Cultural Connections

German kidsI was in Boston for work this past week and while there, met up with my brother to take my nephew Otto to the German consulate in Boston to register him as a German citizen!  My siblings and I were all born in Germany. In fact, we moved to the US not long after my brother was born. My Dad was naturalized when I was little, but my Mom and my siblings and I kept our German citizenship all these years. Over the years, of course, I’ve debated about whether to give it up. I’ve lived in the US since I was five and in so many ways (most ways in fact) consider myself an American through and through, but still over the years, keeping my German passport and identity has meant a lot to me. It’s an important part of who I am. Now even more so since my parents have passed away, I feel it connects me to them, to family and to our heritage, in a way that is special and unique. Also, somehow, having this connection to another country and culture has also brought me a different perspective on the world and on living in the US. As a baby born to a German citizen, Otto also inherits German citizenship. I am happy that my brother and Evan wanted to give Otto that connection too. I think my Mom and Dad would have been very proud too. With a name like Otto, how could he not be German! I was a bit nervous about the consulate visit. My my role was as interpreter (since my brother’s German consists of “Ein Bier bitte!) and while my German is OK,  German bureaucratic and legal forms are a challenge for my conversational German. But we did OK and the folks at the consulate were incredibly nice. In fact, we did the whole procedure in English. The Germans are picky about names and you can’t name your kid just anything. The US tendency for unusual/bizarre names is not the norm in Germany and it used to be that you had to get approval for a birth name. I think that is no longer strictly true but still, I think the consulate administrator was stunned to meet a baby Otto. And I love the photo of Philp and Evan with Otto in front of the consulate sign—my brother looks so much like my Dad in that photo. The whole process was a good test run for my baby, who as an adopted child would also inherit the same right to German citizenship (and US citizenship too, of course). As parents—whether adoptive or birth parents—there is so much of ourselves that we pass on to our children. While as an adoptive parent I won’t be able to pass on my genetic DNA, I am so glad to be able to share this cultural DNA. And who knows where life will take him or her. Maybe he or she will want to live in Germany someday.

Breathtaking views

I am travelling for work this week, so the weekend has been a bit of a scramble packing, organizing things around the house and dealing with errands. So, it was a lovely break to take a hike with my friend Sophia. Somehow, all these years in the Bay Area, I have never hiked Mt Tam in Marin. I’m not sure why—it’s such an iconic location for the Bay AreaMt Tam View with views of the Pacific, the bay, San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. You can see Mt Tam even from Berkeley and most days on our evening walk, Bodhi and I catch the sun setting over Mt Tam in the distance. I’ve been all over but somehow never made it onto Mt Tam. I love hiking and one of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area is the easy access to outdoors and nature. It’s still amazing to me that minutes from the city, you can be in the middle of nowhere.  I love the fact that I am able to be outside every day, with relatively little effort. I love also that the people who live here feel so connected to nature and that so much effort is made to preserve special places like Mt Tam. Pt Reyes in Marin and Tilden Park, here in Berkeley.  Saturday was as a beautiful day—there was a bit of fog but what would San Francisco be without fog! Even with the fog, the views over the city were amazing. Sophia, who grew up here always laughs at me when I shout about how beautiful some view is and how lucky I am to live here. I do feel that way. I grew up on the east coast, in Connecticut, and went to college in New England too. California was not on my mindset. My first time in California was coming to San Francisco for graduate school interviews. I was quickly hooked. I remember driving through the Berkeley hills and over the Bay Bridge and that was it. I needed to be here. I still feel really lucky and blessed to be able to make my life here.  I am looking forward to sharing this all with my child and introducing him/her to all that is so special about this amazing place. There are now quite a few more hassles about living in the Bay Area than when I lived here first as a graduate student—the cost of living, the traffic, the crowds—but even today, whenever I catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge coming, or the sunset over the Pacific, or the glistening hills of San Francisco,  I still catch my breath and say to myself, “how lucky am I!”

A Super (un)Super Bowl weekend

FlowerlandThe Bay Area has been in the midst of Super Bowl madness the last few weeks. Downtown San Francisco streets are shut down for the “Super Bowl City” and the horrendous Bay Area traffic is even worse than it’s normally very bad. Not being a football fan or caring about the game, I had a lovely weekend staying put and avoiding crossing into Super Bowl-cisco! Yesterday Bodhi and I did some work in the garden.  My garden is my happy space and I’ve been excited to get back out there, after a rainy January. With all the rain, the ground is nice and soft so perfect for gardening. I’m on weekend two of my latest garden project to put in a new garden bed and plant some fruit trees. My little digger dog loves to be in the thick of things. If only I could train his digging on the right spots! Saturday night I met a friend for a movie, to catch up on the pre-Oscar nominees. On Sunday, I went to the San Francisco Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm  with my friend Phil for a Dharma talk and a Japanese tea ceremony presentation. I love Green Gulch. It’s a really beautiful and contemplative place. The gardens are gorgeous and peaceful and there’s just a feeling of intense calm when you arrive. As it turned out, this weekend there was a children’s program, so the place was overrun by kids, which was a bit of a surprise and definitely added some noise to the normal quiet zen atmosphere but it turned out to be quite nice.  It reminded me of my childhood church where we had a special children’s sermon. It was amazing to see the little ones in the Zendo listening intently to the Zen priest and taking in his very kid friendly talk on why monsters and fears and worries we all have are nothing to be afraid of. Lessons that even we grown ups can benefit from. I’m glad that I can add Green Gulch as one more kid-friendly and fun place to bring my kids! Over lunch, we took a nice walk and since Green Gulch is just next to Muir Beach, we made our way over to The Pelican Inn, a super cute British style pub, for lunch. While I love Green Gulch, I don’t love the spartan zen food—especially when The Pelican Inn is right there! It was an all around great super bowl weekend!