Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tying Up Some Loose Ends

I debated the end of this blog--whether or not to do it, when to do it, etc.--and decided to stick to my original one-year plan. Today we’re one month out from that auspicious date (!) so I thought I would go back to some things I mentioned in an early post and see where they stand:

And there are "party tacos"
making nachos!

Food. As you might expect, street food here is bratwurst and pommes frites. I have eaten (and will continue to eat) my yummy share of those, but sometimes I crave my San Francisco Mission neighborhood favorites--tortillas filled with seasoned, meaty goodness. 

I've heard rumors of a good burrito place a short distance from our apartment, but have yet to check it out. In the meantime, I’ve found tortillas to make my own burritos and enchiladas, and I’ve learned how to make a pretty mean empanada from scratch.

Weather. I didn’t expect Hamburg to come close to San Francisco weather-wise, but I also didn’t expect it to surpass it in extremes. The Bay Area is infamous for its many microclimates. Hamburg has only one: uncertainty. 

Those dreams of leaving layers behind were just that—dreams. (Although layers here usually mean including some form of rain protection.) 

When the weather changes literally every hour, you just have to go with the flow. A lot of times people don’t even bother with umbrellas, because in the next hour it could very well be warm and sunny again.

It's been a good test of adaptability, especially for someone as fond of pre-planning as I am.

Views. I love Hamburg’s beautiful architecture and blend of urban and protected landscapes. Attractive downtown, lakes, river, beaches, fertile farmland, nature preserves and parks--I can easily see how it earned a Germany's favorite city title last year.

Craigslist. Again, as I expected from some state-side exploration, Craigslist is just not as popular here. Thankfully, given our current lack of storage, our acquisitions have been minimal, and have come easily enough through word-of-mouth, flea markets, or Amazon.de.

Yes, that is a friendly
neighborhood cigarette-
dispensing machine

Smoking. I don’t want to say I’ve gotten used to it, but I no longer whip my head around to see who’s lighting up (because in reality, there are usually more of them than me). 

And I actually find it intriguing to watch the whole cigarette-rolling process, complete with specialty pouches for supplies, and carefully timed breaks during the rhythm of a restaurant meal. 

My most memorable smoking-related moment to date? Watching a man in a three-piece suit pushing a baby carriage while smoking.

Friends. The hardest part of being overseas has been the distance from family and friends. When you’re used to your support network being a phone call, a text, a desk, or an ultimate frisbee tournament away, it’s tough when you find yourself far away with new obstacles to overcome (Internet connections, phone plans, time zone differences, etc.). 

And it's particularly distressing when things go wrong. In the past year one of my friends passed away, and two of my dearest friends have been battling breast cancer. Being closer wouldn’t have given me anymore power, but I don’t think I would have felt as powerless. 

Despite the lack of office mates and some language differences, I have found a small circle here, and continue to try new things to meet new people. I've even made some inroads cracking some of these tough northern German exteriors, because I already know from experience what incredibly funny, warm people you'll find inside.

So even though I know it’s time, it’s tough to think about bringing this virtual part of my journey to an end. I keep thinking of little things I haven't shared, because they're becoming so much part of my new normal. But over the next several weeks, I’ll do a few final observational posts on some of the differences I’ve noticed while living in Hamburg for the past year. 

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