Thursday, February 07, 2008

Germany Blog - Day 6: 2/5 - (Berlin Day Three)

We made an early start this morning. Surprisingly, everyone was up and on time, even if they were not happy about it. When I went down for breakfast, a little bleary eyed from the long day of hiking around yesterday, I was looking for coffee and coffee alone. Students were blogging and/or face booking at all the terminals, so I just grabbed two or three cups of the hot stuff and my “German Usual” which has become hard roll, butter, salami and a piece of cheese. Before I knew it we were under way on another cold and crisp day, but clear skies once again.

Our first stop was to the Alexanderplatz station and we immediately set out for the Berlin wall after stowing our belongings in the station lockers. Reflecting on it now, the lickers were 3 Euros. That’s like $4.51.

Today’s mission: walk the longest standing section of the Berlin Wall. The section, near a mile long, was easy to get to and marked by the Berlin Shakespeare Company, which sat at one end, just on the eastern side. The wall was painted by various artists celebrating the German Unification of 1989 in 1990. In 2000, these artists were asked to come back and paint again: to either redo their original work or update their section with something new. Unfortunately, most of their work, which centers on tolerance, understanding, unity, and acceptance, has been trashed by graffiti in the past eight years, such as the vitriol spewed by Niki, via Sharpie, over her ATM card’s reluctance to function at the ATM. Herr Fabricius again served as my personal guide, and helped me translate the German on the wall and it was exciting when I could get half if the words on my own. The English and Latin I could even handle totally on my own! Herr Fabricius spent some time talking about the unity tax that was imposed on all Germans during the unification period of 1989, but that nearly twenty years later it is still being excised. He also talked about the many issues that still faced Germany in terms of the struggle for unification with the much more economically and industrially underdeveloped east flooding the west looking for jobs, while West German companies swooped in and bought up struggling East German companies for very low cost. This also increased the mass influx of both Turkish and Russian immigrants who were looking for work and a better standard of living. Unlike in the U.S., where culturally diversity is so much greater than in Germany, there is an expectation that immigrants will assimilate to German culture and learn German, as it is the national language. Because of the mass numbers, they were able to create their own cultural epicenters where they could get by and even prosper without having to ever learn the language or much of the culture. Twenty years later, even I can see the negativity and tension between Turkish and German students, even as young as the fifth grade.

After the wall, we walked back to Alexanderplatz, where we stayed for thirty minutes before our train departed Berlin for Duisberg. It gave just enough time for four activities: get motion sickness gum from the apotheke, eat my last Berlin Doerner and a healthy dose of gelato, and stop buy the der supermart to get a beverage for the trip – I choose water over Casey’s suggestion of Schwipp-Schwap (which Parkes consumes mass quantities of), all of this accomplished without the aid of German chaperones or teachers (well, not the gum). It was then back on the ICE Bullet Train for the four hour ride back to Duisburg, and then for me, Kamp-Linfort.

The ride back was fairly uneventful. The motion sickness gum worked like a charm and the atmosphere is what one would expect from 28 teenagers on a train. People slept and listened to music after the spazzy first 20 minutes or so. There was the occasional prank played and Hagan picked up some facial eyeliner tattoos from Gloria. The most amusing prank of note was when Laija, one of the loudest people I have ever met in my life (especially because she is very demure in size), who had woken people up and screamed loudly in the halls of the hostels at all hours of night and morning, fell victim to a drive by “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” screaming by about five people. Her eyes went “Sandman” when she woke up.

We made it home and Ina and her husband gave me a ride back to Kamp-Lintfort. Once Hannah made it home, I was very tired and headed straight to my room in the basement. I had the plans of getting to sleep, but five hours later, I was still working on my blog and trying to get my podcast formatted and sent out to several people. Finally, at 1 AM, exhausted, I am going to bed.

No comments: