reminiscing of warmer days

Now that I'm afraid to leave the house with wet hair or fewer than two pairs of pants on and puddles have started to look suspiciously solid, I feel I took the beautiful Berlin and Northeast summer months for granted. To bake cakes and enjoy them on a picnic blanket! - rather than hoarding the calories with a hot cup of tea as though the extra blubber might actually make any difference against the cold whip of frosted breeze.

What gets me each year in Berlin more than the cold is the lack of daylight; by 4 p.m. it is pitch-black and yet, even though it feels like bedtime, there are still things to be done. Rolling out of bed in the morning becomes a progressively later and lazier affair. Your only solace is Glühwein and the fact that you can eat as many Christmas cookies as you want because no one can tell if you've gained weight under all those layers.

These endless dark abysses of winters are good for at least one thing, though: contemplation. Life has the most meaning when there is suffering to be had, even if it's mostly a self-imposed pity party based on little more than an extreme aversion to low temperatures.

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americanah

"It was his houseplant, hopeful green leaves rising from three bamboo stems, and when she took it, a sudden crushing loneliness lanced through her and stayed with her for weeks. Sometimes, she still felt it. How was it possible to miss something you no longer wanted? Blaine needed what she was unable to give and she needed what he was unable to give, and she grieved this, the loss of what could have been."
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


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málaga, spain

As the summer draws to a close seems as good a time as any to reflect back on those sunny days in Spain filled with culinary delights and endless pitchers of the aptly-named tinto de verano. Málaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and they won't let you forget it, but if you're a fan then they've got a great collection in the Picasso Museum.

And generally a great collection of museums - Málaga is neither the best beach destination nor the most beautiful city I've visited in Spain, but if you're into museum hopping, it's got no shortage for a city its size. No real shortage of decent views, too, if you're happy to do a bit of climbing.

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when in rome

Ah, Roma - a city that reminds you of the delights of womanhood. Hello again, catcalls. No, I am not your baby, please f*ck off. Hello, hyper-sexualized* women. Hello again, overtly sexist jokes. Hello, familiar old female ritual of comparing instances of sexual harassment (know what I'm talking about?).

I did enjoy the food, though - as enjoyable a way as ever to empty your wallet-, and the abundant sunshine. And the old architecture - walking through the ruins, one can hardly imagine the amplified magnificence that these multi-story structures must have been a few thousand years before reinforced steel hit the scenes. Perhaps best of all, I got to reunite with a friend almost of a former life, one where we were all just idiot teenagers with little foresight of the people we would turn out to be.

Curiously, I find that many of the people I once cultivated friendships with, only to lose touch and reunite years later, end up having turned into individuals with a similar outlook and similar values. I wonder whether this is coincidence or whether life- and personality-paths simply follow patterns. Or perhaps a bit of both.

Most maddeningly, no one has yet managed to answer the question of what Italians ate prior to tomatoes and pasta (most guesses contain "olives?" though). I will nonetheless take pride in knowing that they owe their beloved modern cuisine in large part to my Chinese forefathers and the continent on which I was raised.


*Women are hyper-sexualized in German media, too, but less on the street (i.e. less makeup, less tight clothing, fewer manes that look as though they took 2 hours to blow-dry into perfection, fewer unsolicited compliments from creepy men).

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minimal barcelona

My camera died about two photos into the first Gaudí house we visited, so what you see is what you get: minimal architecture, artsy portraits, and the first day's lunch. Sarah and I thought we would take one last rendezvous before she abandons me for her native Mexico City and so we headed to Barcelona to rendezvous our bellies full.

This was my first visit to Barcelona and I very much hope it will not be the last - sun, beautiful architecture, and a beach, garnished with tipsy touristing between tapas spots? I could not have written a better recipe for a perfect holiday. Not to miss are Casa Milà and the culinary delights of El Quim in La Boqueria market. And I wouldn't pass up a chance to stop at La Xampanyeria for endless rounds of affordable, and delectable, cava accompanied by simple cheese and olive plates. And when you part, prepare to be asking yourself for a very long time why you ever thought it might be a good idea to leave.
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