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Confessions of a Desperate Housewife

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Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>As I sit to write my first blog since moving from Amsterdam to Berlin, I must confess I am feeling anything but like a diva! Last week as I interrupted “my nesting in Berlin routine” with a 3 day dash back to Holland for a public speaking engagement at the IWC in Eindhoven, it occurred to me that I had no clean clothes to wear (as our new German washing machine had not yet arrived) and that I was desperately in need of a manicure!

When one hears of an international move, they think of the glamour and excitement involved. But in reality, if any move by default is difficult, then an international move might just very well be hell. Add to a typical move scenario the following ingredients:
– not yet speaking the local language
– not being able to read the copious quantities of bills the Deutsch Post delivers daily
– combine with the reality of the German penchant for not putting closets in their abodes
and voila – you have a recipe for domestic disaster!

How Does One Move Into A House Without Any Closets or Cupboards?

The last few weeks have found me wavering from euphoria to despair. Euphoria when discovering that German is shockingly similar to Dutch – a language I spent nearly 4 years struggling to acquire, followed by despair when I realized the only phrase I could think to respond in German to a German government official speaking to me about my “resident permit” was Wo ist die Toilette, bitte? Joy returned again when I walked into my new home – a classically proportioned apartment in the heart of the Mitte with high ceilings and large German windows and rooms. But despair reared its ugly head when the moving company, which had thoughtfully unpacked all my boxes, departed and I discovered the floor of our family room was entirely filled with items which typically would have been stored away in closets or cupboards had they existed.
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Friends have called and Diva Readers have emailed inquiring, “How’s the move? Have you done much sightseeing?” While I tell them how I live in a historically-listed building only steps away from Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, what I really have to say is something of a letdown. Not for me, mind you, for I’m overjoyed about my recent daily accomplishments – but rather for those yearning to hear details of my “exciting life”. No one finds it nearly as exciting as I do when I joyfully exclaim, “My kitchen is finally organized! And I’ve found a storage unit for the bathroom!”
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People expect more from me than simple excitement over finding the nearest u-bahn, post office, or the 3-week-long-awaited-arrival of my new combo washing machine/dryer. Telling friends that your big accomplishment of the day was deciphering the Kaiser website and ordering home grocery delivery is met with a yawn while I’m exclaiming, “Friend – This is significant!!! Don’t you realize that I ran around the house in stocking foot singing “I am the Champion” after successfully completing my transaction?”

Speaking of stocking foot, we’re trying desperately to get along with our new neighbors by not annoying them with loud noises and sounds. Quiet hours in our German apartment building are all day Sunday and daily from 1-3pm and after 8pm until 7am. During this time, we’re to keep things to a quiet hum on the home front. We’ve been advised that drilling should be kept to weekly daylight hours which means little work can be done after my husband arrives home from work. Thus, as we successfully pass the three week anniversary of moving into our new German apartment, we finally have curtains hung in only half our rooms while the other half waits for respectful time to be installed.

Speaking of respectful, one of my best friends commented, “Good Curtains make good neighbors” after learning that our gorgeous master bath had a French window perpendicular to the toilet!

Meanwhile, throwing trash away practically takes a PHD in sanitation engineering as the Germans recycle in 10 ways. Sorting garbage (and figuring out how to store containers for the various sorts) has led to endless discussions about the inconvenient truth. When the day is done, we can at least feel good that we’re doing our part – assuming, that is, we haven’t contaminated the glass bin with the metallic wrapping from the mouth of the wine bottle or forgotten to remove packing tape from the cardboard box we’d deconstructed into perfect petit fours.

Over the last decade living abroad I’ve commented to my husband, “Wouldn’t we feel that something was missing from our life if it weren’t for the daily struggles of buying bread in a foreign language?” but I must confess, right now, I’m kind of longing for that! If boring is a walk-in-closet and an ability to read my mail, then SIGN ME UP BABY! Don’t get me wrong, in another week or even a month, once the chandeliers we’ve ordered come in from back order and we have overhead l
ighting and can read without unplugging the space heater to plug in a lamp, I’ll get my groove back – but, in the meantime I’m in for a heck of a ride as I get settled in my new home! I fantasize about the day when I might start to look like myself again once the wardrobe unit we’ve bought is finally installed and my clothes are not folded on a makeshift utilitarian rack but instead hanging inside a gorgeous armoire.

The good news is that as I wonder “What have we done – moving yet again?!” I’ve discovered that my favorite French department store Galleries Lafayette is only a 7 minute walk from my front door. If I can’t find something to wear, I can always head to the comforts of a familiar store. It’s this latter point that gives me hope.

When I started a decade of expatriation by moving overseas from Ohio to Paris, nothing French felt like home. I had never heard of Galleries Lafayette, I had never tasted Laduree’s famous macaroons and had no idea who Lionel Poilâne was. Coincidentally, last week I was delighted to discover that both Laduree and Poilâne are sold in the basement of Berlin’s Galleries Lafayette and bought both in a burst of nostalgia. A decade ago these things were even more foreign to me than tourismus/sehenswuerdigkeiten.en/28953.html” target=”_blank”>KaDeWe, Schnitzel, Berliner Landsbrot and toffelsalat-mit-wrstchen-potato.html” target=”_blank”>Kartoffelsalate is now! When I first moved to Paris I’d only travelled there once while in university, while Berlin I’ve visited dozens of times! So though I don’t speak German yet, I know there’s hope for me… if I conquered daily French conversation and wrestled Dutch into submission (if not actually acquired an ability to speak it well), I have faith that German and Germany won’t get the best of me!

Someday I will sit writing my Diva blog, lingering over a strudel in a torei” target=”_blank”>Konditorei, with a copy of the Berliner Zeitung tucked under my laptop and on that day, German and Germany will feel fondly familiar. Of course, if Murphy’s Law has its way, once that finally happens the time will have come for another move to another country with another language to acquire…. And when it does I’ll think longingly of my time spent in Berlin – Trautes Heim, Glück allein!

Until then, join me on my journey as I learn to become a torical/a/jfk_berliner.htm” target=”_blank”>Berliner!

Good Bye, Au Revoir, Tot Ziens and auf Wiedersehen!

The Antiques Diva™

The Antiques Diva is Moving!

Extra – Extra! Read All About It!

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A few months ago, my darling husband came home and popped the same question that started our expatriation nearly a decade ago, “Do you feel like learning a new language?” The first time he asked this question 9 years ago, I exclaimed “Oui!” with an exuberant burst of joy – “Watch Out World – Here I come!” Paris never knew what hit them and I had the time of my life. Leaving Paris 5 years later wasn’t as tragic as I expected, for I never really left Paris… Hemingway put it best when he said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

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Gezellig is one of those words that has no translation…. It sort of means “cozy” but it’s more than that… it’s like getting a friendly embrace, being in a comfortable and charming environment with enjoyable and gregarious people. Our time living in Holland, if described in only one word, was definitely “Gezellig.”

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When my husband told me of a job opportunity which required us to move from Amsterdam to Berlin, I was elated for his new role and for the opportunity to live in another country, but internally I asked the question “Am I ready to move?” I’d barely wrestled the Dutch language into submission, and thoughts of attempting to acquire another language felt daunting…plus I’d made such good friends here, had a growing prospering business and a wonderful social life. For a few days I fell into despair… Move? Not Yet! And then suddenly, this diva got her groove back! Before I knew it I had visions of shopping at KaDeWe, strolling tourismus/sehenswuerdigkeiten.en/28955.html” target=”_blank”>Kollwitzplatz hand in hand with my husband and hanging out with the pretty people on the Gendarmenmarkt. As I dashed to Berlin on a whirlwind house hunting trip, I started singing a new theme song…. My travels were accompanied by the world-weary singing voice of the sultry Marlene Dietrich. But in the background, just as Edith Piaf had whispered songs in my ear even as Johnny Jordaan had lured me north, Johnny Jordaan now competed with Dietrich. Before long I was going to need an internal CD player to keep my theme songs in order!

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One of the best things about moving as frequently as we have (6 times over the last 12 ½ years of marriage) has been the opportunity to try on new cities and countries as if we were buying a new trench coat. In the beginning you’re never quite sure when to wear the coat – is it too light, too heavy, too dressy, too casual? But over time, you learn the best days to wear it (and inevitably you have days when you’d rather wear a different coat!) but over time, it conforms to your body – fitting perfectly in the crease of your elbow, the bend of your waist, gliding over your bum as if it were made for it. The collar stands protecting your throat from a brisk breeze and then one day, a button falls off into a mud puddle and you notice that those “comfortable places” are starting to show some wear. Unfortunately, as with a well worn coat, it seems in our life that just as soon as we start to feel comfortable in a new environment/country, it’s time to move again! And with this move to Berlin, it’s time to buy a new coat again!! Fortunately for me I was out with friends last week and found a vintage mink for a dime – so I’ve got the coat covered for the Berlin breeze – but I fear I am about to be uncomfortable again, learning a new language, learning a new city and a new culture!

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I’ve been perusing expat blogs and getting tips on my soon-to-be German life and planning for adventure! But even as I cleared a spot on my bookshelf for some German travel guides, I knew this move, like the move from Paris to Holland, came with a conditional clause. I’ll be back… And not just for socializing and cultural kidnapping… but also for work – my tour business and public speaking arena.

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I started writing this blog in August of 2007 – ironically, that first blog was about antiquing in Berlin. Shortly after beginning my blog adventure readers began emailing asking for tours, and before long a business was born. I hired Diva Guides in Holland, Belgium and France to help with The Antiques Diva Tours and with the help of these lovely ladies will continue to run Antiques Diva tours. But perhaps the best thing about having started this business is that it is a career in my suitcase. Each place I go allows me to expand my business!!! Once I get my bearings in Berlin, Diva Tours will expand to encompass a new country – Germany!

In the meantime, have patience as over these next few weeks and months I might not be myself as I go through wave one of Culture Shock – Berlin!! As I get settled in a new home, friends have come out of the woodwork offering to help – you’ll note several guest bloggers appearing on my blog in these coming weeks (as they have in the few weeks prior). Should you have an idea you’d like to share with Diva Readers, please email me to:toma@antiquesdiva.com”>toma@antiquesdiva.com to find out submission guidelines!

As I close, I guess the words of a famous German-speaking Austrian-American come to mind….

“I’ll be back”.

The Antiques Diva ™

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