2016 – Facing towards the sun

monkey

New Year, new start, new pages to write! The past weeks and months have been busy with the move and getting all of us settled, hence both my blogs have been on hold. But things are easing up again and I hope to continue where I left off!

A first step into that direction – my 2016 New Years Motto!

Same like over the past years I do refrain from New Year’s resolutions but rather try to find a motto to guide me for the coming year. My 2015 motto might have been influenced slightly by watching too much Frozen, as it was “Let it go”. But while I reflected on the year I came to notice that  it was a perfect motto – it was a year of “Let it go” in various aspects, some nice and some not so pleasant ones.

2015 started with a highlight – flying (on my own, without kids!) to a friend I haven’t seen for over 5 years and where I had one of my best 2015 experiences – a 6 km-long sleigh ride down the mountains close to Munich, filled with laughter and giggles! Something that cheered me up throughout the year – what a fantastic weekend! The year continued with some more family trips and vacations that took us to new places and made us realize once again what beautiful and interesting locations and people are out there! So we kind of ‘let go’ of the old, known trips and made space for the new, unknown.

Our desires of moving were high when we started into 2015 (I still recall the discussions with Richard and our neighbours during the 2014/15 New Year celebration) but at the same time we made the realistic decision of ‘letting go’ of that hope and staying put in Germany for a bit longer. So it came as an even bigger surprise that we indeed ended up moving to Japan. Who knows what lays behind all this. Perhaps the subconscious mind played a trick and by ‘letting go’ and being less focused we made space for something new, here too. Whatever the reason, I am glad we took the risk, threw some concerns overboard and went for the unexpected in the first place. It took us where we are today and we are grateful for that.

Whereas I try to focus on the positive 2015 was as well a year where I learned the hard way to ‘let go’ of some – let’s say – interpersonal mismatches. It was painful and hard at times (and now and then still is) but relationships can’t be forced and sometimes it might indeed be better to ‘let it go’ as well in that area to make space for somebody new.

So where does it leave us for 2016?

I had a tough time coming up with a motto. But a first trip outside of Tokyo and our so-called ”end-of-the-year-celebration’ daytrip to Mount Fuji on December 31st put it together. The day started really cloudy and despite being close, that famous spectacular view onto Mount Fuji was taken due to clouds. On top of that the cable car ride was suspended after the first station due to some minor volcanic activities in the area. Still, we made the best out of it, were impressed to see the heat coming out of the mountains and continued driving around the area, exploring a tiny bit of Japan’s beautiful country side. Now and then the clouds got less and we started to see glimpses of the mountain, but it was kind of teasing us ‘Look at me, I am here but you can’t really see me’. But just before we decided to head back home the sky cleared fully and gave us a clear view, we could see the snow blowing around at the top – a rather impressive view I have to admit!

MtFuji

And that got me thinking about life on the way back home. How it can be fully clouded, partly clouded or clear and sunny at times and how it changes, even throughout at day – kind of like our feelings and emotions. We will always face up and downs / bright and dark sides and it is important to accept and live through all the facets; yet it is vital to stay optimistic. So for this year I found myself with the following motto:

“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”
(M
aori Proverb)

The sun gives us strength, energy and makes us smile, it takes tension and pressure away, it lifts the mood. The shadow, the dwelling on the ‘what if’ is what drags us down. It is easier to face challenges when you look towards the light!

So this year’s motto shall remind me to stay optimistic and to look onto the brighter side, to be more carefree, to worry less and stay at ease!

Here is to a bright, joyful, healthy and mostly stress-free 2016!

Lots of love,

AK

(on a side note: after returning home from the trip with my motto in mind I realized that even the New Year’s Monkey Zodiac plate we bought that day shows a Monkey facing the sun…coincidence?!)

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Honeymoon stage…

We are 5 weeks further with our new life in Tokyo. And perhaps we moved too many times or we just got older and wiser but it was a rather relaxed start. We took it slowly and day-by-day, avoided too much planning ahead, too much sightsSlide4eeing – after all we have years to discover this city and country!

A major step was to get the kids started and settled at school. It amazed me how they just went on and felt comfortable. We were as well busy house hunting and will have to make a decision between old but large and a huge balcony versus brand new, ok-ish sized and a small balcony. So considering three active kids we are pushing towards the older place. We will keep you posted. (*)

Next to house-hunting we keep discovering the city and start to get a feeling for it. Area wise we do have an overview and now we start to dig deeper into the areas. I do already have a few favourites and less favourite areas. It amazes me how diverse the city is. And you will really need to figure out in which areas you get what especially if you are looking for something specific. Thankfully, for time being, we can just go with the flow but once we are going to be really settled and have to get things it will be a whole different kind of story. But for now we will just enjoy the ‘honeymoon-stage’ we are at.

Since we were out and about every weekend and it is impossible to put it all on paper I will just leave you with a few impressions here and now:

Slide6 Slide1 Slide3 Slide2

Having said that it was a relaxed start we obviously all had our moments. I won’t lie, it is exhausting to move, to get to know and settled in a new place, to meet new people. Not speaking the language doesn’t makeSlide5 it easier, the kids seem to be at each other more than usual – or it might be just the own exhaustion that their behaviour feels worse. We are as well under no illusion that once time goes on and we are settled into our own home some things will ease up again – for example the kids and we will be fully settled with our own stuff around us and can start to feel at home – yet other things will come up. Arranging what needs to be arranged without Japanese and not knowing where to get everything will be a challenge and I hate to be depended on others for everything. So, until we do face the ‘obstacles’ of really living here I will enjoy the ‘honeymoon-time’, enjoy our furnished apartment and go with the flow.

And hopefully we will stay comfortable enough to take the momentum of taking it slow and day-by-day with us and into our new home.

Lots of love wherever you may read this

AK

(*) we went for the older place and put our name down and are now waiting for final confirmation – if all goes well we might move by mid November. Keeping fingers crossed!

Tokyo – a city that will not cease to surprise

DSC01201

Konichiwa,

Our first two weeks in Tokyo are over, and even though we are still very early in our new adventure one can say without doubt that we will be in for a big surprise, in a positive way!

Now, the first impression I got from Tokyo is that it is not a nice city – that being judged only from the outside, my first view over the first few days. Obviously it is huge, but it appeared as well very grey (despite lovely sunshine) and yeah I may say it came around as plain.

DSC01219Having said that, that was my first “bird’s view” impression, on a second view you will see hidden gems, curious, interesting, crazy areas, areas too crowded to be believed, areas with a lot of culture and history, temples and shrines spread all over the place and totally new, super neat modern areas. Sometimes it is a bit overwhelming, yet mostly it feels good and less crazy than expected.

Despite being such a massive and huge city it can appear small at times and not crowded at all! Don’t laugh, it is true! I would say the city sets itself together of different clusters of smaller ‘cities’ (I can’t really say suburbs or villages with that many people living here, can I?) So I am sure once we figured out the main areas we will know where to go for what we need, respectively depending on which mood we are in – we will know where to go for some action or something more quiet.

Having said that – Tokyo …

…did surprise me that people speak even less English than I expected – I knew it wouldn’t be a lot, but didn’t expect  that little. Yet you still make yourself understandable with hand and feet and people are helpful and friendly. This experience takes me back to our time in Cairo and trying to communicate with the people at our local Zouk; good memories. And it reminds me to definitely start listening to the Japanese CDs and to get a language teacher asap!

…is indeed crazy during rush hour and you do not make too many friends by being there with three kids – and sometimes even with a buggy. A buggy and three kids may interrupt the super organised and structured ‘ant-like’ walking process. Over daytime and at weekends it is a whole different story and easy as anywhere else.

…is a huge city with millions and millions of people but the restaurants and café’s are often smaller than you would believe, just a few seats, small tables. Our buggy definitely needs to stay outside. Obviously, space is rare and costs a lot of money and that represents itself. But it is funny to come here and see so many small – yet absolutely fabulous – eating places. Any café or restaurant in the small village we lived in Germany prior to moving here is bigger. I found that rather interesting if not to say stunning.

…has small and it seems not that many supermarkets. Same like the restaurants the supermarkets are pretty small – yet you get everything you need – and more, and all is nice and fresh. There might be bigger ones somewhere – which would come in handy being here with a family of five – but we still have to discover them!

… does still have a lot of bookstores – and most are filled with shelves over shelves full with Comics / Mangas. A culture I still have to get deeper into. So I better get started with the much-needed Japanese lessons soon!

…is in Japan and Japan is famous for its toilets. Yes, having kids you won’t get around mentioning that subject! We came across a vast array of toilets already; heated seats, sprays for the front and back, music to avoid that the neighbouring toilet person hears what kind of ‘business’ you do and every toilet seems to have a flush at a different location and some even with a remote control flushing system. Definitely one of the kids’ highlight!

…is an earthquake city. That fact is apparent all over the place and an earthquake education definitely recommended. The school has helmets under every chair and the teachers have an emergency kit in the classrooms. So does my husband at the office. I will have an earthquake education by the end of the week. The thought of experiencing my first earthquake freaks me out, but hopefully we will only encounter small ones and hopefully the family is together when it happens.

And whereas I always thought of Tokyo as super modern, watching the men’s business clothes it is all very clear-cut – dark suits or trousers and white, max light blue shirts, no strong colours. Yet others have definitely their own style, a style that may come inDSC01210to your mind when you think of Tokyo – crazy and vibrant.

I knew before coming here that one can’t compare – not only by size – Tokyo with Singapore where we lived overall for 7 years and a city we came to love and feel home. Yet, despite being so much bigger, some comparisons are possible – it is clean, safe, easy to navigate, very organized and seems very friendly. There are food stalls/restaurants, cafes, small local shops all over the place. And I am sure that once we found our way and are more settled we will be able to find and get everything you need (and won’t need) – the world comes together here, too. Whereby Singapore is definitely much more much westernized and cosmopolitan than Tokyo, Tokyo still managed to keep its ‘Japanese personality’ and I hope it will manage to keep it!

It is still very early in our new adventure but we had a good start and are all looking forward to what is to come – all the fun, joy, excitement, surprises yet not to forget the frustration, the need to get out to ‘breathe’ and annoyance that comes along with every move and every big city – and yes the earthquakes. And when times do get hard and difficult it is not to forget that there are hard and difficult times no matter where you live! But it is important to learn to focus on the good and positive small things again to see the bigger picture!

We hope this gives you a little picture on how we are doing so far!

Lots of love, Have a lovely day

AK

Life is a journey…

 live is a journey

‘Life is a journey…

…not a destination.’  I can’t agree more and we take this saying literally and are thrilled to start a new journey soon! Whereas we, especially I, weren’t at all thrilled by the move (back) to Germany roughly 2.5years ago and we faced some very tough times we can now say, that yes it was worth it but it is time to joyfully open and prepare for a new chapter!

A few months back Richard came home and ask me if I would be open for a certain country in Asia. Well, those who know us know that we are fairly easy in terms of any country to go to, as long as safety and decent healthcare can be (more or less) guaranteed and Asia would always be one of our favourite regions. So, “Yes, of course. Why not, give it a try. We don’t have anything to lose.” Was my comment. Not really spending too many thoughts on it to avoid any disappointment by getting any hopes up too early. The topic was lingering above us for several weeks, but we never got into it too deeply, the starting process taking longer than we expected; the fear of disappointment being too big. But then, suddenly things started moving and once they started it went fairly quick and the hopes we suppressed were on the rise.

And here we are now, several weeks down the line but only a few weeks ahead to write a new family chapter – by end of September we will pick and pack and shift all of us over to Japan, Tokyo!

It is an exciting, slightly anxious, and at times an overwhelming thought. What for me started out as an abroad experience in Belgium alone, then as a couple to Singapore, as a family of four to Cairo, back to Singapore then Germany now takes us as a family of five all the way back to Asia again!

It won’t always be easy, we will face tough times, but we are fully aware of that. Yet, we do believe that it will be a fantastic experience, for all of us, just like all the other moves. And yes, we are thrilled!

People ask why we do this, why not just staying somewhere. I don’t know how to describe it, it is just a feeling that the world is so big out there and there are so many great places and cultures to discover and people to meet. We get excited by being able to take these opportunities, and not just during holidays. It is just who we are.

One of the great assets by living overseas to me are the lovely people you meet along the way. Some friendships may only last for a while, some may stay longer, and some may stay forever. But each and everybody play a vital role in that certain moment and place, making living and its memories for that country special! And the friends here not only helped me tremendously to settle in, no they even listened to my ‘friendly ranting’ of being here (and some happily joined in).

So, in my “2015 Motto” post I wrote towards the end, “The 365 pages for the year are still white – time to put some happy colours onto them. “ We started painting them already with all the excitement of Richard applying for overseas jobs, a possible move and all what is involved, and we are now looking forward to put even more vibrant colours onto the pages to come!

For months and months now we kept a bottle of Champagne, planning to open it when a new contract was signed. It was time to dust it, put it cold and to enjoy it now! Never tasted better 😉

Lots of love

AK

Bliss…

 … is for example to take some time to do what you love. But often this is what we do the least as day-to-day stuff, family, work, household and all other get in between. Or worse we might have lost track of what we love. I was blessed these passed weeks that I managed to leave for two weekend trips (one short, one longer) – with just ‘me, myself and I’; meaning leaving our three kids at home with my husband (Thanks so so much – I truly appreciate that I could do that!). The last time I did that was years ago.

So obviously I was all excited to spend those precious hours with friends. And whereas this was of course absolutely great – time to laugh, chat and relax – it is something else that stayed with me even more.

And that was experiencing some uninterrupted and dedicated time to really think and talk things through! Usually somebody is always around or something needs to be done or I am just too shattered. But during these days it was nothing at all that I had to do but to be there, to enjoy – and that I did. To me that what was pure bliss these days!

Speaking to some friends about this made me realize that this dedication of time to really think things through is what quite a few seem to miss – it seems to get lost between kids, family, work and household. But if we don’t have or take this time we tend to end up feeling stuck, worn out. We all seem to know this but it is so hard to take this time.

I truly needed these breaks, I was running low. And I am grateful to my family and my friends that I managed to recharge body and mind. I managed to sort some thoughts, let go of some steam and get some new ideas and different perspective to some things. And even if life here takes over within minutes of being back it is important to use this momentum and to now incorporate a few things into my day-to-day life.

Now, obviously neither will I be able to go away for a night or more on a regular basis, nor will you readers be able to do so. But it is up to all of us to really take time, to step away, occasionally. Only when we do that we can really listen within, we can remind ourselves of who we are and where we would like to be and to quieten the mind – and to find our personal bliss.

So, when do you plan to go for a walk, take a long bath, spend time with a dear friend to really talk or to meditate to calm the mind and recharge? Or if you can; why not start to plan a weekend away? Make sure you take this time away from all, the longer the better! It is time to recharge and to find your bliss – if you didn’t find it already!

Have a fantastic day

AK

 

timealone

 

take time

 

 

 

 

2015 – My Inspiration

Some of you might know that I stopped making New Year’s Resolutions a few years back, but instead come up with a motto / guideline / inspiration / mantra or whatever you might want to call it for the upcoming year.

Towards the end of a year I reflect on the year and think about what might come, where I’d like to see myself. My last year’s mantra was “Find Balance”. Well, truth to be said after reflecting on the year keeping it balanced surely was a challenge but overall I think I did ok. Last year started with two big bangs. One was as happy as one can be with the birth of our 3rd child, our little sunshine that made our family complete. Yet just a week later we had to face one of the saddest moments in life, the unexpected passing of my Dad. What an emotional rollercoaster we had! Surely a few things put me totally of balance throughout the year but then again I managed to get more balanced in other areas. So yes despite all the turmoil, my 2014 motto did work out – in a very different way but still.

But what’s up for 2015? The more I thought about it the more I struggled and I was close to give up on the whole idea. But then 2 days before we started the New Year and while sitting and thinking about the previous year, about myself, where I stand, where I am, where I want to be, what was good and what bothered me a lot that year – it hit me (well we can argue if too much Disney’s “Frozen” might have had an impact, too) BUT my Mantra for this year is “Let it go” – it just seems right.

While thinking about my Balance-Year, I stumbled across several areas and situations, people and tasks, thoughts and ideas that held me back, respectively where I put a lot of energy into yet it seems in vain.

Now and then even if you try your best or do as much as you can a situation might not be able to be changed. You reach the end of the line. But sometimes we don’t want to see it, won’t let it go even if it might influence your life, a relationships, the family, your wellbeing or career.

There are a few areas that came into my mind the past days where something held me back. Areas where I had it in my hand to change, influence or improve. Areas where I didn’t succeed, or I got blocked; areas where I reached a wall or held back before even starting.

Take my blog for example to start with something simple– I thought often about writing something. I like to do it even if just for myself. It helps me to focus on something and to dedicate some time on something I like to do – outside of the family hectic. But somehow I didn’t even start to sit down and write instead I thought beforehand already what others might think, if the subject is even worth it, if it isn’t just a stupid thing to do, that I should use the time for something more productive etc etc etc – hence I totally dropped the ball again. Time to let go of the over thinking and to just get it going again. Even if it is just for me!

My career plans – I tend to heavily overanalyse, compare with others and to over plan instead of just follow my belief, my ideas and to go the next step and see where it leads me. The result? I get stuck! Time to let go of my self-doubts and worries and focus on what I believe I am good at and develop further.

Some relationships – sometimes you reach out and try to help, keep contact, try to support, to be there yet the other side might not want it, doesn’t see the problem or simply might not care. But being rejected starts to be more painful. Perhaps it is time just accept the situation – to let it go, to step back and see where it leads all involved, no matter if it is family or friends.

So these are my main areas in which I intend to “Let it Go” for 2015. The 365 pages for the year are still white – time to put some happy colours onto them.

Do you have areas that held you back in the previous year and where you think if you “Let it Go” it will give you some benefit?!  Then join me in this endeavour to breathe more freely and to put the energy into the right spot!

All the best to you out there,

Love, AK

let-it-go

(image via Google)