1992 Annual Letter


Chinese ideograms don't seem to have a lot to do with Berlin but these days seem full of disparate images. One of my favorites is riding the subway through former East German stations that used to be guarded by soldiers and dogs and seeing billboards for Burger King. And we all thought the reunification was just for bananas.


Been diligently studying German for the past year. Although I am getting better I have given up all hope of becoming fluent. Arcane prepositions and having to know the sex of turnips remain insurmountable obstacles. The fun comes when I visit France. Having mastered neither but being passable in both languages I mix the two with abandon. Middle-class bureaucrats living in England shortly after the Norman invasion probably came up with similar fractured combinations and created modern English, so don't be alarmed. This past weekend I accompanied a group of my Berlin students to see the annual December show at the circus school in France. At dinner I spoke German with the Germans and French with the French, while they all spoke English with each other. Beats me.


Next semester I will take a German proficiency test administered by the Goethe Institute. Passing qualifies people to study at the university here in Germany or to teach German in Norway, a fascinating concept. Is the coast clear?


Did you ever think you would end up helping a former Socialist artist from Poland fill out five-year-old back taxes to the IRS? I used to be so naive. The fall of communism has far-ranging repercussions for wayward Americans. The US seems in a positive mood after the elections. Here's for new jobs and that homeless are housed.


The ongoing quest for nachos has taken a turn toward the tasty. A combination of persistence, cunning and American passport grants me fairly regular access to a US military base here to go shopping. A true military ID is now required to get on base but I managed to get special lending privileges at the base library before this new rule went into effect, so every time I go to the base I bring a library book to return. Apparently our foreign security is dependent on having no overdue books as armed guard after armed guard bows to the inevitable logic of allowing me on base to visit the library. The pen is mightier than the sword. Aside from keeping up with presidential elections, Doonesbury and Dear Abbey, this also lets me roam around an internally relaxed army base complete with mini-mart. Imagine a high security 7-11 plunked down in the middle of Berlin and you have the idea. It probably is similar to shopping in south-central LA a few months ago, but instead of broken glass and flames there is this patient guy waiting in line to purchase and smuggle tortilla chips, salsa and root beer out the gates.


Waiting in a line full of GIs has its moments. The shoppette also rents videos. Having no proper ID, I pass on this option. Catching the latest Hollywood releases is tempting but caution must be shown. It's just as well that the cold war is over; if this city ever were to be invaded we would have to wait for all the soldiers to rewind before they came to our defense.


Here's to a great next year.


copyright 1992 by Todd Strong



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