It’s finally spring in Berlin. This past week has been highs of 25C (75F ish). I even have a sun burn if that says anything. It’s like a whole new city when the weather is nice. Every cafe and restaurant has seating outside, the parks are full and it’s BBQ season! Berlin is really a city of parks and nature. I actually live a bit outside the city and we have a huge park down the street with sheep!!
This weekend some of my classmates had a BBQ in Templehof. Templehof is an old airport/runway in the middle of the city. They decided to close the airport a while back and instead of filling it with buildings, they left it an open area for people. As many people live in apartment buildings, they go to the park to BBQ. Some families make it extremely elaborate and others are just out for a chill afternoon. Below you can see our group setting up. By late afternoon the field was packed all around us. We were probably all inhaling too much charcoal smoke :). It’s nice that people are always wanting to be outside and enjoy the sun!
In other news, I went to the ADELE concert last weekend so that was pretty epic! She is amazing Live!
I also went to a protest to advocate for disability rights. Similar to in America, disability services and coverage are a bit wacky. In Germany you are only allowed to make so much money and there is a limit to your savings. This amount is really small (few thousand). If you stay under this limit you are still allowed to receive funding for personal care or support, but if you start making too much, that funding goes away. This is similar to the states and actually very relatable to the welfare system. One is almost punished for having a career in that they now must pay to have someone assist them out of their own pocket. One thing Germany does have that the states is still working on is really good health care. No matter who you are in Germany you can get nearly all medical bills covered. For instance, if I would have an overnight hospital stay it would be like $10. General visits to the doctor are always covered no matter how many times you go. It’s pretty nice to live somewhere that I don’t have to worry about potential medical bills (no matter how little or much you make). But, it’s still frustrating to see that Germany still struggles with income limit thing. Anyways..it was interesting to see how many people showed up. Two of my favorite pics from the event below…
On the topic of disability, let’s talk about elevators. When I moved to Berlin I knew the public transport would be pretty good … and it has been! But, occasionally the elevators are different metro systems decide to go out. There is a handy app I can check but it isn’t always updated. So, the worst is arriving at my destination and not being able to get to street level because of an elevator outage. This often means getting back on the metro – going to the next stop and getting off. Then either rolling or finding a bus. Recently though the elevator nearest to my house has been out for a week. I’ve found an alternate route that is pretty good, but it still adds 20-30 mins on my journey depending on which way (at night even longer). I’ve always considered myself to be a patient person, but if anything can test patience is waiting… and waiting for a bus or train. This has been one of the main reasons I’d also like to move closer to the city center.
Finally, during the past month I’ve been working on a school project that requires learning and visiting different refugee camps in Berlin. This has made me more aware of the varying conditions in the camps. Most camps are not actually camps or tents but old buildings (hospital, office, sports hall, etc.). In some of them families have their own room (small room). But, often the bathroom and shower facilities are very limited. If 600 people are living in an office building then there are obviously not adequate facilities. This causes a number of issues as you can imagine. Most of our time has been talking with women and children and just getting to know people. We are looking into providing resources to help them better adjust to the city life – German courses, city transport, paperwork help, etc. We also are hoping to better understand how we can bring social activities into the camp. It’s important to remember many of these people are educated and were likely working or attending school prior to fleeing. Now they are unable to work (during the first few months) and are frankly bored. In a way they become very isolated in the camps. Overall, it’s been a learning process and everyone has a different view on it. It is definitely a crisis though… and it’s not going anywhere. The best thing we can do is support and be a welcoming city. After all …most of us (especially Americans) were refugees or immigrants at one time or another! Oh and kids still hover when you show them cool things on your phone.
Happy Friday! Here’s a few pics from the past few weeks!