Doner Kabob and Schweinefleisch

At the baggage carousel at the Stuttgart airport, the first stop of the book tour for Feigen in Detroit (Aufbau  2010), I waited for my suitcase while four Gulf women dressed like they had arrived at a spa at the North Pole waited for their 10 gargantuan suitcases.  From eavesdropping, I gathered the baggage was for a five-day stay.
They had no idea how to get the luggage off the carousel themselves, and there didn’t seem to be any baggage handler around, clearly a first for them.  Meanwhile, on the other side of me, two middle-aged German women who had just spent 10 days in Jordan each briskly grabbed her lone backpack off the conveyer belt and headed home. The Gulf women were still watching their suitcases turn, waiting for someone—anyone–to lift them off for them.  I was somewhere in the middle of all these women, neither able to briskly whip my suitcase over my shoulder nor waiting for someone to carry it for me.  I have lived most of my life between “can demand help” women and “can do” women.
I spent eight days in Germany in six different cities.  It was cold, it was rainy, and went by so fast that I only added one word to my German: Schweinefleisch. In English pork sounds just like pork, but in German it seems like I might be missing out on something.  I loved  Germany.  Not that I don’t like living Abu Dhabi.  It’s just a little different.

1.  In Germany, a train scheduled to leave at 8:52 a.m. leaves at 8:52 a.m. If for some reason it can’t do so, you will be informed in plenty of time of the delay.  In the Middle East, there is no such time as 8:52 a.m.  “Around let’s say 9 in the morning” would be more accurate, and you don’t really have to question if someone is late until around 10 in the morning, perhaps even 10 the evening.

2.  I found “Feigen in Detroit” at the Stuggart train station bookstore just to the left of the erotica section, which was next to the children’s Christmas book section.  In Abu Dhabi, you might find “The Night Counter” if you can find a bookstore.  It won’t be carrying erotica, or porn as we call it in America.

3.  I was in Germany for several days before I noticed what I wasn’t noticing—German flags.  In the UAE, the flag seems to decorate everything—from doorways to camels.  In Germany, the flag appears primarily on federal buildings. Nor can the German flag pass as a Christmas decoration, which is what a recent arrival told me she thought all the red and green lights festooning Abu Dhabi were for. They were for a different season– neon versions of the flag for National Day (which is like Christmas—one day that lasts several days)

4.  In Germany, they recycle everything everywhere. People throw their trash in bins marked paper, plastic, and waste.  In the Middle East, you just hope people put their trash in a bin, any bin.

5.  In Germany, all the pharmacies boost about “bio” (organic) products.  In Abu Dhabi, the pharmacies heavily promote facial whitening creams even when you’re not asking to be whiter.

6.  There are a lot of kabob shops in both Germany and Abu Dhabi.   Thanks to a large Turkish population, Germany has way better kabob, doner kabob that is, which we call shawarma here.

7.  Anywhere you see “schweinefleisch” in Germany substitute “lamb” in Abu Dhabi.  The cow has it easy in both places.

8.  Germans love dates—as a treat.  Arabs love dates—as a staple. In the Middle East, you can buy a kilo for about 4 Euros.  In Munich, one date costs one Euro.

9.  In Germany, the VAT tax hurts.   Abu Dhabi is tax free.

10.  In Germany, people read everywhere they go—buses, trains, airplanes.  On my flight from Munich to Berlin, everyone was sitting and reading.  This made me happy.  On the plane coming back to Abu Dhabi via Jordan, the Arabs on the plane were just sitting.  No books, no computers, not even any iPads.  Sometimes it’s good to just sit, but en masse like that, it made me sad.

Feigen in Detroit: The Night Counter in Germany

Many people ask me why “The Night Counter” is called “Feigen in Detroit” in German, which means “Figs in Detroit.”  Therein lies the beauty of translation.  It’s all about what your translators (Max Stadler and Nadine Puschel) and publisher (AufBau) see in German that you didn’t see in English.  I have loved working with

Feigen in Detroit

AufBau from the day they aquired to today and I’m looking forward to meeting the people who read it in German.  So if you’re in Germany or Vienna this coming two weeks….

More information also on Facebook at “The Night Counter by Alia Yunis”

Wednesday November 17, 2010 at 7pm
James-F.-Byrnes-Institut
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum
Charlottenplatz 17
Stuttgart, Germany

Thursday November 18, 2010 at 11 am
ISF International School
Strasse zur Internationalen Schule 33
65931 Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt, Germany

Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.
Stadtbücherei – Central Public Library
MedienZentrale Hasengasse 4
Frankfurt, Germany

Friday November 19, 2010 at 7:30pm
Hauptverband des Österreichischen Buchhandels
Palais Fürstenberg
Grünangergasse 4
Vienna, Austria
Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 11 a.m.

Sunday, November 21,  2010 at 11 a.m. Munich Literature Festival
WORD-RAGA
Club Ampere im Muffatwerk
Zellstr 4 81667 München
Germany

Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 4 p.m.
Munich Literature Festival
A Traveling Story, Munich City Walk
Germany

Monday, November 22, 2010 at 7 p.m.
Zeitungs-Café Hermann Kesten
Stadtbibliothek
Gewerbemuseumsplatz 4
Nürnberg, Germany

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 8:30 p.m.
Hugendubel in den Fünf Höfen
Theatinerstraße 15
80333 München
Germany

Wednesday November 24, 2010 at 6 p.m.
Forum Factory
Besselstr. 13-14
10969 Berlin
Germany