Plaisir

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Plaisir? I took that photo this morning on the way from the doctor’s. Because not much plezier here – I was sick for four days, missing out, among other things, on “Shakespare in the Tent” at the Rhine that I had tickets for. Instead, I moved from sofa to bed and back and the only accomplishment we could put on our list that weekend was watching “Groundhog Day”. Which is part of the Western cultural canon, I believe, so that’s not too bad.

October has wooshed by, almost over before I even knew it. I’m busy with a decent amount of work with our gala coming up, and with understanding my new phone. Because, yes, I finally got a new phone! Going from Apple to Android wasn’t at all that bad, and now I actually can take photos because there is storage space – and I was introduced to Snapchat by my younger cousin.

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This month, I gave a lecture on Swedish business in Germany for Swedish students

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October also gave us golden days

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…with 25 degrees!

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My bike broke but I found 15 euros on the street that paid for half of the repairing cost. Also: Do you see how I snapchat here?

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I arranged an event for our juniors where experts explained how to build a career in Germany

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Four weeks to go today!

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Pretty doors of Düsseldorf

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Balcony Jungle, also thriving in the summery fall

 

 

18 years

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I will never forget October 6, 1999. I don’t remember the weather, I don’t remember what we did in school, I don’t remember what we had for dinner. But I still see quite clearly before me a young boy in our kitchen messing around with our kitchen rug, his two-year-old brother toddling around him. „I already know!“, the boy called triumphantly. „The name’s Anna!“

It was Anna’s two big brothers that we watched that day because their parents had gone to hospital where she would be delivered: that little girl that should become the closest I’d ever have to a little sister. Her brother might already have known her name before me but at least I already knew she was coming when her mother told me, over a vegetable lasagna one day in spring. I doubt any of the adults know this to this day but I had overheard a conversation and knew the house would be blessed with another child. From that day at the lunch table, I looked forward to her arrival and today marks the 18th anniversary of the day I got to meet her.

She is one of the few people who I’ve known all their life. When she came home, her parents let me help with taking care of her, teaching me hands-on childcare. The confidence I have today with handling kids comes from having this little girl around. I took her to children’s gymnastics when she was three, we went to the library together where she was mistaken for my daughter and when I moved out, she would visit me in my student apartments.

It’s such a privilege to see her grow up. Today, she is an instructor for the children’s gymnastics class, has read more than a library can hold and impatiently seems to wait for me to actually have a real daughter. It’s been wonderful to see her talents emerge and follow her endearing personality develop.

I have been especially thankful for never having been relegated to the „not cool enough anymore“- rank. On the contrary, she has been the most loyal visitor through all the years. It doesn’t matter what we do together – cooking, watching movies, trying on clothes, going to museums, imitating ABBA, reading Schiller out loud or studying for finals – because simply enjoying her company is such fun.

October 6, eighteen years ago, had one marvellous present in store for the world.

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Hanner!

“Did you grow?” “Has your voice gotten higher?” “You’re like a totally different person?!”

Those were the things my friend Hanna uttered yesterday when she came to Düsseldorf to see me after more than five years. We met when studying in Bremen and instantly connected over the fact that people mispronounced our names (calling her Hanner and me Helln). Then, I moved to Sweden and she moved to Korea. Yesterday, she came all the way to see me: after a 20+ hour-journey, she got on a train through half of Germany to see me for one night. That’s what I call friendship committment!

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We went to Gill’s, the bar where I am kind of a regular (let’s say he still recognizes me though it’s been a while)

She experienced what Ingrid calls a dizzelpointment: After a few minutes in downtown, she asked me, “Shouldn’t Düsseldorf be, ehm, like prettier?” We all wish that but instead of taking her to nice tourist spots, I took her home and served her German Abendbrot, something that only an expat German like Hanna can fully appreciate. It’s difficult to catch up on 5 years in a few hours, but we did our best and had a wonderful night. When she had to leave at 7 a.m. this morning, I was so sad to already see her go. But I myself had to get going too because today I spent in Frankfurt, hosting one of my four biggest annual events.

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This also happened this week: my extra co-worker got a hairdresser to come during lunch hours and she cut half of the office’s hair, including mine.

P.S.: It is Nobel Week! As a Nobel nerd, I loved when someone at my event asked during lunch if the laureate for literature had been announced. And what an announcement: ever since I read “The Remains of the Day” in class 12 years ago, I’ve said that it won’t take too long until Kazuo Ishiguro will be awarded the Nobel Prize. I won my bet today – and I still know the first sentence of that novel by heart.

Koblenz

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“I pity you”, my beloved late grandpa used to say. “You have to travel so far by plane while I can be content with what Germany has to offer within such a short distance of my home”. He would have been proud of me this weekend because I went to Koblenz – two hours from Dizzel. And just like grandpa always preached, you don’t have to go far to see wonderful things.

Koblenz’s name is derived from the Latin Confluentes, referring to the river Rhine and the river Moselle meeting just there, in more than 2000 year old Koblenz. The rivers are surrounded by four low mountain ranges that are adorned with an abundance of castles. Already as a child when we always passed Koblenz on the way to my grandparents, I marvelled at the sight, and when we contemplated places to visit for a weekend getaway, the choice was not difficult.

The town easily took me by storm! I kept saying, “Look at how beautiful it is!” and wanted to photograph every other restaurant because even those are so picturesque. Strolling down the river promenade provides instant holiday feeling and there are actually a good deal of international tourists adding to the flair. Emperor Wilhelm I had his summer residence here and we dined at the restaurant “Augusta” named after his wife. Wilhelm himself is represented as a giant statue at the so called German corner. That’s the name of a headland where the two rivers unite and there, the 16 flags of the federal states of Germany fly – my inner patriot rejoiced pointing at the flags of the states I’ve already lived in. The 16 state flags are joined by the German, European and American flag. Actually, the American flag is there as a memorial to 9/11, “united in friendship with the American people”, it says on the flag pole.

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The German corner could also be called the German triangle

 

 

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Statue of Father Rhine and Mother Moselle

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Wilhelm’s summer residence, not too shabby

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Gates of Koblenz

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The Forum Confluentes and the mall opposite it are just two of several architectural achievements in the city

Something I could not find out was why there are so many rubber ducks in Koblenz. In our hotel bathroom, there was one (no, that’s not customary in Germany) and then in several shops, you could buy rubber ducks of all kinds – I’ve never seen such a wide range of rubber ducks: State of Liberty ducks, Queen Elizabeth ducks, Beethoven ducks, you name it.

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Is the Playmobil figure small or the church it stands in?

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Our room included newspapers so we could be very cosmopolitan reading the NY Times for breakfast

Koblenz is also home to one of the German Train Museums, ideal for our first day that was a little cloudly. As a frequent train traveler and historian, I especially enjoyed meandering between the trains from the 1930s. They had tried to conceal the swastika on the trains (debatable…), but the interiors were impressive. I would not have minded going on a trip in those parlor cars.

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I can’t help but like model railroads – so much to look at!

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German readers, observe the “Ludolfs” sign

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Historical advertisement (two of my favorite things combined): “Safe, fast, comfortable: German Railways”

I can recommend going to Koblenz and if you don’t believe me, trust the German prince of poets, Goethe:

“Until Koblenz we floated calmly and I remember vividly that there I saw the most beautiful image of nature that I might ever have laid eyes on. […] The picture was a magnificient delight”.

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Hello darkness, my old friend

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Geez, it’s gotten so dark so quickly?! I kept pretending it’s still summer, I live down here south after all, and then the shadows fall before eight and there’s no denying it: autumn. It also shows in the rain that’s pouring down like nobody’s business which makes me almost regret I didn’t buy that rain coat at Lindex last week. (It had no zipper why is why I did not buy it.)

But really, a bunch of good things happened at work today and autumn means lighting candles and switching on window lamps inside and cuddling up on the sofa (when all the U.S. series finally resume), so it’s not the worst of seasons after all.

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In Stockholm, I of course wandered into Svenskt Tenn, the store with my favorite patterns, even at the bike stand

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I don’t wanna be nagging, but Swedes don’t know Swedish anymore. This is the fifth mistake I’ve seen in a week.

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Exploring the Dizzel surroundings, I visited Solingen which, somewhat surprising, has very cute houses and very nice cars.

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My tomato plant on the balcony has grown exactly one [green] tomato in 5 months. So I harvested vegetable elsewhere.

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When I moved to Dizzel I thought I’d be going to fancy bars for after work cocktails all the time. It happened for the maybe 8th time in two years this week, with the always lovely Anja.

 

Stockholm Thursday

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Three days feels just the right amount of time to be here, this time. Immensely enjoying being able to have scones at Haymarket (I love that cafe too much), browsing through the stores (not helpful that they gave me a coupon booklet with lots of 20% off) and meeting the people I couldn’t meet when I was here last, or the ones I always just have to see. And at the same time not staying so long that I get too much back into the habit of thinking I live here.

Actually, it’s really just two days because the first day was completely dedicated to work. That 10-hour-conference was great: Lots of inspiring people, especially women, best practice that motivates me to go back to my desk on Monday, and a creative atmosphere where we all share the same goal and challenge, just in different parts of the world. That actually gave me an appetite to look beyond Germany-Sweden again…wouldn’t the UK be a great place to work, couldn’t New York be a developing experience? No worries, I am boarding the flight to Dizzel tomorrow and I’m not pulling up stakes, yet.

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Snö, a nice Swedish jewellery brand, had a showroom sale. With balloons!

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Finally got to meet Evelina again, took her to Haymarket, of course.

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The other home

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I can’t help looking at apartment postings close to Marita’s home

“I feel like I forgot to pack something”, I said last night, “but really, it’s not that dramatic because I’m going to Marita’s and that’s almost like home”. After work today, I boarded the familiar plane at the well-known gate (always A39) and now I’m here, to attend a conference at work tomorrow. A conference that has two of my friends as participants on the attendance list and that will take place here, with home track advantage. Those are the best work days.