Saturday 23rd February 2019 – Berlin
Blue skies and sunshine blessed my Berlin stop along with wonderful hospitality from the whole Schomaker family but especially Katrin. She had been the mastermind behind our afternoon and evening gathering of the Freunde des International House and in keeping with the sociability of the German alumni had organised a great turnout.
The first part of the day was a visit to Schloss Cecilienhof, Potsdam where the Potsdamer Konferenz was held between Stalin, Churchill and Truman in 1945 at the end of the war. We toured the restored rooms where the three leaders and their entourage negotiated and debated what the next steps were for Germany following the war. It is a building with amazing history and with lovely gardens and near by lake was a great choice especially as we ponder the future of Europe with Brexit looming.
Our reflections on the politics and history of the palace took place over lunch at the old dairy on the estate which is now a rather wonderful micro brewery. Obviously some of the party had to see whether the beer was any good! https://www.meierei-potsdam.de
After a short pause it was time to head out to dinner. The Freunde des International House are one of the most active I-House NYC chapters in the world and last autumn they managed three gatherings in different German cities to celebrate I-House Day.
From the start of the I-Houses the alumni were encouraged by Harry and subsequent Directors to come together to celebrate the opening of I-House NYC in November 1924. I am not as familiar with what happens at today at Berkeley and Chicago I-Houses but last autumn the alumni team at NYC I-House worked with alumni around the world to hold I-House Day meet ups in a long list of locations including Shanghai, New York, LA, London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Honolulu, Manila and several others.
The Freunde group also work with the Friends of I-House UK chapter to mastermind a gathering of alumni weekend somewhere in Europe each year. Last year it was Edinburgh with over 60 people attending and this year it will be in Essen the 3rdweekend of September, alumni from around the world welcome.
Over the most enormous but delicious schnitzel I have ever eaten, I got to hear stories of time at the NYC and Berkeley Houses from the 20 attendees. We also welcomed Pooja Merchant who is the current Chair of the Freunde group and her new husband who both came along despite being about to move to the US from Berlin. Some of the group had also travelled great distances to join us from Frankfurt & Munich which was very touching.
For many of the German alumni who come together their time at I-House was relatively short as they were interns either for major banks or corporations. It is always striking to me that after only 3 or 4 months living at I-House their experience was so compelling and the friends they made so significant that many years later they are still meeting with the group. Harry would have been so pleased.
The blue skies and sunshine continued right through my stay as did the welcome and warmth from everyone I met.
Portrait Project– Morgan Randall – Morgan came from Texas to live at I-House Berkeley and immediately was struck by the possibilities of a more international angle to his career and life. Talking to him it is obvious that he really embraced every aspect and opportunity offered by time at the House in a purposeful way. This included finding a novel way to get to meet all of the residents in each of his two years at the House. He drew their portraits. Outside each room at the House there is a small whiteboard on which the name of the resident is written. Morgan started to draw a portrait of each person or people living in the room on the whiteboards. During the few minutes he was doing this he would strike up conversations that often lasted longer than the time it took to do the drawing and in some cases led to friendships he still has. He has continued his project ever since drawing people when he meets them using both hands at the same time. Here is mine, number 8371. To find out more about Morgan’s projects visit his website http://escher2hands.com Having enjoyed meeting Germans at the House Morgan decide to apply for a Data Scientist role in Munich which he got and has been living in Germany for the past two years. He has visited over 18 countries while he has been there and arrived on the overnight train from Munich to Berlin to join us for the event. Morgan later made this video as part of the I-House Berkeley Big Give in March 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51nJGhurr_A
Where we ate – Schnitzelei Mitte – https://schnitzelei.de/mitte/