what kind of world do you want?

It’s been about twenty-four hours since we moved to Germany.

I realize I skipped over the whole idea of leaving Santiago, but I will come back to it soon, as I am currently missing it and have several pictures of our Last Days that I would like to post.

So…twenty-four hours. In that time we have felt anticipation, impatience, adrenaline, exhaustion, fear, amazement, exasperation, excitement, disappointment, confusion, and just about everything in between. It’s everything and nothing like we thought it would be.

We arrived last night in dark skies as we gaped out of airplane windows at the oddly dim lights of the city below us, wondering what lay hidden under the veil of night.

This morning we awoke to gray, rainy skies (we must have brought them with us from Galicia), and that ever-unnerving feeling of waking up the first morning in a new place and not remembering for a split second where in the world you are.

There was breakfast, then a look at flats online, and then a bicycle trek to the neighborhood of Kreuzberg which resulted in a two-hour detour to a place that only took about twenty minutes on the way back. We decided on bikes instead of public transport because we wanted to see everything. I can’t say we were impressed.

The atmosphere of Berlin (at least the parts we’ve seen) is definitely that of a city in development. The streets are congested with cranes, holes, fences, machines, piles of dirt, and tram wires that run indiscreetly throughout the city. Sometimes there are simply huge pipes that run up and over the street, and then back into the ground again. There are tanks and abandoned buildings and a layer of dirt that has obviously got a history to it. The colors are dim and the grays of the high-rises here are not the same grays of the centuries-old stone of Santiago. I wouldn’t say this is a pretty place.

But it does have its benefits. There were several moments of disproportionate joy today when I realized that here in Germany, I can get things like blueberries, blackberries, cranberry juice, and ginger ale. The food is plentiful, cheap, and filling. Last night we ate at the ubiquitous doner kebap, which had sandwiches twice the size of any in Santiago and full of delicious goodness (for a fraction of the price, of course). Today, tired of the foreign fare, we decided on a dark wooden place with the creative name (Deutsche Kuche – German Kitchen) written in the typical calligraphic style. The interior upheld the first impression, with a great stone fireplace-stove in the middle of the room, and the rest all dark wood finishes, thick banisters, comfortable chairs and metal lamps. There were a few men and a woman there, with enormous beers and even larger bellies, having an afternoon chat and whiling away the Saturday hours at the local hangout. Nothing could be more German. After struggling in German, we came away ordering a variety of typical dishes: Carlos had the famous currywurst with the most amazing potatoes ever, and I had some kind of meatballs in a cream sauce with about three whole boiled potatoes on the side. Of course, vegetables were not to be seen anywhere, unless you count the artistic arrangement of pickle slices and tomato wedges (probably a 1/4 tomato, total) on Carlos’ plate, or the five or six peas thrown onto mine. Everything was delicious. It was all I’d hoped it’d be: thick, hearty, hot, filling. Of course, this was all accompanied by a “medium-size” beer, which left both Carlos and I quite tipsy and ridiculously full. We sat for quite a while with fuzzy heads and bursting stomachs, wondering how we were going to get back on our bikes and ride home.

A short walk and another ride helped the digestion, and we wandered around the neighborhood in search of something spectacular. We left unsatisfied.

After about five hours of riding, our butts had molded completely to the seats, and we decided it was time to have a rest. We sat in Alexanderplatz, a place that I think is a rather sad excuse for a central plaza, and watched the people go by. It was refreshing not to see high heels and perfectly styled hair at every turn. The people here dress casually (it’s hard to look anything but casual when you have to bike everywhere), wear sneakers, have ponytails. Fourteen-year-old girls wear sweatpants and pink jackets, not the mini-miniskirts and low-cut tops I am so used to seeing on Saturday nights.

We then browsed around a large department store -it’s amazing the things you learn in a department store- where we bought a map and marveled at the quantity of souvenirs with the “standing man/walking man” on them. Apparently those little men on street signs that tell you when to walk and stop were invented here, and boy they don’t ever let you forget it. They were also selling pieces of the Berlin Wall, which I can only assume were pieces of concrete taken out of one of the many construction sites around town, then spray painted and glued to a plaque, where they can now be sold for 6 euros. Perhaps a job won’t be too hard to find after all…

After sharing a pizza and salad for dinner, we realized we were absolutely exhausted and sank into our beds, groaning over our sore butts. Tomorrow there will be a walking tour, and more adventure, surely, where I hope we can find that Berlin that we were looking for. But that all depends on our butts.

Today, upon the cancellation of my afternoon classes and with the sun shining high overhead, there was really only one thing to do: wander.

I wandered over to the park where I found a cellist playing a free concert in one of the many monastery cloisters in Santiago. He sat in one corner among the stones and gothic arches and played for half an hour so that everything echoed perfectly and I imagined that these old stones were very pleased at having been put to such good use after all these years.

After the concert, I left the cool darkness of the cloister and stepped back into the hot sun (even at 6:30pm), at which point a nap in the park was in order. Inspired by the Bach solo still echoing in my ears, I put a little Yo-Yo Ma on my iPod and was soon drifting into daydreams on the warm grass high above the city.

Such a warm, restful nap immediately calls for refreshment in the form of ice cream, so I headed to the nearest place I could find and indulged in some chocolate-almond-vanilla-caramel concoction as I wandered back home, thinking that this is exactly what summer Santiago afternoons are made for.

This weekend I am hoping to go to the local pool, enjoy some pulpo a feira and some pimientos, maybe go to the beach, or at least have a picnic in the park with Carlos. I am trying to get as much Santiago-ness in as I can, because we’ve only got two weeks left until we leave. Then I will be trading my tiny little town for the big city, my closet-size room for a flat with Carlos, marisco for bratwurst, and English teaching for…? Well, who knows. But I better get my fill of pulpo, pimientos, rain, and northern beaches, because I’ve got a one way ticket, and I don’t know when I’ll be back around here again.

sunset at the end of the world

Well, it was an exhausting week with five new students and visits from Hanna and Verena. We went to the park, got sunburned, saw an orchestra, ate ice cream, drank coffee, went to the beach, listened to music, danced, laughed, sang too loud, had a wine and cheese picnic, prayed to the sun, stayed up late, got dressed up, got lost, huddled under umbrellas, took hundreds of pictures, made funny faces, helped find lost cameras, got sand thrown on us by little boys, saw our favorite band play, had spicy peppers, ran into old acquaintances, jumped over fires, watched gaiteros play, ate breakfast in a garden, talked about girly things, watched a sunset, saw the end of the world, cooked together, and generally had adventures.

It was a good time.
…And of course we planned for more adventures.

Photos of the many adventures, as well as Ascension, which was back in May, are here.