Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "SPOK"
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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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ECLA of Bard Campus Badminton

In the 1970s, the Pakistani government recruited my father for civil service. He underwent training at a well-known local academy, thus preparing for a career in the government sector. The academy itself was established during Britain’s rule of the subcontinent; therefore, training bore an English influence in the academic and physical education curricula. Officers attended courses in world politics, law, history, and other geopolitically related subjects. At the same time, students honed their physical strength in activities like badminton, horse riding and swimming. My father, who comes from an exceptionally poor background, was perhaps only marginally acquainted with badminton (as it is often a sport reserved for the leisure class). Undaunted, he quickly took to it and emerged as a star. Years later, when my siblings and I were still young, my father would often reminisce over the days of his early youth and the time he spent at the Civil Services Academy playing badminton.

In the early 2000s, my two sisters (following my father’s example) also successfully passed the academy’s entrance exam and began their training for civil services. Despite us having received a much better upbringing than our father (as we were much more aware of and exposed to a variety of sports), our love for badminton remained the same. My sisters won various matches during their time in the academy and brought back similar stories of success. This thread of badminton spun around our lives and connected our youth to that of our father’s. Badminton thus remains for me a way to relive my father’s successes and his youth. It is a constant reminder of a man whose love and patience never leave my heart.

However, unlike my sisters, I always played badminton only inside the familiar circle. That is, until I came to Berlin, where to my surprise I found a host of others who play it very enthusiastically (including ECLA of Bard’s very own Residential Life Coordinator, Zoltan Helmich). Zoltan often entices students to energetic matches, as he did one afternoon advertising a badminton game for Sunday, the 14th of April. I could not help but long for it—

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Typical German Sauna

Typical German Sauna

Pankow’s local seniors have noticed a new phenomenon: in recent months, steady and growing streams of young foreign students have begun to patronize their beloved sauna. This is due to a new (and rather sweaty) trend sweeping the ECLA campus. As such, the Spok sauna is a legitimate hangout spot for young ECLAlites. Such attendance has inspired me to comprise a list of ten things any faithful attendee (or any curious novice) should know before he or she gets steamed.

  1. The earliest sauna was discovered inside a cave on the northern banks of the Caspian Sea; it is dated to the 3rd century B.C.E. This premodern sauna includes a stone-carved fireplace with seats and a working chimney. Smokey!
  2. The origin of the word ‘sauna’ is Finnish (Savu), meaning ‘smoke’.
  3. During most of the 19th century, the Russian occupation of Finland outlawed any national or political associations, making the sauna the only place where Finnish people could meet and discuss political matters. This tradition helped reinforced their nationalism.
  4. After almost disappearing during the early 20th century, the sauna made its grand reemergence during WWII, where it once again served as a source of comradery and patriotic pride during the days of hardship.
  5. In the mid 1950’s, NASA flew its first test pilots to Helsinki in order to conduct several experiments inside traditional Finnish saunas. In those experiments, NASA investigated the heat limits of the human body, which later contributed to the design of the Apollo rockets.
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I wish I Had My Shorts On

SPOK Sauna

There are many practical benefits that come along with nudism. For example, a nudist never has to worry about staining one’s clothes, a nudist never has to bother holding out his hand to see if it has started to rain, aesthetically unpleasing tan lines are never a problem, and for a nudist the toughest question in any person’s life (“what to wear?”) is seldom asked.

SPOK is the area health and fitness centre whose facilities are regularly used by ECLA students. After working out, many students leave their sweaty clothes in their lockers and enter the SPOK sauna to restore their good health through additional sweating and the purging of toxins.

A visit to the SPOK sauna renders many health dividends, but it is also a place where extreme discrimination takes place. A SPOK sauna is where even the tiniest article of modesty-ensuring clothing is severely frowned upon. “Those who don’t accept the buff aren’t tough enough,” is the tacit and often explicit rule of a SPOK sauna.

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