Hello, Deutschland

What do you know about German food?

My dear readers, I owe you some news.

Barely one year ago I woke up this page from a three-month slumber to tell you about our safe landing in Seattle, a return from Europe (for me, at least) to the city we thought we would be calling home for a very long time. I’m sure you remember. But life has a funny way of derailing even the best-laid plans, doesn’t it? When I wrote those words, for example, we could have never fathomed the storm that was brewing, and the impact the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression would have on our new lives. And we certainly couldn’t have imagined that if, in late spring of the following year some work opportunities arose for Manuel back in Europe, we’d be willing to turn around and just like that say goodbye to our new home… But they did, and we did, and that’s how we came to find ourselves, one year almost to the day from the last time, delivering twenty-two boxes of household belongings to the port to be put on a freighter bound for Germany, and not long after, stepping on yet another one-way flight ourselves.

In contrast to our move last year, this one was a piece of cake. I already knew all the questions to ask when calling shipping companies, and we knew exactly how and what to pack. Craigslist made liquidating our physical assets a snap, though it was hard to part with so many nearly-new things (including the ice cream maker I had coveted for so many years in Edinburgh!). Unlike last time Manuel went ahead, securing us a place to live and a car and some furniture, so that by the time I arrived the hard work was done, and all I had to do was get over my jet lag. That’s not to say it was all easy, though – saying goodbye to my family again was something I would have gladly done without.

Also in contrast to our last move, this one happened very quickly. From inception to completion barely three months passed; in some ways the fact that we were moving didn’t actually sink in until after it happened. And sadly, the unexpected nature of the whole thing meant that we didn’t have much time left to enjoy our soon-to-be-former home. In particular I regret all the things we never had a chance to do, thinking at the time, of course, that we had years in which to do them. We never went camping on the coast, for instance, or hiking in the Cascades or kayaking in the San Juans. We ate in only a fraction of the restaurants in Seattle I wanted to try. We never planted a garden or owned a share in a CSA (actually that’s not entirely true – I signed up for one before we knew we were leaving, and we were able to work it out so that we got four weeks’ worth of beautiful, farm-fresh veggies before passing our share on to someone else). We never cast our sails and explored things further afield like Vancouver and Eastern Washington and California and Mexico. And of course we never got a dog, which, in light of how things turned out, was probably a good thing.

But then, there were so many things we did get to do. I got to spend more time with my family than I had in a decade. We got to live in a beautiful cottage by the sea, waking up every morning to one of the most spectacular views in the world. We stuffed ourselves silly on Mexican, Ethiopian, Japanese and Vietnamese food, including so many Bánh Mìs from Seattle Deli I’m sure they’ll notice a drop in profits now that we’re gone. We had picnics on the beach and barbecues in the rain and glasses of wine against the backdrop of a city aflame in the evening sun. We also got to spend more time with each other than we had, well, ever.

And just as I consoled myself about leaving Europe, I’m telling myself now that Seattle will always be there, home for me in theory if not in practice. And who knows, maybe someday in practice again too.

For now, though, we’re installed in a roomy apartment in a hundred-year-old building in a medium-sized city in central Germany (Göttingen, famous for its university and its beautiful medieval center), and while I won’t even hazard a guess as to what the future will bring, there’s plenty on the agenda. Like getting my permanent resident visa (bureaucracy is the same everywhere, isn’t it?), and ahem, brushing up on my German. And taking advantage of the fact that all of Europe is on our doorstep again. And, of course, devoting some attention to my new home – there is, of course, a whole new culinary culture here to discover, one full of zwetschgen and zwiebelkuchen and bratkartoffeln and knödel

And to think, learning to pronounce them all correctly is only the start of the adventure.