Diary of an Expat, Part 28
Popcorn! Kinda.
So.

I was going to write a blog post all about spring and how lovely it is, and how the cherry tree in front of my window started blossoming out of nowhere. How it is delightfully warm, so you don't have to wear a jacket, and how the sun is making everything tickety-boo. But then it snowed today, so, I mean, what can you do?

Today was a mixed day for me. Construction noises have started making it harder to get undistracted work done, both at home and at the office, so I finally broke down and bought a pair of serious headphones. Noise isolation in a busy city is interesting. People open their mouths, and music comes out; cars move silently, and trams hit you from out of nowhere.

The headphones came today, and I wound up going to Saturn, the electronics store, to take care of some other things (this is where it started snowing). Saturn is where finally, after six months of living in an apartment, I have purchased my first appliance, which is a popcorn machine. An air popper, which is just a heating element and a fan. Hey, it works.

What doesn't work is that the number of supermarkets selling popcorn is less than the number of supermarkets selling popcorn machines, which I find ever so slightly bizarre. It took some luck before I discovered a bag of kernels, placed (naturally) adjacent to the strawberries. I don't know what the linking factor in this is; presumably, "things Americans eat."

The quest to find popcorn was a good reminder of how alien things continue to be here in Berlin, and while it resolved cleanly enough it was still quite frustrating. I like to think I've moved past much of the culture shock; I understand the trains now, for the most part, and I can carry on my stilted, stupid conversations with most of the people I need to communicate with.

But then sometimes something hits, like the difficulty in finding popcorn (or peanut butter, or bacon, or medication that works), and it's made abundantly clear that I haven't quite yet made the transition.

Maybe that's okay, though. It gives you the kind of distance you need to appreciate things, like the fellow at Saturn who hailed an employee's attention by saying "hey, nigger, where can I find DVDs?" That, anyway, or an exact homophone; judging by the way the (very white) employee responded, I gather it was the former.

I may go back tomorrow, because Saturn is having a rare Sunday shopping day. Unless this proves to be an April Fool's joke, or something. But I like spending time at Saturn, because they have a truly massive flight simulation department, which is not something you see very often these days. I think it helps that Germany is pretty friendly towards small businesses, who are then empowered to become little development shops.

Or I may try to find something else to do. Or somewhere else to go. This is a pressing question because I have discovered that I have 37 vacation days to use this year. I don't actually think I can use them up, but I may make the effort to try. Discovering that pretty much anything in Europe is a €300 plane ticket away is a strong incentive for this; that Deutsche Bahn international train rides are half that is even better.

You don't really realise how huge the United States is, I think, until you are living outside of it and grok that the amount of time it takes you to get from Detroit to New York will get you from Paris to pretty much friggin' everywhere. And that's done, because intra-European travel is about as easy here as intra-state travel is back home.

So I may go to Oslo. Has anybody been to Oslo?
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