2023 Travel and Photo Updates


I pretty much stayed in Berlin. Brr!!


Back and forth on one day to Hamburg for a Fairlanguage inclusive language workshop we gave at Inditex.


Weekend trip to the Frankfurt area for the Democrats Abroad Germany Annual General Meeting, where I've been treasurer. Not even actually in Frankfurt, it took place in Ingelheim am Rhein, didn't take many photos to be honest.


Long weekend in Paris (flew there, came back by train!) with my friend Jens. It was mostly a work trip for him, and I took the opportunity to tag along.

Check out the full Paris album on Flickr. I just resubscribed for another year, as part of some digital clean-up. I've uploaded everything there!

The last time I was in Paris was in 2009, I'm having trouble finding stuff online digital proof that I was there. It was so long ago, I still blogged fairly regularly (if inanely and briefly) and used Flickr: March 14, 2009: Photographs from Paris


I started a new job at the Sovereign Tech Fund, so stayed put in Berlin!


Went to Leipzig for a day for work stuff, nothing really exciting to report.


Finally made my way back to London. My friends Garima and Pravesh had been living there since 2020, but were moving away soon so that's the kind of thing that helps motivate me to plan a trip. It was a lovely long weekend (bit rainy of course, being London), less regular tourist stuff and more just spending with friends, like Sarah and Dylan, Chris and Mike, and Shruti, Ravi, and their chickens.
I think the last time I was in London before July 2023 was for a silly 24-hour trip in September 2017 to go to the Tate Modern's Queer British Art exhibition, of all things.


For work, we had a couple days at an offsite at Coconat in Bad Belzig. That's about an hour by regional train and bus from Berlin in the surrounding state of Brandenburg.

It seems weird to write this in a post detailing all the cool places I went in 2023, but I do have a hard time actually taking time off and using it to go to new (to me) places. I've been talking about going to one of the Baltic countries for years, usually when it gets hot in Berlin, and I fantasize about somewhere with a more temperate climate an actual coastline. Finally, finally, I booked a trip and spent two weeks in August in Tallinn, Estonia. The first week was properly off work, and the second week I worked remotely. It probably deserves its own blog post, but the remote work wasn't quite as refreshing / change of scenery-inspiring as I had hoped. Nonetheless, it was great to go to a new country and city.

Okay Queen Graffitti

I also took the ferry from Tallinn for a day-trip to Helsinki. I love ferries! Sadly I somehow deleted most of the photos and only could cobble together a few of my first visit to Finland

I also took a one-night trip to Leipzig (by train) for SPRIND's summer event/party. Since they're the host organization for STF (work), it was interesting to see all the other projects they support and meet more of the people who work there.


My friends Tom and Stefi got married to Italy, in a beautiful seaside town called Castiglioncello. I always have to look up how to spell it, maybe that's why it's off the beaten path? Though there are plenty of hotels and places to stay, so I don't think it's a secret.

It's near where Stefi grew up, and absolutely gorgeous. I flew in and out of Pisa, stayed overnight there, and then took the train down to Castiglioncello.

2023-10-01 17.09.55


Took a train trip down to Frankfurt, or technically Eschborn for a work conference called OSPOlogyLive hosted by SAP and the Linux Foundation. Eschborn is basically an enormous office park outside Frankfurt city limits. Maybe it's a tax thing?


I lived in San Francisco before l moved to Berlin, and the first few years after I left, there were lots of occasions to go back for work or friends. But basically with pandemic and a few other factors, the last time I was there before this year was September 2018, which seems just wild. But this time I got to go for almost two weeks, combining two work conferences with some other things, so the long flight was definitely worth it. 


Stayed put in Berlin! In fact, in the last couple weeks, barely left the apartment.

Here a -verse, there are -verse, everywhere a -verse

As I get older, I've noticed I'm slower to try out new tools and platforms, even though I've often had a lot of fun being an early adopter. I'm probably shifting from "early adopter" to "early majority" in the technology adoption life cycle -- or hype cycle.

In this case, friends have been talking to me about Mastodon and the "Fediverse" for quite a while, but I never bothered to sign up until late 2022 Twitter Troubles began. I dithered a bit on which server ("instance") to join, but ended up picking tech.lgbt because why not? Find and follow me over there: @polexa@tech.lgbt

If you're trying it out, I can highly recommend these two tools for finding your (Twitter) social graph on Mastodon:

Regarding the other -verse on the tip of everyone's tongues: I'm not on the Metaverse bandwagon yet.

Money makes the world go round – A Berlin Coronavirus Diary

Both the United States and Germany have been busy, passing aid packages to help support people and businesses during COVID–19 pandemic. I won't get into the nitty gritty details of everything in there, since I'll likely miss key things, but there's lots of news reports about it out there. There are a couple of financial support measures in this legislation that I have been following:

US Economic Impact Payments

These are the much-anticipated "checks" (hopefully electronic bank transfers for as many people as possible). Apparently Americans abroad, as long as we meet the income criteria, will also be eligible to get these $1200 payments. Democrats Abroad has posted an update on the website, and also linked to a FAQ (it's a Google Doc). Lucky for us, the IRS has also posted some useful information, like that they're going to create a web portal where people can provide their direct deposit information, to avoid the aforementioned paper checks. 

Berlin & Germany's Emergency Aid

Germany's also moved surprisingly quickly to get help out there to people who need it. For those who are employed, Kurzarbeit (often translated as short-time work, which I think is silly) is a program to replace lost wages for people who are furloughed. In my lay understanding, if your hours are reduced or cut completely, the government will pay up to 60% of those lost wages. Companies have to apply for it, it's not something individual workers apply for. The idea is that companies shouldn't let people go, but reduce their hours or keep them officially employed so that when the economy recovers, they can get back to work quickly.

For freelancers, another part of the emergency aid package applies. It's a combination of Berlin state and German federal funds. There are big loans and support available for larger companies, but also for individual self-employed people and small or micro business. For freelancers, you can get 5000 Euros as a grant from Berlin funds, and up to 9000 Euros from German federal aid (but that can only be spent on certain types of expenses). They've even put a page up in English called "Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Information and support for the Berlin economy." It looks pretty complicated, but the actual application process was managed by the government investment bank IBB.

They started taking applications online on Friday March 27, 2020 at 1pm, and as you can imagine, the site was overrun! There was this virtual line system they set up, so each person who tried to reach the site got a number, and then had to wait until it was their turn. You could ask the site to email you when it was your turn, but if you missed your window (which I heard some people did), you'd have to go back to the beginning. The application itself seemed to be fairly straight forward. Lots of boxes to check that you're telling the truth, but basically you just need your German tax ID number, your name, address, be based in Berlin, and an ID.

People complained on Twitter and elsewhere about having to wait in this online queue, but in the end it seems to have worked fairly well. I've heard from friends and seen reports of the money arriving at the beginning of this week, so just days after people submitted their applications. Bravo, Berlin!

Is everyone baking except me? – A Berlin Coronavirus Diary

I wasn't planning on going to the grocery store today, but I passed a fairly empty Lidl on my walk (should we call them constitutionals to sound fancier?) so I popped in. Under normal circumstances, I go to the grocery store every couple of days and buy a few things. I like grocery stores, even after several years in Germany, I get a kick out of browsing the selection – less than most US supermarkets, but much cheaper – and trying out the pre- and semi-prepared foods. These days, I'm trying to go less frequently and spend less time there, which means that I am keeping a list and don't linger as much.

Inspired by some other people's activity on Instagram and elsewhere, I wanted to buy some fresh yeast to try baking bread. I've never baked bread (excluding things like banana bread or corn bread which work differently) before, and why not try something new? Unfortunately...

(Photo of a refrigerated shelf, above the sign for "fresh baking yeast" for 9 cents, the shelf is empty. Below the price tag, there's a handmade sign that says in German "Yeast -> max 3 portions")

The things Google seems to know about me

A few months ago, I went to Munich for the annual general meeting of Democrats Abroad Germany. I got to visit my friends Ryder and Andrew, see some of the other activists and volunteers from all over Germany, and of course, try out a few new restaurants.

Saturday evening, since I didn't sign up for official dinner and speaker part of the meeting, I was on my own for food. Ryder and Andrew were having dinner with friends, so I thought I'd try to meet up with them. I put in the location of the restaurant to see how hard it would be to get there

What Google Maps showed me

Mental Health – A Berlin Coronavirus Diary

During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, we're mostly focused on physical health: whether we or our loved ones will catch it, have severe symptoms, need medical care. It seems like half the people with Medium accounts are armchair epidemiologists, and we're all reading and sharing articles holding forth about exponential growth (yes it's real) and prognosticating about the impact of COVID–19.

Still, I have noticed a lot of friends and folks checking in with each other, and being cognizant that social distancing (or shelter-in-place or self-isolation) is tough, even for people who characterize themselves as introverts. There have been lots of jokes about practicing for quarantine their whole lives... maybe you can teach the rest of us! In any case, I really appreciate that my loved ones, friends, and family are treating our collective mental health as an important barometer in what is, for most people, an unprecedented time of stress and chaos.

Snapshots of how Berlin is handling COVID19 – A Berlin Coronavirus Diary

What a time to resolve to blog again! At least I haven't started a podcast while social distancing, though depending on how long this goes on for, I'll be sorely tempted. Since circumstances are changing so much from day to day, I'd like to document for myself (and for whoever happens to read this) what it's been like for me in Berlin the last few weeks. This post is mostly grocery stores, restaurants, and bars. I have a lot of photos of drug stores, so that will be a post all on its own. It feels like we're in an unending news cycle and all the days are blurring into each other, so I'll try to note the dates on the photos below and as much context as I can.