Wednesday, December 05, 2007

You know it is Christmas in Germany when . . .

One sure sign that the holiday season has arrived in the U.S. is the TV marathons of our favorite movie classics, including "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Christmas Story."

Here in Germany there are many signs that it is Christmas time. There are the Christmas markets and the Gluhwein (mulled wine) and of course the Advent wreath.

However, yesterday evening there was the biggest sign of them all. I hear "Last Christmas" by Wham! on the radio. This song will be played over and over again until bad George Michael lyrics start spontaneously spouting from my mouth. I do not which is worse, the fact that it is played all the time or the fact that I secretly like it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dude, It's a tractor.

(Life has been pretty ho-hum here the past week. Just work and more work and even more driving. Yes, I know I should be taking it a bit easy. . . but . . . So I thought I would lighten the mood with a story that I find slightly amusing.)

A few weeks ago the New Yorker and I decided to take a road trip. Being in the office or teaching all day can lead to a bit of boredom and so we are always looking for a way to shake things up a bit. However, I am not sure that the Agritechnica was the best way to do that.

The Agritechnia is world's largest trade show for soil and tillage, including bio-gas and harvesters. It is held every two years in Hanover, Germany. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? I would not blame you for being jealous.

The New Yorker and I got free tickets from one of our clients who were exhibiting at the trade show. We decided to drive out to Hanover and make a surprise visit to our clients. Actually, we had 4 clients and 2 potential clients exhibiting. It was a perfect opportunity to get out of the office and network and also to see if our clients are doing well with their English.

Driving to Hanover proved to be easy enough. We only made a wrong turn once, and that was when we were trying to get out of Wildeshausen. It was a bit embarrassing that I could not navigate through my own town. Driving back was a bit of a different story. I swear they moved the signs in the night.

The trade show was HUGE!! There was a hall for tractor tires and a hall for spare parts. There was a hall for root vegetable harvesters and one for grain harvesters. We heard people speaking Russian, Chinese, German, English and a myriad of other languages. Frankly, we were a bit overwhelmed and a bit out of our element. The New Yorker used to be an accountant for a large Manhattan company, and I was a political science grad student. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to watch farmers negotiating with companies for the best prices.

The term "sex sells" applies to many different products and industries. I had no idea it also applied to tractors. At one booth, we saw a large poster of a naked woman draped over a grain trailer. It was full frontal and only the position of her hips and crossed legs covered her most intimate parts. "Does that really sell grain trailers?" I thought.

It got even better. One tractor producer had a huge booth. Its bright red tractors were displayed in a circle. In the middle of the circle was a raised platform. In the middle of this platform was the company's newest model, which I can only imagine does great things to pull vegetables out of the ground. The dais was turning very slowly and there was a singer with a guitar playing a rock song / jingle written especially for the new tractor. The pseudo-rock star was surrounded by female dancers dressed in tight black leotards and with black cat masks.

The show attracted quite a number of on-lookers who were taking pictures and video. My jaw fell open and I stared in disbelief. I looked over at the New Yorker. "But dude, it is just a tractor!?"