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Eastern Approaches

It took two aborted face-to-face encounters, and one email written with my heart on my sleeve to convince the esteemed Edward Lucas to let me share some of my stories from Eastern Europe on the Economist’s Eastern Approaches blog.  Here they are:

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A cow by any other name

Dec 9th 2010, 16:51 by S.T. | TALLINN

 ANY Eastern Approaches readers who, unaccountably, have not been keeping up with the latest developments from the Estonian Animal Recording Centre may be interested to hear that a new 48-page survey of the most popular names for cows in Estonia is the talk of Tallinn.
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Refugees in Ukraine: Shut out

Feb 10th 2011, 18:09 by S.T.

 THE walls of fortress Europe have grown increasingly impenetrable of late. A planned fence on the Greek border with Turkey has received some attention. Not so the situation in western Ukraine, where there a growing community of refugees, mainly from Afghanistan and Africa, seeking entrace into the European Union have congregated. Effectively trapped in limbo, these asylum-seekers are subject to abuse, exploitation and torture.
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Unorthodox Protest in Ukraine: Indecent exposure

May 20th 2011, 15:10 by S.T.

Founded in 2008, the woman’s-rights group is best known for for staging topless protests in the streets of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. Marching bare-breasted underneath banners with slogans such as “Ukraine is not a brothel,” the women of Femen have organised protests against corruption, next year’s European football championships (held jointly with Poland) and the sex-tourism industry in Ukraine. Women sporting high heels and little else have confronted riot police; lingerie-clad supporters have brought busy roads to a standstill by lying lifeless in the middle of them.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/05/unorthodox_protest_ukraine

 

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Estonia’s happy new year

Jan 11th 2011, 15:54 by S.T. | TALLINN

WHEN Estonians woke up on January 1st they found themselves shaking off their hangovers in the glare of the European spotlight. The new year marked the beginning of Tallinn’s stint as Europe’scapital of culture (ECC) as well as Estonia’s entry into the euro zone.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/01/euro_zones_latest_member

 

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I’ll miss you Estonia

For the past three months I have been living in and loving the Baltic country of Estonia. While I think I’ve learned a lot about life here,  deep down I know that I barely scratched the surface. What little surface I did scratch ended up on the official blog of the British Council Estonia. Here are a collection of pieces I hope will give a little bit of insight into one of my favourite places. Just click each headline to be transported…


Estonia hits the big time! A New Yorker Cover

“When readers of The New Yorker magazine get their Thanksgiving issue this week, they’ll see the cover image of an illustrated turkey carved into sections representing all of the strange people one might find at a Thanksgiving dinner. Tucked just under the neck (for some, the most coveted dark meat on the bird) are the words:

Monosyllabic Estonian Exchange Student

…whatever their motives, it is indicative of the American habit of using ‘Estonian’ and ‘Estonia’ as a by-word for something strange, distant and unverifiable. It is much the same as the way the word, ‘accountant’ is a by-word for nerd, or boring.”

Who shot Communism in Estonia?

“It examines how television broadcasts from nearby Finland exposed the residents of Tallinn to the vagaries of capitalist culture during communist times. The television show Dallas, with it’s millionaires and manicures, gets a lot of attention as a cultural product espousing values that couldn’t have been further from what residents in this country were experiencing. It is a highly personal story about how residents from the south of the country would drive north to the capital, where reception was strongest, just to follow the fates of JR and crew.”

Why does Estonia even exist?

“With a mere 900,000 people living in 45,000 km2 and pressed up against some of history’s most notoriously beligerent countries it’s hard to believe Estonia actually exists. How, over centuries, did this tiny country not get tramppled on, snuffed out or swallowed up by any of the bigger fish in Europe’s ever-choppy pond? Conversely, why aren’t there more countries like Estonia? …There is an old Hungarian joke that all Finno-Ugric people were once one people wandering Europe. One day they arrived at a crossroads with a sign stating one direction would lead south to sunny weather and flat bountiful lands. The other direction led north where it is frozen and dark. The truly clever literate people followed the directions south — to Hungary. The illiterate rabble moved north to Estonia and Finland.

Bar for the Pet’s Owners

“Patrons brought in images of their pets to decorate the walls, and occasional poetry nights were hosted where owners could recite verse dedicated to their furry friends. Basilio’s definition of pet is equitably broad. While most people bring their dogs, cats are welcome and guinea pigs, ferrets and even rats have made appearances. There are separate menus for the animals to enjoy and assurances are given as to the cleanliness of the bar. There are separate dinnerware sets for all species.

There are also strict rules for the animals themselves…”

Trip to Narva with a Busload of Ambassadors

“Thanks to several office casualties resulting from cold and flu season I was given the chance to represent the Birtish Council Estonia at the Annual Study Tour arranged by the Ministry of Education and Research (MoER) here in Estonia. …When we rolled out of Tallinn in our bus at 7:30am the weather was hurricane-y and awful, it was dark and most of us were half asleep. Thankfully the driver was awake, otherwise Estonia would have lost half its much of its diplomatic corps and given CNN international a story to trump those Chilean miners. …Narva was selected for this particular tour because as Estonia’s third largest city with close to 70,000 people it has a population that is 96% Russian speaking. This is pretty much Estonia’s elephant in the room.

God, deliver me from Oliver

“A Japanese friend once explained to me the idea that all people have a God presiding over certain aspects of their lives. Some people have a God of work, meaning that they always manage to find a good job even in tough times. Some have a God of love blessing them with an unending stream of compatible lovers. You get the picture.

Before this weekend I was convinced I had a God of shelter. …That all ended Thursday night.

His name was Oliver and he greeted me at his door with a hearty handshake and a smile. He sported bullet-repelant glasses and maybe 100 extra pounds (45.359237 kg) wrapped around his squat shirtless trunk of a torso. His entire body, from his close-cropped blonde hair down to his Crocs®, was soaking wet. He had a towel wrapped around his waist. He pulled me into his rainforest of a room. Boxes, clothes and knick-knacks were strewn everywhere. The heat was cranked up high and lush plants hung from every wall. The wet slick on his round body was most likely sweat.”

(BANNED!)

They say that politics and religion make for impolite dinner conversation. In tight-knit Estonia talking politics is more like a serious family meeting. Talking religion is fare game as well. Estonia is the least religious country in Europe and there simply isn’t much religion to get huffy about.  But mention Russian/Estonian integration in any context and the sparks fly.  I wrote this post a while back and it was promptly deleted from history. Maybe it was for the best. Absolutely EVERYONE (Russian and Estonian speaking)  who read this disagreed with my point of view. Whatever… here it is anyway. My censored post on language immersion education in Estonia.

Read it below…

Writer’s Bloc

So it seems I have nothing to say these days. Until I do, here are my favourite posts from the past 5 months.

charlie walkingHaunted by the souls of a million departed meals

“I’ve seen people gag, spit, cry-out, cough and swear whilst leaving a filthy restroom. But never in my life have I seen people react the way they did last month … traumatized, distant and terminally haunted by what they experienced in that forsaken restroom in that dusty little Ukrainian town.”

kfc bucket of chickenSammy’s Choice: Auschwitz or KFC

“To spend the day educating and improving my understanding of the human condition in the haunting remains of one of this centuries most iconic testaments to the depths of human malice… or… spend the day devising a strategy to eat KFC with both my hands and my feet just so I had more digits for lickin’. What to do?”

canadian-flagCanada: Good, but boring

“Close to a month ago I was interviewed by a friend of mine from the local newspaper here in Lviv, Високий Замок… The [translated] text has some absolutely hilarious mis-translations. For instance, the title of this blog converts to, ‘Downfall in Ukraine,’ I describe myself as an ‘ignoramus,’ and complain about racist remarks from ‘acute groggy Belgians.’

parage of beautyUkraine is not a brothel

““I TAUGHT ENGLISH IN KOREA. MY BOSS WAS A GODDAMNED FOX. I’M RETIRED NOW. I HAVE NO HOME. I TRAVEL INDEFINITELY. I MADE A LOT OF MONEY BUT I SPENT IT ON SHIT. LIKE FISH TANKS. I HAD A RARE FOSSIL COLLECTION. I JUST SAID FUCK IT. I GAVE IT ALL AWAY. I HAD TWO COBRAS IN A JAR. I’M HERE LOOKING FOR A WIFE. I HAVEN’T HAD ANY LUCK.”

I'm sorry. Won't happen again.Ukraine… I’m sorry

“Why is your blog so insulting to Ukraine?” she said. Before the comment even registered she then proceeded to tear me a new one, asking me if I thought Ukrainians were just barbaric cave people, why I came here if I thought this place was such a joke, and that I was basically a pampered ass, ignorant of the effect that years of genocide, war and colonial subjugation has had on the people here. …Before I could even defend myself, she said that she still respected me, but that I should, “mix some clean water with the dirty.” She then jumped on a streetcar and left me to marinade in my own shame… as well as a peculiar pride for having taught her proper use of the word mix hours earlier.”

 

MOLDOVA ELECTION RIOTS

Welcome to Moldova

 

Spring Break Siberia: The frozen T-shirt contest

“For years Ukrainians could move with relative ease between the borders of their former communist comrades. Ukrainians who once took summer vacations in Prague, went skiing in Romania and hit the beaches of Slovenia now find these doors slammed in their faces thanks cost-prohibitive visas and a plethora of other humiliating requirements.”

Y IsraelIf every man on earth dropped dead…

“If every man on earth died instantly, we would have new slang like “fatherf#*ker!” Air travel would grind to a halt and the Israeli army would instantly become the most power military force on earth. “This “gendercide” exterminated 48% of the global population, or approximately 29 billion men. 495 of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners.
In the U.S. alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of violent felons.
Internationally 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased though 51% of the planets agricultural labor force is still alive.”

ukoarmyThe Ukrainian Army — Get Tanked

“Here is a recruitment commercial for the Ukrainian army (an Army of один). It speaks for itself, but the jist is basically this: The Army — get paid, get laid and get tanked (pun intended). Enjoy.”

 

anarchists

Dressed for a better world

May Day — Mayday!

“When I left my house early that morning I had a feeling I wouldn’t see too much in the way of craziness.  What I didn’t know was that I would find myself standing right where the fuse meets the dynamite in the worst riots this city has seen for years.  I was hit with glass, shoved by an armored cop, and teargassed. Strangely though, it was my feelings that were hurt the most.”

365px-Coat_of_arms_of_Berlin.svgThe coat of arms for the city of Berlin is a bear. But considering Germany’s troubled history with the beast, it may as well be a starfish, a unicorn or a Rabbi.

For one; there are no wild bears in Germany. Not one. Prior to this decade the last known wild bear in Germany was gunned down by hunters in Bavaria in 1838.

In early 2006 a bear named JJ1, became the first of his kind to set foot in Germany in nearly two centuries when he wandered across the border from Austria. Technically the creature was a “brown” bear, but I feel that in the age of Obama we’ve moved beyond such labeling.

The environmental set was thrilled that such a noble animal was once again enjoying nuts and berries in the woods of Bavaria — hailing the adorable killing machine as a symbol of the success of brown bearendangered species reintroduction programs. The press affectionately named the critter Bruno.

The joy was short lived. Upon illegally emigrating, Bruno may have wandered into the hearts of Germans, but he also wandered into a country that had absolutely no experience with a real live wild bear.

Predictably Bruno, acting like a total animal, embarked on a ruthless 300 km killing spree, mercilessly dispatching any creature unfortunate enough to cross his path..

The body count from Bruno’s swath of destruction included:

  • 33 sheep
  • 4 domestic rabbits
  • 1 guinea pig,
  • Assorted hens and goats
  • A bunch of bees defending their honey (probably)

It seems that Bruno’s taste for blood emboldened him to the point where he even brazenly taunted his human adversaries. Bruno was spotted strutting down main street in the town of Kochel, even stopping to take a breather on the steps of the police station.

dead sheepThings went from bad to worse for Bruno when Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber labeled the once-loveable poster-bear as a Problembär, or (problem bear). You know you’re fucked when a German bureaucrat conjoins words to make a concept out of you.

Much to the delight of local farmers, who claimed Bruno enjoyed killing because he typically killed sheep without eating them, the bear was ordered killed or captured.

finns vs bearsIn an effort to be humane the German authorities enlisted a cross-species international all-star team of Finnish bear hunters and their Karelian Bear Dogs to capture the hairy menace. Amazingly the Finns and their hounds proved totally useless and were unable to catch the bear over the course of several weeks. Frustrated, and increasingly concerned about the safety of local sheep and bees, the local government sought a final solution.

On June 26th a shocked German public awoke to these words from Spiegel Online,  “Bruno the wandering bear is dead. The notorious creature was shot by hunters at 4.50 a.m. on Monday morning, near the Bavarian town of Zell in southern Germany. “The shooting has happened, the bear is dead,” said Manfred Wölfl, the Bavarian government’s bear expert.”

Outrage over Bruno’s death spread far and wide — including Italy, where environmentalists recognized Bruno as JJ1 — one of 10 Slovenian bears introduced in that country’s Trento region.  In an effort to retrieve their murdered bear, Rome declared JJ1 as state property, and demanded that his body be returned to Italy. The Bavarian government pushed back, claiming that any carcass on German land is German property.

karate-bearsThe story grew even more tragic when details of Bruno’s troubled family history eventually surfaced. As one of several progeny of bear-parents (bearents!) Jurka and Joze, Bruno/JJ1 wasn’t the only problem child in his family. Nearly two years after JJ1 was slain, his brother, JJ3 wandered into Switzerland and was also murdered — without nickname. Though in keeping with German/Swiss historical tradition, Switzerland’s wrong-doing went underreported.

We don’t know if JJ3 was out to extract sweet vengeance from his brother’s executioners and simply got lost, or if he thought he could seek asylum in the oft-neutral nation. We may never know. What we do know, is that it turns out pathologically poor parenting was the root of the original problem.

Soon after JJ3 met his end, Jurka, Bruno’s mother, was incarcerated by the whichever Italian authorities are in charge of disorderly bears. It was revealed that 50% of all bear related crimes in the region were caused by Jurka and her offspring.

stuffed brunoThere were few winners in the tragic tale of Bruno. Two bears were killed, their mother tossed in prison and Bavarian environment minister Werner Schappau’s reputation was seriously tarnished after environmentalists called for his resignation. I suppose the only silver lining is that we can all enjoy the irascible Bruno everyday of the week, as he’s been stuffed, mounted, and put in display at the Museum of Man and Nature in Munich. And the world now knows not to trust Finns to catch a bear.

Release the doves!

lviv august 035Weddings are kind of how I picture the afterlife. Free food, free drinks, various Gods, grandparents, spiffy wardrobes. On the flip side they can be hell. There is endless planning, terrible music, awkward conversations, pesky in-laws and everything seems to cost a fortune.

That’s why Saturday mornings in Lviv were always a little slice of heaven for me. Around 11:30am the church bells from the local Dominican cathedral would ring, summoning brides, grooms, well-wishers and babushkas from all across western Ukraine to gather beneath my windowsill to celebrate the joyous union of two lovers.

lviv wedding 1The bells would also summon me to get a strong coffee, a pack of cigarettes and take up my perch high above the festivities to ogle bridesmaids and bask in the warmth of the confluence of everything I love about Ukraine.

As my friend Peter would say, “the wedding industrial complex,” is a driving force in Ukraine. Bridle shops are everywhere, young couples set their sights on getting married long before most Canadians have even fallen in love for the first time. The age of first marriage in Ukraine is 22.2 for women. That is the lowest age in Europe. By contrast the average age of a Canadian woman’s first marriage is 31.7.

perch2The reasons for this rush are manifold. Religion, tradition and economics all play a part. Most Ukrainian youth live with their parents until they are married. In their case, getting hitched allows them to pool their money, get their own place and ultimately make sweet love away from the prying eyes of God and grandmamma. Undoubtedly mom and dad are happy to have a little more room at home as well.

Watching these wedding parties was better than TV. They have it all. Beautiful women, dressed up beyond belief. Music, traditional dresses and suits, food, and of course the gratuitous taking of photos with the bride and groom in ridiculous poses. I’ve mentioned before the Ukrainian pastime of taking sexy pictures of oneself. In front of fountains, castles, churches synagogues, stray dogs, trees, opera houses anywhere in Ukraine really… you’ll find giggling groups of girls posing, pouting and puckering for the camera. On their wedding day, husbands get dragged along in this enterprise and it’s priceless to see their resigned expressions as they feed swans, release doves and basically pose for whatever ridiculous stuff their new wives desire.

All of this stuff happened right beneath my window as the Dominican cathedral right next door is one of the most photogenic spots in Ukraine. Plus it has a parking lot. I’d love to know how many wedding albums, have a shirtless me or Eddie, replete with coffee, cigarette and shit-eating grin gawking at the happiest day of their lives.

swan weddingBeyond the over-the-top photos, there are a few other wedding customs in Ukraine that are pretty cool. Firstly, when the groom arrives (with his groomsmen as backup) at the brides residence to pick her up for the wedding, he is confronted by a coven of frosty bridesmaids.

Now begins a process called Викуп or “buyout.” Sometimes money and vodka are involved – a groom offers money for a bride, and they bargain. You can see how it happens here. Nowadays people tend to make it more romantic and less about “buying” yourself a bride. So the bridesmaids mandate the groom complete tasks instead.

First, he must prove his bride actually lives there, so they ask him to describe her, say nice things about her, why he loves her, etc… Then he must complete some physical challenges, mental challenges and challenges to his masculinity. His backup — the groomsmen — must also plead his case to the coterie of bridesmaids.
When the bridesmaids finally agree to give the bride to the groom, they show a fake bride first, usually some man dressed as a woman. Then the groom says his bride is more beautiful. The bridesmaids try to persuade him to take the fake bride, telling him she is better and trying to make him believe he is missing out. Only after he is tired of giving reasons why he wants this particular bride and not any other, he gets to see the real bride

charlie pete miwa 020Once the union is complete, the bride and groom make their way to a bridge and fasten a padlock engraved with their names to the railing. The symbolism is pretty obvious, but it’s a great tradition none the less. Suddenly any bridge crossing is a great exercise in imagination — just picturing that each lock as a couple, and to think where that couple is now, and that their lock will probably be there longer than they are alive (or married).

star_wars_wedding_36Of course, not all weddings are traditional. Behold the following. A Star Wars themed wedding in Lviv. I can just picture the babushkas sitting around with WTF looks on their faces. The best part though… the groom mixing a traditional cossack hairdoo with a wardrobe from a galaxy far, far away.

Berlin is making me gay

gay berlinI probably shouldn’t be joking about this, because it’s not actually true. But I am realizing that my life would be more comfortable here in Berlin if I were gay.

First off. I’ve gone on and on about how beautiful the women in Ukraine are. I know it, human traffickers know it, and even the Beatles know it. Back in Lviv, I’d roll my eyes when female ex-pats would complain about the lack of attention they’d receive from Ukrainian men due to the enmormous amount of time and attention Ukrainian women invest in their appearance.

Sadly (for me) the same is true here in Germany. I don’t want to offend anyone here, but Berlin women just aren’t that feminine. Practical, engaging, intelligent, funny…. sure. They’re all of those things. But actual women? Not totally. Good luck getting a smile, a wink, a nod, or even a fleeting acknowledgment that both parties share opposing genitalia that may indeed function in harmony during sexual congress. Nothing.

handsome hipsterNow the men on the other hand. It’s not easy for me to say, but the dudes here are really attractive. They’re all tall, stubley with floppy hair and blue eyes radiating a calm and ease you just don’t find in North America. In many ways they act a lot more feminine than the women here. So ladies, if you want to experience an equivalent to the buffet of sexual excitement men find in Ukraine, I suggest coming to Berlin. Honestly, I find myself kinda attracted the to guys here. Not in a “I want to french kiss you,” kind of way, but in a, “if we hung out, you might catch me staring at you,” kind of way.

The only really unfortunate thing about the dudes here is that as slaves to fashion, many have adopted the 80s style swept bang haircut that I assume is popular world-wide amongst hipsters. I’m sure the ‘doo works elsewhere, but here in Germany that hairdoo has an unsettling precedent.

hitler cropmens04

I’m not totally sure where this man/woman role reversal comes from. I do have some theories.

ruined womenA friend (who I should qualify, is a beautiful women) explained the concept of “the ruined German woman.” These were the women who had to reconstruct German society after the WWII. They were widows, orphans and they had few men in their lives. To put a once male dominated society back together surely took some negotiating of gender roles. These concessions seem to have stuck around. Plus — as someone who will remain nameless rather crassly put it: After the war the only men who survived were cowards and losers. Ouch.

Another less maudlin theory. There is also the massive gay and lesbian population here in Berlin. This is the city that gave us the love-parade. While gays and lesbians work and live in pretty much all sectors of society here, their influence (by sheer numbers) can’t be ignored. As a result, men’s and women’s fashion and attitudes tend to conflate in an androgynous middle-ground. For females, this masculine aesthetic just doesn’t translate into sexy. It works better for men though. Feminine qualities just seem to be more appealing across gender lines.

But it is disconcerting when a  flash of long chestnut hair, smooth skin, or cool outfit catches my attention, leading me to throw-up in my mouth a bit upon realizing I’ve just been attracted by a bearded graphic designer named Lothar!

My man, The D, has similar complaints, and he’s been here for three years. In fact, he’s had to manipulate his own sexuality on numerous occasions. Not for romantic reasons, but rather to escape German bureaucracy.  After nearly a week of wrestling with documents, papers, stamps and permissions to have a simple STD test, he all but gave up. Eventually he discovered a gay and lesbian-only clinic offering hassle-free tests without the paperwork. All he had to do was declare that he was gay.

androWell, that’s all he thought he had to do. In order to get the test he was subjected to a one-on-one interview with a counselor who had his suspicions as to the direction of D’s sexual orientation. Amazingly, D did not waver, stumble, or break under the interrogation. In perfect German, he crafted the elaborately detailed yarn of one straight man’s 12-hour odyssey of intrigue, coercion and eventually acquiescence to man-on-man oral sex. It seemed to satisfy the interrogator and D got his STD test. But seriously, it’s shocking to think that an organization discriminates against straight people who want nothing more than to stop the spread of AIDS in an environment where orientation, persuasion and predilection is already blurred to an extreme.

I’m not actually going to go gay, nor am I asking for your pity. All I’m saying, is that a smile, a bit of make-up and a high heel or two never hurt anyone.

Fun with German words

germanThere is just something fantastic (or fantastisch!) about German vocabulary. The common perception is that Germans are straight-forward, literal and as a by-product, not funny. I say bully to that! It’s this literal approach to everything — including language — that makes for oodles of funny. At least to me.

When a German wishes to express several concepts, ideas, titles or events at once they will simply mash the words for these concepts together; thus forming one super-word! The classic example being Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, which in English becomes four words: “Danube steamship company captain.”

Awesome. … except of course if you are a journalist being paid by the word.

I’ve been surveying my friends here to find out their favourite words. One friend has already weighed in with his pick: ordnung. Here are some others that you might enjoy. Special thanks to Lisa, Valeska, Milena and especially The D who is helping me translate basketball trash-talk into German.

Handschuhe

This is the word for gloves. Literally it means, “hand shoes”. Pretty self-explanatory. Also, awesome is the Ukrainian word for toes. пальці ніг (paltsi nih) this converts directly to “foot fingers”.

fuckedup-mainAbgefuckt

If I was a smarter person I’d know all about the entomology of certain words found in both German and English. Since I’m not, all I can say is the single German word combining the concepts of “fucked” and “up” sounds way similar, yet way cooler than it’s English counterpart.

kenny powersVokuhila

In short, this word means mullet. It’s a stellar mashed-up abbreviation of the expression, “vorne kurz hinten lang,” or, short in the front, long at the back. I’d like to propose a new word for the German lexicon: Vogehipar. “Vorne Geschäft hinten Party.”

Arschgeweih

When I see these all I can think of is some nurse in the future rolling over her elderly ward for a sponge bath, only to be confronted by the smeared withered remnants of ass antlerswhat North Americans would call a “tramp stamp.” Over here, they’ve really out-done us on the vocab-creativity front. They call these tattoos, Arschgeweih, or ass-antlers. Bravo Germany, bravo!

Amoklaufer

Teen alienation is just as prevalent here as anywhere else where people have lots of money and free time. Most columbinerecently a young man in Bavaria lost his marbles and began lobbing Molotov cocktails all over his school. Formally we might call these types, disaffected teens, troubled, whatever. In private we’d probably reference the Columbine School shooting, as in, “he went all Columbine!” In true German style, they’ve fashioned a word for just such an unfortunate occasion: Amoklaufer. Literally this means, “amok runner.”

magnum_pi_tom_selleckidenityPornobalken

Literally this means “porno-bar.” Figuratively it means that your moustache is like the black bar they used to use to disguise someone’s identity in an explicit video. I think we have an equivalent in English, but it’s been so long since I’ve been bar-hopping on Ossington Ave. I’ve forgotten.

ostalgieOstalgie

The German word for nostalgia is nostalgie. The word for east is ost. If you miss the “good old days” of communist east-Germany you’re feeling ostalgie. More than just a concept this word has become an industry. Beyond the old pins, tvs, and books from the DDR  found at flea markets, larger ventures have tapped into the sentiment. Here in Berlin you can stay at the Ostel, a hotel reminiscent of an old communist apartment building.

ncis_los_angelesDurchgebumst

I’m still a little fuzzy on this one. I think it literally means, “fucked-through,” or “over-fucked.” In the context I heard it, someone was describing a concept as being over-done, done-to-death or as Adam Carolla would say, “fucked-out.” It’s a little crass I know, but when I saw this ad for NCIS L.A., I realized I needed to find as many words in as many languages of the world to describe what a lame, tired abortion of a show this is.

Voegeln

Again, I’m not clear if this is correct, but in Germany, Voegeln means, “to make like a bird.” It’s what you’re doing whilst getting it on with your lover. Why? I have no idea, and I don’t want to find out. Okay, I do want to find out. I’m so lonely.

man nipplesBrustwarzen

Even more confounding than, to bird someone is the word for nipples in German. Brustwarzen comprises the words, “breasts” and “warts.” Gross. Why tarnish something we can all celebrate by comparing it to a small, rough tumor, typically on hands and feet but often other locations, that can resemble a cauliflower or a solid blister.

(ed. note. I originally had a lovely picture of a woman’s chest here. I guess it got some people in trouble at work, so I’ve changed it to a pic of man-nipples.)

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