— Nina Mehta

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After the wall came down, Berlin became a place for experiments. New expressions of electronic music emerged. I first visited Berlin in 2007 and was promptly rejected from Berghain. The club was still coming up and I’m impressed we even knew to try going there. I was getting rejected from Berghain before it was cool to get rejected from Berghain. People love to discuss it, defend it, throw shade. Here are my thoughts.

2007

 

I don’t really mind. We were drunk american kids on study abroad looking for party. And we heard this place was cool. I like to believe the “vampire with a barbwire tat on his face” is my big techno mamma. He was protecting little me from something I was perhaps were not ready for.

Dance music found its first home in Detroit and Chicago in the late eighties. It came up from gay disco. And for most of techno’s life, it lived in the underground where everyone was welcome and the front door was always open. The world was different then for someone gay or black in America. This music, this art, created a home for the people on the cultural outside and for a long time stayed that way.

I grew up outside Chicago in the 90s listening to C&C Music Factory at the roller rink during birthday parties. I think this primed me in some ways. Later I really got into dance music because of Napster.

After graduate school I moved to San Francisco and found the music scene that welcomed anyone, especially those on the outside who wanted to experiment, try something new, and believed everything was possible. The music is so good. It was, it is, really good. Sounds like Berlin. No?

Dance music in North America recently found its place the mainstream. Festivals replaced concerts, and it’s finally ok, nay, even cool, to listen to music made from a computer. So now lots of drunk college kids on study abroad want to go to Berghain because Claire Danes said to.

At some clubs in Berlin, security ask who I’ve come to hear. They’re checking if I’ll be good guest. But then everyone is all of a sudden everyone is not welcome and getting in becomes about knowing something  of having some cool factor.

However once I’m inside, it means I’m dancing with people who also are there to enjoy the music. So the door has filtered out some people drunk, crass people and the club environment is actually enjoyable. Leaving the front door open works until everyone can’t come in.

When it comes to clubs in Berlin (and immigration for that matter) is everyone is equal? Or are some are more equal than others?

That night almost at Berghain in 2007 ended happily with doner kebab in hand and a nice reminder: it’s about who you’re with, not where you are. And it sure does help if the music is good.

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Respekt

I got lucky. I’m starting to make friends who live here. The Berliner kindness and generosity is helping me feel comfortable but also makes me quite sad. I’ll illustrate why with my hypothetical friend named Katherine:

Wednesday afternoon Katherine and I decide on Facebook Messenger we should get together. We decide to meet on Saturday night around 11pm. On Friday she or I sends a message to confirm we’re still on.

We exchange phone numbers and she might even call me on Saturday afternoon to talk about our day and why, if, or how it could be possible either of us might be late. Thirty minutes before arriving we text again and make sure we’ll both be on time.

We meet on time and have a fun evening together. Now here’s the part that gets me. Every time, without fail, every time, Katherine sends a follow up message saying something like ‘had fun! goodnight!’. 

All this messaging could sound like overkill or even formulaic but in the moment is an expression of care, respect, and kindness. Some version of this attention takes place with almost every plan I’ve made. It’s wonderful and necessary.

This makes me sad because it reminds me how low my expectations are for people after living in #flakysf.I’m sad that decent human behavior feels over the top, especially since I’m still a second or third connect people I’m meeting. At home we say to take care of yourself first: You do you, gurl. I’m just doin me. YOLO because we could be dead in 5 minutes from being idiots the 5 minutes before! This kind of attitude doesn’t leave much room to care for the people around you.

However, it’s not to say there are no decent people in SF or that every interaction in Berlin will be this good. Some have been less easy. I met an ex-SFer last night who said this kindness appeared for him after people knew him for six months and understood he wasn’t transient. I’ve had the same experience. I notice the body language and tone of conversation improves when people hear how long I’ll be in Berlin and that I’m working with German clients. 

With all this messaging, why isn’t everyone glued to their phones? I’m baffled.

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Living in Berlin is living in two places.

I went to a fashion week party and met people from Venezuela, Korea, India, and probably places in Africa. Don’t worry, there were also tall white modelesque Europeans with long blonde ponytails too. While sipping my mini bottle of champagne from a straw with the sound of techno bleeping through the air I looked around at all the different faces and thought, we could be anywhere in the world right now.

But that’s only part of being in this city.

When you move to a new place you must maintain your self or you’ll get lost in being someone else. Your identity, personality, values and ideals. But somehow you as who you are also must also participate, contribute, and accept local way of living.

Half of Berliners are from elsewhere. Morgenpost mapped the census data from last summer to show the thousands of people here born from Buenos Aires, Hanoi, Tehran, New York, Beirut and so on, not even counting the new 1.5 million expected from  Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. So how does each newcomers negotiate maintaining their self and truly living as a Berliner?

Morgenpost

 

And I wonder what assumptions are people make about me? New friends, new clients, new boyfriends, people on the street, police officers, other expats, other immigrants. I have seen more subtle sexism and semi-unprofessional behavior in Berlin than I have anywhere in the world. But actually none it is has been from Germans. I’ll never know if someone is rude or kind to me because of my color, gender, accent, or even social class. Or maybe that’s how they treat everyone. And in these experiences, I am living in a very global community that has the cosmopolitan luxury of these concerns.

But then, there are times I am unmistakably in Germany. When I join longtime Berliners for a Saturday breakfast or a weeknight cocktail I really wish I spoke the language. Not to be included in the conversation, but to feel the subtleties of the discussion. When I make eye contact with a friendly faces on the train I want a smile in return.  I want to find it easy to be remarkably punctual. In small moments like these I really feel like I am in Germany.

Berlin is not fast like New York, bright like Tokyo, loud like San Francisco, nor smokey like New Delhi. Cities that have become themselves through great change.  This city, just like its people, is coming into its own and asking how to maintain its self and adapt to the change.

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I’m here. It’s beautiful! I’m ready to meet some friends. Getting here was rough:

I got food poisoning on Saturday flying from India to Berlin. I vomited in the lavatory bathroom, at my window seat, and almost at baggage claim. During this episode I stepped on my phone shattering the screen locking me out of my the means to the hotel.

German bureaucracy is also holding my shipment of winter clothes at customs. Upon arrival I had to go shopping because stores are closed Sunday. This of course only after vomiting again in my bathtub and realizing my broken phone also locked me out of my work email.

I went to the closest stores nearby and deliriously wandered into a high-end mall and dropped my glass of bottled water all over the floor interrupting a man playing piano in the plaza. The old white-haired people shot me annoyed glares. Bitte! Sorry! ahhh. I dry-heaved my way home, slept til the sun came and went again.

I drew paper maps of how to get to my new office, wiggled my way into my work email, and ate a tiny plate of bruschetta. Still no phone, but a solid meal after 48 hours was my weekend triumph.

Monday morning, drained of energy I fought with the ticket machine and found my train. Everything was hard until I rode over the river blanketed with mini icebergs, gently bobbing on the Spree. It was so pretty, I quietly smiled to my self and though “yes, I’m supposed to be here. and I am.”

Yesterday my client said, “That sucks. But this is what happens when people first who move to Europe. It’s classic.” So either he’s very kind or I’m doing it right. Hopefully both. But either way, I’m ready to have some fun!

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The lower tip of India is warm, tropical, and relaxed. It was my first time there with the mission to unwind and expand my experiences in India since I’ve only seen Rajasthan. I didn’t see it all, and really how could you? But here are my tip top tips.

Basics

  • You must show your flight confirmation before entering an airport in India. Ideally it’s printed out. I’ve seen it shown on a device, but security doesn’t seem to like that much.
  • You will have to show your passport at every hotel and hostel checkin. It’s India law.
  • The wifi and data networks are not strong, even if your hotel promises it. I recommend traveling with one of these Skyroam devices that gives you a hotspot almost everywhere in the world.
  • This post talks about Kerala, Cochin, and Goa

 

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Kumarakom, Kerala (coo-mar-ah-com)

You’ll hear about and see packages to do backwater boat trips everywhere. It’s more lovely than it sounds. I did a two hour ride with another friend and it was perfect. I’m told doing the overnight stay can be boring for a couple of friends. It would likely be a great time for a couple or large group of friends or family. Regardless, this is the one attraction not to miss. Our ship captain picked water lilies and made necklaces for us followed by a fresh coconut drink. If you make even a little conversation you may increase the richness of your ride. If you want to do a backwater trip, you can do it from Alleppey or even Cochin. But the best stuff is here.

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I stayed at the marvelous Aveda Kumarakom Resort. It has a 150 meter pool where you could swim laps (and I did). Most of the time you’ll feel like you’re the only person swimming and in peak season the water is warm until dinner time. You can also swim to the edge of the resort to the beach beds and watch the beautiful backwater boats float by for hours not realizing the time pass by. They’ll also help you organize any day trips. 

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The service here is 5-star. You’ll also enjoy the food, in fact they even made my favorite off-menu Indian breakfast. There’s live music or dance along with a sunset boat cruise every night at dinner as well. This resort is kid friendly, lots of space for them to run around without getting in your hair. The Ayurvedic massages are very oily, so, very Ayurvedic.

Many locals and travelers alike praise Varkala. I haven’t been but my Indian’s friend’s Indian dad who lives in Kerala says “Varkala is great because it’s mostly Europeans. The Indians haven’t trashed it yet.” Take the quote as you wish. My cousin stayed at the Taj (great 5-star Indian hotel chain) and loved it. You can also do a trip to Munnar to see the spice fields. We were going to go but the ride is 4 hours from Kumarakom, so we decided to stay at the resort and swim.

 

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And finally, Kerala was communist from 1964-2011. It seems like people were happy with it and it could easily make a return. From my broken hindi and taxi cab chat I figured out how much it leveled field for so many people, helped the literacy rate, and more recently their party has helped improve infrastructure like the roads etc.

Cochin (Kochi)

You really only need one, maybe two days here. There’s not much to do outside Fort Cochin. I know because we stayed at the over-priced Trident Hotel on our first night. Later during the trip we returned at stayed at the Dreamcatcher Homestay namely for the wildly cheap price. If you literally just need a bed, this place is good. The toilet and “shower” are smaller than a walk-in closet. But the host family is warm and welcoming and will help you. Make sure to give them a few compliments otherwise they’ll get a little snarky.

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Ok so the main hotspots is the Jewtown with a Synagogue and a few other attractions. Interestingly enough, you will still take off your shoes like it’s an Indian temple here and in churches and you’ll see the deities celebrated with marigold necklaces and frames like the Hindu gods. Sadly Jewtown it’s mostly tourists now but it’s still pretty interesting. There’s also an area called the “beach” which turns out is a fishy, trash-filled coastline. However not too far from there are lost of boutique hotels and good shopping. Mid-upscale shopping includes Cinnamon inside the Malabar House (boutique hotel), Designshop and also some great chains like classic Fabindia and funky Playclan (though the selections are better in Delhi or even at the airport).

But one thing that can’t be missed is the Tibetan Chef’s restaurant. The price is dirt cheap and the cheese momos (cheese? Yes cheese) are to die for. If you need a break from Indian food, this is the spot. We ate at the Menorah Restaurant outside the Koderhouse. It was a good meal but unfortunately was not Jewish food. They might have the only clarinetist in Cochin though! Nearby is a latenight spot. I’ve heard reviews that it’s as unsanitary as it looks, so unless you want the famous India poops, don’t eat here.

Ft. Cochin is also a sleepy town, so if you want to go out drinking, buy your own beer in advance. You can go to the winebar at the Malabar House but the crowd is as cold and the vibe is dead, even though it’s beautiful.

 

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Goa
I wish I had a lot of advice on Goa. I only spent a few days here and was mostly at the India Yoga Festival. The rest of the time I was swimming in the ocean or laying out in luxury bed at the L’amore Cottages at Ashwem Beach. Even in peak season we had a lot of privacy on these soft sands and warm water. I had some of my best restaurant food in India at this location and their drinks are on-point. It’s not a boozy bar, but the bungalows, service, and proximity to the ocean are unbeatable. It’s 1.5 hrs from the airport but totally worth it. If you walk 100 steps North you can eat at a shack called Ding Dong. If that’s doesn’t do it for you, what will?

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New Delhi

Many people fly in and out of newP.S. If you’re traveling in Delhi (North). Here are a few good tips:

  • Uber works pretty well and is crazy cheap by American standards. But you can’t call the driver from the app.
  • Double the whatever traffic time Google predicts.
  • Pollution Air Quality Indicators over 250 is unsafe. In Delhi it’s sometimes 500+. Bring a mask and eyedrops. Unfortunately you will get used it it after a few days. Read more about AQIs here.
  • The best shopping in India is in Delhi.

Have a great time and if you remember one thing and one thing only it’s this: pepto with breakfast every day.

 

 

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I designed posters for a series about minimalism, making software, and more subtly their relationship to nature. These pieces are hung in the Pivotal Labs Headquarter office in San Francisco.

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I used three different quotes from minimalist makers to confront how we think about making, living, and creating the future. The quotes themselves are quite beautiful but are lifted out from unsuspecting places like research papers and text books. Poetry and beauty is everywhere, it sometimes just needs to be realized and set free.

When we think about the future we must consider our relationship to the nature because nature is our physical container for being. Be thoughtful about how you fill that container when you create something new because it is the space where we and our descendants will live.

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Print and hang these posters yourself

I’m not interested in making money from these posters. You’re welcome to print and frame one or all three. If you decide to frame all three, they look best in the order showed above (Weiser, Rams, Beck).

The files are setup with the proper trim marks so any standard copy shop (like Kinkos) will do a fine job. But if you do print them, please let me know at ninameh@gmail.com, I’d love to see where they find new homes.

Download the printer ready files

Blick Essentials Wood Gallery Frame

24″ × 36″ 1-1/2″ for $44.99 (18862-2015)

How To Hang Your Artwork and Not Screw It Up

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Moving to a new country is exciting, but the logistics are slightly more complicated for temporary-long term moves. Here’s a synthesis of the tips I’m getting from friends who have already done the move.

Banking

In my research I didn’t find one great credit card to rule them all. People seem to love the Capital One for their excellent customer service and kind attention to foreign fees. You may want to consider getting a local bank account and credit card if you want to start building credit abroad. Regardless, the most important factors are

  • no international fees
  • no annual fees
  • points or cash back bonuses
  • no atm fees
  • credit card has a chip

Phone

Transfer your phone number to Google Voice to keep getting messages from the US while you’re overseas.

  1. Start this process by unlocking your phone
  2. Once you get to your new city (or a day before departure) transfer your phone number to Google Voice. This will cancel your US phone plan.
  3. In your new city, buy a local SIM card for your unlocked phone.
  4. If you travel to other nearby cities often, you can buy pre-paid simcards and swap them out so you can text/call local numbers

Some rely mostly on Facebook Messenger and Facetime for text, voice, and messaging communication. This makes sense if you want to avoid giving out your new phone number.

Mail

The US Post Office will forward your mail for one year (in six month chunks) for $1.05. Mail is sent piece by piece. You can also forward your mail to a P.O. Box which is fairly straight forward if a friend will sort your mail. Or you can have the P.O. Box mail forwarded to your new address but according to Quora that’s become slightly more difficult since 9/11.

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I’ve had a hard time as an artist in San Francisco. I came here for the creative communities, and I love them. But I haven’t developed this part of myself as much as I wanted or expected.  The options that feel available are to become a programmer, muralist, or some kind of hand-crafted artisan. That’s not me.

What I see in Berlin inspires me. The fashion, installations, form, photography styles, public art, music (of course), and their relationship to politics, identity, and expression. It speaks to me.

I want to use my time in Berlin to connect with artists to see other creative paths. I believe the thing I want to do in the future is already in motion. But right now, it’s too small to see how much it could matter with more attention. Here’s the activity I want to try to unlock some ideas. I hope you’ll try it too. Please tell me how it goes :)

The Creative Path Activity

Supplies:

  • small stack of paper
  • 1 sharpie marker
  • timer
  • Quiet, happy place

Step 1: The artist high

Set a timer for 8 minutes. Title this piece of paper artist high and write down all the times in the last 3-5 years you felt elevated by doing or making something. That’s the feeling you get while and after you make or do something and everything clicks. Think about the times your mind, body, spirit, and environment were resonating at the same frequency.

You were in the zone and barely thinking, just blissfully doing. Perhaps afterwards you were visibly glowing and feeling charged yet also at peace. List everything from writing music to going on a long drive. Write at least 10 memories. You can do it. I know it. If you come up with more than 10, even better.

Step 2: Top three memories

Re-read the list. Without judgement, circle the three happiest, highest memories. Which ones sent you to the moon? They felt like gifts to yourself, not great heavy efforts.

Step 3: Find common ground

Take out a new piece of paper and title it common ground. Make a new list of what attributes were the same during each of your circled activity. For example: always outdoors, best when in collaboration, seems to only work at night, has a relationship with using colors, doesn’t require much setup, etc. Write at least 10 common attributes.

Step 4: Top three attributes

Re-read the list. Without judgement, circle the three best attributes. Which ones speak to you? Which do you care most about, excite you? They seem like something you could pickup and do tomorrow without much effort.

Now you might know that you like making music and cocktails. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should become a musician or bartender. It might mean that you like making things for other people to enjoy, or you care about the sensory experience, or maybe you just like doing things at night. This is why the attributes activity is so important. It lets you build on experiences you’ve had but also lets invites you to try something new.

Step 5: New activities

Ok, back to making lists. Take out your third piece of paper and title it creative path and reset the timer for 8 minutes. Start listing new activities that have all three of your attributes in common. List things you haven’t done before. It’s ok to write things you don’t even think you’d want to do. Right now, just write. What activities have all three things you figured out you love in common? Maybe giving city tours and co-writing a book show up because you find out you love collaborating, thinking about your city, and sharing information. Stay open to ideas. Keep writing.

Step 6: New activities

This is the last step. Read over your list. What stands out to you? Which is the one that’s obviously exciting, a little on the edge, somewhat scary, and looks like something you’re surprised you’re not already doing? Circle that activity. On the same sheet of paper, write down one thing you will do this week that puts that activity in motion.

Try it out for a while. If it works, keep it going. If not, lather, rinse, repeat. I’m going to try this. I’m excited to see what comes out!

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I’m moving to Berlin for a year after what feels like a lifetime in San Francisco. Pivotal Labs is opening a new office in the city where East meets West. I’m going to help work with clients, hire designers, get our name out in the community, and setup the office.

It’s easy to be blinded by the sexiness of moving to a cool city and overlook the work it takes to make a new office feel natural and comfortable in just a year. But that’s the challenge and I’m game.

Of course, I’m wildly excited. I’ve been to Germany several times with my family and I spent some time in Berlin nearly a decade ago. That pic above is me with my favorite part of Berlin: Doner Kebab.

Everyone tells me the city has changed so much since then. It’s a place that’s always changing, with people coming in and out, with wonderful reasons to love it, and real city problems that are hard to solve. But if anything, that sounds a lot like San Francisco. Living in the United States, and on the West Coast no less, is quite isolating. I’m moving to be closer political world in Europe and closer to the Middle East, Africa, and even parts of Asia. I want to be immersed and engaged in world affairs.

I hope I’ll evolve my design philosophies. As a minimalism enthusiast, I want to live and breath the less is more philosophy where it’s the norm not the exception. I want to practice training up a small design team. Someday I think I’ll be a creative director or do something like help run a design shop. I want opinions and practice doing that. And this goes without saying, but I’m going listen to electronic music a lot.

This move is not to escape my life in San Francisco, start over, or eat-pray-love reinvent myself. I just have a few things I want to learn and Berlin is the best city for me to do that.

But, the transition period is chaotic. Here’s the minutia about what I’ve been thinking about:

  • Am I making a sound and thoughtful decision if I really, actually want to pick up my personal life for my work? I’ve always prided myself on coming to San Francisco for music, people, art, nature and great work opportunities. It personally struggled with moving to a creative city also facing gentrification since I’ll primarily coming as a tech person.
  • Will my work visa come on time?
  • What’s it like there with so many refugees in the city? Is Berlin safe? Is it less safe for Indians?
  • What stuff do I want to bring with me? If I don’t need it in Berlin, do I need it at all? So I sold my car, my bike, and donated lots of personal belongings. It was a true konmari.
  • What will it be like having a new manager?
  • Who else is going to Berlin? Do I want to work with them? Do they want to work with me?
  • How much will I miss San Francisco’s everything-on-demand conveniences?
  • What’s the right phone plan for me? Will I fall off the face of the earth without my US number?
  • Do I need to change bank accounts?
  • What’s healthcare like abroad? I had to put a rush on getting my wisdom teeth out.
  • How does my roommate feel about my move?
  • What do I want to do with my mail?
  • When should my family visit?
  • Will too many people visit? Will no one visit? Will I have time?
  • Where do I want to live? Will I like the choices offered by the relocation company?
  • What kinds of designers do I want to hire in Berlin?
  • What’s the best way to transfer the designers who report to me to their new managers?
  • How the heck am I going to keep doing the work I need to do locally so I have a good exit?
  • Am I really prepared for Berlin winters?
  • When will I have time to learn German?
  • Will I make friends? Will I enjoy dating?
  • I have too much to do right now, do I have time to go to the gym?
  • Who do I need to spend time with before I go? Is there time to get together once more?
  • I’m going to do a lot of things solo for the next year. Is that ok?
  • I’m going to miss home sometimes. Is that ok?
  • I’m going to love it! Will I love it too much? Will I want to stay forever?
  • What am I forgetting?

The list obviously goes on. I’ve done two other big moves in my life (first for college, then to San Francisco). I’ve worked in London and Tokyo. Joining a foreign professional environment is exciting but also hard. There are a lot of cultural norms to learn quickly while also trying to the job like a local. But it’s great and I keep re-learning people around the world are good, kind, and want to help. At this point, it’s been so much work and planning, I’m ready to be there already.

Ok! Let’s go!

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The beginning of a design career is so hard. You have good taste, huge potential, and you’re even scoring a few exciting interviews where you’re an obvious culture fit. But they say you’re too junior, need more experience, and should get back in touch after you’ve done more work. But how will you get more experience if that’s exactly the thing blocking you from getting hired? I’m here to help!

 

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