June 6th, 2015:
After a sweltering weekend (one hundred degrees on Saturday and Sunday—ouch!), I was glad that it was only eighty-one degrees today, which meant that I could venture outside the reach of a fan. I started off with a walk around Kreuzberg after breakfast, then, donning a new hat that I had bought in the heat of the moment (haha), I decided to go on an abenteuer (adventure).
I took the U12 and the U5 to Alexanderplatz (love the U-Bahn, always on time!), but instead of venturing into Alexanderplatz’s vast shopping district, I headed to the opposite direction and wandered around the older parts—“old Mitte.” I saw the old palace, some old churches (dating back to the late 1600s) and the rathaus (town hall). The area had a very medieval aesthetic to it, and was quieter than some of the other parts of Alexanderplatz. There was also another reason for wandering around Alexanderplatz: finding Marx and Engels. I had gone with Mira and Kendra last week to find the giant statues of these historic beings, but nobody we asked seemed to know where they could possibly be. Some people even went as far as to claim that they didn’t exist. It was an extremely victorious moment when I stumbled upon Marx and Engels, and after patiently waiting in the queue for a photo, I had proof of their existence.
I ate a sandwich on the U-Bahn to Friederichstrase, then switched to the U2 to get to Oranienburgstrase. Here, I went to the Neues Synagoge—the “New Synagoge.” It isn’t really new; it has just been rebuilt recently after being destroyed. I went inside the synagogue and walked up to the dome, where I had a pretty decent view of Berlin. The outside of the synagogue was spectacular: the domes were encrusted in gold plating.
Afterwards, I headed back to Friederichstrase where I ate a persimmon for a snack. This is extremely significant for the sole reason that persimmons are usually only available in the United States from October to early December. THEN THERE ARE NO MORE PERSIMMONS. And I become a very sad person because persimmons are my favorite food. You can only imagine my surprise and gastronomical delight to find out that in Berlin, persimmons can often be found at Kaiser’s or at U-Bahn grocery stores in the middle of summer.
Persimmons were not the sole reason for going back to Friederichstrase: I went to Humboldt University and sat in on Professor Klepper’s American History course. The lecture was about the Civil Rights movement, and it was fascinating to see both the students’ reactions to the injustices African-Americans faced and to see the differences in how classes are conducted between Humboldt and the University of Washington. Professor Klepper showed excerpts from the PBS documentary “Eyes on the Prize,” and I could see many students shaking their heads and looking very disturbed at the footage of African-Americans being denied services or brutally attacked by the police. I wondered what they thought of Americans after learning about this: were they shocked? Relieved that Germany never had Jim Crow Laws?
I was very surprised at the atmosphere in the classroom. First of all, most of the students arrived fifteen to twenty minutes late. I cannot think of a single professor at UW who would be alright with this. Many of the students talked to each other instead of listening to the lecture, even though it was a small classroom (twenty-five or so students). Some of the students would make comments in very authoritative tones—there was less hesitancy, less hedging. I was taken aback by the abruptness of some of the students’ comments. I had also expected the students to be more engaged (or at least on-time). One highlight from the course was meeting a girl who had done a yearlong exchange to the United States while in high school. Of all places, she had ended up in Camas, Washington, which is a small town right next to Vancouver, Washington, where I hail from (to be exact, my house is a five minute drive to the ‘official’ Camas boundary). It’s a small world after all!
After the course, I headed back to Kreuzberg, bought some fresh fruit and vegetables, dropped stuff off at the hostel, and then headed to the Badeschiff (swimming area on the Spree). We were meeting up with Manka and her kids for a final “hang-out.” Juice drinks in hand, we played hangman in the sand and enjoyed being near the water. Some people decided to swim, but a few of us headed back to the hostel and then ventured out for dinner. A group of three other girls and I had a somewhat overpriced meal at a restaurant near the hostel and then got some ice cream/sorbet pops. After a busy and adventuresome day, it was now time for a cool shower and getting work done (research project and readings for our trip to Jena).
July 7th, 2015:
Today was HOT, although not as bad as last weekend (I doubt anything could be worse than last weekend). After breakfast, I had planned on exploring Berlin before the heat set in, but back in my room, I flopped on the bed and slept for another hour. Oops.
I ventured to Humboldt in order to conduct more research. I interviewed six more students and Professor Isensee from the American Studies department. The students I interviewed included:
-A girl from Italy studying in Germany because “Italy does not put instruction or education in first place.”
-A guy studying German language who told me that “In Germany, we say at the end of studying the German language that you’ll end up a taxi driver.”
-A guy studying history who was very interested in my research project and talked to me far longer than anybody else.
-A girl from China on a yearlong exchange in Germany.
-A girl studying dance science. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
-A guy studying American Studies, who had gone back to school as an adult (he was 33 years old).
Many of the students, when asked if they cared about making a lot of money after graduating, told me that they didn’t because of the “new lifestyle.” I asked Professor Isensee if this was actually legitimate, and he told me that among the younger generation, it is more popular to have a vocation that will allow give you more free time. The “American Dream” is being replaced by a “European Dream.” According to Professor Isensee, “Americans live to work. Europeans work to live.”
Maybe I ought to follow the “European Dream”—here I am, at a café, furiously typing away! Oh well, alles gut! And tomorrow is only supposed to be in the low seventies (with a chance of rain!). I think I might head back to the Lindt store tomorrow to celebrate a return to tolerable temperatures. Tschuss.
Lindt chocolates. Yum.