Guest Post: First Weekend in Berlin by Cynthia Chang

         My first weekend here I had the most interesting Saturday and Sunday evenings to remember for. Saturday night my sister’s good friend, R, invited us to his house to dine with him and his girlfriend, S. He and his girlfriend stay at an area where the army used to grow plants for food supply during the cold war when Germany (and Berlin) was divided into two. Now it’s an area where senior citizens attend to their gardens. R picked us up from the train station with his dog, Lucy, and I was glad to walk her. My sis stood there in shock. The person standing in front of her is now dog-friendly (instead of dog-screaming) and fond of cooking. I used to dislike both because of some unpleasant experience. But the people I have met and around me in the past year have changed me considerably. Like Joan said, “The people we meet, and the people we closely interact with can shape us.” So true!

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         R is a great guy who is incredibly friendly. He is kind of awkward, but in a cute way (not to mention six four and attractive). He is half-Israeli and half-German who grew up in Golan Heights and now studying architecture in Germany. He happens to be a good and daring cook as well. The weather was nice so we ate in the garden surrounded by apple trees and berry vines, and R and S made pizza and red berry cake. S and him are so adorable together. They are each other’s family. I love seeing relationships built on love, trust, respect, and mutual care. Just lovely!

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         The pizza was DELICIOUS. R has his magical ways of handling dough. My sis said he enjoys making whole grain breads and is really good at it. He said that he was feeling experimental so he used millet powder instead of flour, so that was why the crust had a fine taste of sweetness. The toppings, like the crust, were baked to perfection—crispy and brownish on the surface but soft and tender within. The simple combination of tomatoes, zucchinis, and feta cheese made the pizza the best one I could remember in a long time. The cake procured its sourness from the red berries harvested in the garden: cranberries, cherries, and raspberries. It was a simple meal made possible through the generosity and prosperity of nature, which also sums up R’s personality. He is a rather shy but nice guy who is down-to-earth and candid and likes to be close to nature.

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         Our conversation soon focused on R’s love for Chinese medicine and everything about/from China. He is learning Chinese and going to Shanghai for exchange next year. He takes Chinese medicine lessons on the weekends and enjoys them greatly. He finds Chinese medicine most profound and advanced. He said that every friend of his in Israel is crazy about it, too. S shared some funny moments of dating a Chinese-everything fanatic. The three of us enjoyed making fun of him but also marveled at his passion. S and my sis have been his guinea pigs for acupuncture, and he is keen on getting me on board. Frankly I am more interested in learning cooking from him, but nevertheless I was curious so he said he’d try it on me next time if I want. I told him I have never been to a Chinese doctor or tried acupuncture, guasha, or baguan, and I think that devastated his fantasy/idealized imagination of Chinese people. I think he couldn’t stand (or at least finds it incomprehensible) how “American” I am, so he’s eager to “re-Chinese” me and make me appreciate “my own culture”. I told him I have a anti-American American friend who also has a strong interest in all the things that fascinate him, like chi flowing in the body, “knots” due to chi stagnation, Ying and Yang, the body’s cold or hot temperament, etc. I have a feeling that if they meet one day, it would be like a match made in heaven, seriously. They can exchange thoughts and notes on Chinese medicine/philosophy and also on cooking techniques. Interestingly, when talking about the concept of “chi”, R believes it’s more of a “thought” whereas the three of us considered it more as “faith”. I guess people approach it differently, and it fascinates me how “medicine” can be interpretative instead of exclusively scientific.

         My admiration for R soon reached its peak after realizing that he designed and built the little house in the garden. He basically did everything by himself. The house was small but cozy. It’s a modern version of the house that I imagine Snow White would live with the seven dwarfs. S gave me a tour, and I was deeply impressed. I could see how many efforts and thoughts R must have put into the house, seeing it come to life from just a silhouette in his head, some lines and shapes on the sketch paper, a construction project on real soil, to a real two-story building with walls, windows, and a roof. He showed us a bamboo pavilion sketch for an architecture contest, and he ordered some bamboo sticks from China (there were some slim bamboo sticks on the floor) and is assembling them into an umbrella canopy. Such a talented guy!

         The dinner was truly pleasant. We ate and drank (some Chinese herb wine that R claimed to have the power to strengthen the heart) and shared stories and laughed to our hearts’ content (Upon hearing me saying that the middle-eastern men I saw at the Abu Dhabi airport were good-looking because I find hairy men attractive, he promised me that I’ll live a very happy life in Israel). Special thanks to R’ and S’s hospitality. I look forward to visiting them again!

First weekend in Berlin to be continued…

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