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Hamburg, a New Friend and Art as Politics…

There’s so much to see on this continent, but let’s begin with Hamburg. Hamburg was my home base. It is the second largest city in Germany and a major port city on the Elbe River which is crossed by hundreds of canals. It is a big industrial culture, with water and boats everywhere. Of the nine months of travels I spent five months here. The weather has a heavy influence on the character and way of living of the people of Hamburg. Even within the way people dress. No one wears bright colors, and very few people consider fashion as apart of importance. It is very GREY and foggy and so cold, ICE COLD in the winter. It can be quite depressing with the rain day after day. The people seem to live off fish – fish soup, bread, “Doner Kebab” fish, beer, etc. The way of living is very sea-like, very much like that of a port city.

Although the weather is terrible, I kept busy taking Deutsch classes to learn the language, exploring the community and making friends with natives and training at the theatre - so it didn’t bother me much. The Hamburg natives are just as aggressive as people in NY, so I understood their culture and didn’t get offended when they were aggressive. And like New York, there are all different types of people in Hamburg – all different cultures living together, including many Turkish immigrants whose arrival date back to post World War 2 when they worked to revive the country.

By the start of the second month, I had explored Hamburg, made visits to local museums and became quite comfortable with the city. And I had a great experience meeting a new friend at Campus Café. She said it was very “New York like” meeting because people don’t normally converse with strangers in Hamburg cafes. It was a great time to meet someone there because at the time I was still thinking of my university experience and I wanted to see what university life was like in Germany. As I chatted with her, I learned she was a student taking classes at the nearby university, and we wandered over to see her campus and she introduced me some of her friends. We had very interesting conversations. She was writing her thesis on art as politics and we had great discussions on the question – is art political? I wanted to make it clear that to me, art is expression first - making a change in politics via artistry. You should be able to go to an empty space and self-express – sing, dance, play an instrument, etc – without being judged. Freedom of expression is the basis of art. Her biggest theme was that the freedom to do that, all by itself, made it political. Not everyone has the freedom to do that. Not everyone takes that freedom.

It was all very interesting. Throughout our discussions on her thesis, I analyzed a victim mentality which is very different from my own. I am never the victim. I thought about why we differed and what saved me from victim type of thinking, and realized that it was competition. Playing ball out of Foster Projects - Harlem, NY, being a competitive basketball player and demanding respect keeps me from being a victim. I’ve always faced obstacles and challenges way above my head. I can’t always see the finish line but I’ve already won because I won’t stop until I win. I have a commitment to being a victor.

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