Stupid American

A few days ago I realized that I tend to put on an accent when speaking English abroad. I guess I don’t want to be pigeonholed as the stupid, lazy American who has the world’s most widely used language as her mother tongue and therefore has not bothered to perfect any others. I can get by in Spain, about as well as a four year old with a learning disability, but in Germany I’m hopeless. So instead I dumb down my English and put on a fake accent “Could I use the bathroom?” becomes “Ah… you have a … toilette?” I wish I were kidding but I literally pretend like I’m grasping for the words, as if English were my second or third language. I’ve resolved that if I’m going to keep up my obsession with Berlin, I’ll need to take some German language classes eventually. I want to be able to be polite to people, instead of just smiling and saying “danke” and I also want to be able to stand up for myself if someone is pushing me around. Although, since I suffer from ‘resting bitch face’ -aka living in New York as a woman- it’s not that hard for me to give someone an attitude in any language.

But most importantly, I want to learn the language so that I can successfully do a load of laundry in Deutschland. Last time I was here I flooded a hostel’s kitchen attempting to do a simple load of laundry, which was taking over 2 hours before I cancelled the thing. The clothes were still soapy so I had to rinse them out in the sink before putting soaking wet clothes into the dryer, which obviously didn’t go too well. This was all to save two euro, by the way. Eventually I had to haul my heavy, wet laundry to the nearby Laundromat (which was not that nearby) and start the whole thing all over again. This week I merely “boiled” my clothes. The cycle was quick, but when it was over all of my light colored clothes were the same deep orange as my favorite dress. To give you an idea, this bra used to be the same exact color as my skin: IMG_0267So yes, perhaps if I learn German I will be able to competently wash a load of laundry, and ask for a toilet without pretending to be from Romania. I might also be able to talk my way out of bad situations with the authorities, as I am often able to in New York. But when your vocabulary is limited to “Thank you, sorry, and three bugs” there’s not a whole lot you can do when the train police descend…

The night started off well enough, I was going to hang out with Jakob again but had a few hours to kill since we weren’t meeting up until 1:30am (Berliners…) I spent an hour or two walking around an art festival in Neukolln, in and out of galleries with a mini-sized bottle of Trocken and the wonderful high that comes from being completely comfortable in another city (and bubbly German wine). I met up with Jakob and we decided to go dancing. Last year when I went clubbing in L.A. it was a completely last minute decision and not something I had ever anticipated. Clubbing in Berlin, however, was totally on the bucket list. And not just the regular bucket list but my special “you should do these things before you’re thirty otherwise you’ll just feel silly” bucket list. We went to an old industrial area, turned techno-heaven and a little sociological part of me died. I’m not a big techno fan. That is to say, I hate techno music. Still, I wanted the experience of staying out all night dancing in Berlin, and so techno it was.

“Hashish, Marijuana, Cocaine,” men in trench coats whispered at us as we walked down into techno-ville. Around us hollowed out factories were pulsing with light and music. I imagined strong men and women hauling raw materials into the buildings for assembly-line production, but in their place were skinny club kids with spaced-out stares. There were bars lining the periphery and near the center a vegan restaurant, of course. But Jakob is a pro at Berlin dance parties and he insisted we go on to “the club where everyone goes to come down from their drugs.” Apparently that was going to be a better introduction to techno. 5euro cover, 3euro Tequila, salt, lemon, dance floor. After a while, the repetitive motions of techno make you feel like a zombie and we went outside around 5am for a break. The sun was already bright in the sky and the little techno village was incredible, I would have taken a photo but I was trying to be cool, yeah? But someone else went there and they weren’t being cool, so here’s a picture I found online:

berlin clubs
Some more dancing until 8 and then we sleepily staggered to a train. We got on the S-bahn heading back West and as soon as the doors closed the plain-clothes ticket police presented themselves. Maybe I’ve seen too many World War Two movies, but something about getting stopped in Berlin just freaks me out. I definitely wasn’t trying to cheat the S-bahn by not buying a ticket, I merely forgot that my 7-day pass expired. I couldn’t even fake my Eastern European accent since I had to hand over my New York State driver’s license for identification. The lack of German language on my end and compassion from the police ended me with a 40euro ticket, which is quite the blow when that’s like, 2.5 days worth of travel budget. On second thought, it’s probably for the better that I didn’t have the vocabulary to argue on the S-bahn. I’m already on the Department of Agriculture’s Homeland Terrorist List (or something like that) for bringing a Dragon fruit into the U.S. so I can just imagine the outcome of arguing with the German train po-lice. I should probably just stick with the stupid American identity for my own good.


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