The Winter Mess: An Album

It’s spring in Berlin now.

I sincerely hope so.

Time to get busy and shed off those extra winter pounds. Time to clean the closet. Time to make use of all the winter pictures that have been sitting dormant and useless in my drive. I am not a winter person – two winters have made that clear. I like the snow, but winter in Berlin is 91 % the greyness and dullness and 9% the snow-blanketed winter wonderland. So here’s the 9% good part of winter.

 

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Let’s pretend those are Salzstange
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Gloveless and playing with snow in below zero temp: bad idea I can tell you

Here’s a list of my favourite places in Berlin in winter (when there is snow):

  • Drachenberg
  • Neuer See at Tiergarten (It’s an all-season favourite.)
  • Schlosspark Charlottenburg (quiet and regal)
  • Volkspark PBerg (because it’s five minutes away)

I don’t go out much in winter because it’s too cold, it’s too damn cold, it’s just too goddamn cold. After New Year’s Eve, I just start the depressingly long countdown to warmer days and greenery.

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First Day of Spring

Good weather brings the city back to life – a beautiful sight:
Blue skies with barely the slightest touch of white,
And the birds are back in song and play.
First day of spring I dare say.

 

That Tuesday Müesli

I hate how the media zooms in on one spot and blurs out the bigger picture but today I will write of the Brussels attacks because it hit too close to home.

 

I was in that very airport, walking around that very departure hall just a few hours before the explosion. A lot of people who weren’t supposed to be there were there because of the air traffic control strike in France. We were lucky (on hindsight) that our flight had not been cancelled and simply hours delayed.

 

We left Brussels Zaventem at 1am. The airport bombing happened just after 8am.

 

We flew to Brussels last Saturday and got our first sign of how serious things were when we got to the Central station. There were armed guards everywhere and a man mopping a red stain off the floor tiles. We both thought it was blood until we saw these tiny red dots arranged in a circle all around. A protest? No idea. We were ignorant tourists.

 

There were soldiers everywhere in Brussels over the weekend, thick concentrations of them.We knew about the Brussels lockdown, I read about the arrest of  Salah Abdeslam just the day before we got there, but we weren’t aware just how seriously the terrorism threat was.

 

I remember on the first hour we got there, I saw on a tourist info window “Yellow level alert” and asked my clueless companion what that meant.

 

We got back to our place in Berlin at 3:30am and just dropped dead from exhaustion. Our friends woke us up with news of what had just happened. I couldn’t say anything. My heart dropped. We didn’t talk to each other. There is no describing that exact moment you think it could have been you. I was just there. 

 

Why did they wait until Tuesday morning?

 

We had both in half-jest concluded we were done with Belgium after our embarrassing pig out and the misfortune of a delayed return flight. I remember jokingly saying “Let’s kiss the German ground,” while getting off the plane.

 

That grey Tuesday morning I will always remember for the silence that was both calming and disconcerting.

 

We sat down to our typical breakfast of muesli. We were both at loss for words.  Over breakfast, we browsed through the images that were beginning to surface. That’s when I felt the weight of it all— that queer feeling of having narrowly escaped an awful fate yet knowing things like these could happen anywhere at any given time.

 

Senseless deaths. Senseless killings.
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Portable Cuddles

I grew up lugging a sausage pillow around with me everywhere.

Pillow, as it is aptly named, has been with me in all my travels up until I turned 18. I have had it since I was a baby (it was bought in the excitement of the anticipation of my birth) and it has been my bedtime guardian almost every night since.

The stuffing inside has long shrunk to a mere quarter of what it originally was, and the pillowcase now (actually for years now) looks like a rug.*

*It is important to understand that the pillow goes with the original pillowcase and nothing else.

So, in May 2015, I made the decision to trade the pillow for something less (?) embarrassing.

I fell in love with Fluffy Cheetah the moment I laid eyes on him at The Teddy Bear Shop in Melbourne. He was too cute to be stuck there on a shelf, deprived of cuddles and the warmth of human companionship. So I adopted him.

It hasn’t even been a year since, but he has seen so much of the world already.

It’s sad/embarrassing to admit that his leaving Australia for a taste of the world started with him almost getting lost at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. The short embarrassing story? I bought ice cream, put him on the floor in front of the counter when I reached out for my wallet to pay for it, and left him there while I sat and ate in heavenly peace. The panic and fear afterwards was enough apology I would say, and I have always kept an eye on the little guy since.

He has been my cuddling buddy through the toughest and loneliest times, and the subject of my attempts at taking portraits. Also, as a person who either travels alone or with someone who takes terrible photos, and as a person who rarely gets a decent photo of myself taken by someone else, Fluffy Cheetah has become my stand-in.

So let me introduce to you, my little fluffy friend in some of his adventures.

 

 

There is in me:
A hatchling that left its nest too early,
A juvenile angry at the world it lives in,
A creature that refuses to be tamed that I hold so dearly,
And always crouched in the shadows, its twin.
Sometimes, you can hear its rustle before it leaps for the attack
Oftentimes it’s too quickly over, and I pray for it to never come back.

 

I call this beast “I”.
I have clawed through walls I didn’t even know were there.
I have done things I thought I couldn’t dare.
I have cut off threads I thought were unbreakable.
I have deemed love and me incompatible.

 

There is in me a cacophony of all the voices I’ve ever heard,
A stillness punctuated by echoes of the absurd,
A void where words should be,
And periods to end every possible eternity.
There is in me an illusion of calmness and grace,
After all, there is stillness in the wild, but only on the surface.