Thursday, 21 January 2016


Berlin, April 2005, July 2005.

Adriana came to pick me up at the Zoologischer Garten Station and we traveled by underground to Südstern, where our new home was located. It was a two-bedroom furnished flat and as my room was much smaller than Adriana’s, I only had to pay 230 Euro of the 500-Euro monthly rents. The kitchen was yellow and fully equipped. There were yellow dishes in the yellow cupboards and the yellow blinds hid the yellow windows. The owner, who had moved to Smyrna in a rush, had forgotten a rabbit made of chocolate on a cream-painted shelf. A week after my arrival in Berlin, I started taking German classes at the Volkshochschule in Schöneberg, the district famous for his gay nightlife. My teachers, two professional and yet funny women on their forties, had to handle a class of 20 foreign students from various countries. Most of my new class-friends were Russians and Poles, but there were quite some Turks, a Japanese girl from Kyoto, a Ukrainian couple from Kiev and an Indonesian man. After school I used to have lunch with Adriana and once every second day I went jogging in the Hasenheide, the 50-hectare large public park between Kreuzberg and Neukölln. I cannot count the times I was interrupted from my run by some likely illegal immigrants, who asked me if I wanted Hashish or Marijuana. Didn’t they see that I was running? The fun part was to see how those drug pushers run away and hid in the woods when the police drove through the park. On the first week of May, when I felt I adapted to my new environment, I called my 6th ex-boyfriend Ernesto, who had been living in Berlin for half a year. That Saturday my Spanish ex invited me to go with him and his friends to the Berghain club. The meeting point was at Warschauerstrasse station at 11pm, my ex, his Indian friend Deependra, his American friend Samuel and a Taiwanese guy arrived five minutes after me. Samuel and I got along quite well from the start, he was a smart guy on his late twenties born in Arizona, he worked as an English teacher, he had lived in Japan and he could speak several languages. Deependra was not my favourite person, in fact I did not really like him and I think he did not enjoy my presence either. I remembered how he kept on saying that he hated the sound of the Spanish language, in which Ernesto, Samuel and I, used to communicate from time to time. The Taiwanese guy came out with us only that one time, so I did not have the chance to get to know him better. “Hey guys, I gotta go to an A.T.M., I only have 30 Euro with me!” I said. “Are you mad? With that money you can go out the whole weekend!” They replied all together. “Sorry, I am still used to London prices” I said smiling.


One morning I was on the telephone with my mother when I saw it. A tiny grey mouse was devouring the stomach and the legs of the chocolate rabbit. I hang up the phone and I tried unsuccessfully to chase the monstrous little creature out of the kitchen window. The day after, I bought a mousetrap and some cheese and I placed the trap in a corner near the amputated chocolate rabbit. The smart mouse, which had managed to eat the cheese without falling in the trap, provoked the terror in our home, so that Adriana and me decided to move to a safer flat, on the 15th floor of a tower facing Alexanderplatz. “We will be safe from the dirty rats up here!” We agreed the day we moved in the new home.


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Wednesday, 6 January 2016


On Monday Olaf had to go back working and after a marshmallow coffee together, he went to his office and I chose to go to Ginza, the most famous shopping street in the Japanese capital. I did not have many Yen with me, but I had plenty of Euro and British Pounds plus American Dollars and Swiss Francs from my previous travels. Apparently my wide range of the most powerful currencies in the World did not help much in the Asian megalopolis. In fact no one accepted foreign money as payment and I could not find any bank that exchanged it for Yen either. After a few hours of unsuccessful searches from a completely computerized bank without employees to the following, I asked a shopkeeper where I could change currency. “ちょっとまってください Chotto Matte Kudasai” He prayed me to wait. Shortly after the Japanese man came back with a self made map, which showed a bureau de change in the largest shopping mall of Ginza.


My tri-band mobile did not work in Japan, but Olaf had bought me a pay-as-you-go in Roppongi, so that he could reach me from the office, while I was traveling around the country. I used my new phone only for inbound calls as I did not have a clue on how to top it up and my Japanese knowledge was not enough to allow me retrieve my mailbox vocal messages.

I was on a hill enjoying the view over Yokohama, when Olaf called me to recommend me visiting the Earth Experience Center. As the idea aroused my curiosity, I asked some people where I could find the center. “You must follow this road and you will see the center on your left after the forest.” Answered a man. After a couple of hundred meters and a green with three trees, I saw the building I was looking for and I remembered that in Japanese read “moku”, means tree and three trees together are a forest.

こんにちは - Konnichiwa” Welcomed me the lady, whose name “田中 Tanaka”, could be read on the badge on her shirt. The Japanese woman showed me where I had to leave my shoes and she asked me to follow her to the first room. Ms Tanaka could not speak English and with my limited Japanese, we had some problems understanding each other… “関東大震災 Kantō daishinsai the Great Kantō earthquake” She pressed a button, the ground started moving and pictures and books were falling on the floor down from the bookcase next to me. After the Kanto earthquake simulation, Tanaka san, asked me to follow her to the second room. The Japanese lady showed me to cover nose and mouth with my hands and to knee on the floor.

“Smoke – Smoke…” She said. I entered the second room and Ms Tanaka closed the door and waited outside. I went on my knees and I waited... As the smoke had invaded the room completely, I tried to open the door, but it had been locked from the outside. “What the hell?” I thought and I tried to call for help… “Please open the door, open the door!!!” I was panicking when I saw a florescent familiar sign: 出口. “That meant exist!” I thought. I followed the pathway and eventually I got out from another door, where Ms Tanaka was waiting for me smiling. “You did not tell me I had to come out from this door!” I protested. “Follow me.” Said the lady smiling. Once in front of the door of the third room I was not too sure if I wanted to go inside. “このドアは 出口 ですか。Kono doa wa deguchi desu ka?” I asked Tanaka san if that was the exit door. “Hai, hai, はい, はい” Yes, yes, she replied with a smile. I stepped inside and she closed the door leaving me alone in the deepest darkness. Two minutes later I realized that that door was not supposed to be the exit after all, in fact Tanaka san had locked it as well. I started calling, knocking and kicking. I was totally scared to be in a room, whose size and structure was unknown to me. “What if there are other people and I touch them in the dark?” I thought even more scared and I looked around for a “出口 Deguchi” sign. But in the complete dark, looking around did not help, as it all looked the same. I felt some unrecognizable objects with my hands, I stepped into pieces of soft materials and I fell on something that could have been a bed. Eventually I realized that I could use my mobile phone as a light and I could reach the door on the other side of the room. I would have never come out of the room without that trick. The Japanese lady, who had been watching the whole scene on the infrared screen, was waiting for me on the other side and as soon as I came out she said. “Dark room deshita” That was the dark room. “No other room for me, thanks” I replied.


On the weekend Olaf, some of his colleagues and I went to 日光市 Nikkō, the Japanese historical site famous for its three-monkey temple. The mountain was covered in snow, but the day was warm and we could walk most of the time without jacket. After a short visit to the temple, we took a cable car, which brought us through the watery vapors of the active geysers to the panoramic platform. While we enjoyed the breathtaking view, Olaf and I decided to walk the whole way down and his colleagues left for a quiet early evening in Tokyo. The signs in the forest showed the picture of two monkeys with the warning “Don’t feed the monkeys”. “I did not know that one could find them in snowy mountains!” I said. We followed the route and we reached another platform with an awesome view on a heavenly waterfall. “Oh my God, look Olaf! It’s just so cute… Look there on the left… The cute monkey!” I shouted and decided to have a closer look. While I was approaching the indigenous animal with the intention to caress it, the monkey became aggressive, it shouted and it showed me its teeth and nails. As I figured out that the monkey did not want to be caressed after all, I started running away and the wild animal followed me for some 50 meters to chase me away. A few Japanese tourists who had seen the scene had a short laugh, at least until the angry monkey jumped there to scare them away too. “No wonder that they write not to feed them!” I whispered while I was getting my breath back. 

After the weekend in the nature, I opted for a more historical beginning of the week. At 6am I took a のぞみ Nozomi Shinkansen train and about four hours and 1000 kilometers later I reached 広島市 - Hiroshima. 6th August 1945, 08:15am, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city and everything in miles was reduced to dust. Everything disappeared except for the Prefectural Commercial Exhibition building, whose ruins appeared in front of me when I turned the corner. What was left of the building was renamed 原爆ドーム Genbaku Dom, A-Bomb Dome and it’s under the World Heritage of the UNESCO, as it represents the destructive power of the atomic energy and the drama of the wars. 140,000 people lost their life that day in Hiroshima, many others followed due to the diseases provoked by the radiations. One can still see the signs of the destruction. The black wood of eucalyptus and the Maruba Willow, the shadow of a man, impressed on the steps of the building where he was sitting that day at 08:15am. The time of the watches that stopped at 08:15am. I stood for ten minutes before the statue of the mother who tried vain to protect her children. That day, the18th of March 2005, I read some of the letters that the mayors of Hiroshima had been writing to the presidents of those countries, which own atomic bombs. He had been asking them to start thinking and stop creating mass destruction weapons. No reply was received. Those letters can be found in the museum of the city.

My three weeks in Japan went by fast and as Adriana had found a flat for us in Berlin, I was ready to move to the German capital.