People are always asking how a girl from Arizona ends up working at a fitness club in Düsseldorf, and why I speak such good German, albeit with a funny accent. So I tell them about my Austrian parents who fell in love with Arizona and decided to have a family there. About growing up with German workbooks, Austrian Christmas trees, and Wienerschnitzel. About the Phoenix Oktoberfest where I met Toby, my German husband. About our decision to move to Germany together, which gave me the opportunity to make the career leap that might otherwise have been left for ‘some day.’

The reaction is almost always the same – wow, you’re mutig. Translated that means something like brave, courageous, ballsy.

Funny. Most days those aren’t the words I would use to describe myself. Maybe confused, worried, overwhelmed. And sometimes lonely, lazy, useless. There’s always a little crazy sprinkled in. Some days I even feel hopeful, curious, inspired.

But ballsy? Me?

Pumping grannies and more

I think it’s finally time to report on the job. The Christina is doing well. I’ve gotten comfortable enough with the procedures that I’m finally able to veer a little off the ‘script’ and bring my own personality to the, er, workout bench. I’m not always sure if the gym members I speak with get or appreciate my jokes – your sense of humor is the hardest thing to regain when you’re speaking a different language (the cultural references and word plays I know just don’t work as well in German) – but everyone, myself included, seems to be having a good time. As good a time as you can have while pushing out another set of 20…

But that’s what I love about the job. There’s a generally positive vibe around the gym. While each of the ladies (it’s a women’s gym) has different goals and reasons for being there, they’re all motivated by the same desire to do something good for themselves, to improve themselves. And you can somehow see that. They go through their routines with determination and skill (each new member gets an introduction to our machines and a personalized training plan to get started off with). I’ve never seen so many women using weight machines and free weights. On a busy night, you actually have to wait for the leg press.

Who are these women, you might ask? It’s a refreshing mix of young and old – some with jobs or college schedules, some with babies, some with a solid foundation of muscle, some with a little extra padding. And, because our regulars are fairly regular, there’s a sense of community among many of the members. My favorite group is the Monday morning coffee clique – these older ladies start out with a back strengthening class, go to their balance class, and then sit at our bar sipping cappuccinos before tackling the rest of their days. Seeing them makes me smile.

And, I’m slowly becoming a member of their community. I’m getting to know the names and stories of many of the regulars, just like they’re getting to know me. And, even though I already have the reputation for knowing how to make your muscles quiver, there are a few who really like working out with the ‘Arizona lady.’

It makes working evenings and Sundays not so bad.

Ich bin

So, for the last two weeks, I’ve been in training for my new job as fitness coach – learning the procedures, the computer system, the equipment, the course structures, and the personalities of the regular members. The last point is the one that challenges this rather shy girl. You want me to walk around, make small talk, make myself approachable…in German…? Gulp.

Lucky for me, I’ve discovered an idiosyncrasy in the German language that allows me to define and assume an alternate personality as fitness coach. Hallo, ich bin die Christina. The literal translation – Hello, I am the Christina. Yes – The Christina. I’m giving it a capital T for effect.

I’m the outgoing, totally approachable girl with the funny accent who will help you get to those killer abs and lean, sexy muscles. I’ll create an inspiring training plan you can’t wait to do. I’ll lead the most fun abs/butt/legs/back group workouts you’ve ever experienced. I’ve got great nutrition tips. Anything else you need to reach your fitness goals? I can whip that up too!

Just in the nick of time – next week I start my regular schedule. Here comes The Christina, fitness coach extraordinaire!


I was a little lazy today. That’s ok. Today is one of my last days of bum-dom. I might as well enjoy it. Next week my life as fitness coach begins.

I did some window shopping, had lunch with a friend, drank coffee in the sun at a street cafe, did some real shopping.

All the fresh air and blue skies were good for my soul. I had a moment to really think about why, and to convince my inner worrier and skeptic that, my transition into a new career world, despite my lower pay and less-than-optimal working hours, is a good thing and how much I really have to look forward to. This is, after all, just the first of many potentially good steps.


To inspire and be inspired. To try something new. To teach others something new, or at least make them more aware. To broaden my horizons. To turn toward new horizons.

To make the world a better place, or at least my little piece of it. To look good while I’m doing it (why not?). To feel good. To help others feel good.

To make a good impression. To make a lasting impression. To change things for the better. To be changed for the better. To learn and grow.

Exciting times

It’s been a while. A lot has been going on. All good. Where to begin…where to begin…?

We got back 10 days ago from a fabulous trip to Egypt for an escape from the end of winter. Go figure – the day we boarded our plane, it was sunny and warm. Isn’t that just how Life toys with you? No matter though. The five days we were away were just what the doctor ordered – we soaked up the sun, read our books, hung out with Toby’s parents, slept too long, and ate lots of food. Perfect!

When we got back, the sun was still shining. I survived my first Düsseldorf winter (let’s ignore the fact that it was a pretty mild one aside from the two weeks of -10°C weather), and now spring is in full force! While the next few days are forecast to be cold and rainy (just a glitch in the system, I’m sure), it’s turning out to be amazing. The view of the Hofgarten from our living room windows lets us watch the approach of spring. The park gets greener by the day as new trees decide it’s time to get their photosynthesis on. It’s all so fresh and alive, and I can’t help but feel more fresh and alive too.

Another happy side effect of spring and that funny thing known as Daylight Savings Time is that it now stays light until almost 8pm. It makes the day so gloriously long! Toby and I have been taking advantage of it by adding a morning bike ride along the Rhine to our daily activities.

And now for the biggest news – I am no longer a bum. Yes, I have landed a job! I had an interview the day after I passed my fitness trainer test, and by the end of the interview I had a job at one of the local gyms. And all of this within the last four days, mind you. I know, right?!

Now comes the real test – will Christina like her newly chosen career path? Oh, such a big question for a smart girl who’s dumb enough to try to doubt herself….

Exciting times, indeed!

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!

Caffeinated happiness

Today I experienced a very tangible reason for why I really think I’d like to try a stint working at a coffee house. Let me explain…

Now that the apartment is pretty much set up I need to find something that gives my days structure and my life purpose. It’s making me slightly nervous that I spend so much time alone, on my computer, with occasional neighborhood wanderings to buy food, toilet paper, or cashmere pantyhose (a decadent winter treat for legs!). So I finally scraped together the courage to ask at two different gyms how I might go about getting a job with them and what their qualifications for group exercise instructors and personal trainers are. The first gym couldn’t tell me because the various contact people for my questions were all busy. At the second gym I spoke with someone who was very helpful regarding the licensing requirements for personal training. Unfortunately, I also found out that they don’t need new personal trainers at that specific club anytime soon. My phone number is also being forwarded to the person in charge of group exercise classes, although the comment was that with my lack of experience it would probably be hard to get a class. Not a lot of positive forward movement, yet.

Back at home I found a letter saying I was denied for an online checking account I’d applied for – no income. What a weird feeling to be 33 and not able to open a checking account on my own. I’m seen as a financial liability!

In a slightly depressed state, I went to the coffee house for some introspection. I was greeted at the door by one of the regular waiters with a smile and three simple words. “Hallo! Latte macchiato?” Immediately my spirits were lifted. It’s nice when someone remembers you and your drink; it’s like you belong somewhere.

While I’m sure there are less glorious aspects to working in a coffee house, I love the idea of bringing a little caffeinated (or not) happiness to others. Which is why the coffee house calls. Besides, how cool would it be to learn how to make milk foam art?!