Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Amid the vast pillars of concrete, stand modern people who experience this architecture which was built as a memorial to the millions who died in concentration camps, or were otherwise murdered at the hand of Nazism. What's interesting is watching people here. Some people walk slowly, quiet in thought. Some kids weave in and out, and sounds of laughter echo off the tall stones. Some pose in front of the whole structure in glorified poses. Some may find the seemingly irreverence rude or disrespectful. While that may be, let it be known that the architect built it with no set meaning to its design. It was made to be interpreted by the visitor. To which I then think: how grateful I am that we live at a time where children can laugh. And play. And where young couples can kiss. And where teenagers can smile. With this perspective, the laughing is almost refreshing hope in juxtaposition with the deep sorrowful loss felt here.
Es war wie treppen...runter runter runter.
Wie Gott...das geht zum Himmel, und die treppen fuhren zum Satan.
In the middle Of the monument, the ground is a bit deeper, but also rises and falls in waves.
In 1961 a prominent leader in the East side of Germany claimed, " we have no intention of building a wall."
By the next month it was under construction.
From 1961-1963 nobody was allowed to cross into or out of the East. The communist side, set up after WW2 in 1949, had already lost over 200,000 workers, and more were leaving in droves, unsatisfied with the life that communism was providing.
As we spent time at a playground the evening of the Wall visit, I met a lady named Erdmutha, who was probably in her 30s. In talking I came to find out that she had grown up behind the Wall. Her parents were both preachers in the protestant church. She said they had no desire to flee since the entire family was in East Germany, and since they also felt it was their mission to stay there as a support to the people, being preachers and all. She explained that they had enough, but options were just limited, such as one brand of toilet paper. It wasn't like in Poland where shelves were sometimes empty and people were starving.
The only thing she could think of that she had very seldom was oranges. Around Christmas a store would have them, and there would be long lines to purchase the one allowed bag of oranges per family.
Her parents weren't keen on the ideology, and chose to have their children abstain from participating in the Pioneer group, which was like scouts, with uniforms, and even a bit militaristic at times, and always heavy on the ideology.
Something to note is that without joining the Pioneer group, a child could not take the Abitur exam to go to university, therefore forfitting chances of higher education and a good job later. She said her mother was wracked with guilt about limiting the future opportunities for her children, yet felt it was more important to follow her heart instead of the ideology.
Around December 13th each year, there'd be a Children's festival, and her teacher was always very kind to her, even though the family was On the outside a bit, politically speaking, and invited her to the event, if her mother would allow it. The teacher explained to her mom that there'd first be a reading of a speech with some honoring somebody important in the government, but then it was just a big festival. Her mother had no problem with that and let her go. Her brother's teacher, however, was not so understanding, and not only did she not have intentions of including the brother in the festival with his class, asked coldly upon seeing Erdmutha at the event, "what is SHE doing here?!"
Now...in order to have a good job, such as teacher or school director, one had to be quite loyal to the ideology, she explained. But her teacher was quite kind, and toed the line pretty well, and replied, "in our family we invite friends to birthday parties, so we have invited her to this one." I'm sure the other woman left in a humpf.
Also her school director was like a grandfather figure, and very kind and good to them. So not everyone in a position of power was a total power freak, or Stasi informant.
As for trusting people, I asked her how her family could know who to trust. She admitted they'd never tried to flee or had any intentions, and that people knew friends that they'd known for years- and could trust. But sometimes someone unfamiliar would show up at the church, or there'd be people around that everyone seemed to know were informants.
It was so cool to talk to her, and she was grateful too, saying that sometimes people say ignorant things about the East that just aren't true & it's annoying. Like when a West-rooted classmate in college claimed they didn't have electricity in the East.
People do tend to have a different accent though, that's easy to notice...which a YouTube video makes apparent. Google "kein ostdeutsch". And you're welcome.
The guard took his passport as asked, "Where are you from?"
Lukas stared at him, his uniform, the piled up sandbags around the booth, the flags, and stared some more.
"Are you from California?"
And so it continued before he pounded six different stamps into his passport: USSR/Soviet Union, FRANCE, BRITAIN, EAST GERMANY, WEST GERMANY, AND AMERICAN ZONE CHECKPOINT CHARLIE.
The guard put a soldiers hat on Lukas for the big group picture, and he beamed with pride.
Now a tourist attraction, but earlier the edge of a boundary looking at East Berlin, where overnight a wall went up and a country stood divided.
Two years after the wall went up, visitors could enter under strict conditions, but pop music, Mickey Mouse and weapons or toy weapons of any kind could not.
Interesting enough, it was the people, who after almost 30 years living under communist rule, through peaceful protest set themselves free. Guards at the borders looked dumbfounded as streams of people crossed over into West Germany.
It goes to show what a massive unified group of people can achieve through mutual cooperation in a common cause, no longer inhibited by fear and oppression, and moved by love, freedom, and want for change.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Sleeping on the plane: Suuuuper uncomfortable. And Lukas was NOT feeling well. I had gotten every natural preparation for his flight. Ginger candy, homeopathic motion sickness medicine, and melatonin to help him just sleep. Yeah...it's final: boy just gets air sick. We need dramamine or a sedative.
Layover in France: oooh-la la! I'm not used to being in a country where I didn't really know the language...And luckily Jared speaks French. He understands all of the PA system announcements and can speak enough to speak with the flight attendant.
I was grateful that all of the storekeepers speak English!
Since we had awhile to wait, I took a nap stretched out while the kids played the Egyptian War card game together. One flight to go. One more time Lukas getting sick, and we were in Germany.Hallelujah. So glad to be out of a plane, and relieved to know there are at least 3 weeks til I have to get in another one. Lol.
12 hrs + flying.
1 bag each.
1 layover in France.
4 times little man got sick.
15 total in GAPP group arrived.
Got here. Check!
Funny story: As we got off the plane, down the steps & onto the tarmac, an old school German man promptly broke out the rest of a cigar and went right to it. The airport worker, who was directing people to the awaiting busses, saw him and started yelling, "Nicht am Flughafen!! Sofort!" and pointed down. The old man patted him on the shoulder as if they were the best of pals, during which time he pulled out the cigar with the other. The worker was stiff and angry...definitely not his best friend. And his face showed it all the more as the old pal tossed the stogie down and squashed it out with his shoe.
On the tarmac.
Some people really don't get it. Lol. I sure chuckled about it as we drove away.
Once we all made it to the U-bahn, the adventure continued. First, a completely drunk fellow got on, yelling foul swear words the entire time. Once he got off, and we sighed in relief, a Penner gets on, asking for " eine kleine Spende" as he offers magazines and newspapers for sale. His large dog accompanied him. They both wore collars.
Once he left, entered a musician, playing his heart out on a guitar. His music wafted through the station as we got out and headed for some hefty stairs with our luggage. Ha.
Then, after 12 hours of flying, plus crazy travelling, we walked down around the corner and into town to stand in line for 40 minutes to get Döner and Uledag. It was worth every minute!
Jared took the kids to a University and then to a graffiti tour, in which the students got to paint their own graffiti pictures. I took a map, $50 Euro, and navigated us through the U-bahn stations to a nearby part of the city where we spent the day at the Berlin Zoo! We saw everything that the zoo had to offer, including its humongous playground for kids. And since it's Germany, you know the playground is unbelievable! After having spent the better part of 2 hours just at the playground, we headed to the petting zoo section where we were serenaded by bahhhing sheep & goats. We laughed so hard at their noises, and bossiness as they wrily stole pebbles of food from our hands.
Stories for the day:
Some guy and his kids watched some monkeys at the same time as we did. We were looking through a window in a building as they stood outside by the cage railings. His kid throws a stuffed monkey towards the cage and it lands at the base of the bars. The monkeys, of course, reach through and pull it in, proceed to fight over, bite, the rip apart said toy. Worst yet, they tried to eat the stuffing, which I'm sure wouldn't end well. Lukas and I knocked on a door where zoo workers could enter to walk between enclosures and care for animals. Finally someone came and we could explain what happened...in German...And they were able to remove the dumb stuffed animals.
On the way home, Lukas was so tired, that his eyes were closing...sagging at the weight of those sandbag eyelids. Since there was standing room only when we came in, and Lukas had finally gotten a place to sit, the buff soccer sporty guy next to him said yes, he'd catch him if he started falling off his seat. Lol. The passengers around him had an amusing end-of-day ride home watching this little man's head bobbing back and forth between consciousness and slumber.
He managed enough energy to get dinner with me at the bakery and eat ice cream on the way home. But after just four sentences into our goodnight story, Around the World in 80 Days, he was out like a light!
Gathered at the Los Angeles airport, leaving for Germany, through France. The kids are excited, but nervous. Just like their parents. So many life skills to be learned on this trip. Props go to the parents who've already taught their kids. Those kids are less worried, and excited to practice them. They were, for example, excited to check in at the ticket counter, whereas the others seemed terrified.
Weird too, to be that "responsible adult" who is taking them to another country. Lol.
The responsible adult.
My, how life moves into different phases, seen only through the opposite end of a lense. I went on a trip to Europe in high school and remember how chaotic it was at times. Now I'm chaperoning a Europe trip with teenagers. And a six year old.
Fingers crossed. Here we go.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
This is Lukas on his first and last days of Kindergarten. Today was the last day!! We did it. And I mean WE!!!! I'm celebrating myself too, because it was a lot of work for both of us!
It's interesting to ponder his side of things as well. In Germany, children do not enter "school" until they turn 6 years old. They even ask parents to please not write with their kids, so that it is something very special learned at school. What they are entering at 6 years old is 1st grade. In Germany, there are Kindergartens, but it's a place where children play, sing, dance, paint, play instruments, listen to stories being read, cook together, play outside and even (gasp) get dirty at times.
All the while, he still had two days a week at school in a classroom, and had to learn the ways of life with a few aggressive boys, and work independently of mom. But we've also had lots of chances to talk about it. Regroup on the home days. Strategize ways to deal with tricky situations. Imagine having no time in the week for those things to ever come up. And then who has time to walk at the duckpond and talk about how to deal with the situation of being different because of adoption, or whatever, and finding ways to put honey in his heart? He's made friends recently with a kid whose dad died in a car crash when the boy was just 1. The boy shared this while they were in the jacuzzi at our apartment place. PLAYING. For a significant amount of time. Because it is in the significant amounts of time, I've found, that the really deep thoughts come out. Not in the casual hellos/goodbyes of the day. I think most parents can relate to this. While driving in a car, working on a project, etc people have time to just talk and connect. So much time for connection is robbed by assigned topics to discuss, programs to attend, assignments to write, and the rushing, rushing, rushing around everywhere. And yes, there is a time and a place for those assignments and activities. But for us, it's not 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for 180 days of the year in a whack.