Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Am in School, After All

I know a lot of you want to hear about my classes, but, subconciously even, I feel like if I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything. I, along with many other people, was disappointed with my classes. Additionally, a lot of us had to scramble to get into a German class, since they filled up very quickly. It's also been a frustrating experience because the Humboldt system is so different from the one I am used to in Toronto. Then my credits got confused, and all of my schedule disintegrated except for three classes. So, as of Tuesday, I was only in three classes, when I should have been in about six or seven.

My classes are International Human Rights Politics, Contemporary British Fiction, Gender & Leadership in the Civil Rights Movement, German, and Turkish. I won't go into details, 'cause that's when I start to sound like a cranky foreigner. I will just say that Humboldt needs to build some bigger classrooms.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


After biking around with your bike basket full of Ikea goods and dressing for the deep freeze when it's only 52, nothing could be more Berlin than falafel.
Well, at least in my mind.
Falafel is so cheap and plentiful here that I often think of prices in terms of falafel, usually to help me save my money (e.g. that dress is 10 falafel, which, even as I think about it now, sounds like I should really not be buying that dress). I also generally refuse to pay more than 2.50€ (2€'s even better), though Elisabeth got me to shell out 3€ the other day to try "the best falafel ever." In case you're wondering, it was worth it.

Falafel is a serious thing. For example, don't get a falafel around Hackescher Markt. I had the disappointment of my life there: 2.50€ and bad. Even though it was 8 pm and it was my dinner, I couldn't finish it. Don't ever eat at a falafel place that doesn't fry up fresh falafel. I've also become friends with all the guys at Ali Baba, who so far are the winners. Ali Baba is 2€, prime location- right by the U-Bahn stop I use to get home, and 24 hours.

Now we've discovered falafel in Kreuzberg, and I think I might be making extra trips to Kreuzberg in the future. 1.50€ and just as good as the 3€ falafel that's in Mitte. Oh, Turkish people, I love you. Thank you for making Berlin your home.
I had a falafel for breakfast this morning on my way back from sleeping at Elisabeth & Jen's, and I was thinking about how nutritiously sound it is. You've got everything: protein, good carbs, dairy (yogurt sauce), veggies. Mmm. Perfection.
Without rereading it (because my internet is so unreliable), I'm going to guess that my last post was pretty boring. And I'm sorry for that. The thing is, I did have things to say, I just forgot them as soon as I sat down at my computer. Let's try again, and see if I can be more interesting.

I have done some cultural activities lately. Going back into tourist mode felt a little weird at first. As part of getting cultured, Elisabeth and I went to Martin Gropius Bau. I originally thought that this was the Bauhaus Archive, and that's why we went there, but I was wrong; it's a small museum with no permanent collection. When we were there, it had two photography exhibits from Eugene Atget and Roswitha Hecke. They were both really interesting, though I was baffled by how Atget managed to take so many photos of Paris streets with no people in them. Atget was a photographer way back in the day, so it was interesting to see photos from the 1890s, but there were rooms upon rooms of his work, and it got a little redundant. Hecke's work was much more thought-provoking. Most of her photos were from the '60s-'80s. I think I will definitely go back to the MGB to see other exhibits there.

I also went and saw the new Fatih Akin film, "Auf der anderen Seite" (On the Other Side). Another one of Akin's films, "Head On," is my favorite movie ever, so I was very excited to read all of the press he's getting for his new film and then go and see it. It was great! All of his films deal with the Turkish-German experience, and he says that the two movies ("HO" & "OtOS") are part of a trilogy he is making on "life, death, and the devil." Not sure what to make of that, but I would really recommend seeing "Auf der anderen Seite" if you have a chance (definitely would involve a trip to Squirrel Hill for those of you in Pittsburgh).

Another place I've discovered is the House of World Cultures. I think it might have an art gallery (still trying to figure that out), but I've been there for a few talks. They were having a conference on transatlantic relations of some sort a few weeks ago, where Hikmat and I went to talks on transatlantic law and global corporate responsibility. This weekend they are having a conference entitled "New York- Berlin: Cultural Diversity in Urban Spaces." I went to the keynote lecture, given by a prof from Columbia, on Thursday evening. With conferences like that, they have speeches in English and German, with simultaneous translation. It's a cool place that'll stand in as my Munk Centre (where I usually like to attend free talks) while I'm away from Toronto.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I don't have anything in particular to blog about right now, but I figured an update was overdue. The past 1.5 weeks have gone very quickly, even though we had last week off and a few friends went home. I've been enjoying the nightlife of Berlin, not enjoying the fact that the subways shut down at night, buying tons of produce at the Turkish market, and thinking about how great Berlin is. I felt very much like I fit in biking back after a trip to Ikea one day. It's easy to understand if you've been here: there is little that is more Berliner than someone biking with their bike basket full of Ikea goods. At Ikea my friend, Elisabeth, and I bought fabric to sew into tote bags for our Turkish market shopping. The fabric will definitely brighten things up when it's cold and dark, which, unfortunately, I think might be sooner than we'd like.

We started class on Tuesday, but I'll write more about my classes after next week, because I still have one tomorrow and two of them don't start until next week. I successfully used the laundry room again. Last week I hooked up with a pub tour group and decided to go on the tour with them after some American guys invited me along. It was fun to talk to Americans-- I must say, we are friendly. Some might be conservative, some might be ignorant, some might be obnoxious, but we've got personality. And you can find those traits in any country. I like all of the people I've met here, but it was nice to spend some time with the Americans.

I'll be going to Praha on November 1 (with a 29€ train ticket!), meeting my Toronto friends Olivia and Meaghan, who are studying in Paris, there. I'm very excited to see both them and the city! Now to find a hostel... Additionally, it looks like I'll be going to Istanbul, where my friend Kate is, for Thanksgiving. It feels great to be making these plans. I love Berlin, but I can't wait to see some more of Europe!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Today I finally made it to the famous Turkish market at Maybachufer, in Kreuzberg, the traditionally Turkish neighborhood. And I was in heaven! Good, cheap food, including ready-made stuff that all looked amazing plus boisterous Turks advertising their produce made a combination fit to make me spend every penny there. The best find were pomegranates-- which weren't really a find at all, since they were everywhere-- that are absolutely gorgeous. I bought two of the deepest red pomegranates I have ever seen, and I've since cracked one open, and it is unbelievably sweet.

My Fahrrad

Here's a picture of my bike hanging out in its parking spot at the subway station. After purchasing it for 40€, I quickly had to put the chain back in place twice in 21 hours. Things weren't going so well. Since it's an old mountain bike, it has finnicky gears. I'm not sure why, but that's what the mechanic who sold it to me told me. I went back to the mechanic for a quick lesson in how to not end up popping the chain off. We've since worked out a very amicable relationship, and enjoy squeezing past busses and riding off curbs together.