Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back in Berlin for good!

Berlin Dome
 Wow, I am finally back in Berlin and my life is slowly coming together! I still need to find a permanent flat, but I even almost have a weekly routine schedule! So, updates!

#1 Flat

I thought getting a job would be the hardest thing here, but I managed to find two jobs relatively quickly and am still working (3 months later) on finding a long-term flat. Basically, my experience of my flat search is sort of like a really, really long tour of Berlin. I've stayed with two friends and in two sublets so far + my 7 weeks in Rostock. I have this current one until 1. December and we'll see what happens from there! The whole thing basically seems like an awkward, warped form of dating. I obsessively check the flat websites, send out lots of messages telling people about myself and responding to what they said about them, get answers to about 10% of my e-mails and invited to view about half of those answers. I go and get a tour, make awkward small-talk and sometimes make friends who want to bake cookies with me, but still no flat! Either the flat ends up being weird or I wouldn't want to live with the people! Though my budget is actually pretty reasonable for Berlin, I am being very picky with location. I really do want to settle in Berlin and moving is traumatizing so I'd rather wait out my future I-get-a-really-good-feeling-about-this room in a flatshare (WG). Hopefully I'll get something soon as I just want to unpack, buy lots of things you wouldn't while living out of a suitcase (re: spices, curry paste, kitchen appliances, boots that take up space, big sweaters). I've been in Germany three months now and still feel so unsettled on this front!

The difficulty is in part because there are three years' of people looking for one year of flats! Something with the German school system changed so that two years of people are going off to uni (and hence looking for flats) at once. On top of that, men no longer have to do a required 9 months in the military so a whole year of guys is added in to this mix as well. Competition!

#2 Jobs

I have two jobs now! Job A is still at the same school that gave me the intensive course in Rostock, but now I've picked up a few classes in Kitas (Kindergartens) around Berlin. I really don't have much experience with little kids, but they've given me a couple classes with slightly older children they said were especially fabulous and thought I'd be a great fit for, so we'll see how it goes. One of them is reaaalllyyy far outside Berlin and will take me 1.5 hours each way to and from for a 45 minute class. I got a giant tote bag full of material, flash cards, stories, CDs, ideas for games and an overview of what should be taught by the end of the month so I think I'll be okay on that front. I was invited to observe a class last week and got some surprise observed teaching. Basically I walked in and the teacher handed me some color flashcards and a stuffed animal and said, "Plan an activity with these colors and work in some conversation with this cuddly toy! I'm going upstairs to get the kids right now, be back in a minute!" Terrifying, but I did well and survived somehow. Mostly I'm just concerned about setting routines for the class in the beginning and making sure everything doesn't explode into pandemonium, as disciple is an area I need to improve on as someone who's mostly taught adults and/or older over-achieving preteens.

Job B is with a school that teaches CEOs and other high-ranking people from creative business industries (marketing, advertising, TV, radio, etc.). My job here is actually not teaching, but stalking people online and entering lots of info into their database to get more students, plus some help with their social media sites/Google Ad-Words stuff. I actually got this job through a friend from my university in the States, who knew someone who knew someone in Berlin. My main bosses are all American and really chill and the atmosphere in the office is cool because it is a constant switch between English and German happening all around me. Though data entry is perhaps not the most exciting thing in the world, it's actually nice compared to the uncertainty and performance aspect of teaching as for this job I am in the same place all day and have a relatively simple task. They're also writing me letters to allow me to expand my visa so I'm allowed to do more than just teach and the office looks out over a river and some really cool old-looking factory buildings in Alt-Moabit/Tiergarten.

Both of my jobs seem to really like me, which is great. Job A even said once I get my visa expanded they would maybe like to have me help with stuff in the office as well. I'm super pumped about this as I want to eventually go into a career in educational management (a.k.a. I want to work in an educational environment, but in the end not as a teacher/professor…ideally in the study-abroad industry). I have a good mix of teaching and positions that are giving me more experience behind the scenes of teaching, so I feel like my future is looking alright, and both jobs have expressed interest in giving me more responsibilities in the future. Right now the teaching experience is also great as I feel like I need to throw myself into teaching before I can advise other people on such things!

#3 Life

Life is overall good! Happy to be back in Berlin, though am glad I did the course in Rostock. I just find Berlin much more inspiring overall. My only issue now is the flat search and wanting to just start getting my life feeling settled! Once that happens I'll be much more open to visiting friends and traveling a bit more. Wish me luck!

I've been going to a lot of Volksküche (The Peoples' Kitchen) with friends, both in Rostock and now back in Berlin, and I love them. Basically you go, often to a housing collective or squat, and for 2-3 euros you get a three course meal. Everyone eats the same thing and occasionally it's dumpster-dived, but always delicious, usually vegan and super cheap! I went to one last weekend for vegan brunch and there were literally 20 different dishes and delicious coffee with organic soymilk. Mmm. Overall there is a lot of good food to be had in Berlin!

Speaking of dumpster-diving, I was invited to go with someone in Berlin soon. Will be an adventure! Free food!

Friend Tine, me and friend's flatmate at a Vokü in Rostock
Besides that, notable things are having my visa card stolen from the mail and 1500 EUR charged on it = successful first time at the Berlin police to make a police report, all in German! Luckily I got the money back a few weeks later. I've also been to the roller derby twice in Berlin! Basically this is girls on skates beating each other up. I'm still trying to learn the rules, but so far I'm pretty content just watching people fall down on skates to music while drinking beer and watching the mascot (called the "I Don't Care Bear"). I guess I should watch the movie with that girl from Juno...

Bad blurry picture of the roller derby: Berlin vs. London
Bis bald (until soon)!

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