As the walking tour comes to an end, our guide gives us tips on what to do next to build upon what we saw. We give him tips of Euros for an insightful tour that was well worth splashing around in the rain for a few hours. As the group disperses, suddenly the summer chill seems even more biting.
You see, Berlin has had its moments, but the atmosphere often seems to echo the cold, wet weather. As much as know I shouldn’t, I can’t help but do a side by side comparison with the city I was previously in. Berlin’s stoic face just can’t compete with the abundant Mexico City friendliness that would shine through the daily storms there.
In Berlin, the educational experiences have been fascinating. So much more meaning has been added to places I’ve previously only known in textbooks and documentaries and the news. But I’m finding it hard to get beyond that and get to the inner Berlin.
As I retrace the tour group’s steps to a place I want to revisit, I hear singing. I follow the sounds. By the side of the river, I come across a group of older women and one man who have gathered in a flash choir of sorts. One of them sees my interest in their performance and promptly invites me to join. I’m handed photocopy of handwritten lyrics of their music for the day. Among them is this song:
Rain, rain, rain/ Roister loud, roister strong/ And swell the river ragged/ Run the rain’s full storm
I like these words of brazen acceptance in my hands. Bring it on — we’ll just be over here singing.
There’s a song from South Africa, a song from the Congo, a song in Italian, more songs in English. It’s been awhile since my choir days, but it’s coming back. I don’t know all the songs so I sometimes mess up on the lyrics and the harmonies and don’t always pause when I should. They smile at me anyway and I pick up the music as we repeat verses and choruses.
I’m remembering the visceral beauty of individual voices intertwining in the air to create something that will never be done exactly that same way again. And how the beauty you give out comes back amplified and adjoined with all the other voices in the group.
We come to our last set of lyrics, a Croatian folk song about woman sailing away that evokes the ebb and flow of the sea in its harmonies and dynamics. When show is over, the director invites me to join the choir and I have to decline as I’m just passing through. I chat for a bit and thank them for letting me sing along with them for the day.
Then I head back out into the rain, swathed in the beauty of serendipity, ephemeral and sweet.