I arrived in Berlin in the evening, over an hour late as we were stuck in Munich for a while, waiting for the plane to be de-iced. I was a bit discombobulated by the whole concept. Snow and ice? 30 hours previously I had been sweating in the New Zealand summer.
My taxi driver, thankfully, had waited for me. Initially taciturn, he turned on the radio as we drove. Eventually, I asked if he was listening to a Russian station. He was. In a few minutes, he explained, there would be a Russian language news bulletin. I only picked up two words — Vladimir Putin.
The taciturn taxi driver became suddenly animated, and in a mixture of passionate English, Russian, and German, explained that Vladimir Putin had won yesterday’s election.
“Are you from Russia?” I asked.
“I am from the Soviet Union,” he replied. He told me about his life as a sailor, travelling from the Arctic to the Antarctic. He digressed back to the election, and criticised the recent killing of a Russian double agent, saying that it was a terrible idea to provoke the UK. In the next breath though, he was praising Putin and all that he had done for the Russian people.
“He’s increased my pension by 400%!”
The next day, I arrived at my home for the next two months. The property manager took me upstairs, unlocked the door, and turned to me. Did I have any questions?
I probably did, but none came to my tongue.
She gave me a quick tour. Pointing to the washing machine, she said “This is the washing machine. It’s normal.”
I looked at the washing machine and remembered the last time I had tried to use a German washing machine. I was going to have to figure it out with a mixture of Google translate and trial and error.
It’s the little things like that.
I’ve always had the cheap-o, basic Fisher & Paykell washing machine. The 20 settings on my new washing machine are intimidating.
Now, the panic has set in. Why am I here? I’m all alone. Do I even like Berlin? How do I start a life again? I have a new job. I’m newly single. I barely know anyone here. I’m living all alone. I work remotely, so it’s not like I’m going to meet co-workers here. My uterus is killing me — what if there’s something wrong with my IUD and I have to go to a German doctor? What if I don’t like it here?
I breathe, and remember my tools from therapy.
Have I slept? Have I eaten? Am I hydrated? Have I been outside today?
No, to all of the above.
It’s time to do those things. Get the basics sorted, and then I can begin to build a life again.
I keep reflecting on the last time I moved city. I was 19 when I moved from Auckland to Wellington. I was a different person. Deeply depressed, newly single, hopelessly co-dependent and completely unaware of it. I was so broken. I cried on busses almost daily. I depleted my meagre savings because my rent was more than I could afford.
Looking back, I tried so hard back then. I went to uni, I worked. I sewed, and read books. I tried so hard to make friends. I failed at making friends. I rode my bike around the city and took photos. I went to shows at Bats, read at the library, and walked along the waterfront.
Eventually, it felt like home. The only place that’s ever felt like home. But it took a long time. Will it take that long in Berlin? How long will I feel uncomfortable? Will I cope?
As ever, I know that the answer is yes, but knowing that never seems to provide any comfort.