Berlin – between the future and the past

The CIPSEM trip to Berlin from the 20th to the 22nd October was a truly marvelous experience. The excursion to the German Energy Agency and the German Energy Association of Energy Cooperatives was overly interesting and useful. Both resource persons had an excellent sense of humor which greatly contributed to a sense of camaraderie among the group.
However, for me, the true highlight of the excursion was being able to finally practically envisage the remains of the Berlin Wall after having been provided with an excellent historical overview in our first week at CIPSEM (complete with a quirky, hilarious video!!). Looking at the wall was a truly humbling experience as I was mentally transported back in time to the 9th of November 1989. I imagined the scores of people who had come to witness this historical occasion, the breaking down of a barrier that had separated brothers, sisters,sons, daughters cousins, friends…..finally being brought down. The tears of joy commingled with tears of anguish brought on by the effusion of emotion on this day must have flowed both fervently and freely. I stood there transfixed next to Checkpoint Charlie and imagined individuals getting their passports stamped in order to cross into West Berlin and back into East Berlin.
The enormity of it all cannot be put into words. Staying on an extra day after part of the group left Berlin allowed myself and one of my colleagues to take a city tour on the ubiquitous red “double decker” bus. We were taken on a trip down memory lane to Karl Max Street, complete with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) styled houses whose design was mandated by the government at the time, complete with certain symbols above the eaves of each window. We also got to see the captivating Berlin Bridge in seemingly suspended animation with the modern day yellow train traversing its lower reaches, a perfect juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern.
My Berlin experience was a personal indictment of the fact that a Wall could not and cannot solve political or ideological differences in the past or in the present.The willingness to respect other people’s opinions and genuinely listen to their viewpoints is what ultimately will see a semblance of peace returning to our tumultuous world.
by Mr. James Paul Mwangi – Kenya
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