Wednesday, September 30, 2009
For this Assignment I did a mixture of digital images of postcards as well as images that I took and wrote about at the time. The writing in italics is what I remembered doing in between these images.
Clear blue sky, hot, tired, bright colors pierce through. Each image jarring. To preserve or let history take its course what is right/wrong. People shuffling across in line. Names… “베안트 * 옥순” “시우 2009” Found Korean names. Trying to make a mark on history.
A little boy in his underwear runs to a tree looks around and pees in the bushes. I take a picture. Perfect.
Random artifical beach bar in the middle of one of Berlin’s industrial centers. Weird but very cool huh? A place that provides a space for kids playing and screaming in their underwear… TO make it more “real” its by a small river that runs through Berlin. Random coconuts on the ground. Who did this? Kids Corner!
Crunch, crunch, crunch, Another dry stick strewn along the path. I jumped on them. I stomped on them. I made a game like “step on a crack and break your momma’s back” except it was more like “take your pick and step on that stick!” Trying to take my mind off my exhaustion I stepped on any dry branches that were in my path after discovering the satisfying sound they made as well as the cracking feel under my feet.
The sound of the leaves rustle together..Shh. Shh Shh. Quiet. Solemn. Don’t speak. Just listen.
Annoyed. A trip that was only meant for the grocery store and the bank ended up being an exchursion. We stopped at that souvenir shop and that souvenir shop and had to wait for stragglers. I remember impatience. Irrational impatience that came from exhaustion. “You guys we are just going to leave…” “Okay if you guys can’t wait then you guys should just leave” “well…how long do you think it will take?” “they are almost done, but if you guys can’t wait then its okay” “well…we will just wait.”
Sticks out like a painting. So beautiful its unreal…2D. Flat. No its real. Sun shines perfectly illuminating the imperfections that make the Berliner Dome stand out. The imperfections that only come with time. Cool breeze…Green grass…Couple laying together. Italian family take pictures and laugh at a joke that of course I don’t understand. Classmates sitting in concentration, trying to describe the Berliner Dome all at the same time but with different interpretations. I wonder what they are writing…
I was walking briskly to the U-bahn because once again I only had a couple of minutes left before the meeting time when I hear somebody calling to me. I look around and see two men in the tennis courts to my left asking for help. They spoke to me in German but switched to English when they realized I did not. They told me that their ball was underneath one of the cars. Me, impatient for time just looked underneath the cars, didn’t see anything, and wanted to move on. “I don’t see it!” But then I decided to take a more careful look and the ball was stuck deep inside by a tire. I tried to get on my hands and knees to get it but I couldn’t. I stood up in defeat, “Sorry guys!!”
Crowded room. The smell of concrete and dust invade my senses. Old rickety beds and suitcases lined up as if they are ready to be taken somewhere and a small tiny suitcase, brown, worn by age…was it for a small child? I smell and feel fear. Laughter, I see my classmates laughing. Nothing is funny. This is not funny.
I bought a sandwich from a store in the U-Bahn and inside this sandwich was monstrous amounts of mayonnaise. Amy thought she was going to throw up but I, I enjoyed this mayonnaise. The mayonnaise that gave my sandwich flavor, the mayonnaise that made my sandwich soggy, the mayonnaise that probably gave my body an injection of unnecessary bad fat and cholesterol. Sandwich, I enjoyed you.
Eye contact. I make eye contact with some trying to see what their reactions are. Some eyes flit away. Brown. Peeling paint. Pictures many flashes. You cannot talk here. Just walk and absorb, feel, imagine. Terror. Exhaustion. Hopelessness. Hungry. A place once strictly for Jews and their tormentors… now tourists walk through, disconnected. Can we even imagine what this felt like?
Another potluck. Amy made two huge plates of stir fry, Fan made soup, and Elroy made pasta. With our cheap wine and beer in tow we gathered around the table and devoured the food until nothing was left. This Potluck depleted my food supply.
Café on the side, vendor sells icecream. Man in striped T-shirt buys walnut icecream, the kind I like and want right now…waiting to go inside, what is inside? So curious. Couple holding hands, one slides hand in backpocket of the other, I always wanted to do that…People waiting in line…I would like our tour to start.
Chipping concrete, painted gold pictures of guardian beasts etched in a pattern on towering walls--horses, lions, a skinny creature with an odd tail, bird feet, and skinny narrow head-- surrounding them a royal blue. Small flowers make the border, is it gold, or is it just another color but faded with age? I look in awe…
Feels like home. Cafes, cafes feel like home. Two Turkish men sitting at the bar. What are they talking about? I wish I knew. American students with their laptops, working on assignments that are probably related to their program. I empathize. Coffee. My creamy delicious coffee. The waitress, always hair in ponytail, served me my very first day…walks by, I smile but she doesn’t notice.
In the U-Bahn a little girl dressed in a checkered purple dress, dashes in and out through her parent’s legs. Wisps of her light brown hair goes every which way and surrounds her face like a little glowing halo. I smile. She smiles back with a coy and shy smile that captivates me. She looks away and looks back and we begin to play the eye game. Who will look? Who will look away? For how long and when?
The smell of cigarette smoke invades my senses. Old Turkish men in faded suits sit at one table. Coffee? Tea? I don’t know how to think of the place. A café? A restaurant. For some reason, although there are tables, a bar, and I imagine some kind of menu to serve food, the place looks like neither. It’s empty. Flat screen T/V keeps showing the same image of a Turkish woman in white, possibly a singer, dressed scantily over and over again.
“Hey Anna, do you still have that sepia-toned picture that you took of me?” Fan asks. “O! I accidently erased it thinking I had already copied it onto my computer!” Fan really wanted a candid and beautiful picture that I took of her one day waiting in front of the Stasi Museum. However, I had somehow erased it and so I began to try taking candid pictures of her again.
Fan replied to my efforts, “It’s not going to work again, it’s not going to be the same...”
Quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Sun shines on tombstones, illuminating the garden with light. Then a couple of seconds pass by and its gone. Wind blows and strands of hair float up and away. White, gold, marble, intricate designs, a holy place. Trees rustle. Cars rushing by beyond the gates.
Cravings for Burger King always hits in the airport. All of a sudden I see burger king hats on the tops of people’s heads. The paper crowns, silly and funny, but only for a while. Hello, we are Americans, ate a fast food meal, and now are proudly showing where we ate on our heads. Some wore these hats all throughout the plane ride.
Bum. Exhausted Worker? Dead? As Orhan talks on about the history of...I write because quite frankly this is more interesting at the moment. People walk and talk, acting like they don’t notice. His arm is right next to me. Why is he sprawled on this bench in the middle of the day?
I had bargained a ring from 85 lira to 45 lira but couldn’t get the ring any lower. I did not like it as much anyways and decided to give it up. The merchant urged that it was a “good price.” I did not agree and stated that I did not want the ring anymore.
“Is it possible to take a picture with you at least?”
Taken a bit off guard, I stumble with my words and agree. I come over and he puts one arm around me and with his cell phone takes a picture. He crows with delight and shows all of his merchant friends the picture he had taken. It wasn’t a great picture, and it certainly wasn’t a great picture of me but I seemed to have made his day even without the purchase of his too expensive, possibly fake ring.
Trash strewn everywhere. Cats. Men walk by, exhausted, wrinkly skin, brown, poor. The ghetto, the alleways. Who does clean-up? Why are these alleyways covered in trash that can clearly be picken up? Vendor, black cloth spread out, the “evil eye” everywhere. Bracelets, key chains, earings, stickers. Evil eye, evil eye, evil eye. Pitiful makeshift stores spread out on trash. This is real. Does the evil eye protect you old man?
Exhausted. I sit down by the curb trying to rest my legs. Hawkers of all ages show their trinkets over and over again like an automated machine. Some looking up, some looking down. Can the little boy, selling the bright and colorful tops, make a living off of these useless wares? What about that man selling a small handheld sowing contraption? Or that man selling scarves and wooden flutes?
Up close cobbles stone walkways. Trees scattered, incoherent conversations, a mans voice booming in a speakerphone. Honk honk. Beep beep. Car horns honking nonstop. Odd drum noises in the distance People milling about everywhere while we sit on the sidewalk a vendor passes me by. Busy. The mosque is busy and is not open for free for the public. Twenty for locals ten for foreigners…
Puddles of water on the sidewalk. I’m confused. Its unbearably hot and no sign of rain so where did all this water come from? I jump to avoid the puddles, annoyed and unwilling to get my feet wet. The water was muddy anyways.
Beautiful majestic grassy areas for people to rest and relax. Cool breeze feels so good on hot day. Postcard can’t compare to the beauty of seeing it in real life. The mosque stone is of a cool blue color, flowers dot the front of the courtyard. People come to pray as well as just to see the beautiful mosque.
Red faced. Sweat drenched hair. Face dripping with sweat. Clothes soaked in sweat. Dizzy and out of breath. Exhausted and hot but unable to breathe in the small claustrophobic bathroom. Clutching her stomach and taking deep breaths, she looks at herself in the mirror. Who is that? Unrecognizable, foreign, different…me.
Longest day of my life. I sit. We all sit. My legs ache. Dribble Drabble. What did the speaker say? When will this day end. This postcard is white with just letters. Simple just like their office. Its empty inside the building, their office, two people occupy chairs, maybe they are clients. I just saw a dog take a crap on the sidewalk. This act of crapping disgusts me today more than any other day I have seen this happen. I want to jump into the cool white and black of this postcard and get away from the heat.
I’m waiting for the train in the S-Bahn when I noticed a pair of bright blue overalls. Then the white t-shirt stretched out over his overbearing belly. His swagger, as he was walking his bicycle, had “badass” emanating all over it and black sunglasses to top his stellar look. This worker, in overalls that no American man could successfully pull off, walked in the S-Bahn like owned the damn place.
In the East. Deeper East. This place seems desolate. Feels desolate. Different. Like at a standstill. Construction to my left. Buildings unused. Arrows. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven…lost count. Art. Urban art. Shooting arrows at unused buildings. Poke fun. Literally poking fun.
With no small convenience store to be found, I walked into an empty Chinese restaurant, desperately thirsty because I noticed they had a cooler for drinks. Immediately upon walking in I felt unwelcome. The restaurant was empty and the workers looked at me annoyed rather than trying to encourage me to sit, eat and stay. I wanted to walk out but instead I hurriedly chose a drink and asked how much. 2.50. Great…2.50 Euro for a small multivitamin drink that wouldn’t even last me 2 seconds. I buy it, walk back down the street and notice a small grocery store to my left.
Large space. Lots of space. Man who lived in the U-bahn. Makeshift ladder. Blue print of the room in the U-Bahn. Muhammed climbs ladder. Legs tired and sitting after a long days walk. The cool cement is comforting. The chatter of my classmates is comforting.
Final Paper Write-up
For the Berlin Program I wanted to explore German nationality and investigate how
weak or strong the concept of a German national identity was when faced with
immigration. For the purposes of the program and the time constraints of the project I
only looked at Berliner identity and how it is influenced or is continuously being
influenced by immigration. Do Berliners completely embrace immigration and if not,
what does that say about Germany?
In the globalized world that we live in today immigration is a growing concern and an issue that countries are trying to tackle as borders become more porous and open to outsiders. Immigration is one of the key aspects that is making the world we live increasingly globalized as we speak. It is also an indicator as to how much a state is willing to give up or unwilling to give up power and control.
The issue I want to look at by asking and investigating these questions is back to the question of German nationality. I had heard in a lecture during the Honors in Berlin Spring course conducted at the University of Washington that Germany was one of the foremost countries willing to embrace a European identity. This statement was shocking and surprising to me because acquiring a transnational identity requires a transformation of one’s national identity where the national identity does not take precedence any more. How willing or ready are individuals to embrace an identity other than their national one? Moreover, how willing is the state when it is faced with giving up aspects of its sovereignty? In other words, if a country is willing to embrace a transnational identity, then the nation-state is also willing to allocate some of its power to the international governing body. This is easier said than done, especially in Europe, where the concept of the nation-state was first formed and through much bloodshed and violence. Furthermore, it took centuries for nation-states to establish sovereignty and some states in this world system are still in the battlegrounds trying to establish sovereignty and territorial boundaries.
In order to see how much Germany has progressed in accepting a transnational identity I looked at its immigration policy because immigration, the flow of bodies across borders, is an inevitable consequence of globalization. If Germany is embracing an increasingly globalized world than this also means that Germany must come to terms with immigration. Has Germany been exposed to enough diversity to be able to really understand immigrants?
Currently, Germany advocates a “hands off” policy allowing immigrants to live in Germany but making it difficult for immigrants to integrate in society. Thus, denying immigrants citizenship and the benefits, protection, and rights that come with this prized status. Then the bigger question that begs to be asked is, if Germany is still hesitant for foreigners to pass through their borders, can we see Germany being able to accept a transnational identity and its responsibilities, not only in theory but in actual practice?
My Findings and Observations:
As a daughter of Korean immigrants and being an American citizen at the same time, it has given me the fortunate opportunity to really be immersed in diversity and multicultural experiences. Having lived in California and currently in Seattle, seeing familiar faces like mine have been commonplace and “looking different” really isn’t that different, rather it is normal for multicultural cities such as Seattle. Before I went to Berlin, I assumed that Berlin would be a hubbub of diversity as well since I was told that Germany was progressive and was truly advocating an international identity other than its own. However, upon arriving in Berlin, my personal experiences told me otherwise. Looking different was not commonplace and there wasn’t as much ethnic diversity as I thought there would be. The Turkish immigrant population was the largest in Berlin but in terms of more cultural diversity, Berlin was still lacking in its exposure to different cultures.
I was greeted by “ni hou-ma” on many occasions, which were uncomfortable and annoying at times but was soon something I had gotten used to. Berliners simply assumed that since I looked “Asian” I would be Chinese even though the largest Asian population in Berlin was Vietnamese. At first, I thought that Berliners simply lacked cultural sensitivity but as the days progressed I realized, it wasn’t a lack of cultural sensitivity but a lack of exposure to cultural diversity.
My interviewees were all from different generations and all of them agreed that immigration and the cultural diversity it brought to Berlin was a positive thing. Professor Markus, an academic, really supported the acceptance of a European identity and saw multiculturalism as a benefit. This sentiment was also shared by the apartment Hausmeister who had lived in Berlin since 1969, experiencing firsthand the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the gradual influx of foreigners into Berlin after the opening up of Germany. He had a wealth of fascinating information that really helped me see things at a perspective I had not thought of before. I had asked him if he thought Germany was more inclined to accept a European identity and his response was quite interesting. He stated that if a person feels secure in his “homeland” then that person is more willing to take the next step and accept something new. At first I was confused and asked him what he meant by this. He then reiterated his answer by talking about the Romas as an example. Romas wander around without any “homeland,” without any sense of security in terms of firm national roots so they do not have the option of accepting a transnational identity when they do not have a national identity in the first place. For many Romas, it is about living in the moment, day to day, to make a living and survive.
The hausmeister’s interesting logic as to why he thought Germans might be willing to accept a European identity was a perspective I had not thought of before. Whether his logic is true or not is not necessarily what I am concerned about. Just the realization of how differently people think with the experiences and observations they had during their lifetime was fascinating and captivated my attention.
We can take the hausmeister’s logic and flip it on its head stating that the ability for Germans to embrace a transnational identity would be more difficult if they felt secure in their national identity. Would one be willing to shed the familiar and take the risk towards something unfamiliar? However, due to Germans tragic history, it is generally agreed upon that Germans are very sensitive towards showing any outwards signs of national pride. But this does not necessarily mean that their national identity is weak or that due to the belligerent and violent history of Germany in the 20th century, Germans wish they were not German. One can still have strong feelings about their national identity but that does not mean he or she must be proud of what their country has done. My point that I am trying to get at is that due to the lack of cultural exposure (the hausmeister as well as Professor Markus also agreed that there wasn’t enough multicultural diversity in Germany yet) and the handling of immigrants is indicative that Germany still has quite strong national sentiments among its people. Although there are those, like Professor Markus and the Hausmeister, who have more opportunities to be in contact with different people, evidence of just walking around the city and being called Chinese everywhere I went, one could not help but see that cultural awareness was very low.
But through my experiences of Berlin as a city, the potential for Berlin to be more culturally aware and progressive towards immigration was very positive. The exploration of the history of Berlin and trying to “read” or “translate” the city made me see that Berlin was a city of continual change. Berlin seemed to be a city constantly struggling with its history of being once split by international forces during the Cold War and the question of how to deal with preserving this history, written all over its walls and buildings, was always in contestation. With an environment that continuously is on the cusp of change, I cannot help but hope that such dynamics will also mean a more positive reception for immigrants and a policy that focuses more on integration than a “let them be” attitude.
Challenges and Conclusions
As a Korean, my looks were markedly different from Germans and Europeans in general. I had never had so many curious stares in my life and had never felt so different. Yet, at the same time I came to appreciate my differences all the more. It was a learning experience for me because I began to really explore what made me different and I began to see myself as beautiful. A way of trying to stick up and make my way through a sea of white, I felt that I had to embrace my differences rather than hide them in order to avoid being washed away with the tide. This was a quite a struggle and a challenge because the constant confrontations with curious stares and sometimes the overwhelming sense of being different made me extremely self-conscious and at times embarrassed.
From my interviews and the experimental environment of Berlin, the future for Berlin and progressive change towards immigration is in the horizon. I came to the realization that Berliners did not call me or greet me by “ni hou ma” to make fun of me but because they thought they were doing something good. They thought it would be more welcoming to greet me in an Asian language. I believe that Berlin is not too far off from being more multicultural and the generally positive reception that Berliners have towards immigration bodes well for the future.
It’s 2 a.m. and we walk towards the bright lights that shine NARGILE. Everything is bright here. Neon lights flashing and lamps of every shade of glass adorn the outside porch as if this café was a beacon of light, a safe haven from the darkness that had settled outside.
Everyday, as I walked the streets of Istanbul, old and young sat together smoking from this mysterious contraption. Relaxed. So relaxed they looked and I wanted to try it all the more.
Like everything else in Turkey, the inside décor was overly done, The plush and colorful sofas, the pillows of every size and shape, the ornate rugs all beckoned us in like sirens to sit and enjoy.
I had never inhaled smoke of any kind before, unless it was second hand, so I sat on the plush sofa anticipating the unknown. Tired and fatigued, I leaned on the others…half delusional from exhaustion.
Across from me the view of a mosque glowed a yellowish gold and it looked surreal. Fake. It was a painting that was etched into the night sky to pose as reality. The sirens were playing tricks on my eyes. I stared and rubbed my tired lids. Open. Close. Open. Close. Still a surreal image. It was as if I could hold out my hand and be certain I would be touching a canvas smooth with dry paint. I held out my hand but only touched air, cool air that lightly wisped and caressed the palm of my hands and in between my fingers.
I touched nothing.
On our table a tray of delicious fruits and nuts were arranged in a way that called us to eat one or else the fruit would overflow into our laps and onto the floor, wasted. Cold water, unopened, placed right in front of us, only a hand reach away.
“You eat or drink and you have to pay,” states one of my friends. Jarring me back into reality, I don’t touch or eat but just stare. A very good marketing strategy.
The server approaches us wearing a sparkly red vest and a white collared t-shirt. The sparkly red vest attracts my attention as he waits for our choice of nargile. Of course, his outfit has to stand out but why in such a cheap way? Where were the authentic Turkish waiter outfits, if there is such a thing. I felt our server was an impersonator.
Istanbul, a beautiful city overflowing with history from every corner also seemed like a city that was cloaked with a façade. A façade that wasn’t Istanbul. Istanbul the impersonator, Istanbul the appeaser, Istanbul the fake. Where was the real Istanbul? Were the restaurants adorned in red and crystal chandeliers the real Istanbul? What about the building all decorated in white with huge light fixtures spanning the ceiling that housed synthetic flowers—was that the real Istanbul?
Melon. Melon was the choice of nargile and as that same waiter brought out the contraption and prepared the nargile, my fleeting thoughts of “real” Istanbul disappeared in the air like the puffs of smoke that dissolved and became one with the night. Invisible.
The pipe started to be passed around and the world began to be a haze of melon smelling smoke.
How is this done?
Just inhale and let it sit in your mouth, then breathe out.
My turn. I take the pipe and place it gingerly to my mouth.
The taste of sugary artificial melon sits on my tongue and the smoke settles in the back of my mouth near my throat.
I feel nothing. No coughing. No tingly sensations. Nothing.
This isn’t too bad at all.
The pipe is passed around, once, twice, until I lose count and I feel like a pro, deeply inhaling and breathing wisps of smoke that would float up, up, up and away, disappearing into the night. Sometimes I would breathe out the smoke all at once, in a stream, like the smokers in their designated areas, quickly trying to smoke their cigarette before they briskly go on their way. Sometimes I would slowly let the smoke unwind from my mouth and let it curl every which way upward and out until a thick filmy haze would cloud my vision.
Then it hit me. My shoulders began to relax. My head began to feel heavy. And a weird sensation settled within my chest and crawled its way upward to the back of my neck. I kept on smoking until I realized that this weird sensation was getting stronger.
The back of my neck began to tug upwards and my head began to settle downwards and no matter how plushy the sofa was, how shiny the lamps were, how enticing the fruit was, this uncomfortable feeling would not go away. Fresh air did nothing. I reached out for a container of water. O, right. I have to pay for this water. I laid my head back to try and calm the whirl of motion that suddenly overcame me.
I knew it. I knew I was being tricked by someone, something, maybe the Sirens. I was tempted by the neon lights and now trapped in a haze of confusion and dizziness. The mosque in the moonlight was really a painting. The server was an impersonator and I was sitting in fake Istanbul.
I left fake Istanbul and made my way home where upon reaching my room I began to gag. Heaving, convulsing, I threw up an orangish yellow mixture of beyti kebap, chicken pudding, icecream, and cookies. I flushed and watched the blob of ugly color swirl down the drain. I stood up and the heavy sensation did not leave me, unsatisfied, I wiped my mouth, washed my red and pained face, crawled into my bed and stumbled into the sheets.The world was heavy. My breathing was heavy. My head was heavy and in the uncomfortable weightiness of my body and mind, I fell asleep wishing for the refreshing clarity of morning to come quickly so I could swiftly escape into reality.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The feeling I was waiting for.
Always described by other people's lips but never from mine.
All densely packed together
Creating an unforgettable landscape.
Alleyways filled with cafes as the old and the young read, chat, and sit.
Up above, grape vines entwined in the rooftops
lush grapes dangling down, so enticing,
the taste of sweet fruit lingers in my mouth.
The slums, the smell of sewage fill my nostrils
and the sight of trash strewn all along the paved walkway
as tired old men sit on the curbs sell their wares
snapped forever in memory.
Enchanting Turkish children, toothless smiles, mischievous grins, innocent eyes
Crowded streets crammed with cars and people weaving in and out
like a live mosaic, its pieces moving together, playing its story out before my eyes.
That inexplicable feeling that something has changed.
That lifechanging feeling.
First night in the city, I was tired but not yet sleepy. I look outside my window in the kitchen area of our dorm and I stop. I was captivated by the view.
The tops of beautiful mosques and its minarets dot the landscape.
Below me an alleyway, a certain enchanting rustic feeling emanates from these old buildings—the lone chair in the street, the rotting wood, chipped bricks, and rickety rooftops—created a picture that I have only seen in movies and picture books.
One window to my left was lighted brightly and inside, two bakers were preparing their dough for the morning ahead. Mind you this was 2 a.m. in the morning. One of the bakers noticed me staring out at them from the window and waved. I waved back. Hello Baker.
I am already in love.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My research project focuses on trying to figure out what it means to be German and, probably, most specifically what it means to be a Berliner and how German identities are influenced by cultural diversity, more specifically minorities or immigrant communities.
When Mischa came as a guest speaker during Spring Quarter he said that Germany was probably one of the foremost countries that would embrace this "European" identity, implying that German's national identity is weak or is weakening. If German's national identity is supposedly weakening, more specifically in Berlin, wouldn't that also mean that they are more inclined towards cultural diversity and embracing difference? The possibility of embracing a supranational identity transcends boundaries and calls for, should I say... a more international or global identity...although I'm still not sure what that exactly means as it can mean several different things for several different people, I naturally thought that Germany would be more culturally aware.
But my first week in Berlin, as I have talked about out in my "ni hao ma" blog entry, everyone thought I was Chinese and my fellow Asian peers have noticed being stared at when we go out because we are different. I point this out because I came to Berlin assuming that Berlin would be a very culturally integrated and diverse city. However, Markus said that, in fact, Berlin is not as multicultural as cities such as Frankfurt and as Germany's immigration policies have shown, integration of minority communities/ immigrants are problematic and is an issue that Germany is currently having.
What I would like to clarify and correct from my earlier "ni hao ma" post is that rather than Berlin lacking cultural sensitivity it is more of the lack of exposure to difference. The confrontation of differences is relatively a new emergence and it is an important issue that is trying to be addressed. I must also emphasize that America is not perfect, it is actually far from perfect and racial issues is still a huge problem that needs to be tackled. The difference however, which was mentioned by Markus as well as a friend of Sam Lim's named Steffen, is that America is confronted by difference all the time and cultural diversity is an issue we freely and openly talk about. Whereas in Europe this is not so. Markus said that Europeans do not like to talk about race and when confronted with difference, they acknowledge it but do not discuss it.
That being said. This leads me to think about the concept of the "Europeanization" of Germany where the identity of being European is favored over an individual's national identity. Markus states that there are of course extremes, but he said that academics and intellectuals are more inclined towards grasping a European identity than a German national identity. He also stated that Germany is one of the most progressive countries in leaning towards this European identity although that, by no means implies that they can possibly lose their national identity. However, what I find difficult to understand is what this "European identity" really means. Although the concept of being "European" rather than being German or Italian or French sounds like a truly international and global concept, to me it still sounds limiting. What are the implications of saying one is European? What I mean by "limiting" is this feeling that this "European" concept just creates different boundaries that imply the sectioning off of Europe from others. But one must still acknowledge that this is a very big step forward from the boundaries of nation states.
Trying to figure out this European identity leads me back to the issue that migration and the influx of different bodies is a relatively new phenomenon in Germany as well as other European countries. Like Markus pointed out, exposure to difference is not only new but a growing and urgent issue. So does this European identity include different European national identities as well as those ethnic identities that are not familiar to the continent? Such ethnicities that come from the Middle East, East Asia, SE Asia, Africa and so on?
With Berliners being confronted by waves of immigration and cultural diversity is a relatively new phenomenon, how ready are they to accept a supranational identity? In what ways is Germany more progressive than other European countries in this regard?
A slough of more questions accompany this question which I have to write out so I don't lose them swimming around in my head.
What does it mean to be German? More specifically a Berliner and how salient is this so called German national identity when it comes in confrontation with diversity. Furthermore, what does this say about the embracing of a "European" identity, what does it mean?
This blog post has led me to more questions and I clearly have a lot of work to do...
I have to really crunch all these questions into one specific question that clearly addresses the issues I want to explore.