A small part of me is re-feeling what my first days in Valencia were like: complete extrañamiento, estrangement. Everything is still so terribly new, and thus, a bit terrifying. I generally do my new city exploring in a spiral; I learn one small circle and then the next time I take a slightly bigger lap, etcetera. I have sort of tried to do that here, but D. has very much a different policy; he’s more like a bee who buzzes from flower to flower. As a happy consequence, when I’m with him I see lots of new things. But, when I’m by myself, I revert to my slightly skeptical self, with my serious-person mask firmly affixed to my face as I turn corners nunca antes vistos-never before seen. Even little things feel like an adventure. I have to psyche myself up to go to the grocery store that’s in a basement near a metro station a few blocks from my house. People say things to me, like “Do you want a receipt?” and when I can’t respond, they either cheerfully and competently switch to English or just push a receipt into my hands as I walk away.
My neighborhood is tricky to classify. Maybe Berlin in general is. Where I live[d] in Cackalacky is relatively homogenous. I mean, no two hippies look alike, but they’re all hippies. More than 50% of them use natural shampoo, eat organic avocados, and shamelessly walk barefoot to their Subarus on the way to the local [insert place here]. They’re also, like, all graduate students or ex-graduate students, or people who act like graduate students. Now, on the other hand, I’m in a neighborhood with young women pushing strollers, young men playing ping pong at the park, old guys watching and betting on sports game, people in jackets, burqas, “vintage” sweatshirts, black jeans…and maybe all of the above, all at once. There are Turkish shops, French fry stands, antique bookstores. People park their Audis and Volvos next to compact cars and work trucks. I can’t say much about the neighborhood other than the fact that it is very alive; kids are always running around the playground and there are always people parked on the benches in the plaza near the metro.
Every neat little box in my mind about what a “typical” neighborhood looks like has been exploded. And so I continue my curious walking, my “hmm…what is going on over here?” thinking and my semi-terrified trips to the veggie stand, which I have to go to more than I’d like because I’m usually too agape to grab more than a couple things at once.
And those couple things I grabbed today? Artichokes, tomatoes, an avocado. At home, I tried to make risotto, but it failed. Horribly. I had to dump it and that hardly ever happens. I tried to make carbonara last week and that wasn’t particularly delicious either. I think I’ve lost my touch. I ended up dining on peas, an egg, some goat cheese (You can take the grad student out of her natural habitat, but she will still probably eat like a graduate student…) The good news is that the chocolate is cheap here. (I have a safety bar in the dresser…just in case).
Anyway, traveling is really exciting and wonderful, and sometimes even more so after the trip when you finally stop holding your breath. I’m going to try to embrace the fear factor…both at the top of the climbing rope and on my walk to the metro.
In other news, yesterday I explored Kreuzberg by myself (small accomplishment) and, later, met D.’s “movie star” friend, P. I also gave D. a hair cut. He said he wanted longer in the front, shorter in the back and I think I did the opposite. I’m not exactly sure what I did differently last time (better lighting, sharper scissors, and some coaching from my hair victim, actually.) But, I think it looks good. I hope D. likes it?
Academic progress: I think I’ve finished all homework for 2 of the 4 mini-online courses I’m taking. I have been making slow, if regular progress, editing an article (still need a stroke of genius for the conclusion…) and I haven’t read a thing that is not for one of those two things.
Gratitude: For a happy run through the rain yesterday. For a delicious new drink I tried (like a lemony-minty softdrink): Holunderblütenschorle. For a new light in our room when the overhead one pooped out. For a change of scenery, working out of the house this morning. For a potentially cute little coffee shop at the corner I discovered on my neighborhood walk today.