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  • Our first days in Vancouver: An Update

    Surprise, we moved to Vancouver. Here are some impressions from our first days. Enjoy.

    I am learning so much about the city, life in Canada and since so many of you ask how we are doing and also WHAT we are doing I am happy to share some updates.

    I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement.

    Rilke

    Where should we live?

    Our biggest question currently. When we came here last year we were pretty sure that we would move to the so called North Shore, the other side of Vancouver towards the mountains. It is beautiful, some streets have walking access to ski lifts, good schools. It is, however, more precipitation and clouds and for sure less vibrant city life. The market here works a bit differently than in Germany. While land matters in Germany, it also matters what kind of a building is on the land. Here not so much. A wide piece of land with a tiny house might cost more than a new duplex just because Vancouver is running out of space and has a housing crisis.

    So on the weekends we drive around different neighbourhoods and go to Open Houses. Randomly peaking into peoples’ homes is fun. Observing the real estate agents guiding their clients through houses, though, is like a bad movie. (“Ok, ladies, use your imagination, there is a lot of stuff in the mortgage helper, but once you declutter in your head, so much potential.” :-)) We have come along some stunning streets like the one in the picture lined with old oak trees.

    Factors that play quite a big role for us are safety and schools. It seems that being in a district with a good school matters more than in Germany. And if you have not heard about the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, do google it. A couple of blocks of East Hastings Street are home to tent city, home to locally referred to “lost souls”, struggling with drug addiction and homelessness. Covid has only made the situation worse.

    Early Bird Life

    My main meeting time is between 5.30 – 8.00am. I consider myself very lucky to be able to continue working as a coach from across the globe. While I am an earlybird by nature (yes, Mama & Papa, minus the teenage party years), the new time zone is a huge change for Pouya. His main meeting time used to be 4 – 7pm in Germany, now it is 6-9am. Yet, the wonderful thing is that we now enjoy family life in the evenings. One of the main reasons we moved.

    Impressions from our first days


  • A test of enduring uncertainty: my twin pregnancy

    TTTS, IUGR and a whole lot of waiting

    It was after two hours of sonography that the prenatal specialist closed his eyes as if he was going through his knowledge, repeating the observations. He summarized his findings in a rather sobering way: “That is the shit with identical twin pregnancies, they are never just easy.”

    There was a size discrepancy between the twins that was hinting at a condition called Twin-twin-transfusion syndrome.It is a rarely occurring condition where blood is transfused unequally from one twin to the other. Left untreated it is lethal in the majority of cases. Treatment, according to this doctor, was not possible for the next couple of weeks. Hence, nature was control.

    One week after the initial diagnosis, I assumed the worst. On the contrary, though, things had stabilized. All of a sudden, the doctor considered another condition, the so called intrauterine growth restriction.

    It has now been multiple weeks, countless specialist appointments and hours over hours of Googling. Talking about it has become easier: We simply do not know what is going to happen. It has also taken me some time to internalize that there is nothing I can do but to accept faith and to keep stay positive.

    Being open about it was very hard for me at first, showing vulnerability does not come easy at all times. Once I opened up I learned from other people who had lost twins, received recommendations for other specialists and felt an abundance of wonderful, encouraging vibes coming our way.

    During the ultrasounds I see two kicking and curling not so tiny fetuses. They sometimes wave, suck on their thumbs and they are definitely restless, especially when the specialist is trying to measure them. It is hard to imagine that we might have to undergo laser surgery and that we are dealing with the risk of loosing one of them.

    Accepting something that is out of one’s control has so far not been my strong suit. This time that is all I can do: trying to get comfortable with uncertainty.


  • Solo road trip from San Diego to LA

    Let’s face it: in our daily lives time is mostly directed by others. So much so that I find it hard to listen to my body and remain mindful. A solo trip that let’s me go about days in my own rhythm is my source of reconnecting with myself.

    With no plans, a pair of sunglasses, and a convertible I started my trip from San Diego. One can easily drive from here to LA in a couple of hours, depending on traffic. This quintessential Southern Californian strip of land is well known for it’s artsy beach towns, coastal life and I felt like reconnecting with the West Coast a little bit.

    The Naval City: visiting the Aircraft Carrier museum

    Large and majestic thrones the USS Midway at the San Diego waterfront. It is now a museum with a Starbucks in the rear, at the time of its deployment is was the largest naval ship in service.

    Everywhere on the ship you’ll encounter former soldiers in their pilot jackets giving accounts of past times. how to take off or land on these monstrous ships and how deployment was like. All of them refer to their boat as their home. It is quite an impressive sight.

    First stop: La Jolla – come close to the Sea Lions

    For the first night I had picked an airbnb at the coast of LaJolla. It is known for its beach coves and lots of animals.

    La Jolla, the sea-side village, turned out to be exactly what I had wanted and needed. Lots of wild animals, scuba divers, stand-up paddlers, a little overcast Cali sky. But its not that: It was the locals I met walking their dogs smiling at me and wishing me a good morning in a cheerful way. It was the waitress at the Pancake house telling me: “Honey, I’ll make you just what you want.”

    Stop 2: Running into Lori

    I left La Jolla towards Carlsbad. My high school exchange coordinator Lori happened to be on vacation there and we met for donuts and coffee in this wonderful place called The Goods.

    While the donuts were to die for, it was a special treat to meet Lori again. She was my go-to-person when I came to California in 2002. I remember her house smelling like cinnamon sticks and apple cider, her having a bunch of kids in the house and Lori just being the kindest person.

    That afternoon we sat and talked as if we had just seen each other the week before. She is a woman of God and I deeply appreciate her advice and her perspective.

    Next Stop: The infamous Laguna

    The hotel I slept in was right by the ocean and relatively early I was woken by the loud thunder-like sounds of the ocean. I put on my running shoes and explored. I met a lot of homeless and lots of scuba divers this early in the AM. As usual, ths weather was gloomy at first, but got better around noon.

    Fittingly, I had a California bagel from the highly recommended bagel shop in town; it was so delicious and I got to watch some real California High School privileged kids, always a pleasure to sit back and see them show off the SUV’s they received for their sweet 16, walking around as if they own the city.

    I had read about a hike in the hills, but could not find parking. A little frustrated, I then found a beautiful quiet beach. A good reminder that plans might not work out, but something better might just happen to come your way.

    Obligatory: IN’N OUT

    From Laguna Beach I decided to drive through “The Hills” towards LA. The weather was perfect, the day was overshadowed by the news of multiple fast spreading wildfires in Southern California and a bar shooting in a Thousand Oaks the night before. The other side of the US…

    Whenever I am in California, there is one obligatory stop and that is at the iconic burger joint IN’N OUT to enjoy simply the best American burger with fries.

    Finally: Surf City USA

    I ended my trip in Huntington Beach, visiting my host sister Sarah who just had her second baby. The beach town of Huntington feels very familiar and a little bit like home. It has a great pier with lots of surfers, beach shacks and I can recommend to put it on the list for any Southern California trip.

    Although it was only three days, traveling alone is still very special to me. It makes me find my own rhythm and connect with places or remain in moments differently than when with a friend or my husband. And doing that at a place on this planet that I called home for a little while was very precious to me – albeit a bar shooting, California wild fires and lots of homeless people.

    What I would do differently:

    From hindsight I think that Laguna Beach is overrated, and Carlsbad just wonderful. Next time I would just stay there for the night.

    Tips to travel on budget: Southern California is very expensive, even simple hotels cost a lot of money. When I travel alone I need to feel save which is why I do not save on accommodation. However, I usually go to Whole Foods instead of mediocre tourist restaurants. They have a warm & cold food bar, fresh produce and I just take my food to sunny spots on the beach.

    Since I did not have too much time I also did not get to explore all the hiking trails in that region, maybe on the next trip?


  • The generally accepted level of racism

    Today I had lunch with a friend from Boston who moved to Munich with her husband and two kids in June. Without a doubt she is in full cultural shock mode. This is not the first time she had left the US. As a matter of fact she has lived in Europe for many years already.

    When I asked her how she feels she told me that what seems to be so picture perfect (look at the highest rated passports, or countries with the highest quality of life, Germany always ranks high), is actually quite harsh. For example, she said people give her “stinky eyes” all the time when her kids are too loud. And that on multiple occasions the family has noticed other people mumbling things like “Auslaender”, which means foreigners but is usually not meant in a delightful way. And then she said this: “I feel like there is a level of racism in this country and people talk about it so openly as if these are facts that everyone agrees with.”

    That really got me thinking. For my last blogpost I have been given a surprising amount of feedback. Not surprisingly, lots of snarky comments from Germans and a multitude of internationals encouraging me to keep on writing. Some of them asked me if I could explain why a party like AfD, a populist right party with strong ties to the Neonazi organizations, is now in every state’s parliament and in the German Bundestag, the national parliament. Of course, if I had a good explanation, I would probably work somewhere else. All I have are observations. And they have a lot to do with narrative, and the organization of Germany.

    The founding order of the United States, the very idea of the country was freedom. The founding idea of the Federal Republic of Germany, was to not repeat the past. Whereas the degree of individualism knows almost no boundaries in the US, in Germany there are written and unwritten boundaries. One very written example is that denying the holocaust in this country is a felony, not freedom of speech. My favorite example of unwritten rules and restrictions in Germany is the German mama saying to toddlers: “One does not do that.” It is a society that is raised with a lot of “one does not do thats” and, believe me, there are lots of them, like the situation my friend from Boston finds herself in when the kids are “too loud” on the streets.

    So how can one challenge existing orders, boundaries, rules, customs when they fall under the “one does not do that” category. That’s right, one does not. What if somebody does do it, addresses the fears of people, says what one should not say? AfD has done exactly that, in a very dangerous way. They address fears while presenting their own worldview with their own explanation. Explanations that lack any proof or sense, but that most likely does not matter. As long as someone addresses something that has been under the cloak of Germany’s hidden rules for too long.

    It works the other way as well. Challenging things that are “ok” to say as not acceptable does not make you a lot of friends here. The other day after one of my rants on Facebook somebody asked me: “Then why did you even come back here if you don’t like the way things are.” An interesting question, which I did not understand at all. This is the country I was born and raised in. I think the status quo is unreasonably shitty and I would like to change that, critique that, but instead I get asked why I am even here. One does not do that!


  • Diaspora Blues

    Diaspora Blues

    By Ijeoma Umebinyuo

    So,

    here you are

    too foreign for home

    too foreign for here.

    never enough for both.

    It cannot be denied that we who have walked those formative years in foreign lands may find that we are a bit foreign no matter where we are. (Full post here)

    More alienated than ever before I am living my life in Munich. Moving to Munich was a good idea: I started learning Farsi, people are on the streets after 8pm, and in my office there are many internationals. On the streets of Munich one hears predominantly English, it makes me feel at home.

    I posted the “Diaspora Blues” on Facebook the other day and a German friend who married an American and now lives in the states texted me that I am in reverse culture shock. Within the first year of being in Germany I would have agreed. It has been longer, though, and I simply think that this is not my home anymore, it is the country where I was born and raised. Ultimately, there are more things that I find despicable.

    Maybe Expectations play a big role when it comes to my relationship with Germany: I expect a country with such a history to be better than it is. I am noticing that I have lost touch to “the German” – the one that votes for right populists, the one that thinks that state is responsible for pension, the one that washes his car every saturday, has a tidy garden with little garden dolls, and everything in order. The one that, to me, is so scared of loosing that he will also never gain.

    Lately, I have found myself in so many situations that left me in anger and disbelief that I have decided to write it down, and take all the criticism from Germans I might get:

    This is the way it is in Germany

    Today I had a phone call with an employee of the department of taxes. I had inquired about a common tax statement for married couples. She answered that there is no common tax statement, there is a man’s tax statement and he can allow his wife to be part of it.I asked her: “Why?” She answered that this is the way it is in Germany. Solid answer. My answer is that it is about time things change in Germany!

    Racism

    I have multiple times now overheard statements from professional people that refer to other nations as “ching chang chungs” or “Raj’s”. Believe me, having worked in a jewish start-up in the states, we have had some politically incorrect jokes. But this is different: This is open racism. And these people are not aware of it and this is where I have issues. In a country in which an openly racist and Hitler-loving party is now in every state’s parliament, this is not ok!

    I am not yet decided how to position myself. Shall I be a guest, shall I be an advocate of my beliefs and speak up? Overcoming my constant anger is the first step, I guess.


  • Letting Go

    Lately, I have a morning routine: Yoga and Jack Kornfield meditation lectures. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile, always I feel calm afterwards.

    The concepts of letting go and not being attached play a central role in Kornfield’s teaching. Basically, letting go means no longer being attached. You can be very committed to raising your children in the way you deem moral and correct. If you expect as a return your children to become lawyers with a white picket fence lifestyle, you are attached to the outcome. That’s where the misery begins.

    Purpose is not derived from results.

    The integrity of how you go about things is purpose. Back to the morning routine: I feel great until something throws me off. Feelings of not being valued at work or tiny things like wanting Pho in rural Germany where Vietnamese don’t live. My reactions then become pretty random, far from controlled: they range from crying to me hating everything German to me looking up flights to Boston to sucking it up and tuning into a new Kornfield: meditate, be happy, be angry. Repeat. Really, I thought, I had this letting go thing internalized.

    Until this moment when Pouya got really excited about the English Garden, the city life and I happened to ask him why he never complained about rural life. His response, that he’s decided his happiness ought not to be dependent on location, made me ashamed of myself.

    And then just the other day a friend who has lived in the UK, US and is now moving to Switzerland, very kindly pointed out to me how complaining about Germany is really German. She said the same happens to her, literally she said: “This is what Germany does to me.” She had a point, though. The point is that the majority of Germans are perpetually complaining about something, not seeing the absolutely amazing quality of life. I do not want to be part of that. And yet, I do not have to leave the country in order to not be part of that.

    The integrity of my purpose, connecting people and advocating, should be the guiding force. All too often I get sidetracked. Where is this life leading if I am always searching for the better? What comes after this salary, after the Ironman, after the next big city? Not everything was golden in Boston, not everything is golden here. Where I live, though, is an outcome. Staying true to myself in Germany is one of my toughest challenges, and it took me a year of sad and hard feelings to get to this post. I trust my journey.

    Let’s see how long the next Kornfield lecture lasts tomorrow morning 😉.


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The sky is not completely dark at night. Were the sky absolutely dark, one would not be able to see the silhouette of an object against the sky.

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