Dienstag, 16. April 2013

4 years in Berlin

I did not know too much about the place I was landing
Four years ago, I was landing in a city I hardly knew, excited to start a new chapter in my life. Beyond the stereotype of 'starting a new chapter...' it was how things went on in the past 208 weeks. Except the time when I was a kid, it is the first time in my adult life when I continuously live for so much time in the same place, without changing the address and the town and the country.

Maybe the key of my latest success is that I did not arrive here with any expectations, but to have a nice and real life. With enough work for having free time for me and my family, and enjoying a certain financial stability, but without having the feeling that I do not have any pleasure to spend them, because sick of too much work.

Overall, it was an amazing time of my life. Building up the future I always wanted to have, enjoying the freedom of being so anonymous that no one will care too much what I am doing, discovering each day a new dimension of my spirituality. Living the simple life that I always tried to run away of because considered it is too simple to be authentic. 

I am convinced that sooner or later another city will call me for longer, for ever or for a short time. I do have some thoughts about it, but contrary to the big hurry that I had to move in Berlin, this time I will graciously move with patience and calculating the necessity of every step I take. It is spring again in the city and I couldn't care less about philosophical questions and abstract answers. I enjoy the life and try to put my excitement into simple words.

What Berlin helped me to do

The last four years I've done an amazing amount of things that I did not expect to do, even though I always wanted to. It was always my career and academic life that were put on the first place, with nothing left for a real life experience. This time, I decided to change the spin and to get more in touch with my real self, not the one that the others expected to show off.

I fully enjoyed getting to know more about:

Something that I discovered days ago in an area where I go weekly
- Cooking! I took a couple of classes - in African and Persian cuisine - plus the daily discoveries of foods and recipes. I am sorry I could not record my first encounter with an avocado and the desperate moment when I was not able to understand exactly the YouTube video about how to cut a pineapple. I started as the nightmare of any chef and ended up not only trying the most sophisticated recipes and baking bread every 2-3 days, but also trying to help other people find their cooking self. 

- Photography! With the help of my late Nikon, I took over 10,000 pictures, some of them published, some of them kept for later. I carried it with me everywhere and I tried to learn each and every day, despite the fact that my entire life all I knew was to play with words. The images opened new perceptions and perspectives on life, travel and journeys. I did buy another camera till the health of the master will be recovered with a proper financial investment, and I will continue to learn how to use my eyes. More to come in the next days, weeks and months.

- Chinese painting! Even though I did not practice too much in the last year and a half, the time spent for developing my painting skills was extremely valuable for someone that always dreamed to spend time in China, and even write a book about it. This childhood dream is still on hold, but the painting classes brought me closer to a different way to communicate images and my own feelings.

- Networking! I came here without knowing more than 5 people and I end up with a lot of new acquaintances and friends, and with an extremely lively social life. As my interests changed, many of those friendships went through different stages, but at least I know that when I really want to go out and to do certain activities, I have a broader choice of company.

- Life! I used to have a corporate, exhausting and bureaucratic life! I used to wait for hours doing nothing till I was receiving an answer for a project from a boss or another. I used to travel each day in a different town, without realizing clearly which country I am, as all I was able to do was to answer phone calls and prepare presentations. I used to work non-stop and do things I did not believe in it and socialize because it was a professional duty to do so. Those times are happily gone for ever. I am able to organize my time in the most efficient way, with time for family, writing for pleasure and reading for satisfying my curiosity. My main duty is to be sure that at the end of the day I gain a new sparkle of knowledge and I did good deeds. I don't fight with and against people for pitches and I don't really care how important they are, even they are evil. 

What I still need to do:

- I intensively went out around the city, but there are still a couple of areas that I don't know. I will try to explore them in the next weeks, but I still cannot believe how it is possible to not cover 100% of the city despite such an intensive social life and professional curiosity to write and photograph the city?

- My trips outside Berlin were limited and I have an approximate knowledge of the rest of the country. I have a long list of priorities, but I prefer to use the time and financial resources for trips abroad, a strategy that is not extremely smart, after all.

Life can be exhausting sometimes...
- Learning German was the biggest unexpected challenge. I arrived here with a good knowledge that I lost while trying to improve my English and other non-German languages. The result is that I speak quite slowly and I write as someone with a problematic IQ. The good news is that I love to read in German and I have more books that I am interested to read in the next weeks. Probably, it will help me to upgrade my status. This will help me automatically to have more authentic dialogue with the local people, as most of the time I socialize and interact with other fellow expats. 

There are also some negative parts about the city:

- Drinking and smoking are so widespread! As someone who decided to give up smoking after 20 times of really enjoying this bad habit, I feel annoyed by the lack of control of people, especially women, keen to spend every time outdoor by smoking. As for the drinking, allowing people to wave their bottles in public spaces has as direct consequence, the violent and aggressive behaviours encountered in certain areas of the city, during the week-end or after 3-4 o'clock. 

- A vague rejection of unsuccessful foreigners, especially expressed by people from the 'countryside'. The good point is that if you are really good and outperforming, you are appreciated, especially if you try to speak German.

- Laziness, aka reliance on social services. I know people that did not work for years and are happy with that. They complain about burnout and hard life, and the pressures of the economic crisis and lack of jobs - the latter is quite true - but when it comes to giving them the opportunity to work, nothing is good enough for their standards, except the pleasure of receiving the Hartz IV welcomed support. I still did not solve the riddle of the miraculous economic stability of a country where working is not on the daily menu of many brave citizens. 

Love the city, not the weather!
- Proletarian way of dressing. I live in an area where I can see elegant people wearing nice bags matching stylish shoes and a good looking make-up. But in most cases, the lack of fine style is disturbing for the eyes and each time I try to explain how I used to spend at least one hour the week at the hairdresser I am faced with an outrageous look. 

- Last but not least, the champion of all evils is the horrible, horrible, horrible weather. 

What's next? More nice posts and inspiration, maybe some serious travel booklet that waits to be written for at least one year and a half, more photography and a lot of happiness, wherever I am!

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