first second city

Apparently anniversaries make me blog…
23 years ago, on November 10, my dad woke me up with the words “Do you want to go to school or come to West Berlin with us?”

Having grown up just outside the Berlin Wall – far enough to be allowed visitors but close enough to always hear the dogs and gunshots – this was a pretty amazing question. And guess what, I didn’t go to school that day, but got to meet my second Berlin, which immediately impressed me with all its lights and colors…

I will never forget the wave of relief and happiness the events of that night brought to my family. To my grandparents, who had suffered through 40 years of socialist dictatorship including an innocent imprisonment by the GDR government, to my parents who were dying to speak their mind and travel the world, and even to us kids who had to make sense of the different stories we constantly heard at home and in school. I actually recall being told in 4th grade that the West Germans were plotting WW3. In 1988. By my history teacher.

Chicago very rarely reminds me of Berlin. But remembering that November morning makes me appreciate being here a lot. Living in the US with my dual citizen babies is a big deal, considering where I started off. And I am beyond grateful to know that all my grandparents are still with me to savor this experience.

Danke to everyone who made this possible. Happy anniversary, peaceful revolution.

reversecultureshocked, anyone?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of the reverse culture shock – coming home for the first time after moving abroad is supposed to hit you much harder than initially leaving.

So here I was during our recent Berlin visit, all prepared, bracing myself to get freaked out. And yes, I did notice a bunch of otherness – lower conversational noise levels, all sorts of prohibition signs, über-hipsters en masse, reasonable quantities of anything food, (and how is the sky bigger over Chicago?) – but no potential shock material.

Still, the trip left me with a pinch of confusion. Traveling both directions, I had the feeling I was headed home. Which I wasn’t prepared for.