Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Final Note

“Berlin was an unexpected pleasure, most of it anyway. The food was pretty damn good, from the currywurst, to the pig’s knuckles and all points between. But more than that the city itself and the people that make their homes here are a pretty intriguing mix of brash and outspoken on the one hand, guarded and someone enigmatic on the other. Some cities put on a good face and seem to go out of their way to try please you. Berliners are willing to size you up and give you what they think you can handle.”
-Anthony Bourdain

My Berlin
What I expected to find in Berlin was nonexistent but what I did find was more interesting in the end. I assumed that the line between previously East and West Berlin would be thick and distinct but instead it was rather gray and vague. I wanted nothing more than to get to know Berlin by the people but I found that when I was there I needed to be introduced to its outer shell of expression through art first. It was simple though because it was written on the walls I walked past in spray paint, it was standing tall and strong in the canal, it was blasting through speakers of drive by cars. This need to express and display oneself in every which way was everywhere, I wasn’t sure if it was individual thinking anymore. Generally, people to me where not quiet or stand-offish, just simply minding their own business and only talked to those that mattered to them. I don’t think this was a Western Berlin persona or Eastern. This was Berlin North, South, East, and West. After I finally met the people of Berlin I feel like I discovered something that I didn’t know was there at first. Comfortable, unique Berlin actually has more insecurities than at first glance. I get it too, I wasn’t sure if I would be capable of understanding but I think I get why Berlin lacks self confidence. A lot of people in Berlin touched me in special ways but most didn’t open up to me. Those that did had stories that surprised me in both positive and negative ways.

Andreas Passlvok is a former East German resident who shared his story with me of his youth, military experience and his present beliefs on political ideologies. This now middle aged man was the kind who would walk into a room and you would notice. He held his head high and had no shame being his entirely outspoken self. I was first surprised by not only his loud personality but also his Western outfit, fixed with cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. Laughing, Andreas explained that he had to wear this outfit since he was talking with Americans. I was immediately comfortable around him. It was easy to forget that we needed a translator because I was so engaged with what he was saying and he was so interested in what I was asking. Andreas told me a story of when he was in the military as a young man an officer came in the same room as him as he was listening to the radio. Knowing that the radio was on a West German station, he quickly tries to change the dial but the officer did not let him because he was curious with what the song was that he had never heard. Finishing the song, a commercial of a West German product came on and the officer simply turns to Andreas and says “one day in jail”. I had a hard time believing that the man in front of me was the same man that not only followed orders, but followed senseless orders of the former GDR. He later explained me that in East Germany he knew what he wanted to do with his life so he would do whatever it took to achieve those goals. It was a simple idea that I understood. I was initially taken back by his gratitude he had for his experience in the GDR however, I did appreciate his beliefs that it is a poor political system when people succeed off of other’s failures.

Manuela from West Germany later spoke with me so I was able to compare the differences in young people. Her story began more distressing than that of Andreas. Her family had the tragedy of being forced to leave their home in Poland and move to Germany after WWII while her grandfather was being held as a prisoner of war. This time of confusion led to another poignant event because some relatives were in West Germany and others in the East when the wall was erected further separating the family. Manuela, however, is an educated woman who loves to laugh. She is completely genuine and is ready to help anyone at anytime. If the tragedies of her family’s history affected her in anyway it was positive. She recalled being raised with a modest mentality and she used the example of her parents telling her to finish the food on her plate. Although her family had to deal of the tragedies of separation, Manuela did not find significance of the Wall in her life as a child, even when her Eastern relatives would come visit them. It wasn’t until she decided to move to Berlin after she graduated from school where the Wall became a literal figure in her life. She recalls her memories of the Wall when she was living in Berlin as very surreal and strange. Shortly after living in West Berlin, the Wall fell paving the way for reunification in Germany.

Andreas and Manuela are good friends and I understand why they get along so well. However it is interesting when considering how difficult the reunification process has been for Germany after the fall of the Wall. People have shown that no matter what their background may be or how they were raised they can still create strong bonds and relationships with others completely different from them through common interests. In the case of Andreas and Manuela, they met in Art School. Although Andreas and Manuela were able to create a friendship during the confusing period after the fall of the Wall, both struggled with this transition as did the rest of Germany. Andreas expressed that he and other East Germans felt that their life was a failure after the GDR collapsed. He felt it was a time of self-invention which can be looked at positively but also this transition is a difficult one for most. Manuela explained to me that once the Wall fell there was a period of consumption where the former East Germans were getting the new TVs, the new cars, the food they were never allowed, among other things which was an exciting time for them. However once the consumption period was over, there were still issues of reunification. Manuela describes her experience of Art School in Dresden, which was the former East, she felt like she did not fit in because she was so clearly from the West and was bothered that anyone could point her out. This was peculiar because this was in 1994, five years after the fall of the Wall.


I focused on the youth during the time of the Berlin Wall, comparing and contrasting East and West Germany. I believe that the way people are raised and where they come from creates their present identity. With such contrasting political systems in the same country, furthermore the same city, I imagined the oppressed East Germans would long for the freedoms in the West. However, I did expect much naivety in East since much propaganda was controlled. I was mainly concerned with how these differences in the East and West created the identity of young people and how that identity may have changed, stayed the same, or became confused once the Wall fell in 1989.

In order for me to find out the core issues of youth during the time of the Wall I needed to seek out people who were in their 20s’ or younger during the time the Wall fell. A concern I had was being able to interview an East German who I could communicate with since most only speak German and Russian. Although I had specific predictions of what I would find in my research, I was not concerned with being disappointed with the differences and similarities between East and West Germany. I was however able to speak with an East German with a translator and he was very open with his experiences in the former GDR and the way he was raised. I was also able to interview a West German who was also very informative of her experiences with the Wall. It was refreshing to learn that there were little differences between these two people although a different background. I think what I discovered furthers the point that stereotypes are more often wrong. I expected the East German to be reserved and have bitter memories of the former GDR when it was rather the opposite of that because he had a big personality and was grateful for his experience in the East. I thought the West German would have a similar life to that before the Wall fell but she also struggled with identity before and after the Wall.

Manuela did live in Berlin before the Wall fell but only for a short period. I was unable to find out if there is a difference from West and East Germans to West and East Berliners. Unfortunately that was a problem I encountered during my research was finding people to talk to that lived in East or West Berlin before and after the Wall. Perhaps there would not be much of a difference since it was the same political system throughout the Western or Eastern state.

I believe that young minds are fragile and mold very easily to their surrounding. With such distinct differences in culture to me as an outsider, I imagined the young people of the East and West to be clearly different. Although that may be the case with some, it was not in my research. The reunification process was obviously difficult for all people with trying to find their role in society however enough time has passed where the clear differences between East and West that may have been their a few years after the fall of the Wall are no longer there.

Since my project was just specific enough with the focus on youth, interviews with former East and West Germans provided the majority of my research. Creative writing, excursions of the city, and workshops that I participated in the duration of my time Berlin contributed more to my personal development and learning rather than my research topic. However, through all my experiences in Berlin, whether it was talking with Berliners or performances, I was able to understand the struggle for identity as a country Germany has had for decades. Germany has had major failures and embarrassments in its history; it has been hard for the people of Germany to establish something to be proud of. In my research I expected West Germans to be confident and comfortable in their lives but the reality is the Wall brought negativity to them as well as the East Germans struggling economically and with identity. Furthermore, Germany is constantly trying to apologize and make up for the mistakes of Nazi Germany. Although I feel like Berlin and Germany as a state has progressed so much from this traumatic era, it has hindered the people of Germany having any kind of patriotism.

The borders that have kept Germany from progressing have been knocked down, whether it’s the fall of Berlin Wall or the end of Adolf Hitler’s power during WWII. Yet border’s still stand with the search for identity in Germany, as they do with any conflicted country. The people of Berlin are confident in referring to themselves as what they do: an artist, a professor, a performer. However, they may not always include in this identification as being a German.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Istanbul: Assignment 3

Initial response a pone arrival: did my luggage make it? Thank god it did. Delirious and ecstatic I turned to my safely arrived suitcase into a bumper car. Sorry Cassie, I’ll beat your suitcase every time. The temperature feels the same but the air feels heavy. It adds another layer to my already dirty skin and sits on top of my eye lids. I wait as patiently as possible for our already-known-un-air conditioned room. I put the stiff, under 100 count linen sheet on top of my clammy body and end my day as soon as my eyes shut. Istanbul, I cannot wait to experience you.

The sky is clearer here. The air is more refreshing, as long as you don’t have a smoker by you. The grass is as green as Seattle and the cats are as common as an animal shelter. The city puts me at ease. I hold onto the yellow bars in the subway and I’m immediately comforted with the similarity to Berlin, this time I have a cool breeze on the top of my head and a tall, dark and handsome man with blue eyes right in front of me. Istanbul, I think I’m going to like you. My stomach leads me to a bright, yellow, familiar figure and my growling stomach is forcing me to buy one.

2 lira? No problem.

Corn on the cob, a little peace of home. My first bite tells me differently. Crunchy at first but a little soggy. Drenched in butter, just the way I like it. I eat what I can with the greasy butter drippy down my wrist on top of the paper they wrapped around the bottom. I feel obligated to give it up. Here Joe, you give it a try. I move on, quickly, because lucky me, I just found a cat. White and fluffy like the ones at home, but this one is missing half an ear. Something tells me to pet this cat as much as I want to. John just pet the cat. Note to self: don’t touch John for the rest of the trip.

I sit to listen to Orhan’s words of wisdom but who am I kidding? All day I’ve been hearing “blah blah Ottoman Empire blah blah palace”. Is it because it’s uninteresting? No. It’s because I cannot stop looking at the stray cats and people watching? Yes, sorry Orhan. We sit by a tree, looking at something that was part of the Roman Empire and naturally I choose to sit by the passed out man on the bench. Lauren, you’re in Istanbul, being taught fascinating things of history right where you’re sitting and you’re trying to get as close to this man’s hand as possible? Yes. What’s wrong with me?

This city has confused me. Geographically, economically, socially, any which way has not made sense in my mind. I approach a dog that is the color of cement and bruises that appears to be dead. Is no one going to clean up this dead dog? The dog is not dead. I wish I didn’t like animals. We walk down a hill. No, a hill is a thing we see in Seattle often. This isn’t a hill. This is a slope, a valley, a mountain I’m descending from. Joe gets the cab and I’m one of three in the back to jump in. Overwhelmed by the hill I ran down, not on purpose but because I couldn’t control my speed, all I see is yellow. Luckily I can understand “Taksi”. Heart racing, sweat running down my cheek, all I can do is laugh. Does our driver know he just cut three people off? Is this the speed limit? He almost hit that person. I try to ignore my anxiety with riding in cars because right now I’m in hell.

Getting out of the Taksi backseat I couldn’t help but sigh and shake my head to myself. We made it, I knew we were going to make it, everyone knew we would make it all in one piece. A lanky man stood outside an entrance as if he was waiting there for us. Recognizing that we were American, he begins speaking English to us pointing out that this is an entrance to the Grand Bizarre. My nerves finally calmed by the kind stranger, we continue to make small talk and explain that we’re waiting for others. He let us know that there are many entrances so it is unlikely that they’ll come through the same one. Trying to decide if we should just go in without them, I feel the presence of the stranger right behind me, hovering over us like he’s now part of our group also. We say thanks and walk in but he quickly walks with us and asks if we need any more help and he offered to take us around. We kindly decline his offer and the thoughtful stranger returns to his spot and waits for the next group of tourists to unload.

It was a strange feeling walking on the dimmed, mossy sidewalk thinking about all the encounters I have had thus far. It was a feeling of claustrophobia from being approach by strangers over and over again while being surrounded by more strangers. They came across like they had something for me and they knew it would help but unfortunately few were genuine. Anyone that could speak any English were capable of approaching me as if they recognize me, like I come by their spot every week. I was uneasy because I didn’t know who I could trust around me. Who were the people that actually cared about my well-being? Who were the people that actually enjoyed talking with me? I wish I was able to be less judgmental of those around me but the reality is, is I was never able to trust the people in Istanbul for a fear of being taken advantage of.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Here, There, and Everything in Between: Assignment 2 and 4

The blisters that developed in my new Sperry’s created a larger problem than I first imagined. I went to Kaiser’s grocery expecting to find band aids. I walked up every aisle, bumping into someone occasionally but I always say “excuse me” and the Berliners never do. I asked a woman in a red apron “do you have band aids?” She doesn’t even look up when she tells me “nein English”. Now irritated I did one more lap around the grocery store and finally found a small selection of band aids. Where they the kind I wanted? No, but they did the trick.

Walking down the busy streets by the Friedrichstadt neighborhood I remember admiring the tall skyscraper buildings, watching street performers, and soaking in the sounds of a busy city. I was worried the all of Berlin would resemble Kreuzberg but this part of town was entirely different. Walking around what seemed to be the center of the city we were looking for a place to eat but were all so indecisive. Proceeding farther and farther from the group, my white, strappy sandal on my right foot decided to completely snap off. I kept my foot flexed onto my sandal long enough until we found a restaurant to eat at. I considered buying a pair of shoes on the run but I figured I could tough it out and find a safety pin in the mean time. Outside the Reichstag building Catherine supplied me with a safety pin and I was ready to begin the tour.

August 5th
The uneven slabs of concrete create a disorienting feeling. The sky is blue and the sun is hot and tourists use the blocks as benches. Should this memorial be treated as a place to take a break from a long day of walking? Shouldn’t it be more respected because of what it represents? The smell of cigarettes (which I have become awfully familiar with) surrounds me. I can’t help but try counting how many blocks are before me. Do the small squares of cement under the blocks represent anything?

I remember sitting at some picnic tables outside the Stasi Museum drinking an orange Fanta was created by the Nazis. I’m not sure how accurate this is but I remember thinking how bizarre it is that products and scientific information that we know and use today was from the Nazi regime. Of course today people associate Fanta with colorful commercials with catchy tunes for this fizzy drink made by Coca-Cola, but during WWII, Fanta stood for something very different. I couldn’t help but ponder this thought for the majority of the Stasi Museum tour, especially since our tour guide was monotone and all the posters were in German.

August 6th
The ground is shaking below me from the subway. I first thought the stairs were leading us to the U-bahn or S-bahn but it turned out to be an entire world where people would go to hide and protect themselves and their family. I immediately get the chills from the temperature dropping and being surrounded by cold, concrete walls. The smell reminds me of a storage unit where everything kept their collects dust and is forgotten. Finding out that this bunker was once used for storage did not surprise me.

The whole architectural structure of the Jewish Museum was very unique and confusing to me. The artwork was old fashioned and beautiful but I didn’t necessarily know the significance of a lot of the art and pictures in the museum since we had to speed through the tour. I felt like the slopping walk ways and the arcing walls caught my attention more than what was on the walls. However, I remember walking out to the Garden of Exile noticing the names of the cities on the wall shooting down all the way to the door. Snapping pictures of “Amsterdam” and “Paris” I realized these are the cities that Jews sought refuge during WWII.

August 7th
Staring at a plain, average building has never given me such a feeling before. Stepping on the gravel pathway before entering Sachsenhausen Camp gave me more than an uncomfortable feeling. My face was moist from the walk to the camp in the hot sun, the same walk the prisoners made. I stare at every nook and cranny of this building trying to grasp what kind of people worked inside that building. The man on the top office had a human flesh lampshade. I will never understand the monster inside those people. “Arbeit Macht Frei” was shown when entering the gates. “Work Brings Freedom”. What a lie.

Looking back on my postcards and trying to remember what happened in between the Sachsenhausen Camp and the Pergamon Museum, I know that was our first night out at a club because I remember exactly how I was feeling, physically that is, at the Pergamon Museum the next day; subpar at best. That night Natalia and myself hosted the get together before the club with everyone and we were proud of how successfully we co-hosted this festivity. I shouldn’t have worn gray that night because it was completely sweated through but on the other hand, Joe and I did match wonderfully. Drinks were consumed, friendships were established, and memories were made with our first night at a club. I may have gotten into a quarrel at one point in the night for believing I was defending Michael and I may have broken part of the nice, wooden fence, but I will never forget my first club experience in Berlin, courtesy of “wodka”.

August 8th
The sun shines through the Pergamon Museum reflecting off of every wall and statue. I observe the tourists around me in their headphones explaining each part of the museum that covers hundreds of years of history and different cultures. I stared at the Ishtar Gate longer than most. This whole time I’ve been snapping pictures of everything, following the lead of my fellow tourists, not knowing most the time what I was taking a picture of and it’s significance. This, however, blew my mind. This gate that was constructed in about 575 BC has 3D images protruding from the wall. This is a brick wall and the animals stick out within the different bricks. How did they do this in 575 BC?

Aisle after aisle of sterling silver jewelry with unique designs, I remember my first experience of the Turkish flea market in Berlin and I am so regretting not buying that chunky, silver bangle and that oversized, turquoise ring or the painted version of a photograph taken of a pink bench with graffiti reading “liebe” right above, instead I bought the small, metal version of the photograph which it turned out to be a cutting board. I thought I could always return back to the market before we leave and get these things if I still want them and if I have enough Euros. In those situtations, next time I need to just get it because I couldn’t find the chunky, silver bangle or the oversized, turquoise ring the next time I came. Now not being in Berlin anymore, I wish I had more keep sakes from the city I loved.

August 10th
Waiting outside this building, wind is blowing in my left ear, the sprinklers on the lawn ahead seam to be dumping water instead of sprinkling, causing even more noise and sadly I can only hear whimpers of Toby. I thought he said this was the Bundenstag. It is not the Bundenstag. I glare at the garbage scattered over the lawn, getting dumped on by the sprinklers and wonder to myself why a government building has a completely trashed front yard. I can almost see my reflection in the perfectly clean, black government cars and I dig through my bag to find my passport so I can enter this mysterious building and find out what it is. I forgot my passport. I try to scoot closer to Toby to find out what is going on but all I can hear are the sprinklers.

During our break for the lecture by Oliver about political extremism, there was a few of us gathered outside of the restroom looking over the balcony down to the perfectly clean floors with the engraved quote striking through the shiny floor the whole way. The group of girls I was with were talking about what we should wear in Istanbul and I remember being slightly concerned because I didn’t bring any dresses that go below my knees or longer shorts for that matter but Sally, worldly Sally who became our translator and informant for the trip, let us know that we could really wear whatever we wanted. It’s funny thinking about this conversation and how relieved I was because I later found out while in Istanbul if you dress like an American, you will stick out like a soar thumb. A very soar thumb.

August 11th
Its overcast but humid today but I already know it’s going to be a good day. Why? Because it’s Shawn’s birthday! I can’t think of a time where it is ever socially acceptable to drink an alcoholic beverage inside of a university, but today, it is. Mimosas in celebration of Shawn’s 60th birthday and I feel giddy listening to Markus. I look behind me and I see Joe’s bright red face. One, small mimosa and he gets the Asian glow. I can’t stop laughing even though his face is hidden behind a folder.

The problem with my memory is I don’t recall dates or times very well. I do know however that it was around this point in our trip where Natalia and myself discovered heaven on earth called “King Burger”. This was probably the only place in Berlin with good customer service and employed Turkish men who were gentlemen. I was a little piece of home to us because they had great pizza, delicious cheeseburgers and delightful chicken wings. I would get the wings and Natalia would get the burger and we would both get the French fries that had mayonnaise and strange ketchup splattered all over it. The brothers that worked there were adorable, one was 15 and the other was 21, but as hard as I tried, I could never remember their names because I could hardly pronounce them.

August 12th
The tombstones hiding behind this sign don’t give me the same feeling as a cemetery. They surrounded by a bright garden and are all of different shapes and designs. I can overhear foreign languages by men sitting outside of the mart right outside the mosque. I know a mosque isn’t intended to be holy but rather a place for community and people to hang out and interact. Immediately I feel comfortable here and I think that’s the way religion is supposed to be.

I had several gasps of relief once landing into Istanbul. First, my chair that was falling apart around me had me concerned that the place might fall apart as well but luckily it was a safe landing. Secondly, my checked suitcase made it to the same place I did. Third, there was one currency exchange place open in the airport and man was shouting for us to come over. He spoke English very well but was talking a little too close to my face. He told us that we were getting the best rates by coming to this currency exchange but I have no idea if he was telling the truth but we went along with it. The portly man behind the counter quickly exchanged our Euros for Lira while the sleazy man, still talking too close to my face, was offering us a ride to wherever we’re staying. I tried to be as polite as possible but I’m sure he saw on my face that I thought he was a creep and I was going to get out of there as soon as possible.

August 14th
Exploring Istanbul for the first time, I can’t help but be entirely and completely excited. As sad as it makes me to see diseased, stray cats, I feel comforted by them being around at the same time. The blend in here. They walk around the city just like everyone else does and they don’t seem to be too much of a bother. The air is fresh with a hint of hookah charcoal and corn on the cob. The breeze from the Bosphorus keeps me content and the sight of a sleeping local on a bench makes me laugh.

I have a small obsession with the Food Network and wish I could be a part of the ridiculous cook-off competitions they show, especially in the judges’ position. Going to the Culinary Institute in Istanbul, I felt like I was on the Food Network. Everything that was put in front of me was perfectly made, plated beautifully, and so incredibly delicious. I have never experience a five course meal like that and the fact that it was traditional Turkish food made it all that much better. I had the best raspberry smoothie I have ever had while consuming the most delicious backliva.

August 15th
Is it bad that the security in this mall didn’t catch my attention? Why didn’t I initially find this strange with an old man right outside trying to sell bracelets. The architecture of this mall is phenomenal and the shops are far from my price range but I just children walking around bare foot. Around the corner there was a homeless man completely filthy, holding is young child who was just as dirty as him. Who here is going to shop at Marc Jacobs? I feel like I’m in LA or New York when I’m standing in this mall, from the shops to the people shopping here. I am far, far away from any American city but I also feel far away from the supposed shoppers here in Istanbul who are able to shop here not only because of their wealth, but also their appearance where they can get by security.

I can only describe the nightlife in Istanbul as disorienting, rowdy, and deafening from either loud music or the background noises of cars and people talking. All of us went out for Daniel’s birthday and it was nice having Amy’s friend who was a local to tell us about the spots to go to celebrate an American’s 21st birthday. The first place we went didn’t make sense because it was a restaurant after we had already eaten and way overpriced. Luckily, Mert the local, had no problem giving away 30 Lira to the man playing the tambourine because there was no way were paying. A few Raki drinks later we powered through the crowded streets to get to a club called Vanilla. Dancing around everyone and screaming every time an American song came on was honestly a blissful experience. We were all in our own world and completely ignored those watching us from behind.

August 16th
When people speak of the beauty of Istanbul, are they referring the colorful and unique governmental housing? Yes the slums of Istanbul make for a beautiful picture, but also do the Turkish kids begging for me to buy a bracelet, the fisherman on the Bosphorus trying to catch food for their family, the old women still able to smile even though they’re missing most of their teeth, the stray cats from afar that reminds me of my pets at home until they get closer and you see their ear or tail missing. All of these characters of Istanbul make for a bright and exquisite photograph but at the end of the day, they’re not modeling because this is their life and we observe them like it’s a movie.

It’s hard for me to explain how thrilled I was to be back in Berlin. Even though we were in a group, every one had their own, individual experience in Istanbul. Not that I had hated Istanbul, I think I just really saw it for what it was, the good and the bad. Before we had left for our weekend getaway, I knew I was enjoying myself in Berlin but it’s when we were returning to Berlin that I realized how much I love that city. I remember walking into our apartment and plopping down on the ugly, yet comfortable, purple pleather chairs in our living room, turning on German MTV and being so content. Berlin had become my home.

I was so ready to get to know Berlin a little more intimately by performances of artists. Perhaps the performance “Is You Me” was a little bit out there and didn’t make a whole lot of sense, regardless, I enjoyed it so much. The performers on stage didn’t necessarily need to be talented for them to wear a sweatshirt and walk around stage with convulsions but the graphic designs that were being created during the performance made the majority of the set. Someone we couldn’t see was adding more drama and feeling than the actual performers.

Funny encounters with people tend to stick out most in my memory. Waiting outside the ticket office before the Soap Show there were a few of us finishing our Beck’s Gold beer. Manuela came over and asked one of us for a sip because she “had an awful taste” in her mouth. Natalia told he she could have another sip if she liked and she shyly declined at first since she’s on antibiotics but once those words left her mouth she quickly refuted her comment and said, “oh, what’s one sip?” as she grabbed a beer. At that point we were all offering her “sips” so she wouldn’t feel so guilty drinking beer since it was just a sip… out of everyone’s beer.

August 20th
The graffiti walk turned out to be a mysterious art walk to me. There is a group of artists who go around the city and put their touch on everything and anything they feel like. I appreciated it because the art was for themselves and for people to discover but they are not given name recognition and no everyone notices them. Here is black paint over what once were swastikas on the light pole. The black paint covers this up perfectly yet stands out enough so people will recognize it’s there and then wonder why it is there. These people are genius to me. I feel like I would fit in this group magnificently.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To Find a Journal- Assignment 1

The air has finally cooled down by the time I decide to make my first solo trip around Kreuzberg. I keep my head down, observing the uneven brick, surprised every time I notice a Stolpersteine. They glisten even after layers of dirt have swept over their surface and I can still read the name 5 feet and 8 inches above the ground off of a 3 by 3 inch square. I know where Ida Rosen used to live. My day dreaming mind is snapped back into focus when a speeding, red bike sends a deceivingly loud bell my way. The automatic doors of the market send a breeze of air conditioning in my direction. The aroma of freshly baked bread brings me to a comfort and a feeling like I might be getting the hang of Germany and I might just be blending in. Aisle after aisle I chuckle in my head when I see a product I’m familiar with I can only tell by the packaging and no way what it says on the label. Mund wäscht equals mouth wash. Milch equals milk. Plätzchen equals cookies. Everything here but a journal. I ask a woman who appears to work there, “do you have any notebooks” as I pretend for my hands to be a notebook opening and closing. I get a blank stare and a Deutsch response. I make my way to the next market. I walk in, “Hallo!” and walk right out, “Tschüss!” Now irritated, lost and confused I decide to be brave and take the U-bahn to Alexanderplatz. I wait not so patiently in the underground station. People are dispersed evenly with minimal conversation. I hope on, tune into my iPod and wait two stops. I get off and follow the crowds down the stairs since I don’t know where to go. Something makes me stop. I’m overcome with a familiar smell, a smell that is too close to home. There it is, the golden arches. I do a walk by and see that McDonald’s does not have a dollar menu. I’m irritated all over again. I go into the first store I see that might sell journals. It happens to be an overpriced souvenir shop. My eyes quickly find a shelf of journals. I stare at them for about 30 seconds trying to decide what journal would be the best for me. My mind set changes and I realize, who am I kidding? What’s the cheapest? I prefer college ruled paper but I guess I can settle for wide ruled. The cover is a thick purple paper, covered in flowery velour. I like the purple. Finally satisfied I bring it to the counter and pull out my wallet. Do you take credit? Of course you don’t, no one does. 3.50 Euros later I’m in a better mood.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Berlin or Istanbul?

August 17th

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I’ve never heard truer words. Analyzing every thought, feeling, emotion, reaction I have had since I have been in Berlin has me constantly questioning, do I love this city? I came to Berlin naïve and looking forward to have a memorable adventure but Berlin has taught me more than I anticipated. I subconsciously try to find similarities between Berlin and Seattle since I struggle to be out of my comfort zone. German is a language that I wish I became fluent in over night. I prefer tap water over carbonated water. I have a poor sense of direction. The Euro kicks the dollar’s ass and I have been on a 100 Euro a week routine. Yet all these things that make my experience possibly more difficult or annoying are also the things I have come to love. Berlin and Istanbul have been like two completely different men in my life, but I can only be in a relationship with one. Turkey showed me that I prefer Berlin’s stand offish ways over aggressive, ass-grabbing Istanbul. I can handle Berlin’s church bells on Sunday as long as he doesn’t start singing prayers at 5 AM everyday. I don’t mind that Berlin always has a Beck’s in hand all day with all activities because Istanbul’s Raki makes me want to gag with just the thought of it. Maybe Berlin tends to make me spend more money than I like, but Istanbul pushes me to buy things to a point where it’s just obnoxious.

Tesekkurler, Istanbul. You were fun but I’m in love with someone else.

Call to Prayer

August 13

My first thought was that Turkish police were yelling over an intercom. What is happening outside? Then I realized that this person wasn’t yelling in Turkish, they were singing, I think at least. What time is it? Okay, I think they finished singing. Okay, never mind, they’re still singing. Okay, they finished. Nope, still going. I looked around the room to see if everyone was hearing was I was hearing because I was worried I was hallucinating. It was still dark out, but just as warm as sunny afternoon in Berlin. I got up and closed the windows. Those windows literally hold no purpose because the singing is just as loud and some how bugs still manage to come in. Five minutes of off and on singing in Turkish and I’m officially awake. It was 5 AM, I am not happy. Did I really sweat that much? What just happened?

I'm in Love With Döners

August 11th

I fell in love with döners the second day I was in Berlin. I constantly crave them to a point where I don’t want a döner anymore, I need a döner. Not only do I love everything and anything that has to do with a döner but I also appreciate how every döner is slightly different than the next döner. I feel comfort when I can see the giant slab of lamb meat, rotating on a silver spit. There is just something about the toasted flatbread combined with perfectly cooked meat, topped with fresh lettuce, cabbage, onions, cucumber and tomatoes that warm my heart. Is it the perfect bread combined with perfect meat and perfect vegetables that make me feel like I cannot live without these delicious treats? No, no, no. It is actually the balance of hot sauce, herb sauce, curry sauce, garlic sauce, and yoghurt that create a heavenly bliss in my stomach where it yearns for more. It is usually not the case that all of these sauces are in one döner, and that’s what makes it surprising and different with every new döner experience. I can recall my first döner memory like it happened this morning. There I was, just walking along an average street, thinking I may go for some pizza or perhaps some Chinese but for some reason (and to this day I cannot explain why I had this gut instinct) I decided to walk up to this little Turkish restaurant and ordered the first thing on the menu. It was quickly made and I was memorized how the flatbread seemed to never fill up entirely, no matter how many things the man stuffed in there. I took my first bite and almost got weak in the knees. I could not eat it fast enough but I forced myself to slow down because I wanted savor every bite. I can’t help but smile when I think about döners. I think I’m going to get one right now.