All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mission Accomplished, Installment Nr. 5

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Ok, so after looking through my photos to see where we go next in our exploration of the "Berlinersphere", we find ourselves taking a ride on "die Untergrundbahn", also known as...
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Die U-Bahn!
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Our residence was in the north by northeast former East Berlin burg of Pankow.  We worked in beautiful downtown Schöneberg, only a five minute walk from Kurfürstendamm, known locally as "Ku-damm".  This meant that we had a half hour commute each morning around 7:30 am, and came home after sunset, around 7pm.
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  This is what we had to get familiar with.  If you can spot the red "U2" label, that's Pankow, which is the U2's endstation.  We take that red line past all seventeen stops to Nollendorf Platz.  Then we "umsteigen", or transfer over to the U4 (yellow), and go one stop to Viktoria-Luise platz.  When we arrive, we climb about thirty stairs and emerge smack in the middle of Motzstraße, where the Lighthouse is.  In fact, it is directly in front of the Lighthouse.  How convenient is that??  At the end of the day, reverse direction.   Next day, repeat.  Of course, sometimes we would go to a local stube for dinner.
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You couldn't get more convenient.  This photo is the view from the front door of the Lighthouse.  Three of our group are already waiting for us to head out.  The stairway begins immediately under that blue "U" sign.
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Food for thought.  A lot of 80's bands were named after Berlin places.  One that comes to mind is Spandau Ballet.  While in Berlin, I would see all sorts of names, and suddenly 80s bands would come to mind.  Could it be that U2 was named after the Pankow U-Bahn, the U2?   Inquiring minds want to know.
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Each station has it's own personality.  They are spotlessly clean.  Some are larger than others because several rails may connect, such as Potsdammer Platz or Stadtmitte.  Some are small, like Spittelmarkt or our own little Viktoria Luise Platz.  The walls of each station are used like a canvas upon which each station is individually and differently decorated, some having a historical motif, featuring posters of trams and U-Bahn rail cars of the past (the Berlin Untergrundbahn, or 'U-Bahn', was installed in 1900!).  Others feature Theatre posters, some show the sights, the "Sehenswurdigkeiten" of that particular Borough.  Like New York, Berlin is divided into individual Boroughs, each having a personality of their own.
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Our little U4 station featured outsized posters of local artists' photography. 
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The walls of the Viktoria-Luise-Platz "Haltestelle", or "stopping place".  The tile design serves as a perfect frame for these posters!  You might notice that while there is spray-paint graffiti all over the city, there are none in the U-Bahn Haltestellen.  Apparently the city draws the line there!
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This is only a sample of the "photo exhibit", along the east-bound track of the U4.  There are about eight more posters on the west-bound track.  
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So, just how busy are these rails in a city of four million?   Surprisingly, quite manageable!  Sometimes it's standing room only, but often you can find a seat, especially after an exchange station, where passengers "umsteigen", or change rails.  I was actually rather surprised to find older folks are still being offered seating by younger riders, getting up and motioning them to sit down.  "Kommal, setz dich hier!"   Oh, for you German linguists or students :  yes, I used the "du" 2nd person personal pronoun form.  I was amazed how folks used the informal pronoun on the street with strangers.  The only time I "Siezen-d", (use of the formal 2nd person personal pronoun) was with either a waiter or waitress, or a store employee or anybody behind a concession or table (Kasse).  On the streets of Berlin, it's "du".   
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There is another thing a rider of any mass transit "Fahrzeug", or vehicle, must observe: before you get on (einsteigen), you wait until everybody gets off (aussteigen).  If you try to push your way on board, you will be met by aussteigers telling you to wait your turn.  Oh, and don't try to push through anyway.  Berliners are a reserved but pleasant lot.... but don't piss 'em off.  You ain't in New York, homeboy!  Nobody respects a dis-respecter.  Especially here in Berlin.  
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Also, when it comes to the U-Bahn: move fast.  Don't run, just don't dilly dally!!  Those doors close automatically and they have NO SAFETY!  It will shut on your arm or leg, trust me.  Someone from the inside has to push the green button to open the door again... and they will... but whether you get pulled in or pushed off depends on whether there's room in the car.  So, MOVE, as soon as everyone gets off.  Oh, and yes, I had a door close on me.  Have that happen once, and chances are it will not happen again.  I was admitted into the car, btw.  They felt sorry for the verrükter Amerikaner, methinks.
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Well... maybe more folks wait for the U-Bahn than this, usually.  But after 7pm, it's not unusual at a smaller stop to find maybe six or so other people.  This is Anna, Cindy, Zac, and intern Kelly after a long day.  Facing a long ride.  We are at the U4 Viktoria-Luise-Platz stop awaiting the eastbound to Nollendorf Platz, and from there, the Pankow U2.
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 The U-Bahn arrives!  These are insanely clean, very efficient rails.  They conduct their power from a power strip that runs along the left rail, not a "third rail" as most do in the U.S.  They are not, however, "ultra-modern".  They don't need to be!  All they need to be is on-time, quiet, and reliable.  They are.  Even during Hurricane (Orkan) Xavier on 5 Oct, these rails ran after all surface transport was knocked out!
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Any foreigner or non German speaker will leave Berlin knowing instinctively at least two phrases: "Aussteigen Bitte!" (exit, please!) and "zurück bleiben, bitte!" (stand back, please!)  The video above was a late-nighter.  I would not have shot this video, otherwise.  The fella by the door is, I think, a service worker, but not a "Bahnbeamter", or rail employee.  
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Ok, I mentioned how the stations are generally not super-crowded, and I mentioned Hurricane (Orkan) Xavier.  Here is a shot of the Stadtmitte (I think) station during the hurricane, when we all ran down into the "tube" to catch a rail out of there!   Heh, no go.  It was ten-bodies deep, and this station, built to hold... what... maybe a thousand people?   I would say we had three times that much that afternoon and evening.  ALL surface transit, all taxis, all rentals were out of commission or booked.  It was one insane evening.  In fact, one U-Bahn station caught fire (the next day, not a crowded station), forcing the evacuation of our particular train, and of the whole station.  It was caused by an overload caused by a short, which was in turn caused by a fallen monster tree.  Google "Storm Xavier", and check out the Wikipedia report.  It was just put up a couple days ago!  Oh, and if you do, you might see the Brandenburger Tor (they change out the photos every other day, apparently).  That little cluster of people there?  Heh... that's us.
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Wow.  Just looking at this photo brings back how lost in the shuffle we were, but it was an orderly crowd!  The trains that arrived were just as packed as this station, but still, people waited for the train passengers to disembark, before they entered.  For every one person that got off, one person got on.  We soon realized that we would be here for hours at this rate.  This is where Kelly, Lighthouse intern extraordinaire, had a stroke of genius!  Since she had a few more weeks of experience on the U-Bahn than we, she suggested we take a train in the opposite direction.  Then we might get off at a less crowded station, and maybe pick up the train going the other direction, our direction, with less people on board.  We did, and it worked!  Thanks, Kelly!!
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I noticed that there was a way you composed yourself on the U-Bahn.  Yeah, call it a U-Bahn study.  One thing, everybody more or less avoided eye contact.  Usually, eyes were looking down.  Usually at a Handy (cell phone) or a tablet or a book or some other reading material.  The car is absolutely quiet save for the announcements and the sound of the rail itself.  Same goes for the station.  If you hear loud talking, it's probably tourists.  The only time I ever saw anybody looking at anyone else was if they were talking to a friend or a family member.  Friends usually came on board together, or if they met on board, they stood right next to each other.  Conversation was never loud.  Always a bit below normal convo level.  Kids were very well behaved, no kids ran around.  Dogs?  Yes, they are allowed aboard.  And they were exceptionally well behaved!  In fact... it was sorta scary how well behaved they were.  They looked down, too.  Unless they were listening to their master or mistress.  Otherwise they were also looking at their Handys.
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I got a pretty good idea of what Berlin Footwear was all about.  Hmm... maybe I'll swing by Salamander or maybe some shoe store at KaDeWe or Mall of Berlin and get a pair of those cool slip-on runners!  That way I can just slip 'em off when we get home instead of having to stoop down to untie.  You don't wear shoes in German homes.  Off they come.  If it's your home, you have house shoes waiting for you just inside the door!  I noted that loafers and slip-ons were quite popular.  Do tell!
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Not all U-Bahn stops are underground.  Some are street level, and some rails are actually elevated as high as 30 meters in the air!  But for the most part, they are indeed underground.  This is... I think... the Potsdammer Platz station.  You can see that it's an elevated platform.
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Well, after seventeen stops, here we are at Pankow Endstation!  From here we either catch the S-22 bus and ride a block to our Wohnung (Apartment), or if it's a nice evening, we will walk.  Most Germans would opt for the walk.  Spaziergehen, they would call it.  No real English translation.  Walking is an art, in Berlin.  In fact, all Germany.
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So are stairs.   Just sayin'.
The Point.
So, why do I post these Berlin/ German cultural posts, even though we were on a specific mission to work with Syrian Refugees?  Well, I'll divulge.  I had another reason for coming, in addition to the prime directive.  I wanted to get a feel of the German Evangelical landscape.  I wanted to get a feel for the Gospel in Germany among Germans.  We are talking about a country of eighty-million, with a mere six per-cent "Christian" demographic which many of the national pastors and the Campus Crusade folks believe to be, in reality, less than one percent.  That 6% figure represents those who admit to a belief, but is largely a cultural-traditional adherence and identification.  Even in my mother's family, to be German is to be Lutheran.  When I was saved in the U.S., in at St. Andrews Methodist Church, it was taken by mum as abandoning my German heritage.  I was told by my mum that I had become one of those "Holy-Rrrollers" (roll the 'r'). 
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I have a burden for the German People.  But to reach a People, one must know them, become familiar with them, and be able to communicate with them.  I did a little of all three, and I made, as I could and had time, some great connects.  
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I had, on one Sunday, the unbelievable joy of watching Berliners dancing in the aisles of the Hillsong Church.  That's what I long to see. 
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German People, dancing before the Lord.
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It was so awesome to see the Syrian/ Palestinian/ Lebanese regional refugees coming to discover, to inquire, who this Jesus is that motivated us to help a people we don't even know.  It was a privilege to enter into their world, even for a short time. It was awesome to see Germans helping in that work.  It was great to witness the Holy Spirit using His choice tools of the Word and the Prepared and obedient Saints, to work effectively toward a harvest.
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Scripture exhorts the Saint to be prepared to give a response for the hope they have in Jesus.  We are advised to be ready for use by the Holy Spirit. I believe this to be the choice tool of the Holy Spirit, Who changes the heart and reveals Jesus to the rebel.  It is twofold: the Word, and the prepared  Saint who is obedient to go wherever He calls them.  Jesus is He Who calls, cultures, Who reveals Himself - to those whom the Father gives Him; that's His ministry, to make a heart of flesh from a heart of stone.  That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  My job is simply to teach them, to love them, to make disciples of those whom He brings to my "door".  This is, to me, the heart and soul of Missions.  This is the Great Commission.
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These are my people. 
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Stay tuned.


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