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 :(

08 September 2010


Вот у меня есть несколько интернета, поэтому я пишу маленький пост, чтобы вы знали, что все в порядке. Я написал более длинный пост, но он на моем компьютере у Лена, а я в институте у его брата. Брата зовут Диму.

Сегодня русский язык наконец кажется более или менее естественным.

Мы собирались поехать в Петербург, но решили, что слишком мало времени, поэтому мы поедем только в Ярославль, маленький старинний город недалеко от Москвы.

Мало времени есть; я больше буду писать, когда есть больше времени.


02 September 2010


Ева мне показала эти фотографии: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/08/russia_in_color_a_century_ago.html?s_campaign=8315



I'm leaving for Russia early tomorrow morning. I'm limiting my access to English, because I only have 13 days there. This is an opportunity I cannot waste, because it's really hard to get a visa. So if you get a postcard from me, it will probably be in Russian. If you read my blog, it will be in Russian. Anyway, here's a practice exercise in Google Translate:

Я завтра улетаю в Москву, поэтому вам надо будет изучать русский, если вы хотите понимать то, что я буду писать. Следующее сообщение только для русских:

Канечна мои руски будит часта слигка смишным, ноо чтоо мане делоть? Биз опта он былл бы ешче хужа. : ) Спосиба, чтоо ви мане впрощлым такк памагали!

Another noteworthy coincidence

Back in the day, I went to Germany. It was a pretty crazy time: we were thirteen 15-to-17-year-olds, awarded a scholarship to hang out in Nuremberg and Berlin for three weeks. In this time, we bonded over our inability to speak German and the ineptitude of our American chaperone. I haven't talked to these people very much over the past six years, but we're mostly friends on Facebook. Fast forward to the present day »»

Three of us thirteen live in Berlin right now. I live at 137 Sonnenallee. Angela lives at 140 Sonnenallee, just across the street. Jill lives on Richardstraße, which is two blocks south. We met up for dinner. It was pretty wild insane.

I've granted Jill access to my friends from my term abroad. She has in turn granted me access to her friends from her year abroad in Munich. This is a wonderful arrangement. And a noteworthy coincidence.

Rain, and successes and failures and what-have-you

In the time I've been in Berlin, it has rained pretty often. Quite often. I was getting really tired of it, until it became clear to me that the rain barely ever lasts for more than half an hour. If, then, you are walking along with street and it starts raining, you can duck into the nearest business and avail yourself of their services. So far, rain has forced me to drink both a delicious beer and a Vietnamese coffee. It has also forced me to buy black beans and a Turkish bagel-pretzel thing. So that's pretty great. Unfortunately my current neighbourhood also has an enormous number of depressing electronic casinos and at least one brothel. So I am being pretty careful about where I walk when it's cloudy out.


The day before yesterday was an interesting day. My friend Daria is moving to a furnished apartment, so she decided to give me her old furniture. I, in turn, decided to help her move all of her non-furniture belongings to her father's car. In order to do this, I had to get to Potsdam. Normally, I would buy a ticket for this trip without incident, but this time I bought my ticket with incident. You see, Deutsche Bank just sent me a new debit card, and I decided to use it to buy my ticket. Unfortunately, the machine in the subway would neither accept this new card as a payment method, nor would it relinquish the card. I pressed every button on the machine, but the card would not come out. Many passersby, curious as to why I might be standing by the ticket machine looking distressed, heard my story. They pressed buttons and pulled on the card, but to no avail. Finally, I went down the platform in search of an employee, and found instead a post with an "information" button on it. The information man told me to wait five minutes; at this instant, the machine gave up its hold on my card. So I thought that was pretty okay, but I still had to buy a ticket. 

I attempted to insert a 5€ note into the machine. No dice. It wouldn't take it. So I still didn't have a ticket, and I went to another machine. This next machine didn't take bills at all, so I decided to try to use my card again. This time, the process went flawlessly: I typed in my pin, the machine printed out my ticket and my receipt, and then...refused to relinquish my card. So I went to talk to Information Man again. Information Man told me to call customer service. So I called customer service. While I was spending some time on hold, more passersby inquired after my welfare, most notably a girl about my own age. She fought with the machine while I talked to Customer Service Man. Customer Service Man told me (surprise!) to talk to Information Man. When I protested that I had already conversed extensively with Information Man, Customer Service Man reiterated his recommendation that I talk with Information Man. So I talked to Information Man. While I talked to Information Man (for the third time), Helpful Girl guarded my card, in the process missing at least one train, but maybe two.

Information Man told me I had two options: either wait up to 90 minutes for my card to come back out of the machine, or leave my card in the machine's grip and pick it up at the lost-and-found later. The second option seemed pretty improbable to me (how would the card get to the lost-and-found?), but I seriously did have to go to Daria's place to help her disassemble furniture and carry it down four flights of stairs. So I made no resolution, instead returning to the machine and to Helpful Girl and explaining my plight. At this point, Helpful Girl really did have to get on a train, so she wished me luck and bid me adieu. I should have asked for her number. She totally would have given me it; I imagine there's something irresistibly attractive about the struggle of man against the unstoppable force of technology in our increasingly roboticised world. Yes, I imagine this to be the case. In my imagination.

Then, a few minutes later, technology succumbed to my relentless assault, and I had my card. I was more than an hour late for my furniture-moving appointment. Fortunately, Daria's dad was a full three hours late in arriving to pick up all the furniture we had moved, so my adventure was pretty harmless. And I got a desk, a wardrobe, a coffee table, and a shelf out of the deal. A success.

The next day, I went to the bank, and explained that my new card was possessed by demons. The woman told me I should give it another chance, as I had known she would. So I sighed, and agreed to try one more time. But I did have an idea about why my card was behaving strangely: Deutsche Bank thought my name was "Dustin Douglas Heestand OT Golm." Golm was the Ortsteil (district) of Potsdam that I lived in last year, and somehow OT Golm had been added to my name when I wasn't paying attention. Bank woman was very glad to correct this error, and after she had done so, I went back to the subway. I figured: if I have to wait for 90 minutes in a subway, it should be now, when I don't have anywhere to be. But my caution was unnecessary; the machine showed no particular attachment to my card. A success!

After this adventure, I decided to attempt to obtain my Russian visa, which was meant to be ready by the 1st (that is, yesterday). I will spoil the suspense:

Notice the awesome spelling of my name. Awesome.

Anyway, there isn't a story here. There is kind of a story about how difficult it is to find a phone book in Berlin (hint: don't ask the phone company, because they won't have any idea). But basically there isn't a story.

Chickpeas take forever to cook if you start with dried ones. Forever.

I just roasted some sesame seeds, but I burned them. They still tasted okay, but not great. Actually, they tasted a lot like burnt popcorn.