Two Years Ago

Two years ago yesterday was my first day in Berlin. Two years ago yesterday I was:

- Arriving at Tegel airport and getting into a taxi with not a word of German to my name, giving the cab driver a google map print out with the address written at the top right-hand corner, hoping he would get it without a word spoken between us. – Watching through the window as the streets sped past me backward, trying to catch a hint of an image, to clutch at one concrete moment, that would tell me what I was doing was special, was daring, was a big deal. – Giving the cabbie too big of a tip because I didn’t know yet that you don’t have to tip like you do in New York, and waiting in the cab as he, valiant knight in shining leather jacket, went off in search of the hidden entrance to the house that would be my home for the next two months. – Ringing the bell at Jansastrasse with two massive suitcases parked next to me, hoping with the rest of the strength left in my jetlagged limbs that someone would answer: the only person I knew so far in this new city. – Being greeted by Simon, a cheerful Brit with floppy blond hair who helped me with my suitcases and made me a coffee after my overnight flight. – Beinginvited on a five-hour bike ride across the entire city that became my first exhilarating, turned-around, upside-down-and-every-which-way glimpse of a city that I could not yet make sense out of. – Waking up after a nap to find that the day was still the same, and trailing after my tour guide for my first ride on this U-bahn thing I had heard so much about, to another area of the city that connected to the rest of it somehow (but I had no idea how), up a flight of stairs to a raw, industrial art space, and through a series of rooms with interactive lights and pictures and displays. – Talking to a German boy and a Danish girl and a British boy and a French girl, thinking all the time, “be cool be cool be cool” like the first day of school. – Dropping off to sleep in my palatial bedroom in my new flat and feeling that something had ended, something else just begun.

Two years ago today was my first full day in Berlin. Two years ago today I was:

- Waking up to a breakfast of croissants from what would become my favorite corner café, the Croissanterie, bought and brought back by my German roommate Gerald. – Teeter-tottering on the bike while going the long way around to Treptower Park for the Sunday flea market: along the Landwehrkanal and through Görlitzer Park, and wondering what that big raft in the middle of the canal was, making a mental note that I needed to go there (Club der Visionaere). – Wandering through a warehouse piled high with junk and treasures, thinking about how much I would buy if I actually lived in Berlin instead of just visiting. – Getting hungry and biking over a couple of streets to one which I managed to remember because it sounded so much like Frankenstein Street, eating pizza outside with both of my new roommates. – Going to our neighborhood park, Hasenheide, to meet a bunch of people for a football match and a picnic, remarking that this park would be a beautiful place to run in the mornings, and being told with a smirk by Simon, “people run in Hasenheide, but not for fun.” – Sitting on the sidelines as a bunch of boys rough-and-tumbled with each other over a football with a German woman who taught me the point of, and how to spell the word, “tschüss.” – Eating delicious homemade Japanese food from Tupperware containers, made by the two token Japanese people in the group. – Deciding at the last minute to bike off with one of them to another part of the city, right next to mine, to see an avant-garde jazz-experimental-whatever music performance at the top floor of an old brick factory building, and having my new friend tell me as we waited for the concert to start that she was planning on auditioning as a chef at an upscale Japanese restaurant in town the next day. – Going to bed too late to have a productive first day of school the next day at the Goethe Institut, where I would finally begin to learn to make sense of a strange new language, and to make even more friends that would last me through my first two years in Berlin.