I love a countdown. The 107 Best Rock Songs of All Time. The New York Times’ Best-seller List. Harper’s Bazaar’s Top 10 Trends for Spring. Shopping days left till festive holiday relevant to one’s religious/cultural leanings.
So I’ve started to count down. Forty-eight days.
There are exactly seven weeks, minus one day, until my wife and I head to the airport with our one suitcase each, folding bicycles and carry-on bag, full of what we think we will need for an entire year of living. Although seven weeks may seem like a long time the thought of 48 days makes me want me want to throw up a little. ‘Cause tomorrow morning when I wake up it will be 47.
And those days will be busy. There are plenty of decisions to make, tasks to accomplish and, most importantly, worry to be had.
I don’t go to the doctor very often, so infrequently in fact that when I do go in they need to go into the clinic archives to find my file (anything over two years they put away to save space). The reason I don’t go to the doctor is because I don’t think I should have to if there’s nothing really wrong. I have a chronic health issue that we are all dealing with quite nicely and other than that I’m good.
My wife on the other hand uses the doctor’s services, often has mysterious aches and pains that require medical attention and, due to the nature of her work (renovator), she often finds herself at the doctor’s office or in emergency asking for help in removing a sliver the size of a pencil. Add to all that the fact that neither one of us is in our 20s anymore.
So the question is do we get health insurance? It’s not cheap. But neither is having to pay out of pocket for an emergency appendectomy in Lisbon.
Berlin is an unbelievable city. It has survived wars, seen amazing celebrations and art throughout its history and is experiencing a renaissance fitting of a city of its calibre and ability. We chose it over other urban locales as a home base because of what it has to offer culturally, socially and because it’s ridiculously cheap. There is only one potential problem.
Neither one of us speaks German.
Obviously we speak English. My wife is fluent in French and I can get by in Canada’s other official language. Logic would have it that London or Paris or Geneva or Dublin would be better choices based on not only our future employment options, but our ability to take the bus, ask for directions and order a drink in a bar. And yet the land of currywurst, good beer and cheap cigarettes is where we will land in March after our months of “vacation.”
We signed up for German classes through the Toronto public school board. We were proactive and decided to be prepared when we got there — at least know the basics. We also learned we are the worst students ever, hate school and, after two classes, never went back. The problem? I still don’t know how to say, “Do you want fries with that?” or “Can I get you that in my size?”
Thanks to our network of friends, the pervasive nature of Facebook and the kick-ass appeal of our current apartment we have landed two lovely subletters. Not only have they agreed to live with our furniture — saving us the hassle of having to move it to storage — they will also be caring for our 13-year old cat.
So what do I have to worry about? My house catching on fire. My cat dying. A crazy house party where people spill drinks and ruin our sofa. The subletters suddenly becoming heinous over night, stiffing us for the rent and running a crack house out of our beloved pad. You know, things.
A dear old friend of mine suffers from a social affliction that I feel coming on, no matter how hard I try to fight it off: FOMO, the fear of missing out. Although I am generally not an insecure person, love who my community has become over the past 10 years in Toronto (and who I have become in it) and truly believe that friends are friends regardless of continental divide, I fear the FOMO.
The truth is it’s not even so much about missing out, it’s missing being a part of. Dinner parties, art openings and too many cocktails to count at the local are part of my regular routine. I see the same faces, laugh with the same people and meet new ones who I recognize the next time. I am sure that over time, and hopefully before the year is out, we will be well on our way to creating a community in our new city. But, like every new venture, there are potential pitfalls.
I’m hoping that the items I choose to bring, both in my suitcase and in my personal arsenal of coping tools, will be the right ones. If not, I hope I can find the right place to buy those perfect new pair of boots and a healthy dose of get-over-yourself.