You May Ask Yourself, "Well, How Did I Get Here?"

So I was dismayed to look at my list of posts and realize that I had made it through practically an entire month without ever once updating this thing. Needless to say, once I realized that only about six people in the entire universe were probably ever checking it (and that two of them were my parents), I didn’t feel so guilty any more. But in the interest of a comprehensive update, I should report that I am still here (that’s important fact, the first), that I still have a job (important fact, the second), and perhaps of most interest to you, my loyal four-other-readers-besides-my-parents, I am in fact in a new “here.” That is, I have finally moved out of the horror that was Mulackstraße 27 (perfect location, shame about the landlady) and into my very own room at my very own new WG with my very own furniture (yes, that means I had to buy it all myself).

My first weekend there I was alone because both of my roommates (an Austrian brother and sister, Emilie and Johannes) were away for different reasons, but it was almost better to have the place to myself. After struggling for several hours with Ikea furniture and howling like a banshee when the damn things wouldn’t fit together (something I’m sure would have made my nice roommates reconsider their decision to invite me to come and live with them), I reveled in the fact that I, Giulia Pines, was actually now sitting in a room that I had been the only one to have a hand in decorating. I could decide where the bed went and what type of curtains to get, instead of having had it decided for me by my parents when I was five. Not only that, but I felt this tremendous sense of opportunity as well, as though somehow having a new room could make me a new person, and setting things up in strategic ways around that room could help me project exactly the kind of image I wanted. Draping vintage scarves and handbags over the open doors of an antique wardrobe would make me feel very bohemian indeed, but in a slouchy, laid back sense of the word. If I put my knitting on the windowsill, I would look very DIY and artsy-and-craftsy to anyone who walked in the room. The only thing I didn’t choose, although I’m not quite sure what message it sends, is the permanently unmade bed with rumpled covers that are forgotten every morning as I rush to get ready for work.

The room is actually quite small for Berlin but it’s cozy, and I find myself perfectly happy in it. If it were any bigger I would have to furnish it, and although I miss the decadent feel of the room I had in Neukölln when I was first here, the one I have now fits me better, and makes a lot of sense considering how little time I am actually able to spend in it. My favorite characteristic of it, though, I have to say, is the window, which looks out onto a courtyard cobbled together all Caligari-esque as if in a German Expressionist film from buildings of different shapes and sizes and architectural styles. When a room in one is light, it sort of bounces off another in a glow, and when I took a moment to gaze at the scene in our first truly warm-weather evening last Sunday, all I could think of was chimney sweeps dancing on rooftops in Mary Poppins. The whole thing seemed two-dimensional, as if I could simultaneously reach out and touch it, but also step out into it. It was simply glorious, perhaps specifically because of its non-specialness. So it was a bunch of buildings, not even a street: no people-watching at all. And yet, I felt myself distinctly conscious of the quietness and the stars: two things you never really get to experience in New York.

Lately I’ve found myself, as I somewhat depressingly like to call it, going through the end of the honeymoon period in Berlin. Everything is beginning to settle, and the surprises and moments of sheer elation are fewer and farther between. I suppose one could say I’m beginning to build a life, and yet the staidness of that concept is almost as terrifying to me as the idea of being in a foreign country, visa-less, job-less and illegal, forever. And yet I’ve found that, although perhaps the newness of being in Berlin is beginning to wear off, the trick is to find the thrill that doesn’t go away, the small pleasure of sitting on a balcony in the evening in total silence, or seeing all the people come out to bask in near-60-degree weather after six long months of grey winter. The trick is to find the things that are unique about the city I love so much, and keep on reminding myself that they’re there, regardless of whether I’m working ten hours a day in an office and building a career for myself, or running wild around the city being a student but really doing nothing at all. The newness will wear off, but the Berlin-ness will always remain.

And when it doesn’t, we’ll always have Paris (at least for weekend vacations).