Back to Tokyo!

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Last autumn, we went on a very special holiday. I’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time. After 4 years I finally set foot on Japanese soil again and you know what!? It felt like I’d never been gone! I even managed to brush up my rusted Japanese while we were there. Since we did so many things and took tons of photos I’d like to share with you, I’ll split this up in several posts. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as we did. So let’s get started with Tokyo, the place I’d called my home for a year back in 2009/2010.

Our trip didn’t start off as nicely as we’d hoped for. When we got to the airport in Frankfurt we learned that our first flight to London was delayed by an hour because it was too foggy for the incoming plane to land. Of course, there’d been nothing but clear skies the previous days. Oh well! Since we had 2 hours between flights we were still positive we’d make it in time. Until we finally sat on the plane and nothing happened. We had to wait for connecting passengers and by the time we got to Heathrow, we had only 10 minutes until boarding was closing. I was still hoping they’d wait for us like we’d waited for the other passengers, but of course they didn’t. The next possible flight wasn’t until 6 hours later. Bummer! But well, somehow we managed to kill the time and after a pleasant flight we finally made it to Haneda airport. We took the bus to Shinjuku station and while we were making our way into central Tokyo, so many memories popped up in my head and I was overflowing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to show M around, to take him to all the places that had been part of my life for such a long time.

From Shinjuku station it was a short subway ride to our hotel. This station can be a pain in the ass as its one of the busiest in the world with millions of passengers every day. It’s basically a maze and I got lost more than once on the search for the right train line during the first months. I’m pretty sure M had his first little culture shock there since we got there during the evening rush hour and I think he didn’t expect me to know what I was doing. But we made our way to the subway without getting lost, yay! The second cultur shock for M was when we saw the shoe box that was our hotel room.

IMG_2590I have no idea how many times we bumped into furniture or our suitcases while moving about, but that’s the way things are in Japan and we didn’t spend much time at the hotel anyway. Plus, since we were pretty high up, we had a nice view over the city.Desktop_01

After a very long sleep, it was finally time for sightseeing. First, we went to Meiji-jingu, a big shinto shrine which I’d visited many times before. Before we went inside, I made the mistake of sitting down at the bottom of a tree in front of the big entrance gate and immediately got whistled at by a guard. Ooops! Well, I was already pregnant at the time and needed a rest, so, sorry! At first, we took a stroll through the adjacent garden, a first time for me as well, then went on to the shrine itself. IMG_2723As a contrast to the tranquility of the shrine, we afterwards walked through Harajku’s Takeshita dori, a narrow street with lots of fashion boutiquesm some of them selling pretty extraodinary clothes (even for Japanese standards). IMG_2741From there, we walked down to Shibuya, a part of the city I’d spent a lot of time at since I’d worked there and had frequently gone out for after work drinks in the area. I’d always loved standing at the famous Shibuya crossing, waiting for the lights to turn green and then letting myself drift along with the crowd. Standing there again after such a long time was a very special moment for me, kind of magical. Desktop_05We walked around on Center Gai for a bit, a shopping street with colourful stores and neon lights, pretty popular among the youth. IMG_2810When we got hungry, I rembered a sushi restaurant I’d been to several times before and after searching around for a bit, I finally found it. It wasn’t the same chain as before, but a way cooler one. You could order your sushi via a screen and after a few minutes the food arrived on a little train. What an awesome idea! Since I was pregnant and in Germany doctors recommend not to eat raw food, I decided to stick to the non-raw and veggie options. When I saw M indulging in all the sushi goodness, I felt tempted to try just one piece, but I didn’t dare. Japanese women would probably laugh at me, but well, there were plenty of other great things to eat waiting for me on the trip, so it was ok. IMG_2779Since the cafe I used to work at was only a short walk from the restaurant, we decided to pay it a visit after dinner. But unfortunately I had to find out that the place had been closed down. I have to admit that this made me pretty sad since I had hoped to see some of my former colleagues. On the other hand, it wasn’t such a big surprise to see a place had vanished since Tokyo is constantly changing and doing so pretty fast. So we took the train back to Shinjuku and went for an evening stroll in the Kabuki-cho area, an entertainment district, and through the bar-lined alleys of Golden Gai. All in all, it was an awesome first day back in Japan.IMG_2816

Hello again!

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Oh wow, it’s been such a long time since I’ve made an appearance here. Over a year, I can’t believe it! And to be honest, I don’t really know how to start after such a long hiatus. Should I just continue where I stopped? Or should I explain? I don’t even know how it came to that long break from blogging. There were many times during the past year when I had an idea for a post and made a note in my mind to write it down. Sometime. But then for some reason the urge to write wasn’t strong enough and quickly I had other things on my mind. And somehow, over time I forgot that this blog even existed.

This past year, there was so much going on in my personal life that I somehow lost my interest in creating things. Not only did I stop blogging, I also stopped making music. Partly, this was due to a lack of time, but mostly because I was busy creating something else. Probably the most amazing “thing” a human being is able to create. A miracle. And I gave birth to that miracle 11 weeks ago. That’s right, I am the mother of a beautiful baby girl now! :) The cutest baby in the world (of course!). I still have to pinch myself from time to time to make sure this is not just a dream. That we really are parents now. And I can’t help but think that life does have its funny ways. When I started this blog back in 2011, having a baby wasn’t on my mind at all. To be honest, starting a family seemed more like the opposite of how I wanted my life to be at the time. When I was younger, I was sure I wanted to have kids one day. But when I was approaching 30, I wasn’t that sure anymore. There were still so many things I wanted to do and see and explore. And I certainly didn’t feel mature enough to raise another human being. Then, when I met the boyfriend (who is now my husband btw, I know, crazy, right!?) my view changed again. Early into our relationship, we had the kids talk and were both sure we wanted to have children together. One day.

That day came sooner than I thought though. One day it just hit me out of the blue. Suddenly, the world was full of pregnant women and young mothers with babies. And I wanted nothing more than being one of them. Immediately. I had no idea where that utter wish to have a baby suddenly came from. But it was there, not willing to leave me alone anytime soon. Of course, I talked to the boyfriend about it who wasn’t as enthusiastic as me about the idea of having a baby. Not just yet. But over time, he grew more and more fond of the idea and so one day in June we just decided to go for it. 2 months later I peed on a stick and a magical pink line appeared. I remember that day like it was yesterday. How we were standing in the bathroom looking at that piece of plastic in disbelief. It was one of the happiest days of my life, only to be topped by the day we said “yes” to each other and the moment we heard the first scream of our daughter.

And now here I am, writing a new blog post while our cute little baby (who is actually not that little anymore, they’re growing so fast!) is peacefully sleeping next to me. Oh wait, did I say peacefully? Of course, she just woke up screaming at that very moment I wrote the word “peacefully” down. No kidding! So, I gotta go for now. But I promise I’ll be back soon. I’m not sure how often I’ll actually be able to post something because it’s not entirely up to me anymore how I spend my time. But I promise it won’t be another year. And I also promise it won’t just be all about babies from now on. Because I’m still me. Even though being a Mom is making up most of my days now, I’m more than that. I’m still a dreamer, a traveller, a music lover and so much more. My life is still an adventure, probably more than ever. So I hope you’re staying around.

Why I love music festivals (and Rock im Park in particular)

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Hey there, I’m sorry it’s been a little quiet on here lately, but summer has finally arrived, so I’ve been trying to spend as much time out in the sun as possible. When I’m not working that is. I’ve also just returned from a week-long holiday that took us to Nuremberg for a music festival and to Lake Constance for a few days of much needed relaxation after rocking out for 4 days. The weather was just amazing every single day, even though it was almost a little too hot for my taste, but hey, I’m not complaining about that. Of course I want to tell you all about our recent adventures and I’ll start with the music-side of our trip which took us back to Rock im Park, one of Germany’s biggest and personally my favourite music festival. We’d already been there last year and since we had a great time it was clear we needed to be back.

It seems there are basically 2 different types of music lovers – the ones who love festivals and the ones who hate them. I’d always wanted to visit one, but I have to say that a lot of things I’d heard and seen about festivals made me doubt if it would actually be enjoyable for me. First of all, I don’t really like camping. It’s not the hygiene or lack thereof that I’m worried about. But I need a decent night’s sleep. I don’t function well without it and something that’s supposed to be fun can easily turn into a nightmare if I’m sleep-deprived. So the prospect of sleeping in a tent on uncomfy ground being kept awake by drunken party people didn’t seem very appealing to me. Then I’m not the biggest fan of huge crowds. I love going to concerts, but being stuck in the middle of thousands of people makes me feel utterly uncomfortable. So the thought of 70.000 people piling up in front or constantly moving between stages kinda scared me. And while I like drinking and having fun, I’m definitely not a person who enjoys being pissed 3 or 4 days straight or to the extent of not being able to walk, talk or stand properly. Neither do I like being  harassed by people who act this way while trying to enjoy the music. These were the thoughts I had before I went to Rock im Park for the first time. And you know what? None of them were actually true in the way I had imagined them. Except for the camping part of which I had my fair share at Southside festival where I basically didn’t sleep for 3 days because it was a) freezing cold and b) the only place we could find for our tent was on a hillside. But: there’s a solution to this which you’ll find, among others, in my reasons for loving music festivals.

1. Music, music, music – all day long

Of course, for me the main reason to visit a music festival is the music itself. I always have a few bands I definitely want to see. This year for example these were Portugal. The Man (who I’d seen as a support band in March), Maximo Park (who always make for a great show), Metallica (because I’d never seen them before and well, it’s Metallica) and Linkin Park. But I also love to explore new bands who I have or haven’t heard about before. We often just wandered from stage to stage and stopped when we liked the sound of the band playing. This year I really enjoyed Kasabian, Fall Out Boy and New Politics and I’ll definitely buy a few albums of theirs. I know a lot of oldschool festival-goers have been complaining that the lineups, especially of Rock im Park and Rock am Ring, have become very mainstream over the past years and the “Rock” in the title has been neglected more and more. I do agree with that at least to some extent, but I’ve always been able to find plenty of bands I like.

2. It’s not like they show you on TV

As I said before, my opinion of festivals was highly influenced by the way it was depicted by media. Drunk, half-naked, screaming people, garbage, dirt, pee, puke everywhere. Of course you get that, too, at least to some extent. But it’s not like you won’t enjoy yourself if you’re not the 24/7 party animal. I actually found the festival crowd to be a very pleasant bunch of people. The atmosphere was always very relaxed and everybody was just trying to have the greatest time they could have, whatever that means for the individual person. Of course, you will get hit on by a drunk person from time to time if you’re a girl. But as long as it doesn’t get annoying, that’s ok. And the boyfriend always made sure they left quickly. Of course, several 10.000 people will leave their traces, so garbage definitely is an issue. But it’s not like you can’t sit down on the ground anymore or something like that. Just make sure you don’t wear your newest clothes and especially shoes (you most likely won’t want to wear them anymore judging by all the undefinable things you’ll find on their soles). Using portable toilets definitely isn’t for the squeamish, but it’s bearable if you know how to breathe through your mouth and make sure not to look around too closely. And be cautious if a toilet is free despite there being a huge queue. You don’t wanna have a look into that one. As always there’s also a luxury option if you really can’t bring yourself to use a portable toilet. The normal version usually costs you a little fee (at RiP it was 0,50€) and you’ll probably have to bear with quite some waiting time.

3. Moshpit or chilling in the back? You can have it all!

One reason I like Rock im Park so much is how the festival area is laid out. There’s lots of space in front of the stages, so if you don’t like being in the middle of the crowd you can just sit down on the grass in the back and still see something thanks to the huge screens on the side of the stages. There are also a few trees around, so we were even able to stay in the shade when the heat was too unbearable during the day. This actually saved me because I don’t really cope well with heat. We had temperatures of around 35 degrees for almost all 4 days, so it was really, really hot. On the last day, I dared to step into the sun in front of the stage to see Maximo Park at 2 pm. I jumped and danced around, but after their set was over I was in desperate need of some shade and water. The barriers in the crowd are also set out pretty nicely, so it never gets overcrowded (at least from what I’ve seen) in the area in front of the stage. We went to the front of the main stage to see Linkin Park playing and there was still plenty of space in the back. The only time when it can get a little tight and pushy is when entering the front area, especially right after a band has finished playing. But it’s never been too bad when I went.

4. You don’t have to sleep in a tent

The great thing about Rock im Park, especially for me as a camping-hater, is its close proximity to the city center of Nuremberg. The train will take you from the main station to a stop nearby the festival area in a few minutes and then it’s only a short walk and you’re in the middle of it all. It’s so convenient! We stayed in a hotel near the main station, had a nice lie-in, then went for breakfast and showed up at the festival well rested and showered. I know a lot of people think that camping is part of the real festival experience. But for me it’s just the perfect way.

I’m currently looking into other festivals to attend this summer. Probably only for a day trip since I’ve already planned most of my holiday. I really, really recommend to visit a music festival if you’re into music. It’s so much fun! I’m really dying to go to one again soon.

A piece of art

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Last week something important and, in a way, life-changing happened. I’d been planning on this for quite a while. I’d always wanted to do it, but I never really had the guts. Or maybe I was just lacking inspiration to deal with it any further. Until Christmas, when the boyfriend surprised me with the most amazing and, for me, totally unexpected present of – a tattoo voucher. He knew how much I wanted to have one because I kept talking about it whenever I saw someone with permanent ink on their skin walking by. I was SO excited! I went to the website of the studio he’d picked to take a look at the works of their artists – and I immediately knew who I wanted to make my tattoo. There was a girl which had done really amazing work, not just the average tattoo you can find on so many other people, but something that looked unique and had a style that was exactly my taste. Check!

Next up I needed to find my design. I wanted to have a design that meand something to me. That reflects a piece of myself. I wanted a piece of art to stay with me forever, not just something I picked on a whim. For the longest time, I was thinking of getting a tiny tattoo on my wrist. Something along the lines of “Believe” or something. Because that’s what I am. A believer. But I could instantly name at least 3 people I know who have something like that. And I didn’t want to be one of them. Then, one day in March, I came across what I’d been looking for. A picture by Jason Byron Nelson that had always spoken to me whenever I saw it. A girl that’s holding a gun to her head and the blood that drips from her wound is morphing into butterflies flying away. I just wanted to have the blood (or something similar) and the butterflies. So badly. I found it reflected so many times I’ve gone through in my life. Which were tough. And painful. But in the end lead to something beautiful. In fact, I think it’s a great metaphor for life in general. There’s good times and there’s bad times. The latter leave their traces on us, but they can’t stop us from letting the former dominate.

So I found my piece of art and went to the studio to make an appointment. May 7th was the day I was supposed to get inked. And that day came quicker than I thought. Suddenly it was time to head to the studio. I was pretty nervous. Not so much about the pain, but about the way it was gonna turn out. Something that was going to stick with me forever. I think that’s definitely something to be a little nervous about. I was glad the boyfriend came with me. And even more glad that the tattoo artist turned out to be as amazing as I thought she would be. She really took the time to work out the design with me. After a while I had a tattoo drawn on my arm and was ready to get it inked. My dream of getting a small tattoo on my wrist turned out to be a colourful painting stretching from my lower arm to my upper arm in the end. It is also pretty different from the original. We just took it as an example and developed it into something really unique. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I always knew I wanted to have a tattoo to show a piece of myself. My view on life. I also wanted something to be noticed by people. But also something I could hide from those who shouldn’t see this side of me. And that’s exactly what I got. Just like the message of said painting, I had to go through 4,5 hours of pain which was sometimes more, sometimes less bearable. And in the end, something beautiful was born.

It took me quite a few days to realize that I’ve really done it. That this picture is now going to stick with me forever. I have to giggle everytime I look at it. I know some people think I’m crazy (either in a good or a bad way) because I picked a fairly big tattoo for a first-timer. But it’s perfect to me. It’s a dream come true and I couldn’t be happier about it. Just look at it!!!

Is it ok to be proud?

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I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. Especially when I was in London for work a few weeks ago. Almost exactly one year after I’d been there for a little holiday over Easter. It had just been a week or 2 after I’d been at home for a week because of all the stress at work and the pressure I’d put on myself. I was having a hard time enjoying my time in London back then. What had happened was still affecting me. I couldn’t believe something like that had happened to me, I didn’t understand it all in its enirety yet. And I still had to fight with the aftereffects. Months and months after that.

One year later I was back in London and the work situation was pretty similar to the one of the previous year. Lots of work, lots of responsibility and so little time. There were and are times where I feel under pressure. And it’s not the easiest thing to calm myself down when this happens. There’s always the fear that the panic attacks might come back. They have been flaring up here and there in extremely stressfuls situations. But I’ve learned how to breathe them away and it usually works. The difference this year is that I’m aware of all this. I know the triggers and I know how to handle them. And I do talk about it with the boyfriend and even my boss when I need to. After I came back from London, having worked almost 70 hours that week and only half a day off before the new work week started, I asked to work from home for a day. I knew I needed that rest. The old me would’ve dragged herself to work. So yeah, even though it might just be little things I’m very proud of the way I’m dealing with it.

I know this is a phase and less stressful times will come sooner or later. This situation at work right now is a challenge and one I want to take on. I know this will move me a lot further in my career, it’s a chance to learn and show what I’m capable of. I’m not a real career person, but when a challenge like this comes along I take it. And that’s another difference I’ve noticed compared to last year. Back then I didn’t want to be in that job anymore. Much later I realized this was basically just due to a superior and the way she was treating me. Ever since I stopped working with her, things have changed for the better. So attitude towards your jobs plays a huge role. I wasn’t really aware of that back then. At least not that much. But things have suddenly become so much easier since I’ve decided I wanted to be there. I wanted to identify myself with that job again. I don’t see myself doing this job for the rest of my life. And of course I wish it would leave me a little more time for my real dreams and passions right now. I’ve been neglecting music big time over the past few months and we’re just starting to get back into it. But in a way this job makes it possible for me to pursue these things. It gives me financial freedom. We’ve recently moved into our dream apartment which wouldn’t have been possible if we both didn’t have well paying jobs. We’re going on holiday in Japan this fall. And we’re able to finance a rehearsing room and music equipment (and every musician knows that you can spend a fortune on stuff like that). And we’re making plans for a future together.

A year ago I only saw my job as a burden and a hindrance to pursueing my dreams. When it actually does help me to get closer to them in a way. And it feels good to be aware of that. Especially during tough times like these.

Luminale in Frankfurt

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As I promised a while ago, I wanted to make a special post for the final day of March’s photo challenge. I do realize it’s May already and to be honest I have no idea how we got there. But since I still wanted to share the pictures I (and to be precise, the boyfriend as well) took on that day, here you go!

The task of the day was to take 9 pictures throughout the day. I actually intended to document my day, but since it was a working day, there actually wouldn’t have been many interesting things to show. And to be honest, while working I just forgot about it. BUT! I had planned something special for that evening, so I decided to document that instead. And thanks to the boyfriend’s new DSLR we took some amazing pictures. We went to Luminale which is a “light festival” in Frankfurt meaning there are light installations all around the city. It’s a lot of fun to wander around and explore all the different sites, but there are far too many to see them all. This year, we went to Palmengarten, a botanical garden, and went for a stroll. It was a beautiful spring day which made it the perfect evening activity. I hope you enjoy the pictures. And make sure to visit Luminale if you’re ever in town when it’s on!

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An evening at Dippemess

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Yay, the Easter weekend is finally here! I have been looking forward to having 4 days off so much after the busy weeks before. Last weekend I basically had only half a day off on Sunday because I came back from London around noon. I was absolutely knackered when I finally arrived back in Frankfurt. On Monday, I felt like having a jetlag, just from having to get up around 6 in the morning and working until late at night while I was in London. It was crazy! And this week wasn’t any less busy. I don’t really know how I made it through, I literally had to drag myself to work yesterday. But I made it and while we’re busy in a different way this weekend (with the apartment and family things), there’ll also be time to relax. I definitely deserve it!

To start off the long weekend, we had one of our surprise dates yesterday. Being the bad girlfriend I am I guessed what the boyfriend had planned before he had a chance to surprise me. To be fair, I only did because I’d planned the exact same thing for the next week. But it wasn’t any less fun! We went to Dippemess, a fair which is held every spring in Frankfurt. We’d already been there last year and liked it so much we wanted to come back. To be honest, I don’t really know why I like it that much. There isn’t any difference to other fairs in Germany, really. There’s a ferris wheel, a rollercoaster, a ghost train, a water ride and many more rides. Of course, there’s a wide choice of food and drinks as well.

After walking through the whole place, we decided we didn’t really feel like going on any rides. I was too tired for a thrill. Instead, we got some fries, Currywurst and a beer and sat down watching the people passing by. And then we discovered something: UFO catchers (you know those claw machines you can win stuffed animals and other toys with). Playing UFO catcher was a real hobby for me when I lived in Japan. It could’ve  easily turned into an addiction. Maybe it already was. I have no idea how much money I spent and how many stupid toys I won. It wasn’t about the prizes, it was about winning, about perfecting that skill to get the thing you want into that damn hole. Unfortunately, German UFO catchers are a real pain in the ass. Their claws work a lot different from Japanese ones, so I never really bothered to play. But yesterday we did. I’d spotted a little minion which looked like it was possible to capture. And I was right. It took us 3 tries to get it. Yay! To celebrate our win, we bought some cocktails and sat down in a deck chair. Aaaaah, almost like holidays! It started to get pretty cold, so we went for one last look around and then headed home. I think I haven’t slept this well in a long time.

Happy Easter everyone!