On Thursday morning, some students went to their community partners, while others continued working on the community asset map. In the afternoon, the whole group went to Die Gartnerei, a community garden in Neukölln. There, we attended a movement workshop led by Sven, who has worked with dance companies and theaters throughout Germany and abroad. We walked through the property down a beautiful path lined with trees to the main garden. We began by bouncing up and down and rolling our shoulders back to loosen up. Then, we incorporated other movements to different counts, sometimes starting in a large circle and meeting in the middle or building off the movements of a partner.
The workshop ended with an activity that asked each group to think of three or four “key words” that described our community placement. Some of the words included “fun,” “conflict,” “multilingual,” “community,” “welcome,” “green,” “on time,” and “lively.” We began the activity in a small space with in the garden, and only expressed these words through movement. Then, Sven asked us to incorporate speech into our expressions of the words, which led to more interaction between the students. Some words were more challenging than others – while “multilingual” often led students to speak in different languages, other words like “green” or “conflict” were a bit more abstract. We moved from the lawn into the garden, where Sven asked us to interact with the plants and move around the space. After several days of being in Berlin’s downtown areas or at our community partners, I found it refreshing to take a break in a green space and do a type of activity I had never done before. I also liked that Sven really pushed us to be as expressive as possible, even if it made us uncomfortable.
After the workshop, some students explored Tempelhofer Feld, a former airport that is now a public park. The airport has become one of my favorite spots in the city. It also has an interesting connection to the themes of our program – many refugees have been housed in the indoor portion of the airport, and now more container housing is being built outside on the runway. The sign outside the construction site reads, “Tempohome – eine Unterkunft für die vorübergehende Unterbringung von Geflüchteten,” or, “Tempohome – lodging for the temporary accommodation of refugees.”
The people of Berlin fought for many years to save the property from developers, and I have had few more fun experiences in Berlin than riding a bike on a former runway. The coexistence of refugee housing, two or three small restaurants, a community garden, and public park capture how collaborative many of the neighborhoods in Berlin have been when it comes to accommodating refugees. My individual research has focused on the history of immigrant housing and social housing in Berlin, and it is nice to see that many Berliners have kept the same welcoming, open-minded spirit that they had during the ‘60s to ‘90s.