12 January 2015

Insufficient Backgrounds

Back in November, there was a huge celebration here in Berlin during the first week. November 9 happened to be the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Even though there was a massive train strike, plenty of Germans were in town, and people were walking along the path of the old wall, as well as attending celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate. The city even installed thousands of lighted balloons along the path, and they were intended to be released and flown away during the evening of that Sunday, after being lit up for 3 days, symbolizing the disappearance of the wall and the unification of Germany. Heck, they even had Air Berlin offering 45-minute sight-seeing flights over the city, so that one can see the balloons from the air.

Anyway, I opted to get out of the house and check out the festivities. After all, the previous year I hiked the entire length of the Berlin Wall as a summer project. So I am familiar with the areas where things were happening. However, I still felt detached, as I was merely an outside observer.

See, I stepped out of Hauptbahnhof Station and walked south, walking along the bank of the Spree River, as the former wall partly runs along the river before it goes to the Reichstag and on to Brandenburg Gate. Huge screens were set up, projecting videos of the events that happened 25 years before. I saw Germans looking so involved and happy at being part of this event. But I was just there, the quasi-anthropologist, observing from the exterior. It almost felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.

It's because I don't have the sufficient background experience for it. I am not a German, and was not part of the social collective that experienced reunification in 1989-1990. So while for the Germans this is most probably a very important historic event, I am simply a passerby.

The same thing happened with me when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013. I couldn't relate. I said last year that I felt that I wasn't Filipino enough to relate. Maybe that is true, maybe it was because I have lived more years outside than inside the Philippines, that I haven't really had the chance to form the collection of information and knowledge that goes with being a Filipino. Come to think of it, I have always felt like I am a foreigner everywhere, wherever I am, and I think that feeling won't change anytime soon. I have just learned to embrace and accept it, and for the most part it doesn't disturb me, only when events like these happen and they get prominent and get brought up to my consciousness.

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