Well, I’m obviously a touch behind on this thing. Apologies. I’m in much more of a summer mode these days and blogging apparently doesn’t fit into that. Seeing as I’m not even sure how long it has been since the last one, I’ll just try to recall some interesting occurrences that have happened along the way.
I recently encountered my biggest bout with racism which was terrifying and oddly exhilarating. I was sitting on the S-bahn reading a book when all of a sudden I see this man stumbling through the early evening train. He’s obviously heavily intoxicated wearing a gray beater that did little to hide the tats covering a good portion of his body. I should also probably mention the half empty bottle of vodka in his right hand (classy). He’s walking in my direction and eventually stops right in front of me. Via my peripherals, I notice him there but don’t look up from my book. All of a sudden, he starts screaming at me in German (an exceptionally terrifying language when yelled). He’s calling me a swine, street walker (obviously a touch more rude), phallus (ruder still), and many other things I probably shouldn’t write here (as well as other words I don’t even know the meaning of). This continues for at least 30 seconds, but it feels like hours. To finish his tirade off, he yells, “Who am I? Who am I? I’m everything.” What this means, I’m not exactly sure, but everything obviously doesn’t include sober. I manage to stay remarkably calm (outside of my heart beating incredibly fast) and try to seriously analyze whether fight or flight is the best action if this all escalates. Luckily, the decision I make never needs to be tested as he eventually gets bored with my inability to be provoked. He continues down the train yelling indiscriminately and kicking doors and other inanimate objects along the way. What a clown.
Switching gears, we’ve had quite a few possible new renters come look at my room seeing as my time in Europe is winding down. This process of finding a new flatmate (what is the American English word for this? Apartment mate sounds terrible and roommate seems to imply that you share a room) for my flatmates has proved to be quite interesting. Some of the people you meet are wonderful and some are just unbelievable (in the sense that it is incomprehensible what comes out of their mouths). For example, one girl walks into our place, and we start by showing her the view from our balcony. My flatmate says that we’re facing south and shows her the various points of interest one can see. Her response to this is, “Cool, so this is where the sun rises.” We all look at her like she must be joking, but she’s completely deadpan. One of us then answers, “No. Uhhh, the sun rises in the east. So where does that mean it sets?” The question is meant to throw her a bone and get out of this situation saving some face. What does she do with it? She answers confidently. With NORTH. I have never seen someone lose a shot at an apartment so quickly.
There’s an interesting concept for a bar that exists in Berlin. The place is called the Weinerei and what makes it unique is that it’s all based on honesty. You walk in and pay a two euro entry. After this, there are bottles of wine of various types laid out across the bar. All you do is grab a glass and drink whichever ones you want. Nobody watches you to see how much you’re drinking, and at the end, you pay whatever you think you drank. The level of trust this takes is incredible. It’s almost an experiment in human psychology. I’m not positive on how lucrative this whole business is, but they’re still open at least which means their patrons must be fairly honest. I sincerely wonder how well this would work back home.
Last weekend my “cousin” came to visit. When I say cousin, I’m referring to a white, full-blooded Italian, so we’re definitely related by marriage. We had some great adventures. One of which was going to an abandoned amusement park that is supposedly hidden somewhere on the eastern side of Berlin. We get to a place known as Treptower Park and start weaving our way along the river. As we’re going, we encounter a faux-polka dancefest-ish shindig. There’s an outdoor beirgarten (beer garden; imagine that) with plenty of old people either dancing or sitting around and watching. Sounds like pretty standard, stereotypical Germany, but you must never forget, we’re in Berlin. With that being the case, even these oldies are rocking outrageous outfits (leopard print’s a hot commodity). We go in and start partaking in the festivities. No matter the tune (they’d even mix in a bit of electronic music with their polka business), the same dance seemed to come out. It’s some sort of partner dance that vaguely reminded me of the polka (admittedly, my only experience of polka-ing is from the “Senior Prom” I attended a couple times at one of Fargo’s retirement homes) but mixed with a trendy, new-age flair. These sunbaked, 70-something cougars are definitely on the prowl for fresh meat with their big bellied, beer guzzling partners trying to keep them in check. We decide to continue our journey before causing any fireworks.
As we continue meandering down a path along the river, we notice a fence in the trees. It looks like the kind of fence that’s meant to keep people out of an abandoned park, but by the looks of it, we aren’t the first ones to have this idea. One piece is so bent it almost seems like a perfect bike ramp (minus the trees you’d crash into midair). Well, we scale the fence, and after traversing a small bit of forest, we encounter a walled off stream. Finding some boards that are set up across it, we get to the other side and then realize we just went over a water ride (like Splash Mountain except with water that’s putrid). As we continue to wander, we find a portion of a roller coaster track weaving its way through the trees. All of a sudden we come to an area that reminds me of the Elephant Graveyard Scene in The Lion King. The old, corroded metal beams and faded red cars (more pods I guess) seem to harken back to a time long past. I’m half expecting some hyenas voiced by Whoopie Goldberg to pop out and try to attack us. Luckily, Germany’s hyena population is fairly low.
We continue to venture and eventually see a path in the distance with a family on it. Slightly confused, we approach slowly. As it turns out, they’re letting people visit one small section of the park today. We duck under some red and white caution tape and pretend like we’ve been there all along. We start walking in the opposite direction of the family but, within a minute, are stopped. Strangely, it took us coming to the “legitimate” part of the park to get told off by a security guard. We now go in the direction of the family, and on our way out, we still get to see the various giant plastic dinosaurs that are strewn about randomly. I don’t know who designed this place, but he was a master curator. No doubt about it.
I have now learned probably the greatest German word ever. Vokuhila (I realize it looks like the name of an Eastern European dictator). Well, it’s more of an abbreviation. It stands for vorne kurz, hinten lang. This glorious phrase means “short in the front, long in the back” aka what the cool kids call a mullet.
I absolutely love the Olympics, and it certainly is different watching them in a foreign country. One surprising thing is that Europeans just don’t seem to care about them quite like we do in the States. One big advantage we do have though is that there seems to be an American in virtually every final (which I never fail to remind my friends here). Not quite the same for the Germans… anyway, I definitely do miss the overtly pro-American commentary, Bob Costas, and the Olympics intro music (dunnn, dunnn, du, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, du, dun, du, dun, dun, dun, dudun, dun, dun, dun). But watching the German version does keep things interesting. Number one being this swimming announcer pictured stage right. Apparently when you’re that good looking, you can get away with wearing a t-shift with a dog wearing a clown nose on national television. Seriously Germany? I understand that you don’t feel the need to be in a full suit like most of our analysts, but next thing you know, Hannah Montana is going to be splayed across her front.
Secondly, watching the Olympics from an outside culture, you see how scewed our perception of the Games are. I love American patriotism, especially when it comes to the Olympics, but in some of the articles I have been reading, it seems as though we forget the rest of the world exists. ESPN had a list of the best 30 Olympians, and all of them were American. I realize they’re writing for an American audience and probably don’t actually believe that no non-American would make this list, but how can you then write the 30 best Olympians of all time?
Thirdly, as a man with a complicated name, I totally understand the difficulty that comes with pronouncing something correctly. I mean, first day of classes were always an adventure because I never knew what was going to happen. I usually just assumed whenever there was a long pause after someone with an R last name that they had got to me. I even had a 9th grade math teacher who the entire first semester called me Hasa after being repeatedly told by me and the rest of the class that that isn’t right (the second semester she tacked on one more letter and I was called Hasan; another year and she would’ve had it). Now if I was an Olympian, I would appreciate it if people at least attempted to sound out my name beforehand. If I was a possible medal winning Olympian, maybe having some idea how to pronounce the name is a good thing. Or at the very least, not laughing when you say it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Huang Qiushuang, a Chinese gymnast, during the German broadcast. Admittedly, I have no idea how to say this correctly, but after saying her name, the German announcer started giggling uncontrollably. I also can’t lie and say I didn’t start laughing a little during his gigglefit, but I’m also not on national television. The worst part, this happened three separate times…
Hope summer is treating all you folks well back in the States.
Hugs and hand pounds,