Healthy and Happy

Posted on January 15th, 2012 by

The American, German, French Connection aka the roommates

And we’re back (said like the Jimmy Fallon skit with Man in the Can and all those other great characters). I’ve now recovered my strength (and control of my bowels). A worthy accomplishment.

Anyway, this week we finished our epidemiology module and with it, our introductory courses to public health. On our last day, we were critically appraising various studies. One was on a few hospitals in Kenya where health professionals were sending text messages to patients and accessing whether this weekly reminder/increased ease in communicating health issues would benefit patients (it actually did with some pretty staggering results). During this discussion, one of my classmates was saying how effective texting was in a campaign he did with homeless, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth. For those that didn’t have a cell phone, they usually tried to get the number of a friend or family member. One of the homeless youths response to this was, “Yeah, you can text my mom, but you can’t tell her I’m gay.” Maybe out of context this isn’t the funniest, but I nearly died. It could be that the thought of telling someone to text my mom and expecting that information to actually get to me makes me laugh (technology and my mother don’t have the best relationship). Or maybe it’s the challenge that must lie in trying to text someone about homeless LGBT events without alluding to anything LGBT (or saying that LGBT is a church group acronym for life gets better together). Either way, twas an unexpected laugh.

Berlin, like any big city, has its fair share of beggars, street performers, etc. Having lived here for a touch over four months now, I’ve become quite used to this, but every once in a while something still surprises me. I was at an u-bahn stop and there was an older Turkish man with an accordion. It’s pretty standard how the gig works. He plays, asks for money, and hopefully he gets some change for his time. This I’m used to. As we’re waiting for the train, I see him mosey on over to the garbage can. He then pulls a used coffee cup and some napkins out of it. He cleans the cup with the napkins and now he’s got his collection plate. This got me for some reason. You really must be going through tough times when you need to pilfer garbage cans for a disposable cup (or you’re just terrible at planning ahead). Anyway, we get on the subway and he starts playing. The difference though is that this man gets into it. He starts singing, hooting and hollering, and making eyes at one of the ladies sitting next to me. It’s what I imagine the atmosphere at a Turkish wedding to be like. Awesome. And unlike most people who play for about a minute and then quickly move on to the next train, this guy went on for at least five minutes and had the whole train’s attention (including the quite embarrassed, beet red German lady getting the googly eyes). It was cool to see someone who truly loves performing even if his stage is simply a revolving carousel of subway cars. You, sir, have got my respect (as well as my change).

A glass just broke; Cecile isn't fazed.

This past Friday we had a party/celebration commemorating the birth of one of my roommates (Jassi, the deutscher) and my own housewarming. Our place isn’t the biggest with only a small kitchen, bathroom, three bedrooms, and a hallway, but we probably had about 50 people here. It felt a bit like being back in college with a few exceptions. The age range went up to about 35. Various languages could be heard all over the place (a bit confusing, especially when you meet someone new and you’re not exactly sure which language to use). Oh, and no one ever yelled, “Polizei,” to scare off freshmen. With such limited space, there were a bunch of people in my freshly decorated room (decorated just means a bunch of pictures taped up on the wall along with a clothesline picture hanging apparatus designed by the Pintrest queen herself, Karen Maus; danke Babs). I was made fun of relentlessly for a few pictures from Halloween/other costume affairs (I don’t know how anyone can hate on Enrique Iglesias flanked by farm animals). My golden retriever, Tess, was the star of the wall as always. Anyway, by the time four in the morning rolled around, it was time for people to leave (loitering stops being cool at that point). With the final stragglers out, we drew the curtains on a successful party and went to sleep.

Berlin, I’d like to give you a quick thank you for something known as Begrüßungsgeld (welcome money). What is it? It’s a free 100 euros the city gives you. Really though, I think it’s just an apology for the bureaucratic hell they put you through as you arrive. I’m guessing the average person doesn’t wait four months to get this, but with my abysmal short term memory, it didn’t happen til now. Even so, it’ll be put to good use.

Sexy and I Know It

There’s one very interesting thing you will notice as you roam Germany. Many dogs aren’t on a leash. With that being said though, they follow commands better than most humans (they’re just as German as their masters). I mean, Tess is perfection covered in fur, but there’s no way I’d walk around downtown Minneapolis without a leash on her. That’s just asking for trouble. But here, not that odd.

The Turkish Market. Probably one of the greatest things in all of Berlin. It goes on every Tuesday and Friday, and it’s very seldom that I miss it. Why? Well, last time I only purchased about 20 clementines for a euro. It’s absolutely incredible how cheap it is. If you know where to look, you can get most any fruit or vegetable for about 4 times less than you’d pay at a grocery store. This isn’t even mentioning the wonderful circus atmosphere that it can have at times. You’ve got hordes of people pushing through (including Turkish mothers lugging their canvas trolleys around searching for a good deal; you know if they’re buying something that it’s probably a worthwhile investment) and vendors selling all kinds of random crap from fish to clothes to knives (as well as cotton candy which feels out of place even for here). Now that I think about it, it’s a bit like an outdoor Wal-Mart (except not corporate and more awesome).

I went to a unique restaurant earlier this week. I was craving a burger so I ventured to a place I’d heard about called White Trash. It was definitely peculiar. On the inside, it looked like a gaudy Chinese restaurant with dragons, Chinese lamps, etc. Then, you look at the menu, and it feels like you’re getting yelled at by a Southerner. It’s all in English and they drop the f-bomb quite liberally. They even have ribs. So the next time I’m in the mood for some Famous Dave’s or a good tongue lashing, you know where I’ll be.

I am shame-faced.

I’ve also been doing a bit of cooking myself. I tried making Chinese fried rice for the first time (I guess the White Trash décor got to me). Other than needing to google how to cook rice without a rice cooker (as an Asian, it’s hard to admit that; both that I don’t have a rice cooker and also that I don’t know how to make rice without one), it turned out pretty decently. Today, armed with the spices my mother sent back with me, I made some Sri Lankan food for my roommates. Other than our apartment smelling like the homeland, it was a success.

In mid-February we have a week off, so I figured I’d get out of Germany for a bit. I’ll start by going to Geneva, Switzerland for about four days. Then it’s off to Madrid, Spain where I’ll spend another couple days. Finally, I’ll end the excursion with about five days in London, England. Best part is that all of those plane tickets are only going to cost me $163. Oh Europe, you sure do know how to get me.

This coming week we’re about to start problem based learning in school. This means that I’ll be working through a public health related case every week with a small group of seven. The same group. For the next 12 weeks. Here’s to a happy and healthy group dynamic.

Hugs and hand pounds,


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