The Last Berlin Week

There are a lot of photos this week so not all of them are included here. Check out this link to see them all!

Monday (7-17) was a pretty standard day—sunny, which was a nice change. I didn't have a lot to do at work, so I left early to finally buy that German grammar workbook I had meant to get from the beginning. I guess maybe you have to open it every once and a while for it to be useful…Maybe I should work on that…

Ayse and I hiked up the Kreuzberg (literally "Cross-Hill" ) for which the neighborhood is named, in the evening. It is just that, a cross on a hill, but it has a beautiful view, and the advantage of catching the last rays of evening sun.

Tuesday's highlight was visiting another project at work. After some false starts with an out of service and then a late bus, I eventually made it to the project office, not too far away from home as it turns out. This was a project that had interested me ever since I looked up the RAA website, before I even had the internship, so I was very excited to finally meet the people, most of whom I had already met at the conference the week before, as it turns out, and most of all, to hear about what they do.

They had a lot of loot for me to look at and take home—an example bag that they distribute to new parents through the local family centers throughout the neighborhood. There was a variety of pamphlets (in many different languages) about the programs they offer, as well as some baby books (also in many different languages) to encourage reading to children, because it promotes literacy. There were books with stories about fathers, to help encourage the involvement of both parents in the child's upbringing. They even had a spit-up cloth with the Kreuzberg crest on it!

Once the children are born, the bilingual playgroups and parent support groups begin. There is a curriculum that the parents talk through in the groups, in their home language, which includes activities that they then take home and do with the kids, to encourage fluency in multiple areas of the native language, in order to build a strong base before they learn German in Kindergarten. This program continues with age appropriate activities all the way through third grade, with the idea that strengthening the native language of children will ultimately aid in their fluency in German as well.

After leaving the office, Yaari showed Irène and I around the neighborhood a bit, since he used to live right there. We walked by a community farm complete with mules, sheep, geese and a even few pigs, in the middle of Berlin!

After a quick stop to buy headphones, I went to one of the many lakes around the city, because I simply had to use my bikini at least once on that rare sunny day! By the time I got there, the sun was already sinking behind the trees, but I was still able to jump in the water and then dry off in the sunshine while reading my book, which was all I wanted anyway.

On Wednesday, we took a practice test in class, to see if we had a high enough level to study at a German University, and I passed. It is just interesting, eve if it is a little late for undergrad anyway!

I didn't have a lot to do at work, so I was able to leave a bit early and go visit the East Gallery, which is a famous section of the wall that is still standing, right along the Spree river. It was another very sunny day, so after strolling with the other tourists for a while, I found my way to an outdoor pool, where I was able to cool off a bit, and read my book in the sun some more.

Thursday's highlight was interviewing my boss Irène at work. I always love hearing people's stories, and hers is especially interesting for it's surprising similarities to mine. The fact that she is exactly 10 years older than me also provides an interesting perspective, since her current job is one possible answer to the often-asked question "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" Since her path of study is actually pretty similar to mine, I really could see myself in a similar position in 10 years.

Friday's class was exciting because I had a revelation that I don't know how I could have delayed that long…but I finally understood that West Berlin was just an island of West in a sea of East Germany, if you will. I previously thought that everything West of the wall was West Germany…You learn something new every day!

I interviewed Andrés, the director of the RAA Berlin at work, and heard about his colorful life, studies, jobs and got some good advice (similar to Irène's from the day before, interestingly). It was also eye-opening to see once again the similarities between his track of study and mine (he studied comparative language at a small liberal arts college…) he has also worked on some fascinating projects over the years, so it was neat to hear about those as well. I said a sad goodbye to Irène before leaving, since she would be on vacation the next week.

After work, I headed to Spandau for the last climbing gym on my list. It was on the shore of a lake, so after doing some really fun routes, I also go to slackline on the beach in the setting sun—what better way to start the last weekend in Berlin?

On Saturday I met Irving back at Nollendorfplatz once again, where we joined the swarms of rainbow-clad celebratory people on the way to the parade route. We met up with another of Irving's friends, and another friend of that friend, acquired some beer, and the four of us watched the famous "Christopher Street Day Parade" parade! Despite the police's best efforts at maintaining order, we joined the general surge to become part of the parade, and had a great time dancing along behind various floats, getting completely soaked in the process, as it poured multiple times along the way. Nothing could dampen the celebratory mood however, and people either huddled in jovial (soggy) camaraderie under any available shelter, or danced happily through the rivers…I mean streets…but the two were beginning to blur together. Despite being so wet, we had a great time, and once we made it to the end at the Brandenburg Gate, we decided to head home (Irving to my house) to dry off.

After borrowing the necessary socks and t-shirts to get Irving clad in mostly dry garments again, we went with Ayse to her preferred "Little Tibet" restaurant, where he could finally get a glimpse of this wonderful woman I had been telling him stories about for 2 months. The conversation was as stimulating as ever, and the food was also delicious. Ayse was thrilled when the boss let her take home a mug of her favorite chai in one of their in-house mugs (they don't do to-go) we all shared delicious sips of it on the short walk home.

By the time we got back to the apartment, it was already time to go meet up with Irving's friends again. We found them standing outside of a bar called "the golden bean" which we puzzled over for a while as we chatted outside. Like the Mexican and Venezuelan guys we had been hanging out with at the parade, the friends of Irving's friend's friend (wow) mostly spoke Spanish, so I enjoyed doing some linguistic gymnastics of bouncing between the three languages as I met them all. We did a bit of dancing, some chatting and hanging out, before realizing that all that parading had made us a bit sleepy, so we turned in fairly early. But at least we finally did manage to go out on the last weekend! Better late than never I guess. Irving slept over so he could avoid the long commute back to Buch in the middle of the night.

Sunday started out very chill-Irving got to be a part of the very last Sunday breakfast with Ayse, which was as delicious and enjoyable as the 7 previous weeks had been. Irving and I then set out to explore a couple of flee-markets around the city, where we both ended up finding some good stuff. We then parted ways after the third market was closing up.

The evening wrapped up with another inspiring conversation about family with Ayse, which ended when we ate some scrumptious goat cheese and grapes, and went to bed at 11.

I'm just going to plunge into the first two days of the next week, and then talk about my Urlaub in the next entry:

Monday was a day of finishing up the odds and ends that I hadn't gotten to earlier. I also had a nice lunch with Oliver where he told me about his family's trip to Italy the week before. After some more sad goodbyes at work, I went to get Ayse her much deserved going away present: some new yarn and needles. It was so much fun picking them out, and imagining all the hats she would make from them! I then got myself a little present at the bookstore: a combined book of two of Sharon Dodua Otoo's (the author who spoke at the conference) novellas.

When I went home, Ayse cut my hair! She said she was honored to be the first actual hairstylist to ever do it. It wasn't too major, she really just gave me layers, but it was nice to see the master at her craft, and to experience the other side of the stories I had heard about her work over the weeks. She made sure that I still have never paid for a haircut in my life, despite my best efforts to the contrary…

Tuesday was a similar goodbye-and-last-minute-errand filled day. I got my certificate from Parlando, and said a sad goodbye to the teachers and fellow students there, before heading to work to finish up my last task (typing up the questionnaire responses from the conference) and saying my last goodbyes to the wonderful team there.

After work, I went on a chocolate mission to get presents for the family back home, and the people I was going to visit the next day. I also swung by the Jewish memorial very speedy-like, just to at least see it quickly, because I felt like I should. I then met Irving for a hand-over of the tennis shoes he had borrowed (rather than putting on his soggy ones on Sunday) then went home.

My very last evening chat with Ayse was more sweet than bitter. She told me more of the story of her incredible, seriously memoir-worthy life, and I was once again blown away by everything she has been through, and how strong she was through it all.

This meant that it was quite late by the time I started packing up to leave on my "southern tour" if you will… suffice it to say I was up later than was really called for doing the procrastinated packing, but it was so worth it. Besides, I got to sleep in a bit, since my flight wasn't till the afternoon.

Photos #

The view from the top of the Kreuzberg as the sun set
The view from the top of the Kreuzberg as the sun set
Halfway down looking up at the Kreuzberg
Halfway down looking up at the Kreuzberg
t-shirt reads: Trump halts maul!
This just made me laugh. It translates basically to "Trump, shut your face!" my sentiments exactly…
My team from RAA
The lovely team (and all my swag!) from the Griffbereit & Rucksack (the bilingual playgroup/parent support group/extracurricular project that I visited on Tuesday)
Miror reads: Du bist die schönste
This is a wonderful sticker that Ayse had on her bathroom mirror, that I kept meaning to take a picture of, but somehow I never really happened to have my phone with me in the bathroom….It reads: Du bist die schönste.
Purple flower
It's pretty
Murals at the East Gallery (1)
Best of both worlds: hair and tree
Murals at the East Gallery (2)
There are many walls to take down and I trust you can read the later English addition yourself…
Exploded apple core painted on the side of a building.
This was just painted on the side of a random apartment building—kinda great—especially the worm.
Tiled wall inside the U-Bahn
I decided this might be my favorite U-Bahn station. It's so lovely
A cobble stone road meets the grass
As I was walking to the climbing gym on the beach, the road just kinda ended…
More fun animal holds
These are some more fun animal holds. Check out the elephant!
Inside the climbing gym (1)
They had some cool overhung routes
Slacklines setup on the beach
Salckline + Beach = Relaxation
Sun and Queen Anne's Lace—I couldn't resist
Sun and Queen Anne's Lace—I couldn't resist
Rainbow door in the Nollendorfplatz neighborhood
You can tell when you are approaching the Nollendorfplatz neighborhood, because everything starts to get rainbow.
Postcard translates to: Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to BERLIN
I had to laugh at this postcard: "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to BERLIN".
Men wearing lederhosen at the pride parade
Pride with a German touch: Lederhosen
Bag that reads: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
"Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" bearded individuals dressed in traditional nun's attire, pushing a stroller full of alchohol.
People in the flooded streets
Annnnd POST downpour festivities…
My certificate from class!
My certificate from class!
The Bundestag Building made of chocolate at the Rittersport store
The Bundestag Building….in chocolate. The things you find in overpriced bougie chocolate stores…
Tower of giant Rittersport chocolates piled up to the ceiling
View of the Jewish Memorial from above
A quick peak at the Jewish Memorial
View of the Jewish Memorial from below
Pretty intense to be in the middle of it
Pink rose bent down from all the water
I love flowers, but especially when they are droplet-ed with rain.