Saturday, April 30, 2011

Berlin3. If Vices Define a Person

I'm coughing sick, please send me virtual pity hugs. And some spare lungs. Nonetheless, let's continue the ride. It is a race against my deteriorating brain.

In the morning of day 3, April 8th, I went out searching for things I didn't bother to bring, but were essential: cheap sandals/flipflops for hostel showers (they were clean, but floors were... slimy), hair brush (I was already having unwanted dreads by this point - note to myself, fingers are NOT combs), body lotion without paraben (paraben is a preservative that also is a xenoestrogen), tissues and a hand sanitizer. I found everything else except a body lotion and a hand sanitizer.

No hand sanitizers in drug stores?!? I showed my last drop of sanitizer to the storekeeper. I demonstrated how to use it and everything. She apologetically said no, they don't have it. What, didn't you guys get Swine Flu and Bird Flu scares? I was worried a little, but could forget about it (that's a lie, I actually NEVER forgotten about it) after a while. Time moves fast, we move slow, just let things be. I continue to live without sanitizers after I got back, and now I'm sick. Aaaanyways.

So, the third day was the day I move out of my prison cell. I didn't know how the new ensuite room would look like. For all I know, it is the same prison cell with a toilet bolted to the ground without toilet seats. I packed everything, put my luggages in a locker and head out to Pictoplasma. It gave me this unsettling feeling that I'm always in transit. Not having a safe room to go back to is unsettling. I'm kind of person who's constantly in and out of my room during the day. I don't know how people go on backpacking for a whole year. I don't enjoy living out of suitcase even for a week.

I kept falling in and out of sleep during the talk because of jet lagging. I don't quite remember having it this bad. The entire trip was delirious. Did I really love Berlin, or was it all a dream?

More photos from Pictoplasma:
Ryan Quincy, lead animator of South Park

SFA. I love these guys

I love cobble stone streets in Europe. My kitty shoes have seen better days...

In the afternoon, I ran to the hostel to check into my new room. Holy shit. For 10 euros more, you get a pretty nice room (yes, it is small though)! It didn't smell, plenty of lights, cute closet and a nice & clean bathroom! I know for some people, it doesn't matter where they sleep because it's just for sleeping. But when I sleep in a nicer place, I am much happier. One negative thing about it was that the internet connection was barely there. I learned from my friend Hieng (after I got back to Toronto) that there is this thing called Air BnB. They list hostel/hotels run by regular people. I wish I knew about it before. Renting an entire apartment would've been cheaper than staying in a hostel. FML.

Nonetheless... I absolutely loved it while I was staying there. The location was amazing, looking down on Torstraße street. I'd sometimes stand in front of the window and watch the street, the people. It was on top of Rosenthaler Platz, where five streets collide. I loved this platz (is it called platz?). It reminded me of Korea. I don't know why some things in Berlin reminded me of Korea, other places in the world never remind me of Korea. This place brought out a vague memory of the poor town in Seoul I grew up in. I was five years old, I'd be sent to buy cigarettes for my grandpa. I'd walk unpaved roads. The pharmacist's seven year old son would take me upstairs to show me his room in one of low-rise buildings, where three streets collide (everything looked bigger then).
 The white building is StOberholz, apparently a famous restaurant/cafe. People are on their laptop all the time there. I finally got to check it out on my last day. Very friendly people with nice chai latte with soymilk. If I lived around here, I'd work here everyday
There was no seats for woodcut printing workshop with Roman Klonek again. I gave up and set out to get some vegan treats at Kreuzberg.

Eissalon Tanne B had a few vegan icecream options, and VEGAN WAFFLES! Yeah, I went all the way there for soy icecream. Oh the things I'd do for soy icecream... I wanted to try vegan waffles a la mode, but I didn't feel like eating there alone. Icecream waffles are the sort of things that you sit with your friend and eat them while having a conversation. This place would be so much fun under the hot summer afternoon sun.
It was a residential area. Kids seemed to be just off school, moms were picking them up and having an icecream on the way home. There was a playground right in front of the shop.

If it weren't so cold, I would've tried one more flavour

Soy chocolate icecream

VEGAN WAFFLES!! I don't know a word of German, but "Waffeln" must be 'Waffles"?

By chance, there was a farmer's market happening. Or maybe there is a farmer's market everyday. It was a small, neighbourhood market. I bought those picked shredded carrots and quinoa salad and had them for dinner later.
Farmer's Market

I don't know why people are so nice almost everywhere in Berlin. Owners of the vegan store, Veni Vidi Vegi, explained each kind of vegan bread spreads in detail. And gave me directions for two nice vegan restaurants to check out. I never got to go to those restaurants. One was a Chinese restaurant that serves vegan pecking duck. I'm going there next year for sure.
Vegan store, Veni Vidi Vegi
Stuff I bought from Veni Vidi Vegi - things I don't need, but I buy anyways.
The Vegan store had other store's bags

Suppose to be a spicy sausage. Still in my refrigerator. Not spicy at all

Salty spreads

I had to buy it because it's a Spacebar, dude! It wasn't very good, but it helped me survive long plane ride back without starving

Er.... so-so. Sad to say, but I make better vegan sausages. Now I feel all cocky

I think Barlauch is wild leeks my mom and I forage in spring. The shop owner cut a leaf from her plant and made me try. It's so-so. I don't eat much bread, so why did I get so many spreads?!?!

I accidentally bought another one of these, the same flavour too. But it's very delicious

Very good soymilk. I love strawberry soymilks. I KNOW looked especially strange when I pulled out soymilk packs out of my bag and drank it in mid-conversation. I don't usually do that at home (maybe I should more often). Travel makes a person even stranger

Why did I buy spreads, why?!

Cute napkins from the icecream shop. 

The vegan store person gave me flyers of vegan restaurants. I wanted to try both, but didn't have time

I was so thirsty. Having a tea
More photos of Pictoplasma:
I was in and out of sleep again. Dark, warm place plus jet lag wasn't a great combination.
Nick Cave. Interesting artist who makes crazy costumes. He was so eloquently spoken

El Señor

My favourite creation of El Señor: slimy cute monster
After the Pictoplasma talks, Arv (founder of the amazing motion graphic company, Pyramid Attack. He had a screening at Pictoplasma) and his cool friends kindly hung out with me. I am not sure if I were a creepy creep who just followed these cool people around. If so, my apologies. Arv's friend took us to White Trash. It was a very strange, yet fun place. A whole building was an entertainment, bar, restaurant, tattoo(?) centre. Basement was a dance club, upstairs was a restaurant/bar. Loud music filled the whole venue. A kind of place I'd never go normally, but in Berlin, I felt quite alright. Maybe it's the sleep deprivation, maybe it's this magical city. I felt pretty relaxed. And this Swedish band, Chuck Norris Experiment, who was playing at White Trash was AWESOME in live. 6 euro cover charge was totally worth it. People were dancing, but no mosh pit, thank goodness. I hate mosh pit. Get your sweaty paws off of me.

Looking around, I realized I might be the only completely sober person here. I was once again reminded of what a boring person I am. I don't drink, smoke and I'm a vegan. I seldom drink coffee. If vices define a person, I'm the most boring person ever. I often get, "What?!? What do you do for fun?"
"I read books and watch movies...?" And long walks on the beach. I'm kidding. There is no beach near by where I live. But please don't get creeped out by me. I have good and valid reasons why I don't drink and smoke. I tried drinking, man. You have no idea, I TRIED. I get really bad allergic reaction because I lack ALDH2, so can't break down alcohol. I went blind once, and that's when I just stopped trying.

Some decor at White Trash (Caution - Boobs):

Pinball machine! I love pinballs games! Video games, I mean
On the weekends, people party all night in Berlin. I must say, it was fun even for a boring person like me. I read somewhere about Toronto's club scenes dying. I don't really party, but it's kind of sad, I guess? It is my neighbourhood, so I am contributing to the area gentrification (actually, I'm few streets up). Apparently, long battle between the residents in the area and the club district is coming to an end. As a resident, I really don't mind seeing people party and puking here and there. Why would people move here without accepting that, it's a club district! I like watching pretty people scantly dressed in cold winter nights. Arv told me some Toronto DJs have moved to Berlin and do well there. Good for them.

Walking back, we saw a rave (?) at a basement of this old building covered in scaffolding. A guy waved us to come in. It was like walking into an old crypt. Haha.. sausage party. We left right away. I was tired and had to attend the conference in the next day.

That concludes day 3. More to come. It's a very scattered writing, but who cares, I'm sure not many people's reading. Now I'm going to cough my lungs out and enjoy the sunshine.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Berlin2. Scatter

I do not remember much of the first day of the Pictoplasma, it's been all a blur. This posting is shallow in content. I try not to be shallow, but attempts fail me. You can look at photos though :)

Circus hostel has a wonderful breakfast buffet. I ate so healthy because all I could eat were vegetables and fruits. They had this amazing carrot coleslaw. I saw them everywhere in Berlin. Maybe it's a German food? I have no idea. I miss it. And SAUERKRAUT, dude!! I've never had sauerkraut until then. That unsatisfiable itch in my life, that little emptiness in my heart.... what's been missing was SAUERKRAUT! My friend's boyfriend told me that it's because I'm Korean. sauerkraut is like kimchee. Yes it is! Despite people looking at my plate with puzzled looks, I had heaping plates of sauerkraut and carrot coleslaw over, and over and over... I had to resist an urge to buy a huge bag of sauerkraut at a grocery store. How on earth am I going to carry it oversea? And I've seen sauerkraut in Canada too. I'm going to eat that like there is no tomorrow.

I ate enough for me to skip lunch. Sounds pathetic, I KNOW.
Awesome hot chocolate at Circus Cafe
 I actually worked on my travelling portfolio at the Circus Cafe. I'm grateful for them being chill about it. I've been kicked out of places before for collaging. I really am careful when I'm using glue, I swear!
I was going to finish my travelling portfolio while in Toronto, but like everything, I just didn't have time due to the last minute illustration job. Because of jet-lagging haze, I glued my prints in a wrong order.

Circus Cafe Menu

I'm kind of a psycho who asks strangers to take my photos and actually POSE FOR IT. Otherwise, I'll only have close-up self-shots. I don't look good close-up

Oh man Meomi! I love you people so much. I still use their illustrations for my computer wallpaper. I absolutely love them. I bought their Cloud Seeding book at the Pictoplasma table. I was a bit surprised to see it there. For those who don't know their work... they did branding for Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Motomichi postcards
 I always try to send postcards when I travel. I sent Motomichi postcards to some of my friends. I wonder if they got them. When I sent round of postcards from Mexico last year in July, my friends received them 9 months later. Let's see if German postal service does better.

Asking another stranger to take my photo. I put shame aside while I was there
 Below photos are of Roman Klonek. He is one of my favourite illustrators, one of the greatest inspirations. My teachers taught me not to look at contemporary illustrators (but look at Master's work), but how could I not look at his work? They are so magnetic. I always do block printing with rubber, but tried wood printing because of Roman Klonek. My arm hurt like hell. How on earth he does all his work with wood? I have such respect for him.

I really wanted to buy this print, but it was sold

Gallery with Roman Klonek works and his wood printing workshop

Roman Klonek had a wood printing workshop. There were 3 sessions. I went 40 minutes early for this, but the seats were already full. I stood around, waiting for some more chairs. More chairs came, and people who came later than I sat on them. My friends told the gallery people that we were there earlier. They told us, "ask and take their chair." What? I can't take people's chair. I just stood around awkwardly, listened to the lesson for a bit and left. I went back the next day early again to find out there is no seat. I gave up. I already knew how to wood print... but it was Roman Klonek teaching!

Oh yeah, and I was too scared to actually talk to him in person (this is going to be a repeated theme of this trip). There were lots of opportunities. But I didn't want to look like a crazy person. I've been his fan for a very long time.

Master at work

Mr. Klonek explaining how to use the press

We had some time until the next workshop, so we explored the more of Character Walk (Pictoplasma-related gallery shows around the town) Jeremyville took over the whole building and covered with his wonderful art. Him and his wife were such a nice people. I actually got to talk to them at the closing party on the last day. How wasn't I scared to talk to them? Because I didn't know it was them... I saw this lady with a Jeremyville bunny bag from LeSportsac. I saw them on their website before, and I was looking into ordering a small one. So I asked the lady where she got it from (maybe a shop in Berlin sells them, and I don't have to pay shipping). She said, "This is our design"
"This is our design. We designed them"
They gave me bunch of stickers and pins. So sweet of them. Please do order their wonderful bunny bags.

More photos from Character Walk and other galleries:
Tent made of shopping bags. Such a cool idea

Mcbess talk
 I could only catch first 15 minutes of Mcbess talk because I had a dinner plan with my friends. Erika of Canvas Collective is living in Berlin with her boyfriend, working as a designer. I dragged them to this very weird vegan souvlaki place, Vöner. I'm sorry Erika, to make you guys sit through that! It's suppose to be 'fastfood', but our food took an hour to arrive. I forgot to take photos because we were so hungry by the time the food arrived. I ordered currywurst. It wasn't very good. If I had time, I'd give it a second chance. I'll go back next year and order souvlaki plate.
This drink was so good! I want another...
 Erika told me about how there is no tab water offered in German restaurants. I didn't really notice it until then. At my hostel cafe there is a jar of tab water for people to drink, so I didn't know they don't normally do that in other places. She said she asks for tab water everywhere she goes. It started to bug me too. After meeting her, I asked once or twice at a restaurant for a tab water. Now that I think about it, why would it bug me? I went all the other places in the world without drinking their tab water... But it's strange... bottled water is, among many other things, completely evil. From my moral high horse (?) I recommend this documentary if you are not convinced: Addicted to Plastic. Germany has one of the cleanest tab water... let's just drink it. I get sick very easily by drinking other countries' water. I didn't get sick in Berlin. Clean tab water. Hyein approved. Here is Hyein Seal of Approval, Germany:

I'm sorry... I should shut up. I worked for petroleum industry once. I have no right.

Interior of Voner

At Vöner, only one guy in the picture was working. When I went up to pay... he didn't know how to open the cash register even though Erika and her boyfriend paid ahead of me with no problem. He turned the cash register upside down. I wanted to ask, "Dude, are you high?"

I am embarrassed for stereotyping, but I thought everything in Germany would be on time. I was wrong. Everything was laid back. The conferences started an hour late, food comes usually late, everything was late late late. Where did our culture of efficiency come from? I kind of let go and enjoyed the slowness of it all. If the conference starts an hour late? Just show up late. Problem solved.

Alone late at night, I decided to check out Tacheles. It's an artists' squatter building. It was full of graffiti, full of strangeness. I got lost going up and down the stairs, random people talked to me. Again with serious jet lagging, conversations disappeared into abyss. What is wrong with my brain... Am I getting old or maybe I was never sharp to begin with. I thought I wouldn't jet lag because my sleep schedule was already fucked up in my daily life. I'm the most inspired at night, so I used go to bed at the crack of dawn. I can't lose the night - all the magic happens after sun down.

Photos of Tacheles:

skeleton humping a cactus. Exactly what I need in my life

It was a small, smoke-filled bar in Tacheles

I know Berlin is a safe city, but I really wasn't going to walk around 3 in the morning by myself. The streets were deserted and I was getting scared. I got lost and wanted to pull out my map, but didn't want to give away that I'm lost. Not that there was anybody on the street. I walked and walked into the endless night. I found a vegetarian Indian restaurant on the way. What a good price. Man, I love Indian food. Their opening hours were impossible for me (with Pictoplasma schedule), so I never got to go. I'll check it out next year.

This yoga school was offering all-you-can eat vegetarian food

Some floating yarn monsters on my way to the hostel. Part of Character Walk
 I dropped by an organic store on my way to the hostel. I bought some goodies! Hot chocolates & chocolates for friends, vegan hazelnut chocolate spreads, soy yogurt, juice and vegan cookies. It was the best soy yogurt I've ever had. I wanted to go back to that market to buy more, but didn't have time in the end. I bought the exact same chocolate hazelnut spread in Amsterdam without knowing that I bought the same thing already. Once I got back to Toronto, I've been eating it everyday. So good!

This completes my Day 2 in Berlin. More to come! If you actually made it to here, I owe you a cup of tea. My apologies for scattered writing.