The best thing I ever heard in a yoga class was this: Trust the earth to hold you. When lying in shavasana, or corpse pose, surely the easiest of all poses, flat on my back in a neutral position, the teacher would utter those words, and when she did I’d feel my bones settle ever so slightly. Only then would I realize I’d been holding myself in as if every molecule in my body needed to be drawn in tight to hold together. I’d see that I’d been resisting gravity, ignoring the fact that the body will hold itself together just fine without my help. And I noticed that when you let go of holding yourself together and sink your bones into your flesh and your flesh into the ground beneath you, you begin to float just a bit, and remarkable things happen. Continue reading →
Großer Tiergarten. Image courtesy of stadtentwicklung.berlin.de
We left the girls alone in the apartment since their groans told us they had no interest in joining us for a walk through the Tiergarten. M and I headed out midday under sunny Sunday skies, with the temps in the 40s. We took Eisenacherstraße north through our neighborhood, farther than I’d ever followed it, to the point where it changes names. I made an effort to lodge the name Courbièrestraße somewhere in my brain so I could find it again later. From there we turned right and emerged on a main thoroughfare, and I took a moment to turn around and observe the small opening, filing it away for future reference. Continue reading →
We landed within hours of one another at Melbourne Airport, arriving from opposite ends of the earth. My sister was returning from Denver, her other home, having been called back to handle a work crisis only she could solve. She flew west through California, crossed the Pacific, the equator, and the international dateline to return to her apartment.
Meanwhile I flew east, stopping in Bangkok, one 10-hour flight after another, heading east and then south to join her in the steamy mid-summer of Melbourne.
We were each exhausted in different ways, droopy eyes blinking in the blinding sun. She trundled in to work that first Friday, pushing past lack of sleep to greet her colleagues, bring them news of the ailing project back home.
“I’ve left some bags of clothes I’m going to donate,” she said before she left. “Feel free to take anything you want.” Continue reading →
Funny things happen when you paint yourself into a corner. Like, say, if you decide at the beginning of your year abroad that if Germany is not a credit-card friendly place, then you’re going to live in a cash economy. What you don’t yet perceive is that while cash is fine for small transactions like coffee or a meal out, kontos are the way to go for recurring costs, school fees, doctor visits, and so forth. A konto is a local bank account, and we simply don’t have one.
We found conflicting information about Americans opening a konto both online and from our German contacts, and the pileup of misinformation, anticipated fees, and red tape led us to throw up our hands at the outset of our stay and say fine, cash it is, occasional wire transfers will suffice. Continue reading →
It’s the departures that are the hardest; friends come to visit and it’s joyous to explore the city together, thrilling even just to see their familiar faces standing in our lobby next to us, but there’s always an undercurrent of urgency, knowing they have a finite amount of time with us, return flights booked and waiting. We show them around our neighborhood and well beyond, and I’m gratified to hear them say the same things I’ve said over the past few months—there’s no grid here, the streets are so confusing, one could so easily get lost; yet how livable it is here, how bike-friendly. But no matter how long their visit, there is always an end in sight.
M’s brother Geoff returned for Christmas to Berlin, his home away from home—his third visit since our arrival, and several more planned for this spring. He came two days after we first arrived in August; showed us around our neighborhood, pointed out where to find the best falafel, showed us the best wine stores; taught us which transit pass to buy, advised us to not walk in the bike lane.
My sister spent the past two weeks with us in Berlin. She works in Melbourne, halfway around the world. To think that she would come all this way to spend time with us was a marvel. With her I finally allowed myself to be a tourist in this town. We went on a chilly Fat City bike tour of the city; we went to the Bauhaus Archiv. We visited the Topography of Terror exhibit about the Nazi era; we went to the DDR Museum exploring the trials and tedium of life behind the Wall.
Getting to that last site was a journey in itself, involving Christmas Markets and a little midday Glühwein. Continue reading →
There’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 →