#VegasStrong

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#VEGASSTRONG

I have been to Las Vegas countless times.  My first time was when I was 15 during a three week road trip with my family. I will never forget how I was asked to leave the bar my parents were having a drink at because I was under 21. I started crying because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to sit down, and so my first initial impression about Vegas wasn’t the most welcoming in my eyes.

But then I learned about the “casino for kids” at the Treasure Island hotel. From that moment on I would spent the majority of my time over there while the adults had their fun at the “real” casino, and I made amends with Vegas.

The next time I came to Sin City was when I was over 21 and able to join in all what the adult fun had to offer.  I have been to the major clubs, have danced to the music of incredible DJs playing on stage, and had the occasional “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” experience.  But this last time was very different from any other trip I took out there.

In my last post, I wrote about my friends coming to visit from Germany, who I met up with in San Francisco. When we were planning this trip way back in the beginning of 2017, we decided to fly down to Vegas for a couple of days, since my one friend had never been.  We had planned to leave on Thursday, October 7.  Even in our wildest dreams, none of us could have ever imagined what happened only five days before our trip to Las Vegas.

On Sunday, October 1st, the deadliest shooting massacre in modern U.S. history happened, where more than 50 people lost their lives.  I had watched the reports on TV news; I had seen the videos on social media, where you could hear the horrific gunshots the shooter fired on those innocent concert goers; I had read the stories about the victims. But nothing can prepare you for what you are going to see when you are at the actual place.

The first night of our arrival in San Francisco, we talked about what happened. We weren’t scared of going, but we were clearly in shock and unable to grasp such an event. Would it still be ok to visit a club and dance the night away? Would it be fine to have a couple drinks, celebrating our reunion after not seeing each other for two years? Would it be disrespectful to have fun at a place where such a tragedy took place only a few days before our arrival?

The morning of our flight to Las Vegas, I wasn’t able to function well; partly because I didn’t sleep the night before and we had a very early flight, and partly because I was nervous about what to expect.  The moment the plane touched down in Vegas, we could witness the aftermath of the tragedy: we spotted the broken windows of the hotel room. It felt surreal to actually see a crime scene in real life rather than on TV.

The view of the broken windows followed us along all the way from the airport to the hotel. The sight definitely impacted our moods, but we still wanted to make the best out of our time being in Las Vegas. Since our room wasn’t ready at the time we arrived, we decided on walking along the strip for a bit to find a breakfast place.

It was a nice warm day out, but the bulletins we saw along the strip made me chill.  Where tourists were usually being bombarded with bright light advertisements, people could read messages like “We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now.”

We walked past a restaurant that had a poster displayed in its window, mentioning that all first responders who were present at the time of the tragedy trying to help would receive a free meal.  Plastered along the streets was the hash tag #VegasStrong. Thank God for sunglasses in moments like this, because I was about to start crying whenever we passed one of those billboards or placards.

I can’t really describe the feelings that went through me during those three days.  My friends and I still enjoyed the warm weather and what the city has to offer, but it did make me feel guilty.  One night, we watched the amazing water show in front of the Bellagio hotel. A few steps further down from where we stood, people had built a memorial with candles, signs and flowers. All three of us grew quiet when we passed by it.

While we were reading the messages, a couple feet further down, two women dressed up as showgirls were trying to get tourists to take pictures with them. That is Vegas for you: no matter if during the good or the bad times, the city is still trying to give you what you came for: an escape out of everyday life.

We didn’t end up going to any clubs or shows this time rather than just relaxing by the pool, indulging in some good food, and exploring the city. At the end of our three day trip, Las Vegas bid farewell to us with the same scene it welcomed us: the view of the broken hotel windows.

It is really hard to grasp such a tragedy and witnessing the aftermath first hand. But it is also beautiful to see how a city stands strong and brings strangers together during hard times like this. #VegasStrong

Images: pixabay.com

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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“Musikalisch” oder Mord im Konzertsaal

Musikalisch

(Eine Kurzgeschichte von Dieter Kermas)
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Unsere Familie, so darf ich mit bescheidenem Stolz feststellen, kann auf eine viele Jahrzehnte erfolgreiche Musikerziehung zurückblicken. Doch zuerst möchte ich mich vorstellen. Mein Name ist Ludwig Anobium Punctatum.

Sie dürfen mich, der Einfachheit halber, jedoch Ludwig nennen. Sicher ist ihnen im Zusammenhang mit dem Namen Ludwig und bei meiner Erwähnung der Musikerziehung, der Gedanke gekommen, meine Mutter hätte da an meinen Namensvetter Ludwig van Beethoven gedacht. Fürwahr, er stand Pate für meinen Namen.

Ich sehe es an ihrem fragenden Gesichtsausdruck, sie hätten gerne gewusst, wer sich hinter meinem, so Ehrfurcht gebietendem Namen verbirgt. Nun, ein wenig muss ich sie jetzt enttäuschen. Im allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch zähle ich zur Familie der Holzwürmer. Bitte wenden sie sich nicht entsetzt ab. Hören sie lieber meine Geschichte.

Etliche Generationen vor mir gelang es meiner Urururgroßmutter ihre Nachkommen in einem Konzertflügel unterzubringen. Dieser stand, sie ahnen es bereits, im Hause der Familie Beethoven.

Anfangs erschraken ihre Nachkommen, wenn die ersten Akkorde das Holz zum Vibrieren brachten. Allmählich jedoch fanden sie Gefallen an den Melodien und richteten ihre Mahlzeiten danach. Sobald die ersten Tastentöne erklangen, hörten sie auf zu nagen und lauschten der Musik. Für das Fressen blieb die lange Nacht über Zeit genug. So wuchsen viele Generationen meiner Familie musikalisch gebildet auf.

Hochbeglückt, in dieser Umgebung aufwachsen zu dürfen, vermieden sie es, mehr als unbedingt nötig, den Flügel zu zerfressen. Sobald eine Generation zu zahlreich angewachsen war, musste sie aus diesem Grund, bis auf einen von ihnen,  die Unterkunft verlassen. Der Verbleibende kam nun weiterhin in den Genuss, sich musikalisch weiterzubilden.

Wie schön wäre es gewesen, wäre es so weitergegangen.

Eines Tages jedoch entdeckte die Haushälterin das feine Holzmehl, das meine Vorfahren erzeugt hatten. Sofort wurde der Flügel untersucht, der Befall festgestellt und das Instrument kurzerhand verkauft.

Nach Monaten in einem Lagerhaus, die verbliebenen Verwandten  hatten, bereits entmutigt, überlegt das Instrument zu verlassen, fand sich glücklicherweise ein junger Pianist als Käufer, und der Flügel wurde zu ihrer Überraschung auf die Bühne eines bekannten Konzertsaals transportiert.

Voller Hoffnung warteten meine Vorfahren auf die ersten Töne des Pianisten. Dieser, ein auf sein Talent über Gebühr eingebildeter junger Mann, verursachte bei den ersten Akkorden einen Schauder des Entsetzens bei meinen Familienmitgliedern. Sie waren durch ihre Generationen im Hause Beethoven so musikalisch hochgebildet, dass sie sich am liebsten die Ohren, sofern vorhanden, zugehalten hätten.

Nach ihrer Überzeugung wurde der Genialität des verehrten Komponisten nicht genug Können und Einfühlungsvermögen entgegengebracht.

Diesem Treiben musste Einhalt geboten werden. Da waren sie sich einig.

Tagelang berieten sie, wie es ihnen gelingen könnte, dies zu verwirklichen. Schlussendlich wählten sie eine Methode, die ihnen subtil und trotzdem todsicher erschien. Hierfür begannen sie, einige Vorbereitungen zu treffen.

Sie wählten einen Tag, an dem der mäßig begabte Virtuose sein erstes großes Konzert vor einem ausgesuchten Publikum zu geben gedachte. Der Premierenabend war gekommen und der Saal mit erwartungsvollen Besuchern bis zum letzten Platz besetzt.

Der Künstler, nennen wir ihn der Einfachheit halber beim Vornamen Johann, also Johann schritt zum Flügel, verbeugte sich artig, und begannzu spielen. Zum Erstaunen vernahmen meine Vorfahren in den Pausen leises Räuspern, Hüsteln und auch leichtes Füßescharren.

Sie interpretierten dies mit dem Unwillen des Publikums über die dargebotene Leistung. Das bestätigte sie erneut darin, die richtigen Schritte unternommen zu haben. Johann griff in die Tasten und begann die 5. Sinfonie zu spielen. Der Name Schicksalssymphonie wies bedeutungsschwer auf das Kommende hin.

Zuerst vernahmen die Besucher in der ersten Reihe einen kurzen, dumpfen Laut aus dem Inneren des Flügels. Kurz darauf erstarrte Johann beim Anschlag einer bestimmten Taste. Sie erzeugte keinen Ton. Etwas schien im Inneren des Flügels gerissen zu sein. Er sprang hektisch auf, verbeugte sich, eilte auf die Rückseite des Musikinstruments und wuchtete den schweren Deckel des Flügels hoch und arretierte ihn mit dem dafür vorgesehenen hölzernen Stab.

Tief beugte er seinen Kopf in das Innere, um die Ursache für den Fehler zu finden. Gebannt schauten die Konzertgäste auf das weitere Geschehen. Zuerst jedoch hörten sie, zwar sehr leise, aber dennoch gut vernehmbar, ein Knistern aus der Richtung des Flügels.

Dann gellte ein vielstimmiger Schrei aus dem Publikum. Der hölzerne Stab war eingeknickt und der schwere Deckel des Flügels war herabgefallen. Er hatte den Kopf des Pianisten so heftig getroffen, dass dieser tief ins Innere des Instruments gedrückt wurde. Hierbei kam der Hals des Opfers auf die schmale Kante des Pianokörpers zu liegen. Die Wucht des Deckels zerquetschte augenblicklich den Hals, sodass der Mann leblos wie eine Fliege an der Seite des Flügels hing. Seine Knie befanden sich in der Luft, während seine kurz zuvor noch wild rudernden Arme nun schlaff seitlich herunterbaumelten.

Die tagelangen Nagearbeiten am Arretierungsstab und an der Befestigung der Klaviersaite waren somit erfolgreich gewesen. Die Ehre für die Verunglimpfung der göttlichen Musik Ludwig van Beethovens war damit für sie wieder hergestellt.

Sie hofften, dass man den Flügel als Tatwerkzeug in die Asservatenkammer der Kriminalpolizei brächte und kein stümperhafter Pianist die Möglichkeit mehr bekäme die Meisterwerke zu entweihen.

©Dieter Kermas

Image:  pixabay.com

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Dieter Kermas, CaliforniaGermans Author and a true Berliner, turned to writing after he retired from his profession as an engineer. Family and friends urged him to document his many experiences during his childhood in wartime Germany. This made for a collection of various essays which have been published here at CaliforniaGermans. (You can find the stories here on CaliforniaGermans.com by putting “Dieter Kermas” into the Search Box.) Apart from his childhood memories, he is also sharing some of his short stories and poems on CaliforniaGermans. Dieter Kermas, who loves to write, has published his first novel “Kolja. Liebe im Feindesland” in 2016, available at Amazon. Some of his work has been included in anthologies.

To get in touch with Dieter Kermas, please send an email with subject line “Dieter Kermas” to californiagermans@gmail.com
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EUSTORY, an International History Competition for German and French Youth to Reflect on Peace

Students of a German School in San Diego learn how to write a movie script

About a month ago  German Pacific School San Diego and San Diego French American School collaborated in preparing for an international competition that invites them to reflect on the concept of peace before, during and after WW I.

EUSTORY, an international history competition wants to guide students to a greater understanding of historic events but also engage them in finding relations between today’s events and events in the past, and overall help them become productive citizens of the world.

Both schools decided on choosing film as a medium for their project, and to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of scriptwriting they participated in an intercultural scriptwriting seminar. In the following read more about their experience:

German and French students collaborate on international competition

( by Lenni Elbe)
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An excited buzz fills the air as groups of French and German students discuss their ideas. They are preparing for an international history competition, called EUSTORY.

On October 14, students from San Diego French American School and German Pacific School San Diego partook in a seminar run by a professional scriptwriter, Diane Alpaio, to help prepare them for the competition in Spring.

The script writing workshop led students through a pre-written script in order to learn the basic elements of story writing. First, they watched and analyzed a short film. Then, they were split into small groups and wrote their own scenes using those basic elements such as dialogue, conflict, and characters.

The students left with a greater understanding of how movie scripts are written, and with plenty of ideas on how to continue their own EUSTORY project. “Working with the French students was great and I didn’t expect the seminar to be so much fun. It really got everyone excited about the competition” said Jack, a student at GPSSD.

The script writing seminar was just the start. Students will continue to meet on a regular basis throughout the script writing process. Instructors from both schools are guiding the students, including Mr. Baron (SDFAS), Ms. Brouder (SDFAS), and Ms. Elbe (GPSSD).

EUSTORY was started in order to provide students with an opportunity to reflect on the events of World War 1, to work together, and to foster cross-cultural understanding. This year’s theme is: “Peace in War Time, Peace in World War 1.” This initiative is representative of the creative potential in students, and broadens young people’s perspectives, giving them the tools and skills required to become productive citizens of the world.

The short film will premiere this coming spring at an event at SDFAS.
For more information, please visit http://www.eustory.fr or http://www.gpssd.org

Images: German Pacific School San Diego – GPSSD


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Gunter (Ein Gedicht)

Gunter

(Ein Gedicht von Dieter Kermas)
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Ein kleiner Hering namens Gunter,
war wissbegierig und recht munter.
So fand er auf dem Meeresgrund,
´ne schöne Dose, blank und rund.
Das Bett ist nur für mich allein,
so dachte er, und legt sich rein.
Und Gunter lag, ganz ohne Arg,
in einem leeren Heringssarg.
Auf der Dose, es war ´ne große,
stand „Hering in Tomatensoße.“
Man fingt ihn ein, den Gunter,
nun war er nicht mehr munter.
Auf der Dose, es war ´ne große,
stand „Gunter in Tomatensoße.“

©Dieter Kermas

Image:  pixabay.com

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Dieter Kermas, CaliforniaGermans Author and a true Berliner, turned to writing after he retired from his profession as an engineer. Family and friends urged him to document his many experiences during his childhood in wartime Germany. This made for a collection of various essays which have been published here at CaliforniaGermans. (You can find the stories here on CaliforniaGermans.com by putting “Dieter Kermas” into the Search Box.) Apart from his childhood memories, he is also sharing some of his short stories and poems on CaliforniaGermans. Dieter Kermas, who loves to write, has published his first novel “Kolja. Liebe im Feindesland” in 2016, available at Amazon. Some of his work has been included in anthologies.

To get in touch with Dieter Kermas, please send an email with subject line “Dieter Kermas” to californiagermans@gmail.com
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If You Are Going to San Francisco…

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IF YOU ARE GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO…

The famous 1967 song from Scott McKenzie always gets me in a reminiscent mood.  I start thinking about my time as an Au Pair, when I was living so close to one of the most fascinating cities in the world.  But at the beginning of October, I didn’t have to reminisce no more. I was actually going to San Francisco to meet two of my longtime friends from Germany.

I haven’t seen them for two years, and I sadly missed out on their big wedding this summer. Luckily for me, they decided to spend their honeymoon in the states and invited me to tag along.  I didn’t have to think twice to announce that I would be on board and counted the days till October finally came along.

For our stay we had rented an apartment in the Russian Hill area, which was walking distance to the piers. From our living room window we could see the Alcatraz Island, which was extremely spooky at night with the fog and the prison building lights shining through the clouds.  Just thinking of it now really makes me miss this place and the city. Except the steep hill we had to walk up every day to get home.

On our first night together, we walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf to grab dinner at Nick’s Lighthouse.  A great spot for seafood lovers with some decent vegetarian offers and a cozy atmosphere, we celebrated the first night of our reunion. After some good food, we worked off all the calories from dinner by climbing our way up the steep hills towards home. This was definitely a great alternative instead of hitting the gym.

The next morning, our culinary excursion took us to the Buena Vista Café right down the street.  I have been to this place many times, and since it was only a two minute walk from our apartment, it was a no-brainer to have our first breakfast at this location. The Buena Vista Café is well-known for its Irish coffee. I have to confess that I have never tried it and am not intending to, but it is sure interesting to watch the baristas fixing it for thirsty customers.

For me, the best part (besides the really yum food options), is the view onto the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I could stare all day at this beautiful piece of construction, wondering how it is able to hold tons of cars and people crossing it each and every day.  The cafe is located right across one of the cable car starting points, in case you’d like to catch a ride right after.

If you do consider visiting the Buena Vista Café, I have one tip: If you can, avoid going on a weekend.  There is no “Waiting to be seated” agenda, and the restaurant gets VERY busy. People literally wait till one spot opens up and then rush over to claim it theirs. It doesn’t matter who sets foot in the restaurant first. Weekdays are much less crowded and strenuous to your nerves.  Trust me, I have tried both weekend and weekday and I would never consider visiting this place on a Saturday or Sunday again.

For the remainder of the day, we checked off a couple of mostly touristy activities on our list.  We visited the seals by pier 39, wandered around the area, and then headed over to Powell Street for some shopping, followed by then devouring the cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory at Union Square.

To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the tourist spots in San Francisco.  Of course, you have to visit them if you have never been before, but I personally prefer the less-overcrowded-by-foreigners areas, such as the Haight and Ashbury district with all its funky and unique stores.

One of the days, we decided to visit the Golden Gate Park and see what it had to offer. We took a stroll around the Japanese Tea Garden (cost: $9 per person for non-residents) and relaxed in the Zen atmosphere.  We totally forgot for a moment that we were residing in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the U.S. and rather focused on the beautiful trees, plants, and ponds.

Afterwards, we decided to walk the more than three miles towards the end of the park, where two giant windmills were located.  We did feel like being in the Netherlands for a second until we crossed the street and found ourselves at Ocean Beach.  Unfortunately, the fog had taken over and so we didn’t witness a breathtaking ocean view.  That is another thing I am sure many of you know: the weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable.

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Another spot we discovered during our time was Za Pizza, a very small pizza joint located in our neighborhood.  The pizza is amazing, and the restaurant is located in the midst of residential complexes.  No tourists, no noise, no overcrowded streets.  This was what I was looking to find during our trip: A hole-in-the-wall kind of ambiance that turned out to be a total gem. We went two times while being in town, and I miss this place dearly being back in Southern California.

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Throughout our stay in the city, we mainly traveled around by bus.  It was really easy and cheap to go from point A to Z by public transportation. And, as weird as this might sound, it made me feel being more one of the locals than a tourist. We also happened to be there when it was Fleet Week. We got to witness the streets being crowded with sailors and watched the incredible air show, the highlight being a performance by the amazing Blue Angels.

The only real downside during our vacation was the bad air quality we experienced during the second week in the city. Due to the heavy fires in Sonoma County, smog was laying all over town.  It started on Monday night when we acknowledged a smokey smell in our apartment. We first thought it must have come from a barbecue, but the smell got stronger by the minute.

It was when we turned on the news that we got informed about the cause of it: the outbreak of the horrendous fires up in Napa Valley and the surrounding areas. The next morning, when we pulled up the blinds on our windows, a big cloud of smoke was hanging over Alcatraz. It consisted of the remainder of our trip. Even at the airport, the air quality was so bad that some flights experienced delays.

We made sure to still make the best of our time despite the impact of the fires. We visited China Town and took a tour through Madame Tussauds. Spending time in this city never gets old, and I am already looking forward to my next trip. Until then I will keep listening to Scott McKenzie’s tunes.

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Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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