Guten tag! Hello from Berlin, where I have spent a nice couple of weeks.
I spent my first week here staying in Kreuzberg, an area of the city with a high Turkish population. I wandered around Kreuzberg and Neukölln, the neighborhood next to it, and worked on gathering information and making contacts for my research project. It was an interesting experience, because in some cases, I felt myself going back into "Turkish mode." There is a lot of great Turkish food around, which I of course took advantage of, and enjoyed speaking a bit of Turkish (often mixed with a bit of German). Sprechen Sie Turkdeutsch?
I worked on visiting German-Turkish organizations to hopefully make contacts for my project, but unfortunately many are in "Urlaub Zeit" (vacation time) now. One day I rented a bike, which I discovered to be a wonderful way to get around the city, and a joy to ride—many streets in Berlin have well-marked bike lanes, and they are well utilized.
After a week in Kreuzberg, I moved way out to my dorm at the edge of Berlin. I'm living in a single in a dormitory at a "student village," with German students and international students on my program. After dropping my stuff off, I headed back to the center of Berlin for lunch with a friend who just spent the year here--it was great to catch up! Then back to the dorm for unpacking and, in my case, working on getting over a cold.
My program started out with an orientation at the Freie Universitat—where I'm studying—during which we received free tote bags and were briefed on the program and our classes. On Monday we started school, which was great. So far, my class is very interesting, and it's great to be back in an academic environment—even though I only have class Mondays and Thursdays. My class is called "Islam and the West," and so far we have discussed a lot of theoretical issues with those concepts--including identity and the creation of a "self" and "other." Brings me back to my anthropological theory class!
On my off days I've continued working on my research project—meeting with people from organizations and trying to set up interviews. I've also had some time to just hang out and relax and enjoy the city. I visited the Duckstein festival, a fun event with crafts, food, and entertainment, held at a beautiful palace. We also took part in a karaoke night at the dormitory bar (yes, there's a bar at my dorm), singing a rousing rendition of "Summer Nights" (I was John Travolta) and enjoying 3-euro cider.
On Saturday we visited a pretty cool flea market, then decided to take the night by storm at the Berlin Summer Rave--a giant dance party held at the historic Tempelhof airport. We raved and danced until around 4 AM, then headed home on the public transport system, arriving around 5:30, when the sky was already quite light.
This week has been similar to last week—class, working on my research project, chilling at the dorms, and some exploring. I rented a bike, which has been a great investment; I can bike to school, and take it into the city. I biked around Schlachtensee, a lake near the dorms, and had a nice moment of relaxation and enjoying nature. Today I accidentally stumbled upon Checkpoint Charlie, and remembered that there's so much more to explore in this city! I'll keep you posted :)