Small Discoveries

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May 10, 2013 by anelim

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to visit a new place every day. I did this very well in the first three months of my stay, in the autumn, before the terrible cold winter set in, and when I started travelling too much and being ill far too often. Not just the cold, but also my lousy winter-induced mood prevented me from exploring the world around me as much as I’d normally want. Spring has made me more adventurous again. Either on my own, or with company, I’ve managed to visit a few entirely new – and huge – spaces in Berlin, such as Wannsee and its chilling museum, the Soviet memorial in Treptower park on 9 May, the streets of Charlottenburg, and the former Tempelhof airport which is now a massive sports field open to the public and closed to investor sharks. But I’ll post about them some other time. Remembering these new places is exciting and I’m having dinner, and dinner calls for more wound-down entertainment. So instead I’ll tell you of some small discoveries made today. Today was A Day for Exploring Small Closed Spaces Which I Normally Pass By. They may not be the “Oh, Wow!” sort of exciting, but rather the “Mmm, Nice…” sort of exciting. They also made me think about how the history of one’s lifecourse determines one’s relationship with money (I admit that autoethnography is not the best research strategy, but it can at least point to interesting themes…and since I research lifecourses, I can’t resist applying some of that into understanding life outside work).

The first New Small Space was a room in my gym. You see, mine is a strangely organised gym. Apart from the normal stuff like treadmills, weights and the like, there are also free classes in a corner where a tough German gal or guy (called “entertrainer”) oversees 20 minute exercise routines intended to make one’s tummy, back, or derriere fit. The latter is endearlingly known as “das Po” in German, and a common thing one hears in the discipline corner is variations of the phrase “Bauch hin, Po raus!“… but I’m digressing. There is also another hidden room with disco lights and closed doors, in which sometimes other, more exciting classes take place. I’ve always assumed that one pays extra for the separate classes. And everyone in the disco-lighted room looked so bloody fit and able to jump around for an hour. So I never ventured in. But today a veil of adventurous madness came over me as I trotted on a treadmill with the formidable speed of 6.6 km/h. I left the treadmill and sneaked into the tantalizing room in the last minute before 8pm (I had to clock in and decide to pay whatever it cost). I had no idea what class would be taking place. Just to clarify, I’ve been in this gym since 4 February. Well, perhaps I should put this into perspective. I only discovered how the showers in the gym work last week. Being a scrounger, until then I always went to the gym in the evening so I could then go home and shower. But that time I had to go in the morning before work, so I was forced to discover that one must pay 50 cent in order to be let out of the gym if one had made herself clean by means of hot water. “Kaltes Wasser frei, heisses Wasser kostet”, explained the gym reception guy and claimed that a home shower costs 1.30 Euro. Fair enough, I said and parted with a 50cent coin. The result of today’s gamble wasn’t that bad either: it was some sort of dancy-boxing class and although I totally mixed up all movements of arms and legs, I (largely) survived the one-hour aerobic strain. The only thing I understood from the cute blonde entertrainer’s speaking throughout the whole hour was actually a joke: “Nur 20 Minuten noch! Was is 20 Minuten? Einmal das Ring-bahn vermissen!” (another time she shouted at me about 20 times: Linkes Fuss vorne! and luckily in the end I got it. Out of a room with about 70 people, how was I to know she was speaking to me? Ah, wait, I was the one with the right – wrong – foot forward).  On my way out of the gym the electronic doors didn’t stop me, like they had last time, after the shower discovery. So I still don’t know whether I pay for it and if so, how much. I suspect that 10 Euros will disappear from my account at the end of month or something. But it was fun and definitely fittening.
What does this place hide?

What does this place hide?

The second new space was nowhere as exciting: a Netto discount supermarket open until 10pm, which I visited on my way back to pick up carrots, milk, eggs and shampoo. A fellow shopper was staring at me so I smiled back (British habit) and he smiled back and then shuffled guiltily towards his rather matronly girlfriend who was packing away pot noodle and beers at the counter. Sorry, dude, I didn’t mean to cause family trouble.

The most adventurous of my small explorations was the small pan-Asian takeaway just round the corner from my flat. Having lived in this flat for 8 months, I finally decided to give them a chance. It might not sound adventurous for you, but it was the first time I have ever got a Chinese takeaway only for myself. I have bought fish and chips to eat at home about three times while I lived in the UK, and back in Sofia in the early 2000s I remember buying a Chinese takeaway from the bus stop at Pliska hotel a couple of times, but it was no good so I gave it up. I’ve bought roast chicken from supermarkets a few times, too. And a handful of times I’ve shared takeaways with friends at mine or their place. But generally it isn’t something I’d do. It is not because I’m a great cook, but because takeaways are very expensive. My Bulgarian friends might sympathise with this statement more than my British or German ones, but the fact is, that I’ve never felt rich enough to get a takeaway dinner for my self. Takeawaying makes a bit more sense for two people anyway, because portions of Chinese food are usually quite plentiful. So my takeaway experiment was more adventurous than it might sound to you. I was tired and wanted a proper meal, so after some deliberation, I parked the bike in the corridor and returned around the corner to visit the Asian chefs. And I got to see the inside of the takeaway which had a small kamiza-like thing in the corner with offerings to the [gods?], including an incense pot and a cellophane-wrapped quarter of a water melon.

The spring rolls are the freshest I’ve ever eaten and stuffed with fresh coriander – to which I’m absolutely addicted – so that small place was a success, too. And I’m also eating them on the sofa in the living room – a lovely space which I’ve been ignoring in favour of the bedroom or kitchen until now, because of the cold. And because I’m used to smaller and cosier living spaces. Heck, in my student years I lived in a 3x4m room with a cat. The mini fridge served as my bed table and the portable hob lived in a metal tray under my bed was to be pulled out by the electricity lead every time I wanted to cook. So eating or working in the living room seems too much hassle when I can stay on my bed or on a chair next to it… but it is actually quite nice. I’m glad I’ve taken over some new ignored spaces today.

The living room soundtrack

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