I've moved again...
as I still don't really feel comfortable at blogger, I've moved to wordpress and will give it a try there. Sorry-lah!
what I'm currently reading...
...is "Islam and Democracy" by Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan sociologist. Her writing is beautifully poetic. The first pages are about why in her opinion the Muslim world is scared of Western democracy. She says many ideas of Western democracy reflect an old Islamic dream that Muslims have so far failed to accomplish due to the reign of selfish and powerful caliphs.
Yesterday I joined an "interreligious" talk and learned about the Ahmadiyya group, a group of Muslims whose beliefs differ from those of mainstream Muslims and who therefore are persecuted in the Muslim world, particularly in Pakistan and Bangladesh.The Ahmadiyya movement is split into the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement.Mohammad Ali of the Lahore Ahmadiyya community in Berlin held a talk about his community and their beliefs. The most arguable point is the death of Jesus, the Ahmadis believe that he died like all other humans and was not physically lifted to heaven by God.
Most interesting about this meeting was the reactions of the audience. Most of the mainly Muslim listeners didn't seem to be too happy about these ideas.
Links:Lahore Ahmadiyya MovementAhmadiyya Muslim Community in Deutschland
"There is no alternative" is what we hear and believe. The companies and their media are making us believe that the world has always been like that. It hasn't and we all actually know that.
I'm reading all these alternative texts and I'm quite excited. Not that I truly believe I will live long enough to see the drastic change that is expecting humankind. But since I believe in eternal life I might well have the chance to see from somewhere else what little steps en masse can cause.
Politics and therefore people's lives used to be controlled by the church. Now they're controlled by economy. The church, science, technology and economy are to serve humans, not the other way round.
Humankind is too ready to believe in a God-given or nature-given world order.
It's fun to get involved with alternative ideas. People have been involved with alternative ideas for hundreds of years and I couldn't say that I'm not happy about my right to vote.
Attac Summer Academy & Energy
Attac is a network-style mixture between an organised NGO and a chaotic social movement. Attac was founded in 1998 in France and has members all over Europe, most of them in France and Germany. For five days, attac activists and interested outsiders from all over Germany met in Karlsruhe to educate each other about topics related to globalisation. Which is basically everything. From global finances and poverty to human rights abuses to nature destruction to the prejudices against migrants, you find someone for every topic at attac. Mostly middle class academics, but also people who are more hands-on.
Sleeping in tents, we had to cope with the constant clamminess of rainy camping, but I was well prepared this time.
I joined a workshop about ressources and energy and learned a lot about nuclear energy and renewable energy sources. I learned that all that talking about solar and wind energy solving all our energy problems are crap and that there's no way we can keep up nowaday's lifestyle. If every person on this earth consumed 1,5 kilowatts, things would be alright. But Europeans use 6 kilowatts and North-Americans 11!! People in the poorer countries hardly use any anything, but China is catching up.
The whole situation is crazily dangerous and still the car industry is trying to blind us by saying researchers will one day develop a car that runs with water. Still they're telling us how advanced solar and wind energy are.
They're trying to tell us that research and technology are capable of solving these problems. They're not. It's us who will have to spend some time thinking about our lifestyles.
Not only regarding energy, though. Globalisation touches every second of our daily life. Which chocolates we eat and where we buy our milk has great influence on the lives of thousands of people.
Everyone in this world knows that there is something wrong. At Attac, people try to find out what it is and how we can change it.
On the last day, we held a small demonstration against the privatisation of the German train network. England is currently suffering from the problems following their network's privatisation; why are we making the same mistake!?
train journey, copied from the diary, 04th August 2006:
Earlier, I got the backpack down from the top of the wardrobe, it felt good to pack again, even if it's only for a week. I'm on the train on my way to the "attac summer academy
" in Karlsruhe in the south of Germany. My hometown Berlin is in the north east, so I'll have to travel across the whole country.
I'm watching the golden green landscape rushing by and I'm astonished by how much empty space there is. You never see a single soul!
Maybe my comparisons are a bit laughable since the last country that I travelled by train was Bangladesh ;)
The lush green landscape was spotted with colourfully dressed men and women working in the fields. There were cows and sheep and deer and birds....
Here, everything is done by machines, all I see is cropped fields without a single human hint.
I recall how strange Germany looks from above, from the sky. It's split into thousands of rectangles in different sizes. Every centimetre of earth and soil has an owner here, there's harldy anything left that belongs to no one or to all of us.
Earlier, the train left Berlin from the fancy new Central Station and just minutes later passed through the old station. The old station was where people hugged their loved ones, where I waited for my friends, where I picked up my visitors. Now the InterCityExpress just passes the station withing a few seconds and it looks shabby, grey and abandoned. Although I never especially liked that station, I feel sorry for it. At least it had history and character, other than that fancy shopping mall-look-a-like glass palace that we now have at Anhalter/ Central Station.
Wow, after hours of empy fields I've finally seen some cows. Germany's subsidised agriculture seems to work without heavy usage of humans or animals....
Everything is being taken care by machines.
The last parcel with my stuff from Malaysia has arrived, I'm so happy! All the things I bought in Bangladesh are inside. The clothes I wore back then, the souvenirs... I'm now wearing the anklet Adit's sister gave to me.
Strange, how memories stick to objects.
A friend of mine has inspired me to pay attention to the sky again. (Since my daily life momentarily consists of not much more than my daily French lessons and some reading, I happily absorb any suggestions to discover little phenomena in my routine.)
He remembered that whenever he played computer games, he found the illustration of the sky looking fake.. This made him pay attention to the real sky and he discovered that his imagination of the sky matched reality less than the computer display did. He had had a wrong perception of the sky that he walks under daily. That's crazy.
Him pointing that out made me wonder of how many things we have a wrong perception. Sometimes when I travel, people ask me what snow is like. And whether our lakes really freeze and what frozen lakes are like. I'm embarrased and sad to admit that I don't know because I never pay attention! The magic that snow first had when I moved back to Germany has gone. Six years ago I starred at the white landscape outside our house, fascinated by every little snow flake. Snow was that little gift that you get for all the dullness of winter. Now I'm just annoyed. And I don't ever stop for a single second to appreciate the sky.
I'll give the sky a close look tomorrow. I'll taste the rain, next time it rains.
We have a beautiful German word that tries to describe that exasperation you feel when you think about how incomplete you and and world are. Literally translated it means "world pain".
It's more of a romantic and melancholic word, but I don't feel melancholy or romance when I read the newspaper in the morning. Often enough, tears of anger shoot into my eyes, I'm scared of how cruel humankind is and I'm exasperated.
I cannot understand why humankind doesn't seem to develop. I, myself, as a person, I do develop! I learn from my mistakes and constantly try to become a better person.
I cannot comprehend why we seem to be at the very spot where the first war sprung up. Nothing makes sense.
Carolin's mum died yesterday. She's been sick for a year, cancer, and now the fighting is over. It's strange how the sun just continues shining and our food still tastes great, how everything is so normal.Carolin and I sat on her balcony yesterday afternoon, eating juicy watermelon and speaking about her mum's last weeks. They've had a tough last year. Just now we were on the phone and she was preparing to go to the zoo with her sister, because that's where they went together with their mum some time back. Caro was cursing because she couldn't find any black underwear to match her clothes.Her mum couldn't eat anymore in the last few weeks and didn't want to live like that anymore. She invited everyone to a big dinner in a fancy restaurant and let them describe to her how the food tasted. She probably planned it as her good-bye dinner.
I never met her during the time she was sick. I was scared. Scared to say something wrong, scared to give her a pittyful look, scared to even say "how are you?".
I'm a child of my society, trying to ignore death as long as we can. It's part of life, after all.
Thoughts about the story of Saint Martha
Today is the day of Saint Martha. As I hear the church bells ringing from the near by dome, I read the story of Martha and Mary again."Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her"
Instead of helping her sister, Mary sits and listens to Jesus. Martha scolds her, but Jesus defends her and tells Martha that Mary is doing the right thing.
I find it hard to explain why I like this story so much. Probably because it tells me that it is indeed not so important to focus on daily life's minor details but rather on the big thing.
On the other hand I find it a bit unfair, because while Jesus and the others are talking about the big thing, Martha is working her arse off to prepare them food, to clean the house for them and to establish a frame for the whole thing.
Martha is the homemaker, organising the surrounding for everyone. But her work, says Jesus, is not even very important!
Maybe it's not, after all. Maybe love can evolve without all the goodies around it. Maybe if we all focussed on the big thing, we'd all live a bit dirtier and a bit hungrier, but we'd be happier? I'm not so sure...
a daily routine. french lessons & amnesty.
Finally it has rained. For days it had been scorching hot and the city was yearning for some rain drops. This morning the air smelled soft and cool and a bit like soil.
I get up and my day is free, which is great. For a month, all my days had been like that, but only now I enjoy it. For the first time in ages I'm having a proper daily routine: I get up in the morning, listen to the news, do my almost-daily prayer, read a bit (currently it's topics related to globalisation, that means a lot of world finances and other sad things) and then do my homework for the French course.
The course takes three hours every day and completely messes up my brain. All these complicated sentences and verbs! Our teacher suggested we should read books that have been translated from English to French: they're a lot easier, as the structure of the English language is a lot simpler. Bon.
Last week I went to two meetings of Amnesty International to get to know their work better and to get involved. So far I'm quite content, I really like the atmosphere that evolves when you are with people who believe that their actions will change the world. They're hopelessly friendly, I love it. The way we do the meetings at people's houses and they prepare snacks and drinks with such care and they give a big welcoming smile at everyone who enters their house with dirty feet.
The C.oca-C.ola Company has launched a pseudo- new product: The same old brown shit in new bottles with expensive new labels. Their campaigning is disgusting. They spray their graffiti everywhere on our streets and suggest to be some hip grassroot movement.
Why we hate Co.ca C.ola:http://www.thezeromovement.org/
An era ends
We used to go to the same club, every thursday. Yesterday, after years of sweet talking to my brother, he finally joined us, together with his friends.
It was the biggest disappointment, I had so looked forward to this night.... One of them, the bouncers decided, looked to young. His real age didn't matter, it's the looks, he said.
So obviously we all left, I was not in the mood anymore.
I never went to clubs like that, clubs that offer ladies' night and pick and chose the people that look rich and beautiful. I never thought the "Sage-Club" would be like that. I'm disappointed.
The clubs in Berlin, I'm feeling, are getting more like that these days. I call it "Vermuenchnerung" -becoming more like Munich: chique, looks & money.
An era ends.
I'm a tourist at home
What a waste to take your home town for granted!
I've known that for ages, but I remember it everytime I go away and return. Berlin is a great place and I love being here. I love how there's history in every single pore, how you can lie down in the park in the city centre, how Berlin is chic and often cheap; trash and sometimes posh; dirty and beautiful.
But Berlin is gruffy and sometimes almost inapproachable. Especially in winter, she is. Or when you're lazy and lead back and you expect her to do all the work. It's not that easy. She's sitting there, her legs crossed and her eyes half-closed, playing hard-to-get and waiting for you to do the first step. And the second.
I'm starting all over again, everytime I come back here.
From time to time I try to see my own city with the curious, appreciative eyes of a tourist. I wander then, slowly and patiently, ready to look into dark corners and talk to strangers.
I went on a tour last week, through Kreuzberg, the old migrant's and worker's district. The walking tour was supposed to guide us the 'multicultural Kreuzberg'. Indeed, almost 50% of the Kreuzberger people don't carry a German passport. A lot of them are of Turkish descent, but they mix with people from Arabian countries, with people from the Balkans and from Russia and from Italy and from Eastern European Countries...and with all those Germans who like to call themselves 'alternative', who vote for the green and the deep-red parties, those who used to throw tomatos and stones or still do so and those who are not alternative but like to appear so. Those who can't afford new jeans and those who buy used-look branded ones.
A diverse district as it is, there's often trouble in Kreuzberg. Everyone in Berlin I know has at least one story to tell about Kreuzberg, here's mine:
Last friday, I learned to appreciate the hospitality of those who we used to call "Gastarbeiter" in the 60s & 70s - guestworker: you may come, earn some money and boost our economy, but please leave again after a while. The Turkish, Spanish and Italian workers delayed and finally forgot their return home and raised their children here, who now often are torn between two homes, none of which is 100%.
Our little group of ten people passed a big apartment block and we noticed an unconspicious little board with the drawing of a mosque in one of the windows in the first floor. We looked at the board for a while and our tourguide said there's a little mosque inside.
"Inside this flat, right in an apartment block?"
"Yes, it's quite small, but there's a mosque."
A man sitting on a bench near the apartment block's entry noticed us and waved at us.
"Would you like to come inside? Come on, I'll show you!"
We hesitated, but finally decided to follow. We soon reached the prayer room, as big and in the shape of an ordinary living room: a wide dark red carpet was glowing under big golden Arabic letters on the wall, "In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate."
A group of Kurdish Muslims and US-American Christians was just having a meeting inside and we were invited to join and listen. We didn't have enough time, our hosts were disappointed as they had already sent someone to get tea for us.
Their hospitability made us speechless; how friendly they were! They pretended not to mind our uncovered shoulders and cleavages, they pretended not to mind that we were sweaty and uncleaned.
They did so because they believe God told them to be friendly to their guests. I prayed that they were welcomed when they first arrived in my country, as I have never offered tea to a stranger.
Those Kurdish Muslims have shown me a mosque in a street that I've passed a hundred times without knowing.
My forefathers' guests have become my hosts.
And the best thing about it is: These two little hours have not only changed my perception of my own city, but are also helping me to cope with the fact that I'm not travelling at the moment. I feel a bit trapped in Berlin. But it's a very good place for that, if you're ready to go out and explore.
I was on the phone with Femke for two and a half hours yesterday, so good to hear her. She feels the same: Everything is like it used to be. Strange.
I went on a tour through Kreuzberg last week, a touristy tour through Berlin's 'migrant district'. We were invited to enter a Mosque and walked through really Turkish neigbourhoods, it was great. I passed this street a hundred times, but never noticed that mosque, because it's hidden in the first floor of a normal apartment house. How often do we ignore what is right in front of our eyes.... I just now had a chat with a taxi driver from Usbekistan and he told me how his culture used to be Muslim but the Russian Communists forbid everything and now many people don't really believe in anything anymore.
The World Cup is over and the city is getting back to normal. The party is over. A shame, it was good, the whole thing was massive. Perfect marketing, it's scary.
Just spent the evening with my grandparents, beer and wine on their balcony, hours and hours of talking in the flickering light of candles and the full moon, it was beautiful.
How much was a little glass of wine in Malaysia! No sense for the good things in life over there...
Back in Berlin
I've been back to Berlin now for almost two weeks and have still not quite got used to it.
It's strange to be back, it always is. The atmosphere was amazing during the last few days until yesterday we were woken up from a black-red-golden dream by the Italians. Before that, people in the streets were so happy, so cheerful and so friendly to each other.. Yesterday, it all came to an end, we walked home quietly.
It's strange to be back because everything is exactly as it used to be. Nothing seems to have changed and therefore it seems like I haven't really been away at all. It's good and reassuring to hear from the people I met abroad, it's good to look at the pictures to make sure everything really happened.
Often I see something and want to show it to someone who is now in Malaysia, Australia or I don't know where. Everyone is so far away now.