I arrived in Berlin in late June. It’s late September now so I guess it’s been 3 months. If I didn’t have a work visa I’d need to leave now: US Passport holders get 90 days in the Schengen region. But I do have a work visa and so I’ve been working. This means I have an ordinary life, a local grocery, a regular pub, laundry on Sundays, and all of that normal life stuff.
But every once in a while I look up and remember what a strange place I am in. Like out by the lake swimming on a hot day, when I peaked behind a fence and found some creepy old buildings. A Google search revealed the complex was a defunct Soviet tuberculosis hospital.
I was heading out to another lake and a passenger jet came overhead less than 100 meters up. Tegel airport. I mentioned how close to town the airport was and the Berliners are like “Well, it had to fit inside the walls”. Oh right.
I’ve been able to get out of town a few times. Once to pick up Kristin in Prague. Another time to meet a friend in Göttingen, Germany. On my own I went to Poznań, Poland. These places are all fairly close to Berlin and pretty different from each other. The pictures are from those trips. I never seem to take pictures in Berlin.
A great thing about leaving is that when I come back I get joy from a return to the familiar. “Ah Berlin, my town”. And that good feeling is a positive feedback loop that helps me start to actually think of Berlin as home. But Kristin is still elsewhere. I’m preparing to move apartments for the 3rd time in 3 months. And in a few weeks I’ll return to the US to pack some things and see some friends.
I feel like there is a knack to living in a place, be it Amman or Berlin or Portland. I’m a bit worried that I can only manage one knack at a time. I’m protective these days of any sense of normalcy I’ve managed to cultivate. I don’t want Portland to confuse things.
It’s been lonely for me but it’s more than just being far from friends. It’s a kind of loneliness for a place as well. For “back home”. I never felt this too acutely in Amman but Kristin was there. And Amman was never going to feel like home so I didn’t work at it.
Lots of people in Berlin are in a situation like mine and I feel an enormous sense of love and support from the population at large. It’s like some giant hostel. Strangers dance together. People check on you all the time: “having fun?” "everything good?"… People are way more physically expressive than you’d expect. Hugs, gentle hands on shoulders. It helps a lot. The streets and parks of Berlin feel open and welcoming. I really really love it here. I just don’t see how I fit in yet.