21 October 2010

Abrupt resumption of posting activity

Language learning is really great. It works essentially thus: you put a great deal of effort into learning meaningless sound combinations, and then all of a sudden you have a new skill.

Today I attended my first ever class conducted entirely in Hungarian. The teacher was talking more carefully and clearly than is usual, but not a lot more slowly. I understood most everything for the first hour, and then my comprehension slowly deteriorated. But it's a start. My task for tomorrow is to explain, in Hungarian, how Americans understand the notion of "state."

This image doesn't give a lot of clues as to how Americans understand "states."

07 October 2010

Crime and racial resentments!

I've been living in Neukölln since I got to Germany. Neukölln is one of the poorest districts of Berlin, home to many students and immigrants. I've already noted the proliferation of casinos and other businesses of low repute in Neukölln, and I may have also written about the time I saw a dude get punched on the street.

Today, I saw an attempted shoplifting. Woolworth is a discount store that is fairly common in Germany (it was in fact originally a subsidiary of F. W. Woolworth five-and-dime, but obviously it isn't anymore). As I passed by their storefront, I heard a women say "Entschuldigung, entschuldigung," and I saw a white dude with a big bag take off running around the corner and down the street. The manager (I think he was the manager) promptly took off running after the dude, and caught him pretty quickly. They struggled, and finally the manager managed to drag the guy back to the store, where he dropped his bag and started struggling again. He would have gotten away, except that racial resentments came to the rescue: A Turkish onlooker rushed to help the manager. As he entered the fray, he muttered "Damit die Leute sehen, dass die Deutschen auch [inaudible]." 

Anyway, I accidentally laughed aloud. 

26 September 2010


I was trying to find some information about Berlin's public transit system, and I accidentally learned that there are six ferry lines in operation in the city. With my student ID (which I am getting in a few days!) I have free access to all public transit in Berlin. Which means I can ride the ferries as much as I please. If you have ever had a conversation with me, you probably know how much I love ferries. So I am pretty excited.

In any case, one of the ferries is a rowboat! 

Fährmann Ronald Kebelmann

As soon as I can convince another human being to go with me, I am going to go ride the rowboat ferry. And I  will take pictures, and I will blog about how awesome it is.

A ridiculous thing I just did

My friend Jill's roommate, Pascal, has a birthday in November. Pascal is an exceptionally cool British dude, and Jill wants to plan a party for him. I suggested the theme "America."

To that end, I just emailed the European distributor of Solo Cups, to inquire about where one might purchase these quintessential American party accessories.
In Iceland, I was asked whether the American college parties shown in movies were accurate. In particular, whether the presence of "red cups" was verisimilitudinous. It totally is. 

23 September 2010

Guys, another blog!

So I know that I haven't really been posting to this blog. The problem is that my life is exceptionally boring and stressful. I'm trying to find another apartment, but I think that all my leads are coming to nothing. I'm just trying really hard not to be a burden on the kind people who are housing me until such time as I find a permanent residence.

In order to shake things up, I've decided to do two things: buy running shoes, and start another blog.

Here's the blog! I'm doing a collaboration with some Harvard pals on the challenges and joys of cooking. I really think this could be something special, guys. It might even be interesting to those of you who aren't faced for the first time with dominion over a kitchen.

I'm captioning my Russia photos, and I should have a Russia photo-essay by sometime later this evening.

17 September 2010

The Importance of Due Diligence, or, Homeless in Berlin

I'm going to experiment with telling my story in reverse. Don't read this if you aren't prepared to have your faith in the unidirectionality of time shaken to its core. Okay?

I'm going to go buy sugar in a little while at the other grocery store. The grocery store near my new place doesn't seem to stock sugar. Since I was otherwise helpless, I decided to bake something for the party. I signed a cancellation of my rental contract for my new place.

Guys, it's way too hard, okay? Reverse-order may or may not be a perfectly legitimate way of telling a story, but I kind of have a headache and it's too much for me to handle.

Anyway, before I left for Moscow, I found a small room in a great location, and I signed a rental contract, whose terms called for me to pay a small amount of money each month. Then, I bought/obtained furniture items, and I schlepped them to the room. Then I left for Moscow. Then I came back, and schlepped the remainder of my belongings to the room. Then I started dreaming about how the room would look when I had assembled my furniture and painted. And then I started looking at the walls. And I noticed that the wallpaper didn't actually stick to the walls. So I started tearing the wallpaper off in enormous strips, and discovered water damage and mold.

Anyway, I really should have examined the walls before signing the contract. Because I didn't, I am now more or less homeless in Berlin. I have friends I can stay with, but all my belongings are basically inaccessible, because they are in an enormous pile outside of mold-room which I can't really sort through without blocking access to the bathroom.

I don't know how I'm going to find a new place. My was-going-to-be roommate, Maria, is trying to cancel her rental contract, but it's unclear if she is within her rights to do so, because only one room in the apartment is uninhabitable. If Maria manages to cancel the contract, we may try to find another place together. It is sometimes easier to find a whole apartment than just a room, and anyway it would be more convenient if we could rent a car together for the move. If she doesn't manage to cancel the contract, I will search the same way I searched last time. Which was awful.

But at least I took some aspirin for my headache. And now I'm going to buy some sugar.

12 September 2010


Я был на двух разных дач, а теперь мы в Ярославле. Есть интернет, но я устал :(