Last day in Germany-- If you're still reading by the third post you're either my mother or just exceptionally awesome. The past two days have been tremendous. Yesterday (Friday) I got up early and headed across town to Kelley Barracks for a full day (9:30-5) of meetings with US Africa Command officials. It was a very productive day, with some surprises including an unannounced meeting with the AFRICOM Chaplain, an interesting and thoughtful man with a lot to say about the US Government's phobia towards religious issues and the Saudi regime's support for radical Wahhabism around the world. My biggest success of the day was in bringing a satchel of strudels and other various pastries to the appreciative folks on base. Africa Command was a personable bunch, and celebrated the weekend with an open bar at the Kelley Barracks Club, which I obligingly joined in. Returning home to Bad-Cannstatt I relaxed with a run followed by some Dostoevsky and more beers at a biergarten on the lovely Nacker River.
Today, Saturday, was glorious-- I got up at one, went to the Schlossgarten (Castle Garden) in downtown Stuttgart and hung out in the sun the whole afternoon reading up on Uganda and chatting with random people. At one point I hopped on a "BierBike," an absurd vehicle seating about 16 that featured a rectangular bar on wheels surrounded by barstools with bicycle pedals attached. The jovial gang seated on the periphery of the vehicle merrily pedalling welcomed me with enthusiasm as they celebrated the upcoming marriage of Patsy, the guy I was sitting next to. I rode around Stuttgart with them for a while, learning a couple German drinking songs along the way. In between goodnaturedly heckling and catcalling every woman we passed, the pedallers managed to explain in halting English that the celebration would culminate tomorrow with the long-awaited AC/DC concert, for which they were very excited.
Eventually I detached myself from the revelers and headed back to the neighborhood of my hostel, where I went for a jog. I didn't go far, however, as a pickup game began at a basketball court on my route. I played for about an hour with some German kids, half of them immigrants, and talked NBA while we caught our breath in between games. For some reason there was no love for Dirk Nowitzki, which really surprised me .
Wary of the time, I ran back to the hostel, changed, and headed downtown again to redezvous with a group of travelling Virginia Tech landscape architecture students I had met earlier, to watch the USA-England game on the big screen at a raucous biergarten. We agreed that, given that one couldn't attend the game itself, the Germans had perfected the way to watch sports-- in a big, noisy, outdoor hall with lots of bratwurst and beer. Despite a second-half meltdown, it was enthralling to see the underdog Americans come away with a tie, curing me of my soccer apathy (as the World Cup unfailingly does every fourth year). There is something so fascinating about the nationalist passions stirred by soccer in such a wishy-washy, self-deprecatingly multicultural place as modern day Europe-- its as if the wars that once convulsed the continent have been replaced by a neatly refereed rivalry between 22 men with a ball.
I better get back to the room and pack-- my plane leaves before sunrise and I have a taxi coming in less than 5 hours to take me to the Flughafen for the next leg of my voyage-- to Uganda. I have had a good time in Germany despite the short duration, my primary focus on my meetings, and my complete inattention to learning any German whatsoever. My biggest regret, though, is that I have yet to meet anyone named Günther. I also must owe the Stuttgart Metro system about $40, since no one could tell me how on earth I was supposed to pay for it.
Next post from Africa! Hopefully there I'll be able to post some of the pictures I've taken, unlike in the internet cafes here.