I’m celebrating my four-month Berlin anniversary next week. That means I’m one-third of the way through my year of living as an expat. Although I suppose I did spend most of the first month and a half gallivanting around Europe and revisiting some other beloved homes.
Anyway, I’m settled now. I have a small circle of friends, including a few writers and bloggers. Sometimes I meet with Michelle and Manon at Mozzarella Bar in Mitte for burrata and wine. Last night we went to a book launch in a refurbished crematorium, followed by a late-night doner run and a cup of Turkish tea. The owner took note of Manon and me admiring the giant photo of Istanbul on the wall, and so he launched into a five-minute spiel about it (in German). All I understood was “a bridge five or six kilometres” and a few other words. But hey, it’s a start.
I have a supermarket just at the end of my street, Kaiser’s. I’m as familiar with its layout as I was with my Sobey’s back home. The stout and smiling man at the Kiosk around the corner is the only person I’ve managed to have a full German conversation with so far, mostly because I’m well versed in various types of alcohol (and polite greetings). I like that the M4 tram stops just outside my door, and that I can run across the street to the Bio Mart if I’m feeling particularly splurgy and need over-priced quinoa.
Basically, I have a life.
And often that life involves sitting on my couch all day, wrapped in my fleece polar bear onesie with an enormous cup of coffee, writing my little heart out (or, more accurately, wasting time on Facebook being offended). And as much as I absolutely crave, desire, and need new experiences to break me out of the norm, there’s an absolute rapturous joy in having an everyday routine.
I get up every morning, chug a glass of water, place the espresso maker on the burner, scroll through Instagram, pour a giant cup of coffee, read my book for an hour, and then get to work.
It makes me happy. I can’t live without routine.
Sometimes, in fact, I get annoyed when something comes up to break my routine. That’s a slippery slope. I don’t like having appointments, or midday dates, or events. I like having a small social circle. I like that I have a bank, and that my address is registered at the burgeramt. In other words, it feels an awfully lot like living in St. John’s.
Like I said, I have a life.
This is a different sort of travel for me. This will be the longest I’ll have ever spent in one place, other than home. Me and my writer friends talked about those small details we take note of when we’re settled in one place for awhile – the bakery with the Turkish breakfast, the baby I can always hear howling upstairs, the constant thrum of traffic at the intersection outside my apartment. And those details, to me, seem richer and fuller than any experience I’ve had quickly blowing through a destination and writing a “top ten” list about it. (Guilty.)
I haven’t been able to write about Berlin yet. Despite being here for four months and spending a good amount of time exploring, I still feel ill prepared for writing any sort of helpful guide about this massive, sprawling, complex city.
But I do finally feel like I’m part of a little community. Or, well, a big community. Something bigger than me. I have an odd sense of pride about blending in — I like that I don’t need to check Google Maps to get places anymore. The simplest things mean so much.
At my reading last night, Fatin Abbas talked about dealing with the confusing emotions of being thrilled and honoured to be a part of Berlin, but also the guilt about contributing to the city’s changing nature. I get that a lot – I can’t claim to be a Berliner, and perhaps I never will.
But if I can’t claim to be a Berliner, at least Berlin can claim me. And for now, it has.