So, So Close

Posted on December 11th, 2011 by

This beard made from cotton balls was more realistic than "Santa's"

Just completed my last full week of school before heading back to America. Not going to lie, ridiculously excited for those two weeks of glory. It’ll be amazing to see my friends and family, and to top it off, my sister-in-law is due to have their first child on Christmas day. I’m going to be an uncle. Watch out world. There’s about to be another Samaraweera inhabiting this earth.

I'd be fine with her as my flatmate

I went bouldering this week with my German flatmate (in case you haven’t watched enough Kiera Knightley films to know this, flat = apartment in British English). Bouldering is essentially climbing but shorter distances, more intense, and without a harness. The first time I tried it, I flew up the wall. I felt pretty good about myself and thought this really isn’t that difficult. When I came back down, I was then instructed that you’re only allowed to use the holds of a single color (I used four) and that you have to stick to that path. Following the rules makes this substantially more challenging. Also, I didn’t grasp the whole concept that you shouldn’t use their arms for everything (my roommate: “you’ve got four extremities; actually use them.”). After a few more attempts, my forearms were screaming. They’ve never been called into action quite like this before. I took a break and watched the other people there pull crazy monkey-esque moves where they contorted their bodies in outrageous fashions to get to the next holds. Also, there’s another part that is essentially a cave, and so these people are completely upside down somehow holding their entire body weight on these tiny plastic protrusions (pretty sure Spiderman would struggle with this stuff). It really is quite amazing. After my rest, I went back at it for a while. Learning certainly is a slow process, but at the very least, I think I’ve gotten the hang of utilizing all my extremities. Somehow two hours passed, and I realized that I should get home seeing as I was to have an exam the following morning. Probably should’ve done that earlier, because my forearms were sore for the next four days. Not ideal.

Thursday morning we had our big biostatistics exam which I think went fairly smoothly. To be honest, I’m just glad it’s over. Anyway, that afternoon I ended up going to a mall to return some things I had purchased a couple weeks earlier (like the 15 euro, aka $20, towel that I bought, because I couldn’t find a single other store in the mall that sold towels; for $20, both Dolce and Gabanna better be giving me their own towels). A couple observations while I was there. Like most malls, they had the big Christmas tree, decorations, and all that jazz. I was reasonably impressed, but then I saw “Santa” (I can’t even give him the respect of calling him Santa without the quotation marks). Not only was this man’s beard obviously fake but you could actually see the elastic bands that wrapped around his ears to secure it to his face (Buddy the Elf would’ve had an aneurism). Step your game up Deutschland. The second interesting sight was a coffee shop. I agree coffee shops are pretty much a mainstay of malls, but this one had one slight difference. On one wall it sold a random assortment of completely non-coffee related merchandise. When I say “non-coffee related merchandise,” I mean underwear/lingerie (yeah, I’ll have a mocha latte and that black brazier; you’ve got to be kidding me). Moving onto the rest of the day. I played basketball as has become my Thursday night ritual. Midway through, I went to fill up my water bottle in the locker room. Typically, we are the only ones in the building at this time, but unbeknownst to me, that wasn’t the case today. As I walked into the locker room, I was met by a sea of naked, old German men. After having this image burned into my mind, navigating through that wrinkly ocean to get to the sink seemed unnecessary. I wasn’t thirsty any more.

This beard made from cotton balls and tape was more realistic than "Santa's"

Raman noodles are a staple for many college students. I may not be in college anymore, but I am definitely still cheap. Sadly, Raman doesn’t exist here, but there are many similar instant noodle products that you can buy at Asian stores. I tried one this week. Once I opened the package, three little packets fell out. Being used to the single seasoning that Raman uses, I was intrigued. One was the typical flavoring stuff. The second was some kind of chili. The third though I’m still a bit baffled. It was some kind of gel-like butter (this is still a guess though; I lack the ability to actually read Chinese). It’s probably also worth pointing out that this “butter” was also semi-translucent. I tried a little bit, and then decided it was unnecessary to ever put that anywhere near my mouth again.

This weekend marked the first time I was actually at my apartment when it was light out. With that being the case, I figured going for a run to explore the area was a good call. I live in what was formerly East Berlin (the communist side), and it was like I was running through history. One of my first destinations was Karl-Marx-Allee. This is a massive street that was meant to exemplify the grandeur of the DDR (just the sidewalks are large enough to walk ten to fifteen people abreast). Colossal apartment complexes flank the street like a kind of ominous ode to the scale of communist construction. Their thought was to make palaces for the common man, and in classic DDR style, they passed up on making anything ornate or beautiful and just went with really big (definitely compensating for something). This street eventually led me to Alexanderplatz (holds one of the Christmas markets I went to last week) which is a huge square that was the stage for the largest protest in East German history. This gathering was a crucial step in the fall of the Berlin Wall. From there, I ran to a park with some interesting statues. Mostly children with farm animals. Yup, you read that right. Stone kids with kids (goats) and such. I don’t ask questions. Anyway, it’s amazing to have so much history right outside your front door.

Holy Straße

I enjoy myself a good dancefest every once in a while. With that said, Saturday night some people from my class and I went to a place called Clärchens Ballhaus. It was a surreal experience. When walking in, it felt like I was transported to an 80s prom night (there was an unnecessary amount of silver streamers everywhere). The one big difference, this prom had no age restrictions. You had some dignified old people, middle aged individuals waiting to cut loose on the dance floor, and also a slightly younger crowd thirsting for something other than electro. Just all walks of life. Also, there was a band reminiscent of the Rockin’ Hollywoods playing all the hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and not today. Most of the songs were in English, but it got real interesting when they’d throw down German 80s music. To top it off, listening to “Neun und Neunzig Luftballons” (99 Red Balloons) while surrounded by Deutschers was magical. So much dancing and singing. That’s hard to beat.

Anyway, just have to get through a presentation this week and then I’m home free. Literally, free to go HOME. Except for one minor catch. I still don’t have a visa… we’ve been promised that we’ll get them on Thursday. I fly out Friday. Don’t let me down German bureaucracy. Don’t let me down.

Hugs and hand pounds,




  1. steve olson says:

    you look more like Tagore than Santa