July 01, 2005

Goodbye Altenheim, welcome ERASMUS people!

Tuesday 28.06.05

Berlin, Iranische Strasse 6, Paul-Fleishmann-Haus 4, Obergeschoss, Zimmer 413

Right, Berlin is completely different from what I expected.
Having lived now in this care-home surrounded by ancient people I’m not only fed up but also scared. So far I have been here for 3 days and haven’t met a single young person in this building. Even the cleaning ladies are pretty old – and also the only women in this house apart from me. What on Earth happens to the old ladies? Do they just kick the bucket earlier than their husbands or have they been hijacked by the aliens?! I can’t think of any sensible explanation for why the house is crowded with old dudes.
I’m also getting sick of walking 50 yards to go to the loo. Besides, the toilets are esthetically nowhere near satisfactory with their poor painting work, horrible lighting and the lack of toilet paper. And the corridor along which I have to walk to the toilet is well scary! Have you ever seen the film The Grudge? Ok, imagine the bureau house in that film with the stair case, the empty long echoing corridors and cold white lights. That’s where I live now! Even the lift is identical apart from the lack of the window. I haven’t seen any dodgy-looking girls with black tangled hair yet and no-one’s tried to pull me into the water sink and drown me but apart from that everything is identical.
I felt so paranoid when coming back to my room tonight that I didn’t dare to look down the stair case in case there was a load of black hair rapidly approaching me!

I prefer spending most of my time locked up in my room because it’s safe at least. Today however, I felt I have to get out since am not used to this sort of oddities such as constantly being alone. So I headed to the gym which is included in my obscenely high rent. The Germans love their A4s! Apparently it wasn’t enough that I had my ID on me but I’d also have to get an additional paper slip proving that I actually live in this Altenheim. Kinda of makes sense though because you don’t get many 20-year-old girls living with a bunch of old blokes…

That’s about exercise then, I was already heading back to my room when felt a sudden urge to use the Internet. There are these Ahmed Tele/Internet places in every corner, so popped in and surfed for about an hour. At some point started to feel a bit uncomfortable when realized I’m not just the only female in the room but also the only white person.
On the top of that some random Turkish guy next to me was trying to chat me up and I decided it’s time to leave. I felt terrified walking on the dark streets surrounded by these horrible guys. One started to follow me with his car, opened the window and shouted: “Lecker!”=”Tasty!” and was blowing kisses at me. It was horrible, I felt really intimidated and tried to ignore him the best I could.

I’m going to talk to the accommodation people in the morning as cannot possibly handle a whole month in this mental house! I had a very abrupt reply to my query today as rang the people and got maybe half way through explaining what the problem was when they said there are no other rooms available. German efficiency…that was the quickest reply ever!

The area around the house is really funny actually. I would estimate 90% of the people on the street are of Turkish, Arabian or African origin and this is no exaggeration. Then the remaining tenth are older hippy-style people often with grayish long hair. There are really interesting people out there!

The work experience is really good anyhow. The people there are fun and normal, a few of them a bit more reserved but at least not scary. And the general atmosphere is much more relaxed than I expected. There is a Cuban PhD student Carlos in our research group who is always explaining how they make The Real Havana cigars. Then a Turkish woman who is also fun and complains how she doesn’t want to live in Germany and she’s been here for 35 years now. The German Praktikants, the students who are doing their work experience, are nice as well. Then there is me, a crazy Finn, who explains about ice-swimming world championship which takes place in her beautiful home country.

We are studying the Borna virus and I find the research really interesting. Borna virus infects the blood stream and the brain and causes behavioural changes such as depression. At the moment we are working on the genome and specifically so-called M-protein encoded by a gene in the viral genome. The gene was copied to a plasmid which then was transformed into a bacterial cell and today we were studying the expression of the gene in E.coli Rosetta strain. It’s well cool, but something went wrong and the bacteria didn’t start growing until 5 hours later than they were supposed to and it was therefore a long day.

Tomorrow is going to be a fun day. Josh from Denmark is coming to visit me. I can’t wait to get some sensible company! Warwick power!

Wednesday 29.06.05

This morning was interesting. I went to the Stiftung(the building association which let me the room) bureau. Conveniently they were supposed to be closed today but luckily they were open. Knowing my luck, I had to talk to this miserable bitch who would even listen to me. So I started shouting and going on about WHAT LIARS THEY ARE and how unimpressed I am and that I WANT MY MONEY BACK! At this point the other 2 customers in the bureau had gone quiet as well as the 2 ladies advising them and I had 5 sets of eyes staring at me. The older lady behind the near desk jumped at me and said she’s able to sort something out for me. After a few phone calls they were ready offer me a room in another house which was supposed to be full according to my query yesterday + what the bitch had said to me 5 minutes before. I love the German language though, it’s brilliant for arguing and sounds so aggressive!
The room they offered is stupidly expensive so I decided to make a few more phone calls at work and managed to find something more promising where I’ll be able to move tomorrow.
I explained everything at my work experience and those people are so fantastic and encouraging. We have this Turkish lady in my research group who was really happy to help and said she has a spare room in her house. So off we went as soon as we had a lunch break. Really funny, because I don’t even remember her name and she didn’t know mine until we went to the apartment and she had to introduce me to her husband. So I’ll call her Günsl here. Günsl’s place was really nice actually in a beautiful area. The room I could have got was massive, maybe 4 times the size of the room I’m now in. I also met Günsl’s daughter, husband and some Turkish guy, probably a family member as well. It was really interesting because we had said we’ll go really quick and rush back but then we had time to drink some coffee and talk in Turkish(well, I just listened and Günsl translated)about how cars get dirty so quick and where Günsl and her husband will travel on the holiday. Then I got a little sight-seeing tour in Günsl’s car and she showed me KaDeWe and Gedächtniscirche and Kurfürstendamm.
We went back to the lab and I felt bad for leaving my Cuban friend alone with all the work. Candy also was really helpful with the housing situation and tried to call a girl who had done work experience with her again because she was supposed to know about housing. Tonight I’m going out with the German Laura and her friends and if I don’t stop writing now I’ll be very late!

Friday 1.7.05

After some confusion and many events I've managed to move to halls and am surrounded now with ERASMUS-students! It feels like Warwick and I'm really happy I moved.
Yesterday morning Miss Bitch was already waiting in the office and told me to get out before I had even said anything. Amazingly, I managed to get a refund for the "carehome-room" I had paid for and realised I'm actually saving 105 euros when I'm living in this new accommodation.
The timing to move out was perfect as the neighbours on Iranische Strasse were getting a bit too friendly. Just when I had signed the contract yesterday and returned to pack my stuff, a 60-year old bloke next door started talking to me and suggested he would make me a cup of coffee and we could get to know each other better…no thanks!
Then I dragged my stuff to Siegmunds Hof(my new accommodation) accompanied by a random guy who started talking to me on the U-Bahn Station and eagerly wanted to help me with my luggage.
I live with really cool people now. Last night I went out Italian, Belgian and Greek ERASMUS students and they are really friendly. Apparently there are also 2 Finns living in my building! ERASMUS parties are exactly the same as in Warwick, apart from the lack of German exchange students.
I slept better than in a long time even if I had no linen, pillow or cover. But I had my dear LIPSOC-hoodie under my head and all the fun students around me, so I couldn't wish for more!!

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Goodness me Laura! That all sounds so crazy! I'd be well scared travelling alone there now. Sounds like you were practically in the ghetto!

    Keep in touch so I know you're still alive!

    Hopefully everything will be much safer for us in Finland!

    05 Jul 2005, 11:55

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