Mix and match! The exchange mission

The object

First day in Berlin, some of our participants have already arived yesterday and of course we didn’t want to give them just the morning off.

So we sent them out on a mission. 4 groups, 4 destinations, 1 aim: exchanging one box of matches for as many things as possible  and come back with something significant better. 4 groups, 4 different stories. Read here about their different experiences about getting in touch with ‘Berliners’.

Location: Friedrichshain / Team: Joanna (Poland), Celia (Spain), Sara (Slovenia), Laura (Estonia):

Navigating skills were required

It all started with matches. Do you all know how to use matches, right? We use them to make fire. Usually. But we did not. We were sent to a special mission. We had to exchange the matches for something bigger and better. We were alone in a big city. We were afraid, but brave! The underground took us to Samariterstraβe and then the game began.
As it was a Friday morning almost all people were at work. The first target was a man with a bike. He was very kind and wanted to give us his bike. Of course we did not accept it, because it would have been too easy. So we moved on to meet other people.
The next person was a man with a pen. We are sure that he is at home right now thinking of us and happy that he has those matches.
The voices of children’s laughter led us to a playground and there we met a careful daddy reading a newspaper. He gave us only the front page of the newspaper and we are positive that our pen helped him to solve the crosswords.
The girl, reading a book seemed like that she could really need the newspaper. Our predictions were true, so we got a pack of Kleenex.
Then we met two Danish ladies, who offered us one pen and two pencils. But it was not enough for us. We wanted more.
Finally we talked with a girl, who had bought some drinks and snacks for a party. Suddenly she pulled out a pack of Haribo.

Mission accomplished: Celia, Laura, Joanna, Sara

It was the exchange of her life. We cannot wait to eat those.
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Location: Stadtmitte /  Team: Nadia (Eritrea), Serafina (Finland), Alyona (Russia), Evan (Wales):

Having a match box, with no hope but a lot of motivation, we started our trip around Berlin. How could we convince people to exchange our virtually worthless item for something more valuable? At first it seemed like our task was near impossible.               And so here we were: rush hour time, busy people hurrying to their offices, cars zooming past and four of us standing rather bewildered by  Alexander Platz, figuring out how to catch the metro station to Stadtmitte. The complicated search for the right metro line was only preceding the real excitement, and when we successfully arrived at Stadtmitte we were wondering how someone who was talking with us for five minutes could suddenly say they do not speak English when bringing up the subject of exchanging items. But still, we trudged on. Boosting our hopes  however was a woman who exchanged her pen. And who said inner city people were too busy for anything? And so began pen exchange with pen exchange. Only a lighter disrupted the repetitiveness, but this was soon replaced by another pen! We were almost giving up hope of getting anything different, but we hopelessly moved to a perfume shop. Initially, the woman had nothing that she could think to offer, but then she suddenly withdrew a handmade bar of soap scented with apple and cinnamon.
Now everybody will be wondering what we learned from this task? We learned how to approach people and convince them to exchange worthless things as a result we become more confident on talking to other people and we learned that hard working gets us to achieve things.

Speaking Berlinerish: Evan, Nadia, Serafina, Alyona

We were also able to see the different approaches of people: people that were ready to help us and people that pretended not to speak English.

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Location: Kreuzberg / Team: Kristina (Slovakia), Magdalena (Poland), Jana (Czech Republic), Felipe (Spain):

At the begining there was only an envelope. And the ticket for underground. And the matches. And a strange task – to ask people in Berlin streets to exchange it for something totally different. First we had to find the underground station to get to our “hunting area”.
After looong journey we picked up our first victim. She gave us a chewing gum. The gum turned into a pen, pen into a visit card, …. We aimed more than 30 people and only about 3 of them didn’t join our game. We decided not to take a food from people, but our plan crushed by the next man. We changed a rope into two glasses of juice….

There were some people we will never forget. German postman who didn’t speak English but he was very kind and interested to help us. Then we met a couple and the woman told us: “I am going to give you something very interesting.” She was looking for a long time in her backpack and she showed us something orange without shape. A hat for dying hair. It was the most interesting thing we got, but nobody wanted to change it. Felipe and Janka had a chance to talk in their mother languages because we met a Portuguese man who spoke almost every language except English. It was visible that there live a lot of Turkish people. We entered their barberyshop (where the man wanted to change our flower for a kiss), florist’s and photographer. We were also invited to a concert by guy who was sticking on the wall a poster of his band. But the most unusual person we met was a “colourful” man (his appearance was so interesting that it can’t be explained in words). At first he offered us his bike but then he gave us a secret card brought from Paris – from famous fashion designer Carl Lagerfeld. It was the end of our mission because we had to run for our underground. Of course we were late…

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Location: Prenzlauer Berg / Team: Carla (Italy), Leah (Wales), Sascha (Russia):

We began the day at 9am with a map,  a train ticket and a box of matches, our aim was to trade the matches for something else and keep trading until 12pm. This seemed like an impossible task, who would swap anything for a measly box of matches? From the platform at Alexanderplatz our destination was in Mitte and we got here by taking the underground (after we figured that out!) At first we walked around trying to find the name of the bar from the box but, realising that the bar was nowhere near, we soon began asking shop owners and passers-by if they had anything they could trade for our little object … which would have been much simpler if any of them could speak English and if we could pluck up the courage to begin asking such an absurd question to the locals. The first people we came across shock their heads as they had nothing to swap. The second was willing to trade … but we weren’t sure if we could pass the object on (if you’re too curious, it was a condom.) The next happily agreed and searched her bag but had nothing that was a step up from the matches. With time ticking away and with no success we began to wander again and began to take in the sights. We were amazed by the amount of graffiti, but we didn’t feel like it made the city look horrible, instead it made it look like a giant artist’s canvas. And, if we looked close enough, we could find little old fashioned houses hidden away down ally ways. It was like stepping back into traditional Germany, all the scene needed was a horse and carriage and a chimney sweep.
But, we knew we would have to return with the same little match box that we left with three hours earlier. Oh, the bitter taste of failure. But that doesn’t matter, we’re happy because we had an enjoyable trip. Getting lost has never been so much fun!

Same, same, but different: Sascha, Carla, Leah

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This entry was posted in Academy report, YA Berlin 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mix and match! The exchange mission

  1. Stefanie says:

    Wow! Who had the idea to trade match boxes? It sounds very funny and I guess it had been an interesting experience. Besides you got to know Berlin and Germans 😉

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