Diary of an Expat, Part 26
Peanut butter redux, sunshine, BiBim!
So as it happens, the one souvenir I brought back from Barcelona turns out to have been virus-based, which means that yours truly has mostly been laying low. I can't entirely promise that this diary entry will be entirely coherent, particularly as I just got off the phone with my bank (I'm flying back to the United States next week and I want to make sure my credit cards will work).

"Right, and sir, can you spell your last name for me, please?"
"Sure. It's 'O' as in 'Oreo,' 'S' as in... 'Sandwich', 'A' as in... 'a... an album?' 'K' as in... as... 'something that starts with 'K',' and 'I' as in 'I-beam.'"

NATO phonetic spelling is for losers.

A friend of mine has also been ill, and we conspired to meet up today at a Korean restaurant, the website of which he spelled to me using the phrase "dot 'D' as in 'dicks'," so apparently we're all in this boat together.

A couple things about Germany currently spring to mind, however. The first is that, my sickness aside, it has been gorgeous weather here and it looks like it's finally thinking about becoming spring. My winter coat definitely feels a bit too heavy, and this is including the fever modifier.

I have the sneaking suspicion that this is the best time of the year in Germany. I suspect, without proof as yet, that the summer is going to be extremely humid and unpleasant, and I'm not really looking forward to that part of it all, particularly as (this being Germany) nobody has air conditioning here. That includes the brand new massive office that my company has just finished building. No air conditioning, and walls made of windows. It's going to be very fun.

I spent the last few weeks getting ready for Mobile World Congress, and then I spent last week in Spain, with the consequence that I have been ignoring the world around me, by and large. Thus it was that I awoke yesterday at 6:30 with the realisation that it was already quite light outside. Hey hey!

Berlin is far enough north that the sun is quite temperamental here. It never gets to arctic circle "midnight sun" levels, but it was down to only a few hours of daylight in the deepest part of winter, and I gather that it's light effectively forever during the summer. I'm sort of curious to see what this does to my mood.

My mood has been relatively good all told anyway, though. I was able to acquire some peanut butter, shipped in from abroad. Shipped, indeed, from Great Britain, and it looks like it was packaged during the Blitz. In a shapeless drum it hides its precious cargo — a note for the allergic, in small type on the side, proclaims that it "definitely contains peanuts."

And nothing but! It's a bit thin for my tastes, and not crunchy enough, but at least it's peanut butter, for the gods' sake. It came in a 1kg drum, and I have two of them. I sort of feel like I'm stockpiling things for the apocalypse. It's like disaster preparedness: do you have bottled water? Yes! Nonperishable food? Sort of! Cash?

Er. Well.

I've spoken before about the cash economy that marks much of Berlin. Ordinarily, I get my cash straight from the Deutsche Bank branch office, where everybody knows my name and they're always glücklich I came. But such branch offices are not guaranteed, which sometimes means using a Geldautomat, or ATM.

Don't do this.

ATM fees in the United States, for those banks that do not include it as a perk, is ridiculous enough anyway — $2.50 or $3.00 just to get your own damned money out. €3 is not uncommon, however, and today I paid €5.99, or around $8, which I'm pretty sure is what usury has evolved into.

But whatevs. Why was I getting the money out? It was because I was going to eat at BiBim Koreanisches Essen (website), a Korean restaurant specializing in the art of bibimbap, the delightfully named dish native to the peninsula.

Bibimbap, for the uninitiated (as I was) is a rice dish, basically. You take your rice, and you put some namul (seasoned vegetables — think mungbean sprouts, daikon, etc. done with vinegar and sesame oil) in it, and some meat of your choice, as you choose it. Then, in dolsot bibimbap, you dump it into an extremely hot stone bowl and you serve it like that, so that it continues to cook through the meal.

This being Korean cooking, kimchi and delicious red chili paste are of course required, the net effect being that it is definitely something you can use to open up your sinuses, if (like me) your sinuses are in need of opening.

It's a small place, but I was able to get a table without a reservation. Dinner for two people, with bibimbap and water (no alcohol this time) ran to €25 — on the high end for Berlin, but definitely worth your time. It's right next to a tram stop, if public transport is your thing, or walkable from most of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg.


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