Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog

The Milky Way (Credit: Pixabay Free Pictures)

Pisces (February 19—March 20): Happy birthday, Pisces! As Jupiter oscillates in a random direction, you’ll experience surges of rage and suspicion. There’s no reason to rationalize these feelings. Channel them into a subtle passive-aggressiveness that will keep your friends on their toes.

Compatible partner: Scorpio

Aries (March 21—April 19): Two months into the year, and you still haven’t followed a single one of your New Year’s resolutions, Aries. Mercury will be in retrograde this month, which is as sure a sign as any that you should quit while you’re ahead. You wouldn’t have been any good at yoga anyway.

Compatible partner: Aquarius

Taurus (April 20—May 20): Valentine’s Day was a lonely ride for you, Taurus, after you deleted Tinder on a whim. Maybe you should lose the “single and loving it” mantra. It just brings more attention to the problem.

Compatible partner: Don’t bother.

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Symbols of Faith (Credit: Sara D. via Flickr)

My grandfather was not a Jew by choice. In 1930s Europe, being a Jew was a curse, and one that promised death. Born in the Jewish ghetto of Vienna, he was given the name of Erich Christian Schwarz, a triumphant effort at masking the family’s heritage through words. My grandfather escaped Europe by hope, beautiful coincidence, and profound vivacity, so that I could be born an American shiksa: a gentile girl devoid of the Jewish burden. Now, 18 years later, I choose to spite him. I proudly call myself a Jew, and it has allowed me a greater understanding of my family and our people than I ever had before.

I will not be the first to say that discovering religion has done me a service. Even now, years after beginning my new immersion into Jewish culture, the words sound saccharine and cliched. I want my experience to be an original one, but I know it has never been. The faith has a power that, regardless of our willingness to admit it, has ensnared and enraptured countless people since the dawn of time. This may be for good reason, as I have learned.

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Brazil 1, Germany 7 (Credit: The Telegraph)

To all new students: welcome to Berlin. As you make your way through the city, you will hopefully immerse yourself in the endless exhibitions and concerts, wide-ranging festivals celebrating all things from film to butter, engaging street art, striking museums adorned with (not uncommonly) stolen artefacts, shabby clubs that will reject you thrice in a row, and countless döner places that will have you believing döner is as much a part of the German cuisine as a schnitzel. At this point, it just might be. Many things in Berlin will enchant you, but it is only fair to warn you that there is also an adaptation period (which I have affectionately nicknamed my existence here thus far) that most non-Berliners will have to face.

Coming from Brazil, I don’t think the cultural differences could be any more striking than I have found them to be. After 17 hours of flying, one goes from saying “good morning” to strangers on the street to inadvertently sharing one-second eye contact at the U Bahn – which here could be interpreted as risqué flirting. Why would one look a person in the eyes? We have shoes for that.

Indeed, it is a peculiar day in São Paulo when the handrails of the train are not used for pole dancing by a teenager with a sense of humor or a street artist as a performance prop. I was not naive enough to expect a Carnaval at the U-Bahn, but it did surprise me when I dropped a water bottle on the train by accident and observed that the facial expressions that ensued could contextually fit a funeral. I know you are big on recycling, Germany, but I was going to pick it up.

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“Thoughts” — a painting I made during my gap year in 2016. (Credit: Lucia Pradel)

I stared through the open window. My lungs filled with the cold winter air, and an odd sense of hope invaded my soul. A small ray of light peaked out from behind the clouds and rested next to me. God then whispered through my right ear: “This year will be good, Ana. Not that the rest have not been good, but this one will be especially so.”

I smiled and said: “Thank you for the blessing,” and the thin ray of sun hid once more.

After hearing those brief words, I lay flat on my bed and thought about life. These days my ceiling had become my favorite canvas because my imagination and memories could stain it without leaving a visible trace. I stared at it for a few seconds, and my eyelids began to feel heavy. Then, quickly enough, a hollowness invaded the depths of my chest. This feeling of emptiness was not new: It had been tingling all through my being for a few months. Oddly enough, though, as soon as this new year rang in, it became louder — acute.

As the days passed, I continued to experience the same sensation. I spoke to my friends about it and tried to explain this “emptiness,” but no words could capture the feeling. Even when I was able to explain, it never felt like I had said enough, which is why I could not blame them for their lack of useful advice. Some replies ran along the lines of “Why are you thinking so much?” and “Do not think about things so much, Ana.” A small number of them sympathized, saying they “got it,” but then stayed silent. Others would just shake my words off by telling me to “just leave it; it will solve itself, Ana.”

But I couldn’t just leave the nothingness, this emptiness, alone.

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Political idolatry in action (Credit: Ido Nahari)

I love Jerusalem. I was born to the city and, as far I know, I am an eleventh generation to the city.  My spirituality and lyricism begin and end with feeling the pulse of Jerusalem in ways that defy secular logic, in ways that I believe would make people who read this piece puzzled for they themselves are secular and see that the new God is either money or the state. Pre-Israel, a Jewish majority in Jerusalem — which has been the case since the 1860s — was never achieved through national hostility towards the Palestinian residents, but through a religious persistence of the Jews that lived in Jerusalem and viewed it as a holy place. Of course, this does not suggest that “Jerusalem is Jewish”. This phrase is not only problematic to the ears of the non-Jewish residents of Jerusalem, but also to the rest of the Christian and Muslim world. Jerusalem is holy to all three Abrahamic religions. At many times I enjoyed living in the city, feeling and perceiving that said holiness in ways that I could not  explain to others. And because I hold Jerusalem to be a holy city, any conversation about its “ownership”, its “sovereignty”, or who it “belongs to” is absurd to me.

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Veronika doing silk acrobatics around campus (Credit: Anna Zakelj)

IKEA recently sponsored a performance piece staged by the theater troupe led by BCB second-year Veronika Rišňovská (HAST). The challenge? Create an engaging, interactive performance — in a shopping mall. How to go about such a project, in a site like a shopping mall, where interactions with strangers are typically minimal and people arrive to shop, not be distracted by theater? Veronika and I sat down to discuss her theater troupe’s creative process and performances, and the possible future of the modern shopping mall.

 

Music:

  1. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits
  2. Excerpts from shopping mall advertisements as found here, here, and here.

 

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Anonymous woman holding #MeToo sign. (Credit: Pixabay)

The first time someone touched me without my consent, I was in middle school. I think it was in the 7th grade and I was turned to my friends who were sitting at the desk behind me, when a boy grabbed my left breast out of nowhere. I was wearing a purple sweater and a training bra that barely gave any shape to my still-growing breasts. At least, I think that was the first time. It happened a lot in my middle school; it definitely happened to most of my friends.

I tried to speak out. I told our homeroom teacher and she yelled at the boys in our class in front of the girls, telling them that this was wrong. But no real disciplinary measures were taken. Most of the boys (at least in my class) engaged in non-consensual touching, and it seemed that the school didn’t want to deal with disciplining such a large number of students. Eventually, our complaints were simply met with different versions of “boys will be boys”. They were just in “that phase” when they were discovering their sexual urges and, apparently, no one was going to stop these boys from acting on them.

Two memories from middle school stand out. The first is of a few of the more “popular” boys making fun of another, less “popular”, boy – we’ll call him Filip — because he had never felt a girl’s butt. I even remember thinking it strange that he hadn’t. I, a girl, had internalized the gendered logic that the boys in my class had absorbed and then recreated. What made one masculine was sexual power over feminine people. Eventually, Filip got this mark of masculinity, too. There was no adult around to tell them that this logic was harmful because, of course, this was the logic of the adult world as well. 

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BCB Promotional Poster for Champ of the Camp (2014). (Credit: BCB)

Mahmoud Kaabour’s film Champ of the Camp (2014)  opens up with the song of a South Asian man set against the backdrop of a modernistic building covered in glass windows. The song is called “Long Separation” and the setting is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This sort of  juxtaposition becomes thematic of the movie: the poor migrant worker stands in front of a luxurious building that was built by people like him but that will never be a space he could inhabit. The man sings: “No one knows my unknown story.” Through the film, Kaabour attempts to tell the story of this man and many others like him in the first ever documentary about the controversial labor camps in the UAE.

On the 7th of December, BCB showed just who and what are behind the shiny skyscrapers of the Emirates. We were lucky enough to have the Lebanese/UAE director Mahmoud Kaabour at the screening to discuss his award-winning documentary Champ of the Camp with us. The documentary was filmed in the UAE labor camps that house migrant workers from South Asia who are mainly employed as manual laborers in construction. For years, no one was allowed to film in these camps as it would cause controversy for the UAE: This kept these workers practically invisible to the international community. After years of trying to get the film permits, Kaabour and his team were finally allowed to shoot this film under the guise of making a documentary about a singing/talent competition for the migrant workers organized by Western Union.

“We were talking about the labor issue without talking about the labor issue. Otherwise, [the UAE government] would’ve shut us down,” explained Kaabour after the screening. Even though its tone is neutral, just with its existence, The Champ of the Camp has given the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers of the UAE a voice — a narrative voice as well as a singing one —  that they sorely lacked. 

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