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.

nine months later

Nine months ago, I left my hometown Berlin for Chicago with the three loves of my life – two of whom I had just given birth to. As a starting point to this blog, here’s a list of the top 10 surprises that awaited me. Very subjective, very random, high- and low-lights included.

1 | Q&L rock my world more than I could have ever known. I’m wondering what I did with all that love before they were here to absorb it. And, how many smiles can you fit in a day?

2 | Strolling along Lake Michigan in the crisp morning air makes me wanna be nowhere else on planet earth.

3 | Mayor Emanuel recently touted having gone the longest time without a murder in the city of Chicago: 5 days.

4 | A guy on the street apologized to me for walking next to us with a cigarette in his hand. Outside! I wanted to hug him and tell him to take this to Berlin.

5 | Our health insurance let us know, via invoice, that they’re not covering any routine baby care or immunizations. Babies have to get sick before insurance kicks in.

6 | I’m actually starting to enjoy chitchatting to strangers – not a very German trait. Can’t count the times I was randomly informed though that I’ve got ‘my hands full’ with the boys. Alternatively, that they’re ‘double trouble’.

7 | The insanity of the Republican primaries kept me wondering if this was all one giant comedy skit. Turns out it was not.

8 | My favorite basketball player is the son of my childhood tennis idol.

9 | Life with two bubbly mini people has actually made me a calmer person.

10 | The occasional homesickness, or any other problem, can instantly be cured by a sloppy baby kiss.