Berlin, part 3. 6 stories about 5 people I met.

I got excited at the thought of writing something about the people I came across. The thing is about people is that we’re all connected and each connection, not matter how brief, can change us in ways we don’t always understand. These are just a few nameless people I decided to write about.

The French girl

She had a yellow coat, an umbrella and a backpack, one of those European hipster ones. Short dirty blonde hair, a bob with bangs; her beautiful face featured her large eyes. We were introduced, she had a beautiful French name (of course) and apologised for her thick French accent and her lack of proficiency in English. I apologised for not speaking French.

She smoked like a European and waved her hands about like the actresses you see in French movies, the indie ones, not the ladies who appear on the covers of Vogue. That night, I found myself at a table with a French-speaking Canadian from Quebec, the French boy and her, not understanding a word. Thank God for beer. And WiFi.

I saw her the next morning, as she was checking out. We said goodbye and wished each other well. She was wearing her yellow coat. I think we would have been great friends if we spoke the same language.


The singer

Ozzy serenaded me one night. In return, I had to kiss him on the cheek, cheeky bugger. He had a great voice and soon, an audience had gathered around as we sat on a couch and enjoyed live music at its rawest form.

His crazy wild hair matched his voice perfectly, it was the last thing you’d expect from someone only 18 years old. Or 21. Who knows. He used to be in a band and had recorded an album. He decided to come to Berlin and was on a mission to make it, whatever that meant to him, and to me.


The French boy

We met on my first night at the Sunflower. We lost track of time as we chatted all night, and downed a couple of beers too.

I learned that he was from Paris and I asked why Parisians were so rude to tourists. He apologised for not all Parisians are like that, but a lot of them are unfortunately. He studied medicine briefly before deciding that the life of a doctor, regardless of how nobel it was saving lives, was not the life he wanted for himself. He then pursued engineering for a while and made it through a year and an internship before stopping because he hated the campus and the city he was in. It was too small for him.

He enjoyed art and drawing, although I never got a chance to lay eyes on his work. He decided to pack up and move to Berlin because he had fond memories from his first visit when he was 21. I couldn’t understand it, why on earth would someone move from the most stunning city on Earth to Berlin?

“Well, it’s Berlin.”

And that was that.

The Vietnamese phd student and his thesis

I was so excited to learn about his thesis and proceeded to ask him a million questions about it before apologising for interrogating him. It was a study on children’s orphanages in Vietnam and the US, as well as the whole foster system too. It was truly fascinating.

He carried with him a sling bag that army men used to carry. It was lighter than a camera bag but thick enough to protect his camera, and it was in a perfect army green. I later learned that he’s also an incredible photographer because we’re friends on Facebook. His pictures make me drool.

We talked for hours, him, me and the French boy over a few beers. It is evenings like those that I miss the most about travelling. Learning about different places and countries and cultures, all from a table at a hostel.

He would also ask people he met on the road to hook him up with friends from home, if he was heading there next. He was heading to Paris after Berlin and so asked the French guy to introduce him to a couple of friends who could show him around. He called it his version of a Blind Date.

The coolest girl I’ve ever seen

I didn’t actually meet her, but I saw her often as she worked at the hostel. Impeccable fashion sense, the sort of androgynous look that only really tall and edgy girls can pull off. She was no regular Berliner.

Towering over normal people with her cropped pixie hair, I never mustered the courage to speak to her. She had an aura of cool that I could only dream of. Not a dorky cool, but a legit cool. Every outfit was straight out of a magazine and everyone knew I had a girl crush on her. Except her, of course.


The bartender

I found myself alone one night, with nothing much to do. Everyone had either gone out or gone to bed so it was just me and him and a table of people who had grown quiet as they finished their drinks.

After ordering my favourite beer, I had grown very fond of a stout that was €3.20 a bottle, I sat at the bar in my pyjamas. I watched him work as I had nothing else to do, which was when I noticed all the small things about his face, his movements, the brown shirt he was wearing, the numerous bracelets he had on. He was handsome but not in a typical way. Curly hair, dark eyes, a moustache, a nose ring, and had a beautiful tan.

“What time do you finish?”, I asked. And we began chatting. He had travelled the world and just returned to Berlin, which is why he wore so many bracelets. Each was a memory from a place he had been to. The gig at the hostel was the first job he got after returning and he liked to late hours, so he took it. He liked the quiet evenings you see, it gave him time to work on his music.

I asked about his music and he too, was an aspiring DJ. I asked if I could listen to some of his mixes, he said he would play some of his stuff after the table of people had left.

I asked him how old he was and he said 32. My eyes widened.

“Wait a minute, you were alive when the Berlin Wall came down???”

I was bubbling over with excitement, it was difficult to hide. He had lived before this one incredible moment in Germany and was present for it too. I had seen pictures and heard stories, but these were from people who studied it. No one was actually there. Until him. I was in awe. Jealous almost, of his life and his experience. Of being there and alive at such a time of reconciliation. Oh my goodness, tell me all about it. What was it like? I wanted to know everything.

“Yes, I was there with my parents. I was so small and I didn’t understand why everyone was dancing and partying. People climbed up and danced on the wall. There was a lot of dancing.”

He smiled at me, as if apologising for the lack of detail and for his poor memory. But I felt like I finally understood Berlin.

With that, I finished the last of my beer, bid him goodnight and went to bed.

I never got to listen to his mixes.

East Side Gallery in Berlin