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From the Field

Taking a break after the Olympic Stadium Tour. The world will be watching if Germany wins the 2006 FIFA soccer cup!

RIAS fellows at the Reichstag Dome in Berlin

After all day meetings with NATO and EUROPEAN COMMUNITY officials in Brussels, heading to dinner at the GRAND PLACE

Sal Morales getting ready to shoot a standup for the day after German Elections

CAPITALISM AT WORK! the former Checkpoing Charlie is now a tourist attractions with shops on both sides of the street!

Light show at the Brandenburg gate. This takes place every Saturday

I didn't know what to expect. Sure, I had done some of the readings on East and West Germany suggested by Jon Ebinger from the RTNDA office. I also bought two dictionaries, an English-German and a Spanish-German edition - por si las moscas! (Just in case!) . Both proved to be worth their weight in gold during the month and a half I spent in that country as one of twelve U.S. professionals selected to participate in the German-American Journalists Exchange program sponsored by RTNDA and the Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) Institute in Berlin.

As soon as I stepped off the plane at Berlin Tegel Airport, it became quite clear, quite fast that reading something and seeing it unfold in front of your eyes are two entirely different things. Our group, made up of producers from local television stations, reporters from the major networks and public radio, and even a journalism graduate student, was able to experience first hand the triumphs and struggles of a reunified Germany in 2005.

As a group, we had the opportunity this past fall to meet officials at the highest level of the German government, NATO, the Central European Bank and community leaders from various aspects of society. The exchanges, where we were encouraged to ask tough questions, were meant to give us a better understanding in European-U.S. foreign affairs.

But not all we did in Germany had serious overtones. I brought along a small digital camera on this trip to interview officials who are preparing the country for its hosting duties of the FIFA World Cup soccer championship games next year. In reporting this story I was fascinated by the sheer number of Hispanics - mainly Mexicans - who left their homeland to work in this, their new country. They more than anyone are eager to greet their compatriots and welcome them into their restaurants, stores, bars, and clubs where they hope to celebrate the many victories of their homeland's national soccer team, EL TRI.

After the main core of the program ended, I was fortunate to have my application extended to stay in Germany for two additional weeks. Being the only Spanish-speaking reporter in the group, I used this time to work for Deutschewelle Television en Espanol. Even though I do not speak any German, I was able to produce packages for them, report, do voice-overs and, learn how they go about producing news for the Latin American market. Equally important, I met a number of professionals there whom I now count as friends.

Overall, the experience taught me the importance of freedom and the price some have had to pay to obtain it. It has been exactly 15 years since the Berlin Wall came down, and we all remember the footage of people hugging, crying, and celebrating the end of Communism in East Germany. However, most of us didn't keep up with what happened in the years that followed. After the street celebrations died down, anger, frustration and resentment arose on both sides of the now defunct fence. Those in the West accused their Eastern brothers of being lazy, of not doing anything to better their lot. Those in the East grew tired of hearing Westerners tell them how to run their lives and truly resented being treated as, according to them, second-class citizens. "The first two years we were happy", I was told by an East German who became my personal guide and gave me a unique perspective on how his life changed post-reunification. "We loved the freedom. We just wanted to be able to travel and buy stuff". Economics, infrastructure, everything changed in Germany after 1989. Believe it or not, some Germans still refer to the days before the Wall fell as "the good old days". This type of education, and too many other examples I could share with you, is something you will never find in a history book.

If you are even mildly interested in that region, I strongly encourage you to go apply to this program. Believe me when I tell you it will change your perception of the world, your beliefs and maybe even of yourself. It sure changed mine.


Sal Morales is a former Telemundo 52 anchor and APTRA award winner features reporter currently freelancing. You can contact Sal at