Randomly and for many years, I had on my wall in Bogotá a postcard with Nefertiti, the TV Tower and the Parthenon that said “Berlin is a bitch, and then you marry”. Little did I know how years later the postcard would make sense as I saw my life tremendously transformed by my decision to move to Germany.
Berlin was a complete bitch on my first day here. I arrived hungover and jet lagged, a couple of hours before my check in, at the airbnb I had rented for one week, which I naively thought would be enough time for finding a permanent room. Hours passed and my host didn’t reply to my texts and when I called her, a man picked up saying that he was in Chile and had no idea what I was talking about. It was way too early in Colombia to call my family but not early enough to start wondering if I had make a huge mistake.
On top of this, I had my first U-Bahn fine for what it felt like a tiny fortune. 5 hours in Berlin, 60 euros less and homeless were the starting points of my life here. But to be fair, another starting point was the help of people from back home that connected me with other people here. That way I managed to find a hotel and two nights later, a place for three weeks. Eventually I found what I though would be my permanent home, and then a couple more that followed.
Berlin started to show a better face when Uni started. I was going to study for 2 years with a very diverse group of people that had close to none life experiences similar to mines. That made getting to know them exciting, opening my mind to completely different visions of life. The classes were interesting and in the first semester I had a lot of free time because most of the work was done during class time. Back home I was always surrounded by people, regardless of if it were my workmates or friends that were one call away. This distracted me from being with myself and having to figure out who I was when nobody else was there.
The solitude of arriving to a new continent in which you don’t know anybody and where you don’t understand the language, is profound. While in the process of meeting people, and with the free time that Uni was leaving me, I also got the space for being a lot with myself, having conversations and asking questions like I never did before.
I remember the first semester as the adaptation time. My complete ignorance of the German language reinforced the feeling that I was a newborn learning how to live from scratch. Time passed, friendships were made, some clubs were visited and then I wanted to stop adapting and start living fully and making Berlin feel like home. When I felt ready to go out and conquer the city, COVID decided it was not the time for it.
I thought about putting Uni on hold and going back home while the pandemic passed, because half of my desire of living in Europe was studying but the other half was being able to travel. My parents suggested that I stay because nobody knew how long the crisis will last and how much coming back would put my life on hold. They were right. Staying and living through the pandemic was the time that I recalled as being the happiest here. The questions that Berlin raised about my relationship with myself started being answered during the first quarantine. Online Uni was extremely challenging, which was also exhilarating, so my quarantine was very productive and busy.
I’m not sure if it was Berlin or life which decided to be a bitch, but when I was feeling my happiest and fullest, starting my first summer in the city, my father suddenly died and that shake the foundations of the world as it knew it. Death came in so unexpectedly and abruptly that it stole all sense from life. It wasn’t Berlin’s fault but it’s hard to separate the absence of my father from me being here. I feel that I carry around dark feeling towards everything, including the city.
I now have things that I longed for a while: a stable relationship with a person that makes me feel at home anywhere, a nice group of friends that care for me, a more connected relationship with myself and the feeling that many possibilities are opening in my path. But grief is a hard monster to fight and sadness can become overwhelming. Maybe now Berlin will be softer with me and we will fall in love at the same time that I heal my broken heart. Maybe, after all, we will marry. Ask me later.