Tag Archives: Love

Never be afraid to be who you are

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I’ve gone through so many phases of my life and have continued to develop who I am as a person a little bit more each time. My core values almost always remain the same, but sometimes the way we act on those values change, depending on our life situation, our age, or job, or love life, whatever it may be.

I’ve been in relationships in the past where I’ve felt myself bend too far, where the things I was willing to compromise on took too much out of me and I lost track for a while of what it was I was really looking for, and who I really was.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you should never be afraid to be who you are. Never try to change what makes you you, otherwise you will end up being unsure of yourself and possibly even resentful of the people around you who “forced” you to change.

Relationships are about compromise, it’s about fitting two completely different people who may view the world in very different ways, into one single relationship. It’s important that each person feels loved and happy with the other person, and that each person can be exactly who and how they are without having to worry if their partner will accept them or not. Of course, we may have to compromise behaviors, or the way we are used to doing things, (i.e. I mix my darks and lights in one load, and my fiancé likes to keep them separate. It also drives him crazy that I leave the laundry in the washing machine long after its done and really don’t mind taking clean clothes straight out of the dryer to put on each day…) so you have to be mindful of what’s going to push your partner’s buttons and at least try not to do them, but not when it comes to questions of your character or moral beliefs. You should always stay true to yourself and to what’s important to you. And the other things, you will find, aren’t such a big deal to compromise on when your “love tank” is full and you feel loved for who you are.

You are the only one who is responsible for leading your life and for being the person you are meant to be. Only you can control your fate and where you go next. So do what I do, check in with yourself from time to time and make sure you are happy. Make sure you are fulfilled and satisfied, if you are with a partner, make sure they make you feel loved each and every day. And if not, maybe it’s time to reconsider the choices you’ve made, and the actions you took to lead you down the “wrong” path. I say “wrong” because I don’t believe anywhere you go in life is without its lessons. We all make mistakes and we can all carve a new future for ourselves at any time, but if you don’t stop to take a look around once in a while and see if that’s where you really want to be, you might just get swept up in a current of frustration!

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Friends Get Married

I’ve hit that age when everyone you know starts getting married. Some even start having (gasp!) babies! In the last year alone I’ve been to weddings in Serbia, the U.S., Germany, and Paraguay (oh, and there was that time I met my BFF’s baby in the Bahamas.) It’s expensive to keep up with so many friends and their love lives, but it’s also so much fun!

Every country has their traditions – some of them seem weird (actually, no, they ARE weird, but let’s not debate semantics here) but they are all equally as crucial for the couple getting married and for the guests in attendance. Here is a list of some of the things I found to be the strangest, or most unique, in the “foreign weddings” I attended this year:

SERBIA

Vladi and Ive

Vladi and Iva

  • The first wedding is in a church (pretty standard) and not all wedding guests are invited to attend – this is usually a small, intimate ceremony that lasts about half an hour – the couple must accept congratulations and smile and pose with every guest who came to the church for the photographer
  • When you walk outside the church, there are local gypsy brass bands that come up to the wedding party and play music – their music becomes more insistent the longer they play, often putting the horn of the instrument directly in your ear and playing at full volume until you give them some cash (at this particular wedding the best man also brought the gypsy band to the party, much to the delight of all the guests) – keep in mind, these guys can pull in thousands of dollars a night for a big wedding
  • When you arrive to the reception, the couple once again stands outside and poses with every. single. guest. (in this case about 350 people) Only after every guest had their photo op does the party begin.
  • Lots and lots of different cakes.
  • Oh, and the photographers have printers on hand and walk around the party distributing photos that guests can buy on the spot (this is not so much weird as awesome!)
Brass Band

Gypsy Brass Band

GERMANY

(This was a mixed wedding: half East German half Northern England, i.e. Geordie)

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Ali and Neil

  • Straight from leaving the church the friends of the bride and groom hold up an old bedsheet which has a giant heart drawn in the middle, and the name of the bride and groom inside of that. The bride and groom are each given a pair of tiny scissors and they must work together to cut the heart shape out. Once complete, the groom then carries the bride through the opening they’ve created in the sheet.374396_10152077898159278_1848781778_n
  • German tradition is that as the first true test of marriage, the newly wedded couple must work together as a team to saw apart a foot in diameter log using an old school, massive saw. The first marital row, if you will, ensues.995734_10152077899664278_1485770867_n
  • This might just be East German, not totally sure, but the bride and groom are each given two giant loaves of bread – they must create a pair of shoes from this bread. The first one to walk across the stage (or room) in their new shoes wins!
  • Each guest is given a balloon filled with helium and a postcard pre-addressed to the bride and groom. Each guest writes a message to the couple and ties the postcard to the balloon. Everyone releases the balloons at the same time (great photo op!) Once the balloon finally lands (wherever that may be) it’s up to any random stranger passing by who finds it to mail it back to the couple. (Strangely, our postcard made it back to Ali and Neil from the Czech Republic!)

PARAGUAY

(This was a mixed wedding half Paraguayan half Colombian – so the traditions may be a bit mixed up – at least in my mind)

Nati and Luis

Nati and Luis

  • There is a traditional Paraguayan dance at the beginning of the reception and every guest must dance for a few minutes with the bride and groom (men with the bride, women with the groom) and smile for a photo op!
  • Ligas – this took me a while to understand! The bride has about 20 garters under her dress (one garter for each single woman at the wedding). One garter is special (i.e. a different color) and the rest are traditional white. The bride sits opposite the single women (one at a time) and they each lift their right leg and touch the souls of the shoes. The groom then takes one garter from the bride’s leg and must slide it across their legs and feet and up the thigh of the single lady. His “last chance to touch another woman” if you will! The woman who gets the colorful garter is the next to marry. Ligas in Paraguay
  • Masks/hats/whistles/glow sticks/silly string, etc – Boxes of costume-like hats and whistles, (see list above) are distributed to guests to liven things up. I have to admit, this makes the party a hell of a lot more fun!
  • Whiskey – easy as that, the drink of choice for the night is whiskey, the nicer the better
  • For the Colombian tradition that stood out most, aside from sharing a bottle of whatever they were passing around, is some dance where a woman lies on the floor (or I suppose it could also be a man?) and all the party guests dance feverishly over her. (See example of Mapale here.)

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As I continue to grow my international network of friends, I will continue to observe the oddities of culture, which are never more openly displayed than in time-honored traditions such as weddings!

Moving In

So as some of you know or remember, I recently got engaged in early December. In all the excitement of the engagement we realized living in separate cities wasn’t really going to work for us. In all fairness, we decided this a few months back…maybe even years…but now was the time to make it a reality.

While I flew across the Atlantic to the far side of the United States for Christmas, on what seemed like an endless number of flights, my fiance packed up a moving van of all his belongings (except for his shoes, skis, sheets, and other odds and ends that were temporarily left behind in Zurich,) and drove the 10 hours home to Berlin.

Living-together

In Berlin he was greeted by 2 guys we had gotten in touch with previously who helped him unload the van into the apartment for a small fee. I can’t imagine how much work went into that day (yes, this all happened in ONE DAY,) but I am grateful that he was able to take care of everything and my obviously weak body, (see previous post about hiring a personal trainer,) was not forced to lift heavy boxes. When did I become such a girl?

I digress…so A is now officially sitting in Berlin. Well, more realistically sleeping in Berlin, working in Berlin, cooking in Berlin, (this is one of my favorite things he does here!) and making a life for himself us here.

And here comes the fun part, (or is it?) figuring out what else we need in the apartment, how can we make it feel home for us both, where do we hang that painting or photo, who gets to unload the dishwasher once its complete, and the “why do you always leave [object name here] on the couch/chair/floor/bed/bathtub? Ah the joys of moving in with someone and learning all their little idiosyncracies and quirks. (Actually, I found quite a true blog post from Lofty Appetite about this very same topic recently!)

living-together-testSo in the weeks that follow the initial move, and all the weeks and months and years to come, let’s hope love keeps us strong and the adjustment period fades quickly 🙂

A Happy Ending in 2012

To say 2012 has been a crazy year would be an understatement. The amount of eye-opening and life-changing experiences I’ve had over the year have been nothing short of a blessing, both the good and the bad, and a true example of character development and personal growth.

From start to finish – from ending a relationship to rekindling a great love, from working my butt off to lobby for a big project and actually succeeding, from flying home to be with family in difficult times, to traveling throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, it has been a whirlwind I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Now that the year is quickly coming to a close, I can actually stop to appreciate all the difficulties and stresses I’ve faced, and be grateful for the love and support I’ve never ceased to feel from my wonderful family and friends. I can also say how proud I am of myself for sticking it out, whatever “it” may have been for the given time, to stand where I do today – feeling stronger and braver than before.

And I am grateful for all the happy moments and all of the new friendships I’ve made along the way. And for the friends that stayed close no matter where in the world I was – for the greatest friends I could ever ask for spanning the globe from Paraguay to the US to the Bahamas to Germany to Singapore.

And to top it off, I am grateful to realize that that great love is the forever kind and I will get to spend the rest of my life next to a man who is as kind as he is intelligent and as loving as he is fearless, and who’s passion for exploring is as fierce as my own.

2012 may have had its challenges, and though it may have felt like I lived a lifetime in just 12 months, it has a very happy ending after all.

Me and My Fiancé!

Me and My Fiancé!

Finding Inspiration in Unlikely Places

Sometimes we don’t know where we will find inspiration. Or when we will come across someone who’s words move us, or at least make us stop and think for a while.

I have been searching for the deeper meaning in a lot of things lately and mostly look to writers, fellow bloggers, song lyrics, poetry, speeches, etc to find words, expressions, and thoughts that represent my own personal trials and triumphs.

Today, without even searching, an update from the great Paulo Coelho came up on my newsfeed, (thank you, Facebook!) a man who wrote such inspired and beautiful words as:

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” – From The Alchemist

His latest blog post focuses on a poet named Hafez, who I have admittedly never heard of before, but who’s words are so beautiful and motivating:

Love sometimes wants to do us a great favor: hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.

Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a stranger,
Only to someone who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.

Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.

Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.

There are different wells within your heart.
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far too deep for that

Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.

Even after all this time the sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me”

There is no pleasure without a tincture of bitterness.

A Bridge to Belgrade

Post adapted from April, 2011:

Okay, so there was no real bridge crossing to enter Belgrade, though as I learned in my few days in the city, there most certainly is a lack of bridges from one part of the city to the other. It might be the only complaint I heard while there, that there are just not enough bridges, and the ones that are open don’t have enough lanes for all the traffic that attempts to flow through them.

Belgrade was a bridge of different sorts for me. It was a bridge to A’s childhood. A bridge to his family and friends, a bridge to a language and culture I know nothing about, and a history so foreign from my own.

But in spite of, or perhaps because of, all of the differences, it was without a doubt one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. For all that is different about it, and for all that I learned and experienced being there in the comforts of a local, I am excited to plan the next visit back.

I arrived on Friday night to rainy weather, which pretty much stayed with us throughout the weekend, (but gave us slight hope every so often with breakthrough bursts of sunshine.) We went over to his cousin’s place, drank some of the wine his father makes at home, and headed to a club with a live band. I recognized most of the music, who doesn’t recognize American 80’s, and enjoyed the 35 Euro champagne we had delivered to our table until the smokey bar became too much, and the realization that I had a hair appointment bright and early in the morning and it was well after 2 sunk in.

The next day I was pampered by A’s hairdresser, who was terrified I had cut my skull in the bike accident I’d had just a week earlier, but who I had A calmly explain to was just a bad dye job from the day before, where for some reason they couldn’t figure out how to wash the red dye OUT of my hair before sending me on my way. A hundred curls and a couple hours later and we were on our way to the wedding! Stylishly 30 minutes late. (ouch)

The ceremony was completely different from any I’ve seen before. It was in a small Orthodox chapel and the bride and groom were surrounded on both sides of the room by family and friends, all standing. They were in the middle and performed rituals I didn’t quite understand, but that involved wearing a crown and walking in a circle three times with the priest in front and smoke (incense?) in hand the room.

At the Ceremony

Then once the Bride and Groom were pronounced, and every guest visiting had the opportunity for individual photos with the B&G you stepped outside to a beautiful courtyard where there was a live band! Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement, as I later learned, since it was a gypsy band that would play as loud as they could and would stand directly in front of whoever looked like they might have some change to spare and blow their trumpet into your face until you gave in with a couple of rolled up bills, (having never seen this before, I still thought it was pretty cool!) We then headed off to the reception which was in a completely separate part of the city where we awaited the B&G with cocktails in hand and hor d’ourves.

Me and My Main Squeeze 🙂

The party lasted late into the night, with the Best Man pleading for another round at a club to follow. Of course as we were about to head out, it became evident that all the Best Man, (and any of us) needed was a comfy bed to spend the night…and probably a few less drinks than we had already had.

The wedding was just a part of the weekend, albeit a big one. But also included was the Serbian Open where A, his dad, and I watched national-hero Djokovic win gold, and a trip to a nearby bakery where we had delicious desserts with his mom.

Even though he was being a total diva, I guess he deserves to win in the stadium named after him!

I left this whirlwind weekend behind with thoughts and dreams of returning to get to the know the city and A’s family better one day. And until we returned a month and a half ago, just dreams they were.

Always Missing Someone Somewhere…

The ups and downs of moving around all the time definitely balance each other out, but I have to admit that every time I move, or leave one place for another, I always feel I am leaving someone behind. There is always the opportunity to miss someone somewhere.

Having just left New York for Paraguay, I missed my family and my friends, I missed my pets, I missed my favorite restaurants…but now that I’ve returned, I miss my Paraguayan family. I miss the people from my office, I miss the close friends I made, I even miss the 4 queso empanadas I was eating too many of towards the end.

And now I sit on yet another precipice…between this world and Europe. My boyfriend lives in Switzerland and anywhere I am that is not there, has me missing him terribly too. I am grateful to be going to visit him next week…but who will be there to cuddle my cats at night when I’m gone?

I love moving, I love learning, I love experiencing the world, and I recognize how lucky I am to have these opportunities and how lucky I am to have so many friends in so many different places in the world. I am lucky to have so many people to miss. But it still doesn’t make those transitions any easier, and it still hurts my heart every time I say good bye.