Monday, February 23, 2009

Karneval: Round 3

In a way, holidays are a good way of keeping track of how long I've lived here in Germany. This past weekend was my third Karneval, though admittedly I don't think my first one will ever be topped. I also finally bought a costume (flight attendant), so I guess it will be my costume for years to come if I end up staying here in the area longer.

To say the least, Karneval has certainly lost its appeal to me. It's not as exciting as it was the first time around and in fact, I actually think it's really stressful having to get dressed up and party for five days straight. (I guess this is perhaps a sign of getting older, as well.) Oddly enough, I still don't know any songs except for Viva Colonia, which is actually only sung in Köln. It'd be practically blasphemous to play that here in Düsseldorf (imagine someone screaming about how great the Yankees are in front of Fenway Park in Boston when the Yankees aren't playing). However, it's nice now that I actually live here because if I get fed up with the drunken costumed crowds, I can come home by myself and be left in peace.

Though I didn't really celebrate Karneval last year, I have definitely noticed a change between my first one and this year. Some of our friends, Christian, and I stood at the same Platz that we did three years ago, but it was much quieter this year. There wasn't nearly as much singing and there weren't any speakers blasting traditional Karneval music. As a joke, I said, "Ha, it might be due to the recession," but then I thought about it, and perhaps that really is a reason. In Germany, if you want to play music in a public space (ie: a club, in the street), you actually have to pay for the rights to the music. If you don't, you may end up paying huge fines. I'm not exactly sure how the law works and how they check it, but I could imagine that with the economy the way it is, whoever usually sponsors the music might not have been able to afford it this year.

Another difference is attitudes towards American politics. Three years ago, we were in the middle of President Bush's second term and to say the least, he was not seen in a positive light. Here's a picture from 3 years ago that I also posted on my first blog entry about Karneval:
As you can see, President Bush is depicted as an ape holding a sign that says "Evolution ist eine Irrlehre," or "Evolution is heresy." Obviously, this was making fun of Bush's association with the religious movement in the U.S. and the desire to teach creationism in our public schools. It doesn't help that Bush is shown as something that hasn't evolved. (As a disclaimer, this does not reflect my political views whatsoever, I'm just giving my analysis of it.)

This year, I wasn't expecting anything different. I was actually thinking that there would be a float mocking Obama, whether for his appointment choices and the tax problems that his appointees have had, or for the stimulus package. To be honest, that's probably a little too deep into American politics, but I wasn't disappointed; this float was in the parade:
What a difference, right? I mean, Obama as an angel with his campaign slogan written on the wings?! Not to mention that there was a smaller angel with the EU flag on it behind Obama with the words, "We too!" on it (You can see a picture of that here). It's as if we're being welcomed back to the world with Obama as our president. But Obama as an angel? I suppose one could say that I'm looking way too much into the meaning of these floats, and I do realize they are supposed to be satirical, but I feel like there is always some truth to it.

On the less analytical side of Karneval, it was more interesting this year because I know more people than the past two years I've celebrated. And when I say "more people," I mean Germans who have celebrated Karneval since their births. It wasn't as if I was an outsider observing this tradition; I was actually there to celebrate with everyone. Though I do have to say it was pretty funny on Thursday night when I went out with Christian and his friends and one of my friends, Alison. Alison had the same flight attendant costume as I did, but just in a different color. We had decided independently that we wanted to be flight attendants, but we got the costumes together. Anyway, it's also really funny because Alison is Filipino by heritage and she's from a town only 15 minutes away from my hometown. When we were in this club/bar, there were guys coming up to us thinking we were alone and trying out pick up lines like, "I like Singapore Airlines!" and "I've been to Hong Kong; it was a great city." It's like, "Uhh, ok, great?" It certainly looked like we were by ourselves since we were dressed up the same and we're both Asian, but honestly, what kind of pick-up lines are those? Oh well. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me to take a picture of Alison & me as flight attendants, but I think Alison had her camera, so maybe I'll get the picture from her. But back to the pick-up lines, I guess I will never escape cheesy lines like that one.

If you want to see all my Karneval pictures from this year, you can see them here.