Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ridiculous

horseThere’s a moment when a train starts moving when common sense dictates you should hold on to something bolted down. It’s a really bad time to try to go for that open seat you just noticed a little ways down the car.

There are plenty of clues a train is about to pull away: the words “Zurupt bleiben bitte” or whatever it is they say at every station before the doors close, the red light flashing above the closing doors. If you’re not holding onto something, you will soon find yourself moving too. I know this, but open seats still tempt me.

Sometimes, even though I realize that the train is about to move, it hasn’t quite left yet, and I am sure that I can make it to that next pole, away from the tight knot of people around me, if only I can… Continue reading

The uneven nature of homesickness

bottlesThere is nothing like attending a young person’s birthday party to make you feel like a kid again. My rowing friend invited me to her 26th birthday party, making her alarmingly close to 20 years younger than me, but somehow her friends did not seem put off by the grey threads in my hair and the three not-so-small children back at my apartment.

Germans! They are remarkably civil. They will talk to you even if they have to switch languages to do so. They will talk to you even though you are not hip and cool and you still use words like hip and cool. They want to know what you think about what’s going on in the world. They notice you exist; they want you to have a good time. They are polite. They are interested. And they like to drink. Continue reading

The single story

A chance posting by a friend on Facebook led to some reflection about this place where I am and how I am approaching it. And a dose of recognition.

“Quick, tell me, what are you reading right now and do you like it?” she asked.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m loving it,” came my reply.

Soon after, my friend replied that she too enjoyed that book, and had I seen Adichie’s TED talk? I may find it relates to where I am now, she wrote. No, I had not. I tracked it down. I watched it. I felt the cold creep of recognition. I feel compelled to share this. Continue reading

A whiff of the past

PinocchioLast Friday M and I received remarkable gifts from two new friends, one his, one mine.

At 8:30 a.m., after the girls had left for school, a rower from the club came by our flat bearing toys for the kids. She and I have been rowing together for a couple of months now, and she always looks out for me at the boathouse. She had come for dinner a few weeks earlier and had noticed the lack of toys for the kids. She grew up in Berlin not so long ago, being only in her mid-twenties, and so she arranged to pick up some of her childhood toys from her parents to share with our girls. She brought us a box full of Legos with a pirate set, tons of little people, and even some Lego monkeys, two parrots, and a shark. There was also a bag full of stuffed animals, and bag of books. Continue reading

A night at the opera

La Traviata Ruth WalzMy turn came up; I would be accompanying M to the opera. He has been to a number of operas already, of course, but now he has companion tickets, and he’s looking for company. For the first time since we came to Berlin, M and I would be going out in the evening without the kids. A date.

This was a last-minute switch with S. She was the one who was supposed to see La Traviata with her dad. But for a number of reasons, including a biology test slated for the next day, I would go in her place. And I was not prepared.

“You haven’t even read the synopsis,” M said.

“I can find it!” said E, jumping up from her puzzle on the floor. She sat down at M’s laptop and proceeded to log in to the Metropolitan Opera website, and in a moment she had brought up the synopsis of La Traviata, the exact page he’d suggested. Eying her like she’d grown wings, I sat down beside her and started to read. Continue reading

It’s so easy to be green

Solar array on Berlin city hall

Solar array on Berlin city hall

Here in Berlin it is, anyway. I don’t have a scientific way to measure how much of a smaller footprint our family has on the earth in this flat compared to back home, but there are many ways in which we are consuming less energy without sacrificing any comforts at all.

Hot water

The first thing we noticed in our flat is that every time you use the hot water in the kitchen, the hot water heater in the corner kicks on to replenish what you’ve just used. It’s mounted on the wall in the kitchen, just six feet from the sink. You turn the water on, and if the handle isn’t pulled all the way to the right, where the cold water is, then you’ll hear the pilot click on and a quick blast of heat echoes however long you ran that water. It’s as if someone is forever sweeping up after you, removing all trace of you. I feel good whenever I beat the system and don’t kick on the hot water heater. Continue reading

The Paris glasses

Paris glassesHow is it that the sight of a familiar object can send me tumbling backwards? I thought I was making such progress here.

Back in the winter of 2006, when I was pregnant with E, M’s parents came to look after our girls, and M and I flew to Paris. We each happened to have some work we could do there to justify the week-long trip. A visit to the Shostakovich archive for M, a presentation to urban planners at the Sorbonne for me. Continue reading