Okay, I really need to catch up now! After Henrik found us at the train station, we took a bus back to his flat. It’s a very cute little brick building and he is on the third floor. His flat is a nice one-bedroom apartment. We decided to have dinner at a pizza place down the street. Henrik’s girlfriend Sandra met us at the restaurant after she got home from work. Ordering was quite tough but Henrik and Sandra were very helpful. I was so exhausted at this point even though I had slept on the train. We ate and went back to the flat and I was asleep before 20:30 (but I checked email first, I think).
The next morning, we woke up not too late. Sandra had to work, so it was just the three of us. Henrik laid out a huge breakfast for us, bread and cheese and proscuitto and smoked salmon and Nutella and juice and coffee and a little salad with tiny shrimp and mayonnaise in it that I dubbed “shrimpies” because the German name was boring. That amused Henrik. Everything was so good at breakfast that I stuffed myself. After that, we went to the downtown area and took a tour bus. I’mm not sure what it was that I ate but my stomach roiled during the entire tour. I enjoyed sightseeing, but not as much as I would have on a normal stomach. I was on the rag, too. Yuck. But still I learned a lot about the city that I will promptly forget, except for the fact that Chicago is one of its sister cities. Nice coincidence.
After the bus tour, we had to go to my birthday surprise! Henrik had told me at breakfast that he had a surprise for me. So we went to do that in the early evening. It was an exhibition called “Dialog im Dunkeln” (“Dialogue in the Dark”) that was so amazing. We entered, just the three of us, into a semi-dark room and the first guide told us that we were going to be in total darkness with only a cane (like blind people use) to guide us, plus a guide who is blind.
So the exhibit consisted of several areas that we navigated through by talking with the guide, who spoke a bit of English, and by feeling around. The first area was a forest with bird sounds and pine trees and grass underfoot that really smelled and felt like a forest. There was also running water like a waterfall on the side of the room, and there were bridges to cross. The next room was a busy street and a street market. There were vegetables and fruit to pick up and smell, and there was a door at a house with a doorbell to ring (with a barking dog sound effect). We had to listen carefully in order to cross the street. It was incredibly difficult. Then we went to a bar in the dark, with patrons consisting of other people experiencing the exhibit; we had to fumble our way to the counter and order coffee (well, that’s what I ordered). It was easier than I thought it would be but still so difficult, especially figuring out which currency to pay with.
We sat and chatted with our guide for a while about her experiences navigating the city as a blind person. I asked her about having a guide-dog but it seems like, in her opinion, that would be more trouble than it’s worth, especially having to care for a living creature, and being dependent on its (albeit well-trained) whims. After a bit, our guide escorted us to the exit (still in the dark) and then left … so, as I am realizing, we never saw what she looked like with our eyes. Just like blind people, we got to know her by the sound of her voice and what she said and occasional physical contact. That was my favorite aspect of the whole experience.
After the dialogue in the dark, we went to Café Mathilde to meet Henrik’s brother, Matthias. We decided to order take-out from Henrik’s apartment. We got yummy pasta from a noodle place; mine was in a curry cream sauce with grapes and pears and peaches (what they call “tropical fruit”). It was so good but my stomach had not recovered from earlier, so I didn’t finish and I begged off going out to the pubs or to the Rieperbahn. I feel like a party-pooper sometimes because I don’t enjoy drinking, and everywhere that seems to be what people enjoy. But people were understanding and instead had things to drink at home. Matthias is very entertaining. The combination of Henrik and Matthias is pretty hilarious. Scott was drinking too. Sandra went to bed because she had a long day at work, but the rest of us stayed up quite late. I remembered Melissa’s birthday amidst all the partying, so Henrik and I called her to wish her happy birthday. She wasn’t home at first so we left a silly message on the answering machine. So then the next time we tried to call, we spoke Spanish, but then Dad and Melissa picked up the phone. They sounded really happy to hear from us. We talked to them for a while and had a lot of fun. Meanwhile, Matthias fell asleep on the floor, halfway in the kitchen. I’m not srue what was up with that. Henrik convinced them to get their passport applications as soon as possible because he really wants to see them again. I know they miss him a lot. We crashed soon after the phone call, but it was already 2:00. Scott and I woke up when we heard Matthias leave for work. We tried to stay awake from then on but instead we fell asleep until about 11:00.