It’s hard to sum up our time here in Munich without becoming nostalgic. We came here young (ish) and fresh, passionate about the jobs we came to do and so keen to explore the city and its surroundings. We came here knowing no-one and leaving our very first home together behind.
And oh what a beautiful, messy, lively, enriching and extraordinary 4 years it has been.
Our feet have trampled on more bits of Bayern soil than we could have imagined. We have swum in lakes, climbed mountains, tasted the southern specialities and drunk the delicious beer.
Our guest book is full entries from family and friends who have shared in our Munich experience.
We’ve been reminded yet again, that good friends can be made everywhere, you just have to be open and yes, sometimes have that little bit of luck.
We built a happy home for 2 and leave as a family of 4.
The last couple of weeks have felt like a lap of honour. Munich, you have been so good to us. I will carry so much away, that I know that I have no right to be sad to leave.
I’m coming to realise that I have paid less attention to the plight of women around the world than I should.
Perhaps because I was lucky enough to be raised by 2 Indian parents who encouraged both their little boy and little girl equally to fulfill their potential, follow their aspirations and develop their talents.
Perhaps because I see that the important men in my life have chosen strong, intelligent women to be at their side.
Perhaps because I chose a man who has always regarded me as capable of almost anything, in times when I would doubt myself.
Perhaps because I choose to take a positive view of the world over one in which I consider my personal failures and set-backs based purely on a background of discrimination against gender or race.
Perhaps through naivity. Perhaps through ignorance.
Increasingly I see the differences in my world of work. On the world’s political stage. How hard the battle is for women in our poorest nations. That steps backwards, such as the decriminalisation of wife-beating in Russia and the rise of Donald Trump in America, are at any time just as possible if we take the fight for equality for women for granted.
Suddenly feminism, the women’s march and world international women’s day have a new relevance for me. So happy international women’s day – for the progress of women in society so far and to the battle ahead.
I know so little of America and its people first-hand, that I can hardly explain why this election result has affected me so much.
But the feminist blood in me (and it wasn’t clear to me just how much was flowing until now) is boiling. How can a man make so many despicable comments against women and yet be crowned with the highest office? How can women themselves have so little respect and care for their own value and bring themselves to vote for such a man of their own free will?
I know in my heart that the everyday person on the street, in the shops, the patients I care for, the wide range of people I work with are not racist. Sometimes ill-informed. Sometimes laughably naive. But never truly bigoted or awful.
Without the right leadership, I fear that these slightly ill-informed and naive people may find a more hateful voice.
The victory yesterday brings with it a sense of hopelessness. And I don’t quite yet know what I can actively do about it. But it is more and more clear, that if I want my son to have such a happy life as mine, and all the chances that I have had, there is a lot of caring, speaking up and fighting to be done.
I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple of times before, but never on a „girls weekend“. 11 women from different corners of Germany, different fields of work and different styles brought together in the city of canals and bicycles on a very nearly sunny weekend.
Lie-ins, lazy brunches, attempted visits to museums, crawling from vintage shop to vintage shop, getting dressed up and dancing.
I saw less of Amsterdam this time than on my previous visits, but it was filled with laughter, silliness and well, a lot of girliness.
What a ride the last 6 months has been. Getting my little one settled into nursery and adjusting back into my working life again has been the hardest challenge of motherhood so far.
And here we are celebrating the end of the nursery year and the start of the first ’summer holidays‘ together at nursery. And my baby is no longer really my baby. But a toddler with a world of his own away from me. With wonderful nursery nurses, creative spaces and well, sort of friends. I’m full of thanks for the people who have done their job daily with such patience, care and above all almost always with a smile on their face. Something we could all learn from. I’m proud of my little man for adjusting to his new surroundings and I’m ever so slightly proud of myself too.
It’s the age of terrorism. And it won’t stop us from how we live our lives. We all know that we are more in danger of losing our lives in a road traffic accident than through an act of terror.
And yet it feels different when a shooting takes place in a local shopping centre, rather than say an American mall.
It’s unnerving when you are left stranded in the city because public transport has suddenly come to a halt.
It feels unsettling to see heavily armed policemen on the streets and dozens of police cars and emergency service vehicles on a short ride home.
It feels reassuring when concerned messages from all over the world start coming in to ask if you are ok. And it feels safe to be at home and finally put my little one in his bed.
There was a strange feeling on the streets this evening. There is a good reason for why we call it terrorism.
After 6 months away from home, I was finally back for a break. The longer I live in Germany, the more the UK seems like a completely different world to me.
If it votes to leave the EU in a few weeks, it truly will be a different world for me and my family.
All the same, I get a ‚it’s so good to be home feeling‘ every time I set foot on UK soil.
And absence makes me want to explore the country even more.
Time is always short, but we had the chance to make a couple of day trips – both funnily enough to Welsh towns this time.
We spent a wonderful family day at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Bill Clinton famously called it „the Woodstock for the mind“.
Well, this time we visited with my niece and nephews and all in all our pack of 4 under 3-year olds. Our consumption of the literary content on offer might have been minimal but we did meet writer Julia Donaldson of ‚Gruffalo‘ fame. And the bunting-clad tents and make-shift stages, lawns scattered with sun-loungers and wooden walkways made for the best playground for the kids.
There was an opportunity for putting on my walking boots too, with a beautiful walk up ‚table mountain‘ (all 451 meters of it) in the Breacon Beacons from the little village Crickhowell.
Despite having become almost accustomed to the breathtaking Southern German landscape, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by fields of green, wander through quaint market towns, eat supper in a pub and to revel in the Britishness of it all.
We could have been lying on white sand under palm trees on a Thai beach resort soaking up the sun…
Instead we have chosen to spend a few days at the Baltic coast or ‚Ostsee‘.
We were prepared for a choppy sea and a moody atmosphere. We were prepared for rain. We were prepared for snow.
What we weren’t prepared for was sun and a beautiful light. And the freezing cold. The world is an icebox and our hotel room is our refuge. Literally. At -10 degrees and with an added wind-chill factor, it’s hard to be out for more than 15 minutes at a time. All the warm clothing and layering doesn’t really seem to help. Which explains why I choose to look like a strange eskimo.
But when we make it out, it’s beautiful. Bright, wintry days. Just as it should be. Short promenade walks with the sound of waves crashing to shore. The call of seagulls. The sight of ships in the harbour. Old lighthouses. Ice-cream shops closed up for the season. Warming up over steaming cups of tea.
The lighthouse at Warnemünde
There is a sense of romance to the place and a slowness to time. The perfect setting for some precious time together as a family of 3 at the start of what promises to be an eventful year.
3 years ago my husband got me to start using a social network called ‚Path‘. Path a is friends network like Facebook, but its appeal is the closed circle it provides for close friends and family. It has a pretty layout and its own photo filters which makes it nicer than a what’s app chat group to look back on. Self-congratulatory posts, constant baby updates and compromising pictures belong on Path.
This week I noticed that I had shared 1000 ‚moments‘ on Path. Round numbers always give me a sense of achievement. And flicking back through some of the many photos and comments did put a smile on my face.
And whilst we travelled on the train to Prague on a dark November Friday evening, a massacre took place in Paris.
Whilst we celebrated a wonderful wedding in the heart of the historic town of one of Europe’s beautiful capitals, another capital was in shock from a deadly terrorist attack in its fine streets.
And as we make our way home through what feels like a Europe without borders, those very borders are being closed, tightened and rethought.
It’s a sad day for Europe. Yes, horrendous terrorist attacks take place all over the world and much too often – but we somehow expect peace here in Europe. And hope very much that peace can still exist.