Slip But Don’t Fall

In Berlin, The Art of Travel Spring 2018, 7. Free topic by Havana Liu1 Comment

Dried paint sat under my fingertips, milky and clumped. The acrylic I hoped would smooth and settle had decided to conglomerate into hard little shapes, like curdled milk. Despite my disappointment I knew it was permanent so I drank it in, accepting the mistakes and adopting them as a part of my work.

I sat in the little park, on a very cold bench and stretched my sore legs out in front of me. The blue opacity of the sky had made me believe it was going to be warm outside. However, the icy wood slats under my thighs held a very different temperature than I had anticipated. I embraced the cold, breathing it in and hoped it would wake me up.

I wanted to wear thick tights. I pulled them over my ankle, my shin, my calf, my knee, and my thigh on my left leg. Then I pulled the soft and compressing fabric over my ankle, my shin, my calf, my knee and my thigh on my right leg. The whole ordeal took over five minutes. I pulled the suffocating band up over my hips. Then, stared down only to find a lone toe that had made its way through the fibers and out into the open air. At least I could still appreciate the colorful lacquer I had brushed onto my toes the night before.

I bought ten avocados at the fresh market. They were black and bumpy and everything that I had hoped for. Five were just about ripe and five were still ripening. I put the five in a brown paper bag so that they would ripen more quickly. Except I put the wrong five in the bag. All five got so ripe so quickly I couldn’t eat them all at once. But it was okay, because I got to share them with friends. We made poached eggs and toast with avocado mash.

He reached up with one hand and waved. He waved again more urgently this time. He was looking straight at me and was smiling. Confused, I did not recognize him, and thus I did not return the friendly gesture. He must be looking at someone else? He waved and laughed pointing at me. I timidly raised my hand and waived slightly in return. He began to walk in my direction, face plastered with a smile, and then after five strides he reddened and chuckled embarrassedly. He stopped in his tracks and said “Oh ich dachte du wärst jemand anderes— enshuldigung” to which I responded, “What? Sorry?” He laughed again. “I thought you were another person I am sorry!” I laughed and waved goodbye. It does not only happen to me!

I accidentally stepped into a puddle and cringed expecting water to seep into my shoe. Except the puddle turned out to be a clear sheet of ice and so I slipped and caught myself. Thankfully, in the end my sock stayed dry.

Here lie six true anecdotes for expectations not being met, for making mistakes, for hoping for one thing and being met with another. And also, here are six anecdotes that face these moments with optimism. Here lie six anecdotes that can be thought of as metaphors for my time in Berlin. There are a lot of things I thought about Berlin before arriving. There are even more things I have been faced with that I did not think about or expect. There are a lot of ways I saw myself before coming to Berlin. There are many new ways I am learning to see myself. I think I am facing all of these moments with optimism, but sometimes that can be tough.

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(Image: "Surprise Me and Let Me Adapt"; Source: Havana Rose Liu)


  1. I really loved this piece! You took us through these mundane moments very evocatively, and that made me stop and think about how important the day-to-day experience is. Even though we’re abroad in exciting places, not every day will be filled with grand monuments and wild culinary experiences. That doesn’t make these days any less important, and your post really captures the feeling of appreciating them for what they are!

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