Monday, March 27, 2006

Elections and time change

Yesterday was state-govt election day in 3 of the 16 German states. These states are more autonomous than provinces and have their own local laws (btw, in germany, every officer has his own laws :) My state also had the election. Preliminary results show that CDU (chancellor Merkel's party) is winning in two states and SPD (Schroder's party) is winning in my state. This is probably the only state left where SPD is so successful. In other states, CDU is becoming more popular. It doesn't matter a lot since both of these big parties are partners in the government. However, they'll now depend less on small opposition parties to pass laws; that is, if they can come up with a common set of laws.

What does it mean for us? Well, CDU is stricter in terms of foreigners. This has been reflected in states having CDU governments in matters where foreigners called their families to germany. Many people were refused by the state govt and then allowed after a lot of effort and assurances. In my state, however, people didn't have many problems in this matter and everybody's family joined them easily and quickly. My state has had an SPD government.

We changed our time this Sunday. Clocks were moved one hour ahead on Saturday night. It still seems strange since we don't have such a system in Pakistan. But a usual person hardly notices this change. We only notice the prayer timings change. This time changing was tested one time in Pakistan and it resulted in somewhat chaos. This was expected since it was a start. But don't know why this system was not followed afterwards.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Preparing for a visit to home

I am going to visit home next month inshallah - next week. Its a been a long time away from home. There is excitment...and confusion. What should i take home? For whom should i buy gifts and for whom not? What will i do once i am at home? How will home seem now? Will there be mangoes?

I am also worried about my transit in Muscat. I have a stay of 14 hours at night. Thats a long time. The airline will provide hotel and visa but what will i do at night? I plan to probably sleep in the evening and see the city in the morning. Let's see how is the service provided by Gulf Air.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tales of Tokyo, Japan

Recently one of my friends visited Japan for a project meeting. What he told on his return was quite interesting as well as surprising. His plane landed at Tokyo international airport which is one and a half hour away from the city. A very fast shuttle train takes people nonstop to Tokyo city. There are not many sky-scrapers, may be because of the earth quakes. There was only one high-rise building in the city. Traffic drives on the left hand side, so they have the same cars as in Pakistan, not like European cars. Power lines run above ground near the buildings just like in Pakistan.

The restaurants seated guests in the traditional Japanese way by putting the table on the carpeted floor. So guests sat on the floor with their legs in the small digging beside the table. This digging i had never heard before of. Almost all of the dishes served contained sea-food - mostly uncooked. So my friend enjoyed different types of "sushi" with raw fish using sticks instead of cutlery. In the toilets they have electronic toilet-seats which fire a jet of water at your body for cleaning. It is turned on by a button and switches off automatically when you get up.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Huge snowing in Germany

It snowed like crazy today. Starting from last night heavy snows fell in my area. Everything is covered in snow. It is difficult to walk with about 5-6 inches of snow. Buses have stopped operating. All the trees have bent down with the heavy wight of snow on their branches. Cars are identifiable only by their doors. A friend living here for 9 years said that it is the most snow he has ever seen in Germany. My colleague told me that the highways are blocked by traffic jams all around. He got up early today to reach home in this day. Young guys are skiing on slanting roads. Kids and adults alike are sledging down the slops. More snowing is predicted tomorrow, but not as much as today's. A few days before we were thinking of changing our warm clothing with less warmer ones. But now we need snow clothing - clothing used for skiing :)

See photos of snow in Germany

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Karneval in Cologne & packed trains

We went to see the Carnival (Karneval) festival in Cologne (Köln) on Monday. People dress up in colorful costumes and go out on streets to watch the parade and collect sweets and flowers from it. Although this festival is celebrated to some extent all over the Christian world, it is with more color in only some cities. In Germany, the biggest celebrations are held along the middle section of Rhine river: from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf including Mainz, Bonn and Cologne. So people from areas away from this region tend to flock to this belt of cities. Carnival was not a religious festival, but it has not become sort of a religious season, marking the start of Christian fasting starting from Wednesday. This fasting continues for 40 days and is ended by Easter celebration, the biggest event in Christian calendar.

So we also chose to travel to the largest city in Rhine river belt: Cologne. The trains were jam-packed and more people got on at every station. This delayed the trains a lot and caused us to miss next trains. So we had to wait many times for next trains. We reached Cologne one hour later than planned. As expected there were lots of people on roads dressed in colorful novel clothes. The carnival parade continued through the city till evening. We had planned to return home the same evening, but the trains were late and were coming in random order. So we ended up taking the wrong train, going in opposite direction. We came back to Cologne and spent the night at a friend's in Bonn city. We took the train on Tuesday to reach home.