I write from the bucolic serenity of the Airlie estate in Warrenton, Va., in a free moment between two grueling sets of tennis and a tasting of local wines. Life’s hard as a Burns Fellow. I’ve spent the past week with twenty young journalists, ten German and ten American, each headed to the other’s country for a two-week stint at a host publication. The Germans truly are among the top young journalists in their country. They’re also mostly barrel-chested men in their mid-30s, hard drinking, very fun, deeply chauvinistic, and impressively athletic. The Americans, by contrast, are small, pasty, and semi-hermetic; like me, they have modest journalism cred, but not the kind of distinguished careers of our German counterparts. We spent three days in DC, wining and dining and conversing with the likes of Marcus Brauchli and Chuck Hagel and Roger Cohen. Now we’re coming to the end of our two-day Airlie retreat, a hedonistic regimen of swimming, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and, again, wining and dining, with a little more hard drinking thrown in (though while in DC, I was able to bring the whole group to the Raven, my old neighborhood dive bar, and turn ten proud German beer drinkers into Yuengling devotees — less success so far turning them on to Jim Beam).
Tomorrow morning, variable air pressure will carry me through the skies from Dulles to Newark to Berlin, my home for the next two months. There, I’ll be writing for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (more specifically: the Feuilleton, a kind of high-brow arts and commentary supplement) and enjoying life as a temporary Berliner. I have a lovely (and dirt-cheap) apartment secured in the hip neighborhood of Kreuzberg, a three-bedroom I’ll be sharing with two German girls named Ally and Jojo. My first two weeks in Berlin will mostly be taken up by intensive language classes at the Goethe Institute — and, of course, exploration of the city — and I’ll be starting at the FAS on August 16.
Enough for now. More when I’m safely on German soil and have something worthwhile to say.