Thursday, January 14, 2010


Berlin always has winter (sometimes even in summer), but this is the first year we've had significant snow. I really enjoy the snow - I think I have a Pavlovian reaction and associate it with the excitement of a day off school. Snow spices things up a bit - it's like a decoration for the chilly weather. I chose to go to college in central Maine, so don't get me wrong: I like snow. But things are getting out of hand here: we have a healthy amount of snow on the ground (and it is snow again as I type, but nobody here shovels the sidewalks and only the most central of streets are plowed. Temperatures haven't gone above freezing and the sun hasn't even peaked through the clouds in the two weeks we've been back so the snow is just accumulating, lingering on the sidewalks, tripping old ladies and making a short walk to the grocery store feel like a long jog on the beach. I have personally witnessed how different locales with varying climates handle snow successfully, from snow-panicky DC to unphasable central Maine: I know snow can be dealt with! (On a semi-related note, in Barcelona they literally hosed the city down every night.) With snow (and not a single ray of sunshine, I might add) forecast on and off for the next ten days, I fear that the situation is getting a little out of control. Do I need to invest in a nice pair of waders?

There is one thing that almost makes up for this barbarity (I know, I touched on this last year, too, but I'm trying not to be 100% negative): small children are now pulled everywhere on toboggans (some of them have little seats to strap in toddlers)! It's really the cutest thing ever and so delightfully old Europe, don't you think? (I do have to add that the picture to the left where there is obviously a bit of sunshine, is from last year. We have had no sunshine at all in 2010.) Check out these toboggans locked up in front of an elementary school (where you would normally find bikes). Is that not charming?! The other day I saw two guys pick up a huge package from the post office and take it home on their toboggan! If only someone would pull me around town....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wunsch abgeleistet

We actually walked by a cab with this sign on top just before we left for our American holiday.

It was great to be home. Even the things that drive me crazy about the US feel comfortingly familiar. My three-year anniversary in Berlin is fast-approaching (when did this happen?!), which means I've lived outside the US for about 4 years now. I am certainly used to Berlin at this point and it is also home, but it still lacks the familiarity of the US.

To answer my mystery reader's question, (side note: why do people keep trying to sell things in the comment section here? I think I have about 13 regular readers...) considering that I didn't speak any German upon moving here (words like Bier and Bratwurst and Radio aside), I have learned a lot of German. It was actually easier to learn than I had been led to expect: the whole deal with putting the verb at the end of the sentence is really not such a big thing to master. I tend to be quick to gain comprehension in foreign languages (although my sample size is pretty small) and I can follow most any conversation (unless it's very technical), watch movies without subtitles, talk on the phone, etc. I can also mostly always say what I need to say in social situations, as well as more formal settings like the doctor or the bank, but I struggle a lot with expressing complex or subtle concepts and I'm still not at the point where I really feel like my personality gets across 100%. In case you're wondering, yes this is frustrating if you are trying to market your small business auf Deutsch. Of course more immersion would do wonders, but I work alone most of the time and mein Mann and I have only in the last few months really started speaking German together at home. If I had a Euro for every person who told me/us that we should have spoken German together from the start, I could buy something of consequence, but they were wrong (and I'm not a good consumer anyway (except at the grocery store)). Of course I wish my German were better today, but I didn't move to the Fatherland to learn German, I moved here to get to know a German and 2.5 weddings (to the same person, of course...) later, I think I did OK. So that was probably way more on learning German that you, mysterious reader, wanted, but there you have it...

Anyway, it was great to be stateside: the food (dungenness crab, broccoli rabe (why in this land of Italy-worshippers and bitter green-eaters, do they not sell this here?), eggnog, multiple Mexican meals, late-night dumplings in Chinatown, olive oil-poached squid, early birthday cake), the people who care about food, the in-house cookbook library, the over-the-top Christmas decorations, having most of my favorite people in one timezone, the tangible New York Times, top sheets, blue skies, snow in Central Park, 2xTerriers....