The Internet Personified: Ground control to Major Min
She's back and she's ready for bed already
Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet little cinnamon rolls,
I’ve been back in Berlin for less than four weeks, and I have jumped in with both feet. Having done that thing that people do when they move to new cities, ie, accept all invitations, I am tired out, which is a nice problem to have if you’re an introverted extrovert like me. I get energy from other people, hearing their ideas and participating in their conversation, and this energy I turn into writing and editing, which I do alone in my little glass-walled study by day. Which means I’ve got to be a lot stricter with my social plans, trying not to let anything happen before 6 pm ideally, by which time I’ve done a full day’s work and am ready to rejoin the world. Although I miiiiight have overdone it. I have not had a whole day just at home not leaving the house at all for over six days, and I’m beginning to feel the stress of burning the candle at both ends. Squishy, our black cat, chose last night to practise his operatic arias, and K was away last night too, so it was just me, sitting bolt upright in bed, begging him to stop. Finally, he got into bed with me (sometimes he gets lonesome if he can’t figure out where the rest of us are) but I stayed awake between 5 am and something, only to wake up at 8.30 as I normally do, still feeling a little tired from my restless night.
It is the next day. We’d gone for a reading at our local public library last night, a very rare English language event about dating across races. An Iranian woman and a Nigerian woman were in conversation about their essays and their experiences about racism in the city. It was okay, not any earth-shattering revelations, nothing we hadn’t heard before, and the writing was quite bad, so I was a bit sorry we had picked “good” seats, ie, wedged in on all sides with no way to leave. Funnily, I think K and I were the only representatives of “interracial romance” in the whole room. On the way out, I spoke with the person who organises events for the library, telling him how much I loved the space, which he was really happy to hear. I do, I do truly love libraries, especially ones I am familiar with, even if the selection for English language readers is small, I still enjoy being there. He told me that he prefers to organise programmes in a language that is more accessible to the majority of the community that uses the library, which is sadly, not people like me, so English language stuff is few and far between. All the more reason to become fluent in German, I guess.
But my “immersion” technique is going well. That last sentence makes it sound like I have more of a plan than just floating around the city and overhearing occasional words when it suits me. In the area I live, it’s now increasingly common to only overhear English when you’re walking by a knot of people, so that’s pretty useless to me, but there’s the rest of the city to be listened to.
Just the other day, I was at Markthalle 9 with some German friends. If you’ve been to Berlin, you know it as on the list of attractions: an old school food hall which on Thursdays has a bunch of pop up restaurants from 6 pm to 10 pm. Heaving crowds and no place to sit. A deposit on your glass so you’re sure to take it back and reclaim your four euros. That kind of place. I’ve visited before as a tourist, and now occasionally as a resident. Anyway, so we were there till 9.55, when they rang a giant bell and told us to leave. We were all still finishing our last drinks, when a lady came up to us and said they were closing, except instead of the usual word I’ve heard before for “closing” which usually refers to doors being shut, she used “feierabend.” I usually break apart German words I don’t know to examine them for context, and here she was saying “party evening.” “We’re now having a party evening,” she said to my friends. Meaning that it was time for the workers to party while the customers went away. I asked the Germans about it and they said it was pretty common to use in a shop or a restaurant. “You could even say, “I’m now ready for a party evening,” when you’re going to bed and you’re done drinking,” said one of them. I went home and questioned K further (he’s been a bit ill—not COVID—last week so he stayed in while I gallivanted.) “Could I say,” I asked him—this is my favourite game, taking new German words I’ve learned and putting them into different contexts— “Come over this evening for our feierabend?” “If you’re making a pun, sure,” he said. So I haven’t quite figured out why the word for “party evening” is the word for “closing” but not literally the word for “party evening.” Languages are hard.
I Googled it, and came across this interesting blog about the origins. I’ll quote the best bits:
The second part of Feierabend is Abend and it means evening. Note that the German evening lasts longer than the English one does, so it is also used in sense of night. The question “What are you doing tonight” translated literally using Nacht might sound a little salacious or the answer might just be “Sleep. Why?”
Feierabend is the moment when you have finished your work and there is not really a translation for that… by the way, it is actually strange that there is all these grumpy faces in Berlin subway at 5 pm as they all have party-night.
This is one of THE MOST used goodbye-phrases amongst colleagues. And it doesn’t matter whether it actually IS evening or not. It is also used by two night nurses at 8 am to say goodbye and you can also say it when your coworker, who is only a part time, leaves the office at noon.
And here is the little gender reminder… it is of course DER Feierabend so it is masculine because MEN work while women enjoy their Freizeit (free time) which is hence die Freizeit… what’s that? Not 1950 anymore?… true true true.. but back then when the articles were forged by those wise men, those were the days I tell ya’.
In my case, I’m trying hard to stick to a schedule, which is easier in the winter because it’s so dark and grim outside and it takes me 15 minutes longer to get ready because of all those layers, something I keep forgetting and then I’m late and in a rush but still trying to pull on my long johns. I have my party-evening at 6, and if I live by that rule, it means I get quite a lot done before I leave the house. Also why I’m desperate to finish off my next book before summer comes around again and the whole city is calling to me.
I’ve been using my tarot cards more and more these days, just for fun, just for a little optimism boost as it were. I put them on my bedside table and often my question is, “should I go out tonight?” I’m not sure what I’m expecting the cards to do here, to be like, “no! don’t go! stay in with Netflix!” but anyway, often the only answer I get is YES GO OUT YOU’LL LOVE IT. Last weekend the cards said: Wheel of Fortune (destiny), The Tower (big changes) and Six of Swords (get out of your comfort zone.) Which might hold true for my life in general. Another card I keep pulling is Three of Pentacles (indulge yourself, stop scrimping) and while I am not some giant millionaire-spendthrift type person, I find myself worrying slightly less. Same amount of money, less stressing about it. It’s hard to loosen the tight grip your fingers have on all your financial anxieties but just a little letting go makes some difference to your general mental health.
The night I drew those cards, we were going to an event at a second-hand bookshop I love. It’s called Another Country and it used to be run by a transwoman named Sophie. This bookstore was her baby, she had parties and events all the time, it was a safe space for other trans folk, she kept spare hormone shots at home for anyone who needed it and generally made it welcoming and a home away from home for queer folk. Now, I just stumbled upon it as a reader, having no clue about all these backstories, just knowing that it was a terrific bookstore, one of the kinds I like best, lots of squashy chairs, books stacked almost to the ceiling, a really good collection etc. And then Sophie died, and it looked like I was never going to get to go to the store again. But then a team of volunteers took over to run it and now they’re having weekly events and all sorts of fun things, including, the night we went: a pub quiz. (Which our team totally won. Our prize was a bottle of wine, but we’d already had one bottle of wine, so I was happy to share with all, after all the winners had taken a glass.) I have left my email address behind so that they can let me know if they need more volunteers, but for the moment, I’ll settle for the occasional pot luck pub quiz evening.
But I’m a little tired now, so I think this weekend I will finally sit down with my jigsaw puzzle and a hot drink, cozy in the house, something nice on the stove, the cats threatening to ruin everything by walking all over it, a good show on TV after, early bed with a library book; winter has many delights, both within and without.
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Or you could do bothhhh—a little something for me and a little something for you. Remember my new novel comes out in April, so you have to catch up on my backlist first.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (which is a re-read, I wanted to get into it again because of the IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE etc.): I don’t know. Still a great book but not feeling as great as it did when I first read it. Maybe even slightly pretentious and long winded? SHOCKING. I love Zadie Smith! Why is this happening to me?
Notes On An Execution by Danya Kukafa: A serial killer is being executed, his life is told from many different points of view. A library book I’m halfway through. Quite good, quite gripping.
Wednesday, which you’ve obviously seen, a fun teen drama about Wednesday Addams, a sort of dark grim supernatural comedy. And rewatching The Legend of Korra, both on Netflix.
On to the amazing links!
Oldie but goldie: the American male at age 10.
Things I do not like hearing.
The girl internet and the boy internet.
Another v specific German sitch: when do you say “du” and when do you say “Sie”? (“aap” and “tum” for non German Hindi speakers.) (Thanks Akshata for the link!)
Ok gtg, love you, miss you, byeeeeee
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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