Mixing Work and Play?

My second week here in Berlin has been just as busy as orientation week with hours spent at the BerlinArtLink office, attending cultural events, visiting museums and art galleries, and exploring the abundant nightlife. I also had the pleasure of seeing my friend/roommate during the week as she took time during her summer vacation to visit me in Berlin after her own study abroad program finished. The Berlin Performing Arts Festival took place this week, with events happening all over the city. I had been planning on attending a few events and buying tickets myself before my work informed me that I would be able to attend most events and museums/galleries in Berlin for free with a press pass they could provide. While I wish I could’ve attended more than just two events, the ones I did end up seeing were fascinating, and also something that would be hard to find in the U.S.

ZauharV04, At Tempelholf Airfield

The first event was a dance performance called ‘Wet Eyez,’ which was choreographed and performed by Camila Malenchini and Marga Alfeirão. In their performance, they channel the mythological creature Blemias to explore how European colonization has historically seen and described ‘otherness.’ I had no expectations before this performance, but even if I had created expectations, this performance would’ve exceeded any presumptions I had. Blemias are headless creatures, with their face on their torsos and chests. To mimic these beings, the dancers painted the faces on themselves, with the eyes over their breasts and mouths on their bellybuttons. As the performance goes on, the dancers take off their pants and they are left only wearing underwear. While I saw this performance as authentic and daring, these kinds of performances that might be considered outlandish or radial to Americans are quite normal here. Overt showcases of sexuality, the body, and creativity are the standard here and are highly appreciated.

The second performance that I attended was called ‘Blind Date,’ in an area quite far from the apartment that I had never been to before. The performance was a comedy skit mixed with an aerial performance. The solo performance was done by Petra Tobias, a transgender performer who focuses on the understanding of beauty in her work. This was prevalent in her show Blind Date, in which she comically explores and demonstrates how feminity is perceived in society as she prepares for a blind date.

ZauharV05, ‘Blind Date’ performance

While I really enjoy that my work hours include me attending events and museums that I would be visiting regardless, I have a little bit of trouble with the spontaneity in which I am expected to go to these institutions or events. At the beginning of the workweek, my boss told me my hours would be from 10 am-4 pm plus the hours I would be out on assignment including travel time. However, many times this week it would reach 4 pm, and my boss would tell me to go to a gallery or a museum. When I was told my day ended at 4 pm, I was under the impression that the time afterward would be my own. After finishing my first week, I realized I would prefer that my boss tell me at the beginning of the week which museums, events, etc, she would like me to go to, and then I can schedule those into my week in a way that works best for me. This schedule is something that I will have to advocate for myself, but already my workplace has been flexible with myself and my time, and I’m sure that if I tell my boss that I would prefer something more structured she will be understanding.

My time at work itself is something I also have to structure for my own sake. I have a long list of tasks I am expected to accomplish over the course of my internship, some tasks have a specific end goal I have to reach, while other tasks are ongoing and will never reach a conclusion. I can already tell that learning how to prioritize these tasks without being given specific deadlines or quotas is something I will have to navigate over these next weeks. What I have found helpful is asking my supervisor what specific tasks she would like me to work on for the day, what is urgent, and what is something I should do with filler time. What I consider as ‘filler time’ is whenever I’m waiting for something, whether that be my boss looking over my final work for feedback, my supervisor finishing up a phone call before I ask her a question, etc. Typically I consider filler work to be the tasks that are ongoing, like finding new events, open calls, and researching other companies’ social media strategies. As someone who prefers structure and clear deadlines and tasks, I will have to be sure to ask questions about task importance and timeliness.