Thursday, May 7, 2009

Germans are angry...

After the camino, I spent another day in Paris (packing, doing laundry, and eating an entire wheel of camembert and a whole loaf of bread by myself) and then I returned to Berlin for a week. It was, in a word, wunderbar. I wanted to go back for another week to spend more time with Melanie and have some silly, frivolous fun again. I also was able to see my friends Holly and Jacqui from the camino several times during the week. It's strange how close we became after walking together and how I just happened to be returning to Berlin. I saw the two of them, I think, a total of 4 times during the week, which was really wonderful. (And I'm totally jealous because they're going back to finish the camino this summer. I hate them. But it won't be as much fun without me. Sucks for them.)

But I think the main thing I wanted to do was create some routines and practices around prayer and self-care that I can take with me to Seattle. One of the big themes of my travels has been balance. Finding a balance between taking care of others (ICROSS, nursing school) and taking care of myself (exercise, prayer). A balance between my school/work life, my social life, and my personal life. I was only in Berlin for a week, so I wasn't able to figure all that out there, but I think I made some first steps, which I'm pleased with. I think regular prayer and walks (without a destination) will be important for me in Seattle. And in life in general.

The most exciting and scary thing that happened during my week in Berlin was May Day. The 1st of May is a public holiday, during which everyone drinks a lot, dances a lot, and protests a lot. And there's an annual tradition of police riots. This year, several groups marched together during a large, peaceful protest. There were anti-fascists, socialists, anti-sexists, etc. Every political movement you could imagine. And then at the end of the march, as is custom, people started rioting. And it's all targeted towards the police, which I guess is better than the people in the crowd targeting each other. The police are in full riot gear and were waiting all day for something to happen, and finally it did.

As Melanie said, it was a strange, kinda beautiful, kinda stupid ballet. I saw the riots around midnight (well into their sixth hour). It was completely dark except for some light from the streetlamps and from the fires people had started in the middle of the street. Everyone was crowded on the sidewalks because all the (dangerous) action was happening in the street. Most people there (including Melanie and I) were merely spectators. But there were some brave, angry souls that would throw beer bottles at the police and then run back into the crowd. The police would then approach the crowd and try to remove the "troublemaker." Three cops would restrain him/her and take them to a police van while about 7 or 8 other cops would surround them in a circle. The police always moved in groups of at least 10. It was an interminable exchange of someone throwing a bottle at the police or starting a fire and then a pack of police officers rushing into the crowd to arrest someone or put out a fire.

It was "beautiful"--Melanie found it more beautiful than I did--in that people who felt powerless were able to gain some sort of power by acting out against the police, who for them represented the State. But it was also really stupid because so many of the beer bottles thrown towards the police ended up hitting people on the other side of the street. And the power that the bottle-throwers and fire-starters gained, what use was it? What did the rioting change? Absolutely nothing. The riots are so common on May Day that they've simply become a tradition. They've lost their significance. It's business as usual the next day.

It was pretty scary because I was right in the middle of it at times, but it was also exciting, too. (I'm sorry, Mom, for breaking my promise. Melanie kept me safe though...) I'm glad I saw it, even though I didn't really see the point of it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment