Neukölln hues

Just about every Sunday night at 8pm I log into Zoom to join my family on our weekly call. It is 11am their time on Sunday morning. Since COVID began and we all went into lock down in March we have done this with the rare week off here and there. It has been a wonderful benefit of this period of time in pandemic. We are talking more as a family all together than we ever have before. We are a family that for the most part gets along and enjoys one another so there has always been checking in on one another but this whole gathering over the past months has really been a gift for me, especially as one who misses her family the most out of all of this moving overseas. They are the biggest reason I want to move back.

It is rare when we can all log on together and almost everyone is present. This past Sunday was one of those times. My parents logged on from their house along the coast before they headed home to Lebanon. My Aunt Martha and Uncle Bob called in from their home in Gresham. All three brothers logged on from their homes. We joke that the first half an hour is chaos with all the families and kids. The kids (all 5 and under) want to show us things and tell us about their weeks. There is climbing over parents and constant noise. It is the best part of the whole call. We see way up close of one zooming in and another one wants to tell us all about this or that. They are all growing up in the age where this doesn’t seem weird or abnormal. This is how they connect with family right now.

And then it is lunch time for the littles and two families log off while the rest of us stay on to check in even more and ask questions of one another.

This past Sunday we were talking about the changing of the colors in the trees and how beautiful it is right now in our locations as the seasons shift. My aunt asked, “Courtney, do you see a shift in colors in the city where you are too?”

I smiled and shook my head yes but had to say that as beautiful as it is in the Autumn here it just makes me miss the changing of colors in Oregon even more. Oregon is truly beautiful at this time of year as the leaves shift and change.

But we do, in fact, see different hues in our neighborhood. Ana jokes that my favorite sight in all of Berlin is the one from our bridges along the canal. Each season comes and I can’t wait to photograph the shift. That happened again this week as I was walking the dogs and I looked up to see the colors just a certain hue over the water in midafternoon. The clouds were grey and foreboding but the warm colors rested around them as the leaves are shifting into yellows and dying before our eyes. We get glimpses of the season even in the middle of the city.

I have been thinking about our part of the kiez (neighborhood) lately. Our particular location in Berlin has become a risk neighborhood as Corona levels rise in three of the Berlin neighborhoods, ours being one of them. If we would choose to travel to other parts of Germany right now, because of our certain pinpoint location within the city, we would have to quarantine. There are other neighborhoods in the same city where that is not true. For example, the neighborhood where I am nannying later on today does not have the same regulations. They are not as high of a risk and have many less numbers in rising infections. It makes me hesitate as to whether I should be traveling around and yet even as numbers rise, the corona fatigue is such that no one is eager to go back to where we have come from . I will mask up and disinfect when I get there. I will wash my hands and move ahead cautiously but because of my particular place in the city I am perhaps more aware that this thing is long from over.

Neukölln is a particular and unique neighborhood. It has higher infection rates because the population is in their 20s in large part and it is a bit of a cheaper place to live, where people take more risk in their socializing as studies show. This is a common factor for the three neighborhoods who are showing higher infections. But that is not all that puts this neighborhood apart. It was traditionally a Turkish neighborhood and still has Turkish influence all around. It is still largely populated but a Turkish descended group of people but because it is right next to a very artsy neighborhood that was once cheap but now really not, it is starting to really be gentrified. The hipsters that once found Kreuzberg the place to be have filtered into Neukölln and have changed the hue of the place. I am one to talk. I am a youngish (not so young anymore) white American who landed here and has changed the dynamic too I am sure. These dynamics make this neighborhood take on certain hues different from other hoods as well. It tends to be a little grittier here and a little rougher. People say that Berlin’s people are a little colder than others in Germany and this neighborhood holds the coldest of those people within the city too. This made it quite a shock for this very friendly Pacific Northwesterner to arrive and get jolted into how people relate in this part of the city. It’s hues shine though with very real connections in a complicated web. It takes time but our neighbors now look out for each other and when Luna was lost they showed up in a abundance, ready to find her and bring her home. It was touching to see.

I have also shifted my hues as I live here. Once super depressed about the abruptness around me, I have seen people show up a little more and have softened my own self into this place. The other day I was walking the dogs along the canal and a woman exclaimed, “Ist das Luna??” Is that Luna? I said it was and she exclaimed her joy at our little dog’s return. She had seen our call to find her that scary night and took the flier to all of her neighbors to be on the look out. I had never met this woman before and yet here is great compassion and care for her neighbors even during a pandemic in a scary world. We chatted and she petted the pups and I left with a sense of connection I hadn’t noticed in the hues of the hood before.

So yes, we are seeing colors shift and change and the seasons take shape. How about where you live?

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