International Writers Magazine: Europe
is rather a part of the world than a city"
- Jean Paul
tends to sneak up on you. What was once a place of awe and wonder
becomes a banal aspect of your everyday life. No matter where in
the world you are, the gleam and splendor of the metropolis begins
Living in Berlin,
Germany for close to a year, I've done most of the touristic sites and
explored all the hip hotspots. However, no matter how amazing the glow
of the massive disco-ball known as the "TV Tower" or how spine-tingling
the crumbled leftovers of the Berlin Wall; routines somehow still begin
their slow but steady abduction.
Here is an example of how it happens:
Annoying alarm clock. Five more minutes. I'm late. It's off to work.
Cereal for dinner. Sorry, the milk is bad again. Desperately hit the
refresh button of my email account. Wake up to drool on the keyboard.
However, today was different. I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood.
live in the district of Moabit of this German capital. The ad on
craigslist posted it as "Tiergarten," which is popular
for its sprawling park, European-style mansions and as the hangout
of Katie Holmes and baby Suri. Of course, that's not where I live.
Moabit is best known for its immigrant community, cheap housing
and having two of Berlin's most infamous jails. This "Bezirk"
is surrounded by water on all sides and has been geographically
and figuratively exiled from the rest of city.
The most popular
story regarding the borough is that its original inhabitants, the Huguenots,
named the place after the Biblical story of the Moabites, who were the
scorned and exiled descendants of Lot. This fable is an uncanny metaphor
for the people who have made this area their home. The community is
mostly composed of immigrants from Turkey, Morocco, and different parts
of Asia; whose presence is evident in the plethora of kebab shops, Oriental
markets and internet cafes. They struggle between the complexities of
preserving their culture whilst trying to face the obstacles of indifference
and stereotypes, as well as other assimilation issues.
I was often warned to protect my belongings or to avoid certain
sections at night, the reality is that the people who live here
are pursuing a better life. The men are sons and husbands, the women
are daughters and wives, and the children are...children. Just like
in any other borough in any other country. Forcing myself out of
the comfort of my apartment, I found my senses heightened by the
rhythmic mix of accents in unfamiliar languages, the gracious smiles
of strangers and spirited kids whizzing past on their bikes flashing
their saccharine grins.
Lola Abrera June 2008
Michaela Lola Abrera grew up in the Philippines and graduated with an
MA in the Humanities in 2006. She has traveled to over 16 countries
and works as a freelance writer. Her escapades include riding the midnight
train to Marrakesh, partying with the katoys in Thailand and sampling
insects in China. She currently resides in Berlin, Germany.
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