Today we were visiting the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. After taking two different trams, we arrived at the building for immigrants to try to be incorporated in German society. Skipping past everyone through a padlocked gate, we sat at a large table to hear about Germany’s switch from being a country reluctant to help immigrants, to embracing being the second largest nation of immigrants. Germany has come a long way and definitely showed their commitment to making people transition to being a German citizen easier. Getting back on the buses, we made our way to the Turkish Hamtramck of Berlin, Kreuzberg. This area had a large population of Turkish immigrants due to after WWII and during the Cold War, West Berlin needed workers, but no one but the Turks were willing to come. The thing is they stayed. There seems to be still resentment with Berliners and the Turks as the Turks feel they aren’t true Turks and they aren’t true Berliners. After waiting with Jörge for the rest of the group, I noticed how much more graffiti Kreuzberg had than any other part of Germany. As we started walking through back alleys, we stopped to talk about a part of the tour when in the background were cops arresting 3 individuals. The fatigue was definitely setting in with the group as it seemed like no one was interested. The part that stood out for me was visiting my first mosque. This was accessed through a back alley where we had to drop our bags (my computer and camera) outside and take off our shoes before entering. The mosque was a renovated garage, with only two people praying. The carpet had arrows pointing towards Mecca. The guide was not a muslim and I thought it was surprising that we could all come in, hang out, and none of us were Muslims. At the culmination of the tour, we visited a traditional Turkish restaurant. I was extremely hunrgy, as I once again decided to forgo dinner in a hope to better enjoy the large German dinners we were having. Sitting with Michelle, Jenny, Kimberly, and Amy, we started with bread and tabouli. Next we had our main course which was to pick from behind the register from several main courses one selection. I chose the meatballs, which were not what I expected as they were in a somewhat sweet, cinnamony sauce. Being that they were only 5 small meatballs, I was still super hungry and left my first German restaurant unsatisfied. Afterwards, Jörge said he’d be willing to take the group to the East Berlin Wall. I was excited as I heard about this being spectacular prior to going. The wall is not original, but they hired artist to paint portions of the mile long stretch. Jörge took us on an enjoyable hike through the city, Michelle, Joe, Kristin and I. Jörge eventually departed from us as he ushered us to the wall. The wall was absolutely impressive. In an ironic moment, Germans not only recreated graffiti with graffiti art, but people eventually graffitied the graffiti. Some were so bad that they recommissioned the artist to put a fresh coat. Every wall was unique and told a different story, be it pop culture, a design, or a political message, it was all impressive. I was so thankful to have seen it. My favorite part was a message that said, Many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world. After finishing the long wall walk, we struggled trying to find the right bus, which I simply wanted to go and walk the rest of the short way back. Eventually a lady could tell we were lost and pointed us home.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.