Gusties Galore

Posted on December 4th, 2011 by


My view every morning. Be jealous.

There was a major influx of Gusties into Berlin this week. By major I mean two, but for me that’s pretty huge. We’ll get to that shortly.

Shopping. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I’m more the latter (unless it is for ties, but that’s neither here nor there). Since I rented an unfurnished apartment (well, a room in an apartment), it looks like shopping is somewhat inevitable. Cue IKEA. Or as Germans pronounce it: Ee-kay-uhh. Back home, IKEA is already overwhelming to me, but mix in the fact that now everything is either in German or Swedish and it gets crazy. It’s about a kilometer from one of the train stations, so after this little jaunt, I wander into this monstrous building. As the arrows on the path shepherd me through the maze of walkways, I realize a few things. A) I should’ve stretched before embarking on this venture. B) I lack all decorating skills outside of soccer posters and scarves. C) This is too much for my brain to handle and I’m starting to sweat out of agitation. For starters, I know I need bed sheets. My roommates were nice enough to give me a mattress, so I know I probably need a smaller set of sheets. The issue is that there’s no such thing as twin or double. They just give you the sizes. In centimeters. It may not seem like that big a deal, but when trying to estimate the size of your bed, pillow, and duvet cover, it gets a bit challenging. Another problem is that I don’t own a car. Just two hands and some feet. Carrying your IKEA bounty across town isn’t exactly the easiest process. When I was coming home after my second trip (yes I had to go twice; there’s only so much a man can carry and I may have had to return some things), I got so many stares from people wondering if I was homeless. In their defense, I was just wearing shorts in 40 degree weather and looking disheveled (I had just played basketball) with an IKEA bag bulging full of sleeping accessories sticking out the top. Twas a legitimate conjecture.

During the middle of the week, I had to go to a DAAD event. All of the scholarship holders in Berlin regardless of which country they came from were there. As far as my brutal estimation skills could say, that was something like 500 people. We had to listen to the presenters and the first two went right along (I was proud that I understood a fair amount even without the translator). The main lady though did not know about a thing called time management. She was supposed to be done speaking at 6:30. It’s 7:15, and she’s still going strong. Once she had hit 6:45, my brain said enough was enough, and I completely zoned out. After a long day of class, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Christmas time at the Reichstag. Beware children, Oliver Kahn is dressed as Santa right behind that tree.

For our epidemiology class, we have to create a public health study proposal and present it before we leave for break. This has to be done in groups. Assigned groups. Needless to say, this has proved much more challenging than I ever expected. Getting five people from completely different cultures to agree on anything is remarkably difficult. It’s finally starting to move along a bit, but for a while there, I wasn’t sure whether this was just going to break down into a slugfest.

While doing research for this project, I went to the library to get some peace and quiet. For the most part, this library is used solely by medical students. Apparently, medical students can be a bit uptight. I’m sitting there working on my computer and this girl taps me on the shoulder. She asks me something like, “Can you make it less bright?” I give her a confused look and then she points at my computer. In my mind, I’m thinking, “My computer is too bright?!?! It’s not even up halfway as bright as it goes and you’re sitting 15 feet to my left and back only one row.” That was my mind. My actions. I simply said okay and turned it down so that I could barely see the screen myself. Confrontation pansy.

Double-decker carousel anyone?

Some German words are fantastic. These are two I discovered on signs while wandering Berlin. The first is physiotherapy, which translates into krankengymnastik. This is funny because it literally means sick gymnastics. The second is the word for contraception medications. It’s antibabypille. No, I didn’t just make that up. A pill that’s against babies. Why beat around the bush?

This weekend two Gusties came. The first was my former neighbor Rachel Schmitt, who’s currently teaching English is Seville, Spain (she lived next door to my house, Shenanigans, our senior year). On Friday, we went out with a Spanish friend of hers who lives here in Berlin named Carolina. It was the craziest mix of languages. When Rachel and Carolina spoke, it was in Spanish. When Rachel and I spoke, it was in English, and when Carolina and I spoke, it was in German. A bit much for my brain to handle. After reminiscing for a bit at a bar, we went to a club. Danced our tails off like it was just another Friday night at the Dive.

She's wearing heels, I swear.

The next day, Rachel and I headed to the East Side Gallery, which is a section of the Berlin Wall with different paintings by various artists on it. After trying to interpret the meaning of these paintings and taking a picture with Flat Stanley (a paper cut-out boy sent to Rachel by her aunt’s 3rd grade class), we decided we’d had enough of the rain and headed back to the train station. From there, we went to the DDR Museum. This place is hidden quite well and after accidentally passing it, we realized that we were on the wrong side of the street. We then did a big German no-no. We jaywalked. Across six lanes of traffic. Almost got hit by a taxi. Once we reached the safety of the DDR Museum, we were able to get a feel for what life was like in communist East Germany. Everything from getting to sit in a Trabi (the only car owned by an average East German; although some officials had Volvos because equality between all people doesn’t include the elite) to learning about communal potty training to nudism as a sign of protest. It was all on display in the most interactive museum I’ve ever been to (sadly, no interactive nude beach though). From there, we headed to a Christmas market just south of Alexanderplatz. It was massive and filled with all kinds of wonderful Christmas stuff. The best part was when we were in a section of the market that had an ice skating rink surrounded by small stalls and a somewhat out of place Ferris wheel. We were getting some delicious looking chocolate treats when, all of a sudden, magic in the form of music came on ( I hope that’s legal. But it’s the terrible, yet somehow wonderful, Christmas song from Love Actually. It was so surreal to be in Germany with a Gustie listening to “Christmas is All Around” while in a festive village. You can’t dream that stuff up. After this, we went to an Italian restaurant which was selected on the simple criteria of being under ten euros and warm. After an entire day of walking around in the rain, nothing sounded better than food and heating. After eating, we parted ways after a good couple of days.

These mugs may have made their way into my backpack

The next day, Krystal Bundy, a Gustie I worked with at the Writing Center, came to visit after her semester at Oxford (it’s no Gustavus but maybe you’ve heard of it?). We first had lunch with a couple friends of hers from Berlin and then headed to the Naturkundmuseum (natural history museum). It had a big brontosaurus right at the beginning and reminded me of Sue the T-rex at Chicago’s Field Museum. While in the solar system section, I became incredibly confused. I was reading something about the sun, and it said that the surface temperature is 5.504°C. My Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion skills still aren’t the best but there’s no way the sun is just above freezing. It then dawned on me, I had forgotten that in numbers, German’s use periods where we use commas and vice versa. The sun is almost 10,000°F. That makes more sense. I now have a slightly better understanding for how a NASA spaceship can malfunction when conversions mess up American scientists. After this, we went to another Christmas market, but this time it was one that was just north of Alexanderplatz. While there, we’re having some dinner at a stand where Christmas music is being played. It first grabbed my attention when Coldplay’s Christmas song came on but then the real glory happened. A German, Christmas rap song came on. That seems so wrong on so many levels (and it was), but at the same time, it was wonderful. To cap off something that random, it ended with a jazz flute solo. Why not? After turning my attention to the real world around me, I realize someone is playing footsie with me. I look down and see a three year old sheepishly move out from underneath the table. So sneaky. After this, we headed back home.

I hope all of you out there are starting to get in the Christmas spirit. It’s infectious.

Hugs and hand pounds,



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