Still Here & Holidays

When I blogged in Denmark, I aimed to write a post every or every other week, and I succeeded. That’s the life of a student, I guess. You deal with assignments, and it’s easy to assign yourself one extra piece of prose, especially when the rest are optional engineering problem sets.

Fast forward six years, as a working man, the pace of life is a little different. I have plenty of writing and communication to do at work. With traveling and spending time with loved ones at Christmas, I don’t prioritize blogging, though it’s good for me. So, I figured I’d list a few discoveries through my life in Berlin at the holidays.

  1. Christmas pickles probably aren’t really German. Several years ago, my mom bought me and my siblings each a pickle-shaped ornament. Other than looking like a pickle, it’s a normal, beautiful ornament. Oh, and it was complete with a story about the tradition of German Christmas pickles. The parents hide it in the tree and the first kid to find it gets an extra gift. Years ago, I mentioned this to a German friend. He gave me a puzzled look, and a quick Google search led me to believe this is a fabricated tradition. I can confirm that it is perpetuated in Germany. You will find Christmas pickle ornaments in the German Christmas markets – Weinachtsmarkt or Cristkindlmarkt – but most Germans do not know about this German “tradition.”
  2. New Years Eve is not for the faint-of-fireworks. Berliners have permission to ignite fireworks on New Years Eve and New Years Day. Stores – including grocery stores – sell the pyrotechnics a few days beforehand, then the people light them off as much as they please. New Years Eve was on a Sunday. I heard the first firework on Friday evening. They were steadily lit starting midday Sunday. At midnight on my balcony, the sky was illuminated in every direction. I went for a run on Monday afternoon, still saw or heard several going off and the sidewalks were littered with debris. One site suggests that the tradition of fireworks on New Years Eve goes back to the medieval ages, when they wanted to ward off evil spirits. Assuming this is true, with the number of fireworks in Berlin, it will be a long time before Trump’s spirit reaches Germany. 😉 (His behavior is understood to be both childish and inhumane by the general populous that I’ve witnessed.)
  3. Christmas trees are for the curbs. In the days following Christmas, especially after Epiphany / Three Kings’ Day “Dreikönigstag,” everyone tosses their pine trees to the streets. Eventually, the trees disappear. I guess they get picked up by the city. (I’m not sure why, but I also noticed that my own Christmas tree lasted longer without needles dropping, even once it was on the street without water.)

Now that you’ve enjoyed my memories from last month, please enjoy some semi-related photos of my life in the Christmas season:

Dentist: Sorry, Me: ‘Saguh

It’s not a riddle.

I don’t know the answer.

I do know that it doesn’t matter whether they talk when you can’t understand the dentist. Give it a shot; go to a dentist who’s primary language is different from yours, or maybe put earplugs in next time you have a cleaning. It’s kind of… cathartic. Like, a tooth massage. Is that a thing?

As I’m sure you’ll understand by the end of this post, I don’t have any images to demonstrate this story, so enjoy this x-ray of my mouth from several years ago:

 The hygienist told me that I did a good job after this X-ray, so please endorse me for that skill on LinkedIn. The hygienist told me that I did a good job after this X-ray, so please endorse me for that skill on LinkedIn.

As you can see, I wear a small wire inside my bottom jaw. The bottom retainer or “lingual bar” is an appliance that’s commonly installed after wearing braces, to maintain alignment in the front teeth. It’s permanently installed with an adhesive composite binding the ends of the wire to the incisors. (Can you tell that I sometimes write about dentistry for work?) After ten years, mine fell off on Saturday, and I spent the weekend rubbing the tip of my tongue against two studs of glue, just like that feeling when you lose a tooth and you stick your tongue through the new window in your smile.

In an effort to not undo years of expensive orthodontics, I decided to get it fixed quickly. I called the insurance, and the nice woman on the phone told me I needed to be referred by a doctor for it to be covered by insurance.

“Okay, can you schedule me a doctor’s appointment?”

“Just go on our website.”

I didn’t find a doctor appointment on the website. I didn’t try, because it didn’t make sense to me. Instead, I found a dentist office that’s within the 0.71 km commute between my home and my apartment. So on Wednesday morning, on my way to work, I stopped to ask about the possibility of re-attaching my wire.

After the receptionist made a few trips to the dentist in the back room, the short answer was: yes, we can do it now, but it’s not covered, unless you have private insurance. I don’t – I have public insurance, supposedly one of the best, by a company called TK – but I wanted this done. (By the way, I got a letter in the mail last week from TK, saying they were lowering the insurance rates… you don’t read that every day!) The dentist also gave me the option to have an aligner made, which I could wear at night, instead of re-installing the lingual bar.

Next thing I knew, I was in the chair, with swabs holding my tongue and cheeks while the dentist polished my teeth, applied a small amount of etching acid, added the bonding composite, and voila – reattached my bar. All the while, the hygienist responded to her guiding instructions and handed her tools. I had no clue what they were talking about, and I didn’t care. At one point, a tool fell into my lap and she said “sorry.” With four hands and two tools in my mouth, I tried to respond, and remembered that this was a monologue, not a dialogue.

Sometimes, we should just listen, and it can be therapeutic.

You can call me crazy for enjoying the harsh sounds of the German language while laid back in a dentist chair in a sterile white room.

She told me to call her when I need a cleaning. I probably will.

I told her to call me when she needs a 3D printer, and that’s why I was late to work on Wednesday. I was selling printers with my mouth wide open.