Posted by: Raphael Orlove | December 7, 2009

The Most Surprising Thing of All

…is so often how unsurprising this place is. Katey and I just took our friend from California into our apartment for the past few days, but it wasn’t so much our home that we were taking him into, but our city. At least that’s how I figured it before he actually showed up. Eating and walking and laughing together like we were in the States helped me to realize how my mind has expanded the range of my feeling of Heim and of Normalitaet. I figured that coming here to Berlin would take weeks or months to adjust to. That I had woken up one morning nine thousand miles from home would take just as long, if not longer to sink in. I remember looking at the accompanying pictures to the online Berlin apartment listings I scoured day and night over the summer and feeling so utterly distant from the clean white rooms for rent, or the shining foreign faces looking back in the foreground.

Yet now, with my Californian compatriot en route to his own study abroad site in Granada, I can’t help conclude that in the slap dash rush of the first days, the first hours here in Europe, my brain took everything in with the proclamation that ‘This is it – this is how it is’ and little seems to surprise me. The bilingual life I lead amidst U-Bahn Pendelverkehr and Seminar Referate couldn’t seem more usual; I have to remind myself that the reality of Skodas and Lancias, Bratwurst and Doener, even down to the Bosch clocks in the subway stations reading out that most precise Teutonic time is mystifying not only in its lack of drama, but in its wild Ungewoehnlichkeit. That the Merkwuerdig is all around me is indeed something that I must keep in mind. If I don’t work at it, the greyness of these Central European skies gathers too strongly about my eyes. Now, as for my friend studying in China, I don’t exactly expect him to share my problem.

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