get the idea from? And how long have you been doing it?

It’s always been my dream to swim like Ariel. I discovered the website “Magictail,” where you can buy the mermaid tails. Last year for Christmas I bought one in my favourite colour and since then I’ve been practicing in a pool in Brandenburg. Of course, you should ask for permission to swim with the costume 🙂

If someone were to say to you „But that´s for kids; it´s not a real sport“, how would you respond?

I’d say that it’s an official sport! In many cities, there are even mermaid swimming schools.

What are the things you like most about mermaiding?

I like realizing my dream and the freedom you feel while doing it. And you get a lot of attention: because it’s not common, kids in the pool often shout, “Mum, look, there’s a mermaid!”

How does the training work? Is it really exhausting?

I do it by myself, because it’s difficult to find people who want to join. You have to focus on the technique (like a wave movement), and fitness: Freediving, holding your breath… is more difficult than it sounds! In order to move, you need a lot of energy!

Would you say that it’s a girls’ sport, or do men also participate?

Haha, good question! I would say men can also do it. I was swimming with my boyfriend half a year ago, me as a mermaid and he was just swimming “normally.” Then one day he wanted to try it himself, and one week later he bought his own mermaid tail.

I’ve heard that it’s really popular in the US, and also that the salary for professional mermaids is high. Is it similar in Germany?

Yes, there are more swimming schools and also professional models that do mermaiding. For example, Mermaidkat is quite a famous mermaid model. She also sells her own costumes. In Germany, it hasn’t become quite so popular yet; I don’t even know if there are any models.

What qualifications do you need to do mermaiding? And what kind of equipment do you need?

Well, first: You have to know how to swim and dive, as you spend more time underwater than swimming. Secondly, you need suitable equipment. The best things to have are a „monoflipper“ and the leg tube, which you can buy at different online shops or make yourself; there are a lot of tutorials about it on YouTube.

What’s the most difficult thing about the sport?

Being able to hold your breath for a long time. Also moving with the tail is really exhausting.

But it´s a lot of fun!

Author: Franziska Wühr
Picture: private

Berlin Experience Extraordinaire

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Travelling is a great way to spend lots of money. It doesn’t always have to be super expensive though. One way of saving money while travelling is to start by exploring your own country. Germany has a lot to offer, among others my favourite city: Berlin. There’s so much to do there that it can be hard to decide what to do first. So here’s a list of my favourite things to do in the capital.

Berlin’s oldest secret: Don’t ever take one of the tourist buses! Seriously, don’t take one unless you enjoy wasting money on things no one needs. Take the bus #200 from Alex to Zoo and the #100 back and I swear you’ll see everything you need to see and more. And if you already have a day ticket you don’t even have any extra expenses. You won’t have anyone telling you when the Reichstag was built or how tall the TV Tower is, but if you really want to know all that, check out a Berlin Guide from your local library and spend the money you saved on food or books.

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Dussmann
berlin 3Everyone who knows me, knows Dussmann. Why? Because I talk about it pretty much 24/7. It’s a bookstore made of five floors of awesomeness. You need the Latin edition of Harry Potter? Go to Dussmann. Or are you looking for your favourite band’s latest album? You’ll find it at Dussmann. Maybe you prefer it as vinyl? Dussmann is your place to be. The best thing about Dussmann, though, is the English bookshop which you’ll find at the very back on the ground floor. I am pretty sure it’s the biggest English bookshop in the whole of Germany, and definitely worth a visit!
http://www.kulturkaufhaus.de/


Wonderpots/Friedrichsstraße

berlin 4The best frozen yogurt in town! Wonderpots has three different locations in Berlin but the one on Friedrichsstrasse is without a doubt the coolest one. The frozen yogurt is super yummy but it’s also a really great place to just hang out. You can enjoy your froyo sitting on a garden chair or if you like it a bit more comfy on one of their sofas. My special tip: Choose one of the seats outside. You’ll have a perfect view of the Humboldt University Library and let’s be honest: there is something awfully satisfying about knowing that students inside are studying for exams or working on their thesis while you’re enjoying the food of the gods.
http://www.wonderpots.de/

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A burger joint in an old school restroom may sound a bit strange but the burger at Burgermeister is seriously one of the best I’ve ever had. Judging from the long line that will await you there, I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Their choice of burgers isn’t huge but there’s still a burger for every taste. They are fresh, super tasty and surprisingly cheap. So if you don’t mind eating your burger while standing squeezed in between two relatively busy roads, you should give Burgermeister a try.
http://www.burgermeister.berlin/

Author & Pictures: Katrin Bottke

A Dream of History

History has always been one of my favorite subjects in school. This isn’t just because of what happened in the past but also because of what connects the past with the present and thus with the future. When I went to the US this summer, I experienced one of my most vivid and interesting dreams about one specific place there: The Gardens at Great Oaks in Roswell, Georgia. After going there on a hot summer’s day and listening to stories being told about the history of this place, I dreamt about it.

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In my dream, I was travelling back in time to when the first family lived on this gorgeous estate. The house and gardens were a gift from a groom to his bride in 1842. My dream sent me back to exactly that day; the day of the wedding of Reverend Nathaniel Pratt and Catherine Barrington King. All the guests were gathered in the gardens after the happy couple’s ceremony. The maids and helps were busy preparing the wedding dinner in the outside and inside kitchens. Butlers were hurrying to get more cider for the guests and the couple to have a toast at that little pavilion that is still there today. After the toast, dinner was served in a building called Ajax Hall, which is across the meadow and not far away from the main house.

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As it was getting dark outside, the maids were lighting hundreds of candles everywhere in the gardens, making it look so romantic and pretty. People were having good conversations or strolling around, enjoying the air getting cooler as it had been a really hot summer’s day. I can still feel the heat of the rays of sun touching my skin.

The next morning Mr. and Mrs. Pratt woke up to a wonderful symphony of the chirping of birds and the aromatic scent of roses as well as the warmth of the sun shining through their windows. Catherine Pratt got up and, only with her nightgown on, went down the stairs, through the narrow hallways of the house, passing by the living room with the superb piano and chess table, through the back porch with its rocking chair, into the beauty of her new gardens. That feeling she felt when she opened the last door keeping her inside was breathtaking. Catherine went outside, with bare feet, feeling the still damp grass between her toes. After passing the red carriage and all the little bird houses, she finally decided to sit down in the pavilion closest to Ajax Hall. She was surrounded by nature, listening and just relaxing.

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When I woke up, I remembered everything as if it were real. I remembered everything as if I had been there. The next time I went to the Gardens at Great Oaks, I strolled through the estate the same way Catherine did in my dream, imagining what her and her new husband’s life might have looked like.

Author & Pictures: Susann Tallmadge