…Berlin, as described by a beautiful Dutch-Indonesian woman with spiky, red hair as she cut my lion’s mane last weekend. The Fulbright Program invites its grantees to a four-day conference once a year and pulls out all the stops when it comes to hospitality. Most of the speeches and panels took place in the Park Inn Hotel on Alexanderplatz in the heart of Berlin (though Berlin has many “hearts”, Alex is one closest to many of the famous sights and museums), and also happened to be where I enjoyed the comforts of a hotel room for the first time in years. Side note: I still can’t say I prefer hotels and hostels to Couchsurfing, especially when the shower is simply a modern-looking glass box in full view of anyone in the room, while the toilet has “artistically” frosted walls that allow anyone in the shower – and therefore, in the rest of the room – to see a fuzzy form of you doing whatever you happen to be doing in there. Give me a cushy couch and a blanket any day and let me be low-maintenance, thanks.
That’s not to say that the accommodation was uncomfortable or that conference was anything other than spectacular; the four days were jam-packed with a tour of Berlin’s Şehitlik mosque, lectures, discussions, networking and partying. I personally spoke with U.S. Ambassador Philip D. Murphy, author Josef Braml and posed a question (in German) to Ingeborg Junge-Reyer, Berlin’s senator for urban development regarding the untimely death of Berlin’s beloved polar bear, Knut. To avoid going into detail regarding the individual speeches, the overarching themes of the conference were simply “change is the constant” and “network, network, network”. More than anything, the few days in Berlin filled me with an immense amount of pride for being a Fulbrighter.
As such, it’s time for a much-needed plug for the Fulbright program. If you’re reading this blog, you likely have some interest in international happenings or, at the very least, you have an inkling of the fact that the world is a lot smaller than it seems. This awareness alone should make you consider applying for a Fulbright grant. Want my help? Whether it’s for an English Teaching Assistantship in any number of countries, or for a research grant for a project of your design, just email me/leave a comment and I’ll have you send your application to me for a thorough read-over. Questions about the Fulbright Program in general? Just read their FAQ page.
The most enlightening part of the conference was prompted by the electric atmosphere created by having so many bright, talented, idealistic people in a small space. I was surrounded by people who simultaneously outshone me in both number and impact of their countless successes and yet made me fiercely proud to be counted among them. I realized that I need to be more ambitious. To learn more, to use my time more efficiently, to dream bigger, and to implement the steps necessary to reach higher goals. I have the drive, and I have ideas, but I must develop the ability to be thrilled with implementing some of them that make me stand out from a crowd.
Right, enough of the diary entry. On to the weekend! I couchsurfed with an eccentric guy who sells books at a flea market for a living and knows more obscure English words than any non-native speaker I’ve ever met (what other German knows what topsy-turvy is)? Having been in Berlin before, I kept my sightseeing to a minimum, but lucked out with some beautiful weather to accompany what I did wander to. Some of the other Fulbrighters stuck around for a few extra days, and I’ll just leave you with a sampling of the texts I received from a few of them as the weekend progressed to give you an idea of the craziness that ensued…
Thursday, 01:52 – “I’m in Busche. Come with a girl/lesbian. Bring no one else.”
Friday, 21:50 – “Oh my god Ginger, I think this is a sex party! He’s laying condoms, Crisco, gloves, and drugs all over the place! Ah!”
Saturday, 23:11 – “I need to catch my second wind. Looks like a dance/strip club? I might be able to throw on something snappy and boogie tonight.”
…A city of free will, that’s for sure…