No Good-byes without the Ouzo! Zervakis walks away from Tagesschau with a toast!

Linda Zervakis leaves the anchor post Tageschau for Future Endeavors

HAMBURG- The Greeks never say farewell without a toast- with the famous Ouzo!  On her last day as anchor of the ARD network show Tagesschau and Tagesthemen, it was a toast with many thanks. Linda Zervakis was the anchor for the 8:00pm show Tagesschau for eight years but had worked for German public TV’s arm NDR for almost 20 years. Last night, the „lady in red“ took her last bow with a future that is unknown, except the fact that she plans to take another step into the future unknown, as long as she is still young. And with that, a toast with the Ouzo with her former colleague Ingo Zamparoni, with whom she had worked together for 15 years, beginning with the NDR show „Eins Extra Aktuell“ in 2006. Zamparoni is one of three anchors for Tagesthemen and has written two books on his adventures in the USA.

Zervakis has her roots in Hamburg; she born there to Greek immigrants who moved to Germany in 1960s and had owned a kiosk, where she had worked there until she turned 28 years of age. Her career as a journalist started with being a reporter for NDR’s radio station NJOY before covering stories about Schleswig-Holstein in 2004. Two years later she co-hosted the TV news show Eins Extra Aktuell with Zamparoni. Zervakis joined Tagesschau in 2010 as reporter but took over as one of the five main anchors for the 8:00pm show in 2013. She assisted as a news anchor for Tagesthemen at the same time. That show runs in the late night hours after a movie or show.  Zervakis was the first person who hosted the show whose parents were immigrants, a first for ARD but one that also was part of the package. She was a straight-forward anchor who presented no-nonsense news stories and caught the attention of much of the audience. On stage, she was known as the lady in red because of her attire, a mixture of poker colors- red, black and white.  Poker-face would be one of the names if we look at it from a card-player’s perspective. Yet off-stage, she had a light-hearted sense of humour. which makes a person wonder: Could she have a future as an actress? From this writer’s perspective, that answer is definitely yes.

Zervakis‘ departure comes four months after Jan Hofer, who had been the anchor for Tagesschau for 35 years. He stepped down in December, but is currently working for the network RTL. Yet her departure doesn’t mean she will disappear, riding off into the sunset. While she has her family and her roots in Hamburg, married with two children, Zervakis will definitely reappear somewhere on the set. She still has her podcast on Spotify entitled Linda Zervakis präsentiert: Gute Deutsche, which was launched last year. Yet what her future holds and what she will do next, no one knows. One thing is for sure, the lady in red will reappear again on stage, no matter where and when she will be.

So have the Ouzo ready. Before that, a big round of thanks for the work you did and for the fans you collected over the years. Best of luck wherever you go. And yes, Rock on! 🙂

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Refugee Crisis in Europe: A Chance or a Hindrance for Society?

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Refugees in Europe: a topic that has become the centerpiece of all discussions at home and in public. It’s a topic that we have tried to ignore for so long, but we can no longer do. It’s a topic where many of us have become ignorant of the feelings of those who came to Europe for a reason- to escape poverty and war. Instead we end up indulging in hate: hate towards them, those who help them and even the journalists who write or even talk about them. A famous example of how a journalist took the hit and fired back was a commentary by Anja Rescke of the German public TV station NDR recently:

In response to her comment, I as a columnist have to quote about about this situation: Many of us come to Europe because we are tired of the social and economic pathologies that we had grown up with and tolerated for most of our lives. This include political debates that tear families apart, racial violence that rips the fabric of society, widening gaps in between the rich and poor, and the exponential increase in paranoia because of a misdemeanor in school that is blown out of proportion and considered a felony in the eyes of police and the principal. If you have read about a child’s homemade clock that was brought to school and was considered a bomb, you would understand my reasoning there. 😉 We have tried so hard to tame society to follow the leader like blind naive lambs being lead to the slaughter house. End result: we have been deprived our right to freedom of speech, expression, movement and action.

And this is speaking from a point of view of an American who has been living in Germany for 16 years now.  Sad, isn’t it? 😦

The situation with the refugees in Europe is no different: their homelands are in shambles, terror groups are taking over the countries, starting a holy war and suppressing the population in a brutal way, and all hope is lost, despite intervention by the US and its allies which has been meagre at best. These people are fleeing to Europe not for the sake of imposing their ways on others or making lives of their residents difficult, but they want to make a living like the ones who move there from Asia, the Americas and Australia, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, the largest influx of refugees in European history has caused a strain in the social infrastructure, let alone violence from right-winged groups. Even pressure is being applied to politicians to put a cap on the refugees coming in. A video shown below, where German chancellor Angela Merkel breaks the heart of a refugee wanting to live in Germany, is a testament showing that not everyone can live and work in a country as they please, despite the need to integrate them into society and have them fill in the gaps in many areas of industry, left behind by many either retiring or emigrating Germany:

Germany is one of a few destinations for the refugees, and with over 800,000 coming in- the highest in German history. Whether this is a blessing or a curse remains to be determined, but one thing is for sure: The majority of the German population, as informed and open as they are, would rather have them in their society than the right-winged radicals who still believe Hitler was the greatest, when in all reality he was anything BUT that. Germany has lots to offer, speaking from personal experience, and the population understands that well. Hence the embracing of people so that they can start over. It’s a well understandable explanation. However….

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Why choose Germany instead of the USA or other countries in Europe. This is for you to answer. Here’s a few questions that you can discuss, even with your students in class. They include:

  1. What are the benefits Germany has to offer in comparison with other European countries?
  2. What drawbacks could the refugees imagine having when living in Germany, APART from the language barrier?
  3. Imagine this situation: A family of refugees decide to move into your village or town. How would you help them get integrated into society? Would you be open to their culture and way of life?
  4. (Continuing from Nr. 3) Would you take a class in a language of the regions where the refugees are coming from (Russian, Arabic, Persian)?
  5. Would you embrace their religion or keep your faith? Why?
  6. In your opinion, if the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were to end and the areas would be rebuilt, would you help in the efforts? Do you think the refugees would return and why?
  7. In connection with the author’s quote below, imagine this situation: Do you think this refugee crisis would have been hindered had it not been for the anti-Terror policies of George W. Bush, which included wars in two countries where most of the refugees are coming from? Why or why not?

To end this article I would like to present a grim reality to George W. Bush- the man who started the war in Iraq to ouster Saddam Hussein in an attempt to finish the job started by Bush Sr. This is aside the campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was supposed to be short and sweet.   It was not necessary to start the war in the first place, and we really do not know if the arguments for justifying the war was relevant with the attacks of 11 September 2001. But we do know this: The mission has not been accomplished, as seen in the picture on board the USS Abraham Lincoln. Not even close. Because if it had been accomplished, Iraq would have been completely rebuilt, as much as when Germany was rebuilt after World War II. We would not have terrorists chasing people out of their homes nor would we have this refugee crisis right now. In fact, we would not be drowning in hatred towards these innocent people looking for a better life than what they had. This war in Iraq, which thanks to ISIS, has spread into Syria,  is the longest war in the American history books so far, and one that has yet to be ended. Unfortunately, it is up to the other countries- not the US- to finish the job. My question to W. and those who still claim the Iraqi war was justified is this: Was this really necessary and why?

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Genre of the Week: The Fisherman and his Wife

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There is an old saying worth noting as we look at this week’s Genre of the Week: Be careful with what you wish for, for you may get more than what you bargained.  Sometimes when a person wishes for something better, it comes at a price. Most of that it comes at an expense of others and in the end, the person is just as unhappy as before, but the mess is much bigger than before.

The theme for this genre, The Fisherman and his Wife, another literary work published by the Grimm Brothers, is satisfaction and the strive for something better. The plot of the story features a fisherman in the north of Germany, who lives in a hut (Lower German: Pissputt/ High German: Hütte) that is messy and somewhat broken down. He has a lovely wife Isebill and everyday, he tries to make a living with fishing. One day, he catches a flounder, who asks him to be released, for he was proclaimed a prince. He sets him free, but see’s a trail of blood in the water before he leaves. He explains to Isebill what had happened and she demands that because he had set the flounder free, that the fisherman asks him for a wish. Despite his hesitancy, he concedes and goes to the sea shore, where he catches his fish. There, he says this enchantment which brings forth the flounder prince:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will

The flounder asks what the fisherman wishes for and the response:

Go back! It has been done! 

The first wish is an orderly cottage, which starts a greedy trend where the wife wants more. But unfortunately her wishes become more extravagant and they come at a price…..

The story was first conceived by Philip Otto Runge in 1806, but after three failed attempts to convince publishers to release his work (despite the changes in variations), the piece landed onto the desk of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who translated it from Lower German (Plattdeutsch) to High German and released it as part of the Aarne-Thompson series of literary works in 1812, classified as ATU 555. It was later translated into several languages, included English, which you can view by clicking here. The story was later adapted into several forms, including a poem by Aleksndr Puskin in 1833, Emmanuale Luzzati’s story “Punch and the Magic Fish” and Günter Grass’ novel “The Flounder.” Several German versions were adapted for print and medial purposes, which included a 60-90 minute film produced by German TV station NDR in 2013, which you can see below:

The story brings the question of happiness and satisfaction in our lives to the forefront, especially in today’s society, where the advancement of globalization and technology has played a key role in our decisions. This includes the strive to improve our lifestyle to compete with and conform with others. Yet when we do that, it comes at a painful price. That price is we have to give up something we cherish for something that may be newer but it cannot match what we had given up for.  There are many examples where our strive for a better life has resulted in sacrifices which we regret in the end. This includes putting career in front of family, replacing a partner with a newer partner, moving from a town where we grew up to a bigger city with all the conveniences and jobs available, and the like. Sometimes we look at these decisions and not regret them, as we march on and forward to bigger things. Yet many times, we regret our decisions and end up either living a life full of dissatisfaction or return to what we had before.  While there is an ending in The Fisherman and his Wife where both characters were happy with, as seen in the film and literary example, sometimes our decisions do not have happy endings unless we find something where we can feel comfortable with.

So if you are unhappy with your life and intend to strive for something better, sit down first and make a list of benefits and drawbacks to making changes for the better, talk to some people about it, and maybe even read or watch this classical genre. If you intend to make your change for the better, ask yourself why. Because once the decision is made, chances are likely that there is no turning back. Furthermore, your decision will come at a price of the people surrounding you. So be careful with your wish for change……

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Genre of the Week: The Fisherman and his Wife

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There is an old saying worth noting as we look at this week’s Genre of the Week: Be careful with what you wish for, for you may get more than what you bargained.  Sometimes when a person wishes for something better, it comes at a price. Most of that it comes at an expense of others and in the end, the person is just as unhappy as before, but the mess is much bigger than before.

The theme for this genre, The Fisherman and his Wife, another literary work published by the Grimm Brothers, is satisfaction and the strive for something better. The plot of the story features a fisherman in the north of Germany, who lives in a hut (Lower German: Pissputt/ High German: Hütte) that is messy and somewhat broken down. He has a lovely wife Isebill and everyday, he tries to make a living with fishing. One day, he catches a flounder, who asks him to be released, for he was proclaimed a prince. He sets him free, but see’s a trail of blood in the water before he leaves. He explains to Isebill what had happened and she demands that because he had set the flounder free, that the fisherman asks him for a wish. Despite his hesitancy, he concedes and goes to the sea shore, where he catches his fish. There, he says this enchantment which brings forth the flounder prince:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will

The flounder asks what the fisherman wishes for and the response:

Go back! It has been done! 

The first wish is an orderly cottage, which starts a greedy trend where the wife wants more. But unfortunately her wishes become more extravagant and they come at a price…..

The story was first conceived by Philip Otto Runge in 1806, but after three failed attempts to convince publishers to release his work (despite the changes in variations), the piece landed onto the desk of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who translated it from Lower German (Plattdeutsch) to High German and released it as part of the Aarne-Thompson series of literary works in 1812, classified as ATU 555. It was later translated into several languages, included English, which you can view by clicking here. The story was later adapted into several forms, including a poem by Aleksndr Puskin in 1833, Emmanuale Luzzati’s story “Punch and the Magic Fish” and Günter Grass’ novel “The Flounder.” Several German versions were adapted for print and medial purposes, which included a 60-90 minute film produced by German TV station NDR in 2013, which you can see below:

The story brings the question of happiness and satisfaction in our lives to the forefront, especially in today’s society, where the advancement of globalization and technology has played a key role in our decisions. This includes the strive to improve our lifestyle to compete with and conform with others. Yet when we do that, it comes at a painful price. That price is we have to give up something we cherish for something that may be newer but it cannot match what we had given up for.  There are many examples where our strive for a better life has resulted in sacrifices which we regret in the end. This includes putting career in front of family, replacing a partner with a newer partner, moving from a town where we grew up to a bigger city with all the conveniences and jobs available, and the like. Sometimes we look at these decisions and not regret them, as we march on and forward to bigger things. Yet many times, we regret our decisions and end up either living a life full of dissatisfaction or return to what we had before.  While there is an ending in The Fisherman and his Wife where both characters were happy with, as seen in the film and literary example, sometimes our decisions do not have happy endings unless we find something where we can feel comfortable with.

So if you are unhappy with your life and intend to strive for something better, sit down first and make a list of benefits and drawbacks to making changes for the better, talk to some people about it, and maybe even read or watch this classical genre. If you intend to make your change for the better, ask yourself why. Because once the decision is made, chances are likely that there is no turning back. Furthermore, your decision will come at a price of the people surrounding you. So be careful with your wish for change……

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Und Täglich Grüß die Bahn (Groundhog Day with German Railways)

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The lounge of the train station in the town of Zeitz, located in Saxony-Anhalt. Its charm resembles the German Democratic Republic, yet it has seen its better days with peeling wall paper, empty platforms and even the lounge that is empty, with the exception of two people talking about the better days before the Wall fell. Yet despite its emptiness, the trains are still running- ableit privately.

Two rail lines are owned by two different train companies with no affiliation with the German Railways (Dt.: Die Bahn), one connecting Weissenfels and Zeitz (via Burgerland Bahn) and another between Leipzig and Saalfeld via Gera (via Erfurter Bahn). Private railways, like the buses, are becoming more and more competitive because of their attractiveness and the ability to get passengers to their destinations in a timely manner. With the German Railways striking again, it will become obvious that once an agreement is finally made, they will lose more customers and most likely, more rail lines will become privatized.

As this goes to the press, the train drivers (or engineers) who are operating the trains are on strike for the seventh time. 60% of the long-distance InterCity and ICE trains have slashed their services until Thursday evening, the regional trains by 50%. This is the second time since November that the state-owned rail service is on strike.  The latest strike is starting to resemble the scenes from an American film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, which was filmed in 1993. For those who don’t know the plot of the film, the sneak preview below will help you:

The German public TV station NDR, based in Hamburg produced a parody of Groundhog Day in connection with the strike in 2008. While it has been awhile, the latest strike is becoming like the film that has found a place in American culture, used in the classroom to refresh one’s English skills and provide a whiff of what American life is like:

If you want to learn German, this is the place to do it.  😉

The main question lingering everybody right now is: How many more strikes like this will we have before an agreement between the worker’s union GDL and Die Bahn is finally made and sticks like concrete. Will the workers be happy with their new contract, or will we have more strikes? If the latter, we will see more privatized rail lines and buses going through communities in Germany and less of Die Bahn, resulting in (near) empty train stations and platforms like this:

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Think about it……

 

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