Woke up at 5am today. That’s progress.
I’ve also found my internet router and reset it. Thanks to everyone who was concerned with my health and wellbeing… :) With my newly restored internet I spent my early morning trawling my way through a heap of Berlin expat blogs hoping to find some interesting people in town and/or get a sense of where to go and what to do. Instead, I came to realization that no matter what I do here, I’m truly not an expat.
Practically speaking I’m not an expat because I have no intention of actually expatriating. I go back to the US in 6 weeks. I already know that. However, I’m also not an expat because real expats have worries like finding jobs, establishing residency, buying cars and paying utilities. I’m not doing any of those things. Which begs the question, what am I doing?
In the movie Sheltering Sky, Kit and Port decide that the difference between travelers and tourists is that a tourist is “someone who thinks about going home the moment they arrive” and a traveler “might not come back at all.”
In Berlin, I’m a traveler and I want to find a community here; but I’m also a tourist, seeing the sights, eating meals out, dealing with my next tour job and staying connected to my friends in the US.
The tricky part is that in my non-Berlin touring life, I do all those same things. I’m literally a continuous full time traveler who lives in hotels, travels for work and for fun and has no home. I’m in a new place every week or two. I spend half my life adjusting to new territory, finding grocery stores, eating out, seeing the sights, packing and unpacking and staying connected to friends and family that I hardly ever see. So whatever it is I do in my life, I’m doing it here in Berlin too.
I’m not sure there’s a name for people like me. I’m a nomad, a gypsy and a world citizen… but not an expat. One has to live somewhere in order to expatriate.
And immediately after that realization, I joined the Berlin Expat facebook group because… why not? Let’s see how people really live.
After all those deep thoughts I went to yoga and yeah… quite the experience. I’ll write about yoga tomorrow.
Then I left my apartment with the intent of going to see the remains of the Berlin Wall. I stopped for a banh mi at Co co’s
Because one should always stop for a banh mi if offered the opportunity. Doesn’t that look scrumptious? It was tasty and traditional with pate and pork slices and pickled vegetables. The woman who took my order asked me questions in German, effortlessly switched to English to finish my order and then shouted it back to the kitchen in Vietnamese. You know, trilingual. No biggie.
I took a lovely walk along the River Sperry
And got completely lost. With a map. That was no help at all. Story of my life, really,
I literally couldn’t figure out where I was so I finally got a taxi. At a certain point it’s good to recognize one’s limitations,
The taxi took me to the East Side Gallery, which is where the last remaining portions of the Berlin Wall still stand. Almost a mile of wall was offered up as canvases to artists from all over the world.
Some are famous, like Banksy
Arguably the most famous and yet completely unrecognizable graffiti artist in the world who creates art everywhere and keep from getting photographed. His street tags now have to be protected because his work is in such high demand. In 2003-04 he came to Berlin and created several pieces around the city but they’ve been chiseled away and sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m not sure how he gets that money since there are probably 2 living people who know who he actually is… but I suspect he works that out.
Then some of the wall art pieces are infamous, like this kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker
Taken from an actual 1979 photograph that immediately went viral, even in 1979. That painting is all over Berlin now. No postcard is safe.
The painting styles on the wall range widely
And after the invited artists were finished, all the uninvited artists took over
It could be upsetting to see all these pieces get tagged but at the same time, half of these invited artists were street artists! And the entirety of Berlin is one big piece of graffiti. I’ve never seen so much street art in my life as I have here.
In fact the entire back of the wall was tagged
Allowing street artists to flourish makes this city really unique, I think. So colorful and with so much spirit. I love it. And using the wall as a canvas turns a horrific devastating event into a platform for political protest and a tribute to those who didn’t live to see it become art.