10 Reasons to Welcome December

1. Starbucks Christmas Specials
Personally, I have come to like the Pumpkin Spice Latte but my heart beats for lé Peppermint Mocha, an Eggnog Latte or (on sunnier December days here in Cali) a Cremé Brulee Frap! And, as if taste wasn’t enough of a reason to wait in line, you’ll get to have a pretty Christmas-y cup on your desk for the rest of your day, reminding you of the holly jolly days that are yet to come. Yay!

2. Christmas Candy
Hershey’s Peppermint kisses. Gingerbread M&Ms. Candy Cane Ice-cream. Christmas cookies. Speculoos. Peppernuts. The list could go on and on and on. Any of these options would go great with #1, too. Just saying!

3. Winter clothes and accessories
How about a cute scarf that matches the new tights you scooped up on Black Friday? Possibly a matching glove-hat combo, too? There is so much cuteness in fall and winter clothing. Not to mention that those woolen sweaters and fury jackets are every girl’s friend after the annual Christmas feast.

4. Lights
Lights, lights everywhere! Dark and grey November…ain’t nobody got time for you anymore! Every store is decorated, the buildings are framed with holiday lights, the streets accessorized with lit-up stars and bells… Definitely helps getting over the sun setting at 5pm!

5. Fireplaces
Not everyone is lucky enough to have one of those but if you do, go get yourself some of that delicious fiery warmth! Nothing better than being all cuddled up, drinking tea, reading a book and listening to a good Pandora Station while sitting home by the fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, you better make the right type of friends next year!

6. Christmas Songs
Okay fine, I admit that I am one of those people. One of those people that sometimes, very secretly, listens to one or two Christmas songs in…say…March or July. Just for the fun and to get a smile on my face. So, come December, I am the happiest camper alive because now it is legit to whistle “All I want for Christmas” or hum “Frosty the Snowman”. It just gives me flashbacks to all the past Christmases and reminds me of how magical Santa seemed to me when I was young. Christmas songs bring some of that magical feeling back into my daily life and get me excited for the holidays.

7. The smells
Pine Needles. Chocolate. New Clothes. Shopping bags. Even wrapping paper has a smell, a very characteristic mix of excitement, stress and secretiveness. All in all, come December, it starts smelling delicious everywhere! If you reside in Germany during that month, you will probably have dozens of Christmas markets around you to choose from! Hot spiced wine, toasted almonds, crepes with Nutella, fruits dunked in chocolate, candied apples, all those are smells Americans miss out on.

8. The people
Yes, December is very stressful for many. All this Christmas shopping, all these expectations. I personally have a list of 15 people I am shopping for and it keeps me up at night. But it is also that time of year during which, thanks to commercialization I admit, we are being reminded of love and family and spending time with those that matter. You forgive faster, carry a smile around more often and are a little more considerate and willing to share.

9. Christmas Movies
I have watched “Love Actually” three times in the past two weeks and am not ashamed to admit that. Whether it’s an all-time favorite, such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or more modern picks like “Elf”, Christmas movies spread pure joy. They are so over the top with everything, and there is singing and piano music and families all cheesy-peasy. It sets the stage for Christmas and totally gets you into the mood to eat, sing and celebrate. And eat some more.

10. The loved ones
Many of you might go home for Christmas or have family come visit you. That electrifying feeling of flying/driving/riding/walking home for the holidays is truly one of a kind, so embrace it! Count the days, mark you calenders, and use this month to appreciate the people you love in your life. Hug your mom extra often, call your grandparents more frequently, give your significant other an extra kiss. You know, all these things you should be doing anyways but are being reminded off by the jolly Christmas atmosphere.

So yeah, let’s embrace December, it’s not like you could escape it anyways!


Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.


And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!




is the most amazing holiday ever established! This year, it was the first time in my life that I had ever celebrated it and I am absolutely in love. Think about it- it’s about the three Fs in life- friends, family and food. Honestly, what more could you want from a holiday? I even had the honor to celebrate Thanksgiving twice in two days- first with my adopted host-mom and her daughter in Santa Clara and the next day with my roommate and her amazing family in Oakland.

Then, something unexpected happened. In between cheering for a football team that I had never heard of and be swept away by the mouthwatering aromas filling the house, people were asked to name one thing they were thankful for this year. Imagine a table with 25 people, cousins and nieces and grandparents and moms and dads, all smiling cheerfully, each one of them emphasizing how thankful they were for being with their wonderful family during this special holiday. Then it was my turn. What was I thankful for this year? So many things popped into my mind instantaneously: Having made it to SF despite all obstacles. Having found a great group of friends really easily. Living with awesome, warm-hearted people. Having an amazing boyfriend who makes me incredibly happy. Getting good grades in my classes. Waking up to sunshine and 68°F at the beginning of December. Having the chance to live in a city as beautiful, magnificent and breathtaking as San Francisco. Being able to jog down to the Pacific Ocean. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and, along the way, realizing that I am both capable of much more than I give myself credit for but also really loved. And, of course, being in CALIFORNIA for heaven’s sake, I mean..how many people dream of living in this state for a while at least once in their lives? And that’s what I ended up saying: “I am so thankful for being able to live my dream!”

But while I was sitting at the table, thinking about how fortunate I was, it finally happened: I got incredibly homesick for the first time since I had come here. Which was really the most awkward time to do so because, you know, we were having this jolly get-together and I was in a room full of strangers. I hastily blinked my tears away and indulged in the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie and tried to move on. But, although I could push it away that day, it still came back. This nagging feeling that something big is always going to be missing, no matter how happy the States would make me: My family. My crazy emotional mom who calls me 15 times within five minutes, just to “say Hi”. My dad, who is sending me recipes he always makes during Christmas time- his subtle way of saying he misses me and hopes that I will be having joyous holidays. My 20-year-old brother who is trying so hard to fill my place as the oldest sibling in the house. And, most of all, my 13-year-old baby brother who loves to record us karaoke-ing “Somebody that I used to know”, who comes into my room saying “If you have time, we could go biking but if you’re busy, I’m just gonna sit in your room and read” and who was trying really hard not to cry at the airport. My cousin, who is basically like a sister for me, with whom I can crack up about the most random things for hours and who amplifies my clumsiness to a point where lives are actually endangered. My grandparents, who figure out how to call me over Skype and spend ten minutes celebrating their triumph. My friends.

It’s ironic, really, how you can spend so much time desperately trying to get away from a place because it just seems too small for all the dreams you have in your head. So, here I am, in a new country, with so many amazing things happening in my life, being happy and having that feeling of belonging…but also realizing that it will never be whole. Because, no matter how happy a place makes you, it can never be perfect, unless it has the ones you love in it, all of them, the new ones and the ones you have loved a life time. I know that, no matter where I am going to live in the future, the grass will always seem greener at the other side of the pond. I have gotten to a point where I feel at home in several different places in the world and the people that matter to me will always be equally far spread out. And, most of the time, it’s enough to know that they are there, no matter how far away. Most of the time, I find it exciting not to know whether I’ll go back to Europe in a few months or in two years or in five, it makes me feel adventurous and tough and different. But just every once in a while, it would be good to know exactly when I’d see them all again. In person. To give them a huge hug and tell them how thankful I am for them.


Remembering Hildegard

I meant to write this in time for the 4th anniversary of her passing away, but I was caught up in so much that I, as embarrassing as it is, forgot. I forgot it was that day. For the first time in four years, October 2nd came and went and I didn’t think of it.

She died October 7th, but we lost her five days earlier. My aunt found her lying outside on the lawn, just a minute or two after she’d spoken to the delivery guy who brought the new mattress for my aunt’s bedroom. It was an aneurism in her brain, and she never regained consciousness.  She had just celebrated her 80th birthday, with all her family except for me, because I was travelling in Australia.

Hildegard was my grandmother on my mother’s side, and the only grandparent I was close to. She lived next door all my life. My mother raised three kids by herself, working part-time, so my grandma would come over and do the laundry, iron clothes, clean the house, bring food, and so on. Even when all three of us outgrew the age where we needed constant attention and care, she’d come over every day to see us and check up on us – and she always took the dried laundry with her and brought it back ironed, even when she clearly started having trouble standing long enough to iron a whole laundry basket full of kids’ clothes. (Personally, I’ve never understood my family’s obsession with ironing EVERY SINGLE PIECE of clothing – and towels!)

She was the greatest grandmother I could have ever asked for. She always let us win at boardgames, until we were old enough to figure it out, and even then, she usually still lost because she really did have extraordinarily bad luck with dice and cards. She tried to raise us to appreciate classical music and be proper Catholics (the former, successfully, the latter not so much), and she would let us sleep over at her place some weekends, which was always like an adventure, even though it was really only going next door. I can’t even count the number of times we ran out of milk, or butter, or eggs, and I went over to her place to ask for one of those things – only to come bag with both arms full of stuff that she “meant to give us anyways”, that she “just saw in the supermarket and thought we would like”, or, best of all, cookies or cake that were “just out of the oven, would you like some?”.

The day I lost her, the phone rang at 6:45 am Australian time – my mom was on the line. I was so sleepy I didn’t even pause to think why she called this early, and of course I complained. She didn’t say anything for a while, but the second she spoke, I knew something was terribly wrong. The following ten minutes were the saddest of my life. I sat alone in my little apartment in the middle of Brisbane, on my desk, clinging to the phone, crying wordlessly. I considered going home, maybe making it to see her one last time before she was gone forever – but she was already gone. I might have been able to make it to the funeral, but what for? She never liked graveyards, much less the people who spend weekends at their relatives’ graves. “That’s not where they are”, she’d say, and she was right. I went to her grave much later. She wasn’t there.

She’s in the really old and shapeless blue knit jacket that I kept, and in the small carpet she made by hand that is now in my bedroom. She’s in the old iron that I kept, because it still works, and because I remember her ironing all the time. She’s in the woollen socks that she made for all of us. I think of her whenever I find a white hair on my head, because she never stopped warning me about how all women in our family get white hair very early in life (she seems to have been right, sadly!). I think of her every time we make marble cake using her recipe. I think of her every Christmas – she’s everywhere. She’s in the cookies we make according to all her secret recipes, she’s in the songs we sing, she’s the reason I still like to go to church during advent, and the reason I feel bad when I do, because she was so critical of people who only go to church on Christmas and maybe Easter. I’ve become one of them, and she’d be sad about it.

But I like to think that she’d also be proud. She got to see me finish school with good grades, and she’d have been proud to see me finish a BA with similarly good results. She’d be happy I’m still living in Germany and not so far away as she feared I might, and she’d be proud that I know how to sew a button back onto a blouse. I like to think she’d be proud of the person I’ve become, just as much as she’d be proud of my siblings and cousins. I wish she could have seen my little sister graduate this year. I wish she could have lived another ten years and maybe have seen me get married and have a child. I know she’d have loved to be a great-grandmother.

Writing this is grieving her all over again. It’s amazing to me how painful this piece of writing can be after four years. I haven’t cried for her in a long time, and I’m almost glad I am crying now. I never want to stop missing her. Not missing her would mean not loving her. Not missing her would mean finding a way to fill the space she left behind, and there is nothing and nobody that can ever fill this space. In this space, I have room to remember her.

I want to end this piece on the note it began – remembering. I want to remember Hildegard – not just the grandmother I knew, but the person I knew through her stories. The sister who lost her brother in World War II. The daughter who lost her mother when she was younger than I am now. The wife whose husband left and who never even looked at another man again because she’d promised him faithfulness until death in the eyes of God. The mother who wanted sons and had three daughters instead, and realized it didn’t matter, and nothing could make her happier than her daughters did.

Most of all, I want to remember and share a story with you. It is the story of my grandmother Hildegard’s first kiss. I think it’s a better note to leave this story on than a crying twenty-something missing “Oma”… so here you go:

Hildegard was 16 years old in 1945. The war had just ended, and most of the German population lived in poverty. Hildegard’s former school remained closed after the war. It may have been that the building was destroyed, or it may have been that there weren’t enough people left in the village to fill the teaching positions. Therefore, Hildegard took a train to school every morning. Many teenagers did the same, so the trains were usually very crowded.
There was a boy she saw on the train every morning. Their eyes would meet and they would look away quickly, maybe sometimes smile shyly at each other. Eventually, they got to talk a little bit, and Hildegard realized she really liked this boy. The feeling was mutual, yet they were both too shy to ever bring it up, so for weeks they were content just riding the train together, chatting.
One day, the train was particularly crowded and there were no seats left. The ended up standing next to each other in the middle aisle. It was rainy and pretty dark outside on this day, the clouds wouldn’t let even a little bit of sun through, and it was pretty glum inside the train because the lights in the carriage were not working.
Then, as every day, on the way to school, the train had to pass through a tunnel. Since there were no lights in the carriage, it was suddenly pitch black dark. In those few seconds, when nobody could see, the boy she liked leaned over and kissed Hildegard.
The train exited the tunnel, they could see each other again, and for a moment, all they did was stare at each other. Then they both looked down and stared at their shoes. They never talked again… but for the rest of her life, the memory of that moment would put a smile on Hildegard’s face.

The Parentchute

Phil from Modern Family once noted in his “Phil’s-osophy”: “Never be afraid to reach for the stars, because even if you fall, you’ll always be wearing a Parentchute.”

Nobody’s perfect but the great thing is, that you learn from your parents mistakes. So, although my parents didn’t do everything right, I learned even from their downfalls. Hence, here are some reasons why my parents provided me with the best parentchute I could have asked for:

1.) My moms’ OCD taught me from early onwards the values of cleanliness and efficiency. Thanks to that, no roommate would have to complain about the state of my space ever. (You’re welcome, Judith)


2.) My dad was a firm believer of my natural interest in sciences. On every single vacation, he took me to the local science museums. I loved those father-daughter moments so much, that I would never have told him the truth- I hated science. But thanks to that, I got excellent in faking interest in something (You’re welcome all you teachers in your early-morning-classes).

3.) My parents’ past (having grown up in communist Eastern-Germany and then having to adjust to a free market economy after Hasselhoff teared the Berlin Wall down) imprinted one rule into their brains: Good school grades= good future. I wouldn’t dare bringing a D home, so instead, I graduated as Valedictorian (You’re welcome parents).

4.) My moms’ passion for Ballet led to me dancing for over 10 years. Lessons learned: I hate Ballet (You’re welcome tho, flexibility).

5.) My moms’ confidence in her driving skills shaped my life goal: Move to a big city where I would never need a car ever. Some things just run in the family, no sense in fighting that.

6.) My families’ fearlessness of spiders taught me that there will always be someone in my life to remove them from my room, so its OK to be scared.

7.) My moms’ abstract concept of time (“Just five minutes, I gotta tell you about the neighbours’ daughter (… 30 mins later…) and then she picked up the apple and I told her to eat the apple but then she put the apple down and oh, she’s such a cutie, I wish I had grandchildren (…20 mins down the road…) but its ok, finish your masters but I’m telling you, that girl’s a cutie)
taught me to ignore phone calls without feeling guilty about it.

8.) My parents’ love for a quite, provincial life increased my urge to live differently (been to NYC, goin to SF…see what I’m doing there?)

9.) My fathers’ trust in my tolerance level allowed me to watch Stephen King’s IT with the age of 13. Clowns are awesome…said no one EVER!

10.) My moms’ admonishing words that any girl should be able to handle the kitchen taught me the importance of knowing how to defrost and prepare microwave food.

Foto am 30.11.12 um 17.16 #3
My parents sure had their fair share in me turning into this fun-filled triple-crazy popsicle that I am but I am thankful for everything they did and still do. When I still lived at home, they were the ones pushing me out the door to go clubbing with friends instead of growing gray hair over homework. They are constantly telling me how proud they are of my achievements, they support my dreams, confirm most of my decisions and make me question a few others. Sure, sometimes they annoy the heck out of me and I wanna shoot either them or myself to the moon to get light years between us. Most of the time though, I am touched by their love and confidence. I know how hard it is for them to let me go to “this big country with the tall buildings and the strange language” (they didn’t say that but I know that’s what my mom’s thinking of the States) and I endlessly appreciate that they not only let me go but support me along the way as much as possible. They might hate the thought of losing me to the US but they also know that it makes me happy. And I know that, should the States and I not work out (which we totally will of course), I will always be able to open the Parentchute and return to a loving home with home-cooked meals and free laundry service. So, here’s to my parents, I wish they spoke English 🙂

Go hug your parents guys or write them a nice Email or bake them a cake.

Family. Home. Happiness.

I have to go on a little bit of a rant… I wanted to post a list of things I love, it being Thursday, and as I started listing them, I realized they all centered around one thing today. That one thing is the feeling of being home.

I love that I have a crazy, warm, loving family, one that fights and argues and still manages to get along and have everyone sit together for weekend brunches. I love that they laugh about the silliest things, and tease each other, and yell at the cats for stealing the breakfast salmon, and complain about the snow, and make fun of my sister for being clumsy and my mother for being something very much resembling a zombie in the morning, and of me, for the excruciating slowness with which I drink my coffee. I love them to bits, and even if they annoy me sometimes, I could not have asked for a better mom, step-dad, brother and sister. My mom knows almost everything that happens in my life, she’s the one I turn to for advice about men and dating and love and friendship and the future. In turn, she comes to me for advice on how to set up her printer…

They’re a little messy, a little disorganized, a little overwhelmed by life at times, but they’re the best family one could have. My brother is the crazy brain who studies Math and will relate absolutely everything to some mathematical concept, leaving the rest of the dinner table rolling their eyes. My sister is the one who’s good with kids, who’s going to be an elementary school teacher and before that, an au pair in Australia. I’m the crazy one who decided to move away for university, who is better at English than her native tongue German, and who’s probably not going to come back and stay, at least not for very long.

And yet, every time I come home, it’s a refuge. I can catch my breath, reflect on my life, my goals, my relationships. I can recover from a break-up or entertain my siblings with stories of life at a campus university where everybody knows everybody else – depending on the mood. I become a kid again, spending entire afternoons trying (and consistently failing) to beat my siblings at Mario Kart (curse you, rainbow road!!), and I become myself again… taking long baths, reading lots of books, going for walks, finding my centre.

I am happy when I go out and explore the world. I love seeing new places, meeting new people, creating new goals, understanding new perspectives. Yet a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, and sometimes the sea gets rough. Relationships fail, goals shift, some dream I had is no longer achievable. Life knocks you around quite a lot when you’re in your early 20s. Especially in those moments, I am so infinitely grateful to have a support network to fall back on. It’s like that cheesy Hannah Montana song… (yes, it’s happening, I’m quoting Miley Cyrus…):

“But when the lights go down it’s the ending of the show
And you’re feeling like you got nowhere to go
when I’m feeling down and I am all alone
I’ve always got a place where I can go
Cause I know
You can change your hair and you can change your clothes
You can change your mind, that’s just the way it goes
You can say goodbye, you can say hello
But you’ll always find your way back home.”

End of rant… and end of cheesiness.

But seriously, there’s few things I could think of that I am more grateful for than this amazing family. If nothing else goes right, I’ll always have them to come home to and start anew…

A Different Kind of Love Letter

This is not for any person. This is for my home.

Upper Bavaria, in the South of Germany, is known among Germans as a bit of an odd place, where people talk funny, have a number of befuddling traditions, are a little too conservative, and altogether just a bit strange.

I happen to think it is the most beautiful place on Earth.

I landed in the early afternoon on a day in mid-September, and as the plane broke through the clouds on its way to the international airport in Munich, we were greeted by rather typical German September weather… grey, cloudy, cool, a smell of cold in the air, already a hint of winter. (Not that September in Germany couldn’t also be sunny and 30°C… theoretically. It does happen.)

As we descended, rolling hills of green passed by outside my window, little villages tucked into forest clearings or a river bend, all of them composed of white houses with red roofs, the obligatory church and market square, all peaceful-looking, tiny and a wholly different world from the one I had just left behind me in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi. The contrast could have not been more striking.

Three weeks in Kenya taught me a lot about the country, but as always, going away also makes you look at your home country in a different light. What I noticed as I re-entered Germany was how green everything was, how cold compared to Nairobi, how clean and how orderly. Above all, I noticed the difference in perceived (and presumably real) safety levels. I hopped into my mom’s car and we drove home without locking the car doors, parked the car on our parking lot and walked into the house without passing any security guards or gates. There are no bars in front of our windows, walking at 3 a.m. is usually perfectly safe, and a taxi driver is extremely unlikely to con and rob you. Within Germany, there are certainly areas where safety especially at night can be an issue, but my small town in Bavaria is definitely not one of them.

My town has about 20,000 inhabitants, which means I still occasionally run into my kindergarten teacher at the supermarket. The conservative party won about 70 percent of votes in the last election (although, I suspect, mostly because it was promising to build a cinema, which probably earned quite a few votes from the age group 18-25). There are more churches than I would consider strictly necessary for this number of people, and the ban on religious symbols at school has not yet reached us – crucifixes in classrooms are still a matter of course, as is compulsory religious education, or alternatively “ethics”, for those who don’t feel they belong in either the Catholic or the Protestant class. We’ve got a pool and a few restaurants, but in terms of entertainment, nearby Munich offers a lot more, of course. With a 20 minute drive I can be in the heart of Munich, fighting traffic (although compared to Nairobi traffic, this really does not seem worth mentioning), but a drive of the same duration in the other direction will lead me into the countryside, where villages have 200 inhabitants and usually about the same number of cows.

Do I have my issues with this place? Of course I do. In rural Bavaria, the predominant notion is that you should really just stay where you were born, get married, have a few kids, and if you go on holiday, maybe you should go see the North of Germany, where they speak that odd, over-correct German and don’t know what a “Semmel” is. (A.N.: Bavarian dialect for a bread roll, the standard German is “Brötchen”). Why ever would you want to travel far away? What do you want in New York City where there are so many tall buildings and you can barely see the sky? Why would you go to Africa, where it’s always hot and dirty and people are starving? What could possibly induce you to go to South America, where you’ll surely be robbed, or kidnapped by a drug cartel?

Of course this narrow view of the world bothers me. Of course it bothered me that my decision to study somewhere other than Munich was frowned upon. Of course it bothered me when a boyfriend came to visit and odd looks followed us in the more rural areas because of the color of his skin. Of course it bothers me that a winter can last from October to April, and that finding a cinema that will play films in their original language can take some substantive effort. It’s why I travel… so that this part of the world is not all that I see, so that its view of the world is not all that I know.

Yet no matter what happens, this is my home. And for as long as I live, when I think of this little conservative, peaceful, almost boring corner of the world, it will give me a distinct feeling of belonging. My roots are here in this odd and beautiful place where dialect is very much alive, where people know that Weißwurst (Bavarian veal sausage) is traditionally eaten before 12 pm, where even greetings already involve a mention of God (“Grüß Gott!”), where the standard, stoic answer to something not going one’s way is “ja mei” (dialect for “oh well”), and where summer months are still spent biking to the nearby lake to swim, or finding one’s way through a maze cut into a corn field.

I wish I could have continued my stay in Kenya as planned, and throughout the entire flight I felt regret tugging at me, making me wish that something had gone differently… yet as we landed, just for a while, I forgot about it. As I was watching the green hills under the cloudy sky, watching white houses with red roofs come into closer view, fields alternating with patches of forest, I only felt one thing – love.

It’s good to be back, Bavaria.