Please excuse the early arrival of what is traditionally an end-of-year/seasonal letter. I'm taking advantage of the low postal rates while visiting the United States to mail this. The US is just a postal bargain. Believe it or not, it is actually cheaper to send a letter from the US to Germany than it is to send a letter from within Germany to somewhere else in Germany.
Anyway, 1994. I'm still working at the circus/theater school, Die Etage, in Berlin pretending to be the juggling teacher. Doubt that I have much to do with it but the school keeps expanding. The new semester began in October and we now have over forty acrobatic/juggling students. The increased enrollment is a mixed blessing as we really don't have room for everyone but for now it is nice to be crowded. More and more students are coming from outside of Germany. (The Germans have always considered Bavaria a foreign country so that doesn't count.)
For the first time one of my students has told me he prefers to speak English. It comes as a jolt after all the German but I try to manage. It's not a true test of English as the student is an Italian who somehow claims he is from Argentina. Other than that I still struggle along in German, more or less making myself understood and waiting for all my misunderstandings to eventually get cleared up.
My new apartment feels like home. I found the place in January and moved in in May. It took that long to get all the utilities hooked up. The east German power company has tried to retire the national debt by getting me to pay for old gas and electric bills charged to this apartment years before I was here. After several months everything except for a telephone has been turned on. Until next year (or later) I receive faxes at the school and wander the streets of East Berlin looking for phone booths.
The apartment became quite cozy when I finally learned how to turn on an East German gas heater. Central heating has not yet come to my part of town so I have independent heaters for the living room, kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen and bathroom heaters were fairly self-explanatory but the living room heater took some time to figure out. There are two large buttons and one dial with no instructions for how to bring the thing out of mothballs from several years past. After randomly pushing buttons and turning the dial I began trying to turn the buttons. In a fit of inspiration I somehow lucked on the combination of pushing both buttons at once while turning the dial. Result: Dusty heat began trickling into the room. I think I know how to turn it off. For me it culminates the long struggle with the power company.
The biggest change over here this year was when the Russian and Allied forces left the city. Ever since the end of the second world war Berlin has been occupied by four armies. With all the change in the east and the re-unification of Germany all the soldiers got bored and moved on to other hot spots in the world. As near as I can tell this makes me the last American in Berlin. It's not so bad except my supply of nachos and maple syrup has dried up. Please don't be fooled by the return address on the outside of the envelope. I really do live in Germany (even I am amazed . You can reach me at (if you're so inclined) at:
Enjoy the seasons and have a great next year!
copyright 1994 by Todd Strong
Copyright © Todd Strong
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