2022-09-10

A New Life in Mainz

    In the city of Johannes Gutenberg (German inventor) Mainz, the taste of living is something different than living in the rural realm. The city contains a prominent diverse community with tangible and modern urbanization mixed up with ancient architecture and monuments. But in the rural realm, I had a new experience embodied in the village called Reinsfeld, where I had lived previously for nine months; this village is in the same federal state Rhineland Palatinate as Mainz. The reason for moving to this village after finishing my second postgraduate at the University of Freiburg was to take up a new position with an organization to serve at a refugee camp in the adjacent area, where the way to my office was not far away. 

At first, I would briefly link the still emerging first-hand experience in Mainz to the prior experiences in Germany, which makes it purposefully understandable. Being from a Middle Eastern country, where social ties are potent, sociability is always a central concern, and I look for it wherever I leave footholds. Therefore, making friendships from diverse backgrounds and cultural exchange is one of my interests. As previously noted, the social ties are coherent and symbiotic in the society of origin, reflecting an ingrained environment that pushes me to look for its applicability in the new host society. Conversely, it often goes without avail given to the different social norms. As an illustration, I used to surround myself with warm social relationships in my homeland. Still, they aren't always available or barely exist in the host society, where most such relationships are confined to professional circles. Then at the end of the business day, each of them goes to the private sphere and locks up the door behind, leaving a slight chance for social integration. Thus, plunging into a conflict between the original and unique values and the social templates is a natural outcome. 

Sunset view of the Rhine River, Mainz/ Private

Highlighting the German social fabric, I would point out that the difference in the mentality from region to region, from rural to cosmopolitan per se, is touchable. It's an incontestable fact elucidating a phenomenon existent almost everywhere in the world, and all of us might have learned or lived in either realm, rural or cosmopolitan, which strengthens this fact in a certain way. It can be observed through behaviors, perspectives, social fabric, activities, etc. Additionally, in German rural areas, the population is characterized mainly by the presence of the elderly. In the village of Reinsfeld, the old people also occupy the highest percentage of the population, the rest primarily youths, who are still at secondary school, which is the phase that precedes the university or German term "Ausbildung" phase, and the rest are still minors. Therefore, a significant percentage of them, after the age of 18 years, usually leave the village to establish a new life in cosmopolitan areas, and a few go abroad. It's probably a permanent decision because youths typically tend to live the vitality in everything that fits into their energy and fulfill their openness to new cultures and experiences. And likewise, in rural areas finding such openness and diversity is barely possible or not at all. Therefore, within the frontiers of rural areas, people are somewhat curious to know the new visitors to their locations. Indeed, I went through this when people gazed at me in the streets or in public places. I felt people were always looking at me and probably wondering, "Who is this stranger living in our village?"

It felt like the situation, people know each other, and their faces are familiar. Moreover, social bonds coherently reflect a harmonious atmosphere, in which people not only know each other but also transcend to the degree that their personal stories are easy to deliberate among each other due to the rapprochement. I guess this massively describes the rural social landscape. In this thread, I adorably encountered older people who usually approached me in public to have a conversation though there weren't any previous friendships. That made me wonder over the past years of my life in Germany; no young person has ever approached me in public places, on buses, or on trains to have a personal conversation with me; only older people did that. It's presumably the outcome of loneliness; such people are already retired, many might live alone without a partner, or their children live far away. Thus, they have an urgent need to talk to people to alleviate the sense of social boredom. I find this nice, and at least I get to know people in the host society. That reminds me of my life in the village where I spent my childhood in Palestine, even though the native and new German societies are entirely different. But, as previously mentioned, I assert the fact regarding differentiations like the social relationships in the village and the city, seemingly an existing phenomenon in all communities around the globe.

The time came to leave the village after I found a new position in the city of Mainz. Moving out was hectic! Especially in Mainz, where finding a flat was a painstaking step due to the shortage of available apartments, an obstacle mainly caused by the enormous consecutive influxes of refugees and migrants into Germany over the past decades. After a couple of weeks, good luck hovered over the scene when I found a flat beside the Rhine River in a pretty charming area. The affinities are easily reachable, and utilities are everywhere as well. The city is pretty diverse, multicultural, and multi-ethnic. I could run into people who seem to belong to different ethnic backgrounds everywhere daily. I could hear different spoken languages, including my native "Arabic." The Muslim community is noticeable as those who belong to other congregations. Thereupon, the manifestations explain this diversity; the hustling bustling city is swept by convenience stores owned by people from different nationalities, each of which shows their original cultural way of promoting and selling, even producing things. Restaurants, e.g., in many corners of the city, the Arabic, Turkish, Thai, Chinese, Indian restaurants, and other Latin American stores show their culinary recipes, cuisines, etc. It even grants the beauty of diverse food to the archeologically beautiful city. 

Gutenberg's memorial statue, Mainz/ Private

The cultural hubs are open there and what caught my attention is that each ethnic group has social-cultural clubs in the city, where they gather up from time to time to strengthen their socio-cultural ties and support each other. In essence, those communities have a powerful sense of maintaining their identity and whatever values are entrusted to their beliefs, appearances, and behaviors. Maintaining this identity in a land that doesn't belong to them shows their native background is worth cherishing. Though I would love to, I have not managed to integrate into all these groups yet. But until writing this blog, I had chances to integrate into Turkish, Arab, and some Latin American communities in Germany. That significantly prompts me to wonder about the German socio-cultural melting pot issue. It's the issue of core discussions on platforms to know the truth behind the extent to which those different ethnic communities have integrated into the German socio-cultural melting pot and in which way. It's a long sociological issue with many arguments that it's enough till this line to leave it as a reminder for the readers' attention from this scientific field.  

Carrying on with my first-hand experience in the charming Mainz, the historical monuments and the terrains on the surrounding outskirts present a history clarified in depth. The old city is embellished with ancient archaeological pieces, describing specific historical stories with the prescriptions carved out on them. And the randomly scattered rosy walls seem to be eyewitnesses to the long consecutive episodes of history. Gutenberg, the printing house founder statue, distinguishes Mainz as he had a memorable impact on the course of printing books, a milestone invention that changed the world. Churches add beauty to the scene, making the church's color distinguishable. I.e., when you look at the building with its high pinkish towers, you feel at first glance that it was newly built; on the other hand, when you walk closer, you discover how old the features of the building narrate long episodes of history. 

I always found myself attracted to exploring the various episodes of history because learning history strengthens the awareness of the past and gives impetus to predict the future. Furthermore, understanding history and its elements helps us think critically and manage our life's affairs wisely. In other words, learning history isn't only a matter of accumulating knowledge about wars, conflicts, or whatever is relevant. But also learning many different things about the past generations, their lives, the development stages they passed through, and inspiring instances of figures that have changed the course of history due to their genius scientific discoveries and contributions. In addition, the willingness and willpower to change despite the harsh circumstances the past generation lived. Thus, history is a source of learning good pearls of wisdom and valuable competencies to apply them in modern contexts, as enormous phenomena are built on theories uncovered by scientists of the past generations in many fields. In the contemporary epoch, people have developed these theories until they came into being in better and more sophisticated versions. 

St. Martin Dom, Mainz/ Private

Luckily, the emergence of scientific discoveries over the past centuries at the hands of genius figures either within European frontiers or outside is a memorable historical space. Hence, I have always brought up the instances of ancient Arab and Muslim scientists from the Mesopotamia region, the Middle East, and North Africa who have left their fingerprints on the wheel of science everywhere in the world, especially during the industrial revolution of the 18th century in Europe. This point of Eastern scientific impact is overlooked instead of being compelling evidence markedly. 

On the whole, the first-hand experience in the fascinating Mainz hasn't ended yet. The facts, as mentioned earlier, are pretty motivating factors to keep exploring the city and figure out the mysteries behind many exciting things related to the multicultural community or the objects around it. Ultimately, living in such a city would always be a worthwhile experience that will be added to my chronology and, above all, my CV as I'm here mainly to fulfill the requirements of a full-time job with a fantastic staff at a private company. Yes, I'll keep passionately exploring and learning from people more and more as they represent a school that provides us with lived knowledge that books might not necessarily offer.

2022-02-16

After two years of Covid-19, is there no end in the sight?

    After I processed some tasks in the office and outside at the end of the workday, I felt something weird was catching my throat; I ignored it, thinking it was ordinary, and went ahead. The day after, I woke up with pains in my whole body and realized that I got infected with Covid-19 or something else. Whatever it was, the contagion was proved by the Antigen Test I bought from the pharmacy and then by a formal test at the clinic. The infection has assumedly resulted in constant movements of refugees in and out of the camp where I work. The ridiculous thing is that I didn't get infected earlier despite having been through all of the episodes of the Corona crisis; I mainly lived in Bangkok at the beginning of 2020, neighboring China, where the virus originated from at the time. Therefore, Thailand and adjacent areas of Southeast Asia were entirely conducive to the prevalence of the virus due to its proximity to China.

I'm currently under quarantine. The symptoms were not chronic, just in the first three days, pains in the entire body, anorexia, coughing, runny nose, and the senses of smell, hearing, and taste have also been affected. However, there was no respiratory distress. But thank God the immune system is robust as I got the two doses of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine last year. In the quarantine, I spend my time following up on the developments in Germany and the international arena, reading the news and analyses like the current Ukraine-Russian crisis on different platforms. There is also ongoing preparation for learning the fourth and fifth languages, which will be the linguistic accomplishment I've dreamed of for a long time, the goal I set up last year, which will take place in 2022. Even though learning foreign languages is a daunting task, it's a sturdy intellectual method that helps overcome boredom and loneliness. It keeps our mind entangled with positive things often if we direct it in the right way. Correspondingly, the way to avoid depressive moments or emotional drain during the quarantine in case you're alone, speaking to a family member or a beloved one is an optimal tip.

The quarantine for me is like a reminiscence of the beginning of this crisis up till now. Through it, I could recall the occurrences that I have gone through thus far, regarding the restrictions, lockdowns, wearing masks, social distances, etc. It's been a realm full of fluctuating tides since the Covid-19 crisis broke out at the beginning of 2020; WHO declared it a global pandemic shortly afterward. This year, I was in Bangkok at Chulalongkorn University, studying for an exchange semester, the third semester of the latest Master's program that I finished last year at the University of Albert-Ludwigs Freiburg in global studies. I remember how the entire situation turned upside down, thinking it was the end of the world, like an apocalypse!

While seeing how panic was widespread among people, becoming nervous, anxious about potential infection, and losing trust in physical human communication, the panic also outstretched to the surrounding space believing that the virus was floating over and sticky never dies out. The entire educational system turned into virtuality since the first episode of the crisis, remaining as such up to the present day to avoid social contact that exposes people to infection. I, therefore, used to work at home to manage my academic tasks for the university, including the online language tutorial sessions that I used to offer international students on a global platform. The virtual platform has been a sort of solidarity and affection throughout the crisis; I sometimes felt alone, but I overcame this by speaking to my students and sharing our experiences during the pandemic. Indeed, it was a source of strength, encouragement, and hope for them and me until I finished my second post-graduate degree. The program ended, but I still strictly hold on to the stunning memories I spent in that diverse international academic environment that began in Freiburg in 2019, passing through Cape Town -where I did the second semester at Uni UCT- to Bangkok and back to Freiburg. Memories are the source of impetus that pushes me forward.

The manifestations of the lockdown that paralyzed cosmopolitan Bangkok were obvious; few commuters went down the almost empty streets. The entire transportation sector changed to fit into the new situation, including the domestic and international aviation movement, which was significantly hindered. For this reason, two flight tickets I had booked from Bangkok to Frankfurt were canceled, and then painstakingly managed to travel back to Germany as the third flight worked out. Thus, I wished to hear the usual honking, voices of engines, and callers in the streets; even the number of vendors significantly downsized, turning it into a city of ghosts, mixed with anxiety and distrust of the future. In addition, the stark confusion covered up the scene, too, as many people didn't have enough awareness of how to move on with the new reality—the unprecedented procedures imposed on people to restrain the prevalence of the fatal virus changed this reality. Yes, indeed, no blame at that phase of the pandemic as it was an unexpected dilemma on the way, and people had no willingness to go through such a sudden reality, not trained to deal with its outcomes, though.

The scene outside of Bangkok was like a physically isolated space from all angles, narrowing around me and shackling me up tightly to the degree that I felt suffocated due to the restrictions mentioned above; it was not different in other countries worldwide that have followed suit. At the time, the future of the crisis seemed unpredictable; people never knew what would occur, what the next stride would look like, and how to resolve this crisis and tackle its implications that threatened all sectors of life, including fundamentally human lives, in general. Since the death toll skyrocketed, many businesses lost their value and went bankrupt, resulting in crumbling economies.

Different aspects in the international arena, mainly pharmaceutical companies, from Moscow to Washington and their allies, headed on to think of a radical solution, the vaccine. But, the vaccine turned into a political competition among those great powers. Of course, the German contribution has remarkably competed to produce the most reliable and effective vaccine. It had been a long fierce competition until some ground-breaking pharmaceutical companies, especially the German ones, managed to manufacture the first-hand vaccine Pfizer-Biotech. Then the conflict of vaccines continued due to the producers' promises to end the pandemic with the promised vaccine from whatever side until the beginning of 2021. Different vaccines found their way to consumers as millions of doses were handed out. Still, as people collided with the governments or pharmaceutical companies' promises to end the crisis on many occasions but without avail, skepticism towards the reliability of the vaccine emerged. Furthermore, this skepticism was enhanced when some people were said to have been found dead after taking the vaccine. In the meantime, campaigns urging people to get the vaccine carried on, presenting scientific shreds of evidence that the vaccine is the only scientific way to fight Covid-19. Whereas, many people continued to accuse these procedures of a mere attempt to mitigate their resentment and frustration with the lockdown and other strict rules, especially since the increasing death toll has reached 5.86 million worldwide thus far. Another critical point, many countries have declared emergencies during the crisis that the health system was on the brink of deterioration or mostly deteriorated. We still remember the catastrophic implications in Italy, Spain, and many other developing countries, especially India, that were declared red areas.

Governments worldwide decided to build an invincible fortress of the health system by following scientists' recommendations. However, some aspects showed an intransigence policy and rejected any arguments from the scientists. Consequently, the battle against Covid-19 agitated and hasn't just ended at this point. Later on, the world woke up to suddenly encounter a new setback, the so-called new mutants "Alpha, Beta, and Delta" that the biologists described as fatal and with more severe effects than Covid-19. Frustration resurged, and the hope of the prospective defeat in the battle against Covid-19 somewhat faded away despite the claim that the strenuous efforts of finding an end to the crisis were still viable. People got used to the reality that the pandemic cycle isn't going to end shortly and left the matter interwoven with predictions shaped by either the pharmaceutical companies or the governments on the one hand and the specific media sources on the other hand. As a consequence of the prolonged restrictions and uncertainty, tens of thousands of people have gone to the streets protesting against Corona measures in many countries around the world. Hence, forecasts on the crisis scenarios either going to more aggravation or alleviation with the mandatory procedures of wearing masks, and social distance, including the cinemas, concert houses, theatres, nightclubs, and festivals shut down remain undecided in many countries. However, like Denmark, some countries have wholly declared the coexistence policy with Covid-19, releasing their people from the restrictions.

Afterward, the vaccine campaigns have been a big booster, as the statistics elaborated on the immense numbers of people who have been vaccinated, to the degree local campaigns put up signs in public places inviting people to come over to get the required doses without a prior appointment. The slogan of these massive campaigns is that the vaccine is the only scientific way to build an insurmountable immune system. Meanwhile, it didn't condone the fact that doesn't mean that the vaccinated people aren't prone to the infection by any sorts of virus Covid-19 or the variants, and; later on, the world woke up again to shockingly hear the news that scientists discovered a new variant called "Omicron." As a result, the belief that a sustainable solution for the current crisis won't be within reach in the foreseeable future. Frustration dominated the scene again, and people kept wondering about the end and whether the vaccine and the scientists were reliable saviors for people. And of course, I can't condone the psychological effects of the stressful circumstances, like anxiety, depression, and distrust in the surrounding reality, resulting from the clashing opinions revolving around the end of the crisis, etc. To put it differently, the still widespread belief in the potentiality of reproducing a new variant somewhere in the world is substantial!

Going through these episodes over the past two years made me eager and passionate to keep up with the local campaigns around, sincerely hoping that the crisis will come to an end because there is always hope to hang in for us there. So, I finally call on you to follow the scientists' tips and get the vaccine as soon as possible. My recent experience with the Coronavirus is self-evident that the vaccine is the right thing to do because it effectively protects our immune system.

Stay healthy!

A New Life in Mainz

      In the city of Johannes Gutenberg (German inventor) Mainz , the taste of living is something different than living in the rural realm...