Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Berlin Is Full of Things

Wow, it's been almost six months since I've been in Germany. I find this absolutely ridiculous. It feels neither like I've been here that long nor like I haven't, rather it's like I'm in some parallel universe where time doesn't feel quite the same. Things are settled and then they're not. Crazy.

Let's see. I went to Prague for Christmas and New Years. Spent New Years Eve at the Meet Factory at an event thrown by the Prague Couchsurfing Winter Camp, which was cool because it meant everyone was open to talking to strangers. I talked to a lot of people, got a lot of free things (ex: champagne) passed to me, danced with random people and rocked the fuck out.

Happy New Year! Andrea, me and Nicole.
I went to Prague really homesick for it and it was great being there, but also really sad that most of the people I made all my memories in that place with were gone. I could feel their ghosts all around. Was very nice to see my friends that still live there though and I ate very well. My Czech and Czech pronunciation became all but non-existent though. Oops. At least I ordered coffee successfully in Czech my last day without being Englished.

I really like my job and though I only work part-time, it's kept me pretty busy. Since I last posted, I've even successfully expanded my visa to allow me to legally be a Project Assistant for this job! It really is like when I go there my brain slips into super-productivity mode and I forget there is an outside world for 7 hours. It's sometimes nice when there are 100 things like paying taxes, handing in more paperwork I should have already, my social life and my inability to just chill out that would otherwise plague my mind. I could use maybe 5 or so hours more of work per week, just so I can earn extra money to spend on traveling and fun things, but I really don't want to go back to work for a big language school again after the kita-contract nightmare. I'd love to just do coat check or something easy like that one night a week.

I've done pretty well on my intention to develop traditions here, though it is too soon to call them "traditions". Have so far checked out two pub quizzes and a music quiz and it's been a good excuse to get my different friends together in one place…and drink on a weekday. Although honestly, it is all too easy to drink on weekdays in these parts. Besides the occasional hangover, drinking doesn't really impact my life in a negative way, but I'm thinking of doing a "cleanse" anyway just to give my body a rest because half the time it just makes me feel sleepy. Sometimes I feel like going to a bar with people and drinking is something I do just because I'm not sure what else to do. While that's fine I would prefer to be more enthusiastic about what I do with my time instead of drinking just because it's there. After my birthday. Maybe.

Two weeks ago I went to a vegan brunch at a couchsurfer's flat in Steglitz. She cooked about 15 of us strangers TONS of vegan food and it was super nice and I met a few cool people. I also discovered a FRENCH vegan brunch I've been meaning to check out and will hopefully be attending another new monthly vegan brunch this weekend besides the one at the housing collective in Wedding I usually go to. I love brunch.

Last weekend went to some art openings with a friend as part of this festival called Transmediale. I saw a force field! Also went into a crazy room where these speakers made it feel like things were whispering in my head, so maybe now I know what schizophrenia feels like. Most importantly, I discovered this exists:

It's the entrance to a co-working space/bar/hangout for computer geeks! It's exactly what a place designed by computer people looks like in my head and reminds me of the vibe I got from any hacking movie I've ever seen, with coffee tables made from archaic computers and all. All of my computer geek friends would pee themselves, basically. I peed myself and don't even fall into that category since I can't make Excel do what I want. Apparently there is a basement that has space capsule like things and more hangout space for members downstairs and if a non-member goes down they ring an alarm to alert everyone. I love that this exists. As part of the transmediale fest they were hosting an event and there were DJs with thes cool visualizations projected all over the place. I also didn't pay for a drink the entire night. I love art.

Last weekend I also went on this sustainable eco-tour of Kreuzberg hosted by a couchsurfer. We walked all over Kreuzberg and Treptow, spending over 3 hours outside in the freezing cold, but it was still really interesting and worth it. I found out about Give-Boxes, which are spread throughout Berlin and basically just these little huts where people leave stuff they don't want and can take stuff for free. I got a really pretty jar that now has my sugar in it! We also saw some squats, co-working spaces and I learned there is an animal farm in the middle of Görlitzer Park! I got to pet donkeys and sheep and almost get bitten by a swan! Exciting! I also learned there are fruit trees planted in the same park and that they plan to expand it. Free fruit! Yesterday I bought a table and rug from a woman who helped plant them!

Give-Box in Kreuzberg

Swan! Wants to eat me! Still cute!
This Friday I plan to finally check out the Dickes Bee food co-op after thinking about it and ogling the website for months. You work for three hours a month and in exchange get to order with them for cheaper prices for food, which has all been checked out for it's ethical and environmental implications. I think I even read something about oil cold-pressed in Kreuzberg, which is where I live! Yay local things for cheap prices! My mind was blown by the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn ever since I went with Brian and ever since I've wanted something like that in my life. I miss having a farm share, so hopefully this will solve my problem once the weather warms up a bit. They also have social events and such. I'm heading over there this Friday for their meeting, we'll see!

I'm planning on finally starting German classes up again because I've been sort of emo and feeling like my German is stagnant and not improving at all. I could study myself for free, but I really just need someone to force me to learn vocabulary and use grammar concepts I avoid, so I think this will be good. Two evenings a week C1 course. I'm excited to have an excuse to sit in cafes and do my homework again, honestly. I justify the cost by thinking if I'm going to spend money, it might as well be for something productive like school, yeah? Yeah. This is also going to lead to more money spent on coffee. I need to buy a coffee grinder here. Fuck instant.

Still working on making friends. I know a lot of people, a lot of really cool people, but sometimes I still feel like I need to build a more solid group of MY people, who I have a lot in common with and a sense of us just  *getting* each other. This involves getting to know some of the people in my life better and reaching out to other ones. Since my life was so stressful and crazy in the beginning, my social life sort of got put on the back-burner, thus it's time. I'm sick of being drunk and clubbing all the time (I say that, and I'll probably end up out dancing tomorrow, so ist das Leben). Regardless, it'd be nice to have more friends I could just chill with, without having to make all these formal plans because lately I just feel like doing silly nerdy things or drinking at someone's house and rolling around on the floor. This is the first time I've moved somewhere without a social network already in place. Most of my life it was school or university that provided a network of friends and in Prague it was my TEFL course that connected me to my first friends and their connections, so here I am really building up my life from scratch.

Our house-warming party is this weekend and it will be interesting. For one, I've never had all of my friends in one place together. My housemates and I also all seem pretty different, so it will be interesting to see our friends all combined with alcohol. You're officially invited if you're in Berlin!

Oh, and yesterday I was FINALLY successful with the German post and got my FIRST Christmas present from my parents. The first time they ALL got sent back. This time my Mom sent a smaller package to my job. When I got to work there was a letter saying I needed to go to the Zollamt (customs office) to collect it and that I'd have to pay for them storing it. I was super pissed and thought I'd have to go pay tax on it. I got to the office after work, which was way out of my way in Schoeneberg, and had to wait an hour and a half in a PACKED waiting room. Once I got in they made me open the box, then poked and unwrapped everything and asked me what it was. Not the way I expected to open my gifts. Luckily, I got to take everything home with me, even the sourdough starter that looked really sketchy and they didn't make me pay anything. When I asked them what the problem was, they said I was probably just a random spot check. I asked them, "So I'm just unlucky?" "Yeah, we apologize for that." Ugh.

Tomorrow I get to work from home, which is great because I can sleep late. For someone who only works 20-25 hours a week, I don't know how I manage to never have enough time to sleep. There is just so much more interesting stuff to do while I'm awake!

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