A wedded bunch of people is jumping, crawling, shaking, swinging through the room. The room seems far to small for such a huge cloud of wanton and happy energy. Every evening the same amazing power. People from Romania, France, Netherlands, Poland and Germany, find themselves just for being happy, celebrating, dancing, drinking and sharing jokes and secret thoughts together. They are transforming every house, every city into something new, something warm, something were you want to stay and to hold on. The evenings we spent together were the most exciting part during the entire exchange. It was so amazing for me, that all the people were somehow closely connected. Words were flying and spreading everywhere and to everyone. No one was left out or was standing on the edge. During this exchange hardly anyone got enough sleep, just a bit of resting for being more or less prepared to heed off to the adventures of the day.
While the evenings were quite ecstatic and just a brilliant chaos of happenings, movements and discussions the days were supposed to be more structured.
Our big mission was to discover our own and the other cultures. Further to explore the various cultural faces of Berlin and to find common ground and differences. To get a better understanding how emigrants are living in Berlin we visited a woman counselling centre for emigrated women. In this centre the women can get advice and professional counselling in all life matters, starting by looking for a flat and financial support, going to psychological support in difficult situations and heed over to celebrating multicultural partys, with lots of dances and opportunities for women to get in touch with other foreign women. The visit in this centre revealed that most participants of our youth exchange had no clue about the life of emigrants in their country. The polish and Romanian boys were claiming that in their country no one from abroad wants to live for a long time. People are just having a journey through in order to move to other countries. Only the Netherlands are having a big increase of foreign people. Especially war refugees are looking for security. The Netherlands are supporting them in getting a job and buying a reasonable flat or house for a fair credit. Especially politically persecuted people and war refugees from Somalia and Afghanistan are trying to settle in the Netherlands. France is also a favourable place for different ethnic groups. During a workshop about cultural stereotypes, the origins of racism and about definitions of culture we had a very emotional discussion about the rights and duties of emigrants. Some participants had the feeling that sometimes a certain part of emigrants try to change the country into their own country. They are trying to change traditions, facilities and customs. Other participants had the opposite opinion. They love it if new cultures move in and help to enrich the variety of life styles, religions and architecture.
To figure out how different life styles can be we visited a museum for cultural history. The museum is showing a great tactile exhibition about the life style of different cultures within Berlin. The exhibition is called “villa Global” and presents a house with fifteen rooms which are created according to the styles and habits of different cultures. Every room tells a story about a foreigner who is living in Berlin. While moving through the rooms we could experience and touch lots of things. We were part of a Turkish wedding. A Romanian boy were trying to wear the wedding dress of the bride. Unfortunately it did not fit that well 😉 In another room we listened to corian music and were sitting on soft pillows. Our polish group was amazed about a room which was created in a typical polish way. The room presented the living room of a polish family who is living in Germany. The polish participants discovered lots of old dishes, pictures and carpets which reminded them of their childhood.
To get in touch with the nature aspect of our “Cultural mosaic” we visited a huge park called “The gardens of the World”. This park consists of various gardens which are designed in typical national styles. You can find a Japanese garden with lots of rocks, sherry blossom trees, a herbal garden, with rosemary, curry, basil and other strong smelling herbs. Some of the participants got lost in a big mace constructed out of plants, hedges and trees. Others were enjoying the different flavours of tea in a coozy and beautiful Chinese tea house. Me and some participants from Poland and France were walking through a marocan garden, touching orange trees and splashing each other with the water of the Wuthering fountains.
To explore our sportive energy we were climbing on wals in a climbing hall. Supported by experienced trainers we were tackling this challenging task. The walls were designed for different difficulty levels. Most of us had never climbed before and were totally exhausted and happy afterwards.
This week was a week full of activity, discussion, laughter, friendship and joy. All the participants made me to see and experience my hometown Berlin in a new and fantastic way. Many of them were inspired by the German “Curry wurst” a curry sausage and by the German bear. Others loved the green parts of Berlin. Others were a bit stressed by the hectic and the public transport system of this town. Whenever I visit places which we had seen during this youth exchange I hear the laughter and the comments of the other participants and be reminded of a great and inspiring time.