It has been difficult taking into account all that has happened here in the last month. As I look at my previous post, I realize that I haven’t written in almost a whole month. Sometimes when you see pictures of things that make you really envious, you begin to tell yourself, just to make yourself feel better, that if the person remembered to stop and take a picture, it couldn’t really have been all that great. That somehow the documentation of an amazing event will always be forced and inauthentic because of the disruption involved in documenting it. The case with me is somewhat different, in that I really just haven’t had the time. Take that for what you will, because there are good and bad components to it.
The bad parts all have to do with work, and how much of it there is, so I won’t say too much about it for fear of boring you and potentially alerting certainly people to certain eventualities they would never notice on their own. It now seems we have labored through and won two out of the three pitches to the company that took up most of my time during my first three months; my boss came in on Friday evening with bottles of champagne, opened them, promptly told us there was nothing special to celebrate, then said that there actually was.
I finally have my visa, but I’ve been waiting for it so long, it hardly seems like an accomplishment anymore; just an inevitability. I took my first vacation, which was actually the first time I had been out of Berlin in four months, and went to Paris, staying with Liz in my beloved friend Judith’s absolutely adorable, perfectly-situated Le Marais flat. The emotions I had on the trip were different from those I had expected. After all, this was my tenth or so trip to Paris, and yet somehow, this ended up being the best one. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so blissfully carefree and happy–except, perhaps, when I first got to Berlin eight months ago. I had made it clear to myself that there would be no museuming and very little sightseeing. I wanted to hang around, ride the glorious Vélibs, eat fantastic food, do a bit of shopping. It turned out better than I could have expected.
I was left with a strong sense of loss over the fact that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to study abroad in Paris, and the conviction that somehow, sometime in my life, I must still find a way to make it happen. After all, even now, as I found out when I arrived, my French wasn’t as bad as I had expected. I could communicate and my accent was better than most. German somehow didn’t get in the way, but in fact helped by showing me just how much easier French always had been than I had thought. Even more so, the German helped me to speak better French in that before, I was always terrified of making a mistake. I never got over that fear that it often seems only Americans have when learning languages, that the momentary embarrassment of getting a word wrong or conjugating a verb incorrectly would far exceed the long-term inconvenience of knowing a language but just never trying. I felt compelled to have conversations with shopkeepers, and I asked questions in French instead of in English, as I had the last two times I was there. Of course, some of it may have had to do with the fact that I had Liz there, who can’t speak a word of French. The previous times I had Adrienne, Carolyn, my mother, so the urge to speak and perhaps to show off a bit was not there. It’s the same as when friends come visit me in Berlin: I instantly become twice as good in German, just to show off. However I’ll rarely speak German in front of my American friends just because I know that they speak it so much better than I do. It’s all relative.
Of course, Carole was right about the fact that Paris is an outdoor city in a way that even Berlin is not. I hadn’t quite understood what she meant, but seeing it in full-bloom, the formerly royal parks and gardens teaming with euphoric Parisians, I got it. Berlin is a city designed for both indoor and outdoor: it has canals and parks and endless acres of open space, but it also has spacious apartments and large, comfortable cafés. Berlin is a place where you can weather a winter, whereas in Paris, everything about it in winter reminds you of what you’re missing.
Now that I know there is an apartment there for me when I want it, I hope not to be missing Paris for too long.