06 June 2012

The ghetto. Great grandma.

Poor Zane woke up at 3am this morning. There was no getting him back to sleep. He played with his iPad, toys, fingers, flipped, flopped, but never got back to sleep. The rest of us were exhausted and only stirred to tell Zane to keep the noise down when he started to get too loud. We finally got up at 9, showered, ate cereal, and headed out for another tour with our host.
Here the government helps the poor in ways that are just shocking for Americans to comprehend. Our host says he pays 45% in income tax and is happy about that. He is happy that because of the high taxes he pays that everyone can live with dignity, be healthy, educated, and also not rob him as a result of a big income gap. His rationale is that he has more than he needs, anything more would increase his carbon footprint and he does not want to do that. To him there is no better investment than creating a safe, clean, healthy society.

Here there is a deep deep sense of peace and safety. There is a conscious movement here to take care of the earth and each other. Today's tours included many green areas that he and many other Berliners enjoy. Many people ride their bikes to the lakes and paths for family hikes. People also purchase green gardens for about $300 a year. Each garden had a small cabin for over night stays and they must have a certain percentage of vegetables, flowers, ornaments, etc.

Our tour also included a view of government housing areas. Our host says that area is the cheapest place to live in Berlin because it is unattractive. To us these looked like some of the expensive condos in midtown Atlanta. I asked our host if it was safe there he said, absolutely! Last night I tried to explain to Marcos and our host what a "bad neighborhood" is; these guys seemed to have no frame of reference for what I was talking about. They'd asked me about US government housing and I tried to explain that we have it, there are long waiting list, and mostly in bad neighborhoods. "What is that they asked? A bad neighborhood...?"
"Yea, ya know, drug dealers and prostitutes outside of your house. Maybe people shooting guns at nights..."
"Wait prostitution is STILL illegal in the US, and guns continue to be legal?!"
I could see them trying to visualize this new and foreign concept of a bad neighborhood.
During my tour of the poorest parts if Berlin it became my turn to be perplexed. There was nothing that stood out to me as under privileged or desperate. Everything was well taken care of and once again felt safe.

While there we stopped at a park for the kids to run and jump. While there we caught the attention of a group of 12 and 13 years who heard us speaking English.

"Are you from England? Do you know 50 cent? Do you like Snoop Dog and Tupac? Is nigger a bad word? African-American is the correct word right? Why are you here, the US is much better than here?". Most of this was translated to us by our host, but the kids also took the opportunity to practice what they learn in their English class with us. I instantly fell in love with these kids and their curiosity reminded me of my students back home. We answered all of their questions to the best of our ability and bid them goodbye as their teacher led them back to school.

After our tour it was time for lunch with our host's mom and her boyfriend Siegfried. By this time Zane's eyes were about to pop out of his head, remember he's been up since 3am!! We arrived to her solar paneled home and were served the perfect German children's lunch; noodles and tomato sauce, carrots, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, and Brussel Sprouts. Our host sweetly fussed at his mom about serving kids food. She explained to him that she is a grandma and great-grandma, which means she was only interested in pleasing Zane and Dude.

Grandmothers are the same all over the world!

Lunch was great; good food and good company, what more could we ask for?! After lunch we returned home to let Zane take a nap and to put him out of his misery. We let him sleep 2 hours and woke him up to take the boys to the park, but it began to rain before we could get very far. We decided to stay in for the rest of the day and play Jenga, Legos, and other family games. For tomorrow we have our eyes set on Potsdam gardens and palaces. Hopefully we will all sleep through the night and finally get on European time.

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