Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog

This piece was originally published by Al-Fanar Media on March 18, 2015. Republished with their kind permission.


Asma’ discusses in a class on “Ideology” at Bard College Berlin (photo by Inasa Bibic)

I am a Palestinian student, 20 years old. I was born in Jerusalem, but I have been there only twice. I grew up in the Al-Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron. Originally, I am from Gaza, but I have never been there.

The Al-Arroub camp is a very crowded place of about 10,000 people. I live there with my family—three brothers and two sisters. I studied until the ninth grade at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees school. It was a good education. Afterwards, I went to high school in the camp.

The only thing that I could think about during school was how much I wanted to go to the United States to study. Why the U.S.? Probably because I was watching Hollywood movies too much. I was obsessed with the easy life I saw depicted on the screen, the modern, developed lifestyle with technology, easy transportation and freedom, especially freedom of movement.

In 2012, I graduated from high school, and it was time to decide on a university. Should I stay in Palestine or study abroad? I was torn. Then I received information about an American college in the West Bank,  Al-Quds Bard Honor College. I decided to attend because it has a strong, American-based education program where I could study journalism, a lifelong dream.

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The community garden is captured in all its bloom. The community garden is an important shared space for students in Annandale

Late summer flowers bloom in the Bard Community Garden (photo by Gaia Marcaccini)

I am writing this because last week I had to write a letter to the mother of my dead best friend. I am writing this, because it has almost been a year, and I am still trying to process life, and lack thereof, and what it means when 18 year-olds die.

I got an email in December from her aunt. It was a mass email. She sent it to remind us that the year anniversary of her niece’s death was soon approaching and we should all write a letter about her. She would gather them and give them to her parents. A sort of anniversary/memorial/remembrance/“I am so sorry that tragedies like this can even happen in the first place” gift. I am writing this because I ignored that email. The email did not ignore me. I got The Email twice a week for two months, I ignored all of those too. The Email became an important part of my life, like a countdown to the day she died, a year ago (even though, when your best friend dies, you are certain time stops). Then it was the last day before the deadline and I felt emotionally obligated. If I ignored the email plea, maybe they would think I didn’t care, and that is the worst thing the dead’s parents can think. So, I wrote a letter trying to verbalize my love for her. Trying to explain to her parents that I would do anything to bring her back. Somehow thinking that had to be explained. I was unsatisfied. It was too hard, it is difficult to explain your love for a dead girl, and maybe more difficult to explain it to her parents. So I am writing this to explain it, to try to explain it.

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Like a comb
                                                  found when unsearched for
missing some teeth…

Like forced smiles                      in a nursing home

Like a hurt animal                      trying to save some last moments

                                                  demarcated by some random feet of space

                                                  in the deep of an engulfing forest

                                                  (before the attack comes again).

This shelf

whose order was broken,

                                                  this shelf––

little holes of space––

belonging                                   no more together

than separate.

Dusty remnants…

                                                  Does the dusty plane

                                                  maintain a solid?

Array of sordid

                                                  two and three dimensions.

This shelf bares its items

like a gypsy traveler abandons his circus.

He glares as the lion there

and is no less pathetic.

                                                    He growls at command,

                                                  snaring with hate and hurt


                                                    prosthetic and decayed,

                                                        chipped off fangs.

Every roar betrays

                                                  a throng of pangs.

The shelf                                   laughs

and bares its soul––

                                                  some one took away

                                                         his things.

Some one took away,

from the shelf,

some things

contained                                   some one


                                                 some things


The shelf snickers and hisses



its maimed mouth.

And somewhere

                                                     a gypsy,

                                                     or a lion,

                                                  or an owner

                 mirrors and mimics

                 its shriveling sound.

Kafranbel is a liberated town in Syria, i.e not under the influence of the regime. The town became famous for making banners and sharing them on Facebook in support of the revolution.

In our liberal age, the notion of freedom is sacred. Arguing the opposite amounts to liberal heresy. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ as depicted by the media affirms the universal sanctity of freedom. Didn’t “Arabs” sacrifice their lives for freedom’s sake after all? Maybe. The media did not depict the illiberal version of the story. In Syria––as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter remind me everyday – part of the population hates freedom.

Is it possible for ‘rational’ human beings to hate freedom?

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Rosenthaler Straße 39, 10178 Berlin-Mitte (Photo by Inasa Bibic)

Rosenthaler Straße 39, 10178 Berlin-Mitte
(Photo by Inasa Bibic)

It’s a rainy Monday in January. I have just finished my dentist appointment. Still under the influence of mild pain, I take the M1 to Hackescher Markt, one of the most hip areas in Mitte, to do some soul-writing and reflecting on the last year before I meet a friend for what was supposed to be a brief coffee encounter, after which we won’t see each other for a while. Just another day at the Café Cinema. I get there shortly before 12pm, which is when the café opens. However, as usual in Berlin, punctuality is of essence, so I spend the five minutes before the opening wandering around the passage just around the café that stretches to the back building hosting the Anne Frank Museum, a comic book shop, and – at any given time – a guided group of tourists in awe of the sight of the local graffiti and charming sketchiness of that small hidden corner in the midst of the Mitte buzz. A perfect time to reflect on what makes this café so special for all of us, regular visitors, who find inspiration in its old walls covered with vintage pictures and memories of the 20th century cinema.

Café Cinema is supposedly the oldest café in the Hackescher Markt, one of the rare places in Mitte without a heavy tourist vibe to it. Most of the time, the café is crammed––characterized by its romantic candlelight and reflectors, rather unpretentious in its feel, it is the ultimate refuge from the real world into a movie-themed realm. Intense talks and the atmosphere of an old-fashioned bar give this place a mid-‘50s vibe, reminiscent of Paris or Vienna where existentialism was discussed with wine, cigarettes and good company.

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Ella finding her way through BVG

Ella finding her way through BVG

Berlin makes me feel like a small child. Actually, a big child. I look of-age, with my grandpa’s brown leather coat, my light-brown heeled oxfords, my black beanie, black hair, and black eyeliner, but I am completely incapable of being an adult. At least, a European adult.

Being in Berlin has made it clear that it is time for me to grow up. To not get lost, repeatedly; to be comfortable with nudity, to drink responsibly, and most importantly, to manage my money.

The difference between the U.S. and Berlin was apparent immediately. My first night out, I saw partygoers sipping beer on the U-Bahn. People here can even leave restaurants, beer in hand. Most shocking are the kids, who I call kids because I swear they must be preteens, occupying a table beneath the massive disco ball at the overcrowded An einem Sonntag in August bar.

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One of the bars where Boddinale was held.

One of the bars where Boddinale was held.

It’s February in Berlin and that means it’s time to go to the movies. With the number of film festivals happening this month, your options for venues are virtually limitless. Whether the attractively dinky Boddinale, the online VELOBerlin, or the respectable Berlin Independent Film Festival, any film buff or curious viewer can get their fill of moving pictures.

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I am Charlie… you are… we are Charlie. Photo: L’association “THE YOUNGZ” at sxminfor.fr

I am Charlie… you are… we are Charlie. Photo: L’association “THE YOUNGZ” at sxminfor.fr

This week, we ask faculty member Jan Völker who currently teaches «Ideology: a thing from the past?» about the event of Charlie Hebdo, the symptomatic slogan « Je suis Charlie » and finally, his specialty––ideology.

Read more if you want to find out if ideology is dead or still alive and kicking