Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I'm back, and totally disinterested. For now.

Hello, dedicated readers. Last night I returned from Munich and landed safely on the runway of SFO at 9:59pm PST. The trip was tremendously interesting and fun, and many of my experiences may in due time prompt some seriously exciting blog posts.

It's like Jules Winnfield says: it's the little things that make all the difference between Europe and America. In Munich, for example, public transportation is timely, clean, inexpensive, efficiently managed, popular, and thorough. Beer costs on average about half what bottled water does. (No, that's not an exaggeration.) School children are taught that HIV/AIDS can only be prevented through abstinence OR sexually exclusive relationships with non-carriers. Sales tax is 16%, but prices listed on tags include that tax. University educations are entirely subsidized. Ecology and conservation are legally and socially engrained into daily life. Cars are small. Gasoline is four times as expensive. (Perhaps the preceding three observations are loosely related.) There are condom machines in almost every restaurant bathroom. All state museums are free on Sundays. All nouns are capitalized. And did I mention how awesome their public transportation is?

Of course, the little things aren't always better than they are here in California or America in general. For example, if you want to grab a mass (it's pronounced "moss," and it's a litre of beer) in a bar or restaurant or Biergarten, it will only set you back 5-7 Euro, but you'll walk away smelling like an ashtray. Public smoking and smoking in establishments that serve food is in no way regulated. Also, Germany has yet to institute an analog to the American Disabilities Act; though some train stations and restaurants and museums are equipped with wheelchair ramps or elevators, the vast majority are not. Nor did I hear any chirping pedestrian signals that could have alerted Munich's blind population when it was safe to cross the street. Third, most of the manual labor is outfitted in uniform overalls, while the color of the garment indicates in what sector of labor the worker is. Electricians seemed to wear green, while mechanics I think wore blue. From what I could tell, all the overalls were produced from the same design, probably in the same government factories. While this uniformity is efficient and cost-reducing, my American eyes see using clothing as an official way to indicate occupation more than a little bit limiting. Lastly, throughout Germany, it is illegal to print any pro-Nazi documents are any materials that refute the existence of the Holocaust. While I obviously am not a champion of Nazi ideology, I have a hard time condoning any legal limitations on speech. But that's just the libertarian patriotic American in me speaking.

On a neutral note, you can't walk three feet in Bavaria without stumbling across a centuries-old (or post-war reconstruction thereof) gaudy Catholic church, repleat with gilded saints, Passion recreations, life-sized crucifix in every corner, and 100-metre tall golden alters. That shit is creepy.

Until I muster the energy to complain about domestic politics (or the theory behind it), I must first unpack, do ten days' of laundry, and catch up on some reading. I also have a few family members, some with ailing health, with whom I should correspond via email. In the meantime, I thank Tomasso for being so diligent a blogger in my stead.


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