The Big Ponder

In Season 2: THE BIG PONDER, our transatlantic podcast is devoting itself to aspects of German and American life that often go unexplored. Each episode takes a deep dive into an abstract topic, like friendship or gardening, inviting listeners to reflect on our interconnected cultures from a new standpoint. We release a new episode every other Thursday here and on your favorite podcast apps.
Photo: Melissa Gerr

Where Do You Belong?
#21: Community

Community is the story of our lives. It is who we are, who we have been, and who we hope to become. Melissa Gerr visits Jewish congregations in Baltimore, Maryland, and Dresden, Germany, where she speaks with members about the importance of community. More ...

Mike Powers in Berlin
Photo: Austin Fassino

A Bohemian in Berlin
#20: Adventure

Have you ever thought about dropping everything to pursue your passion? Susanne Papawassiliu profiles Mike Powers who left his life in Florida behind to do just that. Today, Mike resides in Berlin, where he spends his days making art. More ...

Photo: Mike Maguire

Small, Lasting Impressions
#19: Encounters

How many people will you meet in your lifetime? How many will you remember? Fascinated by the countless chance encounters in their own lives, Susannah Edelbaum and Monika Müller-Kroll reveal the ways that casual interactions affect us all. More …

Road Trip
Photo: John Paul Kesling

Exploring the vastness of the U.S.
#18: Road Trip

Cariad Harmon and her partner John Kesling embark on a long-awaited cross-country road trip. Cariad interviews locals and fellow travelers of all kinds at national parks, truck stops, and diners while sharing intimate details of life on the road — the good and the bad. More …

© Mike Maguire

Experiencing Sound
#17: Listening

Our ability to hear is fully formed after just four and a half months in the womb. From this early age, sound shapes our worldview. Jim McKee, a sound designer himself, interviews experts who have built careers by learning to listen to the world around them. More …

Photo: James Wisnieski

The Power of Awe
#16: Wonder

Americans on the East Coast were in awe when Brood X, an enormous group of 17-year cicadas, suddenly emerged from underground to mate. Melissa Gerr, who lives in Maryland, was no exception. Inspired by this local wonder, she sets out to explain the feeling of awe. More …

Photo: Mike Maguire

The Mysterious History of Voice Mail
#15: Record Booth

By the 1920s, people had begun using coin-operated record booths to create audio souvenirs — immortalizing their thoughts and feelings on a disc. Cariad Harmon travels to one of the last remaining record booths in Louisville, Kentucky, where she captures her own voice and revisits some touching messages from the past. More ...

Sibylle Baier and her son Robby
Photo: private

Sibylle Baier’s Secret Music
#14: Sacred Self

In her early 20s, Sibylle Baier recorded 14 folk songs that she says saved her life. Then, she packed the tape away and forgot about it. Decades later, her son discovered his mother’s music and released it — to critical acclaim. Sibylle tells her story for the first time to Carol McKinley. More ...

The Diary
© Getty Images

A Mosaic of Everyday Life
#13: The Diary

Working with personal diary entries, Dina Elsayed and Monika Müller-Kroll take listeners on a journey through the seasons to different places in the U.S. and Germany. These entries create a mosaic of our daily lives in all its contradictions and parallels, seriousness and banality. More ...

A Hunter
© Getty Images

Reconnecting with Nature
#12: Hunting

There exists a strong tradition of hunting in both Germany and the U.S. However, the cultures surrounding this pastime differ more than you might think. Ada von der Decken and Moritz Gerlach speak with hunters from both countries to find out what drives people to pursue the sport. More ...

Home (abstract)
© Getty Images

Where You Feel like Yourself
#11: Home

Is ‘home’ a place or more of a feeling? Jocelyn Robinson speaks with three American expats who unpack the relationship between self and place, drawing from their experiences living in Germany, on the Diné Nation, and in Senegal. More ...

Andreas Weinfort & Birgit Majewski in Big’s Diner
Foto: Leon Ginzel

Food and Community
#10: The Diner

What happens when you uproot an American institution like the diner and place it somewhere entirely new — like Germany? Florenz Gilly and Leon Ginzel journey into the world of diners, visiting hometown restaurants in the U.S. and Germany to find out. More ...

Bilal Qureshi & Geeta Patel, 2017 in New Delhi
© Marc Ohrem-Leclef

A Radio Essay
#9: In Friendship

Inspired by a year of forced isolation, essayist Bilal Qureshi explores the history, landscape, and meaning of friendship across cultures. At the heart of his examination is the question: Who do we call a ‘friend’ and why? More ...

Photo: Alicia Llop © Getty Images

A Serendipitous Encounter
#8: My Pen Pal

One day, Jakob Lewis receives an email from a German man named Ingo asking to be his pen pal. The close relationship they develop teaches Jakob that strangers can connect on a deep level — even when an ocean and a language barrier separate them. More ... 

The Kennedy-Warren Apartments in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Mike Maguire

Contemplating Architecture
#7: How Buildings Mean

Producer Alex van Oss ponders the external, internal, and eternal meanings of buildings in his Washington, D.C. neighborhood. The result is a personal rumination featuring thoughts from friends and neighbors on their buildings, homes, and communities. More ... 

The Flag
Photo (detail): © Yassine El Mansouri

Symbol of a Nation
#6: The Flag

In both Germany and the U.S., the flag can be divisive, eliciting pride in some and unease in others. From patriotism to protest, Jocelyn Robinson explores the role that these symbols play in proclaiming who we are. More ...

Photo: Allied Museum, Berlin — Dr. John Provan Collection

U.S. Military Life in Germany
#5: Little America Revisited

Since World War II, there have been countless American GIs stationed at military bases all over Germany. Sylvia Cunningham and Monika Müller-Kroll talk with some of the people who once lived in these ‘Little Americas’ and decided to stay in Germany. More ...

The Big Ponder Episode 4: Anatomy of an Apology
Photo: Brandon Gatling

Overcoming youthful pride
#4: Anatomy of an Apology

Katie Davis tells the story of an inadvertent provocation between two boys at a teen center in her Washington, D.C. neighborhood, the conflict that developed, and the ensuing efforts to prevent it from escalating. More ...

The Big Ponder Episode 3: Radio Wanderlust
Photo (detail): © Yassine El Mansouri

Stereophonic Longings for Elsewhere
#3: Radio Wanderlust

Bilal Qureshi explores the German-English idea of ‘Wanderlust’ through his personal audio archives and conversations with fellow travelers. Does this romantic idea hold up in the age of fast travel and fleeting social media? More ...

The Big Ponder Episode 2: The Garden
Photo (detail): © Yassine El Mansouri

Everyday Expeditions
#2: The Garden

Jakob Lewis and his wife Catherine transformed their front yard in Nashville into a garden. From conception to harvest, Jakob meditates on the lessons he learned about imagination, play, and grief, all the while drawing on the wisdom of Goethe. More ...

The Big Ponder Episode 1: I Love You, I Hate You
Photo (detail): © Yassine El Mansouri

Sense of Belonging
#1: I Love You, I Hate You

“We have the right to hate Germany because we love it,” German writer Kurt Tucholsky wrote. Listening to positions from both sides of the Atlantic Sylvia Cunningham and Monika Müller-Kroll explore the love-hate relationship we can have with our home countries. More ...