Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All Sides

Looking back on old Sophia's Monde posts, I've come to the conclusion that my two blogs are quite different. Sophia's Monde was more about story-telling, and the stories I told were generally pretty personal. I've been a bit more reserved here on Kaffee & Suchen, making posts more issue or history specific, rather than delving into my feelings. This is not a diary, but it is supposed to be a personal account of what living here is like, both for my very curious family and friends, and for me to look back on when I'm feeling nostalgic in the future.

If I'm going to speak honestly, then the truth is there are lots of ups and downs to my life here in Berlin. It's not all cute cafés, greasy Gözleme, and foreign friends. There is plenty of all that, but there are also pangs of loneliness, stressful moments, and a hell of a lot of uncertainty. Yesterday was a down day. I was alone all day, it was cloudy out, and though I spent what felt like hours looking up job opportunities, it did not feel productive. I came the closest to hopeless that I've been since I got here. At the end of the day (ok 5pm), I curled up in bed with my favorite curry from the Thai place across the street, chatted with two of my best friends, and watched a couple movies. Then I slept for almost 10 hours.

Today was already much better. I had a pleasant interaction with the Turkish man who sold me a Borek on the street. I co-worked with a friend at our new favorite café and savored two delicious cappuccinos. I got exciting news about a professional prospect. And my sister and I chatted about all the fun things we're going to do in Istanbul next week.

I know I have it good. Correction: really good. I was able to move to the city I find most interesting in the world. I don't have visa or language problems. I have a strong support base. I have the luxury of taking time to find the right job because I'm not completely financially insecure. But I'm still a mid-20s something, single, transient girl who's not quite sure what she's doing with her life.

I write for you, but I also write for me. In a few months, or years, when I look back, I want to remember all sides of my story. Because without yesterday's clouds, today's cappuccino probably wouldn't have tasted so good.

Photo at top: Nighttime in Friedrichshain (the east)
Photo at bottom: Daytime in Charlottenburg (the west)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012


You know what's kinda genius? Germany's Pfand or bottle recycling policy. Seriously. Stay with me.

Pfand translates literally to "deposit." It's a small extra charge you pay when you purchase a bottle of water, beer, etc. Then when you bring the empty bottle back to the store, you get the change back. For example, for every 39 cents I pay for a bottle of bubble water they tack on a 15 cent deposit, bringing my total to 54 cents. When I return the bottle, I get those 15 cents back. Some smaller bottles you buy in convenience stores have Pfands of up to 25 cents. So there is definitely incentive to recycle rather than toss empty bottles into the trash or worse, on the street. This is the first reason why I think this policy is pretty nifty.

Secondly, they make it really convenient to bring back your old bottles. Pretty much every supermarket has a Pfand machine AND you don't need to take bottles back to the exact store where you originally purchased them. You just throw the bottles in and then the machine gives you a receipt to take up to the cashier (see photo at top of post). You either walk out with the sum or use it as a credit toward your grocery purchase that day.

Bottles waiting patiently on my kitchen windowsill to be taken back to the store:

My local supermarket's machine:

Getting my receipt:

The third reason I think this policy is so smart is that it not only keeps some litter off the street but gives those "on the street" an easy way to make some money. Drinking in public is allowed here, so at pretty much all times of the day you see people with beers on the subway or the street. I saw one woman headed to the Borussia-Hertha football game with her own bottle of sparkly. When the clubbers head out for the night they drink en route on the subway or bus and in line at the disco. Since they can't take the bottles inside with them, and don't want to lose their place in line, most just place them on the ground. I know, this sounds like littering. But because of the financial incentive, there are always people roaming the streets and trash cans for empty bottles to make a few extra cents. And a lot of the time, these are homeless people who could really use the pocket change.

This man was at the Borussia-Hertha game last weekend collecting empty bottles off the street. He was going to make BANK:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yesterday & Today

Yesterday, Germany got a new President, after running the former into early retirement with a host of corruption charges, and I got a crushing rejection notice for a job that, well, at least I thought I was perfect for.

Today, Berlin got snow, and I got a glimmer or two of hope.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I'm back! It's been almost a week since my last post, I apologize. But what a busy week it has been for this unemployed girl! There was a big job interview, weekend visitors, my first live German soccer game, a friend's birthday... and that was just the last two days. Today also marks the end of the 2012 Berlinale, Berlin's annual film festival. About 400 films, primarily European or International premiers, were shown over the past 10 days.

Kelly, my also-unemployed-partner-in-crime, got us tickets last Wednesday to see some Generation 14+ short films, directed by those in the 14-26 year old category. We ended up in the wrong theatre by accident (second time this has happened to me in Berlin) but a nice volunteer snuck us into a different Generation 14+ movie that happened to be playing in that theatre at the same time.

We ended up seeing a short film called Nosilatiaj. La Belleza, or Beauty, about a young girl from the indigenous Wichi tribe in Northern Argentina who works as a housekeeper for a Catholic family. It's lovely. Should you be interested, check out the trailer here. After the film, the young director, producer, and main actress came on stage to talk about the movie and answer questions from the audience.

As much as the beautiful film impressed me, I couldn't help but be even slightly more starstruck by the Ritter Sport tower in the theatre lobby. Some things never change.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


The Mauerpark, or literally "Wall park" is known for a weekly flea market, a crazy karaoke tradition that I hope to take part in one day, and for being home to a remaining stretch of the Wall. It's not the longest remaining stretch, that's East Side Gallery, but what Mauerpark does have is a section of what used to be called the "death strip."

When many people think of the "Berlin Wall" they are just thinking of the more symbolic wall on the West side that's covered in graffiti. That is the "barrier wall" and only one part of the very intricate barrier that existed between East and West. To get to the barrier wall, attempting escapers first had to pass a slew of other barriers that become known as the death strip. These defenses included watch and control towers, barbed wire, sand so that footprints of attempting escapees would quickly be noticed, ferociously trained dogs, and surface barriers such as beds of nails.

The Wall was not originally constructed this way. It started off as a wire fence in 1961 and evolved into its most sophisticated and impenetrable form between 1975-1980.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baby, it's f'in cold outside.

Let's get something straight. The reason my status updates on Facebook have been primarily weather-focused is not because I'm a weakling and can't deal with a little cold, and it's not because I'm boring. Please don't think I'm boring.

The truth is, I'm not a winter person. I prefer sun and heat and shorts and walking leisurely down the street with an ice cream to anything winter-related. But that doesn't mean I can't handle it. I've stood witness to DC blizzards so bad they were given names like "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowmaggedon." I survived half hour walks to and from school in a Boston winter that lasted almost six months. I am accustomed to wearing tights under jeans, donning two or more sweaters at a time, and whatever else is involved in the proverbial "bundling up." But what we've been dealing with in Berlin and all over Europe these last couple weeks is pretty serious. There was even snow on the beach in Mallorca!

Thankfully Berlin hasn't been hit the worst, but it hasn't been pretty either. Temperatures for the past two weeks have been well below freezing and even hit minus figures on the Fahrenheit scale. Yet life goes on! And in my case, so does outdoor half-marathon training three times a week.

Even Bertolt Brecht looked a bit cold and lonely, so I gave him some company and adjusted his friend, the snowman:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No Physical For You!

...my new doctor said to me on Monday, albeit somewhat more professionally. But I'll get to that part later.