feels like home

Dear Berlin,

This letter is long overdue. Six years in fact. But here goes. 

When I landed at Tegel Aiport on 28 April 2009 I had no idea what to expect of you. Sure, the bits and pieces friends had told me conjured ideas in my mind of what you might be like, but we both know those mind’s eye expectations are almost always off the mark. 

I was warned you would be cold (literally) and harsh. And I have seen these sides of you, but I’ve also seen so much else. At times I have loved your penchant for freedom, your anything (and anyone) goes attitude, the green spacious arms you seem to extend to us with each emerging spring, but I have also hated you. The barks you taught me deal out in order to hold my own while paying for my groceries, ordering a coffee or navigating your bureacratic mazes. The endless winters drained of light and colour. I could go on adding to both columns. 

Here’s the thing. At some point in the blur of finding my feet, learning a new language and integrating in a new culture, I let my guard down. I opened my heart to you and called you home. In the process I learnt that the places and people we love the most are the ones who can cut the deepest for better but sometimes also for worse. You have broken my heart but you have also given me room to become myself. In short you have shown me sides of love I never understood before I had the chance to live them. 

There are still days where I walk your streets and feel like an outsider looking in, but something else you have taught me is that this sense is not as rare as I’d like to think. In our humanity we are so often alienated from God, ourselves and others. Venturing into the unknown has illuminated a challenge so many of us spend our lives wrestling with: How to truly connect. 

Thank you for never being precious with me and for showing me that no deep connection can be divorced from its share of pain. So much beauty is forged in the fire. 

Who knows how much longer we have together. Life loves nothing more than to surprise us. At some point I may move on and find myself calling another place home. Please know that I carry you – and everything I have learnt and lived here – with me.  

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