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Tag "Reflection"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog
On the beach in Alexandria, Egypt (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

On the beach in Alexandria, Egypt (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

Watching the sun’s last rays glisten on the waves of the Mediterranean as its burning flame anticipates being quenched by the Sea’s cool water, I listen to Yasmine Hamdan’s raspy Lebanese dialect as she sings of Sehnsucht and heartache (watch video here) . Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, these are things I have long since experienced.

As the tip of a bottle teases my lips and the icy drink fools around with my tongue and taste buds, I catch myself subconsciously trying to translate the song’s words and expressions into a language he would understand. Maybe I’ll have him listen to it one day. But its artistic and musical value wouldn’t be enough: he would want to understand the driving force behind the creation of this beauty.

The translation was a simple matter of finding the correct vocabulary, but that wasn’t what I was listening for. The soul of the song dimmed with the setting of the sun. The more I tried to find ways to convey it in his tongue, the more the song’s flame and passion became frail and shadow-like, until eventually the melody seemed only a ghost of what it was before I tried to capture it.

The song was lost and I brushed it off. Suddenly, I missed how he makes me feel like the goddess of that glistening golden sun embracing the Mediterranean. I remember this lurking uneasiness I had in the back of my head. A fear of loss. Loss of oneself, loss of language and identity in the process of merging cultures. But I’m starting to see now the malleability of one’s identity and how it’s constantly simply getting richer with the fusion of others’; it is all-consuming, like a sponge, or like the sea.

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In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

A question on the exit polls during the US presidential election was which “presidential quality” mattered most. Interestingly enough, it was not experience, nor good judgment that people deemed the most necessary quality for a president: it was their ability to “bring needed change” (39%). That was also the only quality where Trump, lagging behind Hillary on all others, scored highest, at 82%. Among those who Clinton (in the biggest error of her campaign) described as a “basket of deplorables,” there seemed to be a lot of people who just really wanted change.

After the Dutch election, Europe let out a sigh of relief, with headlines exalting that the tide of populism had turned because far-right politician Geert Wilders hadn’t won. This shouldn’t have been big news, as the polls running up to the election had already indicated that Wilders, leader of the right-wing extremist Freedom Party (PVV), was not going to. Most narratives concluded that populism in the Netherlands was subsiding due to this modest gain of the PVV: an easy conclusion but a questionable causal relation. Equating the electoral result of rightist-extremist parties with the degree of populism in a country is not only faulty: it is dangerous. Still this happens on a regular basis and has been prominent in the reporting done on the Dutch election as well as the upcoming elections in Germany and France.

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New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

I left New York City for Berlin on the 24th of January. The days before my departure were saturated with a dissociative pain that stemmed from their proximity to the inauguration of President Trump, which took place on January 20th. Mostly I was aware of a void-like sadness. This void enveloped my singular self, everyone I loved, communities experiencing oppressions that I as a cis white woman will never be subject to, and communities that I belong to as a queer person and survivor of sexual violence. The effect was tangible in the city, between and across neighborhoods, a dull reverberation. The fact that this collective mourning was distributed unequally due to the diverse lived experiences and levels of social privilege of those affected complicated the act of articulation. I found myself and my peers falling into spells of isolation, or, conversely, dispersing articles, posts, and personal rants at a frantic pace via the constantly replenishing outlets of social media. Neither of these tactics left me with any feeling of agency or productivity: The nature of voids is that they swallow and calcify anything dynamic, leaving their subjects in a state of vertigo.

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From left to right: Inasa Bibic (BA 2016), Norman Manea, David Kretz (BA 2016). Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

On the evening of Friday, September 18th, in a residential neighbourhood on the fringe of one of the world’s most vibrant cities, something odd occurred at Bard College Berlin. This is a time when one might expect the students of BCB to be out and about the city, or simply doing their best not to think too deeply for a while. And, indeed, most of the classrooms were empty: doors locked, lights off, lying in wait of Monday morning. Curiously, though, on this night, light and sound filled the school’s lecture hall. 

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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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Acting for Peace team, Pfunds/Austria. An inspiring outing to a teepee village and the people who made the whole experience possible. Photo by Inasa Bibic.

Acting for Peace team, Pfunds/Austria. An inspiring outing to a teepee village and the people who made the whole experience possible. Photo by Inasa Bibic.

Dont hate the circumstance, you may miss the blessing. – Marshall Rosenberg

I am running towards something unknown in a never-ending direction, with no lights, and no passers-by. The night is cold, and my sight clouded, long thin shadows run alongside me – I don’t know where to turn. I am utterly lost. In the imaginative realm of the mind, the dissolution of my supposed path is already taking place. I see the next five months of my life becoming increasingly blurry, out of focus, disappearing from my sight. When the known becomes the unknown and the other unknown is taken away from you, as if I am spinning down the vortex of an unpredictable rabbit hole. This is how I felt one warm summer day in mid-July, when my afternoon nap nightmare of losing the grip on my supposed life for the next few months came true. I received a decisive email that in that moment had already started a process of inner transformation – without me even knowing how it might change the course of my life.

My exchange to Al Quds Bard Honors College in Palestine for the fall was canceled, due to the reawakened upheavals in the Gaza Strip and the general instability of the Palestinian state.

What is peace? Is it a mirage, a chemical hallucinogen, or a myth? Whatever it was, in this moment it seemed like the most distant, unfamiliar concept – one I could never truly understand. However, as it usually happens, life had already pulled an ironic joke on me – in two weeks, before I was scheduled to leave for Palestine, I was supposed to go to Imst, a tiny Alpine town in Austria, to work at a UWC short course – titled: “Acting for Peace – The Art of Conflict Transformation.”*

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Prague covered in fog prepares for a rainy day

Prague covered in fog prepares for a rainy day

Prague – the city of dreamers, travelers and adventure seekers. There is so much that could be said about the capital of the Czech Republic: from its breathtaking architecture infused with history, to its rich café culture that brings together the old and the new – both in generations and spirit. Prague is a city for those who wish to get away from everyday concerns and troubles of day-to-day life by losing themselves among medieval Gothic cathedrals or walks along Vltava, followed by a coffee or brunch in one of Prague’s old-style coffee shops. Yet, even in those moments of “being away” from our Berlin home, the phantoms of old life recur. I would like to focus on the latter, and talk about how traveling to a new place, especially one as contemplative and imaginative as the city of Prague, made me think and re-think in new ways about life and myself.

[read more to see the photo gallery]