illustrations: Ray Noland
Now is not exactly the best time to be an American expat. After the election results an Australian friend texted me “you had one job.” I knew he was joking but I could still feel the shame burning inside of me. Just because I wasn’t on the figurative plane as it barreled down to earth, my friends and family were, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.
Sure, perhaps I could have done more; like engage the few Trump supporters in my family or skip a night out to make campaign calls in swing states, but like many others, I was pretty damn comfortable in my bubble. I never thought in a million years that an orange, under qualified tyrant would succeed, so I didn’t feel the need to go out of my way. Instead, I just sat back and watched the disaster unfold from the safety of my Schillerkiez flat.
Immediately after I heard the news that he won, however, I felt shame. I worried about how the rest of the world would view the US. I worried about the damage that Trump would do to the environment, foreign relationships, and women’s rights. I worried about the future of my niece.
photo: Schall & Schnabel
Perfect, care-free, enviable: these used to be the three adjectives that would come up in my mind the moment I would take a look at the shiny profiles of my acquaintances on social media – one cannot really call them friends, right? There would have been plenty occasions in the past, where I would start wondering what my life lacks and is not as “cool” as theirs.
Taking insecurity to a brand new level I would even catch myself feeling sad, if my new post had not received the expected number of likes; choosing my new profile picture would demand a full-fledged strategy, that would put even the most acute Brexit negotiators to shame. However, I would still sense that this is not enough. There would always be someone flaunting various parts of their life they would be most proud of ranging from abs and new pieces of clothing to luxurious holidays – I still refuse to believe the existence of hashtags, such as #moneyisnottheproblem – and partying in the most talked-about clubs.
photos: Alejandro Arretureta
The countless attempts at interpreting what we know now was David Bowie’s parting gift, the album “Blackstar”, reflect our yearning to get closer to the mind of this sublime artist. A yearning which is all the more compelling as it can never be fulfilled. For over a decade now, David Bowie has let his art speak for itself.
The admirable, yet silent dignity of Bowie’s final years, together with his incessant creative pursuits, always rich in fascinating cultural references, forces one to simply marvel at the intricate structure of the whole career. For it is clearly the acting part of it, namely the appearance in 1976 “The Man Who Fell to Earth” , that is the key to grasping the essence of the music video for “Blackstar”, and also “Lazarus” – the Broadway musical which Bowie was working on.
Last January, a lot of people experienced an overwhelming sense of confusion and disbelief. Not only did we lose a man who influenced the way we viewed the world, but also, just two days before that, we got another stunning glimpse at his genius. Literally, the last chance to genuinely appreciate the man.
photo: Susanne Nilsson / CC
In the small town where I’m from, verbal interactions in any language other than Polish are an extremely rare occurrence. After I started high school in Warsaw, I have become exposed to a little wider range of foreigners, but not quite to the extent that would really meet the demands of my thirst for the exotic. So when in 2014 I got a chance to spend my summer vacations at my brother’s in California, I couldn’t contain my excitement at actually being able to use English on an everyday basis. But it wasn’t before I experienced Berlin that I really got to know an environment truly fitting for a cosmopolitan spirit; I’ve realized that my typical day in Berlin comes with more linguistic challenges than I’d face in an entire year had I not moved here.
For me 2016 was actually a great year, even though I almost don’t dare saying it out loud. A lot of sad and terrible things happened in 2016, yes, but there still was a lot of good stuff that I think needs some more attention: Small and big moments in Berlin that showed what a great city this is and what amazing people live here. We should focus more on these things, at least for a moment, and take these positive memories and feelings with us into the new year.
Here are the most happy moments and amazing happenings of 2016 in photos and videos.
photo: Rowena Waack / CC
The year is coming to an end in just a few days; there is often a sense of relief in the atmosphere, as if we are truly excessively happy and grateful for the new year; it seems that every year there are some of us who will claim that that specific year has been horrible either because of personal mishaps or rather due to unfortunate developments that affected the entire world. Along with the good-riddance vibe many of us feel like making new resolutions, setting goals, promising to themselves that they will finally lose that extra weight, start learning mandarin, take more yoga classes or make their wildest dreams come true etc. It is, as if we automatically reset ourselves becoming concurrently confident that it will be different this time, we will not forget our goals and remember that we neglected them as soon as the following year comes to an end as well.
Whether it is Christmas, New Year’s Eve, holidays in general or a simple Saturday night, we have all had this friend urging us to go out, forget worries and problems and just let ourselves loose by partying and….having fun. It has recently dawned on me how bizarre it is that a term as vague and broad as fun would be strictly and exclusively defined by very specific activities, such as hanging out in bars and clubs. Should you ever opt for doing something different, such as read a book or play board games, you would most certainly run the risk of being labelled as boring, miserable and generally “not fun”. Should this one incident develop into a pattern of behavior, that does not abide by the sacred and inviolable guidelines of how to have fun, then the situation might even be considered alarming and lead to people asking you if everything is alright in your life in general, so that they can find and eradicate the root of all evil.
Once upon a time there was a stunningly beautiful bearded princess called Mary-Jane. Contrary to her magnificent looks she lived in a quite unglamorous place called Berlin. It was a small little town mostly inhabited by poor people and other kinds of basic bitches. But Mary-Jane loved it here anyway because it was a tranquil place without a lot of fuzz and she just loved the feeling to be the most beautiful girl in the village.
But she had one problem that gave her a lot of grief. Despite her impeccable looks and most charming wits she couldn’t for the love of god find a damn boyfriend. And it wasn’t for lack of options because Berlin was actually known to host the most attractive man-meat on the mainland. The problem was quite another: There were just too many! It was like grabbing into a bucket full of slippery fish. It’s simply impossible to hold on to one: Just a lubricated whip with the tail and they were gone.
Kottbusser Tor, 1902
A lot of us might have felt the urge the escape the present since last Monday. Although we were planning to share this interesting project that takes you onto a virtual journey in Berlin in some more peaceful circumstances, let’s take the current opportunity to appreciate how Berlin has remained a glorious capital throughout many different times of social anxiety and political instability.
The appropriately named Time Travel Berlin website is a complex project bringing us closer to the history of Berlin. What I mostly enjoy about it is although it does make you learn a lot about history, it does so in a completely unbiased manner that rather encourages making your own judgement. The non-profit project, created by Alexander Darda, depicts Berlin in 8 different periods of time (one of them is even in the future, but only on the German site!), providing only a few sentences of background information about each of them.
Each year listed up on the website is a link to an intricate Berlin map, enriched with multiple interactive points. Those take you to pictures of buildings that used to exist in Berlin at the given time. I recommend you to take some time out of your schedule to enjoy this project, because just a fleeting look over any of the maps may make you feel literally lost among the dark alleys of the past. After you’ve approached the website with enough attention, though, you’ll find it a very rewarding experience.
photos: Andi Weiland / CC
Berlin is a city that has suffered through a lot of difficult times. Just think of all those people that starved to death in the years of World War I, the terror and loss during the Nazi regime, the devastating destruction by bombs and fire in World War II, the years of the devision, the heartbreak of separation and all those killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall. The scars of these times run deep and are still visible. When times are tough Berliners will surely complain, be grumpy, be stubborn. But they always keep on going. They stick together.
Especially the re-unification, even though it was a process that took much longer than just the fall of the Berlin Wall, created a sense of togetherness that you can feel now more than ever. No matter how different they are from each other, if it matters they stand together, strong and unapologetic.