Bye-bye Berlin

The idea was that I was going to move to Berlin while my husband waited for his green card to come through he so could work and live in the US at which point we’d move back. The process of getting the green card could take more than a year and finding a decent job in the US could take much longer. So I was planning to abandon my family and friends, and more importantly my garden, and stay for at least a year or more. Last spring when I was there we went apartment hunting, and I was really looking forward to living there. My German is not anywhere near fluent, or even existent, but I’d take classes. I’d get to know the butcher. I looked at expat groups, planned to set up a studio, we toured neighborhoods, and looked at apartments. And then just when we were about to close on a perfect apartment he got offered a great job in Wisconsin.

You can see the conflict that might have arisen for me. On the one hand the plan has always been that he would return to the US, hopefully somewhere close to Wisconsin, or easy enough to get to, and so here, this job, was better than we’d ever expected or imagined. On the other hand, no year in Berlin. No fun expat clubs filled with tedious retirees yammering on about god-knows-what, pining for Pop Tarts and Kool-aid. No trips to KaDeWe for Flügelflupfen. No flouncing around Potsdammer Platz. No Peking Ente. And yet . . .

I love Berlin. It is not as charming as Paris, although it is far less frantic, it does have its charms. There is almost nothing old (for pretty obvious reasons) but there is something so wonderful about it. I will say it isn’t the people, they’re, well, German and while they can seem rude there is a certain freedom in being completely ignored. The Germans, though, seem to be far more politically on top of things. I mean, they had Angela Merkel while we had Donald Trump, for chrissake. You can protest on the lawn right in front of their federal council, their senate.

The architecture is awesome. Walking is a joy unless you step into the bike lane. The public transport is fantastic. The city is clean, safe, there’s a great art scene (not that I’m much into art scenes), terrific restaurants. There are vast accessible parks, rivers and green spaces. There is unbelievable shopping. KaDeWe. OMG. I never liked shopping but I miss shopping, I miss stores. They have them.

It’s hard to say how the Berliners or Germans in general deal with their past. There are markers called Stolpersteine in the sidewalk all over Berlin (and many other places, even other countries the story is here) at the confiscated homes of people, Jewish, but also gay and other targeted minorities, who were murdered by the Nazis. There is a huge sobering memorial in the middle of the center of the city. There are over 20 memorials in Berlin and the full history of the country is prominently displayed inside of the Bundestag (seat of government) without ignoring this hideous aspect of their past. Is that all that’s being done? Is it enough? I don’t know. But it is not ignored or invisible.

So now I will not be living in Berlin. Husoor (who-zoor is an Urdu word for “the boss”) will be in Madison. It isn’t Milwaukee, but it also isn’t a continent away—and I have an electric car so, you know, that ol’ carbon footprint. And who knows, if the political situation in the United States gets worse I may live in Berlin after all.

Home again, home again

You know how when you come home after long and brutal 20 hour travel day and you just collapse into bed and sink into a deep, deep, richly satisfying sleep and then at 2 am the battery in the fire alarm in your bedroom runs out and starts to beep? No? Well I do.

And then after you get your ladder, because my ceilings are 75 feet high, and take the battery out you discover it’s one of those wacko rectangular batteries with “snaps” on it and it’s 2 in the morning and there is nothing open anywhere near here. Without a great deal of hope I went downstairs to the drawer above my tool drawer which is what my niece would call a “monkey drawer” but in my case is more like a “monkey island drawer” in which you can find everything from blue metallic thread to super glue to some little wooden things whose purpose is long lost to me. But there, miraculously, was one of those square snap batteries. Thank god I lit all of those candles I’m sure that did the trick.

So I got that all straightened away, still tired enough to be able to get back to sleep, I turned off the light and noticed a large black thing moving across the wall up at the ceiling near my bed. I mean, seriously????!!!?! Because I am basically blind I could not tell what it was. Too small for a bat, I hoped, too big for a spider, I hoped as well. I put my glasses on, turned on the light and discovered the largest centipede I’d ever seen in my life.

I got a fly swatter and took a whack at it only to have it fall onto me. Well. I am proud to say that my response was not as desperately fruitsational as one might expect under those circumstances, still, I noticed that lights in neighboring houses went on. But I freaking lost the thing . . . IN MY BED!!!

You know, just what you want to be doing at (now) 2:45 in the morning even on a good day. I took the bed apart, removed everything from and moved the night stand. It streaked across the floor and under the dresser with such speed I didn’t even have a chance to comprehend what was happening. I mean, the freaking thing has a million legs. The dresser is an inch off the floor and immovable. Fine. There’s a centipede living under my dresser. I am at one with nature. I went back to bed and slept until 5:45.

I’m turning into Judy

As if there aren’t enough in my life, a squirrel made an appearance at the bird feeder outside Ashish’s window—on the 5th floor with no trees in the vicinity. I know. It’s me. Usually there are just pigeons, crows and an occasional blue tit.

I leapt up and shrieked, “Get the peanuts!!!”

In fairness, the German red squirrels are smaller, sweeter and much cuter than the gray devils in my yard. We named them Judy. In case they’re nonbinary.

Cooking at home

Ten days in another country constantly eating in restaurants is exhausting. You get homesick for your own food. Or I do anyway. My mom, once, on a trip with me and my wife-in-the-eyes-of-the-Lord, to England, started crying and when I asked her what was wrong, she said she missed her spaghetti. I totally feel that. So did his Royal Mountedness. The first thing he did when we got back to Berlin after Italy was claim dinner. Surprisingly, he made Thai curry. I suppose, well, it is curry so maybe that counts but it was not what I was expecting. When it came my turn I made white bean soup (which he said was delicious—he rarely comments on food, or the food I make anyway) and mushroom lasagna.

I loved it. He did not comment. I used a packet of “forest mushroom” soup as the sauce—as a side note, this is not like using a packet of McCormick’s turkey gravy since it is in a foreign language—I took the time (I had nothing but time) to shingle the sliced mushrooms on the top. Unfortunately that was entirely lost in the final production.