Tropical Girl Does European Winter

For our second wedding anniversary, JG and I decided to go to Berlin. On one side I was not that excited about the trip because I really did not know what to expect there, but I have been having another episode of bad cabin fever, which is why I haven’t been posting any new entries ‘til now (being that there is nothing to write about), so the trip made for something to look forward to nevertheless. I am very happy to say that it was a really great trip, not perfect, but great just the same. It was so great that I have decided to post a number of entries on the trip so I can tell you more about the highlights and the many different things that I got from it. We also spent a day in Prague, so that really requires another post altogether.

To start, I thought it might be best if I get the bad out of the way. That bad thing is really just one thing, which is the weather. JG like most Filipinos, have this winter wonderland fantasy; the dream of one day seeing snow, and experience winter for the first time. I on the other hand am not like most Filipinos. Although I understand that it is only natural to want to experience something rare or unusual in their daily life, negative zero climates is not for me.  But do not get me wrong, I don’t like Libya’s scorching summers either, to be more precise I would always prefer the tropical weather; there are a lot of things that I wish I can change about my country (terrible traffic, over population, and some cultural norms to name a few) but it’s tropical weather is something I dearly miss. Yes, it does get hot and humid, some even describe it as sticky hot, but you stand in the shade and whistle, a breeze is sure to follow and viola, you are good to go again. If that doesn’t work, taking a bath as often as you can is also a favorite thing of mine to do.  As for taking trips, as I mentioned before, take me to a beach anywhere and I would be in heaven. It is unfortunate that that is another, of the many, opposite aspect of my relationship with JG. Like I said he likes cold places, here in Tripoli, the air condition is often on, even when it is not that hot.

Anyway, I tried to persuade him not to go to Berlin during winter but he was adamant, and as expected challenged me by basically asking where my sense of adventure is. I wanted to say, I thought we wanted to go on a holiday, but was truthfully convinced. Mostly like I said I couldn’t wait to get out of my routine here in Tripoli, and wanted to experience something different. Besides, I was also looking forward to seeing one of JG’s friends in the department, who is posted in Berlin and is one of the sweetest dearest persons I have ever met. (I will be writing more about her in further posts, and she has given me her permission to call her Ms. Banana as her codename)

At first I figured that it probably would not be that cold. It was just the beginning of December, so perhaps it is nothing like a very thick sweater could not handle.  Early correspondence with Ms. Banana soon dispelled this belief of mine as she explained that it is starting to get really cold there and that we should prepare for it. At first I was persistent, but further consultations with weather websites proved that by the time we get there, snow will be falling and temperature is expected to drop really low. Being the tropical girl that I am, the only time I experienced being at a below 0 area was when I visited a gene bank for rice seeds. I was in the big freezer for 20 minutes and I couldn’t wait to get out. My teeth were chattering and I was starting to lose feeling on my face, here in Libya, lowest temp these days are about 9 degrees and already I am covered in a sweater and PJ’s and sleep under a thick comforter.

Ms. Banana also suggested that we prepare our winter clothes, to which a tropical girl like me doesn’t really have. Back home I wear nothing but skirts that remind you of spring or shorts paired with cotton shirts with matching flip flops. I own several jackets, but not the very thick kinds or the wool kinds you’d have to go to special stores to. So I had to buy go and buy some, and even then I got nowhere. I could not get myself to spend 80 dinars on a coat that I will be wearing only for five days, so I bought 2 very thick sweaters, which back then was a practical thing to do, as I only spent half of the cost of one wool coat.

But boy was I wrong, so we get to Berlin, and as soon as Ms. Banana sees me, she asked if I had anything more to keep me warm aside from what I had on. I said sure no problem, but as I got outside, I knew I was in trouble. MB being the sweet kind of person that she is was kind enough to lend me an extra coat especially for winter. To which I did not refuse anymore, realizing how truly cold it was there.  By that time, I  thanked God I wasn’t that stubborn and bought myself a pair of gloves and some thermal underwear, to which really helped lessen what I was starting to realize what they meant when they used the description bitter cold.

JG on the other hand, portraying the alpha male side of his, only brought his regular clothes, and bought one new jacket and was seriously convinced that it, along with his body fat, and “his ability to will his mind to rule over his body” was all he needed to combat the cold. I implored him to buy some thermal underwear as well, or at least a knitted cap for his ears, but like a proud soldier, he straightened up, lifted up his chin, stretched out his arm palms out and shook it in negation. In his defense, he did soldier on, braving the four hour walking tours we took, even though by day four he was walking like a penguin and finally succumbed to wearing a cap, to which he says he did to please me.

Berlin was a beautiful place, so was Prague, and in both places its sights and colorful history really makes me want to come back and see more of it, but like I told JG, I will probably never do it during winter ever again. I spent most of the day with my face covered by my scarf because my teeth would not stop chattering I could not even laugh at the guide’s jokes properly. Along with my face, my arms and legs lost its feeling every time we stopped. I couldn’t get good pictures because my fingers no longer had dexterity. And as much as I really wanted to listen and find out more about the place, I had to concentrate on keeping myself warm.  I was so out of my element that we had to buy the same book twice because I lost the first one somewhere, I was so looking forward to going to some place warmer that I did not notice that I had lost it hours later.

Thus the only negative part about the whole trip, it’s all good from here on. But I guess, the main reason why I am making such a big deal out of this, is that as a diplowife there is a possibility that we might get posted somewhere where winter is a big part of the year. And it really sucks to think that I might spend the rest of that post inside, or lost and out of sync. I do not want to think about that right now, but looking at it in a positive perspective, perhaps the trip was a good heads up so I can better prepare myself if that does happen. Maybe I can ask JG to teach me that mind over matter thing that he does…

More to follow, for now I leave you with my favorite photo taken during the trip (or at least the best my cold hands could manage)

The Brandenburg Gate is one of Belin's main symbols located at what they call Parizer Platz, it has a long history listed under it, but what I really liked about it was that it's really hard to believe that it used to be right in the middle of a death strip near where the Berlin wall use to stand.
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