Next week I am officially starting my new job, which I am excited about! So, I'll report a few things before life starts getting even busier.
I finally got health insurance. I had been avoiding it - relying instead on my E111 card - because I was somewhat under the impression that your employer would take care of it all automatically. And, well, if you don't have an employer...
When I was offered my job, it became a little clearer: all you have to do is pick a health insurer and they will give you a letter to pass to your employer. Then the insurance comes out of your monthly pay. I chose AOK just because it was close by, and was really happy with their service.
Since I may come into contact with food during my work, I also had to acquire a Gesundheitspass. This involved travelling to a centre in Wedding (no appointment necessary), paying 20€ and watching a 30-minute video with about eight other people. It was essentially all about common sense, but I am now the proud holder of a health and safety certificate - my first German qualification.
This week, my parents came to visit! It was really nice, but strange to show them my new turf. We went to the Wall Memorial at Bernauer Straße. Tall, rusty poles indicate where the Wall ran along this street, between the French and Soviet sectors. It serves as a sort of outside museum - you walk within the no-man's-land, reading about the people who dug tunnels to escape, or had their houses demolished to make way for it to be constructed. The stories are terribly sad and make you think to yourself over and over again: what was it all for? While other Wall sites around Berlin focus on reunification - like the East Side Gallery - this is all about the human experience during this oppressive time.
We also visited the parliament building, which I had never actually done, despite having visited Berlin multiple times before moving here. It's just a case of booking a visit in advance online, and it's free. It was a stunning experience, especially since we went at night. It'd be nice to get some views of the city in daylight too, one day, so I will definitely go back.
This week I discovered that beds - the comfiest thing in the world! - can be a source of stress in Germany. Square pillows I can cope with, but buying new stuff for your bed can be a nightmare if you haven't done your research.
My bed consists of two single mattresses pushed together. Apparently, this is quite common here, along with two separate duvets, even for couples living together. I have no idea whether this is for duvet-hogging prevention, or what. Anyway, the stuff on offer in shops therefore appears to be mostly for single beds.
I can sum up the German bed conventions by the sizes that IKEA offers: Normalgröße (140x200cm - single), Comfortgröße (155x200cm - slightly larger than a single) and Übergröße (240x220cm - double bed). It required trial and error, but I've determined that an Übergröße sheet and a Comfortgröße duvet cover are optimal for my situation.
Finally, I seem to have made it a weekly habit to go to Two Planets and get a bagel covered with melted PB&J. My fab illustrator friend Katie has a studio in Neukölln where I have been to write a couple of times, making it terribly convenient to visit this bagel shop. The other vegan fare includes freshly baked peanut butter cookies and granola bars. I do wish that non-dairy cream cheese was on offer, but for now, I'm very happy with this heavenly combo.