Something like a very poetic feeling overcomes me when I think about the beginning of this academic year at ECLA—my second year as a BA student.
Before coming back I thought it would be either very easy to re-adapt because, in a sense, nothing changes, or very hard because, in another sense, everything changes. Things are somewhere in between. It’s a baffling mix of old and new things, and I keep oscillating between them until I start shaking with fear.
I open the doors with the confidence that one has at home, I walk on the narrow streets of Pankow relaxed, always ready to explain to the newcomers this or that. I know now how a seminar at ECLA functions, with a balance between patience and exuberance.
I won’t be very nervous before the first one begins. I know how the cogwheels of daily life should connect. I know the schedule of the M1 tram and I know exactly where it will take me. I won’t get lost. I won’t forget anything.
But I know almost nothing about the new people, just names and countries. Lots of names and countries. And then I just see them running, asking, laughing, eating, clapping, but most of all I see them coming, and coming. Suddenly I realize that they are the new ECLA; an ECLA that I don’t know and one that has to be learned all over again. It feels like being a deep-rooted tree on a plain and suddenly you notice there are lots of colorful butterflies floating around, which you would never be able to catch because you can’t move.
Or, like playing chess, when you know perfectly what your next move has to be and suddenly you see that all the chessmen have changed their places. Or, it’s as if some things are so well-known to your eyes that they have recovered their true proportions and are no longer troubling you, while some other things seem gigantic, as in childhood.
I won’t continue these lyrical effusions. I understand that this poetic state has to stop so that I recover my equilibrium. But I myself made this task even more complicated when I signed up for the same events we had last year during the Berlin Weekend (a yearly program meant to introduce students to some of the most amazing places and happenings in Berlin).
First, there was the Art Gallery Tour in Mitte. Just imagine the confusion walking on the same streets and entering the same galleries that Geoff Lehman, just like a year ago, ‘opens’ to us. But the group that contains me is different. And in the small galleries of Mitte, fresh works have taken the place of those that I saw last year. Some things take the place of others, while other things look so familiar.
Later on, the Poetry Night at David Hayes’ place: sitting in a circle, reading poems in our native languages and then reading the translations, eating the same really good cake from the same patisserie. It’s just that the poets and the poems were different—the people reading, the voices, the tones, the languages. Again, almost everything was the same and almost everything had changed.
These disproportionate feelings would have continued to trouble me had I not understood late in the evening when I got back to the dorms, that there is something that I can hold on to until this ‘quake’ passes. And that something is asking myself: “Isn’t there something more essential, something above us humble individuals walking through the streets in Mitte, or reading poetry in Prenzlauerberg?
Something like art, something like poetry, that brought us together for a couple of hours? Something that ultimately brought us to ECLA—old and new students alike? Some kind of fundamental curiosity? Some kind of search that doesn’t regard you as an individual, but rather as a chessman and a ‘searcher’ with the object of the search still missing, still mysterious?”
But with lots of people engaging in it and taking each other’s place, or rather, working it out for each other, that’s when coming and leaving, new and old doesn’t matter anymore.
by Aurelia Cojocaru (2nd year BA, Moldova)