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The International Writers Magazine: Europe

The Moabites
Michaela Abrera

"Berlin is rather a part of the world than a city"
- Jean Paul

Complacency 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 to fade.

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. Repeat.
However, today was different. I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood.

I 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.

Though 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.

© Michaela 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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