Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving...German Style.

I wasn't sure how Thanksgiving in Deutschland would turn out, considering that sometimes "normal" ingredients are hard to come by (like brown sugar). However, everything fell together wonderfully; Alex and I made great mashed potatoes, Rob and his friend Dave made interesting sweet potatoes (marshmallows? What?) and Cam...well...Cam was absolutely brilliant. He made the turkey, green beans wrapped in ham, stuffing, corn pudding, carrots, and pumpkin pie. One of his roommates, Joanna, made the cranberry sauce and apple pie, which were both delicious. I was certainly impressed with everything because not only did it look good, it tasted amazing. I know, all the pictures that I have are of empty plates rather than how good the food looked, but that just means it was really tasty.

Today I went over to Cam's again so that we could make soup out of the leftover turkey carcass. We didn't finish it by the time I left, but we did manage to make a tasty turkey broth, which is a good start. I'll probably end up going to Cam's pretty often between now and whenever we finish the soup. After all, he does have my large pot to use. And there is always turkey soup at the end of Thanksgiving, which always signals the beginning of the Christmas season.

Speaking of Christmas season, today was the first day it snowed and it was gorgeous. What a great way to wake up the day after Thanksgiving. I'm posting a picture of the view outside my window with the low cloud coverage and snow, though you can see more snowy pictures on my Flickr account.

I think this weekend I'm going to some markets with Nils. The Christmas markets here are simply amazing and there just isn't anything like it that I've experienced before. Sure, the Macy's windows in NYC are fantastic, but just walking through the Weihnachten Markt on the Ku'damm is the embodiment of Winter Wonderland. Everything just seems so bright and cheerful. I should take pictures of it, and when I do, I'll be posting them. Oh, and still on the topic of pictures, I went to London last week and there are pictures up from there. Nothing super interesting, except for the fact that there was a food stand in Stansted Airport called "Lovejuice." (I kid you not)

I'm posting some other random pictures on here because I thought the buildings/art was interesting. That's one thing I absolutely love about Berlin: You can find art everywhere...street art, performance art (though Cam has a great story about that), etc. The graffiti is not just graffiti, and I find myself stopping to look at walls with stuff on it. Take for example this building on the left that I saw walking around Friedrichshain with Cam. I'm also posting another picture which I took on the way walking to his apartment. I really need to walk around the city more because there are so many nooks and crannies, just like Thomas's English muffins.

I know anyone who is reading this is most likely too lazy to post a comment (which is perfectly ok), but I took some pictures that I posted on my Flickr account that I think might be worthwhile seeing. So, if you're not doing anything after reading this sort of pointless post, look at my pictures. I'm lazy enough that I'm not going to post them anywhere else (ie: Facebook).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sometimes, firsts aren't that great.

As my last entry was my first time in a German club, this entry will entail yet another first. However, it's not a "Yeah, it was great my first time" type story. No, my friends, this is one of those firsts that I'd rather not have happened. And what is it? I missed my flight to London. Yes, for all of you who know me, I'm always punctual, usually showing up 15 minutes before necessary, but this time, I missed my flight!

I woke up 2 hours beforehand and left my apartment with an hour to spare to get to the airport. Christian and Pablo (my roommates) said that it shouldn't take me more than 30 to 40 minutes to get to Berlin Schönefeld. I figured I'd still be early. Well, I was standing at the Warschauer Straße S-bahnhof when the S9 to Schönefeld shows up at a not-so-great-time of 8:25 a.m. My flight was at 9:40 and I started to panic. Final check-in closed at 9:00 a.m. Would I make it? I hoped so.

I get to the airport at around 9:05 and try to find the check-in desk for RyanAir. All I saw was German Wings. RyanAir? Anybody? I finally just cut the X-ray line, mumbled a panicked and rushed, "Es tut mir Leid" (Sorry), and ran to the counter, blurted out to the guy behind the desk, "I know I'm late for my flight, but can I still get on???" He shook his head and said, "London Stansted? Sorry, final check-in closed 15 minutes ago." I asked if I could get on the next flight and he directed me to the RyanAir office on the next floor down. He added, "You're not the only one who missed the flight" and gave me this sorry look.

I went downstairs and saw absolutely NO office for RyanAir and I had to ask Information twice about what they meant. The "office" was really this door that said "Virgin Express" (as in, Virgin Atlantic, which confused the hell out of me) and there were four of us that had missed the flight. One German, two Brits, and me (the American). I wound up paying an extra 60€ for my flight out tonight, and the woman behind the desk really stressed, "Check-in is at 7:55 and we highly recommend that you check-in two hours beforehand." Thanks, you don't need to rub it in.

So it's about 9:30 a.m. when I have my flight rebooked, and I'm thinking, "Hmm, what should I do?" Well, I might as well go home. I called Chris to tell him I missed my flight (did I feel stupid? Just a wee bit), and then I called Alex and bitched to her about my life. Yesterday public transporation wasn't working for me, either, but that's a whole different story.

I got back onto the S-bahn and sat down, and this guy a few seats away says, "Missed the flight to Stansted too?" I moved my seat across from him and we had a nice chat back into central Berlin. Turns out he's taking the flight tonight, too, so I'll probably see him later. He's also only been learning German for about 2 months now, so we conversed in English.

The weirdest thing happened on the train, though. This little old lady boards and says to me (in German), "I want to sit there." I thought she meant the empty seat next to me, so I got up so she could sit down. Instead, she took the seat that I was sitting in! There was an older German man who said to her angrily (in German), "There are other seats on the train! Why do you have to take the one she's sitting in? What's wrong with you? Look at how many seats there are!" (Which was true) I was like, ok, whatever, lady, take the seat. I sat down next to Miko (the British guy) and we continued talking in English. He left at Ostkreuz Bahnhof, which was one stop before I wanted to get off at Warschauer Straße, and once he got off, the little old lady (who was now sitting across from me), was eyeing me with really narrow eyes. Eyeing my shoes, the bottom of my pants, my coat, and finally she was just staring at me.

I got off with my very tiny luggage at Warschauer Straße, brought it up the stairs, and started rolling it. The little old lady had apparently gotten off at the same stop and as she walked by me, I think I heard something along the lines of "Verpisst dich!" (Fuck you) or something else. I didn't even know what to say...I was going to say, "Arschloch" (Asshole) or, "Hast du ein Problem mit mir?" but I was just speechless. What the hell did this woman have against me? I didn't do jack SHIT to her. I mean, c'mon, lady, you took my fucking seat, not the other way around. And the other people on the train thought it was rude, too.

Anyway...I guess that is just another asshole person just giving Germans a bad reputation. I came back to my apartment where Christian asked in German, "Uh, aren't you supposed to be on a flight?" I told him the whole story, including the little old lady, and he was like, "Yeah, crazy people in Berlin, can't really do anything about them." I told him she knew what she was doing (she seemed intent, not as if she was some crazy just being), and he apologized for it. Not that it was his fault.

So now I have almost 10 hours until my flight to London. I'm looking at it positively, saying that I am spending less money for the 60€ than what I would pay for by being in London. And I can be productive by doing some reading for class. Berlin's not that's just one day short of time in London, and considering it's my fifth time there, not a HUGE loss. At least I'm not missing Harry Potter, and at least I didn't get tickets for Guys and Dolls.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My German Club Virginity Has Been Lost

As I write this, I would like to note a few things. First, it's 5:20 am and I got home about 20 minutes ago. Second, the adrenaline is still running, which leads me to my third point of why I'm writing this now.

The night started off relatively quiet: I cooked dinner for Nils (my "tandem partner," aka language partner) and my two roommates. It was pretty simple; I just threw together some pasta sauce by adding some garlic, tomatoes, chicken, and some spices. Alex came over but didn't eat anything (she hates tomatoes...Schade!), and we all watched some crazy German TV together. There was this little kindergartner who could recognize single puzzle pieces, so the host of this show just pulled random puzzle pieces and asked him, "What's this from?" It was something you would see on Letterman as a stupid human trick, and all the little boy would say is "Ja." I said to Alex, "Hey, that's like us! Just 'ja' and everything is good!" to which she answered, "Yeah, now I can understand him!" Sad, but true. (Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless, close to the truth.)

Alex, Nils, and I left my apartment at around 10 and went to Cam's housewarming in Friedrichshain. We met some other Americans there (Zoey and Devin came later), a few Germans, and a weird Croatian. This Croatian guy was just all over the place and I know Alex, Zoey, and I just wanted to say, "Dude, chill out...calm down..." Nils left early, and then Zoey and Devin went to a club in Friedrichshain.

I went with Alex to Club 103 in Kreuzberg and met up with some people from my film history class, Julian, this-girl-whose-name-I-really-need-to-see-to-remember, and Julian's friend (a guy, but also named) Alex from Nürnberg. Alex's feet were hurting from the silly shoes she was wearing, so she only stayed for about a half hour before she left. The rest of the night, however, was chock full of dancing to techno and speaking German.

I didn't mind the music selection and I must admit that it grew on me as the night went on. I think the highlight of the night was a techno version of the Kaiser Chiefs' song, "Every Day I Love You Less and Less." It was especially cool because only a few minutes before, Julian, Alex, the girl, and I were talking about how we liked the Kaiser Chiefs. So it made it that much more exciting. Another musical highlight of the night was this techno band (?) of three guys that played a lot of stuff. Can't tell you what exactly it was, but it certainly was very danceable.

We managed to sit down and have a nice talk about various things, ranging from favorite movies to experiencing anti-American sentiments. I think the most interesting topic was when they asked me about 9/11. At that point, I just couldn't truly express what happened due to my lack of vocabulary. I think they understood me, and even so, I think they were really interested in what I had to say. I also found it interesting that they think Germany may be the next target for terrorism, after the bombings in Madrid and London. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

So all in all, I must say it was indeed a very good night. When we left the club at around 4:45 a.m., the music was still going strong, the dancing was still happening, and the drinks were still being sold, but we found ourselves in the crisp, clear night sneaking back home into the warmth of our beds. (Though I'm still not in mine yet) I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoyed clubbing. A lot of dancing was done, a lot of German was spoken (and in my opinion, not too badly!), and a good amount of alcohol was consumed. My eyes are growing heavy, and the adrenaline is coming down, but I will say this: I think a lot more clubbing will be done this year than previously thought.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Endlich: Ich habe eingezogen!

So I finally moved into my apartment yesterday with the help of Meredith and Alex. (Pic on the left is the view from my window with the U-bahn going by.) I don't think it could've went any easier, either. We took the bus one stop to Schlesisches Tor from Meredith's, then took the U-bahn one stop to Görlitzer Bahnhof. We walked the block or so to where I will be living until April 30th, when I have to move out. The room I am renting belongs to a 30-year-old law student, and I think she is away for the 6 months because she has studies to do of some sort. I'm living with two German guys, Pablo and Christian, so it will be good for using my German. I feel as if within the past two days that I've been here, I've used my German more than the whole month that Alex and I were in the hotel, but even so, it's a bit awkward still since I'm the "new roommate." Not to mention that I've been completely retarded and can't manage to open the damn door to the apartment. It's pretty difficult and I am determined to be able to open it by tomorrow evening on my own. (Yes, Pablo & Christian have both had to let me in, even though I have the key)

The past few days have been relatively uneventful otherwise, to say the least. I went to Ikea with Cam today and bought sheets and a pillow for my bed. I kept telling Christian that I was going to Ikea (pronouncing it "eye-key-ah") and seeing that he was confused, I said, "ee-key-ah?" which solved the problem. Oh, Ikea. No matter where you go in the world, as long as there is Ikea, there is cheap furniture and bedding to be bought. This other picture is of my room, but the furniture came with the room. It's not mine, obviously...But yeah. Ikea went well and Cam helped me pick out which pillow. I never realized that there were so many to choose from, but apparently there is.

I also went real grocery shopping and spent 20€ at Plus. I probably could've spent less if I hadn't bought bottles of shampoo & conditioner, but whatever, 20€ is still pretty good. I still find it really strange to have to bring your own canvas bags if you don't want to pay for another canvas bag or for a plastic bag. Germans are super environmentally friendly, I noticed, with the exception of my roommates who don't seperate their garbage like everyone else. The canvas bag I have says "Schützt unsere Umwelt!" (Protect our environment) with a turtle and a frog kissing under a rainbow. (And this next picture is the living room)

Some random observations about Berlin that I've made within the past month:
1. Everyone at home has a twin here. I've seen numerous people on the street almost thinking that they were someone from home. I'm not sure why this seems to be the case, but seriously. Both of my roommates strongly remind me of students at Middlebury.
2. Berlin is the smallest big city. I see the same people all the time on public transporation (ie: U-bahn, S-bahn), and it's not even at the same time. How is it possible? I have no idea. It's also really easy to run into people you know on the street. Doesn't happen often in New York.
3. People are really cuddly and openly affectionate here. Call me a prude, but I don't want to see people making out on the U-bahn (which has happened lots of times before). Seriously, whether it's a heterosexual or gay couple, there will be a lot of kissing, ass-grabbing, really intense eye contact, etc. involved.

So that's it for now. I've made other observations, but nothing worth writing about. I found these interesting.