Aber Hallo!

June 20, 2005

I'm in Berlin, right now most definitely my favorite city in the world. I had the luck to arrive just as one of Berlin's famous and rare summer heat waves descended -- just in time for the solstice -- and to be reminded how in summer the whole city turns out of doors and into the funny wooden-slatted seats of its five thousand sidewalk cafes. Paris is famous for its sidewalk cafes, but you have to share them with traffic exhaust and traffic noise. I'm always shocked at how loud and unromantic Paris is whenever I forget long enough to go there. Berlin, on the other hand, is quiet and beautiful -- full of green, leafy parks lined with friendly cafes where they don't care if you sit all day drinking a single cup of coffee.

And now they have wifi.

In fact, I'm sitting at such a cafe right now, drinking my second wine spritzer and feeling a little drunk. They have H & M here. Now that's civilized.

I told an old friend of mine here (a documentary film producer) what kind of magazine Hyphen was and she got all excited and said, "You know my friend, [German murmur murmur]? I'm sure I've mentioned him before. He's Vietnamese but grew up here. He does the same thing, writes about the Vietnamese in Germany, you really should meet him!" I'm just waiting to hear that the Vietnamese and Korean Germans have gotten together and started a magazine. The children of the Korean guest workers invited here by West Germany starting in the fifties, and the Vietnamese guest workers invited here by East Germany starting around the same time, are now adults in their twenties and thirties. A couple of Asian American film festivals ago, they showed a German film about a transracial adoptee.

This world really is changing. Seven years ago, when l Ieft Berlin and moved back to the States, the city was one, big, ethnic German construction site, a sort of temporary Lager between the past and the future. But I didn't really think much back then about what the Berliner future was going to look like. Now the city is sparkling new glass and steel, two out of three restaurants are Turkish, Asian or some sort of Hispanic, one out of five hip, lovely young people you see on the streets and in the clubs is mixed or of some darker substance than German, and people I went to the university with are getting jobs as sensitivity trainers. You can actually start doing a little Asian spotting on the streets. On the train from Prague I sat across from three young women, presumably Indonesian, who were speaking a mix of German and English to each other. Two were wearing a hijab, one wasn't. I have no idea what that means.

I suppose I could have imagined this, but I guess I've been thinking local and working global. As my film producer friend, Sonia, likes to say, "Aber Hallo!" ["Yeah ... helloooo ..."]