The semester's started full-gear and I've barely had time to sleep with all the starting up and catching up being thrown at me. So I figure I better start writing before all memories of my backpacking adventures through South America are replaced with political data and theory and a swirl of economics terms I'm not quite sure I understand.

My trip started in Lima. I landed relatively fresh from NYC sometime in the late evening and nabbed a cab to my hostel in Miraflores, one of the richer & safer neighborhoods of Lima, where I had booked 3 nights through New Year's to explore the city.

It turns out I didn't need nearly so much time - if I'm being perfectly honest, I found Lima to be relatively unremarkable. From a touristic point of view, it reads as a generic Latin American city (with better food, but that's Peru in general). Not so for my hostel companions, however - there was plenty of revelling, which I opted out of my curling up in the corner with my book like a scared kitten.

Solo travel lesson 1: Lone introverts do not do well in large party hostels. (Not the time to challenge your anti-social tendencies in a big way.)

That's not to say that Lima is a complete dud - there's the food, as I mentioned before (although a word of caution to vegetarians - I was all too happy to break my self-imposed dietary restrictions for ceviche), some interesting ruins, and of course the sea. The highlight for me was New Year's Eve, when a girl I met on the plane from Houston invited me to her friend's NYE party with an insane view, and the whole city exploded with fireworks for nearly half an hour. But unless you plan on staying and partying, don't give yourself 3 whole days to explore - they are better allotted elsewhere in this beautiful country.

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insta-trip-in-review & inevitable germanification

This is the part that I argue that the excuse for my most recent blogging hiatus is the most legitimate yet: sorry I couldn't blog because, well, I was backpacking from Lima down to Buenos Aires with nought but an ancient iPhone, two t-shirts, and my trusty black Moleskine notebook. But I trust that my heaviest fans (i.e. my parents) have been following along on instagram. So here's a fancy filtered preview to whet your palate for the real deal photos to come.

But I'm back in Berlin! I was thinking the other day that it's been 16 months in Germany now, and I still feel like the foreigner. Or, really, more like I'm in some sort of 3rd-Rock scenario where I try to fit in but just can't seem to understand what is going on in everyone else's heads. But then I landed in Lima.

Returning to Latin America has made me realize how much Germany has changed me. Returning to past homes always makes you realize how your most recent home has changed you - sometimes it's the little things, like the first time I went to a restaurant in the U.S. after coming back from Brazil and left a $1 tip on a $25 bill thinking I was being generous, or when I came back from Argentina for the first time at 17 and automatically went for the cheek-kiss before finding myself in awkward hugs. But sometimes it's bigger - namely, realizing that somehow you feel like no longer quite fit in in your home culture, either, because of course you are always a blend of your cultures but that blend always seems to lean heavily in one direction or another.

So I present to you how living in Germany has changed me:
1 - I'm terribly impatient. I'm sorry, what do you mean you can't sell me my bus ticket now? Absolutely unacceptable! The bus isn't on schedule? Unbelievable. You told me 5 pm and are going to dare to show up at 7:30? (Or anytime after 5:05 for that matter?!) You clearly don't respect my time.
2 - Along with the impatience, I've developed a bit of a temper. When I first got here it made me cringe whenever someone told me off for something I was doing wrong - jaywalking, biking off the bike path, talking too loudly - Germans are not afraid to let you know when you are behaving inappropriately. But then a little while ago I was biking down Mehringdamm and some idiot Brits stopped smack in the middle of the bike path, forcing me to veer into the street, and I was horrified to discover the need to suppress the urge to scream what the hell are you doing dumbheads at them.
3 - But I've realized that the impatience and seemingly excessive anger is backed by a deep respect for other people. Upset Germans are only upset out of a sort of righteous indignation; they follow all the rules out of consideration for everyone else, so why shouldn't everyone else do the same for them?
4 - Punctuality (impatience reiterated): After years of on-again, off-again living in Latin America, I landed in Germany with the sheer inability to arrive anytime earlier than half an hour after the arranged time, no matter how hard I tried. 16 months in, I have got timing down to an art and I text people to let them know I'll be 5 minutes late.
5 - Beer. I drink a lot of beer, and I have no problem with drinking it warm, to the horrified disgust of my Argentinian comrades. I may also be imagining it, but I'm pretty sure my tolerance has gone up.

So there you have the new, Germanified me. I'm sure there are other little byproducts of expatriation I haven't even begun to notice about myself. But to be honest, I enjoy the way I am now. I like that I like things that work, and that I can have high expectations of others to respect my time and my space. It's probably the screaming introvert inside of me, but I like that I have finally found a culture where I can be who I am and no one thinks I'm a weirdo for wanting to be alone, or for being so aggravated when neighbors make an after-hours racket. Proof that everyone fits in somewhere, I guess.

I understand that everything I've said about "Germans" is a gross generalization. My apologies.

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blue in Berlin

SKINNY JEANS Uniqlo Ultra-Stretch in Black) | SWEATER Aritzia |
STOLE Muji Large Wool Cape Stole in Navy Blue) |
BOOTIES Paul Green (similar here)

These photos were taken on Monday, in the few hours of relief following my Statistics exam, on one of the only days in weeks that we've seen sun here in Berlin. Even so, I had to turn up the brightness of these photos by 60% just to make it look like I took them outside. The utter lack of Vitamin D has gotten me down somewhat, and the fact that it's already dark as I write this mid-afternoon.

Consequently, as anyone under these conditions would, I feel the constant need to swaddle myself and snuggle in anything oversized and cosy I can, which is perhaps why I so intently hunted down a scarf large enough to act not only as a stylish scarf, but as a blanket, a superhero cape, and also probably a makeshift tent if I throw it over a low-hanging tree-branch. Also it is cosy as hell (seriously, sometimes it makes my neck sweat even when it's 1 degree outside. But it's only going to get worse from here - on Monday I fly back to NYC, where the winter temperatures are sometimes so sub-zero that zero has floated off and gotten lost in outer space somewhere).

photo credit: Freddy Rodriguez
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good morning berlin

And don't you think it would be nice if you could give us sun every day? It's officially cold here in Berlin now, and just as the cherry on the cake I guess the day only lasts from 7:30 to 4. Which is useful at 4:30 when you start to panic that you have so much left to do before bedtime and realize you still have a good 7 hours, but terribly not useful when you sleep 10 hours and still wake up feeling groggy and confused as to where the day is, or when you get to uni and by the time you leave class it's pitch black. Not to mention that it messes with your instagram feed terribly.

I apologize for the sub-par photography, but allow me to (as I generally seem to be doing) make excuses: FINALS. I've not been blogging because I've been too busy adding words like "multicollinearity" and "heteroscedasticity" to my vocabulary, which make me sound smarter than I promise I feel trying to wrap my head around such concepts. Speaking of which my two-year blog-iversary passed me by a month ago and silly me! I forgot to notice. I'm blaming it on the whirlwind of projects and papers because while I can't focus on fewer than 6 things at a time, apparently I can't get more than one at a time done. So this is probably sayonara until I wake up in New York in a week, where the air is icier but the sun does not go quite so heavily into hibernation at least.

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Last month I took an overnight bus to Amsterdam to spend a weekend with the boy, who was using all his vacation time to lounge around his old Erasmus haunts. For me this meant meeting a bunch of his Turkish Dutch doctor friends, who shared their Dutch gardens with us alongside gözleme and coal-brewed Turkish coffee. Lucky for us, the weather was perfect for walking around and eating Belgian waffle after stroopwaffel after Belgian waffle, and then perfect as well for collapsing indoors for a post-sugar high nap. In Berlin, fall has finally hit hard, or at least all the falling leaves seem to smack me in the face every time I get on my bike and the sun has suddenly decided on a new early bedtime. Meanwhile my brain is reeling with public management terms (someone please remind me what libertarian paternalism is again and is there a pill I can take that will help me remember responsive regulation) and sunny days in Amsterdam seem eons away.

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