daily, ponderings

One step forward

Week 4, still no internet.

It’s insane how our lives depend so much on being connected with things and information on the other side of a screen.

I’ve decided to start taking some pictures this weekend, and go around to have a waltz.

The weather has been incredibly erratic. Think sunshine one moment, and then sudden hail for the next few minutes, before snow starts falling, then sunshine again. There was only that much I could do.

I attended a yoga class which was held in Deutsch. Honestly it felt awful not knowing what was coming up next and having to peek at the instructor each time. Then I decided to go check out some stores since I was in the shopping district. Ended up being terribly let down by what seems to be the worst Muji/Uniqlo store I’ve ever visited in my life. LOL.

The flea at Boxhagener Platz was completely different this weekend, which turned out to be a nice surprise. For 2 weekends I’ve checked out the same flea market and it’s always second hand stuff and furniture etc. That Saturday happened to be fresh produce, food, flowers, coffee and pastries! I went home lugging a huge cherry crumble in hand and had a good cup of coffee.

Yes, coffee. Me, the non coffee drinker has started taking in the kind of caffeine that I rejected in the past. I don’t really know why, though tea will always be #1 in my heart. I guess, I was just tired all the time, and needed an extra punch at work, also my favourite houjicha/matcha/chai tea lattes aren’t as easy to find around here. The lack of an internet means I need to go to cafes to leech on their wifi like I am doing now, and the only thing to drink is really coffee… or sugar filled Apfelsaft and overpriced smoothies that taste inferior to the ones I make.

Sunday I headed out to Lichtenberg to find this legendary Vietnamese Warehouse place I’ve heard so much about. From what I read, it sounded like a Vietnamese equivalent of Mustafa, the type of place that you spend hours in and can find everything and anything. But alas, nothing can beat the magnificence which is Mustafa and their cable tied plastic bags. No doubt this Dong Xuan Centre place was impressive, on a large scale they had most things you can’t find in Europe easy. Cheap material Asian products and produce, wholesale nail polish and everything else made in china, really. The environment was pretty cool, it brought me back to the Ben Than Market in Saigon. The air smelt like toxic nail polish, hoi sin sauce and the smell of where Asian fashion went to die in the year of 1999.

For once I didn’t feel like i was the only short person in a sea of towering Germans, so that was kind of nice. Although, I didn’t manage to find everything on my to-buy list, just because so many things were mad overpriced. Maybe this is just the cost of rare things on the other side of the world, but 3 euros for a sift and 1.20 euros for a chinese soup spoon?! I cannot justify. I ended up purchasing the sift either way because I’ve been searching for weeks and can no longer be fucked about that no more. Things were also not as easy to find when a store sells the most random combination of things under the sun. It’s basically a clusterfuck. At least at Mustafa everything is under one roof, one store and no matter how many new wings/buildings they expand, the staff always always knows where to find what you’re looking for — even if it’s for a small strand of saffron. After 2 hours I gave up looking for things and ordered a mountain of fried noodles, chomped down half till i could eat no more, and packed the rest back. Portions are massive here, have I mentioned that? How does one eat that much in one sitting…

Anyway, it’s been a relatively nice weekend even though the sun-hail-sun-rain weather’s being a bitch. I’m already counting down till company arrives!

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daily, ponderings

Still stuck.


20 days and counting, I’m 20 days in and have had a nerve-wracking time settling in. There are days where things look up, but mostly the others are incredibly tough.

What I’ve learnt about Berlin is that nothing ever gets done right the first time. Things will take multiple tries and efficiency is never as on par as back home. To say that i’m experiencing culture shock would be an understatement. Is it really culture shock if it’s just the way things work that surprises me? How backwards things really are, from paperwork processes to even something as simple as missing unit numbers in apartment. Heck they even have voice recognition bots on the line instead of pushing buttons to get you through the operator service menu. I’m well aware of the language barrier, and while I’m struggling to make an effort to speak German, the service staff aren’t making the effort to speak even minimal English. Instead I get a click and then radio silence dial tone. Hung up on, again. This almost happens on a daily basis, and I don’t know what else to do when there is nowhere else, or no one else who can help.

Helplessness.

After 20 days, the general feeling I experience on a daily basis is still helplessness. But it is not the kind of helplessness you feel when you’re stuck on a sudoku puzzle at the back of the daily newspaper. It kind of feels more like you got robbed on the streets and have nothing left, not even a phone or a penny, you don’t know what to do next because there’s absolutely no one around.

I tell myself this will eventually pass, that things will get better, that I just need to give it time. Sure it will, but how long is it going to take? Am i just being impatient? Am I trying to settle in too quickly? Is it just a norm here to have things NOT work out every time you try? Is repeated failure mandatory here in order to progress just one tiny step?

Today I went on an easter egg hunt of my own while trying to track down the parcel containing my vacuum cleaner. What appears to be lost mail isn’t so simple when the tracking number leads you to three different delivery locations, none of which are actually where my parcel should be. Every hotline you call, it takes time. And by time i mean days, or weeks, before they actually get anything fucking done. Meanwhile the guy at the packet store is yelling at me sarcastically with an apology he clearly does not mean, just to get me to hang the fuck up because he cannot do anything to help. That’s most of what I hear on the phone most days. An unapologetic apology and how there’s nothing they can do. Every little glimmer of hope you have in an operator service, or an email, or a contact point; it all lands you in a dead end, progressing as far as you’ve begun in your dilemma, if not, two steps back.

This evening, I attempted to drill some holes in the wall to mount a clothes rack. I failed terribly – again. Yet another failure. Guess those clothes will continue being in the luggage, hanging on the back of chairs, coat racks, and remain crumpled in the drawers. I also gave up and used map pins just to get makeshift curtains up against the wall since I clearly suck at drilling into walls. It’s days like these, that I feel completely useless. I experience signs of failure on a daily basis —  Paper cuts, getting burnt by the oven just taking out a tray, getting my palm sliced by a knife while making dinner, not being able to understand things at work because stuff happens in Deutsche, not being able to get home because the trains are down and I don’t know why, and nobody can tell me why. Not knowing where to find simple things like a hole puncher, or simple table salt that doesn’t come in a fancy bottle and costs 3 euros. All of these daily setbacks just adds on top of the helplessness that’s already present. There’s also a massive sense of uselessness. I’m defeated, deflated. I don’t know what else I can do to keep myself positive anymore. I knew moving here wasn’t going to be easy, but this is another level. Nothing ever seems to be going well no matter how hard I try to stay positive.

“Things are good”, i tell most people that lie when they ask how’s life here, because I see no reason to talk about petty things that don’t matter to them. Also, chances are that no one really cares, it’s all just small talk at the end of the day. Another “hey, how’s it going.”, another “how are you?”. Nothing to see here, just move along now. The world still revolves, nothing changes whether I feel defeated by this new city every single day.

I give up on that clothes rack; that awful hole in the wall. I give up on those damn curtains, I give up on finding my lost parcel, I give up on trying to get O2 on the customer service, I give up on figuring out the transport system, I give up on my internet application, I give up on trying to get the caretaker to fix my broken mailbox. I give up on trying to figure out the dishwasher, I give up on figuring out how much tax I have to pay, I give up trying to find wifi. I give up on hoping things would turn for the better, I give up giving people the benefit of the doubt. I give up on trying to hold myself together.

I just want to lie down and sleep for a long time, and wake up and be in my old bed in Portsdown, hearing the birds in the trees, having a thick cup of Teh Halia in Bussorah Street and enjoying some kaya toast in a kopitiam.

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