May update

Last Saturday marked two months of life as a Berliner. I was going to mark the 17th of every month by having a pint in one of the Irish pubs but Munster are playing this Saturday so I'll kill two birds with one stone then.

Anyway, I still have no complaints about living here. In fact, every day I wake up and think - "Jaysus, I should have moved here years ago". It's impossible to know what kind of crazy shit will happen from one end of the day to the next.

For example, today, (Sunday), I slept until 2pm (before you wonder what's different - it was my first lie-in in about two weeks, and one which was sorely needed). After Frühstück, I spent the afternoon in the park, listening to a band who decided to hold a concert there. There were hippies everywhere and everyone was just sitting around, chilling out, some with beer, most not, but everyone chilled out all the same. Meanwhile, someone had lit a large bonfire nearby (although nobody was near that), and there was another group a bit further away just banging away on bongo drums. Close to them was a group of pensioners playing boules, being watched by another group of tattooed and pierced onlookers.

There was one oul' fella there listening the band I was watching, and he must have been more than 70, with long white hair in a pony-tail, a long busy beard, and bad teeth (very unusual for Germans - they're obsessed with teeth). Anyway, he was dancing like a lunatic, waving his hands in the air and hopping up and down on one foot or the other. Once he got tired of that, he started blowing bubbles from a pre-planned mixture of washing-up liquid and water he must have prepared earlier. Of course, he decided then to start talking to me about whatever it was he was talking about. It was in German obviously, so I haven't yet hit the levels needed for translating the ramblings of an old happy hippy. An old happy hoppy hippy at that.

Having said that the course is going well enough. I'm on my second course now - Deutsch B2. There aren't as many people on this one as the last one, but there's still an interesting diverse crowd there. I'm one of only four to have survived from the earlier one, but there are a couple of notable additions - including a very excitable Brazilian girl (not the typical looks one would expect when one says "Brazilian girl"), an eight foot tall Polish guy, and a girl from California (not sure if in the US of Mexico) who makes the Brazilian girl look more like a Brazilian girl should. Seriously, she looks like something from The Munsters. I know that's a terrible thing to say. I'm sure she's lovely - I just haven't plucked up the courage to speak with her yet.

The course itself is still pretty hard. I've given up on German grammar. It's a fucking nightmare. Every noun is male, female or neutral (der, die and das) and they all have to be learned by heart. I've decided just to go with whatever comes into my head and hope for the best. Then there are four cases - nominativ, accusativ, genativ and dativ... Okay, I'm gonna stop, my head's wrecked already...

I joined a football team last week. We're called Theresas Mütter, and we're as charitable as the name would suggest. My first game was yesterday and we lost 4-0. I blame the early start, 10.30am (hence the need for a lie-in this morning), but apparently we have the worst record for goals conceded in the league. It's a college league or something - I'm not really sure yet - but the facilities are great - proper changing rooms and showers, and our own team's kit and all. Very fetching it is too - orange with a few trendy black stripes strategically over one shoulder, and "Theresas Mütter" written on the back.

The league is mixed too, so there are a few girls playing an the team. Needless to say, they're shite. (Only joking, they're better than most of the boys). I was curious to see what would happen shower-wise after the match, but they just threw on their clothes, presumably to shower in the privacy of their own homes, while the fellas made use of the facilities on site.

They're all pretty sound. There's a few South Americans on the team who are as handy as you would expect. Again, I seem to have made friends especially quickly with a Colombian guy. I'm not sure why the Irish get on so well with Colombians. I also met José, a Barcelona fan from Madrid. I didn't think such a thing was possible, but I guess in Berlin one should expect the unexpected. He's cool anyway, even if he is a Barcelona fan.

Speaking of all that, I've discovered the local Real Madrid fanclub in a Spanish restaurant. It's a small group as one would expect in Berlin, but they've taken me to their hearts. I went to watch a match and was invited back to watch the Madrid/Barcelona match for which one of them had reserved a table. I got a great welcome when I arrived, was shown my seat and invited to help myself to a beer from a bucket which had been placed in front of me. A fucking bucket! Not wanting to be rude to my new friends, I continued to help myself over the course of the match, and from the subsequent buckets which kept appearing until 3am or so. I decided to leave at that stage as I had college the next day, but I might as well have stayed, as I missed my last S-Bahn home, and got a tram in the wrong direction. I didn't make it to college, but still, it was worth it!

The only criticism I have of Berlin so far is the tea - it's shite. Apart from all the fruit and herb teas (some of which are actually alright), the only normal tea which can be got here is the English stuff which not even a pig would drink. There was almost a mini emergency here a few weeks ago when the box of Barry's tea I brought with me ran out. Panic set in at the thought of life without a dacent cup of tea. Thankfully Noddy (friend - don't think you know him) sent over a couple of packs (and a couple of bars of chocolate - nice touch). Then Niamh, my sister, brought over 480 bags, and Simone (another friend) brought me over some more too so now I've more than enough I reckon to get me through the summer. I've a little stockpile built. Maybe it's just as well - it's proving particularly popular with the locals. Sure the poor feckers haven't had a dacent cup of tea all their lives.

Right, I suppose I'd better wrap up here. The only other news is that I bought a bike. Just as well because the car won't start anymore. I haven't been using it at all because of the bike and the fact public transport is so good. (My monthly ticket is even cheaper now - just €57, and I've been told the way I'm getting it might even be legal.) Anyway the car has been idle the last couple of weeks, and it wouldn't start last night when I needed it too. I've already got a parking "warning", (no fine! crazy country), for parking it where it is, so now that I can't move it anymore, I guess I should expect a few more parking tickets. The two I have so far are hanging proudly on my door.

Speaking of hanging, I also have a Tibetan flag hanging from my window. There's a load of Chinese working in the company opposite so they might make a few phone calls to the powers that be at home.
The Dalai Lama was in town today, Monday, (this email has gone on a bit longer than anticipated). I took a spin on the bike down to the Brandenburg Gate to see him in the flesh. How could I not? Sound fella. He got a great reception. I can see why he's so popular - he even laughed at his own jokes. I reckon he'd do well in politics if it didn't clash with his ethics.

I'd really better go now. There's a load of other stuff I can write, but please feel free to send any questions, suggestions or problems.

I hope to upload a few pictures onto the oul' interweb over the next week. The problem is just trying to sort out the safe ones from the others, but once they're up and ready for consumption I'll send you the link.

Tschüß for now!
Ciarán

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