to no one's surprise, i've been absolutely terrible with my intention to blog regularly; i was never really good at giving myself time and space to do the things i want and better at setting myself aside for more practical things like work and malcolm in the middle binges on hulu. however, the end of 2017 is fast approaching--what better time to start than now? after all, the days between christmas and new year's have always been for winding down, reassessing, reevaluating, recalibrating. i'm working to really hone in on better time management and more me-time so that this practice carries over into 2018 (and the years after).
earlier in the year, i bought a ticket to berlin as an early birthday present to myself (and to ensure that i was going to actually take the trip like i've been wanting to for a few years). i've always wanted to explore berlin, and all of europe, for a while but was never really at a place where i can spend an extended period of time overseas. it was really exciting to think about and look forward to; i haven't left the country since going to sayulita, mexico, for a wedding four years ago and even that trip was a bit too short. i was anxious as well, since this would be my first solo-trip overseas. i really enjoy traveling alone but have only done it domestically, so i didn't know what to expect from placing myself in a foreign country where i didn't know anyone or have any real connections (though that aspect was exhilarating). the initial plan was to go during summer but i started a new work project that would tie me up until mid-september, which led to some adjusting and a bit of relief for the extra time to prepare.
i partied hard the previous year and worked equally as hard this year, i thought, i deserve a vacation!
packing was stressful--i'm a huge packrat so consolidating my life into three weeks was quite a challenge. you'd think it'd be easy since all i wear is black, but when you think about textures, cuts, silhouettes--i mean, i'm not a big fashion-head but let's be real, a bitch wanted to look real cute! my intention was to keep things contained to a carry-on (because i'm low-key neurotic about lost luggage) but as soon as it hit the scales i was told i have to check-in my luggage since it was overweight. then nearly missed my connecting flight from CDG to TXL (seriously, what's up with inadequately timed layovers?). i guess it kind of helped leaving my dslr behind. for the sake of "space" i decided to bring my slim canon g12 (a nifty point & shoot with the option for interchangeable lenses) and my yashica T3 super D (point & shoot film camera) with a roll of black & white film since i've been trying to shoot more film.
my cab was an audi (or was it a bmw?) and the driver was super nice. there was a slight language barrier--i don't know german (i know, how arrogant of me, but i seriously was super into the whole immersive foreign experience) and his english wasn't so great, but he taught me how to pronounce "wrangelstraße" correctly (ß has a 'ss' sound). and döner kebabs, oh my goodness. there's nothing quite like a döner kebab here in los angeles, and definitely not for 2€ ($2.40 in USD) anyway. this beautiful mediterranean sandwich was as big as my face, so, so satisfying and can be found everywhere in the streets of berlin. berlin's equivalent to los angeles' taco carts/trucks/stands and yes, i was totally dying for a plate of al pastor street tacos while i was out there.
i rented out a room in kreuzberg, a neighborhood that was recommended to me by a few friends who've lived in and visited berlin, and was very thankful for the head's up; kreuzberg's vibe reminded me a lot of the areas i grew up/feel comfortable in. the people were a mixture of immigrant families and young couples, peppered in with locals and international students from the music university not too far from the area. within a 2mi radius of the building there were so many cafés, restaurants, bakeries and vintage stores to choose from and explore. i was also very fortunate to have johnny and lawrence as my flatmates during my time there (i was renting out their friend + flatmate tim's room while he was on vacation himself in japan). on my first night, they both took me to bugermeister for seriously the best burger i've ever had thus far--that patty! so much flavor in that patty and the buns were so good too~
located under a set of tracks for the u-bahn by the U1 schlesisches tor stop, burgermeister used to be an old public toilet house--kind of weird if you think about it but not really. what i loved most was hearing techno blast from inside the place and seeing the employees dancing in between orders.
as for my room & board, i couldn't have been luckier to have been hosted by tim (although he wasn't there but thank you so much for letting me book your room), johnny and lawrence! johnny is a student at the music university who moved to berlin a few years ago from the uk and lawrence is a dj/music producer from new york city who based himself in berlin recently. while i was there, they shared suggestions, johnny and i partied at berghain for dj stingray, lawrence invited me to attend a wework gig where he played an opening set for giorgio moroder--it was so much fun! i felt right at home in that flat, in berlin for that matter, super thankful to have met and stayed with these two amazing individuals and i can't wait to go back next year!
i'm not much for tourism and landmarks, my travel style is more lowkey and observant of the locals and natives of an area so i didn't go to any of the memorials and such (saving all of that for when i go back). i did, however, and in true glutton fashion, try my best to hit up all the food recommendations that were given to me by friends. i didn't have cell service while out there and generally kept "off the grid," popping into cafés if i really needed wi-fi to help navigate myself better; it was the best decision i made about the trip! i was definitely more present and aware of what was going on around me. it also helped me to realize just how much shorter my attention span has gotten over the years (woops).
and this is where i
dump some of the photos i took while exploring parts of the city. while i was overseas i did a lot of walking (as i expected) and have been trying to make it a daily practice back in los angeles. los angeles, however, is kind of a boring city and it's kind of, well, pedestrian.
god i love black and white film so much, there's nothing quite like it!
towards the middle of my stay in berlin i got to know the transportation system pretty well and got around fairly quickly. although, i have to admit, most of my time there was spent on hunting down souvenirs to gift and finding restaurants. fair bit of lounging around in coffee shops to read and few nights of 3am berliner pilsners and indoor smoking at a couple bars. while walking around i did notice i put a number of people off with my attire, which was something i wasn't expecting because i pictured berlin to be equally as black as me in terms of garb, but i guess it would confuse me too if i saw an obviously uneuropean asian girl walking around in all black and decked out in leather, fishnets, ripped jeans, even leather overalls--say what?! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
it rained one night while i was out with my flatmates and their friends, and it rained while waiting in line to get into berghain on another, and berlin in the rain...there was something special about the way the cobblestone streets glistened in the street lights. the way cigarette smoke curled into the air. the way the rain cut through the smoke. hearing the pit-pat on shared umbrellas. i've met some interesting people and had very interesting conversations--it was refreshing to listen to different perspectives, perspectives that aren't familiar to the american mind frame, to answer questions with no racial nuance or undertones. straight, direct, to-the-point and respectful all at once. at one point i was sitting ear-to-ear with a stranger i had just met that night, discussing spirit dna and philosophizing about one's "calling" then taking bets on which woman would be the most receptive to his outlandish way of approach. i felt myself expand and contract all at once, reveling in the fact that i had brought myself there and feeling so, so small in a world so big!
although i managed to avoid participating in tourism for the most part, on my last day in berlin i bought myself a ticket for an hour long river tour down spree. it was a nice and sunny day, with a little crisp in the air, and i wanted to cry on that boat because i was sad to leave and happy that i've spent so much time in this place and grateful for all the new friends i have made. i probably would have, too, if i were on that tour with someone else but it felt silly to be crying in public, overwhelmed with feeling, alone (it was a good kind of sad, i swear!).
scenes from spree
gave into the 10% basic bitch in me that just wants to be a tourist on my last day in berlin
there were more to share, i had a ton of clips that i pulled from my instagram stories to edit into one video but i foolishly deleted my photo library thinking my libraries weren't linked via icloud (that icloud's a fucking bitch sometimes, foreal). i almost lost these photos too since shortly after the icloud fiasco i dropped my phone in a bucket of water while prepping roses (already my least favorite flower and now even more so). was hit with a combination series of bad luck and clumsiness born out of sleep-deprivation but eyy, i'm alive! my brain still works and i have these memories of berlin that i'll keep with me until i am no longer on this plane of existence.
or until i head back there to create more. :)
resides in los angeles, ca
writer, photographer, glutton
food columnist for suspend magazine