This month we passed our eight month mark of having moved here to Berlin. It feels like we've been here a lot longer but also like we've barely scratched the surface of this place. The weather is turning back into what it was like when we first got here (read: COLD) and my language skills have progressed enough for me to actually be capable of doing a bunch of mundane things in German, like going to the doctor or doing a job interview. Exciting times. One thing that has not necessarily gotten any easier thus far however is not feeling like such a god damned Californian all the time. I don't just mean American, I mean Californian (they spell it Kalifornien here and it drives me crazy). I miss the Pacific, I miss the Sierra, I miss fresh oysters, I miss Jeffrey pines, live oak, and sequoia trees, I miss vegetables that taste good, I miss people being open-minded, I miss markets being open on Sundays, I miss people jaywalking, I miss the beach, I miss sourdough bread, and I miss being in the same time zone as many of the people I love. But there are also things that I don't miss (traffic, bad public transportation, the NFL, expensive rent, expensive wine, expensive health care, you get the picture). So is the life of someone who moves to a new place. There will always be pros and cons, good parts and bad parts, good-tasting vegetables and bad-tasting vegetables. And, with luck, there will sometimes be things that make you feel like you're not so far away from what you're used to, like a random Mexican store in the middle of old East Berlin.
A friend of mine showed me this place a few weeks ago and it made my week. It's tiny and there aren't too many fresh items in there but they do have plenty of tasty things that I basically gave up on ever seeing again once we moved. Canned and dry beans, rice, Ibarra chocolate, fresh tortillas, fresh chips, salsas, tamale wrappers, cilantro, a wall full of hot sauce (Tapatío AND Cholula?!), pickled jalapeños, chili mango suckers, quality tequila and mezcal, Corona and Tecate, limes, tamarind paste, leche condensada, dulce de leche, avocados, Tanjin, tropical juices, queso fresco, hominy, and even preserved nopales, the cactus pads popular in certain parts of Mexico. If it had been twenty degrees warmer and wreaked of urine out front, I could've been on Mission Street in San Francisco.
I came home with a few essentials; Tapatío hot sauce, pickled jalapeños, chipotles in adobo sauce, and a legit grip of cilantro. Finding fresh herbs, especially cilantro, in full bunches like this as opposed to small plastic trays of just a few pathetic stems has proven quite difficult here. This beautiful cilantro bouquet was a windfall and I feel like a real champ now I know where to get more. I basically won the Cilantro Jackpot, if you will.
These tiny victories are proving to be important for me here, small revelations in this whole expat thing were doing. It can be pretty isolating to live in a place with a different language and culture, even if it is in Europe. Not many Germans have been to the US, and even fewer to California or Mexico (it's pretty far away from here!). Also, it's not surprising to note that many of the Germans I've met have a bad impression of the United States right now due to the divisive politics and horrible reputation of our current president. To live somewhere where the general population doesn't understand your homeland and doesn't want to because of its problematic public image can be a bummer sometimes. So to find small symbols of my home like these familiar groceries is comforting and feels like a tiny sign of acceptance. Their existence here in Berlin reminds me that, between the Currywurst and the Bretzeln, there are lots of different kinds things and people in this city, even some from California like me, and I just need to make the effort to find them. And if they want in on the Cilantro Jackpot, I now know where to send them.