And so, as I sit in the Saint Paul backyard of my old-new little blue house, in my old-new hometown-by-choice, the blog comes to a close.
I wondered for a long time what this might feel like. Now I wonder what it would be like I had never left. Everything is the same, yet different. That includes me. At least I think so. But in what ways?
Several people have told me that coming back is harder than leaving. I am waiting to find out if that is true.
The past couple of weeks have overwhelmed me with choices and decisions and stimulation and trying to remember my way around, choosing everything from which cereal or salad dressing (there are about 50 kinds of each) to which car I should buy. I'm also trying to remember what my habits were 6 or 7 years ago... Which cabinet did I use for pots and pans? Where did I put my shoes? Why didn't I know more of the neighbors?
But as every day there is a little less to work to do, I am starting to really enjoy being back. Brian and I have hunted for second-hand treasures and we spend a lot of time outside because it's the only part of the house with furniture. We saw live music three nights in a row. The sun shines every day. We have tape on the floor to mark where the couch will go and diagrams drawn of where to plant our hypothetical vegetable gardens.
Everything is huge - the refrigerator, the pickup trucks, the city, the supermarket, the fountain drinks, and sometimes the people. The flag-waving seems extreme. The places I need to go have become very far apart.
Until a few days ago, I haven't had much energy,or much space in my head to want to call old friends. I wonder which will remain my friends and if not, what kind of people might enter my life to take their places.
There have been changes in the city that I can notice already. New stores and restaurants of course, new bike lanes and bike commuters, an office building where the old baseball stadium stood, a new stadium where a parking lot once was. There is talk about increased crime, Black Lives Matter signs in front yards, tension around the year-old shooting of Philando Castile. The site where he was shot is only a mile or so from our house.
So far only two people have asked me "how was that?" when I say I lived in Germany for six years. I refuse to have a scripted answer for them. I don't feel like you can do six years justice in six words or less. I realize this is not socially graceful, not something that fits into cheery small talk. I have to get back in the habit of making cheery small talk, of meeting new people and chit-chatting in the checkout line. I guess it was never my strength anyway, and in Germany I fell out of practice.I'll have to remember how to network, in order to hopefully get a job soon.
There was a moment my last day or so in Hannover, as I tried to squeeze out every last juicy moment of time with a few friends who I am not sure when I'll ever see again, when I wondered whether moving back was the right decision. I know that I will miss the compact European city, the quiet Sundays, the international travel, the bike rides, the good friends that made up for what Hannover itself lacked. But none of that was quite enough to make Hannover the place we wanted to be from. Moving back was the right decision, although staying would have been a lot easier.
Writing this blog was an unexpected bonus for me. Knowing that people read it kept me coming back to the keyboard. But even Seinfeld could not keep a show about nothing going forever, and my Hannover blog certainly weakened over the last year or so. Maybe it thinned out once I knew I might be leaving... Hindsight, I guess. There was a rainy evening a couple of months ago when my Colombian friend Olga and I were staring out at the same wet street corner. I, getting ready to leave Hannover, started to say how dreary and depressing it was. Olga, coming to terms with the idea of staying in Hannover long-term, said that it was beautiful how the streetlights shone off the blacktop. Perspective is everything, I guess.
In the boxes of random stuff that I pulled out of the attic was one of my old journals. I have since found several, many of which are probably best left in the attic. This blog is more than just a public diary (thank goodness). So thanks for reading. Maybe there will be another blog someday, or at least some more scribbles collecting dust in the attic.
- Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.