07-17: A month to remember

Kassel – Aalen – Boston – Lake Placid – New York: Triathlons, Cardboard Boxes, Saying “See You later” and a very powerful question that I answered with a yes (well, honestly, it was “Oh my god!” Pause “Yes!”)

Reflection, what a powerful mode. Today, we finally found an apartment in Aalen. Finally, because since interest rates are ridiculous everybody is buying houses, the German economy is doing well and all of a sudden what I thought of as a relatively cheap region to reside in has become quite expensive (still cheap compared to Munich, Stuttgart and let alone Boston). I also will be able to share soon what I have spent most of my time on at ZEISS next week and which excites me a lot currently.

However, as I was sitting down today, intending to journal, I realized what a month a have just experienced in July and that it is time to share it with you. Yes, many of you know that July ended with a very powerful question I was asked, but let me give you a couple of other beautiful moments first:

My first triathlon: 750m swim, 18km bike, 5km run

I LOVED it! I swam way too fast, had to seriously recover on the bike from that, loved how me and my bike are unbeatable descenting, and what shall I say about the running portion of that sport: there is loooots of room for improvement for me :-). I got to do it close to my hometown, my Mom, Dad and sister were there and I enjoyed spending a day racing, hanging out with family and just being happy.

A trip to Lake Placid: Or, watching an Ironman actually involves some stamina

Shipping back from Boston

Well, what can I say: I had lots of Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bagels, Hazelnut coffee, went to my favorite Indian, managed to cause total packing chaos, but in the end Pouya and I had 8boxes, a bike and skies. That is it, and it still makes me pretty proud.

With a ring on my finger 

The last weekend of July I spent in New York City, speakeasy drinks, unique international food  hipster East Village, taking long midnight walks through Manhattan – which is actually quite wonderful during the hot summer days. Somewhere on that island, in the middle of the night, on our way from Alphabet city to Midtown Pouya asked me to marry him. And I did say yes. Until that moment I have no idea how long he had been carrying a ring in his jeans :-).

 

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Peter Drucker made me quit my job…well kind of

When the 100-year old writings of an Austrian Business dude totally throw you off…

Peter Drucker is the ultimate dude when it comes to leadership advice. Although his works date back to the early to mid 20th-century, his writing still holds true in times of Twitter, digital everything and snapchat.

The Austrian dude has a chapter about time in his book “The Effective Executive”. As he goes explaining how time is the only true scarce resource he consequently states: If you are doing something that is not contributing to your goals, you are wasting your time.

I was listening to that chapter after a not so great day of work that had already been preceded by many not too great days of work which had already been foreshadowed by a couple of meh months at work, you get the idea. And the only thing that kept me sane during this time was my workouts, weekends filled with skiing or other fun adventures and my friends in Germany, in South East Asia, in Boston that never get tired of listening to vents, to complaints, to doubts.

 

You will just have to listen to the Dudes…

I would not go so far as to say that Peter Drucker told me through the grapevine to put in my 2 weeks notice, but that night when I was chopping vegetables in my beautiful Boston apartment I felt that change was going to come my way and that I would embrace it: The uncertainty, the angst, the excitement, the freedom, the opportunity to work more focused towards my goals.

And enjoy the moments of deepest uncertainty

Yesterday Pouya & I walked to cozy Spy Pond in Cambridge on the first day of sunshine after three days of icy rain and snow storms in Boston (yes, Germans, I knwo . We carried with us the Greens from the Persian Sofra. Tradition has it that on the 13th day of Persian New Year you are supposed to tie a knot into your greens while making a wish and then sending the greens into the water. Obviously, I cannot tell anyone about the wish that I made while brading the greens. I can tell you, though, that sitting by the water, enjoying a sunny afternoon moment filled me with inner peace. After all Lichtenberg said “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”
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Thanks Dudes! Peter Drucker and Georg Lichtenberg

I am hugging my conniption fit inner child on this sunday morning

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. (Martin Luther King)

Once again I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial in DC and, in deep admiration, paused for a moment in front of his quotes; They are humbling. The above one captured my attention so much because I currently find myself confronted with some life challenges.

When you want it all…and end up on the couch with your solace giving jar of Peanut Butter

Last week I tried it all: working out, eating clean, enough sleep, performing well at work and packing up my apt for a move on saturday. And this is the situation I found myself in most nights: Cancelled all workouts, munching on potato chips with Peanut Butter, sleep-deprived, insanely frustrated at work because for the first time I have taken on a project that does not have clearly defined goals and I am suffering. And instead of packing smartly, I ended up packing “miscellaneous” boxes – basically just randomly throwing stuff in so at least one thing would be DONE in my head.

There is a stubborn inner child taking over at times that can be quite annoying

Surely I could have asked for and I certainly was offered help. But I wanted to get it done by myself. I want to say it’s not me, it is a very stubborn, unreasonable part of me. Once set on an idea or task, however insurmountable that workload may look to a reasonable person, there is no turning back. Or accepting help. I call that part of me my annoying inner child. Why? Have you ever seen a young child throw herself on the floor in the supermarket, screaming, wanting something. Yeah, that’s how I feel at times of challenge.

Letting go

Just like the child’s conniptions in the supermarket only last a few minutes, my inner child gets appeased fairly easily; Or defeated by exhaustion. Maria Rita reminded me this week that while welcoming bad feelings is crucial, it is just as important to let go of them as easily. So, after a good night’s sleep, after moving out of my apartment and in with my boyfriend and after waking up next to him with the Boston sunlight announcing my favorite day, I am hugging my inner child this morning and tell her: You’ll be fine. I don’t want to get rid of you, I am accepting you as a part of me.

 

 

Persian New Year: Tahdig, Hafez and the goldfish

Spicer, Trump and friends keep handing out so much bull, I will keep it lighthearted today and hand you some happy moments of my international love experience. You could also subtitle this one with: Dating a Persian, 101.

Persian New Year

Today is Persian New Year, or Nowruz. Let me start with a cool fact: Persians celebrate their New Year (which is like christmas for Germans) at the vernal equinox. And they are peculiar about the timing. The New Year celebration is exactly at the time of the actual equinox, today at 6.28AM, but changing every year. You would think that if there is any nation in this world who celebrates a holiday ON TIME, it would be the Germans…

IMG_0469Just as christmas, Nowruz comes with a lot of traditions. Before the actual celebration every household prepares as so called Sofra  – a table decorated with seven things that start with the letter S. Very typical is the spice Sumac, an apple, Greens which are called Sabzi in Farsi, a mirror, a goldfish…Yes, you read correctly! An alive goldfish is part of Nowruz. Can you imagine my excitement about getting a pet goldfish? Unfortunately, or I am assuming Pouya thinks differently about this one, we were too late and could not get a goldfish, but rest assured: I will be a Sofra earlybird next year…

 

Let’s talk food. I have had quite some exposure to the Persian cuisine. In Farsi, the word for stomach and heart is the same, that hints at how important and intricate Persian cooking is. While many dishes are absolutely delicious, there is this one thing that I am almost as obsessed about as Peanut Butter, and that is Tahdig. Imagine this: You take a tortilla and butter, and put that tortilla at the bottom of a pan and on top you put cooked rice. Let that sit for long enough and the butter, tortilla and rice form this dark brown crust…Tahdig is also where Persian hospitality comes to a brief pause – because the bottom of a pan is only so big, meaning there is only so much Tahdig and everybody wants it.

So, what happened last saturday at a Nowruz celebration is that, at a certain late-night hour, I found myself in the extremely lucky situation of having discovered that there was a tiny bit of Tahdig left over at the bottom of the pot. I was comforted by the Persians present that under the influence scraping off Tahdig is a very ok thing to do…

Lastly, Persian New Year has a wonderful tradition and that is reading  Hafez‘ poems. Traditionally, you are asking yourself a question silently, then open the book and somebody will read the poem to you. Hafez words are so complicated and complex, though, leaving so much room for interpretation that it can take a long time to interpret the meaning of the poem, especially in the context of your question. I will, of course, not convey the question that I asked, but it’s been a precious experience to experience the most important tradition of a culture you learn so little (and that little you do hear is mostly negative) about when you grow up in the Western world.

 

 

Being certain about stepping into uncertainty does not work

My friend Maria Rita used to joke about her Plan B: if no job would work out she’ll simply move to South East Asia to embrace uncertainty. Guess what, she did. And she loves it. I have been quiet for a while: I came back from India to what I would call a work blizzard that left me with no shelter and my time in India, pressure at work, strongly felt disbelief about the new United States government and an inner restlessness yanking away my comfort for Boston have swirled me into a phase of doubt.

Is this still the right job? I have taken over a high visibility project at work and with that comes high pressure, politics, energy draining discussions and it culminated in me doubting my abilities and my fit.

Is this still the right country? America is an idea, not a culture. I chose America as my home and I have been able to settle in a beautiful, historical and academically loaded place surrounded by breathtaking nature, an ocean & skiing mountains nearby. I am living the American way in many ways. Yet, the emergence of President Trump, a man who could not be further from what I consider an integer & charismatic statesman delivering a visa ban on majority Muslim countries also made me realize how much I love and always wanted to be involved in politics. Looking back to Europe and seeing nationalist sentiments creeping into Western societies instigate a strong urge to move back “home” and follow that calling I have felt for years.

These phases of doubt are not new to me, they are what brings me forward; they make me emotional, more sensual, prompt me to be very honest to myself. Those of you who know me know that these phases take me over completely, I can’t just have my 30minutes of doubt every week and continue with life. Once that box is opened it surrounds me, it’s closing in on me until I have found answers…

I want to step into a more uncertain, adventurous future, but I want to feel very certain about this decision.  And here’s the first tough to digest finding of 2017: You can never be certain and that’s ok. I guess that is part of adulting… All my options are a blessing, not a burden. I can see Maria Rita smiling at me: The German needs certainty in order to step into uncertainty…

As always, some impressions from the last couple of weeks:

 

Yearning for German Christmas Traditions

Yesterday, December 6th, is Nikolaus. The only day I voluntarily cleaned my shoes. Why? Because – that’s the tradition – children put their clean boots in front of the house the night before December 6th, hoping that St. Nikolaus will reward them for having been on good.

As a strong believer that you shall never fully grow up Nikolaus continues to be a very special day for me & my family in December. This morning I woke up to so many Nikolaus messages from my whole family and yesterday I picked up a package filled with Nikolaus goodies from my Mom, just in time.

Yet, this 2016 Christmas season feels somewhat more intense to me. I was lucky enough to have my first warm Christmas wine, a real German Marzipanstollen (sweet bread with Marzipan, raisins and powdered sugar) and roasted Almonds at the Christmas market in Toronto last week and it felt a little bit like home.

I have not been home for one full year. Funny enough, my chronic complaints about Germany and some cultural features slowly turned into a romantic yearning for everything German & christmas, and I indulge in it (I even had a bread with Nutella for breakfast the other day). Obviously, this might change the moment I touch ground in Frankfurt.

I also have a feeling that this desire has to do with the fact that I will not be returning to Germany alone…and I am extremely excited to show Pouya my Germany during this very special season, including watching Sissi (a trilogy on the Austrian Habsburger queen Elizabeth in the 19th century), drinking lots of calories like spiked eggnog and hot cocoa with rum and eating Goose.

Meanwhile, until we land in Germany, I will hopefully be able to enjoy first snow and lots of seasonal adventures in Boston.

It’s a beautiful country, after all

Last week I was walking through my Boston, feeling bestranged. Noticing, maybe more than ever, how much I am not American, sensitized towards differences. Factually, nothing has changed really after the election of Donald Trump, at least not yet. And not for me anyways – as a white Western European. My feeling has, though.

Last week my feeling towards this country has been deeply challenged. I have known for a while now that my appreciation for the United States stems from the fact that it presents me with great career opportunities and a way of going about life that is harder to find in Germany. Settling in a part of town that could easily be mistaken for a European city, spending my leisure time with other immigrants, and ultimately dating an immigrant enables me to be very much European in the America.

Last week I was, once again, amazed by the beautiful landscape & hospitality this country has to offer. Driving through the states of New York and Vermont, tasting Pinot Noirs, hiking Green Mountain trails, replenishing.

I have long accepted the fact that while Germany is my home, it is not the place where I am home. Yet last week it became very clear that I also do not belong to the US. And that is ok. Ok for now, especially after such wonderful fall memories of 2016:

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The Head of the Charles Regatta. Don’t let the sun fool you, it was bitter cold!

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This is a shot from the Mystic Fells, just north of Boston

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What a sunrise. I still get up every morning and admire the beautiful skies Boston suprises me with

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If it rains, it rains…But November has this power of creating a mystic mood. 

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This is my colleague on Halloween. He eventually realized that working in this will be hard…

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German “Abendbrot” with Eliza for the last presidential debate…who would have thought…

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After New Hampshire’s White Mountains, we discovered Vermont’s Green Mountains last weekend. It was just the right temperature, and as always, a beautiful sunny day. 

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Wine Tasting at a lonely winery in upstate New York. Lots of fun!