July 14, 1999 Hang Ten in East Berlin
Hello hello. Tomorrow morning Dine and I are leaving for Prague
in the Czech Republic (ooo... into the Soviet bloc!). So I don't know when my next
e-mail will come. That will depend on if I can actually find these so called
Internet Cafes. Also, I will have less time, so I might not be able to write you a
personal response if you send me an e-mail (but I will certainly read it!)
Anyways, I've had an interesting 10 days here in the beautiful
and fascinating city of Berlin. I don't yet know if this is true of all major
European cities, but Berlin just has all these random monuments and statues all over the
place, it's quite nice. There's also A LOT more plants than in L.A. So much so
that my first impression was that this place was overgrown, but I then got used to it.
It's also a very diverse city. I've seen lots of Turkish Germans, Asian Germans,
and even some African American Germans (hah! little PC humor there).
My days here can be summed up like this: Slack-jawed tourist by
day, German in disguise by night. Nadine was busy with school and especially with
her play (which I went to, it was about the French Revolution, funny to see Germans acting
like French people) for the 1st week that I was here, so I often ended up exploring the
city on my own (though I did meet lots of people this way). I'm kind of burnt out on
museums now because of that, because there's tons here. I went to about 5, the most
interesting of which was the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It had art inspired by the
Wall and the Soviet occupation of East Germany, but the most interesting things to see
were all the devices people used to escape from East to West. People even made their own
hot air balloons and airplanes - they wanted out bad! And despite 10 years of
reunification (which is continuous, there's literally dozens of cranes above central
Berlin) there is still a clear difference between East and West. In the East, I got
to see some of the infamous, huge, ugly, communist-built apartment buildings. I also
got to hang out in Marx-Engels Square and buy a furry Soviet Army Hat. And so on.
Contrasted with the kind of touristy stuff I've been doing on
my own, I've also spent a lot of time getting to know Nadine's friends and family and
doing things with them. This has given me a decent understanding of what everyday
life for everyday people is like here in Berlin. And it's not all that different
from life in America.
The highlight of my week would have to be THE LOVE PARADE.
What started as a birthday party for a DJ with 500 people has grown into the
largest rave party in the world, or so the advertisements go. : ) This was the 11th
and largest Love Parade ever with one and a half million people! I've never seen so
many people in one place at one time, and they were mostly freaky people at that! As
is the custom with Ravers, many of the people were all dressed up. Nadine's mom
calls them "birds of paradise," which is apt... just imagine the brightest
colors and the weirdest things you could want to wear, and that's how many of them were
dressed. Actually, many of the women were only half dressed, and apparently that's
not verboten here. So Nadine, Tami, Domi, Kati, and I (all fully dressed,
incidentally) were dancing up a storm to the deafening techno-beat. The bass was so
strong that I don't think anybody could die, because if they tried to the bass would
continue to pump their heart for them! Dine and Domi left a little early, but Tami, Kati,
and I were there until about 11pm, while the party was still far from over. The
street was covered in cans and bottles (who cleaned all that?) and on the way out, someone
accidentally kicked a bottle that shattered and cut Tami's leg. It didn't seem like
a big deal, but the people in the medical tent said she needed to get stitches. So
they loaded us into a Krankenwagen (ambulance-complete with uniquely German sirens) and
took us to the Krankenhaus (hospital). The hospital was full of Love Parade rejects.
In one room, there was a man writhing on the floor while about 10 doctors tried to
restrain him! But German hospitals are quick and efficient, so we were back on the
street in about 30 minutes (5 stitches in time saves 45, I guess-5 is all Tami needed).
By the end of the night, I was pretty good friends with Tami and Kati. The
communication was an odd combination of English and German, but everyone here is impressed
at my German skills, even me! Apparently, I have a "cute American accent."
For Kati, and many other Germans, I am the first American they have met! So
I'm somewhat of an ambassador for the ol' US of A (scary, huh?) But don't worry, I think
I'm making a good (if not strange) impression on the friendly people of Deutschland...
yes, I am winning friends and influencing people.
So peace out from the West Side (West siiiiiide!)
P.S. Sorry if you have no idea what I'm talking about
sometimes, this e-mail is going to too many different people to explain everything! : )
Appendix A - How to Piss Off a German Lesson #1 Germans have all kinds of tasty sausages
which they seem to take some pride in. They take great offense if you call them
"hot dogs." It's very fun to watch a German get mad at you for calling
Rostbratwurst a hot dog. Lesson #2 Germany is the number one nation in the world for
recycling (and America is NOT). In many public places, there are even 4 separate
trash cans (paper, plastic, bottles, cans). Being ignorant or pretending to be
ignorant on environmental issues is loads of fun. They have some tiny cars here, so
make fun of them. If someone tells you small cars save gas, say, "What?
They're trying to figure out ways to use less gas?" Pretend not to understand
why there are 4 trashcans. And so on. Lesson #3 If Nadine tells you there aren't any
German fast food chains... find one. I did... it's a fish place called Nordsee
(North Sea). Nadine protested quite a bit.