University of Washington

Summer A Term 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Youth Guarantee Now! 8 Billion committed to Youth Job Measure, June 2013

(Reuters) - European leaders agreed on Thursday to set aside around 8 billion euros to combat youth unemployment, even as they admitted that the labour market would only sustainably improve once the crisis-hit region returns to growth.
More than three years of financial turmoil and belt tightening has sent joblessness soaring across southern, central and eastern Europe, with young people the hardest hit. Read more...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Daily Diary: June 26-27

With about a week in Berlin under our belt, we are finally getting into our regular routines. Most of us are jetlag-free, learned our ways around Kreuzberg, able to get on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn without getting stuck in the door, and struggling to find the perfect balance between our classes and having a blast in Europe.

Wednesday was a relatively low-key but somewhat stressful day. We started the day at Humboldt, where we met Sabine Heprich, the director of the documentary Neukolln-Aktiv. I didn’t really know what to expect as I would not be able to understand German and I could not imagine what German documentary would be like. Sabine first talked about her documentary and her approach to the film—her motivation and message. Neukolln Aktiv is a place funded by the Job Center and Youth Welfare Service, where unemployed youth are “activated.” The documentary was quite interesting as we saw different progressions of interactions between the youths and social workers at the Job Center. The documentary was very relevant to our program as we are learning about youth unemployment in Eurozone crisis.

Afterwards we took a lunch break and headed toward the hostel. Then we started group and individual meetings with Julie, Edgar and Manuela about our research projects. Because there are so many of us with so many things to talk about, the meetings were longer than planned and some of us had to wait quite some time for our appointments. Some of us were stressed out and intimidated by our research project. We are in Berlin for another week and a half and there seemed to be too much to do! At least, I felt that way after my group meeting. When I went for my individual meeting afterwards, I had more clear direction of where I need to go and what I should do for the next 1.5 weeks in Berlin. That cleared some stress away for me.  The day ended with many of us using our “free” evening to rest and catch up on some sleep. We were getting ready for the big day.

On Thursday, we went on a tour of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The day started with a mini bump as we waited for about half an hour for Julie as she had to go back and get our train tickets. In the meantime we got our “sack lunch” and took a lot of pictures outside of Friedrichstraße station. Then we were able to get on S-Bahn to the end of the line. Sachsenhausen concentration camp is located in Oranienburg, a small town just outside of Berlin. Read about Sachsenhausen concentration camp here. It was nice to be outside of the city and having a different view outside the train. Oranienburg looked pretty and peaceful, which was quite contradictory of what I was expecting out of the concentration camp.

Train ride and double rainbow!

The tour of the concentration camp was quite emotional. Our tour guide was really good as she gave us narratives and multiple perspectives of history, as well as her personal perspective. I had a lot of thoughts to digest and had a hard time trying to comb out different and complex layers of history. Most of us spent our time at the camp, speechless and mournfully looking at what remains of the camp. The weather complimented our feelings as it poured down rain on us for a bit. We ended the tour with a walk around the crematorium. That was the hardest and the most emotional part of the tour. On the train ride back, we reflected on our feelings and thoughts about the tour. When we came back to Berlin, some of us went to the holocaust memorial, dedicated to Jews. We walked through the memorial individually for about 20 minutes and came back to the hostel.  Check out our student blogs (links on the side) for individual reflections.

At the end of the day, I was emotionally-drained and it was a lot more intense than I expected. The program is more than just travelling and exploring Europe, but rather really challenging ourselves with complex questions of history and social issues around us. I am curious to see where the next four more weeks are going to take us.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 24th and 25th Daily Diary

Sometimes I forget that we’re here to study, not galavant across Berlin, Léon, and Madrid in search of the adventure of our lives.  Therefore, when I woke up on Monday morning, I was a bit apprehensive. Painful memories of recent finals and sleepless nights had painted a rather dim perspective on what we were going to do at Humboldt University for the next few days.  However, Humboldt has truly turned out to be a home away from home.  I didn’t realize how much I had missed the bustle of students, intellectual curiosity, and thirst for knowledge.  The professors have all been wonderfully engaging and thought-provoking.

            On Monday morning at around 10am, we left for Humboldt.  On the way there, I guess you could say we learned a few tidbits about public transportation in Berlin.  The Metro doors closed on Rummi and wouldn’t open up.  Poor Rummi had to wait a good 30 seconds until she finally managed to squeeze through the doors.  Needless to say, we haven’t tried to cram into the trains since.  Afterwards, we arrived at Humboldt University where we met Professor Markus Heide, Professor Reinhard Isensee (briefly), Ms. Romy Schreiber (a graduate student in Education), and Dr. Anna Broemmer (Director of International Programs).  After introductions, we were glad to see that everyone was so welcoming and excited about our projects.  They really made the transition to Berlin seem much less intimidating.  Then, we went to the main building for a guided tour of Humboldt.  We learned all about Humboldt’s history—that Max Planck and Albert Einstein studied here, that book burnings took place here during the Holocaust, and that the main building used to be an estate—and got a chance to see the beautiful buildings.

            When we were all tired and hungry, we went to lunch at Cum Laude café, which was apparently the faculty cafeteria.  We had “fancy” food and although it was strange, it was interestingly delicious.  My “lukewarm potato and cucumber salad,” or so it was called, definitely made the meal.  The most enjoyable part of the meal though was talking with the professors and students.  It was great to discuss our projects with people so knowledgeable about our topics.  It was also a shock to see how differently Germany and the United States deal with their education systems.  After lunch, we had a short lecture about theory and different modes of research.  It cleared a lot of things up for our projects and I’m glad that when I research over the next few weeks, it’ll be more than a random conglomeration of observations. 
            On Tuesday morning, we started off with a lecture from Dr. Heide.  When I saw that he had a PowerPoint, I was a bit worried.  Powerpoints have never really worked well with my short attention span.  However, I was very surprised at how he made the lesson so interactive and interesting, peppering the presentation with important historical films.  I know that for me personally, history classes have always been either lectures or heated debates.  Compared to those, his lecture was really refreshing.  Afterward, we went to the Palace of Tears.  Above all, it really hit home that people said goodbye to some of their closest friends and family without knowing when they would see each other again.  It made me feel really disappointed in myself about emotionally brushing off the Palace of Tears when I read about it in high school.  Finally, we ended our day at the Bundestag and Reichstag tour.  It turns out that Germany decided to preserve a lot of the old building.  We saw old Soviet graffiti on the walls, gunshots from World War II, and much of the old building material.  It was interesting how they managed to blend the old and the new so well.  As for the new parts of the building, although I thought that they were indeed modern, they were a lot less luxurious than I had envisioned.  All in all, our first two days were phenomenal!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Palace of Tears Assignment

Dear Group,

Visit the Palace of Tears to observe, learn, record, and reflect.

After taking the self guided tour, sit and record your observations and reflections. Record the date, time of day, and location (and other details you may note).

Take some time to observe the site silently, and also see who is at the site and activities. Situate yourself at the site.

Then consider:
history of the site
why memorial
what purpose
visual representation, how does it commemorate
why name "palace of tears"
think about borders and borders crossings. who is contained and who is not let in. Also you might think about the identity politics of the border, memories at the border, invisible borders, psychological borders, cultural borders, etc.

Reflect more generally on the narratives of the different individuals involved at this border crossing: guards, east berliners, west berliners, etc. who else? Thinks about the video narratives from the link we sent.  Consider how personal memories are also political-- personal and political are connected.

Daily Diary - June 22 & 23

Our first weekend in Berlin has truly been a blast! With a few of us arriving Thursday, most on Friday, and a few stragglers (you know who you are!) on Saturday, we were happy to have the time to settle in and explore.

Saturday began with what would become the daily 9AM group breakfast in the front cafe, conveniently equipped with "to-go" sized items that we definitely took advantage of (preparing snacks for later)! Most of the day was then spent exploring the gay pride activities at the Christopher Street Day Parade and fighting the dregs of jetlag. Unfortunately, my addiction to napping kept me from enjoying the day's activities - but I'm sure all of you had a wonderful time. Here's a link if you want a look back!

Saturday evening, we had the opportunity to meet the lovely Manuela for a tour of Kreuzberg and Treptower in Die Fabrik's vicinity. We explored an old Wall watchtower and posed for photos by the "Molecule Man." A walk down the promenade along the river led us ultimately to the World War II Soviet Memorial, created in commemoration of the millions of Russian soldiers who perished during the war. My favorite part of this tour was perhaps Manuela's stories about where she was in 1989 when the wall came down, and how the atmosphere of Berlin was full of excitement and vigor. She highlighted the important of visible and invisible memory, and how memory is created and recreated through narratives.

After our 9AM group breakfast on Sunday, most of the group traveled to Mauerpark for some flea market bargains. I walked around the stalls and perused everything from books to jewelry to clothes to old car parts...My only purchase was a beleaguered cell phone and charger in an act of optimism. (The Samsung phone I ended up buying at Saturn the following day proved much more reliable.) We had the opportunity to take the U-bahn/S-bahn and Metro Streetcar on the way there and back.

Dinner at Baraka Arabic Restaurant was just a short walk away from the hostel and was a great opportunity for us to come together for a group meal. As I am by no means a food connoisseur  I will describe the food we had as a delicious offering of spiced meats, rice, falafel and pastes - topped off with what tasted like the best bread in the world!

We wrapped up the night with a leisurely walk home to some light reading in preparation for the Palace of Tears and a refreshing German drink of choice.

Passive Resistance Through Performance Art - Istanbul Standing Man

From the Guardian (see full text below):

"The "standing man" exemplifies some features of the tradition of passive resistance. First, the ability to meet overpowering physical force with a determined, but passive, feat of defiance has sometimes been the death knell of recalcitrant regimes, whether it is the Shah or Marcos – because it points to resources that the protesters have which can overwhelm the state's repressive capacities. Second, passive resistance is not merely symbolic; it confuses and derails the calculations of the rulers. When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, part of the resistance involved painting over street signs and mysteriously shutting off infrastructure."

Read More:

Demonstrations in Istanbul

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ronald Reagan's Visit to Berlin

Interesting visuals (scanned photos) of Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 and the wide spread demonstrations of protest:

Palace of Tears- Reading Assignment

Please read through this site for general history and background about the Palace of Tears.

This link below gives more background on the Palace of Tears. It is made available through the German Historical Museum to introduce the site and exhibition. The video has interviews by people from East and West.  Consider the different narratives representing a memorial:

Consider how commemoration is represented through an institution, In this case, the German Historical Museum.