An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
27 June, 2015

More than ten days since my last post, apparently. The time between seems like a fog. School became pretty life consuming pretty fast. Not in a bad way, necessarily. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, actually. But it hasn’t left much room for anything else. So I guess this post is mostly going to be about that. And the AC/DC concert I went to on Thursday!

Last post I talked about the high of having a good class and the low of having a not so good one. At the time, I’d had two of each. Well, I’m happy to report that since then, I’ve been on fire. I’ve scored ‘above standard’ on my last two lessons, making it three-in-a-row and four of six overall. So I’m quite pleased obviously.

But more than the high marks, the classes have been a lot of fun. At the halfway mark, we switched to a high-level group of students. It’s been so much fun. I mean, first of all, they’re just a great bunch. But this level, it’s really in my wheelhouse. I can talk faster, I can use more idioms. ((I’d never noticed how much I speak in idioms until I had to teach to intermediate level students who couldn’t understand half of what I said.))

And what’s more, they’re genuinely interested in the language. I can do Greek and Latin etymologies, I can do German-English historical linguistics, and they really get into it. Part of the reason I can get away with this, according to my teacher, is that it’s obvious that I’m passionate about it. So rather than being a dry lecture, it seems I can teach this stuff with a sort of contagious energy. And I fucking love it.

After three good lessons in a row, it’s becoming clear that I’m not only gaining the confidence of my students, but also of my teacher. For the first time, I’m really starting to feel like I may actually be doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad as hell I did my MA in Classics. And I still hold out hope that one day I’ll actually be able to teach Greek. But I’m starting to believe that I can be a really good fucking teacher.

And I definitely have my own style. I’ve talked about this a little in past posts. But it’s coming together more and more with each lesson. ((Gods, I hope I didn’t just jinx it!)) And it’s interesting to compare my work with that of my classmates, all of whom, I hasten to add, are quite good in their own ways. And they unquestionably have strengths that I don’t. But in my own humble opinion, I do think that my classes are the most fun. And that’s something I’m definitely proud of.

I want to be careful here not to take too much credit, however. My class – by which I mean my students – are really great. They have a real passion for learning English and they approach everything with a wonderful energy. They also, collectively, have a great sense of humor. And in addition to all this, they work extremely well together. You can pair anybody with anybody and, not only do they get along, but they produce good work. In my self-evaluation ((A required piece of homework after every lesson.)) for my last lesson – for which I received an “above standard” score – I noted that I had little more to do than to “wind them up and let them go,” and that the students themselves “did most of the heavy lifting.” To which my teacher answered, “yes, but your real work was done in your highly detailed lesson plan.” So it’s a bit symbiotic. But the point is, they’re a fantastic group, and they make my job easy for me. Bless them. ((Also, they’re hilarious. We laugh so much. I fucking love it.))

I had an interesting chat with French Charlotte the other day. To give credit where credit is due, she has encouraged me in this endeavor from the get. She believed in me when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. That’s not to say that there weren’t others who believed in me. In point of fact, I have a wonderful network of friends and family that have stood firmly behind me, every step of the way. But she’s a French teacher. And she’s taught French in France, in Poland and in the States. So there’s a certain experience in, and first-hand knowledge of, the task itself that underlies her confidence in me, which has been unique and invaluable.

Anyway. We had a chat the other day. And you could just hear how proud she was when I told her how well I’ve been doing lately. But what really struck me was this. She said, “You’re a teacher now, Dave. And you’re going to be a teacher. You’re never going to have to apologize for your job again. From now on, you’re going to be proud of what you do.” ((That’s a rough paraphrase, anyway.)) And that really struck me.

For years, at my last job ((I need to be fair to my last job. They gave me work when I was in grad school. And when I was in school, they allowed me to adapt my hours to my schedule. They always treated me fairly and compensated me well; at least within the structure of the company. I loved – and still love – my boss. I’ll always be thankful. But it was never going to be a career. The work itself was not gratifying; no matter how much I learned about Excel; and I can make a spreadsheet like a boss…)) – and as a paralegal before that, and as a temp before that – I was never proud of what I did. If I was talking to a girl at a bar, I’d avoid talking about my job. And if I had to talk about it, it would always be in some self-deprecating way. “Yeah, well, it pays the rent,” or “Eh, I push papers and fuck with spreadsheets.” Something like that. ((Girls, apparently, are not turned on by your ennui with your job. #GoFig))

The point is, it really hit me when French Charlotte said those days were over. That was news to me, in a way. I can’t think that far ahead yet. But she’s right. And wow, that’s really something. And when I think about, I’ve always been a bit envious of teachers, when I’d meet them at bars. They’re always so damn proud of what they do. As well they should be. Well, shit. I’m 34. I want to be proud of what I do already. And soon – real fucking soon – I can be. ((Ain’t that some shit?)) Anyway, thanks, French Charlotte.

Since this post is going to be mostly about the whole school/teaching sitch, Imma switch horses midstream for a sec. ((Cos that’s always a good idea.)) Dear Reader, how was your Thursday? Did you do anything interesting? Yeah? That’s nice. Well, I saw AC/DC. So…I win.

Gods, I love that band. An AC/DC concert is a funny thing. At least – at least! – half the set is made up of the songs you expect to hear. And I don’t mean that in the sense of, “well, of course they’re going to play their greatest hits.” No, they’re not necessarily ‘hits,’ per se. They’re the songs that – in concert – throw you up against a wall and kick you in the fucking balls and make you beg for more. I’m talking, Let There be Rock, Dirty Deeds, For Those About to Rock, Shoot to Thrill.

So on some level, you know what you’re gonna get. And yet, fucking give it to me! Look, anybody who knows me knows they’re my favorite band. They’re the apotheosis, the perfection, the platonic Form, of Rock and Roll. And godsdamn, do they ever deliver. Just fucking brilliant. Even without Phil. Even without Mal, who is in a home, suffering from dementia. ((Can a blog be a Living Will? If I ever get dementia (or Alzheimer’s), please put me to sleep. Please don’t let me live like that. Please.)) They’re just the fucking best. No ifs ands or buts. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.

And yet, bittersweet. Mal has dementia.  Phil is, apparently, a felon. And the rest? Angus? Brian? Cliff? They’re in their 60’s. This has to be the end, doesn’t it? I mean, they still kill it. It was a brilliant show. I went with Joschka, who’d never seen them before. And he was well impressed. ((As he should have been.)) So they can still do it. But Rock and Roll – I mean, real Rock and Roll – it needs to be young, doesn’t it?

One of my favorite summertime albums is Dirty Deeds. It’s so full of life. It’s so…youthful. It so doesn’t give a fuck. It just rocks. And it’s not even their best album. Their best album would have been Let There Be Rock. Except that they beat it with Powerage, the follow-up. Those two records. That’s where Rock and Roll found its most perfect expression. They can never be beat.

Like Beethoven, right? That fucker wrote 32 piano sonatas and 9 symphonies. And at the end of it, you walk away feeling like – or at least I do ((My brother, Justin, the brilliant musician, no doubt disagrees.)) – feeling like, “Well, that’s it. The form has been perfected. Why bother anymore?” But I’m being serious. After Beethoven Nine, how do you write a symphony? After those sonatas, what’s the point? The mold has been broken. Learn your Bach and be on be on your way.

Interpolation: This is the beauty of Gershwin, by the way. Gershwin left well enough alone. Gershwin had the wisdom to look at the Old Masters and say, “Yeah, I can take from that. But, you guys? Jazz! And holy shit, The Blues!” And so you get Rhapsody in Blue. You get Porgy and Bess. And you get the Concerto in F, with it’s gorgeous, sweet, beautiful and oh-so-perfect Adagio. What you don’t get is Romantic bullshit. What you don’t get is Appetite for Destruction, and the conceit that there’s still anything left to say in Rock and Roll after the from has already found its complete and utter perfection. OK, I’ll shut up now.

So yeah, AC/DC were fucking brilliant, despite their advanced years. And I’m glad I got see them one last time. ((Or what’s left of them, anyway.)) And it was cool to see them in Berlin. Add that to a very short list. Cheap Trick in London. Rammstein at Wacken. AC/DC in Berlin.

At the Olympiastadion. It’s a funny thing to be there with a German – Joschka, as it were – and to have that German look around the arena for the first time in his life and say, “Yeah, you can just tell the Nazis built this.” Well, you can. It’s creepy, I ain’t gonna lie. It’s in the same mold as Tempelhof and the Air Ministry building on Wilhelmstraße. “Intimidation Architecture,” as I mentioned in a previous post. But you look around, and you know the thing was built for the ’36 Olympics. You know it was built so Hitler could show the world the superiority of the Aryan race. ((#JesseOwens #USA)) It’s an impressive structure, no question. But it’s fucking weird. I’ll leave it at that.

Kelvin of Oz came down to my neck of the woods last weekend, and we popped into a bar around the corner, on Weserstraße. The door was open. But when we went in, the bartendrix said, “We’re not open yet. But…you can have a beer if you’d like.” We looked at each other. We decided to have a beer. The bartendrix was a doll.

The reason the door was open was, she was making flower-headbands with a couple of friends for Midsummer Night; the Summer Solstice. The point is, she didn’t have to serve us. But she did. And not only did she serve us, she offered us fresh strawberries and cream! It was gorgeous. So we had our beers. And some fresh strawberries. And then some Dahlwinnie. And then more beer. Lovely day, that was.

One of the bartendrix’ friends was from Hong Kong. “So,” says I, “you speak Cantonese?” She was suitably impressed by that. Well, I did live in Chinatown for four years. So we all got on well. And of course it was good to chill with my mate Kelvin, before he goes back Down Under.

So today, in class, first thing in the morning, our other teacher ((We have two teachers. There’s the one who has been ovbserving my classes and giving me feedback the last two weeks. Then there’s the other, who observed the first week, and will again next week.)) walks in and just starts talking to us in Polish. And for forty minutes, we do nothing but Polish. Formal and informal greetings; I like/do you like; what’s your name/my name is – that sort of thing. The idea is this: It’s quite conceivable that you will at some point teach a class to people who don’t know a single word of English. So this is what they experience. It’s a pretty cool concept, actually, and something that is intentionally built into the course.

Anyway, he starts talking to us in Polish. And through hand gestures, through facial expressions, through demonstrations with physical objects and pictures, he’s showing us just how much information you can convey – even when your students don’t know a single word of the target language.

And man, Polish! They make sounds in that language that we just don’t have. I mean, it sounds totally fucking alien. But that’s the point, right? As it happens, this teacher could also have done the lesson in Spanish. But he chose Polish because we were less likely to know anything about it, and because it sounds so completely foreign.

But here’s the thing. I was operating on another level. Yes, of course, I had a rough time of pronouncing the words. Yes, I was just as much in the dark as everybody else. Well, I was in the dark insofar as being able to actually use the language. But right from the get, I started taking notes. I started looking for things that were familiar, started looking for commonalties with the other Indo-European languages that I know. And all of a sudden, it wasn’t so alien after all. This was really cool!

So our teacher breaks us into groups of threes, and asks us to discuss how we felt about the experience. And the other two in my group say the sorts of things you’d expect them to say after such an experience. Then they turn to me. And I turn to my notes. (And I apologize in advance for the technical language I’m about to use). And I say:

“You guys, this is fascinating! There’s so much here that we already know! Check this out (and I begin to list things from notes): So already we see: They mark the accusative case with a nasal; second person singular has an ‘-s-’, but second person plural seems to have an ‘-st-‘; the “go” verb starts with a strong ‘i,’ like Latin ire or Greek ἴεναι; the verb for “stand” starts with ‘st-,’ like Latin stare, Greek ἵστεναι, German standen; third person singular “to be” has an ‘-est,’ like Latin est, Greek ἔστιν, German ist. I mean, there’s so much here that we already know!”

And they just sort of look at me. And the girl to my right, Alice, actually announces to the class, “Dave has a really interesting way of looking at this. No really, I’m not taking the piss.” ((She’s English.))

That in and of itself was pretty cool. I sit next to Alice, you see, and she’s in my teaching group. So we get paired up a lot. And in the beginning, I think I rather annoyed her. But somewhere along the line, I think she decided that I’m not so much a pretentious ass ((Which I am, let’s be honest.)) as a genuinely enthusiastic nerd. And now we get along quite well, and she’s become one of my favo(u)rites.

And in the beginning, I didn’t know quite to make of her either. She can be a bit snarky and impatient. But she’s studied linguistics and she’s got a real enthusiasm for our mother tongue(s). ((I leave it to you to decide if British English and American English are the same language.)) But I find I’ve grown quite fond of her. She’s a real sweetheart, when you get down to it. And you really see this when she teaches. She’s got this kindness, as a teacher. There’s a real sweetness to her. And a sort of joie de vivre. For a while, I thought I’d tire of her – I thought we’d tire of each other – getting paired together so often. But now I find I quite look forward to working with her. There seems to be a sort of mutual respect that I don’t think either of us would have anticipated.

Also, she’s got really pretty eyes. But I’m not going down that rabbit-hole with her. I’m just glad she’s in my group. Just as I’m glad the other four are in my group. I mean, we’re a great fucking team. We look out for each other. We help each other. And we support each other when one of us has a bad day. Also we go for drinks together sometimes. However much Berlin has been a bust in terms of meeting girls, I keep lucking out in my other relationships. Roommates, colleagues, friends. I couldn’t ask for better. I really couldn’t.

I want to hang on to that point about colleagues for a moment longer. It seems that each of us has had the experience of talking to other people who have taken this course before us. And these predecessors seem invariably to mention a competitiveness that existed between classmates; a desire to “be the best” or to get the highest marks. And we just don’t have that in our group. We don’t talk about our marks. We just support each other. And it’s fucking beautiful. Wherefore do these lovely fuckers deserve to be mentioned by name: Katja from Berlin; Paul from Australia, Alice from England; Ziba from Iran; and Katie from North Carolina. You’re all fucking gorgeous, every one of you.

Interpolation: Berlin is much farther north than it seems. From the weather, you could believe you were in New York. But at 10pm, it’s still light out. And by 4am, Helios is already dragging the sun across the heavens. It’s a nice town in which to make a summer.

Well. There’s surely more to say. But it’s four-thirty in the morning and, frankly, I’d like to get some sleep. Bis später, Leute…

Next Post: July 17, 2015
Previous Post: June 18, 2015

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
(Or, you know, that city where literally every girl has a boyfriend #fml)
18 June, 2015

Teaching is a funny thing. When your class doesn’t go well, you can walk outa there feeling like a complete and utter failure. Questions start going through your brain. “Why I am even doing this?” “Will I ever be any good at this?” “What the fuck am I even doing in Berlin?” Then, when you’re throwing yourself a pity party, you walk into the store to buy a beer and realize you can’t even speak German properly. So then you feel even worse. Then you cross the street against the light – even though there are no cars in sight – and people give you dirty looks. Then you come home, do the dishes and break a glass. Because life.

But when you teach well? When you really rock your class? You’re on top of the world. You walk out all smiles and Berlin is your lovely little playpen. A playpen where you can drink beer on the street. So you walk into the same shop, buy your beer and even have some friendly banter with the guy behind the counter, in German. The sun is shining, your beer tastes great even though it’s only a stupid Pilsener – which, by the way, why are Pilseners even a thing? ((I mean, at some point, just give me a Kölsch. A Pils is barely a step up from a Bud.)) – and you cross the street wherever you damn well please. Teaching is a funny thing.

This week, I had both of those things. Monday was shit. Today I killed it. I guess part of what I need to learn is how to be more even-keeled about all this. And how to check it at the door, one way or the other.

You know what I hate? When I’m ordering a Currywurst, and the clown behind the counter thinks they should talk to me in English. Tu das nicht, fool. That’s gonna piss me right the fuck off. Friday, I forgot to bring lunch. So I popped over to the Currywurst Museum ((My first mistake. And yes, that’s a thing.)) for a cheap midday meal. I had been speaking English all morning in school. And not the modified English I have to use with non-native speakers, but my own actual English. So when I got there, my German was pretty choppy. And butchered the word Brötchen. So the lady just started talking to me in English.

Hey, lady. I got news for you. No matter how shit my German is, I can damn well order a fucking Currywurst in German. So maybe don’t insult me, OK? I mean, I get that I’m in Tourist Central. But gimme a break! And then, the kicker. She turns the register display to face me, so that I can clearly see the price: Two-Euro, forty. And get this. She says, in English, “Two-forty, please.” Seriously? You know I can read numbers, right? You know they’re the same in both languages, yeah? Thanks for that. I’ll be coming back never.

Monday, I forgot to bring lunch again. This time I go to a different Currywurst stand. “Einmal Currywurst mit Pommes, bitte,” I say in perfectly acceptable German. One currywurst with fries, please. I wait. Then one of the guys asks me, “Willst du Ketschup und Mayo?” Do you want ketchup and mayo? “Nur Ketschup, bitte,” I casually respond. Just ketchup, please. A minute later, the other guy asks me, in English, if I want ketchup and mayo. Seriously? A) We just covered this. B) What the fuck? Then he proceeds to literally drown my little plate in ketchup. Guess I won’t be going back there either. Give me Neukölln any day. Neukölln, where the Turks and Arabs speak flawless German but can’t be bothered with English.

So Lisa is literally a thesaurus ((And by ‘literal,’ I mean the original Greek (θηϲαυρόϲ) meaning of the word: Treasure house.)) of beboyfriended cute girls. See, she hosts her choir group in our (ridiculously) spacious apartment on Mondays. So there’s always new people around. Anyway, this girl comes into the kitchen while I’m cooking. She looks familiar. Oh yeah, we’d bumped into her on the street a few days ago. Anyway, she starts chatting me up and she’s all sorts of friendly.

And all sorts of cute. She’s like a million feet tall ((I’m a sucker for tall dames.)); I don’t know what that is in meters. She’s blonde. She’s wearing quirky-yet-cute oversized glasses. She’s very pretty. And we’re just getting on well. At this point, I have forsaken hope. Either Tiny has a boyfriend, or else she’s gay. Because what this looks like clearly isn’t what this is.

After a bit, she disappears off back into the living room. I finish cooking. I eat. I come to the living room. Tiny’s still there. And now she’s being all playful and fun. Great. I guess I’ll be playful and fun too. Well, why not? Then she’s getting ready to leave, and she bends down to hug me in my chair. ((I may have to re-evaluate my theory of Germans as unemotional robots.)) Then I stand up and say, no, let’s do this the right way. So we hug again. Then I say, no, let’s really do this the right way. So I stand on top of my chair and hug her again. She get’s a kick out of it. Then she leaves. I count to ten. I turn to Lisa.

“So, how long has Tiny been dating her boyfriend?” I’m somehow hoping she’ll say, “Oh, she doesn’t have a boyfriend.” I’m hoping this the same way one hopes maybe the tide won’t come in. Well, the tide came in. “About three months, I think.” Yep. There it is. “Why, do you have a crush on her?” Fuck me.

“No. I’m asking you so I don’t go and do anything stupid. Like having a crush. Like last time. Remember?” I go into my room. I wonder if there are any breaks to be caught. I decide that there aren’t and pour myself a glass of Jameson.

Later, I come out of my room. I feel better now. ((Thanks, John Jameson.)) Lisa is chilling on the couch. “So, Tiny is pretty cool, eh?” Oh, is this what we’re doing? “She has a boyfriend,” I say. “She’s dead to me.” I walk back into my room to get my pipe. I hear Lisa say something behind me that sounds an awful lot like, “She is really cool, though.” I return with my pipe. “Sorry, did you say something?” She looks up. “I said, ‘She is really cool though.’” I sigh. “Actually, can you not? Thanks.” I go into the kitchen with my pipe and a bottle of wine.

I also go into the kitchen with my laptop and books because I have a shit-ton of work to do for school. And this wine ain’t gonna drink itself.

I shouldn’t break on Lisa, though. She’s still an A+ roommate. Even if all her cute friends have boyfriends and she doesn’t quite seem to grasp how frustrating that is for me. This week we’ve got a house-guest, and he’s sleeping in the room off the balcony. Which means, no balcony time. So we hang in the kitchen instead. And the good news is, I can smoke in the kitchen with the windows open and the door closed.

Some nights we drink and chat. Other nights, we both have work to do. So we sit at the table and work. In silence, or maybe with music on. It’s pretty peaceful, actually. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the old days on Maiden Lane when me and Phil would hang out in the living room. And by hang out, I mean we’d each be on a couch, reading and not talking. But somehow also hanging out. Those were good times. And that probably means nothing to nobody, except Jared.

Met Down Under Kelvin for a beer on Sunday. He’s definitely leaving. He’s just had enough, I guess. I’m happy for him, insofar as going home is going to make him happy. But he’s a proper mate, and I’ll be sorry to see him go.

Tomorrow is one year since Daitz died. Fuck. Just, fuck. Do you know, I didn’t even realize the date? Just by chance, I emailed Mimi, his wife, the other day. I was reading some Homer, ((More on that later.)) and I realized I hadn’t spoken to her for some time. So I just dropper her a little email to see how she was doing and let her know I was thinking of her. And when she wrote back, she told me Friday would be one year.

I fucking hate that he’s gone. I mean, I’m in Berlin. And it’s the summer. So it’s not like we’d be reading now anyway. But still. I want him back. I want to say it’s not fair. But that’s both selfish and untrue. The dude was 88 when he checked out. And he had a full and amazing life. He got a fair shake. So what’s not fair about it? I don’t know. I’m still not processing this well. All I know is, there are two dead people in my life who I miss all the fucking time. My grandpa and Daitz. ((And in a very different way, Ronnie James Dio. Once again, Jared knows what I’m talking about.)) When does that stop hurting? Does it ever? Fuck me.

Right. Enough of this downer shit. The tone of this post has been overwhelmingly negative. It shouldn’t be. Life is good. I fucking rocked my class today. My apartment and roommate are fantastic. Berlin is lovely city. By this time next week, I’ll have seen AC/DC in concert. ((OmgOmgOmg)) I’ve got friends here, old and new. And when I have happen to have some down time, I read Homer. And man, Homer is wonderful. It’s just so…so organic, so true to life, so perfect. Life is good.

And baseball starts at 1am. Which is bloody brilliant. Now, when I go to sleep, I put the ballgame on. What a great way to drift off. The game itself hardly matters. John and Suzyn aren’t even annoying. It’s just baseball on the radio, the way it was meant to be. ((Well, it was meant to be Red Barber calling the Dodgers in Brooklyn. But ain’t nothin’ perfect.)) And that’s what I’m gonna do, right after I hit the ‘publish’ button on this bitch. I’m gonna crawl into bed and I’m gonna sail away au pays de beaux rêves, sails filled with the music of baseball…

Next Post: June 27, 2015
Previous Post: June 13, 2015

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
13 June, 2015

Has it really been ten days since my last post? In that time I played my first ever open-mic night. And in that time, I’ve had my first week of school. ((Or, you know, the reason I’m fucking here in the first place.)) In the last ten days I had a BBQ at Tempelhofer Feld with Joschka and Verena. And in the last ten days I’ve worked diligently with Lisa to put away quite a bit of alcohol. Oh, and I met yet another lovely girl who naturally lives with her boyfriend. Because Dave.

Last Wednesday, Kelvin the Australian and I returned to the group conversation meetup where we first met however many weeks ago. But first we met for a couple of pre-game beers. It was nice to catch up. And it was nice for both of us to be able to speak in our own normal English, instead of the modified version one has to take on when dealing with non-native speakers.

Which is sort of an odd thing to say, when you think about it. What I mean is, Kelvin’s speech is full of weird Aussie idioms, just as mine gets super New York slangy. ((For example, instead of saying, “Let’s go check it out,” he’ll say “Let’s go have a squizz.” And instead of saying, “So what did she say?” I’ll say “Wait, wha’ she said?”)) But we understand each other perfectly well all the same. And it’s quite a comfort not to have to “grade your language.” ((More on this later.))

Anyway, we’re sitting outside, minding our own business. When, after a while, this dude at the next table over starts interjecting himself into our conversation. And when I say “dude,” I mean this round, bald, older fellow who seems not to be in possession of all of his teeth. And we both took this fellow for the local drunken barfly who has the annoying habit of glomming onto the nearest conversation, which naturally happens to be yours.

But a strange thing happened. As one person after another left the bar, each said a very friendly goodbye to this fellow; the men patting him on the shoulder, the women kissing him on the cheek. And it began to dawn on me that he wasn’t so much a local drunk loner/loser as he was the mayor of this little outpost.

We learned that although his German was quite good, he was actually Polish. And though we could have got on easily enough in German, he was quite proud of the English that he knew. And while his English was by no means great – in fact, he could be difficult to understand at times – it was pretty impressive, given that a) it was his third language and b) he grew up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. And when, in the end, it was our time to leave, we found ourselves saying as friendly a farewell as those who had left before us.

Then it was off to the convo-meetup, which was fine, but not worth reporting on. However, when we left – having decided to get another beer ((Natch.)) – we bumped into a girl who had also been there. Something in her face gave me the impression that she was eager to tag along, whereupon I invited her to join us. Well, why not? She looked to be about our age, was tall, skinny and cute in a punky kind of way.

From there, the three of us returned to the bar where Kelvin and I had pre-gamed. After a quick stop for a döner. ((Natch.)) And we had a lovely time of it. Turns out Punk-girl is a bit of an artist and had lived in Manchester for a bit. So she was into music and also spoke nearly flawless English. It was actually pretty cool. Because as we were walking, the three of us would switch back and forth between English and German in a very fluid and effortless sort of way.

While we were chatting at the bar, the subject of my upcoming open-mic debut came up. Punk-girl seemed pretty excited about it and asked for the details. I was pretty pleased about this. Not so much because she was cool and cute (although this obviously didn’t hurt), but because I rather didn’t want to go do this thing entirely alone. But more on that later.

So the three of us sat and chatted and had an all-around lovely time. But then, wouldn’t you know it, the mayor appeared out of the back and sat down with us at our table. And wouldn’t you know it, he turned out to be an expert on all kinds of music. So that went on for a bit, until we finally decided to call it a night. But not before Punk-girl wrote down her email and phone number for me (of her own accord) on a coaster and bade me send her the details for the open-mic.

The next day, I got a text from Kelvin. “Dude, that girl is way into you.” No, no I don’t think so, mate. “Oh yeah, dude. She was hanging on your every word.” Well, it did look that way, I have to admit. But I’m almost certain she said she lives with her boyfriend. “Really? I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear anything about that.”

Here I needs must point out a quirk of the German language. You see, German does not have a word for ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend.’ Believe it or not, this is a source of confusion even to the Germans themselves. Here’s how it works. The German word for (a male) ‘friend’ is Freund. The German word for ‘boyfriend,’ however, is also Freund. Likewise the German word for (a female) ‘friend’ is Freundin. And the German word for ‘girlfriend,’ is – you guessed it – is also Freundin.

Thus, in order to avoid confusion, you find Germans using the cumbersome periphrasis “Ein(e) Freund(in) von mir,” when they want to say ‘my friend’ instead of simply saying “Mein(e) Freund(in). Because the latter invariably sounds like ‘my boy/girlfriend.’

The point is, when we were walking to the bar after our döner, I asked Punk-girl where she lived, and I could have sworn she said, “Ich wohn’ in der Nähe mit meinem Freund.” Naturally, I took this to mean, “I live around here, with my boyfriend.” Kelvin, it seems, didn’t hear this. In any case, that was the source of our miscommunication on the subject. But whatever the truth of the matter, I decided to put it aside until the open-mic.

Friday was the Tempelhofer BBQ. That was brilliant. I mean, really just fantastic. I’ve written in previous posts about how great THF is. But I’ll say it again. It really is quite a treasure. It’s an entire commercial airfield, but decommissioned and turned into a park. People go biking, skating and windsurfing on the runways. People sunbathe, read and BBQ on the grass. It’s wonderful.

Verena brought Salmon and made a salad. I picked up some bratwursts and shish kabobs as well as two bottles of wine. And Joschka brought a disposable grill ((Did you know that was even a thing? I didn’t.)) as well as a delightfully refreshing cucumber salad. There was a brilliant sunset. Everything about it was great. It was just one of those evenings where everything is easy, if that makes any sense.

And for me and Joschka, it brought back the festival feeling. How can I explain this? There’s something about sitting out in a field, around a grill, with your metal music playing and the sun going down. If you closed your eyes, you could’ve imagined being surrounded by a village of tents. In some Prustian way, it brought us back to Wacken and Rock Harz. At one point, we sort of just looked at each other and were like, “dude, I can’t fucking wait for Rock Harz!” “We should do this every week!”

Well, we can’t do it every week. I’ve got school, for one thing. But this weekend Joschka is in Bavaria and next weekend he’s back in his hometown. Hopefully we can swing another one the week after. And hopefully Verena will come as well. It’s a very nice dynamic, the three of us.

Sunday. Open-mic night. Kind of a big deal for me. Apart from Jared and Charlotte, I’ve never played my music for other people before. And certainly not in public. Punk-girl came. Thank the gods. Sign-up was at 8pm and the show didn’t start till well after nine. If she hadn’t come, I’d have had to sit there in awkward nervousness by myself that whole time. That would have been awful.

She was great though. She really calmed me down and was super supportive. It was a huge help. As to the question of was she into me, impossible to read. If you wanted to see it, I suppose you could have. But there was nothing obvious. Anyway, I was slotted to play in the thirteenth spot, after the intermission. So we sat through the first half together. And it was fun, even if the music wasn’t particularly “rock’n’roll.”

At the break, I offered to buy her a drink. Her reaction was sufficiently awkward – “Oh…no, Dave…what are you doing?” – that it was obvious she wasn’t interested in that way. But for once in my life, I actually found my way out of an awkward situation, instead of making it worse. “Oh, no,” I said, calmly waving her off. “Please. Honestly, if you didn’t come, I’d have had to sit here by myself this whole time, and I’d probably have driven myself crazy. The least I can do is buy you a drink.” She immediately relaxed and accepted the offer. After that, it was smooth sailing for the S.S. Friendship.

And believe it or not, that whole exchange put an end to all my nerves. I suddenly didn’t have anybody to impress anymore. And what’s more, I was able to focus on being annoyed that I’d met yet another cute girl with a boyfriend rather than all the ways I could possibly fuck up my first ever performance. Fuck it, I thought. Fuck everything. It’s time to rock and roll.

And that’s what I did. Which isn’t to say I was great, or even good. I honestly have no idea how I did. But I went up there and I played some rock’n’roll – my rock’n’roll. The first song was a bit touch and go. I mean, I believe I played it well. I believe I sang it well. But I’d never sung into a microphone before. And I feel like I was spending the whole song figuring out how close or far I should be from the damned thing. But by the second song – and everybody only gets two – I believe I’d figured it out. And then it was over. Nice reaction from the crowd. Punk-girl was well impressed. I do believe that was genuine.

When it was all over, we stuck around for a couple more drinks. At this point, Punk-girl offered to buy mine. Why yes, thank you. What a doll. And that sort of sealed the ‘just-friends’ nature of things. But you know what? That’s fine. She was brilliant for support. And we had a really nice time, talking about music, Berlin and life in English and German and even French.

Next time, she might even perform some of her own poetry, poetry-slam style. But next time will not be this Sunday, but the Sunday after. Because this weekend she’ll be in Greece with her Freund. Whatever. I’m just glad to have a bit of camaraderie in this musical adventure.

So that was Sunday night, and I got home at whatever-the-fuck-time in the morning. Because five hours of sleep is always how you want to start your first day of school. ((Said no one ever.)) Yeah, I was a bit nervous. Twelve people in our class. Eleven strangers. Some good looking broads though. And only three other Yanks. As for the rest, let’s see…two Aussies, two Brits, three Germans and dame from Iran.

We’re all together in the mornings. That’s when they teach us. In the afternoons, we’re split in half. To start, my group teaches a beginner level class. The other works with an advanced level. We’ll flip halfway through the course. And I’ve got to say, my group is brilliant. I’ll come back to them in a bit. But first, teaching. Wow.

So we each teach – or taught, by now – twice this week. My first lesson was Tuesday. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Of the six of us, I would say mine was easily the worst. Which isn’t to say it was a wepic fail. Just that it wasn’t great. Or even good. And we all knew it. I mean, when your classmates are saying things like, “Hey, come on, it was your first time,” or “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” you kinda know it wasn’t just in your head.

In the end, however, it was acceptable. By which I mean, it was acceptable. There are only three possible grades for a lesson: Below Standard, At Standard and Above Standard. I received an At Standard for my work. I also received a shit-ton of notes from my teacher. I also received a shit-ton of notes from myself, as we have to write a self-evaluation. The silver lining is, my self-evaluation matched almost one-to-one with my teacher’s. So basically, I fucked up X, Y and Z. But I knew I’d fucked up X, Y and Z. So that’s a good start.

Be that as it may, ((Election is Friday. (This footnote is entirely for my brother and my father).)) I went home feeling quite shit. But Lisa really stepped up. Lisa, my roommate, who, I’m sure I mentioned, is a German teacher. She stayed up with me until late in the night talking strategies and offering encouragements while we drank wine, and then, when there wasn’t any more wine, whiskey.

One of my biggest problems as a teacher is, I talk too damned fast. I think it’s a New York thing. ((As far back as 1774, none other than Founding Father John Adams noted in his diary that New Yorkers “talk very loud, very fast and altogether.”)) In any case, that don’t fly with people who are, say, from the South, let alone non-native speakers. Lisa said she used to have the same problem. To counter this, she made cards with Question Marks on them, and distributed them to her students with instructions to hold up said card whenever she spoke too fast. I decided to modify this slightly. I made little traffic signs; diamonds with word SLOW printed across them.

It was the first thing I did in my next class. “I need to ask you guys to help me?” I said. “Sometimes I talk too fast. So what I want you to do is, whenever you think I’m talking too fast, hold up your ‘SLOW’ card. Let’s practice. Ok, everybody, hands on your cards. Now, I’m going to start speaking slowly, at the speed I should be speaking so that you can understand me. But little by little, I’m-going-to-start-speeding-up, andImmaSstartSpeakin’RealFast, thewayispeakathomecosaintnobodygottime – “ and like a flash, the cards go up in the air. “Great! Perfect! Now don’t be shy about that, Ok?” I pause. “That’s what I want to see!” And they’re all smiling now, some of them are even laughing. So I decide to test them, just to be sure.

“But obviously, that’s not what I want to see, because-if-I’m-seeing-that, itmeansi’mtalkingwaytoo – “ and the cards go flying up again. And they’re all laughing now. Fantastic!

From there, I start the class. And man, I hit that one out of the park. Everything went brilliantly. Mind you, that’s not to say everything was perfect. Far from it. I still use too many idioms and too many big words, just to name a few failings. But, you guys, they really bought into it.

And I’ll tell you something else. I was funny. Everybody’s got their own teaching style, of course. And what works for one person may not work for the next. But I build a lot of schtick into mine. And for me, it works. And obviously it works for this particular group too, because I got a lot of laughs. But beyond the laughs, you could just see that they really enjoyed the class, which was very gratifying, as you can imagine.

When it was all over, the reaction from my classmates was night and day. They were coming up to me and saying things like, “Wow, you were hilarious!” “That was so funny!” and “That was really great, Dave.” I ain’t gonna lie, that made me feel good. It’s one thing when you see that you really connected with your students and that they enjoyed your class. But when, on top of that, you get that kind of reaction from your colleagues, it’s really quite gratifying.

Ironically, I rather beat myself up in my self-evaluation. I bought myself a Wegbier ((Wegbier – a beer for the road.  Of course the Germans have a word for this.)) for the walk home, ((My new – and dare I say, beloved – habit.)) during which I had a solid 45 minutes to reflect. And it occurred to me that my job is not to entertain these people but to teach them. And while it was clear that I had done a good job entertaining them, I wasn’t at all sure how well I had taught them. And so I proceeded to pick every nit I could think of.

The next day, I met with my teacher. Yes, he said, the things which I identified as problems do indeed need further work. But I also improved tremendously from my first lesson, which was very important. And all my schtick helped build a great rapport with the students, which is hugely important. Endeffekt: ((I love this word.  And it needs no translation.)) Above Standard. Booyah!

So I’m starting to develop my teaching persona: part Clown, part The Doctor, part Nutty Professor. And part Dave…whatever that means. Yeah, there’s still a literal shit-ton of work to do. But I’m starting to feel like I can do this, and do it well. The next challenge comes Monday. ((I have to teach the future tenses. And yet, somehow not the Future Perfect, the greatest of all tenses! I mean, it’s the fucking Prophet Tense! It’s the only tense that can tell you what’s happened before its’ actually happened! Also, I should probably not nerd-out over verb tenses. And yet…it’s so fucking cool!)) My job now is to be up to it.

As usual, this post has run over-long. But I do want to add just a bit more. Today was the end of the first week, thank the gods. When it was all over, our group (minus one), went for drinks and dinner. It was a much-needed catharsis for all of us. But it was also really nice to socialize with that lot outside of school and get to know them more as people. And, you guys? They’re so great. Once again, I feel like I really lucked out.

Don’t get me wrong, in the larger group of twelve, everybody is really nice. No question. But when I think about who’s in my group and who’s in the other group, well, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s like, I got all my favorites. How does that even happen? So I’m just feeling well pleased about that. Well pleased.

One other thing I want to mention. I continue to feel really good about where I’m living. When I wrote my last post, I’d only been here three days. But now I’ve been here nigh-on a fortnight. And I love it. Me and Lisa ((Lisa and I. Whatever. Fuck you. Which one of us is (going to be) the English teacher?)) just get on so well. We’re really developing a very nice and comfortable friendship here. She’s so easy to live with. And we drink. A lot. And often. But she’s also proving to be an invaluable ((Gotta love the ‘in-‘ prefix as an intensifier. “Inflammable means flammable?? What a country!” – Dr. Nick, The Simpsons, s.12, ep.20.)) resource vis-à-vis teaching. And did I mention the high ceilings?

Next Post: June 18, 2015
Previous Post: June 3, 2015

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
3 June, 2015

What the shit just happened, you guys? My last post was, what, three days ago? Four? At that point, I was staying in my kick-ass Airbnb flat, with my super chill hippy roommates and their two cats, for whom I was developing a certain degree of fondness. And now? Shit’s different, yo. ((This is a usage of “yo” that I quite enjoy in spoken English, but which I don’t think I’ve tried in the written version.))

Ok, so I’m in my new flat. Apartment. Whatever. But it feels so different. In the last place, everything was taken care of, arranged. The room was predecorated and prefurnished. And as much as I got along really great with Anja and Mischa – and I really did – I was always a “guest” in their house.” ((Anytime I tried to help with anything, they’d always wave me off with the words, “Du bist Gast.” – You’re a guest.)) And that came with certain advantages. I didn’t have to buy laundry detergent or toilet paper. But on the flip-side, it was never ‘my’ place, ‘my’ room.

And now, here, it really is. Well, I mean to a point. I’m only here for a month. And I know I’m a stopgap until my roommate’s sister moves in. But still. It’s “my” fucking room here. I get to do with it what I want. And, you guys? This room is the tits. I feel like I now need “doge speak” to express the height of the ceilings. Sure, I could measure them. But it wouldn’t get the point across as well as, “such highest ceilings!” ((I’m as bad at Doge as I am at German.))

But wait, there’s more. My roommate is so cool. Right, OK. It’s only been one night. ((Well, two. My writing was interrupted last night by drinking on the balcony, on more which in a moment. #foreshadowfail)) And things can go tits-up in a hurry, of course. But based on the first night – man, did I land in the right spot! So she’s a German teacher. Pretty sure I mentioned that in the last post. But she’s also thoughtful, smart-af, really f’ing nice, and just all around cool.

Last night was our first night together as roommates. And we stayed up ‘til three drinking wine (and then beer) and just talking. Talking about all sorts of stuff. But like, smart people stuff. At one point, we were discussing Nazi architecture, and then Soviet architecture, and then U.S. monumental architecture. I mean, it was so great.

Also, you guys, she has a friend. And this friend is…hold on, Imma come back to it.

But first, a little about my new living-sitch. So the room, right, from a New York perspective, is gloriously spacious. And did I mention the high ceilings? And the giant wall-sized windows that lets in a literal shit-ton of a natural light? But – because there’s always a “but” – it was entirely unfurnished.

Well, right off the bat, Lisa – that’s my new roommate’s name – shows herself to be a real fucking champ. Rather than saying, “Well, here’s your empty room, it’s up to you to find a bed,” she found a friend who was getting rid of a bunch of furniture and sorted out renting a van (with a driver) so we could get it from A to B. Were it not for that, I’d be sleeping on the floor and living out [of] my suitcase.

As for the rest of the apartment, well, it’s just bloody brilliant. The living room is massive. The kitchen has everything you could want, if you like to cook. And on top of that, there’s still another room – itself bigger than the “living rooms” of either my Maiden Lane or Orchard Street apartments. And that room is dedicated as a “work room,” with a desk and chairs and all that. And the bathroom is spacious and, more importantly, clean.

In New York, I’d say this apartment would go for, easy, 3.5k. And I’m paying not even five hundred. Also, did I mention that I’m writing this post on the fucking ((I feel like I’m cursing a lot in this post. Two reasons for that. One: I bought myself a bottle of Glenfiddich tonight, and it’s the first bottle of scotch I’ve bought since I’ve been here, which, let’s face it, is ridiculous, as I’ve been here just under a month. #germanstylerunonsentence Two A: I don’t know how to curse like this in German. Two B: When I speak English here, it’s almost always a modified super-clear and semi-formal English so that people will understand me. Rarely do I get to talk the way I normally talk.)) balcony?? ((The balcony is, ironically, the only downside, in this way: In my last place, I could smoke in the kitchen. Which meant I could read Greek and write my posts in the kitchen, irrespective (or irregardless, dammit!) of weather. Here, the balcony is the only place I can smoke. So if there’s bad weather, I’m f’d, in that regard.)) So yeah, I’m well pleased to be here.

And now, I gotta give a shoutout to Joschka. Joshcka, who ((Should be “whom,” right? I’m gonna say it’s an anacolouthon. And I feel like, if I can name it, I can use it.)) I’m not even sure if he even reads this shit. But in any case, he came to my old place with his car, picked me up with all my stuff and drove me to the new place. What a fucking lifesaver. So, if you do read this, Kumpel, ich danke dir, von meinem Herz. Aber, du bist immer noch Scheiße.

Tonight, I went again to the class that Lisa teaches. And I had my ass handed to me, prepositionally. No, seriously. The class was on German prepositions. And I scored like a 20. The only thing that makes me feel better is, that the rules governing which prepositions are used when are almost entirely arbitrary. Still though, talk about your rude awakenings. Yeesh. And then on the way out, I saw her friend. But I said I’ll come back to that later, and I will.

But yeah, after that, I decided it was time for a nice scotch. So I stopped off to pick up a bottle of Glenfiddich, which I guess I alluded to footnoteally. ((I unequivocally support the adverbization of all things. Except when we’re busy verbing things. (See: adverbization, above).)) But of course nothing can be easy, right? I decided to pay with my card, instead of cash. ((In the States, you can pay with a card almost anywhere these days. But here, most places still only take cash. And so the reason I went where I went was, I’d be able to use a card.)) But of course, the receipt paper ran out in the middle of my transaction. So I couldn’t sign. What a shitshow. Like, seriously. I had to wait a half hour for them not to be able to print a new receipt at the register, and then decide that they needed to print one from a computer in the back for me to sign. Then, after I sign it, the guy wants to see my card again so he can actually literally astoundingly compare the signatures. And I’m like, you realize you are an actual real life stereotype now, right? Anyway, I felt like such a dick for holding up the line. But Germans – or at least these Germans – were so well behaved. Nobody even gave me a dirty look!

But in the end, I got it sorted, and I hear I am. Here I am with my glass of Glenfiddich, and my pipe, and oh, Lisa just got home and I guess we’re gonna chill on the balcony for a bit. So, pause…

OK, we’re both on the balcony, but I guess she’s facebooking, so, umm, hi.

Right, so, open-mic night. I’ve decided that this is something I need to do. I’ve been writing my own songs for a while, but I have done literally fuck-all with them to this point. If I wanted to make excuses, I would say something along the lines of, I couldn’t find people to play with, I couldn’t start a band. But also, I’m mad shy and nervous about playing my shit in front of other people. And in New York? Well, that’s my home. Those are my people. It seemed harder.

But a goal I’ve set for myself here is to perform at an open-mic night. I’m a stranger here, and I don’t know anybody. And ain’t nobody be knowin’ me. ((Trying to keep my urban colloquialisms sharp. How’m I doin’? #EdKoch)) And this whole trip is about growing myself as a person, right?   Ok, so Sunday night, I went to check out this open-mic night. Not to play, but just to see what it was about. Well, it was interesting.

What it reminded me of, was the Java House from college. The Java House was this place where people would gather to drink coffee and listen to live music. In theory, it should have been very cool. And for a lot of people, I’m sure it was. But for me, I dunno, it wasn’t Rock’n’ Roll, if I can say that. It was a bunch of hippies, sitting around, saying things like “Isn’t ‘music’ great…maaaaannn?” Yeah, it’s terrific. Now put down your joint and tap your godsdamned foot!

Well, it was that kind of crowd. But I shouldn’t be throwin’ shade. ((Which is something we totally still say, right? Gods, I’m out of touch.)) Because for all it’s not “Rock’n’Roll,” they really are an open minded and supportive lot. And they get into any-and-everything. So, next week, when I go back to actually play – which I will, dammit – I think I shall be glad to have such a group of people in front of me.

Still though. The predominant language was English. The MC introduced everybody in English. At the bar, everybody was speaking English. I mean, c’mon, this isn’t why I came here! And also – here comes a rant – godsdamned hipsters! With your flannel and your boots and your ‘artisenal’ accents. You know what I mean. The perfectly rounded ‘O’s, the carefully enunciated consonants, pronouncing final ‘T’s. Like, when did glottal stops stop being cool? ((No, I didn’t live in “MaNhaTTan,” I lived in “Ma’ha’an.” Get it right, hipster. Hey, maybe that’s why they all live in Brooklyn (and Berlin, apparently). No glottal stop to avoid in Brooklyn (or Berlin).)) Can’t you just talk like a normal person? Not every word has to be a craft beer/cheese/whatever. Nah’mean? <<EndRant>>.

So now it’s Wednesday afternoon. And this is a bit unusual. I’m writing, but the sun is up and I’m totally sober. It’s so strange to think that people work like this all the time. In coffee shops, no less. In any case, I’m to meet up with Kelvin later for a beer and then we’re going to head back to that group conversation exchange thingy-whatsit. Should be fun. And also necessary.

Because I feel like I’m starting to hit a bit of a wall with my German. It’s like when you first start learning to play guitar. First, you start learning open chords, and your hands be all, “What? No, we don’t make that shape.” But after a bit, open chords become mad easy, and you’re feeling really good about yourself because now you can play a whole bunch of songs or order a beer at a restaurant. But then you realize you need to learn bar chords. And now your hands be all, “What? No, that hurts, stop it. Also, do you not hear how bad that sounds?” This is sitting with two well spoken German teachers and trying to follow their conversation. Then comes the guitar solo, or you know, speaking like an actual person. Well, right now, I’m just trying to keep up on rhythm guitar.

And the two German teachers I mentioned? One was Lisa. The other was the aforementioned friend. Her name is Divi. Never heard that one. So I ask if it’s short for anything. Yes, she says. It’s Indian, short for Diviam, which means “light.” And then a light goes off in my head. I made some connection, or pulled some half remembered fragment out of the part of my brain I was using when I did my Master’s. “Wait, hang on,” I say. “Surely that’s a Sanskrit word…which must be cognate with Latin ‘divinus,’ divine…because…gods, light, something something ((My actual words.)).…(and then in my head: and also obviously, in Greek, Διόϲ (genitive of Ζεύϲ), which obviously would have been Διϝόϲ at some point, and aren’t digammas great?)…” And the whole time she’s nodding along like she knows all this, because obviously you know the origin of your own name, you German teaching, linguistics bestudied beautiful little creature, you. “Yeah, it’s the same stem,” she says. Right. Well. Thanks for letting me walk through all that then. Where’s my wine?

Anyway, Divi. Lovely girl. Smart, as we’ve seen. But also just really sweet. And she has a sense of humor. This I discovered after I managed to get myself locked in the bathroom and only escaped with Lisa’s help. I’ll say this about getting locked in your own bathroom. It’s not nearly as scary as getting locked in a cemetery; but it is infinitely more embarrassing.

There are two other salient facts about this Divi person. One I shall mention here. ((The other, for effect, comes later. #BuildingSuspense)) She is all of the cutes. Literally, you guys. All of them. A point which I mentioned to Lisa after Divi’d left. Her response? Well, actually her response came after I had to break down the “all-of-the-x” idiom, using “all of the feels” as another example thereof. Anyway, her response? “Oh yes, isn’t she? I’ve always wondered what kind of guy – and I’m not saying you do – but what kind of guy would have a crush on her.”

What? No! What are you doing? Don’t do that! I don’t have a…I was just…she’s very cute! That’s all I said! Don’t say the “C” word! Now it’s gonna be in my head! Ugh, I was perfectly prepared to go to bed thinking, “Oh, she was cute. How nice.” But after that remark? I went to bed having a crush. ((Thanks, Lisa.))

So of course I ran into her after Lisa’s class last night, because obviously that had to happen. “Oh hi!” I say, terrified now that I’ve said ‘hi’ with either obvious overexcitement or forced nonchalance indicating a complete lack of interest or possibly somehow both, because there’s nothing I can’t ruin. Then she opens her arms for a hug.

For a hug? What? No, you can’t do that. Germans are supposed to be unemotional robots. That’s why I came here, to avoid emotional contact. Otherwise I’d have gone to France. Anyway, hug? No. Too confusing. Does it mean something? Is she simply not an unemotional Teutonic robot? Does everybody get a hug after one night of hanging out? Oh gods, why is this happening to me?

Also,” she says with a divinely ((#seewhatididthere)) cute smile, “Was ist passiert, seit gestern?” (So, what’s new since yesterday?) And then it happened. I forgot all the German that I know. I wanted to say something about how I’d just had my ass handed to me in class vis-à-vis prepositions. “Ich hab…Oh gods. Words, David. Use words. “Ich hab…Not those words, David. You’ve already said that part. Use other words. “Ich hab…Mental facepalm. “Ja?” she says, encouragingly, patiently. If you could maybe stop being so cute for a second? I’m trying to think here. Thanks. Ok, try again now. Ich hab…darin…mein Arsch…getritten?, getrittet ((‘Getreten‘ is the participle I was looking for, and which I failed to find.))…gehabt?“ “What are you trying to say?” she asks in English now. “Um, I got my ass kicked in there?” “Yeah,” she says. “That’s not a thing in German.” No, of course it’s not. I’ll just show myself out. Whereupon I said goodbye and promptly walked into the street, looking for a bus to throw myself in front of. But there were no buses. So I couldn’t even do that right. ((#davestheworst #iruineverything))

Fast forward to later in the night, when Lisa came out and joined me on the balcony. I asked her if she wanted some scotch, happy to share, but mostly expecting the answer no, because most girls seem not to like whisk(e)y. ((So, good on you, Niki.)) “Yeah, sure,” she answered pleasantly. “Good girl,” quoth I. So we chat, and we’re having a lovely time of it in the warm Berlin night, with the Big Dipper looking wheeling peacefully overhead. Finally, I bring it up.

“It’s all your fault, you know. I was totally prepared not to have any feels for your friend Divi. But then you used the ‘crush’ word, and now that’s happened. So thanks.” To which she replies, “Oh. Well you probably shouldn’t do that. You see, she lives together with her boyfriend.” Of course she does. Because Dave can’t have nice things. So that was twenty-four hours of emotional hot messitude that I could have done without. Anyway, I must have looked sad/disappointed/distressed, because then Lisa decided to try and say something nice.

“No, but that’s a good thing, actually. Because it means that your heart is open and your open to having feelings for new people.” Is it? I am? Great. Thanks. Hey, I know. Let’s drink more scotch and also change the subject please. Which we did, and all was well.

And all is well, as long as we’re not talking about girls. I’m totally lucking out in the roommate department. I’m meeting cool people. My German is improving. I’m learning the city. And still to come: school, the Rock Harz festival, the trip to Biarritz. Maybe I really can have nice things…

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