A Sense of an Ending

Berlin

“Here we are!” we said to Amaya as we pulled into the courtyard of our apartment block.  “Come on lets get out and have a look!” “NO!” came the reply, and we spent the next 5 minutes trying to coax her out.  We had been telling her that we were finishing, and I think she also knew that this was the completion of something great.  Her nomadic, outdoor life had ended and she was staying put in her ‘magic buggy’ hoping that there would be more.

Alas our journey had come to an end.  We took the iconic photos in front of the Brandenburg Gate just as we had taken them in front of the Sagrada Familia five months earlier.  We feel privileged to have had this time as a family, to see a Europe that few people see and to expose our daughter to so many wonderful things.

After more than 5 months  and 4000km of cycling we finally made it to Berlin!

After more than 5 months and 4000km of cycling we finally made it to Berlin!

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Life as an Immigrant

The stereotype is that Germans are efficient, reliable, rule orientated and precise. This is certainly true for the amazing transport system here in Berlin and for the speedy way groceries are passed through the checkout. It is also true when you arrange to meet with somebody – being a couple of minutes late is not cool. Following the rules (which are largely unspoken) is also important. As a new immigrant I quickly learnt that riding on the footpath is a no no, the evil glares also inform me that crossing against the green man is forbidden. Tardiness in packing my self-provided supermarket bags initiates a pen taping display from the person at the checkout and irritated shuffling from those waiting in line.  Also, if I somehow forget to buy extra groceries on a Saturday I am guaranteed to starve on Sunday because why would a supermarket open on a Sunday?

All of this order seemed to be thrown out the window on our recent visit to the immigration office. It was a supposedly simple process. Shosh is a European citizen thanks to having an English Mum (nice one Colleen), Amaya and I automatically get family reunion visas anywhere in Europe for as long as Shosh chooses to stay there.  We were issued 3 month residency permits by the German consulate in Sydney and were told to go and find Frau Püschel upon arriving in Berlin to have them extended.

So off we set on Monday morning, arriving at 8am – not an easy task with a toddler. The office was conveniently located in the middle of 3 stations, but close to none of them. It is a drab, foreboding building, set against an industrial landscape. Grey was definitely the dominating colour of the whole experience.

The foreboding Ausländerbehörde

The foreboding Ausländerbehörde

With no obvious information point, closed doors everywhere and everything in German, we spent a confusing hour just trying to work out where we needed to be, being told that we were too late to see anybody that day, and then finding out from the people in the waiting room that to have any chance of seeing anybody we needed to be at the immigration office by 5am at the latest!

The following day I dragged myself out of bed at 3.45am, caught a deserted train to Westhafen, and then jogged a freezing kilometre to the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office).  Believe it or not there were five other people already standing in line at 4.20am!  And so there we stood, wordless, in the darkness and the cold.

Can't believe there were actually a couple of other people on the train at 4am!

Can’t believe there were actually a couple of other people on the train at 4am!

The view when I first arrived.

The view when I first arrived.

The lights finally came on.

The lights finally came on.

My estimate is about 200 people behind me by 6am.

My estimate is about 200 people behind me by 6am.

People trickled in slowly, so that by about 5.30am there were over 100 people behind me.   Flood lights eventually came on and the staff started to enter the gates in front of us, getting ready for their 7am start.  Most of the staff barely acknowledged us as we stood there shivering.  The girl behind me was visibly shaking.  It was hard to believe that this was Germany, supposedly one of the most developed countries in the world.  There we were, obligated to stand in line for two and a half hours, before dawn, in the dead of winter.  Hardly a dignified act.

Finally, at 6.40am the gates opened and we were marched into a small room where I was issued a ticket with a random number on it.  The lady informed me, in English, that I was second in line and that Shoshanna and Amaya had better hurry up!  Which they did, arriving minutes before being summoned to room 172.  Shoshanna had also run from the Westhafen station, pushing Amaya in the magic buggy.

It was a big physical effort for everyone involved, but the end result was a prompt issuing of a 2 year residency permit for Amaya and I.  We celebrated with a visit to the Balloon Cafe! YAY!

The dreaded room 172

The dreaded room 172

Amaya waited very patiently.   At one stage she asked when we would be getting on the plane.  Obviously a similarly boring waiting experience for her.

Amaya waited very patiently. At one stage she asked when we would be getting on the plane. Obviously a similarly boring waiting experience for her.

Keeping Amaya entertained with one of her most favourite pastimes.

Keeping Amaya entertained with one of her most favourite pastimes.

Berlin: Post Jet-lag Impressions

So we are still here chillin’ in Berlin – though I must say it has warmed up considerably since our last post – I think the mercury reading soared to lofty heights of 1 today.  I find myself much more interested in the 7 day forecast, constantly scanning my weather app for promises of sun.

A few things have changed in recent weeks, we are over jet-lag, the bikes came out of the boxes (justifying this sites url), and we are beginning to see what all the Berlin hype is about.

We have also had a stampede of visitors! Thanks to Stephen and Jess, Ben and Chloe, Cayci and Shayna and Jonny and Helen for dropping by and making our time here more memorable!!!

Sipping pomegranate at the turkish markets  - she drunk about 3 euros worth!

Sipping pomegranate juice at the turkish markets – she drunk about 3 euros worth!

She always wanted to be an owl!

She always wanted to be an owl!

Crocodile see-saw reminiscent of the 'Enormous Crocodile.'  Amaya loved having Stephen and Jess stay. She even suggested that Jess was also her mama!

Crocodile see-saw reminiscent of the ‘Enormous Crocodile.’ Amaya loved having Stephen and Jess stay. She even suggested that Jess was also her mama!

Amaya checking out the Ishtar Gates built by Nebuchadnezzar king of Ancient Babylon.

Amaya checking out the Ishtar Gates built by Nebuchadnezzar king of Ancient Babylon.

She conveniently loves pretzels!

She conveniently loves pretzels!

Cayci and Shayna (Mic's ex-students) happened to be in Berlin and dropped in for dinner.

Cayci and Shayna (Mic’s ex-students) happened to be in Berlin and dropped in for dinner.

Waltzing through the zoo - more on that in a later post.

Waltzing through the zoo – more on that in a later post.

I think this speaks for itself :)

I think this speaks for itself

Stomping in new snow in one of Amaya's favourite playgrounds - right next door to the fluffy duck cafe.

Stomping in new snow in one of Amaya’s favourite playgrounds – right next door to the fluffy duck cafe.

And here is the fluffy duck.

And here is the fluffy duck.

Jonny, Amaya and I went to a huge model train geeky display.  The coolest thing about it in Amaya's opinion (and in mine) was this mini chocolate factory.  The chocolate was made in front of you.  Amaya just had to put her hand into the red hole and wait for the chocolaty goodness to drop into her hand!!!

Jonny, Amaya and I went to a huge model train geeky display. The coolest thing about it in Amaya’s opinion (and in mine) was this mini chocolate factory. The chocolate was made in front of you. Amaya just had to put her hand into the red hole and wait for the chocolaty goodness to drop into her hand!!!

Yum!

Yum!

Fun with Helen (whom Amaya has renamed 'Honey') and Jonny.

Fun with Helen (whom Amaya has renamed ‘Honey’) and Jonny.

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Freezer

It is always difficult to tie off a life and begin another.  Packing up our little unit seemed like an endless task – our stuff somehow doubled with the new little addition to our family!  Then there is the long list of little jobs like canceling phones and electricity, redirecting mail etc etc boring boring!!!  Amongst the busyness we somehow managed to enjoy some of the Australian summer so by the time the 17th of January arrived we felt satisfied with our exposure to UV and ready to face whatever Berlin threw at us (or so we thought).

Moving is always stressful but having to account for everything we own and put it all in a box is even more difficult.

Moving is always stressful but having to account for everything we own and put it all in a box is even more difficult.

Shosh was super nervous about how Amaya would fly – 25 hours of flying time is a big ask for a toddler.  To combat this she had enough food to last a week, a bunch of new toys and many kilos of books.  As it turned out Amaya was a little legend – this was despite being delayed in Sydney because of 45 degree heat (hottest day ever!) and then again in London for the opposite reason.

Jet-lagged!

Jet-lagged!

Touching down in Berlin we were filled with a sense of excitement and expectation.  With a temperature difference of over 50 degrees celsius, devastating jet lag and a baby that wasn’t adjusting to the new time zone our excitement quickly transformed into a deep haze   of ‘WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?’

This was an unexpected feeling.  We had both focused so much on potential difficulty of the flight without really considering that life in a new city would pose challenges.  Shoshanna drew the analogy of birth (stick with me it does have some relevance) where she was so focused on the actual birth process that she wasn’t prepared for what came next, which, as it turns out, lasts a lot longer!

Amaya checking out the Graffiti in the park across from our unit.

Amaya checking out the graffiti in the park across from our unit.

So here we are in Berlin, slowly adjusting, buying warmer clothes, learning the language and getting increasingly more sleep.

One of the many cafes designed specifically to keep kids entertained while parents sip their lattes.

One of the many cafes designed specifically to keep kids entertained while parents sip their lattes.

The parks are so cool in Berlin - each one is unique and made from natural materials!  Temperature of -10 was not going to stop Amaya from getting on the swing!

The parks are so cool in Berlin – each one is unique and made from natural materials! Temperature of -10 was not going to stop Amaya from getting on the swing!

Riding a wooden fish.

Riding a wooden fish.

And the more alive we begin to feel the more we have started to appreciate our surrounds: cool playgrounds, kids being pulled along on sleds, bicycles everywhere, fun weekend markets, frozen ponds with people playing ice hockey and seriously awesome toboggan runs!

Today we met up with a lovely family.  Glen, Katja, Benjamin and Amy.  It was wonderful to connect, share a meal, and enjoy the winter wonderland.

Today we met up with a lovely family. Glen, Katja, Benjamin and Amy. It was wonderful to connect, share a meal, and enjoy the winter wonderland.

Amaya's first snow ball fight - she lost :)

Amaya’s first snow ball fight – she lost!

Great fun on toboggans a real novelty for us Aussies.

Great fun on toboggans – a real novelty for us Aussies (yes Shoshanna you are an Aussie!)

Amaya and her new friend Benjamin enjoying being pulled along on a sled - beats a pram any day!

Amaya and her new friend Benjamin enjoying being pulled along on a sled – beats a pram any day!