“So, when are you going back home?”

“This is my home.”

“Yeah but really, you won’t ever go back home?”

“Well, maybe if I get very sick or for some reason needed to rely on a welfare system… I wouldn’t choose the British one. That’s the only time I can imagine going back to Germany.”

This is the kind of conversation I would have frequently with people after living in the UK for a year or two, and it never offended me in the slightest. It’s a valid question. A year of two in the UK, or London, is apparently the upper limit for somebody from a wealthy European country. Why would you want to work some where for about the same amount of money but a much lower standard of living than “at home”?

My answer used to be: Because I feel home here. Because Britain is more multicultural, more open minded, more accepting. Because London, expensive and competitive as it is, has been good to me and offers more opportunities than any other place on earth.

Things have changed very fast in the past 2-3 years. Especially since the Brexit referendum, I feel no longer welcome. Suddenly, I am a foreigner, whose value is due to be determined in the upcoming negotiations.

Am I valuable enough? Am I integrated enough? Do I contribute enough?

Now, I get defensive when somebody asks me where I am from, automatically assuming they would rather have me leave. I hide the cover page of my passport while queuing for immigration, after people have repeatedly whispered „German!“ to each other, pointing at me.

I am German, and that now seems to make me the enemy of 52 % of the British people, at least if you believe the media.

(Do you?)

Germany, Britain’s long standing enemy, the country that people believe has ALL THE POWER in the EU.

In the past two years, I have looked far and hard for a new place to call home. While it is true that the grass is greener where you water it, and nobody is kicking me out of the UK (yet), I no longer feel like I want to contribute to British society.

I could fight back and be the „perfect“, contributing, integrated immigrant. Turns out that makes no difference to how I feel. I can keep paying taxes to a government that constantly makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. A government which spends my tax on nuclear power and weapons. A country and a government where every little thing is at odds with my values.

In the meantime, Germany has changed, too. Sure, you have read the news about all the danger, attacks and craziness that supposedly have taken hold of the country since GAZILLIONS of refugees have been taken in. I call that bullshit. Germany is still a much safer place than the UK. And oh hi, Middle Eastern food...

Society has been changing diametrically to the opposite. Cities that were once all white are now melting pots. Places that were never open to the idea of alternative lifestyles have been forced to accept them. And unlike the UK, I have the power to help make things change for the better (because yes, it’s not a wonderland of tolerance and acceptance, and right wing groups are gaining more traction there, too).

Most Germans look at the UK, the US, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey in wonder, and it seems that in protest against all the hate in the world, many are opening up, becoming more welcoming.

I have been looking for a place I can call home again, a base. Maybe – most likely – not for forever. I am not a bargaining chip. I don’t need the House of Lords or anybody to determine my value. I don’t need to beg for permanent residency.

I have been a minority all my life. Working class, female, lesbian, immigrant. High school dropout, youngest on just about any team I have ever been on. I know what being powerless feels like. And never, not once in my life have I chosen the easy way out of anything.

But I won’t hang around to watch this sinking ship, see my voice and my power being diminished day by day. I won’t be judged and measured by any but my own standards. There are several lifetimes of energy, options and dreams begging to be lived inside of me. 

I am taking them somewhere where I don’t need to waste them just to preserve my sanity. Where I can make a difference.

It looks like I will return very soon. 
Call it defeat, "giving up on Britain", if it makes you feel better.

To me, it feels like a decision made out of nothing but power. 

For the first time in my life.

February has been an odd month, with 3 weeks spent in the UK, which felt pretty much like what they were: Waiting for our flight to Latin America.

We got back to London from Hamburg on 1 February, and spent 10 days in London between Celine’s parents and a housesit in Hammersmith (which was smooth and uneventful). We then went to Bradford on Avon, a movie-set perfect, yet dull small town for another house sit, which did not go all that well. Communication with the owners had been difficult and we never got to meet them – instead we found a senile and mostly incontinent dog. Lesson learned: If home and pet owners do not communicate well from the beginning, stay clear!

On the 19th, it was off to Mexico, via Madrid and Bogota. Years ago, I swore myself not to ever fly Iberia again (inedible food, broken seats and no entertainment plus a massive delay on my Madrid-Lima flight), but it turned out that yet again, they were about $600 cheaper than any other airline per person for the return flight. The flight, apart from some glitches with seat assignment, turned out decent and much better than our recent experience with the much-lauded Emirates, which always seems to put me on their oldest plane.
After a 24-hour layover in a lovely airport hotel in Bogota and Mexican low cost carrier Interjet delaying our flight 4 hrs, we finally made it to Mexico City.

Mexico City  - Setting a new bar for travel in the Americas

Not sure how anything can beat Diego Rivera's murals!
It’s no secret that I am neither a fan of the Americas altogether nor of Latin and Spanish speaking cultures. I imagine this little German engineer-accountant hybrid at the very core of me screaming and winding itself in pain whenever I spend time in any kind of “slow down, relax” and “it can’t be hurried” kind of culture. I feel the same now. I felt the same throughout my entire trip in Latin America a few years ago, as well as whenever I visit Spain or Italy. Something about these cultures is simply at odds with my personality, which ENJOYS a fast-paced lifestyle and considers London and New York chilled out, relaxed cities at 100 % my speed.

Yet, Mexico City, has managed to win me over. It’s thousands of years of history, culture, art, it’s sheer vastness, and yes, even the differences between the fancy hipster bit, the upscale banking district, working class neighbourhoods and rough and tumble “no go” zones, and even its traffic (a lot more relaxed than I would have thought). Like London and like Osaka (and probably like NY for a lot of people, and cities like Bangkok and Hanoi), it’s not an easy place and not one that welcomes you with open arms, but one that pulls you in and doesn’t quite let you go…
We did some more low brow entertainment, too - Lucha Libre!
I fell for this big bad city head over heels, like I haven’t for any city since London or Osaka… and I am trying my very best to not be mopey now that I have another 3 weeks left in Mexico and Colombia OUTSIDE Mexico City. I already wish I could have just spent the entire 5-week trip in Mexico City.

Now with this unfair disadvantage for every other place we are going to visit, March will see us explore more of Mexico and down into Colombia…

I am not even a big fan or non performance art usually, but Mexico City pulls me in with street art, historical art, modern artists as well as classics... I have loved Frida Kahlo for a long time, so visiting her Blue House was a big highlight for me.
But really, how can you NOT love street art like this?

This post is long overdue, mostly due to the fact that it did not feel to me as if we were travelling at all in December and January.

But that isn't the whole story... although December set a record for not travelling!

Osaka & Kansai

We spent the entirety of December in Osaka, without even a single side trip to a nearby city or province. It was the most "normal" month we have had in a long time, and both managed to do a lot of work and get a semblance of routine in our lives. I managed to go running very frequently and converted Celine to join me with yoga practice. 

Christmas and New Years' Eve were uneventful, although we did attempt to go to a local temple on 1st of January (as is the custom in Japan, if you don't already go at midnight). It was too crowded though, and we just ate takoyaki instead... I think that's what a lot of other people also ended up doing.

Mid-January, a friend came to visit us in Japan, and for the last 10 days in the country, we ended up seeing a few more places in Kansai: Nara, which is always worth a visit, Arashiyama in Kyoto, which both Celine and I had never made it to before, and Himeji Castle, which I had been to before during the renovation. Out of all Japanese castles, this is the biggest and one of very few which are original and have not been rebuilt after the war. Himeji City pretty much is a one trick pony, but it's just a little over an hour from Osaka by train, so well worth the detour.

Back to London

So, this was the end of our Japan experiment (for now!), as no teaching job materialised for Celine. When we landed in London, culture shock hit us hard, especially since the UK is gradually turning into a more grim and hostile place, thanks to Brexit, politics and the general disillusionment of the population, no matter how they voted in the referendum. It's always good to catch up with friends, but this time, I knew upon landing what had been coming for a long time: I will not call London home in a very, very long time to come. Being told on a daily basis how I don't belong, having random strangers asking me "When are you going home?" might not be as bad as downright hostility or racism, but it does not make for a country I feel comfortable living in. 

A whirlwind Germany trip

After a few days in London, we set off to Düsseldorf to catch up with friends and family on the other side of the canal. Mostly, there was food and dogs! I also managed to pick up a new snazzy backpack for our upcoming trip, which I had sent to my mum. We then popped over to Leipzig for a gig and also to meet a friend, and then spent a few days in Hamburg, mostly to look at what is going to be our home for the spring and summer. A nasty cold managed to grab hold of me, so I spent most of the time in our Airbnb, pitying myself.

Coming up: Mexico, Colombia and Hamburg!

On 1st February, we landed back in London, where we are spending 10 days, followed by another 9 days housesitting in a small town near Bath. This year is going to have a lot less travel than the previous two years, but before we settle in for the spring and summer, we will be spending 6 weeks in two countries we've been meaning to see for a long time: Mexico and Colombia!

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