So I’ve been really bad about posting in my blog. I really love to write, but having just finished college, I think it might remind me a little too much of homework at the moment. Also, the longer I put it off the more I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it. Since it’s been so long I broke this post up into questions that I figured would be basic things people would want to know. So, without further ado, here’s my first real Berlin blog post…
So, for starters, where do I live?
When I finally arrived in Berlin I was completely shocked seeing my new apartment (don’t worry- in a good way). After being told in my interview with ASF that I would have to be prepared for very simple and modest accommodations, I was shocked at the size of my new apartment. Each room is a different size, but they’re all big and especially the one I immediately claimed for myself. I was told not to get too attached to my room because I wasn’t guaranteed to be able to live there when we got back from our seminar, but it’s so wonderful I just knew it was mine. It has nice hard wood floors, high ceilings and large windows that look out over our nice tree-lined street, where you can see just the tops of some other old Berliner roof tops peeking out from the leaves. It was everything I hoped for moving to Berlin. Lucky for me though, all my roommates (there’s five; all either European or Israeli) thought that my room was too big. What a crazy concept! So now, I am very happily settled in my room that might be too big for European standards, but for my American tastes, it’s just fine. On top of that, we’ve gotten to turn the other room that’s “too big” into a living room, so I have everything I could have asked for. I’ve also finally gotten everything I need to feel at home in my new room after my “sheet fiasco”, which involved running to stores around the city, attempting to somehow acquire sheets that actually fit my bed and that aren’t ugly (it’s incredible how difficult it was to find plain white or red sheets here)! Buying bedding was very hard for me to do here because they don’t use the standard twin/double/queen/king system that we do in the States. Instead, it’s in centimeters. Centimeters! What do they think I am?- A freaking mathematician! There’s a reason I opted out of taking any math senior year of high school, so getting used to this system where I actually have to know how much a centimeter is was not the most fun. Finally, Ikea came to the rescue, though with sheets that were solid colors and magically happen to fit my bed. Finally, I have a room that is relatively put together!
So that’s my apartment. The area I’m living in is called Neukölln, which is a large district of Berlin and is very diverse within itself. Our section of Neukölln is called the Schillerkiez and it’s a nice, quiet area with a few bars and restaurants that are just starting to pop up since this area is starting to become more trendy with lots of hipsters moving in and so on. There’s lots of school children that run around the playground outside our apartment all the time, since we happen to live on top of a Christian elementary school (it’s kind of a strange set-up, but it works and also means we don’t have downstairs neighbors- yippie!). We also have some friendly, harmless local drunks that hang out in the parkway outside our buildings and seem to have kind of built their own little community. It’s a community that also includes some adorable little pups that I’ve never gone over to pet or anything, but there’s still something comforting about coming home everyday and seeing the same adorable, scruffy little faces. On the whole, the Schillerkiez is a very diverse neighborhood that I can only describe as somehow being a mix of being family, immigrant and hipster friendly.
The area is actually very up-and-coming today because of one major change in the last few years. Until (I think) about five years ago or so, this was considered a bad part of town and no one wanted to live here because there’s a major airport (Tempelhof) just a couple blocks from where we live. It’s actually where the Berlin Airlifts took place (fun fact!). The airport was shut down a few years ago and has now been turned into a park. This has been great for me because I have to walk one block down the street and then I get to go on my runs on a giant landing strip with people all around biking, windsurfing and rollerblading. The first time I went, I really did feel like I’d stepped back into the 90s with all the roller bladers!
What has my work consisted of so far?
When I first arrived at work, I had no idea what to expect. I’d been told at some point I might have to do some translation work, the thought of which terrified me because I can barely hold down a conversation in German. As great as my English skills might be, I thought there was no way I would be able to manage to translate anything worth while.
As soon as I started work, guess what my first assignment was? You guessed it- translating! My first assignment was only to correct the English that was already in a document that has to be sent to all the summer camp participants, but on my second day my boss asked me if I could do some from German to English translation. I’d already told her I didn’t think my German was good enough, but as all Germans do, she assured me, even after I had only managed to have a basic conversation with her in broken German, that I would be fine. As insecure as I was about my abilities to handle the task, I agreed to give it a try. As it turns out, Olivia plus a little help from Google Translate actually makes a pretty good translator. Since then, most of my assignments at work have consisted of translating these documents that confirm the participation of the summer campers. Since then, I’ve also had other translation things to do for another department because being a native English speaker is actually amazingly useful at an international organization. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated with my German speaking abilities, it at least makes me feel better that my English skills are so useful. Other than translating, I’ve mostly has a lot of e-mails to send, some envelop stuffing and things of that nature, but not too much.
I usually go into work around 10 because my boss gave me permission to come an our late and work later, if necessary. That offer was hard for this Sleeping Beauty to pass up. As hard as I tried to make it there at 9 the first couple weeks, I’ve kind of given up. A girl needs her sleep. So I get to work around 10, do my translating work for a couple hours, then go on my lunch break. The area I work in is very nice and upscale, but it’s still Berlin, so there’s cheap bakeries where I can get some pasta salad or sausages or pita pockets, etc. I take it to go and then go eat in this courtyard right across the street from work. It’s a nice little place with a restaurant, a couple clothing stores, some trees and some benches. It’s the perfect place to decompress in the middle of the day. I’ve actually been noticing more an more tourists coming there to see it because apparently, when some people come to Berlin, old courtyards are on the top of their list of things to see. Who knew?
So, I go back to work, usually until about 5 or 6 (sometimes earlier) and then I head home. One lovely Friday afternoon, I took advantage of getting off work early and walked down to Museum Island, which is just a 15 minute stroll from work. It was such a beautiful day out that before I even went in the Altes Museum, I decided to lay in the grass by the river, where I promptly fell asleep for about half an hour. I then continued on my way to the museum to see a stunning exhibition of a giant collection of some of the most amazing Romantic paintings I’ve ever seen. Life is really tough here. Just kidding- I’ve been loving (almost) every second of it and I can’t believe how lucky I am that those are the kinds of things I get to do on a Friday afternoon.
One of the nice things I should point out about working for ASF, as well, is that my “typical days” aren’t necessarily that typical. I definitely get to participate in a variety of different things working there. One day, I finished early, so I could meet with a group of American students, who wanted to learn more about the organization, a couple weeks ago I worked at a book signing and the week before that I only worked at the office for two days, so that I could attend a seminar for people who ran the summer camps this year. We got to stay in a castle in the small town of Wewelsburg in the west of Germany, so I can’t complain too much about that.
I could keep going on, but this seems like a lot of information for now. Next time, I’ll try to post more about things outside of work. It always seems like I’m doing something. There’s never a dull moment in Berlin. Till then!