I keep getting asked the question “What am I excited for on Cultural Roots?”, and frankly I cannot put my finger on it. I’m sitting in a car on the way back from Austin Formal trying to vocalize an internal instinct to see the unknown. Why did 19th century Americans want to Manifest Destiny? Why did Magellan try and circumnavigate the globe? Because there is an insatiable human desire that drives us to experience what is beyond our current comprehension. Exploring with a general goal, but without full grasp of the intricate details allows for the fullest of experiences. Expectations sometimes cap perceptions of reality as there is an internal desire to make each activity at least meet the expectation. Opportunities can be overlooked or missed if an activity is considered complete when the experience meets the expectation. Like Aerosmith said, “I don’t want to miss a thing,” so my expectations may feel vague, but that is only so I do not cap my learning or understanding.
I am incredibly excited to physically be able to see a city that has seen centuries of history. Besides the Spanish Missions, few relics of the past stand today in my hometown of San Diego. Seeing how a city incorporates centuries of development and how it adjusts to civilizations coming and going will be fascinating. In the same stride, I am intrigued to learn how a city rebounds from being almost completely decimated only 80 years ago. Fun fact, (and I am sure that there will be many more of these in my future blog posts) the Berlin Zoo has 3,500 animals prior to WWII. After the war, the zoo had less than 100 animals because many of them were slaughtered during bombardments as the Soviets closed in on Berlin. Having been to London previously, I was blown away from seeing a church that was still in use despite half of the building having been destroyed during the Battle of Britain. The British have great pride in how their grit and determination carried them through the war despite the daily attacks, but how do a people who were forced to accept defeat respond? How do people who see a destroyed building react when instead of “keeping calm and carrying on”, they bring their lunch pail to work knowing that the world is rejoicing at their downfall? How do you make reconciliation after horrible atrocities are committed? These are the questions I seek to find the answers to in Berlin.
Continuing further towards modern times, I am curious to learn about the effects of the isolation caused by the Berlin Wall. How has East Berlin responded and rebuilt since the wall fell? What was life like under a Communist regime? These are questions that can never be fully understood by reading about them in history books. You have to not only listen, but also see the emotion on people’s faces when they talk. You have to stand on the ground where they stood. You must see what they were staring at. But even then, you will only get a fractional taste of what the real experience was like. Hopefully, this fractional experience will help us better understand the pain caused by a corrupt regime.
Finally, I’m excited to return to the country that my Great-grandparents emigrated roughly 100 years ago. There has never been a strong cultural identity in my family as it seems we too were swept up in the great melting pot that is America, but I believe this is a chance to reconnect with my family.
That is about all I have in the way of pre-trip thoughts on Berlin. This may be the last you hear from me before I arrive in Europe, but who knows. Dr. Pitcock is an International Man of Mystery and he may have something else up his sleeve!