November 18, 2012 by anelim
I moved in two months and three days ago, but I am still very much a foreigner. Alfred Schütz’s ideas of foreignness keep coming to mind, but unfortunately I can’t track down the original reference because I have only read a Bulgarian translation of selected works (the book is entitled more aptly than any of his original works, ‘Чужденецът’, which means ‘The Foreigner’). If you talk to a Bulgarian sociologist, they will definitely know what you’re on about, but hardly anyone I have met outside Bulgaria does. It is a typical case of a taken-for-granted reference. Ah, the peculiar intellectual life of subaltern communities, hanging on a few selected scraps of translation for dear life (hm, not quite sure if all Bulgarian sociologists will know what subaltern means). Anyway, it’s mu fluey brain speaking, where was I. In bed, again, of course.
Having spent three days (and nights) in bed with (subsiding) fever and (worsening) cough, today I finally crawled out in the open, ready to brave the 0’C Berlin cold and hunt for cough syrup and anything that would enable me to finally go to work tomorrow. You see, going out doesn’t merely entail putting on lots of even warmer clothes than those worn in the flat, but also 4 flights of stairs in a tall old building, and a very heavy front door. Also counting money and remembering to lock doors and not lose keys. Things one doesn’t notice when healthy become insurmountable after just a day or two in bed. Your world shrinks, your ambitions wane, and all you wish for is someone to make you tea and switch on the heating when your bones are screaming ‘flu’ and it takes serious guts to crawl out of bed to push a button with your own cranky finger. Moaning again, am I. Well, I’m not yet done.
So I went out and slowly walked one and a half tram stops to the nearest Rossman shop, which turned out to be closed on Sundays. I walked quite a bit more and all pharmacies and drogeries and bio shops and supermarkets (the kind of places where one can buy herbal tea or over the counter remedies) were also closed. I didn’t want to freeze my arse off on a tram stop so I walked back about 3 or 4 stops on the other side of the road, where everything but video rentals and kebap shops and ‘spätkauf’ drink stores was also closed. Thankful to the hardworking people in the Turkish shop near where I live, I faced the stairs again, one hour later, armed with a piece or real ginger, a litre of milk (two pints, Brits :D), and a Milchfladenbrot which should do for dinner. The slogan ‘inner für Sie da’ that I saw on one of the DM-drogerie shops on my way really was lying, wasn’t it? Or perhaps the slogan at the title of my blog is the one that is lying, as a friend from the Sociological Imagination observed yesterday: I’m not really ‘going native’ if I spent a feverish hour in the cold establishing simple taken-for-granted truths about the local peculiarities of cyclical time where I live.