Anxiety · Berlin · Decluttering · Environmentalism · History · Mental Illness · Minimalism · Nature · New Year's Resolutions · Overseas · Photography · Recovery · Stress · Teaching · Tourism · Travelling · Veganism · Winter · Writing · Zero Waste

February in Review.

P_20180218_112343

February raced by in a rush of grey sleet, cold days and blue skies. We experienced the Berlin tradition of Sunday brunch for the first time at a café at the end of our street, I achieved one thousand unbroken hula-hoop reps for the first time, and I have taken up a consistent yoga practise again. I am looking forward to when one of my colleagues at work starts up her Yoga for Wellness club for staff again in the coming weeks, to bring more structure to my practise. Keeping a daily gratitude journal is helping me to stay aware of those many moments in my day that make me feel fulfilled and happy, and to learn not to take them for granted.

Early in the month, I was formally observed at work by the Berlin & Brandenburg Senat alongside my other colleagues in our department, and passed without any comments for improvement. Going through this process led to me being awarded the Certificate of Excellence in Teaching at the German standard. This means that I will not need to be formally observed again for as long as I teach in Berlin. I was grateful for the comments passed on by those who observed my lesson, who told me I seemed calm, assured, and that they were impressed by the excellent lesson that I taught. Afterwards, I cut a fringe back into my hair, and began to talk openly about veganism when asked about it by my colleagues, an experience that so far has been very rewarding. I am trying to be honest, helpful, and unapologetic.

P_20180218_111803

A freezing walk along the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery and across Oberbaum Bridge.

The mornings and evenings are fast getting lighter, and I am bringing more space into my morning routine by setting my alarm five minutes earlier each day.  On Valentine’s Day, Dillon met me at Bundesplatz station with flowers, and has done so again since, reminding me of how much joy I experience seeing flowers in vases around the home. We are using some of the glasses that were provided with our apartment rather than purchasing new vases. Yellow tulips are among my favourite springtime flowers. We are lucky to live so close to a florist that sells high-quality and reasonably priced cut flowers, and next month I am excited to introduce new potted plants to our home.

We also added a diffuser to our home, and I am appreciating the bright sunlight and clear skies outside our windows while sitting warm inside, while the temperature outside hits below -10°C. I discovered a ten-hour recording of pouring rain and a thunderstorm on YouTube, which we listen to at night while falling asleep. We are listening to the audiobook versio of Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver, read by the author, and saving jars to reuse as food containers. I am trying to focus on earth colours and tones: brown, green, glass, wood, to bring a consistent calming atmosphere into our home. Next week the temperature will not rise above freezing, but I hope that Spring will arrive in March, and Winter will melt away with the buds sprouting from the once-frozen ground.

25th February 2018.

Anxiety · Berlin · Decluttering · Mental Illness · Minimalism · Nature · New Year's Resolutions · Photography · Stress · Teaching · Travelling · Veganism · Winter · Writing · Zero Waste

January in Review.

P_20180204_120640.jpg

My priority for January was Energy. I focused on pushing myself to show up with energy and enthusiasm every day of the month, which helped me to power through the cold and dark weeks in Berlin. I have often found this to be the hardest month of the year, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that, but having a value such as Energy to aspire to for the month helped me focus on making the best start to 2018 that I could.

Beginning the year on the right foot was important for me, so I pared down the final few unnecessary belongings I had brought with me from Japan, and then worked hard to keep our new home organised and clutter-free. I cut down the number of sites and blogs I visit online by unsubscribing from mailing lists, removing bookmarks, and using a blocksite add-on. In February, I want to consider how I choose to spend my time online, and whether it can be better spent elsewhere (pretty sure I can guess the answer to that already).

It was essential for me to develop a healthy sleep routine in preparation for starting at my new job, and now I find myself waking up every morning naturally, just before my alarm is due to go off. On top of this, I challenged myself to get some fresh air and exercise every single day this month, as well as to push ahead with my hula-hooping core work indoors, both of which I achieved. Of course, I also kept up my vegan lifestyle through January.

Taken at Charlottenburg Palace Gardens and Grunewald, Berlin.

Finally, I also worked incredibly hard at staying in the moment, rejecting ruminating on the past or worrying about the future as much as I could. Bringing awareness and intention to this habit helped me to go a long way towards breaking it. In the end, I didn’t manage to get to the swimming pool like I planned, because I decided it was not a financial priority for January, but I did at least get round to buying a swimming costume in the right size, which is a start.

4th February 2018.

Anxiety · Berlin · Mental Illness · Nature · New Year's Resolutions · Photography · Winter · Writing

Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin.

P_20180121_114339

Berlin in winter is cold, grey, still and quiet.

There are sheets of ice across the lake in the gardens of Charlottenburg Palace, sparrows blaze their calls in the thornbushes, empty mussel shells litter the burrow of an otter or water vole, and a pair of white swans break the glassy surface of the water as they glide under a wrought-iron bridge.

January is coming to an end, and the first month of the new year is almost over. We are growing hyacinths in clay pots on the windowsill, and fresh-cut tulips splash colour in a vase. The lamps are on throughout the day in an attempt to replace the sun.

I have started teaching. It has only been two weeks, but it feels as though I have worked here much longer. We wake in darkness, I ride the train in darkness, there is a deep purple light on the horizon as I enter the school building, and it is dark again when I leave. It snows often, raining huge flakes that send a tumult of joy through the corridors, but it does not last.

We are very happy here. We spend our weekends exploring natural spaces, and treading cobbled streets intersecting neighbourhoods that bridge East and West. Our residence status here is secure, and Dillon has another publication imminent. We are concentrating on saving, on strengthening, and on cherishing one another. I worry less, and experience more.

21st January 2018.

Day Trip · Japan · Kyoto · Nature · New Year's Resolutions · Overseas · Photography · Travelling

Kyoto, Japan.

P_20171205_130805

We saved the place I had been looking forward to visiting most in Japan until our last week before leaving to travel to Germany. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, felt very different from Osaka. It was extremely cold, despite the blue skies and sunny weather, so the boulevards decorated with Christmas lights and wreaths felt very appropriate. We visited Gion, the traditional geisha area of the city, which is still full of old wooden houses, and explored temples and shrines lined with shops selling goods with ornate and intricate Japanese designs. I bought a traditional wooden Japanese comb, and a decorative hair tie, as my hair is now long enough to tie back again.

By next weekend, we will be flying into Germany to begin the next chapter of our lives in Berlin. We will not have internet access until early January, so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from twosuitcaseseach, and, until next time, have a peaceful end to the year, and let’s see what 2018 brings.

Animals · Day Trip · Japan · Nara · Nature · Overseas · Photography · Travelling

Nara, Japan.

Earlier this week, we took the train to Nara to visit the famous bowing deer at Nara Park. We visited the shrines and explored the forest along a quiet and peaceful hiking trail. This was probably the most ‘touristy’ thing we have done since arriving in Japan. You can buy deer cookies to feed the deer, and we were there in time to see the autumn colours in Nara as well.

Animals · Day Trip · Japan · Nature · Osaka · Overseas · Photography · Shinto · Travelling

Minoo Park, Osaka.

Yesterday morning, Dillon and I took the train north from Umeda out into the rural, mountainous suburbs of Osaka. We hiked from Minoo Station along a trail past woodwork shops to a temple and then up to a viewing platform at the top of the forest. It was a crisp autumn day, the leaves were beginning to change colour, and the sound of running water and the fall of leaves could be heard everywhere. My favourite place in Japan so far!

We will go back to Minoo Park in late November to see the autumn colours at their peak, and to visit the insect museum and waterfall, which were closed due to it being a Tuesday, and damage caused by Typhoons Lam and Saola respectively.