Never on Sunday

One of the things that dramatic, if temporary, relaunches of living arrangements allow for is dramatic, if temporary, changes in habits.

For example, back in my regular everyday Canadian life, I’ve a longtime habit of working on Sundays. It’s not, to be honest, that there’s actually 6 days worth of work to day (although the quietness of Sunday working does allow for super-productive working, usually). It’s just that absent church, hockey or family, there’s not that much to do on a Sunday in Prince Edward Island, at least in the winter, and rather than face the endless drear, I seek solace in the arms of another.

In the grander scheme of things this isn’t a good thing, per se, and my more balanced European colleagues (okay, just Olle) have been known to point that out. But habits die hard.

At least until you relocate to Berlin.

I made a conscious choice not to opt for the 25 “24/7” access here at Betahaus in part to make it impossible to work over the weekend. And, of course, there’s much more to do in Berlin on the weekend, and much more of it has the potential of Maximum Fun, so this really wasn’t a hard decision to make. Oliver too has helped in this effort, insisting at every turn on the importance of “nobody feeling left out” if we don’t do things together as a family.

This Saturday’s version of “not going to work” went something like this:

  • 9:00 a.m. – Household slowly wakes up.
  • 10:00 a.m. – We all head downstairs to Kaffebar, the coffee shop under our house and over a few storefronts, for a languid breakfast of bread, cheese, fruit salad and coffee.
  • 11:15 a.m. – On the U-bahn (subway) we head north to Bernauer Straße where we join the throngs heading toward the Mauerpark Fleamarket (as I described it in an email to G., “think of the 70-mile coastal yard sale crammed into Hillsborough Square in Charlottetown”).
  • 12:30 p.m. – Abandoning the idea of a family-wide amble given the crowds and different amble-pacing, Oliver and I head off to the distant multi-coloured playground while Catherine continues on. The playground proves formidable, both for the physical feats required to climb up it, and for the swarms of kids “in the way” (as Oliver describes them).
  • 12:45 p.m. – Catherine’s had enough of the crowds; Oliver’s had enough of the other kids fighting for playground supremacy, so we rendezvous and Catherine and Oliver share a fresh waffle with Nutella.
  • 1:00 p.m. – Walk around the corner to Bonanza Coffee for more (very good) coffee.
  • 1:15 p.m. – Wander about the neighbourhood. Break into temporary argument about “wandering without a purpose in mind” (I am the purposeless wanderer, Catherine is not; I probably didn’t need to tell you that).
  • 1:30 p.m. – Argument still simmering, we head to the U-bahn again (thankful for the “day tickets” we purchased, which means we don’t have to worry about finding change for the ticket machines every time we want to move). Our (purposeful) destination is Café Garbáty in nearby Pankow which I’ve come to believe, thanks to Google Translate and Zitty, is having a special family afternoon with cake, sausages and family fun.
  • 2:00 p.m. – Argument waning: arriving early we head to nearby playground and Catherine and I watch Oliver make himself completely and utterly dizzy (to say nothing of filled to the gills with sand) figuring out how to make the spinning-around playground equipment spin around. Our experience of Berlin playgrounds to date is that they are way, way more fun than stock Canadian ones.
  • 2:30 p.m. – Head to Café Garbáty. Not sure what to expect. We are greeted at the door (of an otherwise empty bar) by very friendly owners and ushered into the back garden where we are offered drinks and provided with crayons, markers and paper for colouring fun.
  • 2:45 p.m. – Challenging conversation with one of the owners, an older woman who speaks very little English to match our very little German. We both appear to be under the impression that if we speak with conviction in our native language the other will somehow figure it out. This is not true.
  • 3:00 p.m. – After 30 minutes of colouring fun, still no other kids in evidence. Wind is picking up and rain is threatening so we head inside.
  • 3:10 p.m. – Cake is brought to our table; wonderful, fresh cherry cake. And hot tea. And more colouring materials. Another family arrives! Other family turns out to be half English and half German and their two kids, younger than Oliver, bring a much-needed “family fun” element to the family fun day.
  • 3:30 p.m. – Velcro darts. Play with balloons. Conversation about kid-friendly places in Berlin, contrast between Canadian and American border guards (was there ever a more useful conversational fallback than that one?).
  • 4:30 p.m. – After more colouring, distribution of gummy bears, and a full album’s worth of Joni Mitchell on the stereo, and with still we two families holding up the “family” part of the equation, we think about heading off, but then there is word that the barbeque is on and steaks and sausages will soon be on offer.
  • 5:00 p.m. – Steaks and sausages; very good. More balloon fun.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Finally ready to head off; Catherine goes over to the bar to settle up: total bill for everything, for all three of us, comes to €10, which seems like the family fun deal of the century to us. We say our good-byes to everyone and head off.

Part Two of the “old habits die less hard” continued this morning when Oliver and I headed off to do the laundry together; but that’s another story.