Museum of Central Africa - Tervuren

- written by Michelle



On our last full day in Brussels we went to the Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, located a little bit outside of Brussels. The museum was opened in the year 1910 and coversers different collections on the history of Central Africa, traditions and much more. Since most of the collections are from colonial times, the focus is on colonialism as well. In the first room of the museum you get the background information that most of the exhibits are property of museums or communities in Africa. With their approval the museum is allowed to show them.

Personally I liked the room who had information about Rituals and Ceremonies a lot, since it was quite educational and I learned some things, I wasnˋt even aware of before. For example, twins are really special in Central Africa, their birth is seen as a blessing. Those special children could bring not only prosperity but also misfortune. Because of that their birth was also always connected with a lot of rituals, to protect them.

Besides that there was one specific drawing of the "Human Zoo", where people were shown behind a cage and animals walked outside, watching them. I was shocked since what I saw in this drawing was, in fact, reality decades ago. But the difference was, that other people, white people, who thought of themself of more worthy than others, watched the people locked inside a cage, as if they were some sort of special animal. The realisation about how horrible, absurd and hurtful colonialism was grossed me out and left me speechless. 

All in all I can say that the Museum of Central Africa is highly informative. The way it deals with the sensitive and vulnerable history of colonialism is really great and you can tell that the people who arranged the collections really took the time to come up with an appropriate way of representing everything. Many things, especially about the colonial time were shocking as well, but I still think it is important to show the dark sides too, in order to remind yourself such times should never ever repeat themself.

So I can only recommend visiting the museum, if you ever get the chance to do so. And after you had an informative time looking at the collections, you can treat yourself to a very delicious lunch or dinner at the African influenced restaurant.


10/9/2021: Political systems and climate change

Our final workshop in our week on Iceland was about the topic of different political systems and their strengths and weaknesses when we talk about approaching the global challenge of climate change. 

The Golden Circle Tour - Stunning nature in Iceland

- written by Michelle

Thingverllir

- amazing place with a big history
Our fist stop was at the Thingverllir.
At the Thingverllir national park you can see the continental drift between the Eurasian and North American plates, which move apart by one or two centimeter every year.

Furthermore this place holds an important history for Iceland, since this place is one of the oldest parliament in the world. Centuries ago people meet at Thingverllir and held their assembly here.

Geysir

- active hot water
Next stop was at the Geysir geothermal area.
Not only was it an amazing experience to see the whole geothermal area, witnessing an active hot spring was probably the highlight of this whole tour. Waiting in tension for the exact moment when the water bursts into the air was extremely exiting and the moment itself just amazing.

Gullfoss

- large masses of water
At last we went to the Gullfoss waterfall, where we had an amazing an breathtaking view on so much water in motion, more than I have ever seen in my life.

Besides that the story behind the waterfall, that one of the icelandic teachers told us was encouraging. 
More than hundred years ago, people came up with the idea to use Gullfoss to generate electricity. But because of the activism of Sigriour Tómasdóttir, an environmentalist who was convinced to save the waterfall, this never happened and Gullfoss can be visited in its full beauty. This story shows, how much one single person can accomplish, just by standing up for their believes. 

5/9/2021: Geothermal energy at Hellisheiði Power Plant

We visited the first out of many stunning sites on Iceland: Hellisheiði Power Plant. Here, the geothermal activity deeply below the surface is used to generate electricity without waste products or carbon emissions.

4/9-11/9/2021: International meeting in Reykjavik

The seminar in Iceland has given us innumerable impressions and a great insight into how things are run in Iceland. In the following we will publish short essays about life matters on the island featuring our own experiences during this week.

 

Why is everything so expensive in Iceland? 

   We were very suprised and sometimes even shocked about prices in Iceland! A cup of coffee costs about 4,50€, a pint of beer about €6, a pizza up to €20. We were indeed worried about how long our travel money for the week would last. And of course we started reflecting on the question of how Icelandic people and families can possibly make ends meet with price tags like this. 

    However, we began with the first issue first: how come prices are this high? We assumed that it’s just about the remoteness of Iceland, far away from the next island (Great Britain) and the next mainland (Europe) so that transportation makes for the expensive goods all around us. 
    However, that wouldn’t explain high prices for all kinds of services: entry fee to swimming pools is about €12, even the shortest bus rides cost no less than €6, and renting a room in shared accomodation is around 700-1000€. Numbers like these make Iceland the eighth-most expensive country in the world!   

 

    Then we thought about the harsh climate of Iceland almost all year round, which makes it difficult to grow fresh products like fruits and vegetables. With the exception of output from the many greenhouses – heated with the help of the hot springs in the country – 40% of the entire consumption of fresh produce has be imported. 

    It turned out that these aspects were viable arguments for the high prices. However, would they be sufficient to explain that Iceland’s prices are about one third higher than the ones in Germany? 
   Fortunately, we were able to ask our Icelandic hosts and also do some research on the internet. We found that about 2 million tourists visit Island every year! As they are one of the major sources of income Iceland businesses ask considerable prices for souvenirs like pullovers made from sheep wool or rental cars used to explore the unimaginable beauty of the Icelandic nature. 
Companies, services, and the government can be sure that tourist will be willing to pay any price once they are on the island. 

 

And in most cases tourists will enjoy an impeccable infrastructure when it comes to driving, sleeping, and eating in Iceland. So their money is well worth spent, too. 

   Now, how do regular Icelanders survive in this pricy environment?          First of all, they don’t have to pay too much for electricity and heating as the volcanic character of their country allows for providing its population with an abundance of energy. 
   Second, Icelandic employees earn about 30% more than an average German person, which makes it possible even for families to afford life on the island. 

   What really amazed us though was the fact that income and wealth is quite evenly distributed in Icelandic society. The World Bank estimates that Iceland is No.14 globally in terms of social equality. This may be one of the reasons that – despite the high taxation - the country ranks very high in yet another index, i.e. the one on happiness, which features Iceland as No.5 in the world! 

30/6/2021: Meeting with young politician from Bielefeld

26/3/2021: Put up wooden crosses in the forest

Prepared 24 wooden crosses, painted them white, carried them into a nearby forest and put them up to make the public aware of the massive dying of thousands of trees in the areas. Created public interest by having an article placed in the local newspaper.

15/12-17/12/2020: Online Week Bielefeld and Reykjavik

Met for three successive days and talked democratic sustainability. Exchanged ideas and best practice in establishing democratic structures and thinking both in Iceland and Germany. Spoke about interesting activities for and with our students.

2/12/2020: Meeting with Wiebke Esdar

Wiebke Esdar (SPD) explained to us her work in the German parliament. Icelandic students and teachers joined us to exchange Northern and Western European perspectives.