Halfway There

My time is already half way over! I can hardly believe it. This week was number four already, and now we are into the second month. Crazy.

Monday's highlight was pretty much eating Pfankuchen with Ayse, everything else was fairly routine. I also watched a Mexican movie, in an attempt to keep my Spanish from getting buried under too many layers of German.

Tuesday was pleasantly productive in the evening—I did a lot of random to—do list things that I had been meaning to get to for a while.

On Wednesday I finally explored the cute used book store on my walk home from the U-Bahn, that I have been meaning to check out for a while. I didn't buy anything, but it is a comforting feeling to be surrounded by books sometimes…The other highlight of the evening was Ayse successfully finishing her first knitted hat! She is already planning the next 7…

Thursday's highlight was making Kartofelpuffer with Ayse—they are basically the same as potato pancakes, even eaten with applesauce, but since they were made from scratch (and we were starving by the time they were done) they were extremely delicious.

Friday's lunch was exciting in that I went with Oliver to one of the Humbold University campus cafeterias, and we enjoyed being surrounded by fellow students rather than tourists or business people, since we don't quite fit into either of those groups…

When I got home from work, I did the natural thing on a Friday night: drank some sauerkraut juice… I had picked it up a few days ago because I was too curious not to. It is about like what you would expect, except a little sweeter…Because I was in the mood for strange liquids (apparently) and I noticed that we had some old-ish celery in the fridge, I looked up a recipe for celery apple juice. Buuuut since I didn't really measure the proportions and I had a blender not a juicer, it ended up as more of a green celery flavored applesauce…After eating some of this, as well as some leftover soup, I watched another Spanish movie. In the middle of it, Ayse came back from work bearing a delicious falafel sandwich—what more could a girl want for her second dinner on a Friday? We then had a lovely long discussion about family and motherhood over some tea, before heading to bed.

Saturday morning, I met Irving, and we walked over to Museum Island, only getting slightly damp from the rain…We ended up buying 3-day museum passes, which allowed us to go to a long list of museums throughout the city as much as we wanted for (you guessed it!) three days. After discovering that the Pergamon Museum (where Irving really wanted to go) was a two hour wait to get in, we decided to go to the Neu Museum instead. It was a strange mix of artifacts from the bronze age as well as from just before WWII…I think they were basing some of the exhibits on when they found the artifacts, and since I think a lot of the excavation was right after the war, all of the artifacts were mixed together I guess…It was interesting, but a huge museum, so we were pretty exhausted (feet and brains) by the time we left.

We decided to go next to the Fotografie Museum, which turned out to be a refreshing change. I think because photos call for more emotional engagement, and less intelectual information stimulus. We saw many pictures of naked women (some men) from Helmet Newton (and another artist whose name I am now forgetting) which was interesting, and we questioned whether or not the images were sexist or not (we never quite came to an overall conclusion, but some definitely rubbed both of us the wrong way)

The second floor was fascinating however. It was dedicated to state/religious surveillance throughout history, and was called "the field has ears." There were exhibits on religious symbolism of the all-seeing eye from medieval times, as well as photos of old Stasi investigations and disguise seminars. There were also many pieces dealing with modern state surveillance—pictures taken from drones of places often targeted by military drones, a collage of all the pictures sent to the FBI from a man who was mistakenly linked to a terrorist threat, and then decided to self monitor, for years. There were maps of a now discontinued NYPD program that tracked the activities of muslim New Yorkers after 9/11, and a project where a man blurred out the images of people caught on google images street-view photos, and painted their silhouette on the walls of the actual street where they are "trapped" in google's images. There was a project that dealt with the email surveillance and persecution of a Uzbekistani human rights activist…The whole thing was really though provoking and engaging, and it really brought home for me once again the power of art to create dialogue around important issues.

After all that museum-ing, we were quite hungry, so we went to the nearest U-Bahn station to get wifi to look up a Haitian restaurant, since neither of us had ever had Haitian food. We could only find Trinidadian, but that is in Haiti's neighborhood, more or less, so we were content, especially because the curry and roti were delicious. We then parted ways so Irving could make the last bus home to Buch.

After coming home to relax my tired feet (and starting a new Spanish TV series…) I then motivated myself enough to go out and explore the Bergmanstraßenfest that I had seen being set up that morning. I walked by some of the food and many drink stands along the familiar street (a few blocks away) before settling in to hear some great salsa music. It was also a good test of my Spanish/German skills as the lead singer was explaining Spanish terms in German between songs…

I got back to the house just as Ayse was getting out of the shower, and just as I had poured myself the half glass that was left of the wine I had bough weeks ago. She told me about her day, and the stress of getting one of her client's platinum blond (NOT gold blond) highlights just right, and of working with her daughter…She ended up pouring us some gin and apple juice (surprisingly good!) which I sipped along with my wine as we continued chatting. Our conversation rambled, as it does, from the Goa (a type of electro music that is a bit slower than techno) festivals that she still loves going to, and on to what it means to be happy, and on to the racist/xenophobic things some of her clients say to her, apparently forgetting that she is herself technically an "Ausländerin" and then on to the divisions that still are so strong between Kurdish and non Kurdish Turks in Germany, despite the fact that to so many ethnic Germans, they are all the same "Scheiß Ausländern". We agreed that we are really going to miss each other when I leave at the end of the month, but that we will both alway remember this summer, even if we never see each other again. We eventually went to bed when we realized how late it had gotten—time flies when you are having a wonderful discussion.

On Sunday I again met Irving (earlier this time) and we went to the Pergamon museum, determined to wait if we had to (we did, but not for 2 hours, thank god!) We saw the Babylonian Gate, as well as some other architectural pieces, mostly bigger statues from the ancient Greeks to the Egyptians. I felt right at home on the "Islamic Art" floor, in the room that was entirely filled with Turkish carpets hanging on the walls, it almost felt like my living room in Westby, because of all the rugs my parents brought back from when they were in Turkey! When we had been through the whole Pergamon, and Irving felt satisfied with all the photos he had taken with his fancy camera, we decided to head over to another art museum, to switch things up a bit. This time we headed for the contemporary art museum, which was interesting, since it was in an old train station.

We walked through long hallways (that still felt like we were on the way to catch an U-Bahn at points) and saw and heard a wide range of projected, constructed, filmed (being filmed) and interactive installations. This was not quite as inspiring/relaxing to me as the photo museum had been, but it was still interesting to walk around.

When we made our way out again (just having missed the rain for once) we headed back to the Hauptbahnhof once again (it feels really more like an airport) where we got some food and then headed over to the office of this guy Irving had connected with through Facebook, who was offering free 20 minute virtual reality sessions. We showed up a few minutes late, and a bit soggy, but before we knew it we were fitted with a set of goggles each, and suddenly I was on top of a mountain, with a 360 view as I turned around, and I was playing fetch with a robot dog, as I teleported from boulder to boulder…the next game was "defend the castle" in which I perfected my bow and arrow skills and guarded my kingdom from the little cutout people who kept invading. It was actually a lot more fun than I was expecting, I will admit. Pretty shocking to take off the goggles and find myself in a tiny office, instead of a castle. Irving and I agreed it was pretty enjoyable (and he decided he definitely does want to major in computer science after all) but that it is also pretty scary to think of all the possibilities of the technology as it continues to develop.

We then parted ways, and I strolled through the Bergmanstraßenfest once again, as I ate my plantain-tomato-bean dish that I got from one of the stands. Then I found my way back home, where I rested my feet, watched some TV, called home and wrote to you all.

Photos #

Photo of an old car stuck in the mud
Some funny postcards I found on Monday: "Damn GPS!" So now you can all imagine if you are getting this in the mail…
Photo of a group of men kneeling on a bench
Trust only your ass, because it is always behind you" (the German version of standing by someone—a friend—is "standing behind"…interesting how the joke doesn't quite work auf Englisch…)
Lady doing the splits on the grass
I can't do the splits, but so far, there has never been a moment where I thought, the splitz would really help right now!
Picture of bathroom door graffiti
An interesting debate about racism played out in the graffiti on the bathroom stall at Humboldt University…not your typical bathroom graffiti, ut interesting reading!
The Bundestag building
Got a quick look at the Bundestag building, as we were lost on our way to Museum Island…
Irving photographing the Fotografie Museum
Irving taking fancy photos outside the Fotografie Museum…
Brick horse found in the Pergamon Museum
A brick horse! This was part of the the famous Babylon Gate that is reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum.
Larger view of the Babylon Gate (1)
It is huge and blue and pretty impressive
Larger view of the Babylon Gate (2)
Another angle
Another creature in the gate
Was very intrigued by this creature…birdlionsnake?
Unknown stone fragments of another large gate
I will admit to not reading the signs very well…not sure if this is part of the Babylonian Gate or not, but they were right next to each other…Also impressive anyway!
A stone flower found in the gate
A stone flower!
Photo of the sandals on a marble statue
I want some sandals like this guy!
A huge brick mosaic
A huge brick mosaic