Diary of an Expat, Part 36
Strawberries, sunlight, sorting change
It has been a long and not terribly pleasant week, and so the writing I had planned to get done today has not really materialized. Instead, I walked around the city a bit, and then I was so dedicated to my procrastination that I sat down and counted out my Euro coins.

I've said in the past that I pay for everything with cash, and when I get the change I tend to mentally divide it into "useful change" and "trash change." This is because I don't really like carrying around massive quantities of coins (I may change that) and the one and two-euro coins are sizeable enough to pay for meals or laundry or pretty much everything.

The rest of it, historically, I have just put in a euro-coin-bag. I like the coins, because it's remarkably like being a pirate with a chest of buried treasure, and if you sort them all you wind up with this:

Pictured: a productive afternoon

I didn't count the 1-euro-cent coins because they're tiny and also fuck them. But the rest of it, altogether, comes to €113.21, which is a substantial enough chunk of change that now I wish I knew where I could spend money in ten-cent increments. Maybe one of those casinos you see everywhere.

What I will probably do is take them to the grocery store or the farmer's market and exchange them for strawberries. The funny thing about food in Berlin is that I have probably said on occasion that it is deliriously cheap. That's sort of true, and sort of not.

Restaurants in Berlin are not particularly cheap. I eat dinner pretty much every Friday night at a Chinese dumpling place and every Friday it comes to about $50. For friggin' dumplings, and a beer. Granted, that's two people, but still — how many Chinese places can you think of that you'd be cool with dropping $25 a plate on? Serious Chinese, not PF Chang's, here.


Even the fast-food places (not chains, but they're basically serving cheap takeaway) charge €4-6 pretty regularly, which is more than your standard value meal, and it's not like the food is wildly better.

So prepared food is expensive. Grocery store food, on the other hand, is ridiculously cheap. Last weekend I bought four bottles of beer, a bottle of water, and a bag of peanuts for €5.36, which is less than $7. You might be able to pull that off at Wal-Mart? Maybe? If you went with terrible beer, which I did not because it's bloody Berlin, dude.

So the upside of this has been that now that it is summer, and produce is starting to roll in, that produce is a) cheap and b) amazing. I bought a kilogram of strawberries for four euro, and these are fucking delicious strawberries. I am hosting StrawberryFest2k12 right at my desk as we speak, and all y'all who are not attending are seriously missing out.

That makes me happy. I'm getting back into "consume nothing but fresh produce and mineral water" stage of my Berlin existence. This also means that I don't have to cook, which I like. I like this chiefly because I am lazy, it's true, but also because that means I don't have to add additional heat to my apartment, which is key for me because it was thirty degrees last week and, for the duration of the time that it was so damned hot, it didn't feel like cooling off at night much either.

The way you deal with this is you open every single window in your apartment. I have 14 window panes to open, and this is something like a religious duty, because it helps at least a little bit. It does come with the tradeoff that you are immediately aware of when construction work is beginning (7 o'clock on the dot) so you know that if you feel like getting some additional sleep in you can go to hell.

But you're not going to get any sleep anyway. I'm writing this at 9 o'clock, at which point it is light enough to play a game of baseball outside, but only if you're willing to limit it to a couple innings. It will be dark-ish by 10 o'clock. It will be light again by 5, and I mean "light again" enough that you are not going to sleep through it, so.

Might as well be up early to greet the sun, glinting golden light on your hoard of ersatz doubloons.
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