A Travellerspoint blog

September 2010

Surfing Couches, Hunting Apartments

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

day one in Berlin: after a restless sleep on the train from Augsburg (thanks, snoring man) and trekking all over the city since arriving that morning to look at WG-Zimmer after WG-Zimmer, i drag myself up three flights of stairs to Johanna's apartment. it's already nearly 10pm and my plan for the evening involves checking email and sleeping, not necessarily in that order. however, i'm intercepted by Jon and Jan, who offer me a gin and tonic. "what are your plans for tonight?" they ask. "i'm just going to stay in," i answer. i also say something about how when i travel, i'm usually only up for either running around all day long OR checking out the nightlife -- some people can do both, i guess, but not me.

six and a half hours later, we leave the last club of the night. hello, Berlin.

the WG hunt is interesting. there is a lot out there, but also a lot of people looking. after two days of it, i have a much better idea of where i want to live and what kind of rent i want to pay. it's looking likely that i'll end up in an apartment in Friedrichshain with a horoscope writer (or as she says, "writer of bullshit") for a month or two...cheap, one of the areas in which i'd most like to live, and that way i can take my time looking for something else to last through July.

balconies are very important around here. they always seem to be a bit of a selling point. bathtubs are also apparently important. in Berlin the street numbers wrap around. so on one side of the street the numbers are increasing in size, on the other side they're decreasing -- rather than odds on one side, evens on the other. individual apartments don't tend to have numbers; you just have to know the inhabitant's Nachname so you know which bell to ring.

everyone bikes. EVERYONE bikes. i need a bike.

the Freie Universit├Ąt is a bit of a hike from the city. i knew that from visiting last year, but this morning was an emphatic reminder, as i left the apartment of the girl i'm CouchSurfing with at 6:45 and didn't get to the FU til a little after 8:00 (okay, later, because i got so unbelievably lost). but the distance is nice, in a lot of ways. there's a lot of green around campus. it's a change of pace from the city. i guess we'll see how i feel about that after six weeks of daily language lessons here. three hours a day. i guess i'll learn a thing or two.

here's my embarrassment of the week. i knew Jon was British; i'd never met Jan before, but the two had been chatting away in English, both with very British accents. so i assumed Jan was British, too. "what about you, how's your German?"

"well...i'm from Germany," Jan answered.

i don't feel too stupid over that, though, because even after i knew he was German i couldn't detect the accent, which is rarely if ever the case -- i've gotten pretty used to the German-British flavor of accent.

shortly i'll be finding out how my German is, thanks to some kind of intense placement test i'm about to take. (i'll give you a hint: the answer has the words "very," "good," and "not" in it, in some order.) then the language course starts for real tomorrow, and hopefully life will start to develop a bit of a routine. meanwhile, thank goodness for couchsurfing.org, Fabienne, and her ridiculously adorable bunny, Jimmy.

Posted by ctamler 13:22 Archived in Germany Tagged language educational couchsurfing wg Comments (0)

From 'Burgh to 'Burgh to 'Burg

semi-overcast 18 °C
View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

i haven't blogged here this summer, because i've been helping to blog here: http://farmsandfables.blogspot.com/ -- try it. you might like it. it chronicles the Of Farms and Fables work exchange with Broadturn Farm, W. H. Jordan Farm, and Benson's Farm in Southern Maine. the work exchange will provide the basis for a play i'll be writing over the coming months, to be performed next season, about farming in Maine.

on August 20, we had our wrap-up party.

the Of Farms and Fables artistic team: Keith, Jennie, me, Claire

in standard form, i had no time for a relaxed transition or even a satisfactory "so long". i think it comforted us all that it was Aufwiedersehen and not goodbye. i left straight from the party, stopped in Boston to pick up James and Yarsky, and after a night of coffee, highwayside bathroom hunts, figuring out creative ways to play music in Mindy's amazing but radio-less car, coffee, sleep-dep giggles, and COFFEE, i pulled up to my old Murray Avenue apartment in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill around 10:30 the next morning.

two good days ensued. i saw my family. i saw most of my friends who are still around. Parag made delicious food. i felt less sad than i thought i would. an 8-hour megabus ride took me, Charlie, and Parag to NYC, where we spent my last stateside evening with Patrick and Christina, doing "American" things (eating burgers, enjoying a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, eating a second dinner of New York-style pizza), and then...well, that was pretty much it. Parag and Charlie took me to JFK and something like 13 hours later, i was in Berlin. got a German cell phone, had coffee with a friend-of-a-friend, spent the night at the apartment of another friend-of-a-friend (with whom i was proud to have a somewhat extended chat auf Deutsch over pastries), and in the wee hours of the morning embarked on train/bus/plane travel that brought me to:

that's right, folks. the reason i didn't have time for a relaxed transition? i'd decided i couldn't pass up the chance to go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. i've wanted to go to the Fringe for years; it was the festival's last weekend; my friend Regina was still living there finishing up her M.A.; and some of my Augsburg friends were going to be there at the same time. the stars had aligned. i mean, duh.

despite the stress of getting there, it was totally worth it. we saw some awful shows and some fantastic shows -- one of the goodies was a Welsh group, Nofit State Circus, performing a piece called Tab├╣, and a troupe from Chicago, Baby Wants Candy, that does full-length improvised musicals. made me miss that city and its mind-blowing improv.

i also hung out with Regina and her friends. she's at the end of a year of studying abroad (though she may stay in the UK); i'm at the beginning. that felt like it made sense. hearing about her year made my year feel more manageable, less scary, more exciting. also, in Scotland, they love to fry things. even more than we do in the States. like, whole slices of pizza. i had a Scottish breakfast, because let's face it, i love breakfast. it included beans! and black pudding...which is actually blood pudding. but i liked it.

on Monday, Nora, Vinz, and i headed to my German home-away-from-home. i've spent a lot of my time here setting up appointments to look at apartments in Berlin. for now, i'm still feeling good about my decision to stay away from the student dorm route and look for a real WG (Wohngemeinschaft -- shared apartment) on my own...but there's no denying it is stressful and requires a lot of patience. this time of year is particularly nuts, since students are all moving around and into and out of Berlin before the semester begins. it's tough not being in the city yet, and i send a lot of emails that get no response, but i do have five or six appointments set up, finally. i may end up taking a short-term rental (Zwischenmiete) for a month or two, that'll give me more time to do a thorough search for a place to last til July.

Nora and Vinz are moving in together, and moving business is going to take most of our day today. then we'll pasta-party at Basti's, dance-party at the Schwarzes Schaf with Mareike, and tomorrow night i head to Berlin for real...

i've thought a lot over the past months about how giving and warm-hearted and wonderful my friends are. there's a song we sing at Passover, "Dayenu," which means "it would have been enough," addressed to G-d: "if He had brought us out of Egypt, but not split the sea before us...it would have been enough" -- and verse after verse to that effect. my friends and family are like that.

if Sara had given me advice and love and support during my Chicago move, but not let me crash on her couch for 2.5 weeks;
if Charlie and Mindy and Mary and Patrick and Sarah and Parag and Nicole and Alex had all taken the time in one way or another to help me through those first tough months in Chicago, but not all made it out to visit me;
if Mindy had given me her car for the summer, but not driven out to Chicago to teach me to drive it;
if she had taught me to drive her car, but not let me borrow it for free;
if Brandon had offered me tools to pack my bike in a box, but not spent 3 hours in the sweltering heat helping me figure out how to do it;
if Lauren and Ryan had helped me to move out, but not driven me to the train station;
if Mary had helped me put my bike back together, but not replaced my brake;
if Jennie had hired me to work on OFAF, but not let me live with her for free;
if Parag and Charlie had made time for me in Troy, but not met me halfway in New Hampshire;
if James and Yarsky had been super supportive friends, but not made the 10-hour drive from Boston to Pittsburgh with me;
if Parag and Charlie had made as much time as possible to see me during those 2 days in Pittsburgh, but not come to NYC with me;
if Patrick and Christina had spent an American Abend with us, but not let us take over their apartment for a night;
if Leonie had given me advice about coming to Berlin, but not set up a place for me to stay and keep my baggage;
if Regina had shown me around Edinburgh despite crazy dissertation stress, but not let me sleep at her place and made me oatmeal every morning;
if Nora and Vinz had invited me to join them for Fringe magic, but not been such wonderful hosts in Augsburg even during moving...

it would have been enough.

except my friends always, always go above and beyond. the big jerks. the world is a big and wonderful place, and moving around it is the greatest feeling, but missing such wonderful people all the time is a hard, hard thing. well, here's to my old good friends, and to a year of meeting new wonderful ones.

Posted by ctamler 21:14 Archived in Germany Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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