The View From Sybelstrasse

If this is any indication of how often I will blog and journal while abroad, it makes me sad because I really haven't had much time to gather my thoughts or felt the need to, I suppose. Then again, I'm still going through culture shock and all that fun stuff.

I've been in Berlin for a week now, and it's been... overwhelmingly great. Amazing seems so hackneyed, but that would probably be the next word that comes to mind immediately. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm in a real city again that makes it so enticing for me. But the first couple days have been used to adjust myself to the public transportation system, the layout of the city and my town, the overpriced goods, the fact that I know close to no German... the list goes on, but it's all been so fun.

We walk, we eat, we drink, we talk, we drink some more, we eat some more. There is always time for a cup of Kaffee, it seems. Always. The highlight so far was a five-hour bike ride our group did through Berlin. Of course it was a quicky history tour of many hot spots I'm sure I'll visit later in more depth, but biking through the Tiergarten was/is beautiful. I hope to take more photographs of all This, but I'm still absorbing everything in in the meantime.

I will break up this blog update for my own sanity and the sake of gathering my scattered thoughts.

1) My Home

I live on the the 4th floor (or 5th floor, if you count the bottom level as the first) of a 100-year-old building. It's a beautiful place, with lush plants scaling the walls and fresh air entering through the many windows. My apartment itself is a two-story flat, very spacious but cozy. It's located in Charlottenburg, a well-to-do area with a lot of amenities. I'm located next to some very key public transit lines and of course, the famous Kufurstendamm (KuDamm, as everyone calls it). It's a major shopping area, but more well suited if you enjoy shopping at Prada and Chanel. Toward the more affordable section, there is literally three H&Ms on a block, two right next to each other and one across the street. I thought it was getting bad in the suburbs of LA, but I guess the Berliners really need all the Swedish hipness they can squeeze into one block.

My Gastfamilie is very sweet. At first I was slightly intimidated, but now we get along very well. Michael and Regine Mields-Bretschneider have a great sense of humor and are easy going. They take me on mini excursions around town and to their "public living room" (read: their favorite cafe down the block) whenever possible.

They are the ones on the right!

2) My Klasses

At the end of the day, I'm here for "study abroad," not "party abroad" (although I hope to be doing a good amount of the second). Hence, there are classes. And probably the biggest challenge I will face, aside from the language barriers, is mastering Deutsch in German 15 (Advanced Beginners!) I've painfully come to realize that I may not be the best at learning new languages. I am easily frustrated and my attention span can hold somewhere around five to 10 words at any given moment. At least that's how it feels for now. I'm sure it will get better, but know that I slave away at night doing German homework and memorizing vocab and learning numbers (when I'm not on Soririty Life on Facebook.)

3) My (Kultural) Blunders

Some highlights.

-I've pulled at doors when there is a big "PUSH" sign in German. The guy behind me then proceeds to push the door.
-I waited to use the bathroom for in an hour in my house one morning thinking that there was someone occupying it because the door was shut. Turns out that Germans just like to keep doors closed...
-I almost put pudding in my salad thinking it was dressing. The lady behind the counter yelled "No!" at me repeatedly.
-I did a very poor job packing. In trying to pack "light," I forgot pajamas. And comfortable shoes. And sweats. And more shoes. But really, who forgets pajamas? Jessie Tang does.
-I walked out of the way to a drug store to purchase more prepaid minutes for my phone. Turns out I didn't have enough Euros. And they don't take credit cards. And the lady didn't speak English. I walked away disappointed. And I can't make phone calls. Lesson learned: always have enough Euros on you.
-Two people have asked me for directions. I feel honored to be mistaken for someone who looks like they know what they're doing, but too bad all I can do is stare at them nervously and point in random directions.

4) What I Love About Berlin

This photo pretty much sums it all up. The leisure mentality, the art&architecture, the open space, the freedom to roam.

I'll save some other musings for another post. Just wanted to keep my avid readers (joke) up to speed :)


Don't Stop, Don't Stop Now

At this time tomorrow, I'll be on a plane headed to Berlin, the Poor But Sexy Capital of the World. Holy shit.
I won't ever be fully ready, but I'm as ready as I can be at this point.
This summer has been great--I only hope to carry that momentum with me on my journeys. I hope this doesn't stop.


Bike it UP

Check out this great video about a progressive bike sharing system taking place in Denver.