Tag Archives: Change

Berlin love: bite-sized edition

25 bits & pieces I love about Berlin, in no particular order:

1. The prevalence of mineral water. Bubbly trumps still H₂0, every time!

2. Transportation is always on time. Planning is possible!

A bus stop in Lichtenberg, Berlin.

Accurate to the minute! A shock coming from Thailand where the answer to “what time is it?” is usually “mango sticky rice.”

3. … And astoundingly cohesive! The underground, trams, and buses all work together to get you basically anywhere.

People walk along Berlin's busy streets.

Places to go, people to see. You know the deal.

4. Kino culture. The cinemas are unique, historical, and oh-so-cool. Come warm weather, open-air cinemas spring up, screening classics like To Catch a Thief and Bonnie and Clyde.

5. Green spaces everywhere. Parks, rivers, places to jog, or chill with the family — natural spots scattered throughout the city dedicated to hanging out, drinking beer, and barbequing with friends.

The river by Maybachufer, Neukölln, Berlin

Sitting by the river drinking a beer or mineral water = lazy summer days in Neukölln.

6. The city is extremely bike-able (from spring to fall, at least). Cruising along bike paths from one end to other is delicious.

A woman in red bikes in Berlin.

Two wheels are better than none.

7. Drink to relax, not to get drunk. Having a few beers throughout the day is totally kosher. For the most part, people handle their alcohol maturely while out and about.

8. Konzerts. You wanna see [name your favorite band] play? Chances are they’ll be coming through at some point.

A band plays in the courtyard of an exhibition opening.

Some awesome British band rocking the gallery.

9. Startups. Have a business idea? Try it out here. Still cheaper than NYC, Silicon Valley, or Singapore, Berlin’s attracted a slew of successful startups in recent years (SoundCloud, etc.) with its try-anything-once vibe and creative energy.

10. Infamous clubs. For unparalleled atmosphere, nightclubs like Berghain reek of decades of debauchery.

A disco ball is lit from aside.

Dance, dance, dance to the radio…

11. Art galleries. Duh!  The old and new national galleries; museums ranging from cult to classic; clean, contemporary art spaces; avant-garde hole-in-the-walls; collectives and co-ops; and on and on. Take your pick; pick your take.

Two people look at art at an exhibition opening in Berlin.

“Is that art?” “I have no idea.”

12. Feeling kinky? Up for some sexual exploration? There’s probably a workshop, club, or meet-up for it, with a supportive, open-minded community waiting to welcome you.

13. Understated day-to-day life. Aside from a few obvious social scenes, people generally keep to themselves — they don’t scream and shout about what they’re doing. Life happens; let’s move on.

A street-side scene, downtown Berlin.

Keep moving; nothing to see here.

14. Accepting. No one’s going to give you shit for being yourself.

15. Summer snow! Seriously: pure magic.

A dusty dandelion in grass.

Soft dandelion dust ends up drifting everywhere in the air.

16. High quality food. Bread, cheese, meats, produce, etc., have to meet high standards to be sold. The difference is taste-able.

17. Endless days. Starting near end of May, the sun stays up forever. I’m writing this at 9:45 pm — and it’s still light out. (June 08)

Sunset and highrise, Berlin.

Sun-setting sky at almost 10pm, Mitte, May.

16. Female tech scene. With Berlin Geekettes headquartered, there’s an uber supportive environment for women wanting to delve deeper into coding and the like.

18. Culture. In addition to Berlin’s rich history, the distinctly international mish-mash of artists makes for a limitless global fusion of creative expression.

A butoh dancer performs.

An impromptu butoh performance with live DJ.

19. It’s okay to walk around with earbuds in. While this feels socially impolite in Asia (my personal feeling), everyone has their music on here.

20. Despite its size (over 3.5 million people), it’s a quiet city. Possible to hear yourself think on streets and even buses.

A woman goes down the U-bahn stairs in Berlin.

Wandering the city is peaceful, even when the mind is combating clutter.

21. German is a sexy language. Yum. Fantastisch.

22. Fashion inspiration. There’s a crazy high percentage of stylish people, often incredibly beautiful to boot! Soak it up.

Some fashionable folks at the K-W Berlin Biennale opening.

Pulling off a leopard-print hat is not the easiest thing to do. Berliners can.

23. “I’m sorry” is virtually non-existant in casual conversation. Being a Canadian woman, I’ve a habit of saying those two words approx. 100 times/day. So, sigh of relief: no saving face, no placating, no people-pleasing. One of the reasons shit gets done so efficiently here.

24. Environmentally friendly. Different bins for paper, plastic, organic, and other — recycling in Germany is not for the faint of heart, and a win for mother earth.

Sun shines in Berlin.

Clean city streets, waste bins on every corner, organized recycling… all that’s missing is a system for shoveling snow from walkways in winter.

25. The air is fresh. So fly high…

A projected image of a woman swinging with shadow overtop.

Swing ’til you fly off. Berlin will catch you.

In transit

BKK

“You need to show an onward ticket, miss.” Don’t have one. My hands shake, voice nervous. Haven’t slept, stayed at the airport last night after first flight.

“What can I do to help the situation?” There’s enough time before boarding to book something for show, so it’s no big either way I guess.

“Let me check.” (Drifts away and back.) “No problem. Remember for next time, please.” The Italian man who later turns out to be slightly psychotic watches to make sure I get through okay.

Moscow

Airport is confusing. Looks small but unfolds in a twisted maze. The staff at the various airport shops are not exactly friendly. To me, anyway. Morph into an anthropologist conducting ethnographic research, so interactions become nothing but information of interest.

Pass by two blondes, long-long legs, stick-straight hair, Russian-model-gorgeous, smoking their faces off in the nicotine room – shooting the shit, leaned inwards, salivating on whatever salacious gossip hangs in the air, suspended by the wafts of smoke. Good picture.

Berlin

“Yeah, I didn’t expect to pick you guys up here. This one’s where all the cheap flights go though. Takes about an hour. Most people fly into Tegel. ” Deliciously beautiful Chiara, 20 something, almost perfect English, even sexier German, chats with her American friends who just flew in from who knows where. We’re packed in her small stick shift, blasting down the highway. Chiara skis. So do the others. So do I. We talk shop. Whistler, boarding vs. two planks, Colorado, slope dating, etc.

“Here’s your U-Bahn stop – and here’s my number – call me if you need anything.”

“You’re so sweet. Thank you so much.” The girl just drove a total stranger across hell’s half acre, 11 at night.  Offered on her own volition – all I did was ask where the taxi service was at the airport. Human generosity, alive and kicking.

BVG

U-Bahn, S-Bahn. S-Bahn, U-Bahn. Rain. Directions A gave me are wrong. More strangers offer to carry my suitcase down stairs, up stairs. Can’t lift alone, maybe if I weren’t so damn tired. Ask more people to literally point me in the right direction. Wander. Eventually take more right turns then wrong, end up in close proximity, but still no dice. Everything looks dark, concrete is all the same. Starts to pour. I worry about my cameras getting soaked. No awnings near. First time I’ve even thought about crying and I do.

Almost instantly, taxi pulls up. Walk bleary eyed over, between sobs. Show my map to the Turkish driver. “No problem, miss!”

He throws my suitcase/backpack in trunk. We start to head back to the airport. Manage to realize this soon, explain using gestures (don’t speak German or Turkish) and map where I actually need to go.

Lichtenberg

Ring A when arrive. Tears dried, shake it off, you’re just tired. Doing fine. Kicking ass.

Have an hour intense convo once up in the flat. Haven’t slept in about two days, yet finding out what art events to attend tomorrow suddenly feels urgent.

Sleep.

Respond, don’t react

“Are you attaching? Of course you are! It’s human nature. You know the drill. Let it go. Loosen the grip — respond, don’t react.”

He doesn’t know how much he helped me with that brief rundown on life lessons 101. In 2 mins flat, over fresh fruit smoothies no less.

What if the apartment doesn’t work out? Let it go. There’ll be another one. Where am I gonna keep my stuff? Let it go. It’s just stuff. Will my body survive without the gentle touch of that special man? Let it go. Touch is everywhere.

Am I attaching?

Of course. Thoughts, actions, feelings, habits, fears, freedoms — everything holds me too close. Dancing amid pragmatism and adolescence; those awkward years between birth and death.

If you’re averse to awkwardness, chances are you’ll be averse to life.

I lay my head down on the start-stop of myself, repeating the uneasy silence within until I hear its pattern. Wound-up energy with no place to breathe.

If not this, then what? Gliding from here to there, unencumbered? Can’t do it; impossible.

No, these untimely-unseemly-downright-uncomfortable asymmetries demand to be embraced. Roughly, warmly, they beg to be sought after — not avoided.

I am not always my best self.

But I still buy my ticket: I still get on the plane.

Hold on

Hold on

Hold on… to yourself, love, hopes, dreams, compassion, empathy, boundaries, truth, your heart

Let go… of fears, attachment, stories, negativity, unnecessary dust bunnies that linger in the mind

Relish… clouds floating by, with their perfect ephemeral state, perpetual change, and light beauty

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye. – Helen Keller

Each country..

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – LeoTolstoy, Anna Karenina

Totally altering that quote to fit my life goes like this:Countries are all alike; each country is crazy in its own way.

When I lived in Thailand, I often felt like the country was crazy. I mean, it is. To me. There is an acronym there used among foreigners, TIT – This Is Thailand. As in, what did you expect? This is Thailand, baby! It really takes living there (and, in my opinion, working there) to truly even begin to see the myriad differences, let alone understand them.

As I was getting ready to go to Germany, I asked around about the requirements for obtaining an artist freelance visa. One of them is having valid insurance by a German provider.

After dealing with my twenty questions (because, geez, insurance is bloody complicated!) my potential insurer ended up providing me with a truly invaluable service – giving an inside glimpse at the nonsensical rules + regulations of the bureaucratic world of German insurance. This is from one of his emails.

Just today: Client told that cover for pregnancy, premature baby and congenital conditions is compulsory!   The client is a 65 year old man who has had a vasectomy!

Female who has pregnancy cover in a group scheme.  Her husband and her new born child must also have the same cover because it is a group scheme!

Last week: A gay male couple in an official Civil Partnership were told that as Civil partnerships now qualify for the same benefits as a heterosexual marriage, including child benefits etc., then one of them had to have pregnancy cover – they should decide which one themselves!

A gay female couple were told the same and even offered IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) or AID (Artificial Insemination by Donor) – but not a male partner!

At first I thought, gee, maybe Thailand isn’t so crazy after all! Then I realized that, no, Thailand is totally crazy. Like how each person boasts their own unique brand of insanity, each country is insane in their own way. You just need to get a feel for the country’s particular brand of insanity and see whether it fits with (or, better yet, complements) your own. I don’t think I’ve found my country-mate yet, but I have a feeling that it might take a combination of two or three to make a satisfying match for me at the moment.

Compromise, patience, understanding = Words of the year!