Well, FemGeniuses family, we made it!
I arrived in Berlin on Saturday, May 24, and all of the FemGeniuses (pictured L to R: Nicole, Stefani, Kadesha, Melissa, Casey, Ximena, Blaise, Kaimara, and Beril) arrived yesterday—Sunday, May 25. Kaimara arrived around 8 am, and we were lucky that their apartment was available so that she didn’t have to roam around all day waiting for check-in. She did want to walk around a bit and get some air—which makes sense after her 8-9 hour flight from Chicago—so we walked to get some breakfast.
We ate at the Nalu diner, a place I found online a few weeks ago. I wanted to try it because I’m a sucker for eggs, bacon, French toast and thangs for breakfast, and that’s what they have on the menu. I ordered the aforementioned with some orange juice—delicious!—and Kaimara ordered pretty much the same thing except she ordered regular toast—she says it was delicious! Fun fact. The diner is named for a breakfast place one of the owners visited in Honolulu, where he spent time growing up in the 80s, called “Eggs and Things.” But “Nalu,” which actually means “surf,” is just an easy name to say in German, English, and Hawaiian.
By the time we went back to their apartment, Blaise had almost arrived. Once her driver parked, she almost killed some bikers by opening her door right in the bike lane. We only laughed because no one got hurt. She didn’t see the bikers because she claims she was so happy to see me. I was happy to see her, too.
After we got settled, we went to get Blaise’s currency exchanged—her hard-headed self didn’t heed my advice to do that in the TXL airport in Berlin. I was going to get mine changed at the airport in Newark, but the man was trying to hustle me and I wasn’t having it. To be honest, though, I didn’t even heed my own advice. I forgot to change my currency at TXL, and had to go to the city to get mine changed, too, after I arrived the day before. Haha.
During the non-exchange of the currency process, we ate some lunch at the BBQ Kitchen. I had BBQ duck—delicious!—Kaimara had pommes frites (French fries), and Blaise had some potatoes and thangs. I also had this great apple juice spritzer that was so light and refreshing! Let me also point out something I learned about Berlin when Tony—my husband—and I visited last November. They do NOT play about wasting condiments. You get one serving, and if you want more, you pay extra. No handfuls of ketchup at McDonald’s. Pretty smart, actually. Meanwhile, it was good getting out and about, even though we didn’t get the currency, because I was able to show them some things about getting around in the city.
After this, Blaise and I took her bags to her apartment. We walked for almost 30 minutes, which was silly because we could have taken a tram. That was my fault. Haha. Still, we were able to do some bonding, and I could point out some things about the area and give her some more tips about local travel. She’s super smart and has been picking up on all that really quickly. We had to stop by the main office to get the keys, which made us about 15-20 minutes late meeting Stefani and Kadesha, who were on the same flight from Denver to Berlin. Of course, they had to fuss me out. They’re so resourceful, though. When Blaise and I arrived at the main office, Nathan—the manager (who’s been SO helpful to me since I started planning this trip months ago)—told me, “Your students found some of our other residents and gave us a call! I told them you’d be there in about 10 minutes!” How’d they manage to do that without using their own phones? They buzzed almost every apartment in the building until they found someone to help them! Gotta love my FemGeniuses! I should also mention that they fussed me out even more because their (very beautiful) apartment is on the 5th floor, and there’s no elevator/lift! Haha!
I wasn’t able to stay long enough to greet Casey, because I had to go back to my apartment and get ready for our dinner at Käfer GmbH and tour of the Deutscher Bundestag, where the German Parliament meets for business. Fancy, huh? I’m not even gonna tell you how much dinner cost! But it was so very nice! It’s so prestigious that I had to send along our full names and birthdates so they could check our identification before we went through the security system.
For starters, we ate an elaborate salad—buffalo mozzarella with farm tomatoes with old balsamic and basil pesto. For dinner, we ate pink-fried beef filet with white asparagus, new crop potatoes, vegetable-vinaigrette, and Hollondaise sauce.
Blaise doesn’t eat red meat, so she ate fried corn-fed chicken breast on asparagus risotto with braised red wine-shallots, white mushrooms, and Buerre blanc.
And for dessert, we all ate a strawberry tartlet with sour cream ice cream and woodruff sauce. DELICIOUS, I tell you. And didn’t I tell you it was fancy? Just look at these pictures. Hmph—my FemGeniuses are sho ‘nuff spoiled.
Now, I should tell you that the only reason I could tell you all the names of this stuff is that I only just now deleted the reservation email. It’s so fancy that they have a limited menu, and I had to order everything in advance. Yaasszz, hunty.
After we ate and looked around the building—while Blaise took these pictures—we headed back to the apartments and tried to get some rest. But let me say a little bit about these apartments. First of all, they’re extremely beautiful. At first, I was looking for hostels—thinking that’s the typical way college students do study abroad courses. However, my colleague Gail Murphy-Geiss told me that she found apartments for her students studying in France this past spring, and I am really glad she made that suggestion. While I was conducting research, I found the most beautiful apartments that were suitable for accommodating large groups of people—the Old Town Apartments. And after Tony and I visited them this past November? We fell in love! I’m not going to tell you where the students are staying exactly, but if you click that link (above), you can see the beauty for yourself—they look just like the pictures. I swear.
The great thing is that I’m staying nearby in an independently owned apartment that I love. And all of our apartments, near Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, are also close to our classroom space at Frauenkreise. Please check out their website by clicking the link—they are doing some great work, and Gabriele “Gabi” Zekina has been tremendously great to me since we first connected last fall online. We’re all within a 5-minute walk of the nearest grocery stores, and our apartments are equipped with stoves, ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, and cooking utensils so that we all can balance eating out with eating in. Things couldn’t have worked out better in this regard, and I must say that my students will be staying at Old Town each and every time I’m able to teach this course, which will hopefully be every year for the rest of my natural life.
Last, I should say that I couldn’t be happier with this inaugural group of students enrolled in my first study abroad course. I say that because five of them have taken a class with me more than once, so we know each other pretty well. Kaimara took her first Feminist & Gender Studies (FGS) course, Intro to Feminist & Gender Studies (Intro), with me last spring, and she also took Feminist Theory (Theory) with me this past spring. She’s going to minor, which couldn’t make me happier.
Blaise also took her first FGS course with me, Intro, which was actually her first college course ever. It was also the first time I’d taught a First-Year Experience (FYE) course at Colorado College (CC) during the fall semester in 2011, so our history together has some real significance for us both. She also took my Theory course. She’s also minoring in FGS (majoring in Biology), and she’s going to graduate next spring, so I’ll probably cry. Haha.
Similar things can be said about Melissa. She also took the same FYE course I taught with Blaise. She was also in the same Theory course. The difference is that Melissa also took me for Black Feminist Theory this spring and has decided to double-major in FGS and Psychology. She’s also graduating next spring, and I’ll probably cry again. Haha.
Kadesha also took me for FYE, Intro, during the fall semester in 2012. She also took my Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) course this past fall. She decided to major in FGS recently, and we’ll be working together on a college-funded research project this summer after our time in Berlin! Clearly, she—like Melissa—is ushering in the next generation of Black feminists in a flame way!
Stefani also took my FYE course, Intro, this past fall. She then took me again for CWS with Kadesha again last fall. I keep saying that I must be getting better at teaching FYE—a really hard first course for college students—because she’s the first student that took me that soon after the FYE. Most of the students can’t deal with me again for at least a year! Haha! Stefani’s a superstar, though, so I gotta give her credit!
Finally, Casey, Nicole, Beril, and Ximena are taking me for the first time here in Berlin.
I wholeheartedly welcome them into the FemGeniuses crew, and hope they’ll take many more classes with me before they graduate!
As for our time in Berlin, keep reading and following us during our journey! Today, we went on a walking tour, and Melissa is in the process of finishing up her blog about that experience as I write! Stay tuned, and be well!