I like Berlin. A lot.
One of the first things that struck me about this city was how empty it seems. But empty in a good way, as in, not over-crowded, as Paris and New York (the two other major cities I am most familiar with) often feel. Apparently, this has a variety of reasons, but a large part of it has to do with the fact that it simply has a larger geographic size and smaller population than Paris. But it is still clearly full of people, culture, and food; it's uncrowded-ness (plus the general attitude of Germans) makes it feel like a really laid-back place, again, unlike Paris or NYC (a lot of the time).
I've also been pretty much hungry/ eating the entire time I've been here. I suspect this is due to spending several weeks on a farm with food that is relatively simple and relatively low in fat and sugar. Here, there are pastry shops on every street. And damn, has the food been GOOD. Again, this perception is likely in part due to the fact that on the farm, there wasn't food constantly available (at least, I felt that I couldn't constantly be eating, because it wasn't "my" food). But here, I can rarely resist the urge to buy a pastry/ cookie/ falafel when the opportunity presents itself. So far, my favorite thing has been the jelly-filled donut (these are a bit different than those in the US; they are glazed, not powdered, and the jelly is actual jelly, with real fruit, instead of that gelatinous pectin-y stuff that you get in the states). I may need to get some exercise before this beach Ultimate tourney next week...
Another difference to be remarked on in this city is the lack of open-container laws. From about 5 pm on, every 4th or 5th person you pass has a bottle of beer in hand; this proportion increases as the evening progresses (especially on weekends). Walking down the street, on the subway, on the bus, wherever. And it adds to the generally relaxed atmosphere in this city.
So far, most of my activities have consisted of food, bars, clubs, watching 'Archer' (a TV show) and of course lying in bed until (at least) noon. Planning to visit the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial tomorrow (already my last full day here!) Mwanzaa's host family is as friendly and laid-back as he had claimed; within 15 minutes of arriving, I was giving a piggy-back ride to the youngest child. Unfortunately, I haven't actually seen much of them, due to our schedule of getting up around 1 pm and then heading out after breakfast. But when I do encounter the parents, they are full of smiles and greetings (fortunately, they, like most Germans, speak very good English). Mwanzaa's friends on the program are also generally delightful; we've spent the most time with Carlie, who is from Buffalo but goes to Pomona. She, like Mwanzaa, has a particular attitude and sense of humor that consists of sarcasm/ feigned judgement of others; it's clear to me why they're friends, and also why I had no trouble befriending her as well. (She is also always ready to buy a snack or some food, which makes me feel less guilty about wanting to do so as well).
Also, the Germans are crazy about recycling. They have six- six!- different bins for recycling things, including compost and electronics! Amazing.