In July of 2008 I spent two weeks in Germany. I presented papers at two international psychology conferences, in Berlin and in Bremen.  In Berlin, I stayed with my daughter and went to cultural events and dance clubs with her.  After the second conference, I joined my daughter for a cruise on the Rhine River where we did some wine tasting.  It was interesting to return to Berlin after having been there both before and just after the Berlin Wall came down.  IÕll describe some history of the Berlin Wall, some things I learned at the two conferences, and other cultural and fun experiences in Berlin, Bremen, and along the Rhine River.



            After World War II, Germany was divided into four sections by the victors -- the US, Great Britain, France, and the USSR.  The capital city, Berlin, was also divided into four sections.  Three of the sections were united to form West Germany and West Berlin, while the Soviets kept control of East Germany and East Berlin.  The US pumped money into West Germany (and into Japan) under the Marshall Plan to rebuild their economies.  The belief was that trading partners would be less likely to go to war. After World War I, Germany had been saddled with reparation debts to countries it had invaded; this worsened the effects of the world-wide depression in the 1930s, which led to HitlerÕs rise to power.  The Marshall Plan was a great success, with Germany and Japan becoming strong allies of the US.  A similar philosophy of peace through trade motivated Nixon to open trade relations with China.  Some are now calling for a Global Marshall Plan of economic development and trade to fight poverty and reduce terrorism around the world.

            The East German regime set up by the Soviets was one of the most oppressive in East Europe. As a result, more than 2.7 million people fled to West Germany.  Many of them escaped by going from East Berlin to West Berlin, which was located in the middle of East Germany and joined to West Germany by a highway and a rail line.  So the East German government built a wall around West Berlin in 1961.  Initially they blockaded West Berlin, but US President Kennedy airlifted goods, and the blockade was lifted.

            While traveling around Europe by Eurail Pass as a graduate student in 1967, I visited Berlin and went through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin.  West Berlin was exciting with nightlife and neon lights, but East Berlin was drab and quiet.  One block off of the main street there was still rubble in bomb craters from more than two decades before.  I spoke with young people there and learned that they were off-duty soldiers assigned to guard the wall.  They hoped one day to go to Moscow, the center of their universe, but they were not able to go to Western Europe.  It was like being on a different planet.  I could visit their world, but they couldnÕt visit mine.

            The wall was dismantled in 1989 after several weeks of civil unrest.  During previous uprisings such as in Hungary in 1956, the Russian army had intervened.  But this time the Soviet leader Gorbachev ordered the Soviet troops to stay in their barracks.  I visited Berlin again in 1991, when I was a faculty member in an exchange program in Denmark, and saw that there were new shops in East Berlin.  The unification of Germany turned out to be more difficult than people had expected.  East German industry had primarily built tanks for the Soviet army, and was economically depressed after the USSR collapsed.  Today a few sections of the Berlin Wall remain as reminders of that period of Berlin history.



            The International Congress of Psychology is sponsored by a union of psychology associations around the world and is held only once every four years.  There were 9000 presentations in five days at a huge conference center in Berlin.  The topics were from all areas of psychology.  Especially interesting was a lecture by the discoverer of mirror neurons.  When a person performs an action, certain neurons in the brain are active. Giacomo Rizzolatti discovered that the same neurons are activated when the person watches someone else perform that action.  The same thing occurs when the person observes someoneÕs emotional expression.  This enables people to imitate othersÕ actions, and to infer othersÕ emotional states. Being aware that other people have thoughts and feelings is called Theory of Mind and it normally develops in early childhood.

            Another interesting talk was on the Chimpanzee Mind.   Chimps have some cognitive abilities that humans do not have.  Tetsuro Matsuzawa showed a video of an experiment in which 9 numbers appeared briefly in different positions on a computer screen then were replaced by blank boxes.  A chimp could quickly touch the boxes in the correct sequence, while humans had difficulty with the task.  It appears that part of the brain used by chimps for short term memory is used by humans for other tasks such as language.  Goodall had discovered that chimps can use a stick as a tool to fish for termites.  Matsuzawa studying a different group of chimps found that they used rocks to break open nuts but did not use sticks for termites.  He called these differing uses of tools cultural since they are taught from generation to generation.

            Other researchers talked about resilience, the ability to overcome adversity.  Surprisingly, Suniya Luthar found that suburban youth had more alcohol and drug abuse than inner city youth considered more at risk.  Other presentations I attended included the development of competence, executive attention (ability to focus and plan), emotional attachment to others, romantic relationships, job satisfaction, language acquisition, and the psychology of music.  I knew some of the presenters from previous conferences around the world.



            This was the seventh conference I have attended of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology.  The others were in Mexico, Greece, Spain, China, England, and the US.  Hence I already knew many participants and met more.  Especially interesting was a presentation on chimpanzees by Michael Tomasello.  He argued that chimps have some Theory of Mind; they understand othersÕ intentions for competition, but humans are more capable of communicating for shared goals.  There also was a set of interesting papers on work-family conflict, which noted that work, family, and personal time can each provide some fulfillment but can interfere with the others.  Usually personal time suffers most.

            Many presentations discussed cross-cultural differences.  There were comparisons of early attachment, parenting styles, self concept, time frames (past, present, future orientation), passionate love, family roles, emotional expression, values, conflict management, and life satisfaction.  From both conferences I gained many new insights for my teaching and research.



            My daughter is spending 14 months in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship to write a book on musical creativity.  She is living in an intentional community in Kreuzberg, a neighborhood in southeast Berlin which has many Turkish residents who come to Germany for work.  When I taught summer school in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2000 one of my students had grown up in Germany.

            Each day I took a commuter train to the conference.  Sunday night July 20 the Opening Reception of the conference had a brass band and a BMX rider performing tricks on his bike.  Monday night my daughter and I walked around Alexander Platz in downtown Berlin, had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant which played American jazz music, then went to a jazz club to hear some live music.  Tuesday evening we looked at the international competition of sand sculptures called Sandsation; walked by the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag parliament building, Potsdam Platz, and the Sony center; then watched a movie outdoors in a park.

            Wednesday evening the conference had a dinner with a live band for dancing, and it was fun to dance with old and new friends. Thursday afternoon my daughter, a friend, and I joined 240,000 people to hear Barach ObamaÕs speech.  It was electrifying, and the crowd responded with hope for a change in relations between the US and the rest of the world.  We ate dinner at a Moroccan restaurant, then went to Kaffee Burger club and heard a hilarious nose flute concert in which ten guys with nose flutes were hamming it up!  We stayed and danced to DJ music then took a taxi home.

            Friday evening my daughter and I had dinner at a sidewalk cafˇ then saw La Boheme by the Berlin Comic Opera.  Although the play is a tragedy, they added comic elements including kids chasing Santa Claus and a food fight.  Saturday morning we went to the Pergamon Museum and saw a special exhibit on Babylon.  On the one hand, I was amazed at how advanced the civilization was.  On the other hand, I wondered why it took five thousand years after the advent of agriculture for humans to develop written languages (phonetic cuneiform in Babylon, pictorial characters in China, and later hieroglyphics in Egypt).  That evening we had dinner with another friend at Babel falafel restaurant, watched an imaginative dance concert called Believe It Or Not, then went to the Cake Club where we heard a live Romanian brass band then danced to a DJ playing Balkan and Gypsy music.



            Sunday morning July 27 I had taken a train from Berlin to Hannover then another from Hannover to Bremen.  The second conference was at Jacobs University, which was located 20 minutes by train from downtown, so I stayed in a residence hall on campus.  That evening was the Opening Ceremony which had a male choral group and a female singer perform, and a BBQ where I saw old friends and met new.  Monday evening there was a reception at an anthropology museum in Bremen where a jazz trio performed.  Several of us walked around the historic buildings downtown and by the restaurants along the river before taking a bus back to campus.  We saw a statue of the four animals in the GrimmÕs fairy tale of the Four Musicians of Bremen.

            Tuesday evening I joined friends for a river cruise in the rain, then Wednesday night was the conference dinner at a hotel by the harbor, followed by dancing to a DJ.  It was so much fun dancing with so many friends.



            Thursday morning I took a train from Bremen to St. Goarshausen, a small town south of Koblenz on the Rhine River.  I checked into a hotel and walked around the town while waiting for my daughter to arrive.  She had problems with train connections from Berlin compounded by a landslide on the tracks which forced her to take a bus part of the way from Frankfurt.  Fortunately. I had a European cell phone which she had bought for visitors to use, so we could talk and I could also send text messages to my wife.  While calling internationally from a cell phone is very expensive, text messages are cheap. After I would send a text message, my wife could call me back on a computer using Skype; calls from computer to computer are free and calls from computer to phones costs a few cents.  Received calls are free on cell phones in Europe!

            I had sauerbraten at an outdoor cafˇ, the first traditional German food I had eaten all week!  While there I met the mayor of the town, his brother who is a professor in Mexico, the restaurant owner, and their wives; then my daughter joined us for conversations in English, some German, and a little Spanish. Friday morning my daughter and I took a cruise on the Rhine, passing vineyards on steep slopes and ancient castles built above small towns.  We stopped in Bacharach, where we had lunch at Die Weinstube, then told the waitress we wanted to do the wine tasting.  She brought out 12 glasses of wine, which were numbered, and a list of the wines!  We sipped each of them, and agreed on our opinions of each.  We finished the three wines that we liked best, but left the rest so we could walk back to the ship!  On the way we stopped at an ice cream parlor for some wonderful Italian ice cream.

We took a second cruise to Ruedesheim where we rode a taxi up the hill to a youth hostel.  Usually there are mostly young adults at youth hostels but this one had school-aged children who were playing soccer in the front courtyard.  We ate dinner at the hostel, then went for a hike along vineyards up the mountain to a statue overlooking the river valley.  Below the statue was a restaurant where we had some wine and I ordered a traditional German dessert, apple strudel and ice cream.

Saturday morning we took a train to a suburb of Frankfurt then another to the Frankfurt airport.  My daughter had a morning flight to Newfoundland, Canada, where she presented a paper and a workshop at a music conference and festival.  I took an afternoon flight to London then another to Los Angeles.  After four days of adjusting to jetlag, doing laundry, and reading newspapers, mail, and email, I flew to Seattle then central Washington with my son to visit my mother and go camping and boating along the Columbia River with my brother and his wifeÕs extended family.  Now I am back home getting ready to mentor new students arriving for fall semester at Whittier College.