Never trust your weather app

Fog, my – – -. I know I’m from Arizona, but I still know what rain is. And now I rode my bike to the gym in the dark, in the rain, uphill… Thanks, my untrustworthy weather app!

Ok, it wasn’t uphill. And I probably should just check the weather from the balcony, to be on the safe side. But, admittedly, if I would have known it was raining, I wouldn’t have ventured out. As it was, I sweat it out at the gym for two hours. Not bad.

What was awesome was the ride home. My way to and from the gym takes me down Düsseldorf’s fancy shopping street, the Kö, as it’s known locally. Now that Christmas season is in full swing, all the trees are aglow with Christmas lights. I love the way they can transform an entire street, and evening. It made for a beautiful ride home. And there was no more rain.

I guess it wasn’t such a bad thing to go out in the rain after all. I’m thinking this might be a good lesson learned to keep in my back pocket as winter settles in.

End of a lucky streak?

The air is different today. Change is coming. You can feel it, smell it, even see it. It’s becoming unbearable to ride my bike without gloves. There’s a hint of wet cold in the air, especially in the mornings and evenings, which are possessed by a foggy kind of gray. People are starting to wear their hats, scarves, and heavy coats.

We’ve had a wonderful fall. Our living room, with view of the Hofgarten, has provided us a front-row seat from which to watch the progression from summer to fall, and now to, dare I say it, winter. In Phoenix we kind of just had summer, then a few pleasantly cool nights, then winter. It’s been nice to watch the leaves change from green to yellow, and sometimes orange and red, all the while getting thinner on the trees, so that we can actually see the street on the other side of the park. Then they fall to the ground in their last whimsical dance, only to be blown into piles and sucked away by an industrious team of street sweepers and park cleaners. The next day dawns to reveal a fresh layer of fallen leaves. Who knew there were so many of them up there?

The locals keep saying we’ve had the best fall imaginable – barely a drop of rain, blue skies, relatively warm temperatures. A real lucky streak, well-deserved after this past non-summer. I’ve certainly been thankful. It’s made life much more enjoyable. While the sun isn’t as strong as in Arizona (lesson learned – just because it’s sunny doesn’t mean it’s warm), it certainly makes the days cheerier.

Soon comes the test though – how long can I still ride my bike to the gym? at what temperature do I decide it’s best to stay home rather than to venture out for a coffee? what if I get a job that forces me out of our warm domicile? will a lack of sun make me batty?

Hang in there Fall, just a little longer!

Exercise therapy

So, I didn’t mean to leave a blog with such a sad title at the top for so long, but I’ve been busy. And I promise, I was doing much better the next day. Why, you ask? I self-treated with an evening of group exercise classes at the gym – there really is nothing better to cure a case of the blues, or whatever else might be ailing you. Loud music + sweat in your eyes + shared muscle exhaustion = pure bliss.

I also finally registered for my personal trainer certification, which I will start in a few weeks. Why the heck not, right? And, since I’m interning at one of the gyms here, I will be trying out all their classes and other fitness offerings. I see lots of snacks in my future. Also good.

Then Toby and I had an awesome weekend. We somehow managed to achieve the perfect combination of socializing, checking things off our to-do list, enjoying our sunny living room, eating yummy homemade pizza, and going for a run.

More soon – rest assured, Christina is on the right track again!

Lonely puppy

Today is the first day I ate lunch by myself outside the apartment. It just kind of happened that way. Usually I eat at home or get a sandwich from the bakery on the run. The act of sitting in a restaurant, even though it’s the same coffee house I always drink my latte macchiatos at, felt incredibly lonely. Maybe it’s just today, or maybe it’s that everybody else seemed to have somebody to eat with.

Even though I’m using my time well, I think I’m desperately craving daytime human companionship. The other day I noticed the people from the office across the courtyard enjoying a smoke and a chat on the patio. I actually wished I had a work to go to so I could also have people to interact with.

It would probably be more fun to make new friends, but where do you find people to hang out with while everyone you know is working? Although I’ve gotten better at striking up random conversations while standing in line at the grocery store or when catching the eye of the person at the table next to me at the coffee house, it would be totally weird for everyone involved to exchange phone numbers or suggest another meeting.

So, how does one go about meeting new people? College was a good place to make new friends, but I think I’m getting too old for that. I could hang out at a bar, but that’s not the kind of friend I’m looking for. I’m not the type to go to expat happy hour at the local Irish bar; I’m too shy for that, even if nobody believes me. Gym classes sound like a good option, if you ignore that everyone is covered by a thin layer of sweat.

It looks like I’m going to have to break out of my comfort zone to make a few new acquaintances. Or continue to act like an excited puppy when Toby comes home in the evening – yeah! people! attention! affection!

Circus act

Don’t you love when you do something that really just makes you laugh at yourself? For me, a normal outing to the grocery store today turned into a veritable circus act. A weekend trip led to a near-empty refrigerator on Monday morning, so I rode my bike to do some grocery shopping, but I was hungry, which means I had no self-restraint as I wandered the aisles of food. The results were…amusing and led to this great picture of my bike, which I pushed home because it was too heavily loaded with groceries to ride in a straight line. Yes, that’s a basil plant and a kilo of carrots in my front basket and ten rolls of toilet paper on the back carrier. Oh yeah, in addition to the two bags on the handlebars I was also wearing a backpack full of the really heavy things like milk, yogurt, and beans (gotta get our protein).

In addition to providing amusement for myself and  passers-by, my grocery shopping is also the trifecta of workouts – it requires strength, balance, and mental acuity. You already have a good idea of where strength and balance come into play. The mental part is due to the fact that our regular grocery store is set up in the weirdest way. Not only can you find the same products from different brands scattered throughout the store (ex: canned kidney beans can be found in no less than three different aisles), but sometimes those products are organic, sometimes they’re not, and certain brands are way more expensive than others. I would definitely call it mental gymnastics to calculate the best deal and then remember which aisle it was in.

Then, like a circus bear, I ride (or push) my treasures home on my bike.

Love disruption

Everybody’s always telling me the cold isn’t so bad and that I shouldn’t let it bother me. In defense of myself, I don’t run around all day complaining about how cold it is. It doesn’t keep me from going outside, at least not yet. I even, of my own volition, took my bike out in a light drizzle once (that’s got to be good for some assimilation points!). Maybe what concerns people is my habit of noting, out loud, when I find the temperatures a bit too nippy. I can’t help it that it already feels so wintry to my Arizona-trained body and that my thoughts escape my mouth unfiltered (a habit I can’t seem to break, regardless of what my thoughts are).

If I surrender to the cold and make my peace with it, does that mean I’m giving up a part of myself, the Arizona part I’m so proud of? Our move here, while not necessarily permanent, definitely doesn’t have a foreseeable end. It’s not like I just came here to get my master’s degree (one of two reasons I survived two years in Utah, the other being the amazing wilderness of southern Utah). So I really need to embrace this place as home.

It’s a scary thought though, to desert (no pun intended) one’s roots. I feel a little lost sometimes. Life has been happening at break-neck speed for the last few months. I got married and changed my name. I quit a career I’d studied six years for and spent seven years working in (and that nobody really needs in Germany – water conservation? come on). I moved to a foreign country. I left behind my parents, and even worse, the other half of my brain (my sister – she’s the funny half). I’m unemployed. I’m considering not one, but two new career paths. It’s all a little crazy.

And because I’m one of those people who likes to feel in control of things and who really doesn’t like change all that much, some days I just want to hide in bed, cuddled up with a book and a hot chocolate, and ignore everything Out There. But I don’t because I have Toby. His motto is “disruption is good,” and he always finds the bright side to anything. Even though he can sometimes be maddeningly positive, it’s really nice to have someone like that on your team.

So, here’s to embracing change, loving disruption, and seeing the positive!

Hot, sweaty nights

I know this doesn’t sound like a title that could possibly relate to Düsseldorf in November, but soon it will make sense. In the last week, Toby and I went out for an evening of drinks and dancing, on two separate occasions. It was a lively change of pace from our slightly more domestic lifestyle as of late and a fun revival of our first Thursday nights together back in Arizona. Occasion number one – adult dress-up, i.e. Halloween. In Germany, Halloween is a dark holiday. There are no cheerleaders, angels, or walking telephone booths, unless they’re dead. So the group of us headed out, ashy-faced with dark circles around our eyes and blood dripping from our mouths. Sounds sexy, huh? Occasion number two – Toby’s brother and his girlfriend came to visit. We spent some nice time with them walking along the Rhine, visiting a photography exhibit, and drinking beer on Ratinger (Düsseldorf’s party street). Why not throw in a little dancing?

We certainly had some good booty-shaking times! And it really was hot and sweaty. And crowded. Crazy crowded. Neighborly backside rubbing was unavoidable. But everybody stays friendly. You’re all after all going for the same thing – a strobe light-flashing, bass-pumping escape from the daily grind. As the night progresses, at some point you stop dancing for yourself and just sway with the rhythm of the crowd; you have no choice. It’s very moving. Literally.

I don’t know what it is about a night of dancing, but it really does wonders for the soul. I certainly plan on partaking in a few more of them. Besides, a sweaty dance floor is one of the few places where I can wear my favorite tank top, without a sweater over it. I love tank tops!

Sunday night blues

I thought that Sunday night blues were just a phenomenon for those who have to work again on Monday. Turns out you can get them even if you’re unemployed, and I had a bad case of them last night. The coming of another Monday for me meant a variety of things, the biggest one being that I get to do lots of being alone again. The few people I know here, besides Toby, all have jobs or babies and therefore not necessarily a lot of free time on Mondays. While the staff at my favorite coffee house greet me with a smile and a latte macchiato, it’s not the same as somebody to actually enjoy my coffee with. And, now that I’ve hit that point where the desire to work again is starting to show itself, I also have a list of things to do related to The Job Search.

I’m going to double-track my quest for a new career – start classes for my fitness certifications while looking for an ‘office job.’ After spending some time chatting with somebody in the personal training and gym industry about how the system in Germany works, I found what sounds like a great opportunity. I plan to pursue two certificates that will allow me to work as a personal trainer. I also found a gym to intern at while I’m studying, where I might even be able to transition into a job once I have my certifications. Not bad!

For the ‘office job’ I need to work on my resume, which is terribly out of date. I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t changed jobs in a while. And since water conservation isn’t really a hot topic in Germany, I now also need to take all of my experiences over the last several years and communicate their relevance in terms of a sustainability-related job. This isn’t necessarily difficult, but it will require time, concentration, and some verbal acrobatics. Going over one’s resume with a fine-tooth comb is an interesting exercise. All that time and energy spent over the years, crammed onto a few pages of 12-point font. Oh yeah, I probably should also translate the whole thing into German.

Maybe I’m not so unemployed after all – looking for a job is a job in itself, and I’m working for none other than Me.

When I grow up

Over the last few years, there was a lot of contemplation on my part about the age-old question of what I want to be when I grow up. And I was always very methodical about it. That’s so…Christina. While cleaning up and organizing around the apartment, I keep finding lists tucked away where I pondered things like what I would consider to be the qualities of a good job vs. a bad job, things I like vs. dislike, things that inspire me, things I’m good at and bad at…. You get the picture. In the meantime I kept working in water conservation, which is what I studied and always envisioned myself doing. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I didn’t like my job; it’s just that I wasn’t inspired anymore.

Our move to Germany has provided me with extravagant amounts of time to spend on the topic ‘dream job.’ It’s a strange yet wonderful yet frightening situation I find myself in. Strange to not be running on a schedule anymore. Wonderful to have the freedom to try something new. Frightening to not have a schedule and to try something new. Sometimes I really have to laugh at myself…

Because talking to other people sometimes brings enlightenment, I’m sharing my newest list with you. I’ve loosely categorized my interests into the following:

  • keeping our bodies happy through fitness and nutrition (both doing it and talking about it)
  • reading (usually combined with some form of note-taking)
  • hanging out at coffee houses (usually combined with reading)
  • talking about interesting subjects (defined by the specific day)
  • sharing knowledge (I also love the closely related ‘acquiring knowledge’)
  • taking pictures (I wouldn’t quite put my skill level into the art of photography, yet)
  • venturing out into the wilderness (always combined with taking pictures)

A new list for a new start!

This old house

While on the hunt for our apartment, we carefully weighed things like location, floor plan, and features. There was of course not one apartment that met all of our criteria, and we were forced to prioritize what we really wanted. At the top of the list – open kitchen, two bedrooms, elevator, and great location. We now have all this, and more. Our new kitchen has space for everything we use, and both of us can easily work in it together. We have a fabulous office/guest room. The elevator, while small, carries us quickly to the 4th floor. You can walk to great bars, coffee houses, shopping opportunities, and the grocery store.

The biggest thing we gave up was slightly more modern accommodations. Our apartment is in a building that was built in the late 60’s. There are definitely not enough electrical outlets in convenient places. Note to self – buy more power strips. We had fewer options for internet/cable providers. The windows could probably be better insulated. The wooden floors glow with the patina of past households.

But, we traded these modern niceties in for a sunken living room complete with a fabulous window seat and view of the Hofgarten (kind of like the Central Park of Düsseldorf) through our huge front windows. The three balconies allow for an actual weather-check no matter where you are. Our bathrooms have…character. How many people can say they have marble floors and walls in their master bathroom? Or a guest bathroom whose color scheme and lighting make you look beautiful any time of day?

Every day this place feels more and more like home. We’ve already enjoyed Sunday nights with homemade pizza and a movie, gin and tonics on the bar with friends, and sunny weekend afternoons on the window seat. Not bad!