A Market, A Museum and A Palace—Plus Some Other Cool Stuff

OK everyone, buckle up—this is gonna be a long one, since it was a busy week (hence also why it is a week late—I was too tired from all this to write about it at the end of the week!)

Monday (7/3): It was already time to buy a new Monatskarte for the public transportation, because mine was about to expire, so I did that after class. I showed up to work in the middle of a very technical workshop on civil law and immigrant rights law…I consoled myself by admitting that even if I had come at the beginning, and it had been in English, I still might not have understood much!

After work, I took advantage of the last day on my 3 day museum pass to go to the Jewish Museum, which Irving had already seen. I found my way over and spent a good 3 hours exploring the huge, interesting and well-structured museum. The architecture was very interesting and symbolic—the bottom floor made up of different axises (the holocaust, exile, perseverance) I really appreciated how the museum was not just about the holocaust however, it detailed the whole history of the Jews in Germany, from the earliest middle ages to the present. There was of course also a big focus on the holocaust, as well however, as it should be. I was especially moved by an exhibit that was a huge otherwise empty room with 10,000+ metal cutouts of faces that represent all victims of war apparently (I have a picture of the sign talking about it in the google photos) The especially powerful thing about the exhibit though, was that you could walk through the room on top of all the faces, which made loud clanging noises in the huge empty room.

I also spent a lot of time looking at a special exhibit that they had on religious head coverings. It was super interesting to see some art, displays and political and religious opinion pieces from a range of perspectives. There were displays and information about christian, jewish and islamic head covering traditions and current practices, and I actually learned a lot about the topic, from how to tie a headscarf in the "arabic" style with chiffon, as well as about some of the nuances of the tradition around wig-wearing for the women in some more conservative jewish communities. They had a map that showed the legal status of head covering in official settings (government jobs, schools etc) and it was interesting to see where they are banned, and where they are required around the world.

Tuesday was another busy day. While most of you were engaged in Independence day festivities, I got up as I have every other Tuesday, except that I went to work right away in the morning, without going to class. The team from work that developed the document that was officially going to be publicized at the big conference the following Tuesday was offering a sort of "sneak preview" training on it to a partner organization of school psychologists, counselors and special education teachers. It was a good test run for us, in some ways, but the group was much different, and also much smaller, so it was different in some big ways too. Andrés (the big boss, if you will) and a partner from another organization who had worked with the RAA team to develop the principles gave a presentation on them, and then there were workshops on some of the principles in the afternoon as well. Seeing that group (the counselors etc) made me realize again how diverse RAA actually is—they really walk the walk as well as talk the talk—I was one of 3 white people on 'the team' which is pretty unusual for Germany, and compared to a grand total of no people of color from the other organization, it was a big contrast.

After the training finished up, I went to a market that Ayse had been telling me about for weeks that happened to be right in the area. It is always interesting to explore the stands and hear the chants that roll off the tongues of vendors in markets in all the counties I have been to: somehow making "raspberries, 1 Euro for 1 basket' sound like a song. I got a waiters wallet for my dear mother and her many cards at a leather stand, then took advantage of that (red) raspberry deal, and then went on to buy some nice (white) sunflower seeds. I had to go down the street to Aldi to get (blue)berries to complete my one act of patriotism for the day, but it worked out ok, since I also was able to put more money on my SIM card there.

I spent a lovely evening chatting with Ayse as I munched on my red white and blue snacks and she started knitting her next hat. After chatting, knitting and snacking away for a couple hours, we decided to go to bed when we realized that somehow our calculations where…QUITE off, and her hat was approximately 60 stitches too big (more of a child's sweater sized than a hat…)

Wednesday was a pretty standard day—work was starting to get pretty busy with the big conference coming up the next week. I repeated my trend of coming home and taking a 20 minute nap before dinner—pretty nice luxury. Ayse and I decided we had to soak up as much of the rare evening sun as possible, so we went over to the Turkish cafe at the end of the street, where we drank tea and munched on Turkish delight and pistachios as we chased the sun down the street (moving to a total of three different tables as it set, and cast more and more of the seating into the shadows)

Thursday I ate spinach quiche and a muffin for lunch at the "Bio Company" down the street from the school, since I was too lazy to pack a sandwich. A bit pricy for what I got, but a nice change of pace. Work was interesting, since I got to sit in on a presentation to some students doing a masters program in Child Law, about some of the other projects that RAA does. I heard about JUMA (Young, Muslim, Active) and what they actually do, working in the other half of the office! It is a group with over 500 members of all sects and backgrounds that work to empower Islamic youth around the city, and to foster discussion with Muslims, rather than just about them.

The majority of the presentation was focused on the Roma School Mediation Project, which (as the name suggests) focuses on mediation and integration of Roma youth in the school system. This means facilitating communication between parents, teachers, students, the school, and the government ministry of education, when needed. They are pretty intensively involved in the classroom, as well as doing home visits to help do any translation or whatever is needed to ensure that every child has the right to an education. Another unique feature of the project is that the majority (if not all) of the mediators are themselves Roma, allowing them to really understand the culture as well as the language of the "target population" that they are working with. Some also studied education, but RAA also takes personal experience seriously, so a degree is not a requirement to do the job.

I learned a lot about the history of the Roma as well: the early origins are a bit unclear, but it is believed by some that they came from the Kashmir region of India, and then dispersed throughout the world over time. The "Travelers" in the UK, who have maintained a nomadic lifestyle are also part of the Roma group, as are the Sinti—another subgroup that has been settled in Germany for a longer time. They are now an officially recognized ethnic group, with a day of recognition and celebration on April 8.

When one of the students asked why being called "Zigeuner" ("gypsy" in English) is so insulting, and one of the mediators answered immediately: "Do you know who called us that? Hitler." If that were not already reason enough, the term is thought to have its root in a Greek word that essentially means "poor / dirty / untouchable" so it is really no wonder that they prefer to be called Roma! We can see a parallel to this in English when we think about the term "gypped" to mean cheated—arising from the prejudiced assumption that Roma are dishonest thieves.

After work I went and bought some rain boots, in the hope that that would make it stop raining, and failing that, that I would at least have dry feet when it continued to rain (and rain and rain and then be cloudy and maybe rain some more…for DAYS). Maybe it has finally started to work—we have a couple sunny days predicted this week (2 weeks later…)

Friday I rushed straight to work after class (wolfing down a sandwich on the train) so that I could help stuff folders (with note pads, programs, maps and the document with the principles and a pencil all in a bag that then went in a boxes) It was actually a pretty fun day-chatting with Irène (my boss, whose husband happens to be from Appleton Wisconsin!) and Dario (who works in reception, but I recently found out used to work in the Roma school mediation project). We each ended up developing our own assembly line system, and then we had a little down time while Sabine (the other receptionist) fought with the printer, attempting to get the 200+ name tags to print correctly. We ended up being there till 6:30, agonizing over the impossibility of packing the awkwardly shaped plastic name tag holders in alphabetical order into boxes…suffice it to say we were all a bit slap happy at the end of the ordeal!

After coming home to relax for a bit, I rallied again and went to Willmersdorf to a small climbing gym there. It was a pretty quiet evening, so the guy who was working kept checking in on me, and giving me tips on certain routes (annoyingly, he was often able to do the difficult move better than me even though he was wearing old house slippers!) My hands eventually started a mutiny on me, and I was forced to call it a night and take my many blisters home.

I spent Saturday with Oliver (Irving was sick) and we decided to go to Potsdam to go to a high ropes course that our German teacher had told us about. We had to buy an extension for our public transport ticket, since Potsdam is in zone C, but it was well worth it to explore a new city/part of the city (depending on who you ask). We had a lot of fun doing all the obstacle courses and zip-lining around a bit—it turns out in some ways it is a lot harder than rock climbing, since at least you can count on the gym wall to stay still there, but a wiggly rope ladder makes you fight with it a bit more before you can get to the top.

We then strolled around the city a bit, until we heard some music and found ourselves at a small fest (this keeps happening-I love it!) with food stands, a band and some games. We got some actually really delicious food there, and took shelter as it briefly poured rain, before continuing our adventure. We ended up stumbling on a palace (things that only happen in Germany…or maybe some other parts of the world, but I have only had this experience here) We strolled through the magnificent gardens for a long time (they are quite extensive) and imagined what it would be like to live in such a place. We eventually found our way back into the real world, where we walked through the city a bit more, until we ran across a dance troupe that was performing—so we watched them a bit, before heading back to the first fest, where we listened to a band from Munich for a bit, then started the trek home.

I ended up sleeping in till 11 on Sunday, then woke up to have breakfast with Ayse, before going to visit Irving in Buch (he was feeling a bit better). We just chilled and chatted about Earlham and how we ended up there, before deciding that we probably needed some ice cream. We had barely left his apartment when we met a very lost and frustrated Brazilian man who had apparently been bullied by the bus driver, and was thrilled to find people who spoke English. He was so happy that we showed him where the train station was, that he told us all about his life, his church, and the time he met Harrison Ford on the street in New York… he was so happy in fact that he insisted on buying our ice cream, and really wanted to buy us beer as well, but we declined, and headed home instead…

I talked on the phone for a while while making dinner, then Ayse brought home the most delicious baklava that has ever been made. I'm serious. It was probably so divine because of the ridiculous quantity of butter literally dripping off of it, but it was soooo worth it! I ended up heading to bed pretty early that night, to prepare for another big week!

Photos #

Text reads: When the National Socialists took power in 1933, the Jewish population in Germany numbered 560,000. Hitler's regime deported and murdered two hundred thousand Jews from Germany and the other Western European countries to which they had fled. In all of European, six million Jews fell victim to the Nazi genocide. The Axis of the Holocaust presents personal documents, photographs, and keepsakes that have been donated to the museum. They tell of the donors' murdered parents, relatives, and friends.
Here is some info about the architecture of the Jewish Museum
Illustration of a women with critiqes on different areas of the body
This is from the headscarf exibit, talking about the traditions (and double standards) surrounding women's modesty.
Picture of the 10,000 metal faces
These are the 10,000+ metal faces that clank when you walk on them, as part of a memorial in the museum.
Text reads: The architect Danial Libeskind created empty spaces in several parts of the building. These so-called voids extend vertically through the entire museum and represent the absence of Jews from German society. The Memory Void contains work by the Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, who calls his installation 'Shalekhet,' or 'Fallen Leaves.' He has dedicated the over 10,000 faces covering the floor to all innocent victims of war and violence.
Here you can read more about the exibit with the faces
Text is in German
The origin story of Levi Jeans—started by a Jewish family escaping before the war.
The Jewish Museum from outside
The Jewish Museum from outside
Some beautiful flowers
Some beautiful flowers
A slightly blurry picture of the aftermath of Tuesday's training
A slightly blurry picture of the aftermath of Tuesday's training
The market!
The market!
View of inside the climbing gym
The climbing gym—it was interesting because it was a wood base, with nothing over-layed on it.
The high-ropes course in Potsdam (1)
The high-ropes course in Potsdam
The high-ropes course in Potsdam (2)
We were really up there in the trees!
Potsdam town square
A nice square in Potsdam….not sure which one…
View of the street fest (1)
The fest right before it started raining (note the menacing clouds…)
View of the street fest (2)
…and once the sky had opened
A fountain in Fußgängerzone
A lovely fountain at the end of the Fußgängerzone (Potsdam)
Our first look at the castle garden
Our first look at the castle garden
View of the garden leading up to the palace
The impressive approach to the palace
Marble statue in the fountain covered in bird droppings
Sorry buddy…
Panoramic view of the palace and garden
Looking out from the top
Behind the palace
Behind the palace
A map of the palace grounds
This is the first time we realized what we were looking at
Me next to the flowers
Kate why don't you go pose next to those flowers ~Oliver (after I had smelled them)
View of another palace
Another palace?! (Yes)
More flowers
More flowers 😃