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.

Oh, January

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January is a hard to deal with month for me. I might also face a couple of intimidating thoughts right at this time and blaming the one month that usually motivates people to eat healthier, smoke less and work out … Continue reading

India

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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 … Continue reading

The German World – through His Eyes

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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! … Continue reading

07-17: A month to remember

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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!”)  Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

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: