February was my one-year anniversary of living in Berlin (though I spent the month in Ecuador and Central America, which was awesome). A year-ish ago when I wrote about what I was doing here, I was full of teenage-style angst and feeling rather unsettled. I am happy to report that progress has been made! This is what my day-to-day life is made of in Berlin.
I have a (new-ish) job! This was a very exciting development. I am now a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam (a city outside of Berlin). Look, I'm on their web page! Before I started I was fairly nervous about it, but I really like it so far. A downside: I work in Potsdam, which is an hour commute from my apartment. I take the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn, and when it's not snowing, I ride my bike for the last 15-minute stretch. (When it's snowy, I take a tram.) I started out being rather cranky about my commute but I'm used to it now, and I try to make it "me" time. On most days that means I read a book or do my German homework on the train. The upsides: I really like my coworkers, I find the society- and policy-oriented mission of the institute a perfect fit for my interests, and I get six weeks vacation. So on the whole, I think it's a great fit.
Learning German (still).
I have made strides in my German-speaking abilities, but I still have a ways to go. Right now I am taking German lessons (B2) at my office, which is a nice perk. Classes are twice a week in the afternoons for an hour and a half, the teacher is awesome, and my classmates are my coworkers. There are 6 of us in class. It is convenient AND free, I hope they keep offering it. A recent milestone - I read a book in German! We read Der Vorleser in class - the book was later turned into the movie The Reader with Kate Winslet. Since I'd already seen the movie the book was easier to follow...but still, I feel empowered.
Trying to get some exercise (still).
I still have yet to get myself into a real exercise routine here, but I'm not a total couch potato. I've found a new yoga studio closer to home, where I now go to yoga in German! German practice and exercise at the same time! I still miss my Seattle studio, but this will do for now. Now that it's finally spring, one of my new exercise goals is to bike to work once a week - it's a 25-km ride, all flat. So far I've done it twice and it's actually really nice...so I have to make myself keep doing it. Getting up in the morning has never been my strength. Eventually maybe I'll even start biking back - on the next day perhaps. So far I've been bringing my bike back on the train. Occasionally I play pick-up soccer with co-workers after work, but lately we've been struggling to get enough people to play. Hopefully that will ramp up again.
So this counts as recreation rather than exercise, but on Wednesday nights I often participate in a mixed expat-German kickball game. The ball itself was imported from the U.S.A. - Europeans don't know the "sport" that is beloved (or hated) by American elementary-schoolers everywhere. We play at Tempelhofer Park - a former airport where they've essentially left everything as is - runways, green space, terminal. The result is a giant open space in the middle of the city that's used for kickball (by us), grilling, community gardens (with raised beds - probably not a good idea to eat the dirt), inline skating, kitesurfing on skateboards...basically anything you can think of doing on a giant flat former airport field. It's a pretty cool space and so far it seems that it will stay a park and not be turned into condos.
I count "exploring" as my favorite activity here in Berlin - there's always something new to discover. For instance, my friend Kyung and I are on a quest to try every Korean restaurant in Berlin. There aren't so many as to make it impossible, but it will probably take us a (delicious) year. Otherwise my exploring is not very structured - on the weekend I bike around, go to parks and cafes, try new restaurants, go to concerts, hit a few tourist sights, hang out with friends. I've had a few friends come to visit recently, which is another great motivation to explore.
So all in all, things are good. I'm a city girl now! I can't play in the mountains on the weekend, but I've figure out how to play in the city. And when the weather is good, I can still spend practically the whole weekend outside, but it's parks and cafes instead of peaks and valleys. If the weather finally gets hot there are lots of lakes to jump into. Come visit!