Monday, February 24, 2014

Being Honest About Transition

I moved a lot as a kid. I went to 5 elementary schools in 3 cities and 2 different countries. By the time I graduated high school I'd moved 2 more times, and once I hit college I went on 2 study abroads and an international internship.

Then I met that blond guy and moved for him too.

Last night I was talking to my mom about moving. How I was so sick and tired of saying goodbye to friends and family, how I was tired of suitcases and moving boxes and uprooting my life and starting over and being the new kid.

Man, I am SO SICK of being the new kid.

A familiar sight in my life!

My mom, who is full of wisdom and good advice and has moved tons of times in her own life, told me I'd get through it, just like I always have. "This isn't an easy life, and it takes a strong person to get through it. But you have and you will. You always do."

Next week our mini vacation with family ends and we head to our new duty station in Georgia. The Army pays for 10 days in a hotel so we can search for housing and then we're paying for it out of pocket if we don't have a place yet. Ten days is a lot, but when I think of all the stuff we have to do in the next few weeks I feel a little panicky. Pick up the cars we shipped from Germany, tour apartments, find a place to live that doesn't suck, buy stuff for our new place, unpack boxes  and arrange furniture, get Fionn all squared away in his new job...

Even with all this upcoming stress, what I am dreading most is a few weeks after that. When we have an apartment, our stuff is put up, Fionn goes to work, and I am...there. When Fionn leaves that first morning and I sit alone in an empty house thinking, " what?"

Empty house...
I dread this period because I know it all too well. I'm sure lots of you do too. That part where you've got to start rebuilding your life. The part where it's easy for resentment and bitterness to creep in during those quiet, lonely moments.

Why did we have to leave our old life? Why did I have to leave my friends, my job, my hobbies, all the things I loved? WHAT am I doing here? Why does my husband get this ready made life to just walk into with a purpose and place to go every day?

Sound familiar?

I'm trying to keep my thoughts captive, to avoid going down that rabbit hole of negativity. But it's hard, because there is nothing easy about starting over.

The worst thing about my move to Bavaria was that I felt so alone in these feelings. It seemed like everyone else was happy and perfect while I was lonely and miserable. When I finally got the courage to admit on the blog that no, life wasn't all roses and sunshine, the response was incredible. I realized that people didn't want to see perfect, they wanted to see relatable. And more importantly, it showed me that I wasn't weird or a failure and I certainly wasn't alone.

So as we get on with this move, I'm going to try to be honest about how I'm dealing with reverse culture shock, integrating into a new home, and all that jazz. Hopefully this transition will be a lot smoother than my last one, but if not, I'm ready for it. I hope that by being honest I can feel less alone and whoever is going through something similar will feel the same.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Where in the World is Shannon San Diego?

My brother always asks me this when I call him, since half the time when we call or Skype I'm in some random different place. I sorta like the nickname!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that Fionn and I arrived in America safe and sound a few days ago. The trip to America was...well...interesting!

 We took the Patriot Express back to America (for all my non-military readers, that's the chartered flight the military makes us take when moving to/from Europe) which was a pretty sucky experience. The bus to Ramstein picked us up just after midnight and we spent the painfully long bus ride trying to sleep in uncomfortable bus seats while soldiers snored, babies cried, some crazy girl cussed loudly on the phone, and moms shushed whining kids. I barely slept and felt like a zombie by the time we arrived at the airport. By the time we were in the line to check into our flight, it seemed like every single kid was having an exhausted meltdown at the same time. Throw in cranky parents, over a dozen yowling dogs and cats in carriers, and then cram us all into an old, rickety looking airplane with a 1990s-style communal overhead TV playing only kids' movies, Fionn looked at me more than once to say, "Maybe we should have shelled out the money and paid for our own flight..."

But hey, the plane ride was free so that sort of made up for it. Sorta.

Hello, Greenland!

We survived the flight (and even managed to sleep a little bit) and arrived in the States. It was surreal for both of us being back in our own country after so long. As we rushed to catch our connecting flight, we got a call from my mom saying she wouldn't be able to pick us up in Atlanta because a giant ice storm was moving through the South. They were predicting 5-8 inches of snow and up to an inch of ice in some places, and Atlanta was expected to grind to a halt after the storm hit in a few hours. We'd be stuck there til the ice melted, up to three days later.

Totally NOT what you want to hear when you're jetlagged, exhausted, and really ready to see your parents who you haven't seen in over a year. Kudos to Fionn for being awesome and comforting me when I started to cry from exhaustion, frustration, and disappointment in front of airport strangers. Not my best moment, but sometimes you're just gonna have a meltdown.

My mom booked us a hotel in Atlanta and Fionn and I spent three days riding out the storm. It was intense. The day of the storm we decided to venture out to find food, and found all of Atlanta covered in ice. Everything was closed, the busy major highways were eerily quiet, and the few cars we did see stopped to ask if we needed help.

We weren't too worried since we had all of our Bavarian snow gear with us, and despite a few near-spills on the icy sidewalks we were otherwise ok. It was pretty crazy seeing Atlanta like this!

Three days later, the ice melted and the roads were clear enough for my parents to come get us. I can't tell you how happy we were to finally get home!!

Just to make things even weirder, a few days after the snowstorm we had a minor earthquake and the temperatures got up to the mid 70s?! Seriously weird, America. Some kind of "welcome back" this is!

Weird weather and tectonic anomalies aside, it has been great being back and we've loved relaxing at my parents house and all the good food and puppy cuddles that includes.

While we're here my parents made sure we got our fill of Americana, like giant peach water towers and a meet and greet with South Carolina's Governor...Ah, the places we find ourselves! 

I am recovering from a nasty cold and preparing for our move to Georgia, so for the next few days I've got some Berlin posts from our trip there a few weeks ago. I found some great eateries you CAN'T miss and found some great ways to save money while visiting Germany's capital. You ready? :)

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for things I have to do now that I'm Stateside, I'm all ears! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Heimat ist Heimat, but Home is Where Your People Are

Two weeks ago, I went for my last eyebrow threading appointment with my amazing Persian eyebrow lady. She speaks no English, so we communicate in German and I act as the translator when I bring my American friends along. 

My eyebrow lady is my mom's age, and she has a son just a year or two younger than me, so she always talks to me in a motherly sort of way and often asks if my mom misses me and if I'll go home to visit. At my last appointment, I brought her flowers and told her I was finally moving back to the States.

As she was doing my eyebrows she told me, "I'm going to miss you, but think of your time in Germany like a trip. It's good for you to go to your country, to be near your mama, to be home. You could be like me, living here for 20 years and it's still isn't home. Heimat ist Heimat."

Heimat is one of those German words that doesn't translate that well in English. It's sort of like "homeland" or "home", but really what "home" feels like, the place where you feel you belong.

This is something a lot of us struggle with, whether we're expats, military families, or just gypsy souls. Where is "home" when home changes every few years? Where is your Heimat?

When you move all the time, Home isn't always a tangible thing. Georgia feels like home to me, but so does Germany. I feel at home walking down the streets of my grandmother's neighborhood in Paris, just as I do driving through the small town streets of my American grandma's rural Southern town. I feel at home in Berlin when I ride the S-Bahn, and I feel at home when I pass a Bavarian roadside crucifix when I walk near our house. I feel at home when I hear twangy country music and when I bite into a perfect French eclair.

Every place I've lived has a little piece of my heart. More than anything, Home is where my people are. If I'm with Fionn, I'm home. If I'm with my family, I'm home. When I'm with the great friends I've made around the world, I feel at home.

And if my favorite coffee mug is there, it's even more "home".

Home is where you are

When I left my eyebrow's lady's house, I gave her a big hug and said I would miss her. "Don't worry!" She replied, giving me a kiss on each cheek, "Even when you go to America, you will still have a place here in Germany. I have an extra bedroom for you and maybe your children, inshallah! You will come back!"

Heimat is where the heart is!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Poor but sexy"-A weekend in Berlin

It's no secret that I love Berlin. Some of my best friends live here, I met and fell in love with my husband here, my first real job was here, and I've made many amazing memories on these streets.

Heck, even my senior thesis for my history degree had to do with Berlin and its history.

So today we're taking a look at our most recent trip to the "poor but sexy" capital of Germany.

Let's take a walk through my town.

The Bernauer Strasse U-Bahn station is the site of some interesting Berlin Wall history. When the wall was built, the houses that used to be here were right on the edge of East and West, and many people jumped from windows into the West to escape. Some even lost their lives in the attempt. A network of escape tunnels were built under the watchtower erected there, though sadly these tunnels were eventually discovered.

Bernauer Strasse is also the site of the famous photo of an East German guard leaping over barbed wire to the West.

the markers in the ground show the locations of escape tunnels and border police towers

During the Cold War, the U-Bahn station was bricked up and unusable. Trains just passed right through without stopping.

After walking all day, on our way back to our hotel we found ourselves in a place that looked a little familiar. Then it hit us...

this is where Fionn and I met each other :)

Ah, romance :)

Happy Tuesday, everyone :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day at the Berliner Dom

In January we got a 4 day weekend. Since it was our last 4 day during our time in Europe, we wondered how we should spend it. Somewhere exotic? Somewhere warm? Somewhere crazy?

And finally we just looked at each other and just knew. Let's go to Berlin.

We had a fabulous weekend in Berlin, full of things I always meant to do but never actually did.

Top of the list? The Berliner Dom!

It was chilly, but we bundled up and headed over to the Berliner Dom to check it off our list.

Fun fact: Fionn and I were supposed to meet on the bridge by the Berliner Dom on our second date so we could go to a museum together. I missed my train and was an hour late and Fionn was pretty sure I'd stood him up...

but he waited anyway. ;) And we had a great time at the museum!

You have to pay to get in, but the inside is really gorgeous. We spent a long time looking up at all the decorations and snapping pictures in all of the awesome light.

Once we finished exploring the Dom and the catacombs underneath, we took a stroll through the Lustgarden before continuing to the War Memorial commemorating all the victims of Nazism and war.

What's your favorite Berlin landmark?

Monday, February 10, 2014

It finally got sunny in Dubrovnik!

After days of pouring rain, we returned to Dubrovnik from Split to find sun! And lots of it!

To celebrate this lovely change of weather, we spent the whole day walking Dubrovnik. Around the harbor, up into the hills, down into the old city, and even up where the cable cars go. It was exhausting, but pretty cool.

So today will be light on the words and heavy on the pictures. Cause you need that every once in a while, right? :)

See, he does smile for my pictures :)

The next day we headed home! :)