India

I have been writing so much for work that my private headlines are not really the most creative. But this one sums it up pretty well. Pouya, me, India.

Naturally, the minute I told my body I am going on vacation it went into sick-mode, not only do I have  cold, but also a nasty inflammation in my wrist, but I strongly believe in the Indian healing powers. And in Ibuprofen 🙂

So, summed up in short, this trip is means a lot to me: It will be another wedding experience, this time in Bangalore. I am very excited to see my Fletcher friend Aditya again. The younger generation of the wedding party will then move on towards Goa and beach for a bit. Moving on from the South, we will be doing a stopover in Delhi and see the couple whose wedding brought me to India this past January, Jessica and Abhishek.

And then it is time for a big item on my bucket list: Ever since I saw the Himalayan peaks from Mussorie in January I have been thinking about that place and how I felt. It is hard to explain, but I felt complete. This time, it will be a little longer. We will be doing a five day trek, in the snow, with a big backpack, lots of emergency drugs (the German doctors needed some serious persuasion to give out some of these prescriptions; a little bit of Googling has confirmed my funny jokes about how these drugs are most likely available somewhere over the counter…). I have a lot of respect for the fast altitude gain and I hope I am trained well enough. I guess there is only one way to find out…

And then it will be time for catching up with more Fletcher friends in New Delhi, eating as much Dhal, Palak Paneer, buttered chicken and drinking so much Masala Chai that I can at least stay for a little while without graving the food that is simply unavailable where I currently am.

I will try to keep you updated with lots of pictures and little stories.

 

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The German World – through His Eyes

Be careful what you wish for: When Pouya and I decided to relocate to Germany we were telling our friends that it would be an adventure. It’s surely been adventurous, but maybe not the adventure that we had associated.

  • Schorle!

The first word he perfected was “Schorle”, that is the German’s drink of choice: Juice mixed with sparkling water (that kind of sparkling that makes you burp immediately). After a few weeks in the country of Schorle, he was “Schorle’d out” and now we have been trying to order tab water – something that still seems to be an offense in German restaurants, which is funny given that German water is pretty clean on a world scale.

  • Amt!

The first world within the German world he detected was “Amt”, the public administration. When he registered in the town of Aalen the lady behind the counter asked him if he had already registered for “GOA”. He was a little confused since we will be traveling to Goa, India later this year and he was wondering how that lady possibly knew that. Goa, however, is the local trash agency, also called the trash-mafia. Trash is a serious matter in Swabia.

  • Wochenmarkt-Bag

Last weekend he came home in the morning from the baker. Since we’re living in the middle of town we can watch the crowds walk towards the local produce market on saturdays. He dragged me to the window and told me that he has a hypothesis: You are only an eligible member in the Aalen weekly market when you are carrying a wood braided basket. And he was right, every one was carrying the same bags.

  • No!

No, there is no good customer service here. No you cannot return something after 2weeks. No, there is no services that offer convenience services. No, the concept of good enough is not present: You do or you do not and if it is not built to last forever it shall not be build at all.

We are currently in Canada. At Thanksgiving dinner a family member asked Pouya what he thinks is so different about Germany, how this small country is able to compete on so many levels globally. And he told a fascinating and complex story of a nation that values work-live-balance, efficiency and incremental improvement.

The adventure in my head has little to do with what reality currently provides. Administrative craziness knows no boundaries and I have no more conniption fits to give. Yet, there are also wonderful things: weekends with friends from school, great healthy food, enough time for sports&family

It has been five years in the United States and I slowly understand I have hit a point of no return: I am the one who has changed and now experience the country with a different mindset. It is hard to discuss this with Germans that have not left as they think I am pissing on my home turf or think of myself as deserving more when openly admitting that I am struggling with being in Germany. The concept of home is something many of my international Fletcher friends have redefined for themselves and I am currently doing the same. It certainly helps to do this with Pouya whose eyes are open to the small things that I am sometimes not able to appreciate anymore.

This is us last week at the Munich Marathon where we both ran a 10k race – at freezing temperatures.

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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 :-).

 

Why I don’t want stuff – Project 333

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33 items of clothing for 30 days, can you do that? I just unconsciously lived a minimalist lifestyle, and you know what I missed: Nothing!

With a big move from Boston to Germany looming, there are a lot of thoughts about leaving stuff crossing my mind: my big plants, that one nailpolish that perfectly fits my one iridescent skirt. I spend all this money on it and now I am loosing it. But then a documentary and an hour of journaling brought me back to more positive thoughts: the nailpolish looked great that one christmas party, but now I don’t need it anymore; the plants will all move to my old roommate’s Mark’s new house where they’ll hopefully survive.

As long as it gives you value, keep it

Stuff adds value to my live as long as I use it. After that, it’s just stuff that takes up space. That’s, in a nutshell, one idea of minimalism. In the documentary Minimalism lots of women talk about the experiment of downsizing their closets for one month to 33 things, project 333; they anticipated shame, feeling discontent for not having more variability. And all of them report how much it has freed their lives.

How much do we need versus how much do we buy to satisfy some other longing?

I got up this morning, threw all my clothing on the floor and counted. Not counting workout clothes and underwear, I am adding up to 34 things of clothing that I have been wearing since arriving in Germany. And that is basically all I need. Having more will at some point make moving with one suitcase an issue, and I want and need to be flexible. One thing that minimalism is asking us to do it to ask: Am I buying this because I need it or out of a compulsion?

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“You cannot deprive yourself of luxury all your life”

That’s basically what my parents said last weekend. My mother offered to purchase a set of dining china for Pouya & my new home. I told her pretty boldly that I have zero interest in that. My Dad predicted that there will be a time when I need to own more than I own right now. Obviously, my parents are older and maybe project their experience on the me.

What brings value to my life

The more we have these conversations, though, the more I am able to understand my true longing. And that is liberty! Attaching myself to things, potentially becoming unable to move because of all the things I have accumulated, is a dystopian vision for me. That does not mean that it could not bring value to somebody else’s life. A young colleague of mine just told me that she has just added a kitchen aid to her dowry – a fully stuffed, top brand, kitchen equipment that she will contribute when moving in with her boyfriend.

Minimalism is not against consumption or capitalism, it is for mindfulness

I have treated myself to carbon bike, carbon bike shoes and many sport equipment things that I love. I guess that is what I appreciate about the idea of minimalism. You may consume, the question we should ask ourselves is: What do you really want?

 

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

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: