3rd Berlinversary

Three is a magic number. For me it meant different things in the course of my life, and has often related to my relationships with people and places. Now it’s the time to celebrate my 3rd Berlinversary looking back to what I’ve experienced so far and look out in the future what’s about to come.

‘You are not about the people, you are about the places’ said once a good friend of mine to describe me. And that’s me, working by my own choice, with people, all the time.

The other friend doesn’t believe I can stick around for longer than three years in one place and keeps asking me what my next destination is. Funnily enough, my initial thought when moving to Berlin was to stay here for max. 3 years, get some amazing work experience, learn German like a pro and visit all the places in the city I wanted, including clubs, galleries and abandoned places. I didn’t know it’s quite an ambitious plan for 3 years!

So here I am, not willing to move out and having hard time thinking which city would work better for me. I’ve just started my 3rd job, and it’s not that I didn’t like my previous experiences, it’s because this city is full of exciting opportunities. Having said that, lesson learnt #1 is to have a good work/life/travel/party/nature/urban balance. It’s so easy to get passionate about what you do (in my case it’s music tech!) and find like-minded people to accompany you alongside, whatever your thing is. But it’s also important to have a quality ‘solo time’ and wind down.

My German still has a lot of room for improvement, to put it nicely. I can read and understand a lot, write reasonably well (thinking that its structure is a good mental exercise of putting your thoughts together), yet I still feel very shy speaking. Maybe I should re-adjust this plan for the upcoming next 3 years?

I’m still not done with doing things, going places and trying out new stuff, which feels like a bucket with no bottom filled with endless options in this dynamic place. Not all the changes I like though, nor I accept certain grumpiness/negative/coolness vybe branded as ‘a Berlin thing’. I love the community and solidarity aspect which I hope will not get forgotten in the further gentrification and commercialization of the city.

I’ve been through love/hate phases of my stay here, and all the states in between: from bittersweet loneliness to over-socializing, from shivering in the winter to dripping sweat in the summer (*of 2015, never happened again), from Spati-crawling to eating out in a Michelin-star restaurants, you name it. And this is just a partial description of the diversity of Berlin I love.

And by the way, I took this picture today on my way to work <3.
 

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My summer of changes

A month ago I would not expect that my life would turn upside down and back again, and that at the end of it I would relax, unwind on a hammock and look back at it in peace. Maybe slightly exhausted, but still: feeling very lucky. Here is what happened.

My summer started in an operation room at the biggest Berliner hospital: Charité. It was my third surgery this year, and hopefully the last one (leave me alone, all you voodoo people). Looking back, the injuries hit me quite hard in 2017 – partly due to amazing exploratory life I’m living; partly because I ignored them for years, working way too much and not willing to take any time off to heal. While the leg operation was not such a terrible experience, the recovery was super painful. The painkillers available in the hospital were not helping me at all, and I had to rely only on my visitors to bring me the stuff that would actually put me at ease. I shared a room with a funny German lady who would not let me speak English even if I was terribly tired, so my linguistic skills must have evolved then more than ever during the past couple of years spent in Berlin. After a few days I was sent home, with a note that I should avoid walking for 2 more weeks. Walking was an incredible luxury anyway and I had to learn everything from the scratch.

I have come to terms that I will need to really slow down and unwind during these weeks and rely only on my friends. This was the most beautiful surprise of all: learning how many people would care for me, pay me a visit, bring me delicious food, or food for thought. Finally, on 6th July I could walk like a person and was getting ready for returning to work the week after, all recovered and with a lot of energy.

This is when I received dreadful news that over 40% of my colleagues were laid off: the employees I hired, I watched to develop, some of them being my close friends. I could not talk to anyone for the next couple of hours, being in a state of shock and disbelief. I have gone through the lay offs in different companies, but this time it was a place that was more than that. It was a company which created an incredibly human and open culture for the people who cared and loved the product they worked for, and contributed to initiatives like diversity and inclusion, or mental health at workplace, which I found very progressive in the tech industry. I could not believe that this cut has to be made, but apparently it was the only solution for moving forward. More importantly, I was not directly impacted by the lay offs, but most of my team was and this was very difficult for me to accept.

As it comes with the state of grief, the shock was substituted by anger, sadness and finally: acceptance. The business reality is what it is, and not always one can influence that or control it. I made a conscious decision to move on though, given that I’ve been already in talks with another music tech company which I admired and had an offer from, for a role in an exciting team with good outlook for my career development, closing an important chapter for me in a right moment. Within one week my whole life turned upside down, and I found myself in a loop of accepting/resigning and opening my network of contacts to try to connect the dots between the affected people and companies that may be of help.

I was stunned by the solidarity, speed and involvement of the tech community, although there was some chaos involved and it took some time to analyze the mutual needs from both the affected employees and companies offering jobs. It’s been hectic yet rewarding experience, and I am convinced that everyone will be able to move on to find an amazing opportunity. This situation has made the dissolved teams bond and get to know each other in the times of chaos. And to enjoy some bits of the summer too!

I was also very lucky that some of my Berlin friends joined me on a spontaneous visit in Poznań, my home town in Poland which was a great experience, even though it the political events and protests shed light on our stay a lot. Still, I felt proud I could speak up and stand up for the important cause in my country.

So, here I am, writing this all on 31st July, having spent an amazing month of sharing & caring, learning to walk & to dance again. Right before it all happened, a friend of mine shared her thought that she had a strange feeling this will be a remarkable summer, in many ways. There were indeed a series of turbulent events at many levels, and the weather has been dramatic too (also in all ways: from wetness to hotness), so tomorrow I’m leaving Berlin for some period of time to rest, retrospect and regain my physical and emotional balance while sailing in the middle of Atlantic Ocean. See you all in Berlin in the second half of August.

Frühlingsgefühle

The winter’s been long, and hectic; to be completely fair, I don’t know when the springtime started off this year. In a good way the restless times were filled with amazing happenings. I’ve travelled to both very distant and nearby places, I’ve been enjoying my work like never before, I’ve gradually gained more recognition externally and I’ve engaged in interesting initiatives in Berlin community for women in electronic music and tech. I also feel that I’ve never loved the city more than I do now. Although on the surface my relationship with the city rather seem like the ‘it’s complicated’ status.

Not everything’s been awesome lately. I’ve been through some health issues and it showed me the physical limits (not yet memento mori but at least giving some headspace for thinking about myself). While I’m still recovering, I’ve made the most important decision of not exceeding these limits anytime soon. I almost burned out on the job, networks and friendships, but I was lucky enough to spot the symptoms early enough and seek out for support.

I replaced the impossible agenda (even though my life is still pretty much fully planned until July 2017) with blank spots for actually being spontaneous, a space for the sheer laughter and going with the flow, like I used to in my post-Poznań and pre-Berlin life. Even that Germany is not a country for spontaneous people and not making plans leads straightforward to solitude, I prioritise it over forcing myself through 17th event on the 7th day of the week.

I still plan carefully my travels and dream about the upcoming destinations, but will plan to spend the summer in the city, sitting by the river bank, enjoying the long days and warm nights with whatever floats my boat.

Only last week beautiful things happened because of that: on Monday I booked a helicopter trip for 20 EUR for my upcoming holidays on Faroe Islands, on Tuesday I took a long walk with a friend in the sun, on Wednesday I decided to skip the meet up in Factory just to cycle and eat out with my bestie, on Thursday I enjoyed the sunset at Alt-Stralau while wearing a Brazilian bikini, on Friday I left work at 6 pm with saying that my weekend will be ‘low key’. Only to receive a call from a good old friend of mine who happened to be in Berlin. Yesterday I spent time with friends and strangers who became friends, and today I’m indulging myself in the sounds and solitude.

I’m so much looking forward to the changes and new ways of life to discover ahead of me. I’ve lately read about the DRD4-7 gene responsible e.g. for the personality trait of novelty seeking and I already know that I’m a proud owner of it. I’m predisposed to be an eternal nomad, with little tolerance to stability and boredom, and reduced ability to focus on one thing at a time. I have the feeling there’s more people with this particular trait in Berlin than in any other city I’ve lived in the past. But in order to enjoy this fantastic place to the fullest, it is crucial to recover and manage the energy.

And I have the feeling that spring/summer days are the best to do so. I’d like to thank my friend who captured the featured image of my neighbourhood on Friday evening, for reminding me about yet one more reason to love this city.

März Musik

März – in German ‘March’ is the long month of transition in this part of the world. In between the neverending winter and the long-awaited summer, the darkness and the light, the Berlinale and the Freiluftkino season, the CTM and the Atonal. I actually love the feeling when the first, more intense rays of the morning sun burn my face on my way to work… on my bike \o/ (I love my bike, but I am not one of these Berliners riding their bikes even when temperatures drop to a negative scale!).

Two years ago, high on discovering all the new places in the city, I participated for the first time in the event organized by Berliner Festspiele in my beloved music cathedral aka Kraftwerk called ‘The Long Now’. The concept of it is to bring a super ambitious line up of electronic musicians for a 29 hours long event of the Daylight Saving Time overnight switch, allowing the participants to indulge into the darkness, even allowing some sleeping spots at the venue.

A year ago, alongside with the event, there were corresponding installations in the neighbouring Radialsystem V and Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien which were pretty amazing. ‘Extended Compositions’ showed e.g. the works of weapons transformed into instruments, shooting the music, not war ❤

In Radialsystem V, the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota together with alif created a musical installation’Split in the wall’ with music as a concept of blood running through the veins – instruments.

The dreamy Long Now event will happen again this year from 25th March 18:59 till 26th March 23:59. Emerge in the lucid dreaming while in Kraftwerk, before the spring will take over the city.

And it all makes me feel how long was my winter sleep and how great is to face spring again. Simple, but happiness is free when this feeling hits!

Bosch – visions alive in Berlin

There is never enough of art in Berlin! February being a month marked by great festivals like CTM, Transmediale and Berlinale. Additionally, terribly cold and gloomy weather prompts people to spend more time not only in clubs and cinemas, but also in galleries. At the same time, there are some interesting regular exhibitions happening: and actually there are two of them focusing on Hieronymus Bosch, whose works may be never lose its powerful symbolics and complexity of describing the metaphors of the world.

I’ll start with the installation of ‘Bosch – Visions Alive’ taking place in Alte Münze among other interesting venues of Spree Werkstatten. In the dark and spacious environment, you can contemplate a 30 minutes animation of the most remarkable paintings of Bosch. Together with my friend, we stayed there for over an hour, hypnotised! This brings me to the point that maybe it’s a digestible way of bringing art and its history in a more inclusive way – since the installation is engaging people from different backgrounds. This way, the message of it can have a bigger impact.

And last weekend I decided to visit the ongoing exhibition of Hieronymus Bosch drawings and works of his copyists in Gemäldegalerie. There is not too much of original works, but those available are actually showing the impressive concept art from centuries ago. Apart from that, I was very impressed by the collection in Gemäldegalerie: if European paintings from 14th till 18th century is something you’d like to explore, this is definitely a place to go to. I spent some 3 hours last Sunday there and I still felt I rushed through it. Among the collection you will find not only Bosch, but also Rubens, Valasquez, Botticelli, Rembrandt and Bruegel.

So even though I still have not managed to visit all the important museums and galleries of Berlin in 2,5 years of time I’ve been living here, I can recommend Gemäldegalerie to those who live and breathe classical art.

Dancing thru the dark

 

I have to admit that 2016 was very abundant in terms of the art I saw: the exhibitions that made me think and the concerts I’ve attended. I do think a special focus for me is anything surpassing the boundaries in the contemporary art, with a focus on interpreting the classics and referring to the current musical trends.

I am not a professional dancer not an artist myself, but I do love exploring both (if this was not clear by the content of this blog yet). Here in Berlin I make sure to track especially anything by Sascha Waltz und Guests (from ‘Travelogue’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ and ‘Koerper’). This dance company has been showcased this year at Radialsystem V, Berliner Festspiele and Deutsche Oper.

Another highlight of 2016 was definitely the exhibition of Pina Bausch‘s works and deep dive into the history of her dance company, accompanied by the ‘Palermo, Palermo’ show only this month.

What I find special about the dance theater, is not only the physical, but also symbolic expression and freedom it brings. I have already confessed that for me personally letting go through dance is liberating and simply making me stronger, even if these cold and dark months have been exhausting.

Just like in the ‘Seasons’ march’ by Pina Bausch, there is a rhythm, which everyone has to find on its own, and at the end of the day, all the movements may feel similar. The work around repetition and symbols was one of the typical approaches in her Tanztheater, and I think it caries some universal truth. ‘Everything I do, I do as a dancer, everything, everything’ she said once. And I believe that dancing not only through the night/the season/and the darkness but also through the whole live can be a very good idea.

Uncertain journey(s)

Life is a journey, and it would be very fair to say that even if I am not travelling physically, the need for discovery leads me to trying out different things almost everyday. I mostly spent my summer in Berlin working, which was a great ride itself, with short getaways within Europe I had no time to describe but needed so badly to change air and perspective. Not to mention the quantity of gigs and showcases I’ve been able to see.

Now the summer is over and I am heading to a very distant destination.

Inspired by the title of the exhibition I saw 2 weeks ago at Blain Southern Gallery in Berlin I am ready to travel to the country I have long dreamt to visit: Japan. This mind-blowing installation created by Chiharu Shiota is open until the end of November, so if you have a chance to visit it, I truly recommend it. Full of hidden meanings and symbolics, it reflects very well the fragile nature of emotional bounds related to travel.

I love the feeling of the unknown waiting for me, this time multiplicated by the fact that none of the languages I speak may become handy, but rather the open mind and empathy. Exactly a year ago, a good friend of mine boarded the plane to Japan to travel for a couple of months in Asia. I was happy to trace herself  while she was discovering beautiful places, spaces and faces. Now I find myself in this amazing state of mind, ready for the new adventures, albeit for much more limited period of time.

The hunger for travel is a state of mind. And so is Berlin – very often I start missing this city the moment I board the plane. I will be back soon and will focus on seeking for novelty in my everyday life. Till I book another trip…